Saturday, December 27, 2008

... long winter's nap

My friend, Parker, found the holidays to be exhausting!
Photo, courtesy of Parker's human mom, Noel.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Thanksgiving

Why not make this holiday one of thanksgiving in addition to the official one that happens a month earlier in November? So, here's what I feel thankful for during this season of winter.

I appreciate having my family and friends (human and animal) without whom I wouldn't be able to make it through life. I won't be able to be with everyone this year (one nephew is again in Iraq for a third tour, another is stationed with Coast Guard in California, and other dear friends & godchildren are not here), and many have passed on. Still, all the people and animals I love make and have made my life what it is and I thank them for that.

I am thankful to have home and comforts but know that as I enjoy these so many around the world are without even basic means to sustain themselves and their loved ones.

I am grateful to have a desire to pursue artwork and to feel a sense of accomplishment and great joy from that pursuit. I'm happy also to want to share with others what I learn about the making of tapestry, and to have opportunities to do that very thing.

I am happy to know that the season of winter will yet again lead to the rebirth of spring. Even now as I write this a bird is singing a song outside. Nature seems still but really there is an ongoing vitality even if it isn't so obvious right now... at least to my feeble human eyes and understanding.

This year we aren't at home. The house has been under repair and renovation work so we've been staying at my studio for the past six months. At our house during December we usually have only a few extra special decorations out, but normally do have a big tree filled with ornaments we've both collected, inherited and been given through the past three decades we've been together. This change in living circumstances, being in the small studio, has put whatever decorative urge I may normally have 'way on the back burner! But I have placed a few things here and there throughout the studio be a bit festive. So... here's the seasonal decor for us this year:

Merry Christmas, Happy Thanksgiving... and here's to a healthy, happy, productive New Year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Last Saturday's hike

Last weekend, Noel and Patrick opened their place for a hike through the woods by members of the Carolina Mountain Land Conversancy I was there to help in whatever ways I could since I know and love the trails well. I've posted about my visits many times but here's a link to one from December 2007--a slide show of just a few of the photos I'd taken during a visit then.

About 40 people showed up so we split into two groups, with each group taking turns with Noel and Patrick to traverse the different parts of the 150 acres. I served as "sweep" for one of the two groups as we were led by Patrick and then Noel. Sweep is the best position for me because I get distracted and have to stop and take photographs along the way! Each stage of the hike took about two hours, with lots of stops for discussing different things along the way.

Patrick pointed out a number of the hemlock trees that are recovering from wooly adelgid following his Sassy beetle releases throughout the place over the past three years. Some are still in danger of being lost but the signs of new growth appearing at the crowns are encouraging evidence that most of the trees are headed for recovery, with the aid of the natural predetator of the adelgid. Patrick has worked long and hard over the past years to determine the best way to fight the wooly adelgid. He's a research scientist and his approach has been done with study and care. And as he progresses with the beetles he's collecting data to back up his claims. His work is questioned by many in the "official" party line (read the US Forest Service); here's a link to an article he wrote last year, and some of the flames he received based on it. But, in my own unscientific way--using just my eyes and knowledge of what I've seen happening in their trees since he began beetle releases--I can say that what he's doing is working. Many of the trees on their property I call "Lazarus trees" since they seemed to be dead and now they've become revitalized.

When a hemlock tree on which Patrick wants to release beetles doesn't have limbs within reach of the ground, he often tacks up a coffee filter holding a few branches containing beetles to the trunk of the tree. Here's one that someone on the hike "discovered" and asked about.

Patrick was a presenter at the Fourth Symposium on Hemlock Woolly Adelgid in the Eastern United States held in February 2008 in Hartford, Connecticut . His presentation was on the theory and practice of his private HWA control efforts and is available online in a pdf - FTHET-2008-01 (at text pages 225-235) at the USDA site at this link. Scroll down to the 30th (!) bulleted item (lots of information buried in this site!!)

One leg of the hike went to a lower part of the property where there are numerous large boulders that contain asbestos. There was once an asbestos mine in the area, according to what Patrick has been told by one of the local residents. The map at this link shows locations where there were once many asbestos mines in the Appalachians. This part of the trail ends along the creek where water runs over and under the smaller rocks.

