Tuesday, September 30, 2008

another day, many more passes

OK, those of you who weave tapestry recognize the term "pass"--and you know we're not down on the main street in Gatlinburg trying to fend off unwelcome advances from strangers!

A pass, for you others out there, is the term used for the two alternating trips of the weft that, used one after the next, make a completion of the plain weave sequence. One trip of the weft is commonly called a "pick"--so two picks make one pass. A major goal for this week is for each person to come to a clear understanding and recognition of what makes up a pass and then how to use passes that travel in opposite directions, yet in the same shed. This is the essence of what I'm teaching. Good old meet and separate technique is used in many traditions of tapestry throughout the world and across time, and this is what I use primarily in my own work.

We had a treat today in a visit to the campus from a nearby dealer of tribal rugs. The gentleman comes once during each workshop session to set up outside and show and (maybe) sell his work. When I asked today how he got into the business, he replied that he was a rug collector and his collection began to grow and grow.

One of the beautiful Iranian kilims with him today (and that Gerda and Jennifer are admiring here) he said he'd sold to someone about twenty years ago. That rug had recently returned to him as the couple changed living arrangements with retirement.

The days are very full here, although the official class time is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a lunch break between 12 and 1:30, other activities are planned in the afternoon and evening after dinner. Three nights each week art work of faculty, resident artists and studio assistants are shown in the auditorium; on other occasions during the workshop session there are demonstrations in studios, and visit to the resident artists' studios. This afternoon, just after class and before dinner there was a reception for Friends of Arrowmont, at which David Willard, director of the school, talked about the current situation with the potential sale of the land Arrowmont leases from Pi Beta Phi. Lots of folks throughout the nation have learned about this situation from many sources. David said that everything the Board of Governors for Arrowmont knows is constantly updated on their website (link here).

Tonight I was one of three of the faculty to make a presentation of my work to anyone who wanted to attend. Faculty presentations happen on two or three nights each session and might be slides and/or demonstrations--I did a little of both, showing images in a powerpoint slide show and then doing a quick demonstration of tapestry weaving with a small frame loom I took into the auditorium. After that session ended, most everyone on campus went back to their studios for another hour or two of work--some students and faculty won't get to their rooms until the studios are locked tonight at 1 a.m.

So far, all's going pretty well for everyone...small challenges here and there but each seems to be able to be worked out pretty quickly and easily. Phyllis is driving a number of miles every night as isn't staying on campus so she's maybe feeling a little frayed. But she's accomplishing quite a bit with her Hagen loom and we'll rewarp it with a continuous warp on Thursday so when she takes it home with her on Friday she'll have enough warp ready to go to try out the design she's been wanting to tackle since an earlier workshop she took.

Jennifer has a concert coming up soon so brought her harp to Arrowmont; she's practicing each day after lunch and before coming back to the weaving studio--I caught her outside today.

Gerda wanted to get some sun today so we took a weaving bench across the way to the wood studio where she wove for the afternoon. I'd go over to check with her periodically to see if she had questions and to see how things were progressing with her.

Tomorrow we'll tackle color blending using 20/2 worsted wool, four fold. We've dealt with meet and separate over and over and over...have done a sampling of angles, a bit of hatching, learned to solved the addition of another shape between shapes, and solve the M/S problem, stitched slit edges as we go (thanks to Susan and Archie's method), and one has begun pick and pick. So, color blends tomorrow as well as discussion of design, cartoons, options for plaching cartoon to warp (inking on or stitching cartoon to back).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our first full day of class was indeed full!

Each time I teach a workshop it seems that every day is really two days long. So much information shared and skills begun--it always gives an intensity to the class. All three students are working quite hard, each in her own way, to understand what they're doing and why and they're facing lovely challenges along their way.

Phyllis prepares her Hagen loom

Gerda moves through diagonals.

Jennifer (not as startled while weaving as she appears here!)

Let's see, I've only mentioned Archie and Susan's names maybe four times today.  Comments that begin with "Archie recommends...." or "Susan says...." tend to fall out of my mouth frequently as each day I weave I try to pay tribute to just a few of the lessons I've learned from both those wonderful artists and teachers in the past.  And I hope I can in some way share what I've learned with others.

So, here are a few quick shots of today's studio happenings.  And speaking of happenings, as I was leaving the building heading to dinner this afternoon around 5:30 the sun was shining through a stained glass window that's installed high above the gallery.  A wonderful ceramics exhibit is up now and the colored light just happened to be shining on the wall on which were displayed platter forms that were glazed in violet, green and red-orange creating a stunning juxtaposition of color in substance and light.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

And so it begins...

