Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rainy night in Georgia... the song goes. And, thank goodness for it! I don't have a rain gauge but hope we've gotten a significant amount of rain since it began during the night. It was great to wake up to the sound of it in the gutters. The drought here is still bad and our water bills have gone up. It seems that our town has done so well in water conservation that the revenues from the water bills went down...thus, the city council decided to raise the rates!! Talk about rewarding the consumer??

Enough whining about that...more pleasant things to think about:

1. Good visit with friends from out of town during the holidays...

2. Not TOO much stress over Christmas week...

3. Nice trip to Birmingham, AL a couple of days ago to see an exhibit at the BMA...

4. And, I'm now back to weaving!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I spent most of today going to my parents graves, putting out flowers for them and also for my sister's daughter, who died as an infant. My Mother died four years ago this month. As it turned out, she was buried on the same day (Dec. 17) as my Father--just 44 years later. He also died in December, the 15th...the year I'd turned 12 and my sister 5. My Mother was devastated at his death; she was 38 and he was 39 at the time. The holiday season since that time was not so happy in our family any more.

Mother missed my Father all her remaining years. While she had great fun at times--she had a wicked sense of humor and really loved slightly off-color jokes--there was always an underlying sadness about her. She got so much joy from her grandchildren, though--in fact, all children were especially dear to her. She treasured times spent with her nieces and nephews, then later their children. Babies were particularly her favorites. Talk about spoiling them "rotten!"

And, birthday cakes! She was famous for her decorated cakes. Icing so sweet it would make your teeth drop out!! Sometimes, too, her cakes would sort of "go south..." Maybe there'd be a crack that developed in one or more of the layers. Well, shoot, she'd fix that by nailing it together with toothpicks and filling in the cracks with icing. Heaven forbid you'd get too involved in a big bite of cake and run across one of those toothpicks! We told her we thought she was setting up booby traps...she'd just laugh.

She'd hide the cake (although EVERYBODY who had a birthday around the corner knew she had one lurking somewhere), then enlist someone (usually the youngest person there--if it wasn't their own birthday) to help her bring in the cake, all lighted with the appropriate number of candles. One year, as she came down the hall with the cake with candles ablaze--I think maybe Jacob was "helping" this time--the smoke detector went off!! She got a kick out of that!! My husband wasn't too happy, though--it was HIS cake that set the thing off!

My parents graves are in a small cemetery in the community where I grew up. So they're buried about two miles from where we lived then. The "old home place" is now falling in but my sister and I inherited my Mother's portion of the farm property--about 18 acres. At the top of the hill on the property sits an old truck--actually, the hull of the truck--parked there by my Father in 1959. He'd been doing some engine work on it and left it while he went out of town on a job (he was a heavy equipment operator--mostly drove bulldozers but could operate just about anything). During that week before Christmas, he died in a tragic circumstance involving carbon monoxide. The repair work, of course, was never completed and my Mother insisted that the truck must remain where my Father had last worked on it. Through the past 48 years nature (and vandals) have helped it along to the state it is now. I've photographed it a number of times through the years because the weathering effects are spectacular, I think. I'd even drawn a cartoon for tapestry from a photo a few years back, gotten yarn for the piece but just didn't follow through with it.

The colors of the truck body are becoming so amazing; possibly I should work with details rather than the whole image. That approach might enable me to handle a very emotionally charged subject in a way that will let me celebrate the beauty I see in the remains.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More about the new weaving underway...

The new tapestry is going fine today; I was able to weave several inches into the border. Tomorrow will bring less weaving time since I'll be going out of town for part of the day.

I was puzzled at first about where and how to put up the maquette that I'm working from so that I could see it for reference, but a solution presented itself as I noticed the blinds at the window. I've clipped the painting up to the blinds with clothes pins and this works just fine.

I should be able to weave most and maybe all of the border before having to advance the warp...a good thing since I'll probably have to have help as I do that. The tension is great on the loom, with the two pawl and ratchets at each beam on both sides. However, to loosen tension at the warp beam before advancing I'll need to have a wider arm-span than I have to release the second pawl at the same time as the first! I may possibly need to see about having a worm-gear installed, as the Fireside looms have, if this turns out to be too much of a problem. Another reason to try out the loom but with something that won't (maybe) take too long to accomplish!

Weaving again!

I'm happy to be finally weaving on the new/old Ruthie loom! I made a few changes yesterday morning on the maquette and felt finally ready to draw the cartoon on mylar. I did that and, after figuring out how to hold it up to begin to stitch it onto the 60" wide warp, got underway with the border.