Noel's portion of the trails included the walk to the showy orchid cove that lights up with hundreds of wildflowers in the spring. The next stop on the hike was the upper waterfalls, one they've named "Dorothy's Falls." Noel described to the group why they'd had decided upon the name--in honor of her mother, who was the only one of their four parents who didn't think she and Patrick were out of their minds for taking on the "primitive" cabin in the woods when they bought it in the late 1980s. Since then, the falls have come to be a place where others whose mothers have since died can sit under the canopy of the trees, with the sound of falling water and recall special memories.

Noel and Patrick continue to discover wonders on their property as they clear trails, even after being there twenty years. Last week, just a couple of days before the hike, Noel found a witch's broom growing from a small hemlock tree. It's in a spot near the creek where Patrick was clearing out a bit more of the laurel.

Witch's brooms are apparently fairly rare and most may be high in a tree. This one, just a few inches from the ground, is growing, with small gnarly stems, horizontally out from the host tree trunk, and is branching all around to encircle the tree. Patrick, who has already planted many cultivars of hemlocks, may try a propagation from this witch's broom.

The CMLC hikers left after four or five hours in the woods, elated at having had such a grand time. The weather was perfect for December in the mountains, bright,clear and dry and about 38˚. Afterwards, we relaxed in the cabin and relived some of the high points of the hike... and Macaroni decided to have a recline on handspun dog hair that Noel's preparing for a ruana I'll be weaving for her soon!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tapestry is off the loom

I cut off the hickory/oak leaf tapestry last night about 11 p.m. My husband caught me just as the scissors were about to snip above the leashes. With this weaving there's about 24" total loom waste--17" at the top and about 7" at the bottom. I've been telling people to allow for around 30" on a frame of this type but hadn't measured. I actually could have woven about 4 or 5" more at the top although I might have had to pick one shed. So the waste amount would really be more like 20".

This wool warp worked well after I got used to it being more inclined to cling to other warps than a smoother cotton seine twine. I'll wash this piece (something I haven't done before) and see what the hand is like afterwards. I have an area at the bottom of the tapestry, about 4" that I wove before beginning the cartoon, that I'll use for experimenting a bit with needle felting. I'd needle felted on a small piece earlier in the summer to cover the warp ends at the back, using a thin layer of dyed fleece. That was wool weft but cotton seine twine warp and I began to think that a wool warp would be even more useable for needle felting.

So today will be spent with tidying weft ends and then washing the tapestry. Nice to have one more finished this year--even a smaller one.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

tapestry progress

I'm hard at work tonight, warm and dry inside while we're having a wonderful rain fall outside. We're still needing rain throughout the state so this is quite welcomed.

This tapestry is going to be 12" wide x 18" high and I may be able to finish it in the morning. I have about 3" more to go but more complex shapes are completed... just color transitions remain.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

demonstration days turned into good studio time

Visitors at the Folk Art Center during the days I was there were few and far between. Thursday had a bit more traffic but Friday was quite slow. I did get to talk to a few folks and show them my take on tapestry weaving. But because of fewer people stopping by, I was able to spend quite a few hours weaving. So I'm several more inches into this small tapestry of hickory and oak leaves.

I've now gotten the loom set back up here in the studio and I'm weaving today. I've changed the background quite a bit from the maquette and I'm about to make another shift in value of the background color. At least I'll try it and see how it works out. I won't make a hard shift, as in the other three transitions but will change one of the values in the dark green to a lighter one. Since I'm using six strands as one, the blending can be a bit more gentle.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hickory leaf is growing on the loom, day by day

Early tomorrow morning I'll pack my loom into my car, along with my assorted other items (yarn, bobbins, scissors, books, tapestries, handouts--and probably more), and head to Asheville. I'll be doing a demonstration of tapestry weaving at the Southern Highland Craft Guild's Folk Art Center on Thursday and Friday. The demo will be in the main entrance where there are usually two Guild members set up in the area to show visitors about their particular craft process. Southern Highland Craft Guild is one of the oldest craft organizations in the United States. One of the goals of the Guild is to educate the public about the nature of crafts and craft traditions. This quote from the Guild's website gives just a brief description of the history of the organization:

In 1890 when Frances Goodrich, a Yale graduate, moved to Buncombe County, NC, to do missionary work for the Presbyterian Church, she could hardly have imagined what would eventually become of her "good work". She found a few women who were still weaving traditional coverlets in wool and cotton, and from these associations Goodrich's idea of a cottage industry that would assist mountain families grew. Allanstand Cottage Industries, which she founded in 1897, in Madison County, NC, would ultimately become Allanstand Craft Shop. Goodrich moved the business to downtown Asheville in 1908 and from her College Street headquarters, she would network with other leaders of the Southern Arts and Crafts movement. In 1928, many of them met at Penland School of crafts and the idea of the Southern Highland Craft Guild was formed.