My class started tonight at Arrowmont. I came up yesterday to get my studio set up...but...didn't make it here in time to unload the car as I'd hoped! I got here around 4:30, thinking that the building would be open until 5, as I'd been told, but it was closed. My housing assignment was posted so I found my way to my room with no problem at all so I settled in there and entertained myself during the evening as I waited to see what today would bring; we have wireless here in our rooms and I brought my laptop so, after going to Subway for dinner, I checked e-mails, read online news, and got my thoughts together about class today.
This morning, I was able to get into the studio around 10, got unpacked there and the space arranged for the three students I have this week--what a treat, to have only three people to work with! I hope each and every one will be able to get what they want from the class, as is always is my desire with any class I teach. Two in the class have woven before and one has not. Jennifer, the new weaver, solved a problem immediately tonight in using the PVC legs for the loom I'd mentioned in yesterday's post, as they got in the way of warping...she said, "Why don't we take this one off?"--YES! Worked perfectly and that's exactly why I love to interact with people in classes...they most often add so much that I haven't yet considered! I'll post a photo of what we did with that later.

The photos tonight are of the studio taken this morning after I'd arranged the space for the first time. I made some changes since then but not many--and we'll be flexible this week with the space. Since we have such a small class we've each got a table as working space. I also put out a table dedicated to books I brought with me from my library and we can also borrow books from Arrowmont's library for the class, which I'll do throughout the week as the need might arise. They don't have lots of tapestry books but so have some. But they do have a copy of the Peter Collingwood Techniques of Rug Weaving from which I sometimes use the half-Damascus edge as a finishing method. I didn't bring my Collingwood book because of the size (big and heavy and full of information)--just knew the library here must have one! On another table next to the "tapestry weaving studio library" I've put a number of copies of ATA Tapestry Topics and the Canadian Tapestry Network Newsletter, as well as a gazillion images of tapestries I've collected over the past twenty years as postcards of exhibits, works of individual tapestry artists, etc. I just love to paw through these to be inspired and have now three very full file folders of wonderful images and I love to share them.

So, stay with me through the week...lots of photos to come of what we'll be doing, I hope!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Off to Arrowmont

Well, I'm almost packed and ready to go to my week's adventure of teaching at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. This will be my first time teaching there. I've taken several classes over the past twenty years at the school so I'm eager to have an experience from the other side. Arrowmont is in the midst of an uncertain situation right now as the property the school is located on is possibly to be sold. The link has latest news about that.

But, in my preparations for this wonderful opportunity to teach at the school while it still is as it is, I've been working hard to revise my handouts, developed over the past several years while teaching workshops. I've also gotten two new samplers underway as suggested teaching tools for the class.

I'm focusing on a really basic skill in the class, meet and separate. After moving through the first passes, getting used to moving back and forth to build vertical edges and matching passes, noticing hill (high) and valley (low) turns of the weft, we'll try a few angles to see effects of turning on a high or a low. After a bit of this meandering, a third color will be introduced. The excitement with that comes by solving the problem of meet and separate with the existing two colors moving happily in the way they should, and the third color coming in to cause a problem with one or the other! And, in tapestry weaving, this "problem" happens over and over and over again. Sewing the slit between shapes as you go will be also shown at this point.

A second sampler will have color blending as the focus using four strands of thinner wool. Then we'll move on to other things as time allows, including designing, preparing a cartoon, transferring it to the warp (or stitching it behind), and following it. I'll be showing a few finishing and display options.

We'll have wireless available in the studio so I hope that we'll be able to visit the ATA website to see the wealth of information there, along with many of the other wonderful resources available on the web.

AND, I was very pleased with myself yesterday for coming up with a solution to making my copper pipe looms (Archie Brennan's design) stand on a table. A student whom I'd had at John Campbell Folk School last year had given me a set of wooden legs that he'd made for my loom, based on some he saw at a workshop at Vesterheim. I haven't been able to have more of those made but wanted to have an option for setting the frame loom on a table. I've found that in workshops some people have trouble holding the loom in their lap and bending over it as they weave, tiring their necks and backs. Anyway, I started thinking about plumping pipe components in PVC and went to the local hardware store where they typically leave me alone, staring into their hardware bins, to figure things out when I'm working on a project. After several minutes of digging through various bins, I found the combination T joins that slip onto the bottom of the pipe loom, with a threaded opening to allow for a 12" pipe length to be screwed in. This then extends behind the loom serving as a leg, one on each side (got to put the legs on to the bottom of the frame before the loom's assembled and warped, of course!). I put a cap on each of the leg ends and angled them together, holding in place with a rubber band. Works fine to hold the loom up and will be as stable as needed. So, now my frame looms all have little stands for them, at least the ones I'm taking to the workshop.