The warp is 6 epi and I'm using three fold of Vevgarn combined with two smaller wools--the "Mailiss" yarn, also from Norway. I haven't counted ppi but not many, compared to the black walnut tapestry with the closer warp sett. All will be much bolder with this but that's what I want right now--to be able to test the loom, for one thing, and also to work through a large and yet simple design as quickly as I can.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Another slide show...

I'm trying the Picasa web album again, this time changing the size of the slideshow. The photos are from last week's visit to Sapphire and the wonderful walks in the woods. I don't know if those with dial-up can visit and view the blog easily with the slide show embedded--if you have comments about that, please send!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More photos from Sapphire: first, Noel & Parker at one of the largest rocks. Then, Parker and I have a rest...after which, Parker and Erika play king/queen of the rock! Last, Professor and Mac in the cabin.

Design inspiration

I spent a couple of days this week at Noel & Patrick's place near Sapphire, NC. Their 150 acre property will be placed in a conservation easement next week. Their intent is that this beautiful place, with springs, creeks, pond and waterfalls will be preserved in perpetuity. Patrick is actively working with the woolly adelgid problem to save the hemlocks and the trees on their property serve as a testament to the effectiveness of the Sassy beetle (Sasajiscymnus tsugae). This hemlock, near one of the waterfalls, was on decline. This is the tree this December, on its way back to full health, HWA in control!

Patrick has made quite an impact in Western NC over the past two years as he's tackled the problem, developing a protocol for release that is exceptionally effective and sharing all he knows with public and private individuals and institutions. Patrick is also working hard to refine a photographic crown density measurement process that should give a very graphic example of the results. With his research and statistical knowledge all of his work will play a major role in saving the hemlocks.

Thursday morning we walked to a recently added 9 acres. Below their waterfall, this property has wonderful outcroppings of rock. These are densely covered in mosses, fungi and ferns of all
kinds. The laurel is dense but they've recently hired a few young, sturdy men to clear along the survey line, making for a walking path that isn't hard to navigate.

I took many photographs--most of details of tree trunks and tree crowns since I'm still investigating the design for the next tapestry.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Studio Day at Pat's house

Yesterday, I spent a great day at Pat W's studio along with Jan A, who'd traveled from RI to GA with her mother to visit relatives. She took a few hours away from family to drive up to Pat's--we both arrived about the same time, had a quick chat and then decided to go for lunch right away since we were all a bit peckish!

After lunch we spent several hours in Pat's studio, looking at her work in progress and some of my pieces, including the current struggle with the tree design. Jan had photos of her latest piece with her that we also saw.

Lots of inspiring conversation about tapestry and design, ATA, the direction of the new version of American Craft magazine, and much more. We three had a fun time in Grand Rapids, MI at the last Convergence in 2006...we did some gallery hopping & lunch, then were all in Jane Kidd's workshop at the ATA retreat. It's good to catch up!

Slide show??

I'm trying out the slide show page element feature. The design process for this tree tapestry is shown in bits and pieces in the photos posted there...I'm going to also try to embed it in this post:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Designing Blues!

I've got those designing blues again...almost every time I begin working on a new design for tapestry I have trouble. I know where the trouble comes's from not knowing if my composition is developing well, if the concept is of enough significance to spend the next few months on it and if the tapestry to be based on the design will be successful.

I like the process of weaving so much that I often rush through the designing. I don't give myself enough time between the mark making to making the cartoon for the tapestry to adequately analyze what I've done. So far, I've been working on this piece for four days.

I spent one day deciding on size and beginning the initial sketching. I use several ways to create the images from which I this method, I use visual references and also work spontaneously with ideas. I looked through my many sketches of trees made in the past year thinking I'd possibly use one of those as the starting point. I found a couple that were possibilities for the long, narrow vertical composition I want (to be woven and then turned 90˚ in the finished piece).

I work on the design the size I want for the tapestry using unstretched but gessoed artist canvas. This time, I began by sketching with soft graphite sticks and also using magic rub eraser as a drawing tool. I drew quickly using large motions...referring to the sketchbook drawings but more sort of "finding" the image on the surface. Using the soft graphite allows me to use a large brush and water to begin to alter the white of the canvas pretty quickly by brushing and pushing the graphite around with the water, turning it into a wash. I also use the magic rub to take out some of the gray, once it's dry.

So, a few days ago I spent a few hours measuring out the canvas, clamping it onto a large drawing board and making the first effort. Like I said, I used the sketchbook images for reference but soon began to work more intuitively as I made the marks, big motions filling the space with bold trunk and limbs--but truncated--cut off by a framing border but with some marks of the tree extending into the frame.