Chartered in 1930, it would grow to become one of the strongest craft organizations in the country. Second in age only to the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts, the Guild now represents over 900 craftspeople in 293 counties of 9 southeastern states. The Guild has partnered with the National Park Service for more than fifty years. It operates the Blue Ridge Parkway's Folk Art Center.

More about the Guild is found at the website:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What's on the loom now

I'm going to be at the Folk Art Center in Asheville on December 4 and 5 for a tapestry demonstration. The loom I'd warped when I was at Hambidge Center a month ago is the one I'll be taking with me. It's the black pipe loom I built earlier this year using Archie Brennan's plans. I also wove the fiddlehead tapestry on it but this time I've changed the size to make it narrower since the tapestry I'm weaving is only 12" wide. I used the 24" pipes for the top and bottom beam, rather than the 36" ones I'd used in the earlier configuration. This will also make it easier for me to maneuver it by myself when getting it into and out of the car.

I decided to develop a cartoon from one of the drawings I did while at Hambidge. Since the fall colors were in full effect when I was there all of the drawings and paintings I did there were about that glorious season. This tapestry subject is a dried hickory leaf, along with a pattern of oak leaves.

The hickory trees were absolutely stunning to see--they were luminous, in fact. A few photos of the several hundred I did while at Hambidge were of the hickories, in addition to the several drawings of hickory leaves and nuts.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My new website

Over the past few days I've spent some time to put together a website using the iWeb available through my Mac account. The link to that is: -- I found the process to be very easy through iWeb. I used one of the simplest templates for the layout and for most of the pages of the website I cut/pasted from posters I'd made for my demo booth at the Southern Highland Craft Guild fair this past July. Those small posters gave simple, short definitions for tapestry weaving, designed to be seen and read quickly. I added a page of tapestry resources near the end to give those interested in learning more links to a few things I've found to be helpful.

A friend asked me a really good question when I mentioned I was putting it together-- what was my intent for the website since I already have a webpage though the Southern Highland Craft Guild website ( and I have this blog. Her question caused me to really think about why I'm doing this. I realize that my main purpose with the new website is to share about tapestry with those who are unfamiliar with the medium, either as consumers, viewers, or potential tapestry weavers. Of course, I'd like for my work to be featured, but I also want to give information helpful for learning about tapestry from the beginning--as viewer or maker.

As I do this, I fully acknowledge that my way of setting up for, beginning and weaving a tapestry is only one of many ways, all which may be equally successful to the end result. And hope to also be clear that I've learned from so many others about the process I use... nothing is mine completely.

I first sent the link to about four friends. After making some changes based on their comments, I then posted the URL to the tapestry list. That gave me additional helpful feedback from several people. Other suggestions are welcomed! Send them on and I'll see how the web page can be improved.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Here we go again... another year begins!

No, it's not New Year's Day for all of us. But it is New Year's Day for me since it's my birthday. Wouldn't it be interesting it we had fireworks on everybody's birthday? That would mean fireworks all year long, wouldn't it?! OK, so the snarkiest card I've gotten so far is from my sister, the cover has a B-movie film noir look, a woman tearing her hair, screaming into a telephone --one of those old heavy celluloid black kind from the 40s/50s. The inside says: "collect call from Father Time... will you accept?" THANKS, Deb! Maybe I'll save this one for you--send it to you seven years from now when YOU turn 61!

Moving on, in more ways than one... Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I have many things to be grateful for. Family and friends top the list, followed closely by many other things including the ability to pursue my passion for making art work. I've often recalled the heartbreaking tone used by Mrs. Robinson, in the movie The Graduate, when she revealed to Benjamin that her major in college had been art. By that point in her life, she was a frustrated, manipulative, arrogant, demanding middle aged woman who was plunging both herself and her recent college graduate lover into a downward spiral. I first saw the movie when it was released in 1967 and, of all things, that line struck a chord with my 20-year old self at the time. I think the pity I felt for her at that moment made quite an impact on me and, in some small way, played a role in my dogged determination to live my life as an artist.

