Friday, April 16, 2021

A book is born!


Well, almost.

The book I mentioned a few posts ago arrived in advance author's copy yesterday. The public release date has changed a bit due to potential shipping slow-downs. I'm hoping it will be out sooner but if not, look for it to be released around June 29 by Schiffer Publications.

This has been a long time in the making. Over the years in teaching I've made handouts about various topics. When I began to do week or two-week long workshops I started putting together relevant information about the topic of the session into booklet handouts. I've revised those many times over as I added or dropped out information.

In 2018 I contacted Schiffer Publishing with a proposal about a book that focused on designing for tapestry. In it I wanted to discuss basic elements and principles of design that are applicable to making artwork of any kind and I hoped to make those ideas relevant to the techniques and processes of tapestry weaving.

I was quite excited when the editor at Schiffer replied she was interested to read more about the proposal. Little did I know what I was getting into! I'd thought I'd assemble my various handouts, add a few more things, collect images of my samples and do a few new examples, then send it all off to one day magically turn into a book.


The more deeply I got into handout revision I realized that I couldn't simply re-do those. I had to rethink and rewrite the majority of what had gone into the casual handouts I'd used when teaching and seeing the participants in person. I needed to approach this in a way to be useful to one who was reading the book at home and working through my suggestions without other guidance. Someone who was not in a workshop where one could ask questions of the teacher (me) and also interact with fellow students for feedback. That was a tough task and I won't know if I've been somewhat successful at that until the book is out and people begin to use it.

I also realized early on that I'd need to show examples of tapestry work by other artists. I am fortunate to know many other tapestry artists through interactions with American Tapestry Alliance members, in workshops, and conferences. Through social media, fiber magazines, and books I'm familiar with many more. As I wrote about design concepts I made lists of tapestries I felt would beautifully illustrate the points. I began to contact tapestry artists to ask for permission to use images of their work in the book. I was thrilled that everyone who I asked was happy to be part of this publication. You'll find beautiful tapestries by over forty artists included in the book. There are so many more I would have loved to include but space didn't allow. 

A few months into the process I felt I needed to see if some of the design concepts as I was describing  could be explored by others without workshop guidance. I reached out to an Atlanta area tapestry study group to ask if they'd try out ideas on their looms at home and many of their explorations are included in the book.

In the years I've been teaching workshops a few people have attended multiple times; I've seen their tapestry ideas develop in depth both in design and tapestry technique and some of their design thoughts and processes are included in the book. Their pages give great examples of variety of ways to approach design inspiration.

A few months ago I received the pdf for final proofing and had a good idea about how the layout would look. But, I have to say that didn't prepare me for actually holding the book in my hands and being able to flip through the pages! What a thrill that was. The editor and I had chosen a spiral binding with hard cover as the format. Since this is intended to be useful as someone is exploring design ideas this will lay flat beside you as you work. Here are a few of the pages in no particular order. Some have lots of images and others are just full of words. It's a good balance, I think. I hope readers think so, too.


In my own work designing for a new tapestry always holds a challenge of some kind. I've learned that trying different approaches is the best thing I can do to move vague ideas into more concrete thoughts. From those I can begin to find the images I might be able to weave. After that, the designing skills I've learned over the years take over as I work and rework images to get them to the point of weaving.

I know not everyone needs to work this way but one of my goals for the book is to encourage one to try something, then something else, and even more. Don't be afraid you won't find the best design for a particular tapestry. It's there. It's waiting for you, even if you have to go down many paths before finding it.

Maybe my book will be a guide along the way. I hope it will join the other tapestry books available, whether older or new ones. I particularly hope that it will become a great companion to Rebecca Mezoff's book published in 2020, The Art of Tapestry Weaving. Rebecca wrote the foreword to my book and I continue to encourage people who want to learn about tapestry to seek out her online classes as well as her book. I was thrilled yesterday to put my book on the shelf alongside Rebecca's for a photo op! Thanks again, Rebecca, for the kind words you contributed for my book.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Next Normal


Not the new normal but the next normal. That's what I've started thinking will come. At least, for me that's going to be the way I look at life after risks are as low as they're bound to be for some years to come. The effects of this pandemic and whatever may come afterwards will be going on past my few more decades of living, I'm sure. I hope that the next generations will determine safe and sane ways to live in the world that has become increasingly strange and scary. This generation surely doesn't seem to have found those yet.

But--moving on to welcoming springtime once again here in my place in the Northern Hemisphere. I've been filling up my photos with images of the wonderful newness of the world around me. Here are a few of the hundreds I've made so far:

Bloodroot with Toad Shade Trillium behind

Cherry blossoms

View into the creek--lots of silt covering the stones from the flooding a couple of weeks ago.

Creek view. The water is running clear now but lots of silt and debris were washed downstream.

Dogwoods are almost totally full all up and down our street.

Fiddleheads unfurling into the fern fronds.

Other fiddleheads just beginning to un-spiral themselves.

Jack in the Pulpit--before jack comes out!

Mayapples are in full leaf.

I'm not sure what pine this is but the teeny cones to come were so fascinating.

Red maple leaves are so dramatic at any time of the year. A bit of sunlight coming through the leaves make them even more stunning.

The tiny Star of Bethlehem seems more like a larger lily.

Toad shade trillium--the bloodroot blossoming has now ended but the leaves will grow larger throughout the summer.

A small sketch from a woods violet photo.

And blackberries bushes sport their young spring leaves.

I've been working on a design for the next large tapestry for about a month and a half now. I'm still not quite there with it but here are some stages. I'm hoping to finalize the design for the cartoon today and have it enlarged. The warp has been waiting on the loom for months. And I'm so ready to weave! This one will keep me occupied for the rest of the year, I think. Once I begin!