LATER this morning....I've just taken a break to make a run to see if I could get my car's gas tank topped off. A friend called just around 8 a.m. to tell me of three stations in town that had gas as he went by this morning. I have just over 3/4 of a tank right now, I think enough to make it to Arrowmont--but probably not back again, so I'd hoped to fill the tank before leaving town at noon today. WELL...by the time I got to two of the stations the lines of cars were backed up quite far...and I don't have time to wait, using up some of the gas I DO have. I'll just head north and hope for the best. I remember the gas shortages we were having in the 1970s...seems like old times...and unsettling signs of more to come.

So, even more reasons to concentrate on the lovely tasks of meeting and separating. If we all kept our hands to our looms we'd be better off, I think.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tying up loose ends and soon on to other things...

I got the fiddlehead tapestry completed and in the mail yesterday, along with the black walnut tapestry. I titled it "Spring Profusion" --quickly giving it a title as I filled in the entry form in August. When I went back to the several blog posts I found that phrase was one I'd written in the sketchbook as I sat near the fiddleheads at the creek property on the first day I drew and photographed them. That thought jotted down early in the designing process was in my subconscious, I guess, as I gave the piece a title.

About titles for works...those are most often are hard for me to determine but sometimes they begin to occur when I'm working on a piece. The black walnut tapestry was named "...to the essence of every nature...." after it was completed, with the title coming from another line in the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene where I'd discovered a quote that seemed appropriate for yet another tapestry completed last year, the one of the roots that I named "...and they will be resolved again into their own roots."

Sometimes the titles are pretty self-explanatory, like "Vandiver Sleeping" or "Vandiver Walking" -- two small tapestries of my now departed cat friend who lived with Noel and Patrick. Another tapestry of him I did a few years back, though, was called "Magic Carpet Ride" since in it he was lying on an antique tribal kilim bag, as he loved to do.

I used Kathy Spoering' blocking suggestions that she noted in her blog awhile back. This was my first time to block a tapestry and I was quite nervous as I did the dampening and pressing. But the result was just what I needed. I won't describe what the process entailed since I've pretty much followed Kathy's instructions so carefully noted here at her blog...just a few shots of some of the steps along the way to the final stitching on of twill tape over the side hems. I am hanging the tapestry with a velcro covered wood bar, attaching the soft side of the velcro to twill tape and stitching that by hand to the top edge of the tapestry. The hook side of the velcro is attached to the bar.

NOW, the next two days will be filled with my final preparations for the Arrowmont class next week. I have my handouts revised and printed, and I'll be pulling together my supplies and small frame looms, loading up the car---AND trying to find a gas station around town that has gas available so I can top off my tank. I can get to Gatlinburg, where Arrowmont is located, from here and then back again (maybe) on one tank of gas in my car. With the shortage situation this week, I'm a bit nervous about the road trip. And speaking of nervous...soon will I be able to afford to fill my car even if gas is available?!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spring Profusion

I still have a few hours (maybe days?) left for finishing work on this tapestry but have off the loom at last. I photographed it pinned to a panel while still at Hambidge yesterday morning. I looked back at my notes and found that I'd started weaving on the piece in early June, after working to develop the design for a bit over a month. I cut it off, with help from other Hambidge residents, on Friday night, September 19.

All the design struggles I went through to get this piece to the loom I pretty much described here in various places. Several people have mentioned to me that they appreciate my sharing my search for the next tapestry, stumbling along the way as I often do. Bringing thoughts and feelings into visual form isn't easy for me. That others will have different ways to come to the same point is perfectly understandable yet...I can only feel what I feel and do what I do.

As I looked back through the blog, I found that I'd written and shown this piece many, many times over the past three months. Here's just a few of those posts, starting in April when the fiddleheads began showing up in the woods nearby.


My goal for this week is to complete the finishing and to get it to the Blue Ridge Handweaving show. I've learned from someone involved with the show that there will be quite a few tapestry entries this year...great! I love to see tapestry work when and where ever I can.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

running away from home....

I did that yesterday--ran away from home, with my husband's encouragement. We were having to have a massive maple tree cut in our front yard and he (my husband) knows how deeply connected to trees I am. He felt that I should get out of town while that tree came down and other tree trimming was done around my studio.

Here are some photos of the maple tree after it was on the ground. It was very large, probably at least 100 years old. But it lost one side of the upper part earlier this year and the tree was not sound, I know. We were afraid that the next big wind would take it across the power lines and possible onto someone who might be passing in their car. I knew it would have to be removed but still--it's the home, at night, for the owl that leaves all the owl pellets at the base of the tree. Now, which tree will this owl sit in to have her/his night-time meals?