Of course, my artistic life is like one of the many bricks that make up a house. My personal impact on the world of artistic creation is too minor to be noticed. Yet I like to think that my contributions to the "house of art", whatever that might really be, are found in the people I've taught through the years. I believe I've encouraged many to find joy in the things they can make with their hands, expressing something from within themselves.

I have also found joy in art making and hope to continue to do so for may years to, accept the collect call from Father Time? Your darn right I'll accept! Bring on more time!

Monday, November 17, 2008

When can a weekend can feel like a lifetime?

When it's spent at one of Steven Aimone's workshops! Pat Williams and I just returned today from an exhilarating and exhausting 3+ day workshop at Aimone's studio in Asheville, NC. We arrived Thursday afternoon, unpacked our supplies at the studio, met the other participants and had an informal discussion about our goals for the workshop. The focus for the weekend was directed studies--each of us was asked ahead of time to come with a contract that stated our goals. These we shared on the first night. There were five of us in the workshop and all have worked seriously in art for a number of years. Yet we all were hoping for informed guidance from Steve Aimone and were eager to begin. After a couple of hours discussion, we dined together, along with Steve and his wife, Katherine Duncan Aimone, at a nearby restaurant and shared more about our lives in art and in general.

Participants Nancy and Pat getting ready for last day's discussion...stitting and standing in front of my wall of work.

Steve and Pat have discussion about work by viewing images on his computer.

Work in progress throughout the studio

On Friday morning, we continued what we'd started the afternoon before and what turned out to be a daily practice--circling our chairs and talking for about an hour +/-. Steve told us how we could proceed immediately to work with our contracts or that he could suggest a few exercises that any one (or all of us) could do if we wanted to. Everybody wanted to get started in that way so we spent much of the morning and early afternoon with three challenges from Steve. His goal was to loosen up our working methods which might then allow us to move into our own directions with more ease.

The studio was a bright, open space with high ceiling, white walls--full of light. Each of us had about a 12-15 feet of working area of wall and a rolling cart at our spot for our supplies. A studio sink was in the entry area, along with microwave and refrigerator. Coffee, tea, fruit and other snacks were always available. Steve made it clear that we could use the studio space freely, so immediately we pinned paper or canvas to the walls and didn't worry about dripping paint onto the plywood floor or painting outside of the boundaries of the format on which we were working.

Each morning we discussed the previous day's effort, looking at the work in progress. On Sunday afternoon we had discussions about of the whole output of each person throughout the weekend with everything pinned to the walls all over the studio. Each day Steve was available to talk to us individually about our own work, brought to the workshop with us either in digital images, photos, or actual pieces. He moved from person to person throughout the three days also, discussing work in progress. And his wife, Katherine, an artist, curator and writer, also visited the studio from time to time as we were working, offering her comments.

Because I'd had a very helpful art coaching experience with Steve several years ago I expected the workshop to be good. Yet, for me, the results far exceeded my expectations. I believe, based on what everyone said during the last session, each of the other participants shared the some of same feelings I was having. Steve worked with each of us in an extremely sensitive way, guiding us with thoughtful comments when needed. He encouraged and allowed us all to push beyond our expectations in our art making process. He enabled us to look at our art work in ways that considered both design and intent.

I feel that the contract I proposed for myself as I entered the workshop is not yet completed--but I also feel that the goals I've proposed have gotten validation over the weekend. I feel good about my art path right now--and I can see changes on the horizon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Exciting days ahead...

I'll be leaving on Thursday for a weekend workshop with Steven Aimone at his studio in Asheville, NC. I'm hoping to expand on the work I began at Hambidge and possibly develop new design(s) for future tapestries during these days. Steve Aimone has written a book about design that I like quite a lot. Design, A Lively Guide to Design Basics for Artists and Craftspeople. Here's an online review of the book.

I've also had a critique session with Aimone in the past and it was quite helpful. He was the guest speaker for our Tapestry Weavers South group a few years back during a retreat, as well. His wife, Katherine Duncan, has written extensively for Fiberarts magazine and currently has a profile of tapestry weaver, Micala Sidore, on their website.

