Saturday, March 9, 2024

RIP-student, colleague, friend

This has been a hard post to write. I'll have to begin with a few words from her obituary written by her beloved granddaughter:
Joann Cox Wilson passed away peacefully in her home in late February 2024. A dedicated educator and lover of art, Joann’s passion for teaching and creativity touched the lives of many. Joann found simple joy in the elegant movement of dragonfly wings and the delicate melodies of dulcimer music. She cherished the many friendships that she gained through the various arts. During her lifetime she explored and seemed to master almost every art form you can imagine, painting, pottery, basketweaving, beading, quilting and weaving, just to name a few.

I first met Joann who knows how many years ago when she enrolled in a workshop I was teaching at John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC. It was a beginning tapestry class, if I remember correctly. Joann was already a tapestry weaver but she cheerfully joined in with the basic techniques I was showing and made her sampler. It might have been in that first class that she began to ask her question "What would happen if...?" 

I continued to teach workshops at the Folk School and each time when I received my roster of students I began to see Joann's name included. After awhile, I automatically looked to the bottom of any roster I got from anywhere I'd be teaching to see if Joann Wilson's name appeared (and hoped it would be there). The workshops I gave were all around the southeast: in addition to John C. Campbell Folk School, I taught at Lake Yale for Florida Tropical Weavers; Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN; Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC; Winter Park, FL for the Weavers of Orlando; Aya Studio in Stuart, FL; Tapestry Weavers South retreat/workshop in Elkin, NC. Joann was there. 

In fact, after she'd been in about four of my workshops she began to call herself my "groupie" but little did she know how important she was to me—she was the person in the class I could depend on to ask the very challenging "What if...?" questions. And the answer(s) we came up with together would not only benefit her but also the other students—and especially me. 

At a two week session at Penland in 2019 I asked Joann to demonstrate paper weaving as a designing approach so that her hands and the weaving could be photographed (by Chris Dant) for a book I was writing. If you have Tapestry Design Basics and Beyond you'll find Joann's hands featured on pages 130-131. In fact, the photo on page 131 is also featured on the back cover of the book. I also used her notan design explorations and two small weavings based on those in the book (page 136).

In October 2023 Joann joined another class I taught bringing her back to Arrowmont once more. That was the last time I saw her. 

In late February I learned of Joann's sudden and untimely passing from a good friend of hers. They often traveled together to my workshops (and others). In fact, they'd been scheduled to return to the Folk School in the following week for another tapestry class being taught by MJ Lord. But that was not to be.

I looked through my years of photos to find ones of Joann in various classes. Here are only a few from those times and many places.

I'll end with a final bit from Joann's obituary. These words describe her so well. 
Joann will be remembered for her laugh, her generosity, and her unwavering love for her family. Her legacy lives on in the countless lives that she enriched through her teaching and her appreciation for the beauty in the simple things in life.
Rest In Peace, Joann Cox Wilson, student, colleague, friend.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Three weeks into 2024


Three weeks, 21 days into the new year and today I completed the finishing for my 2023 tapestry diary, 22 days after cutting it off on December 31. I'm having it photographed tomorrow. But I had to do a quick shot of it with my phone and here it is:

It's 51" long x 11.5" wide. Linen warp sett at 8 epi and the wefts are natural dyed wool.

The tapestry diary for 2024 is underway. I finally decided on the images to use throughout the year. I'm going to be weaving a year of kudzu! Yes, that invasive plant has once again invaded my thoughts and I'm going to design and weave it as it goes from its current dormant stage through its renewal throughout the spring and into the full leaf of summer. The elusive kudzu flower (that I've woven before) will be there, too. At least that's the plan for now.

Here's where it stands today:


 The sketch I'm working from is one I drew from a photo I took of detail of a tangle of kudzu vines earlier this month. I zoomed in even more to simplify from the sketch. 

Earlier kudzu tapestries are shown below. The sizes range from large to small, some more realistic and others abstracted. 