The next day I worked into the drawing, again with the magic rub and more graphite, then a bit more with brush and water. I realized that I'd need to see the whole piece to continue--the drawing board, although large, wasn't 60" long--as I needed for the length of the canvas piece. My work table is that long so I folded the legs up and propped the table upright against shelves, clamped the canvas to that and now have a "drawing board" large enough to hold the 28" x 60" design I'm composing.

So, once the table/board was up I just looked at the composition for awhile...didn't do anything to it for a day or so. But before leaving the studio last night I decided to paint a pale blue around the tree, inside the border space.

This morning, though, I realized it would have to move on somehow and having the blue in place helped me begin to think past the grays of the drawing/wash. As it turns out, there's a wonderful tree just outside the window next to where I'm working! I raised the blinds to look at it and the low morning light was creating beautiful shapes of dark and light throughout the trunk and limbs. So, leaving the blinds up so I could see the tree I mixed a dark neutral using primaries of acrylic paint in one palette, and squirted out a bunch of white paint on another one. Mixing back and forth between the two palettes (really just styrofoam picnic plates) I began to paint over the graphite drawing/wash, looking at the real tree outside as inspiration for light and shade.

So, I worked on this for maybe an hour or so. Later in the day, I came back to it and made a few changes of limbs, painting over some and changing direction of a couple of others. I did that mostly through painting more blue over background, hiding those parts.

Before leaving the studio tonight I decided to measure the border and interior to draw lines for the actual size needed. I'm giving a 5.5" border/frame around the piece--trunk and limbs extending to and being cut off by it. At first I thought I'd leave the border white and indicate the smudging and lines of the partial limbs as I wove...but then decided to add color instead.

Into white I mixed yellow ocher with red and blue, then quickly painted it around the outside border area. Now all of the canvas is covered with color...the graphite is completely gone.

Tomorrow I'll take a look again...I took a few photos of the stages and possibly will post those later. Maybe seeing them out of context and on the monitor I'll be able to see the composition differently. Maybe I'll paint over the whole thing and scrap it all!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Lots of work in the studio this week, both by my student and by me. Laura finished three rag rugs on Tuesday night and cut them off the floor loom. She was quite happy with the results!

Great job for first time weaving experience and maybe not the last she'll have as she's planning to buy a small floor loom for her own use.

On Wednesday I put a warp on the same loom, natural color of two weights of cotton, to weave curtains for my doors of the studio.

I like Atwater-Bronson lace weave and used that structure for the threading, weaving it in two different ways for each door. I hadn't used my AVL end-feed shuttle in years so it was nice to try it out again...holds yards and yards of weft and the selvedges turn out pretty well when using it.

I finished the weavings on Friday, washed and dried the fabric, finished hemming and hanging the curtains yesterday. Each were 33" wide by 42" long for the lace area, 46" long each to include the hems/casing for rods.

I also warped the new/old Ruthie loom for the first time. I decided to try the full 60" width at 6 epi but not too long for the warp. The cartoon that's being designed will be turned 90˚ when finished...I'm working on another tree design based on sketches from last year. The width will be 24", so the warp length is 24" plus quite a bit of loom not sure about the amount the loom will use so wanted to be sure to include enough. I have only tied the first stage of the knots and will finalize the tie-on tomorrow.

And, finally...the beautiful ginkgo tree in the studio yard lost its leaves this week!

I mentioned sitting in the yard while they began to fall in earnest. The next day I took photos. When I wove ginkgo leaves a few years ago I did a bit of research about the tree and learned it's one of the most primitive trees still in existence. There's quite a bit of legend and lore about the tree, as well. Here's a quote from a nursery website about the ginkgo:

The Gingko tree, Ginkgo biloba, is the sole surviving species of a group of Gymnosperms that flourished 65 million years ago, the time when dinosaurs existed. Ginkgo trees are also called Maidenhair trees. This tree can have a lifespan as long as 1,000 years. It is the only living gymnosperm (which includes pines, firs, and spruces) that sheds its leaves during the fall.... Tree can attain a height of 100 to 122 feet with a girth of 3 to 4 feet.

I picked up a few of the leaves to scan them...might try a tapestry to include quite enlarged ginkgo leaves in the future....Goethe wrote a poem to a young woman about the ginkgo, pasting two leaves at the bottom of the page. The translated poem reads:

This leaf from a tree in the East,
Has been given to my garden.

It reveals a certain secret,
Which pleases me and thoughtful people.

Does it represent One living creature
Which has divided itself?
Or are these Two, which have decided,
That they should be as One?

To reply to such a Question,
I found the right answer:
Do you notice in my songs and verses
That I am One and Two?