I'm going to the workshop with my workshop bud, Pat Williams, and I'm eager to get there and get started! After getting back from Hambidge with the lovely shiner my body decided it would give me more "down" time and let a wicked cold attack me. So this past week has been R & R for and recover. Now, I'm feeling much better and am ready, willing and able to begin work again...just keep those Puffs nearby!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hambidge ends with a bang!

Quite literally!

I ended my fantastic stay at Hambidge with a fall to the floor on the day before Halloween. I still have quite a shiner from the episode. Here I am on the night after the fall -- still at Hambidge and taking a picture of myself in the bathroom mirror to commemorate the event.

So, as you might imagine, the last couple of days were not quite as full of walks in the woods and art making as the previous ones. The fall put quite a good perspective on things though ... like "better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!" OR "you ought to have your head examined!" OR "you really fell on your face about that, didn't you?!" OR "put the right brain to work" OR....

Sometimes it takes a lot to get me to stop, look, and listen.

So, the falling down part has made me stop.

It reminds me that I have to look at the step I'm taking at the moment. Part of what caused me to fall was that I tend to be focused on where I want to be... not where I am. Moving too quickly beyond this moment, beyond this space I now occupy can cause a problem as was so clearly pointed out by the plywood floor of Brena studio.

Listening to myself is something I can put off, frequently. I hear what I'm telling myself but I often do a Scarlett on what I hear, the "tomorrow is another day..." thing. Yes, but today is today. What must I attend to today, in my relationships, in my home, in my community, in my artmaking?

Americans have now stopped, looked, and listened for the future. I hope we're on a better path but we have to take careful steps to where we're going. And we have to listen to all. I truly believe Barack Obama will bring into the administration people who will be able to look and listen, and act for more than a few. There aren't easy solutions but I believe we can be hopeful for our American future with this choice.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

and yet another post from Hambidge...only a very few more to go here...

I'm here at Rock House, the house with the dining room at Hambidge Center. This is where we have internet access, either at a shared computer or wireless for laptops. I've been posting my entries for the past few days from here in the daytime. However, tonight, it's 8:45 or so and it's after dinner. All other residents have gone back to their studios for the evening; we've cleared the table from the yet-one-more wonderful meal prepared by the chef, dishes are in the dishwasher, and I'm back online for a few minutes to post a few photos of the last two days' work. After spending the past week + with larger and more spontaneous drawings based on the wonderful world all around me here, I've begun to draw from observation of smaller details. These are of nuts and leaves of selected trees on the property.

I ran out of drawing paper, but someone had left a pad of small black sheets suitable for drawing media in the studio. I've taken it on, drawn or painted white areas of the sheets into which I'm drawing. Also, last night, one of the other resident artists offered me some gesso--which I took a bit of to paint onto a few more of the black sheets. Those were dried today; I sandpapered them smooth and began drawing on them this afternoon.

I still haven't really woven very much but I feel that the time spent in this exploration of site and season may prove to be productive for future tapestry weaving. It surely is productive for my spirit, I can say!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hambidge... five more days to go!

Here are my options for art making--so far, I've been using the paper not the yarn. Looms still wait with blank warps, though! And I'm running out of paper. Maybe I'll be weaving for the next five days!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Slide show of my first week at Hambidge Center

Here's some of the work done during the first week at this incredible place in the north Georgia mountains. The fall colors are astounding. I've spent the last five days intensely involved in looking, looking, looking all around me. The first couple of days drawings were straight from observation. After spending a good bit of time on one of the trails, the works have begun to change. They're becoming more symbolic of the experiences and the sights. I am not sure where these will lead but am willing to follow.

Part of my work here is to sort through old letters and scrapbooks, saved from my four years in undergraduate school--1965-1969. I've gone through things daily for shorter or longer times. I'd thought the memory travels might lead me somewhere visually but not so, thus far. I'm trying very hard not to push the process but to allow it to guide me in these days here.

I got away from home in such a rush that I left a number of my art supplies in my studio. Got here with only a couple of boxes of used oil pastels, some pastel pencils, my prismacolor pencils, and the small watercolor set I use in the woods. No big brushes, no acrylic paint, no paper! Since I was in Asheville on Saturday I went to an art supply store there, got a pad of bristol vellum and of newsprint. Trips into Dillard to the hardware store and the local cheapie store (Fred's) yielded some "decorator accent acrylics", foam brushes, cheap bristle brushes, metallic markers, and some tracing paper. Challenging but fun to see what these limited supplies allow me to do. So far, the only limits seem to be my imagination!