Life Force, 2010, 24" x 60"

Revelation, 2021, 46.5"  33.5"


Vines and Leaves, 2021, 22" x 12"

Kudzu Flower, 2022, 8" x 5"

Kudzu Leaf Patterns, 2022, 8" x 5"


Monday, January 1, 2024

End of one year and the beginning of the next


This post is about my ongoing tapestry diary process, something I've done each year since 2009. The idea for an ongoing daily tapestry started with one month in 2008. I've written about that in earlier blogs and most (maybe all) of the other tapestry diaries since then. And so it seems the thing to make note of here as my last post of 2023/first post of 2024.

So you won't have to read earlier posts about this curious process here's the gist of it. Each day I make a selection of color to weave for a few inches, usually spending from a couple of minutes to 10-15 minutes with that. Well, I say I make a selection of the color but it's really a toss of a die to make the choice. I've assigned colors for each spot on the die and so it I roll 1, for instance, I'll be using red since that's my assigned color for that. I have several versions of red—bright, dull, light, dark—so each time red shows up as the days progress I have variety by what I pick to use.

I usually weave simple shapes, ones that I'd call "weaverly" in that they pay attention to the grid of warp and weft. For most of the diaries through the years the daily shapes have been squares or rectangles of varying sizes. I don't plan ahead for what size but fill in the empty warps as each day comes. 

In 2015 I decided to incorporate a monthly image among the days. Much of my tapestry design is based on nature and I decided to use that concept for the monthly parts. There was one year when I did more than twelve images in the month and a couple of years when I've only done eleven. The sizes of the monthly components vary and aren't all the same from month to month with the years.

You can see all of my past tapestry diaries at my website, all except the one I cut off the loom yesterday. I'll finish the ends of it before having it professionally photographed. I'll work on that off and on for the next month until it's complete. But here's a preview as I cut it off the loom and then held it up afterwards.

After taking a few minutes to look at the piece I started preparing the loom with next year's warp. I'd wound the warp (10/3 linen) last week so after I unrolled the remains of the past warps (there were four I'd tied onto over the years!) I tied on and beamed the new warp.

New warp is tied onto the old. I use a simple overhand knot to tie and then help the knots through the reed and heddles.

Weights to beam with—orange juice bottles filled about 3/4 full of water.

I did that yesterday. Today I spent a couple of hours tying the new warp onto the cloth beam, evening out the spacing, weaving a header, putting in half-hitches and finally a row of twining before doing the weaving for January 1, 2024.

Warp is tied on to the cloth beam and a couple of flat sticks woven in to give space above the knots.

I take time to even out the warp spacing above the sticks before putting the header in.

The header is woven in the same linen as the warp. It will be unraveled when the tapestry comes off the loom at the end of the year but it helps to keep the spacing right as I begin.

Half-hitches to secure the tapestry.

After the half-hitches I put in a row of twining. I don't need this but I like the look of it at the end finishing since I use a method that lets the linen show a little.

Finally, I wove the first for the new year—a single yellow bar surrounded by green (those were the two colors the roll of the die gave me!)

I'm not sure yet what my monthly images will be. I've had a couple of ideas but those might change before I begin. I'll see what happens!

Happy New Year! May it be full of health, happiness, success, and all good things you could want for you and your family & friends.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts


Last week I was at Arrowmont for a workshop, the first in-person one I've taught since the mentorship program at John C. Campbell Folk School in the fall of 2020. I've had several online classes through Lessonface and the Folk School since then but nothing matches the experience of face-to-face teaching. It's physically (especially after the hip replacement surgery in June) and mentally exhausting but I love it! 

Nine people came from far distances to be together in this most wonderful class. It was nice to finally meet some folks who I'd known for years virtually (social media and online classes), be introduced to others, and see old friends. 

I was fortunate to be able to invite an assistant for the class, and Roxie, a senior at the University of North Georgia who's studying textiles, came to Gatlinburg to join me.

The class was one that included design activities and a bit of weaving. Demos and discussions throughout the week, also.

Everyone worked hard, ate delicious food at the dining hall daily, and even saw a bear or two during the week! Here are photos of just a few of the activities from the class—and a view of the traffic getting to and from the school (if you didn't know, Gatlinburg is one of the prime tourist spots in the Great Smoky Mountains).