I made changes to this...that's what's next.

Some of the sketches and photos I'm working from. The leaves are white because I painted over as I began to make corrections    

Tracing paper over a portion of the design to try a cropped version.

Most of the time developing a cartoon for a tapestry takes awhile. This one is taking more time than usual, though! And I am itching to get to the weaving stage. Soon! Soon! Soon!

As the next normal looms. So does this tapestry.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Spring has sprung (sort of!)


Or at least it's beginning here in the northern part of Georgia, U.S.A. The first jonquils began to open their bright faces in February and are in full bloom all around town now. They'll soon be giving way to other blooms as everything else begins to return to life. 

Of course, the life that's coursing in those plants is there year-round. It's just my limited human perception that only sees and experiences the life of the natural world when the greening begins to happen.

Here are a few more photos from the last couple of weeks that I've taken on morning walks around town:

This year has given me new adventures of learning and teaching. I mentioned the two online writing classes I took in February in a recent post. Last week I taught online for the first (and maybe only) time. My class was for also for John C. Campbell Folk School and managed through Lessonface. There were 20 participants and we were able to accomplish quite a lot in the week's time at our own homes from across the country--folks joined in from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

For my part, there was such a steep learning curve with the technology for presenting information in a live online way that I named it Everest. 

The class was called Let's Look at Design for Fiber Arts! I planned it as a basic overview of design fundamentals that could apply to any sort of fiber or fabric medium one might choose. Of course, there's lots of information about design elements and principles that could be part of even a basic course. And a week's time isn't very much to explore in depth but I tried to touch on ideas that might be most helpful. I also shared resources where one can find more information to continue exploring. Of course, nothing replaces the hands-on work each one does to become more and more comfortable with designing tools--both actual materials & tools and concepts. I was so excited to see some of the results throughout the week from everyone. 

Here are a few photos of my studio (aka known as the Scanlin online video production studio for March 8-12). The Lessonface team was so helpful and patient with me as I tried to figure out the best way to do the course without having to purchase much more equipment. I was able to use two different camera apps, one for my iPhone and another for my iPad, and also my laptop camera. Those three different views worked out mostly OK. I also had help from a few of the class participants ahead of time to check out whether things were working as I hoped they might. 

 This was the calm before the storm. It was on the first day as I was getting ready to begin.

Another view... as things are beginning to get a bit piled up around me.

Each day I pulled out examples to use in the lesson coming up and then put those away after class ended. On the last day there were several topics to cover and by the end of the session I could barely get out from behind the work table!

 I spent much of Saturday reclaiming my studio and I'll be heading there in an hour or so to get started on a new idea for tapestry. I haven't woven anything but my daily tapestry diary since cutting off the fern tapestry in mid-December so I'm ready to weave! Not quite sure what it will be yet but possibly something from this springtime group of photos. Something hopeful for the hopeful rest of the year to come.

And just one more thing before I go--my new book about design for tapestry should be released in late May. It's been showing on various sites for about a month or so now and I'm excited to soon see a real version. It's called Tapestry Design Basics and Beyond: Planning and Weaving with Confidence, published by Schiffer Publishing. Here's the cover:

Friday, February 19, 2021

Days pass, one by one


Here we are, February 19, 2021. Day 341 at our house in our new life. Some of you have had longer or shorter days in your own experiences of our changed world. It was mid-March when the end of the world as we knew it began for us.

I continue to mark my passing days with my tapestry diary process in which I weave a small amount each day. I'm also making a larger image within the overall tapestry dedicated to each month. The theme for those monthly parts this year is leaves that I'm finding around the beginning of each month. I'm making a small watercolor pencil drawing of those and using that as the basis for the cartoon. I've just finished the one for February today, a few days early. 

The yarn I'm using as weft is the natural dyed wool singles from Harrisville remaining from what I'd dyed for students in the Traditional Craft Mentorship Program at the Folk School last fall. 

I'm continuing the method I started a few years ago for selecting my daily color by a toss of a die. I have six groups of variations of primary and secondary colors, plus a few neutrals. Each day I throw the die and whatever lands is what I weave: 1=red, 2=yellow, 3=blue, 4=green, 5=orange, 6=violet.

The size of the daily part depends on how much time I have to weave when I sit down at the loom or whether I need to level up from what was woven the day before. It's quite interesting to see how the colors develop throughout the year as the tosses of the die make the choices.

I've also started weaving again on a small tapestry on the other loom at my home studio. I'd set the warp up last year thinking I'd be able to finish the piece quickly. Well, that didn't turn out to be the case! I decided this afternoon to begin with it again. The design is based on a watercolor painting I made a few years ago when the tapestry diary theme was the black walnut tree in our front yard. The yarns I'm using for it are also natural dyes.

Maybe now that I've written about this piece I'll be able to keep up the momentum and actually finish it before another year passes!

This weekend I'll be taking another online class offered through John C. Campbell Folk School. It's a haiku class and I'm hoping I'll feel fine for it--I had the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination today. So far all I feel is a sore arm! We were quite shocked when we went to our local health department for our scheduled time--we were two of only THREE people there! We were told that there were only ten people scheduled for Fridays, with about one hundred on other weekdays. I have friends in other states who've been vaccinated on motor speedways, for gosh sakes! And my sister is one of around 700 scheduled for shots at a local mega-church in an adjacent county next week. This is all crazy. Here's the way the room looked as we waited for the other person to have his turn first. Today the CDC COVID data tracker says that 59.6M vaccines have been administered in the U.S. To date in the U.S., 27,737,875 cases and 491,455 deaths.