The loom sits warped ready for something to happen on it. Next week? Today? Not at all while here? I'll see what happens when it happens. I've been reading Trust the Process, by Shaun McNiff and have gotten permission from what I'm reading to work as I am. Of all the inspirational books about creativity that I've seen through the years this is one of the most helpful for me. Glad I brought it with me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back at Hambidge for a couple of weeks

I have another two weeks of residency at Hambidge Center. I'm in a different studio this time than I was in a few weeks back. The one I have now is spacious, with lots of windows from which I can see the beautifully colorful world of the fall woods all around. There's one large wall on which drawing paper can be pinned and I'm putting up drawings I've been doing at the end of the each day. I'm working in oil pastels, mostly. I have 18x 24" bristol vellum to draw on and have worked from observation of these wonderful woods in large, loose renderings of color and shape. I'll post some photos in a day or so, maybe, of what I'm doing.

I also have my Archie black pipe loom set up again, reconfigured as a narrower width. I warped it yesterday with a wool warp and have gotten the header woven this morning. So far I don't have a clue about what I'll be weaving... but I'm hopeful that the surroundings will create the spark I need to start.

I got to the Blue Ridge Handweaving Show on Saturday, heard Bethanne Knudson's (the juror) talk, and saw the weavings. This show is always such an inspiration to visit! This may be the last time it's held at this location, Asheville School, but the Western NC weavers guild is committed to continuing it, I'm told. An open exhibit, juried after works are hung, is a very democratic way to approach a collection of works. I feel that there are many weavings included that might not have been submitted if there were the constraints associated with many juried exhibit entries--pulling together slides and digital images may be daunting to some who feel they can enter this show, since no images are necessary with the entry form. With the two categories of entries, amateur and professional, anyone who weaves for love or living are encouraged to enter, and this year there are over one hundred weavings in the exhibit. There's both a list of the award winners and a show catalog at the BRHW link.

So, here's a shot of two of mine hanging in the Blue Ridge Handweaving Show... both of which won awards! The ATA Award for Tapestry was given for "to the essence of every nature...." and a second place in category of decorative, non-functional was presented for my most recently completed tapestry, the one of fiddleheads that I named "Spring Profusion". Kathe Todd-Hooker received the Best in Show with a wonderfully complex tapestry--and Barbara Burns also won a first place award for her tapestry--so tapestry works were quite well represented among the awards given. There were also many other beautiful tapestries in the exhibit and I enjoyed seeing them all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

who are these people and what are they doing in my attic?

It's been quite a few days since my last post, the final Arrowmont class day photos and comments. Since getting back home I've been quite involved with a massive "edit"--as my husband calls it--of things accumulated for the past forty years. These very important things are like those that possibly many folks have lurking in their attics or closets... letters, photos, memorabilia of events past.

OK, so have a quick trip down my memory lane. I'll start with this photo from 1966. Who are these people? I'm not quite sure. I'm thinking one of the lovely girls is someone who I went to elementary school with, who's family moved to another state during her early adolescence, and with whom I kept in touch sporadically through high school. Maybe she sent me a picture of herself and her date, and a double-date pair, taken before the senior prom. I know it was before because how could any of those hair dos survive the next few hours of partying?!?

I was in 4-H club in the little rural elementary school I attended in the 1950s. Here's the cover of a cook book I'd kept from those times. I remember using the biscuit recipe and the cream of tomato soup recipe during my early cooking experiences. Since I don't do the cooking thing very much any more, I'd have to say those youthful instructions didn't age too well with me.

The attic at our house has been the place to deposit those items that I didn't have either the time, energy, or desire to sort through. Several boxes of the collection came from my Mother's house after she passed away five years ago. They'd been out of sight/out of mind in the closet of the bedroom I had when I live there. Since we sold her house after her passing, I brought the things home with me to sort. Because I was so sad when she died I didn't have the heart to go through more memories from childhood and adolescence at that point. But now the time's right, for many reasons--not just because my husband is nudging me along.

The editing included tossing out notes from past art history classes along with term papers and other class project work. Many of the term papers were written hastily--who'd have thought I'd keep them for forty+ years? I glanced through several before throwing them out.

I've also gone through four portfolios of drawings, class studies, paintings I've saved for the past four decades. I threw away most but kept a few drawings from each point in my life. We didn't have an art teacher in our public schools. In fact, my first experience in an art class came during my second quarter in college. Even so, I'd always been considered the "class artist" when in elementary and high school although looking at early drawings I can't imagine why! My Mother was quite artistic herself but she didn't actively practice making art. There were several drawings in the house that she'd done when in her twenties--copies of other art works. So she was very interested in my budding art abilities. I believe that those two things, home and school recognition, were what gave me the feeling that I was destined to be an artist.

Now, looking back through those saved "art works" I realize that it has been mostly just dogged persistence that's kept me on the path I'm following. I certainly don't see a spark of giftedness in the early work. But I see a lot of work. I did many, many drawings through those years before I began to have art classes. Most of the work was copy work--I probably did hundreds of drawings of hair styles copied from Breck girls shampoo ads in Seventeen magazine during the early 1960s. I also copied photos of friends and families, portraits in pencil or charcoal. There were drawings of JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy in the early 1960s; Ray Charles showed up, as well. I did very little observational drawing, most things were either copy or were from imagination.

Discouraging to see how little natural "talent" I really have, based on those early things. Yet, I'm realizing that dogged persistence really does make a difference. I thought I was an artist, by golly, and others around me thought I was an artist... and so I've lived my life that way for the past many years. The rewards I've gotten from this pursuit are great and I hope to have quite a number more years to travel this path.

In the meantime, cleaning house has its own rewards! More space to put more artwork--maybe not so much of it as bad as what's contained in these trash bags.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tying up loose ends from Arrowmont...and moving on

The last day at the Arrowmont class, Friday, was a whirlwind of activity in the class. Each finished off the tapestry sampler as a small hanging, including making a display background and attaching the weaving to that. We used a simple method of cutting foam core board (a couple of pieces used together as one for more sturdiness), covering it with a thin layer of quilt batting and then a neutral cotton flannel fabric. The fabric was stapled into place at the back, trimming and tucking in the edges neatly. The tapestry was then stitched onto the mounting board, around the edges using a sewing thread to blend with the tapestry and a curved needle to do the stitching.

This mounting method is one adapted from that shown in a workshop years ago by Archie and Susan... (and, yes, Gerda, that's one more mark for Archie's name! Gerda started making hash marks to show each time I'd used his name throughout the week.)

There are several methods for displaying tapestry given in an ATA online article at this link. And, when I checked up with Kathy Spoering's blog after I got home yesterday I saw that she's just posted a great tutorial at her blog about mounting a small tapestry. The link to that is here.

With all of the flurry of final activity, packing up the studio and moving it out by 5:30 on Friday, then jumping in the car and driving for a quick session of pet and woods walk therapy at Sapphire, I didn't post on our last class day. So those last day photos are here.

Phyllis completed the sampler, cut it off and rewarped for a wider width on her loom before she had to leave on Thursday afternoon. Her weaving was a beautiful example of the effect of small and bright focal point within a larger field of darker values. The bright yellow reminded us of a doorway with warm light drawing us in.

Gerda warped her wood frame loom, made heddles on Friday and was happily weaving the header by the end of the day...getting ready for her next tapestry to be done when she's back home again.

Jennifer is stitching her tapestry onto her mounting board and here's the finished piece below.  The tapestry really turned into a wonderful journey on the warp, suggesting a resolution of image to her along the way.  The colorful doorway or window through which other world of reality can be seen was woven eccentrically so that the edge projects out of the piece there.

Jennifer's finished tapestry

Gerda's finished tapestry

Gerda used yarns she'd brought with her, many collected by her mother through the years.  Gerda's very involved with knitting afghans for Afghans and also doing quilts to send in relief efforts to other countries.  She's done hundreds of both by now and has knitting with her everywhere she goes.

All in all, now with the week completed I feel the class was successful. I'm happy to have had the time at Arrowmont to introduced two new budding tapestry weavers to the challenges and joys of the process.  I'm also glad to have helped the other weaver with whom I've worked before be able to move more steps along her way toward mastering tapestry.  That weaver gave me a quote that I'll be using in the future: "Life's a mystery, not a puzzle."  Thank you for that, Phyllis!