My escape from this cutting and trimming at home comes in the form of a welcome retreat at Hambidge Center where I've been a resident four times over the past fifteen years or so. I called the residency director yesterday and asked if anything was available at the last minute (I have a scheduled residency coming up in October). And, thank goodness, there was something...so I threw clothes in a suitcase, and my loom with the fiddlehead tapestry that needs completion this week, in the car and came here yesterday. Hambidge is only about an hour and a half from home so I was able to get here by 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

My time this week will be in Son Studio...here's the outside of the studio, also called Cove Cottage. It's a small and totally efficient studio and living space.

Today had proved to be very productive with the tapestry...in spite of the Georgia Power folks being at the Son Studio for about three hours this afternoon setting a new power pole and running a line! Talk about running away from chain saw sounds to chain saw sounds! But...they were very efficient with what they were doing and were in and out as soon as they could be.

Tonight, I'm at the Rock House after dinner, posting this...we have access to wireless here. I have no cell phone service at the studio, nor radio reception, but I have a few CDs I brought along and also have a couple of books on tape that my friend, Pat Williams, has gotten me addicted to--the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey–Maturin series.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Southeastern Fiber Educators Association Fall meeting

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to spend a evening and a day at the fall meeting of the Southeastern Fiber Educators Association. This year the get-together was held at a retreat called Wildacres, near Little Switzerland, NC.

The slide show gives just an inkling of the wonderful sharing and networking that takes place with this group. I became associated with SEFEA in 2005 when I participated in a meeting for the first time. Since then, I've missed only one chance to get together and spend a couple of days with this high energy, very creative group. I learn so much every time I have the opportunity to go...and this year was NO exception!

Exciting art works are being done by everyone here. Each person involved teaches fibers in some capacity and most are currently engaged in university or college level teaching. The group has exhibited together in the past and plans are underway for a 2009 exhibit. Many of the group have also worked with Bethanne Knutson, one of the members, who has the Jacquard Center in Hendersonville, NC.

Monday, September 8, 2008

another tapestry is born!

I was a happy watcher as a friend cut off her first tapestry today!  Suzanne inherited her Glimakra tapestry loom from her father who passed away last year.  He had begun a tapestry on a linen warp but had only gotten a few inches into it.  Bill, her dad, had many wide and varied interests and just didn't have time to finish the tapestry.  As Suzanne began her journey in weaving we talked about the possibility of her leaving in what he'd done and building upon that.  So that's what she did and now she has a lovely echo of his hand in the tapestry that she's just completed.

Suzanne used the Nancy Harvey DVD for the sample, following the suggestions given in the first video Nancy produced a number of years ago.  This was the way I began tapestry weaving, too...working myself through the first two videos of Nancy Harvey's.  They're good basic beginnings and one can learn quite a lot with them, I think.  Beyond a few skills and techniques, much of the rest is up to the weaver/designer -- and TIME/PRACTICE/PATIENCE!

So, please enjoy this virtual cutting off party with Suzanne and celebrate with her!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The beat goes on....

Or, how I spent my Sunday afternoon....

Saturday, September 6, 2008

More tapestry progress...and more needed!

Here's the state of the tapestry as I stopped weaving around 11 last night.  I'm having a slow go for the last 1/4 of the piece!  While the start and middle challenges were invigorating I'm now struggling.  I'm making color choices constantly since I'm only very loosely following the color ideas in the initial drawing.  This is tiring for me now especially since I need to have this piece off the loom and finished for hanging within a couple of weeks.  I'll be designing something that's very determined from the beginning next, I feel!  Or maybe not...the pain of each piece recedes after awhile.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Out of the Box

Ok, so what's this about?  I got a call for entry card from Piedmont Craftsmen a few weeks ago for an exhibit to be held October 3-31 at the PCI Gallery in Winston-Salem.  The title of the show is "Out of the Box" and, since I don't work in three dimensional media I immediately dismissed this as a show I could enter.  BUT I didn't throw the card away...and as days went by I began to muse about how could I adapt my medium to something that would be acceptable to this exhibit.  In fact, the more I read and reread the comment on the card, the more I got intrigued:
A box is defined as a container typically constructed with four sides perpendicular to the base and often having a lid or cover.  However, Piedmont Craftsmen are anything but typical.  We invite/challenge you to push the concept of what a box is.  As craftsmen you are rooted in tradition but not limited by any traditional constraints.  This show is open to all media, however, the piece must have been made within the last 2 years.

My solution was to do a weft-faced double weave, basing the shape on a small square cardboard box. I added a small area of slit tapestry at the bottom of the wool box below. I also needle felted over the turned back warp ends to hide them, then fulled the whole box to raise the fibers of the whole thing. This one I call "Jack(s) in the Box" but instead of a jack that jumps out, there are jacks (jackstones) that spill out, some old ones I've had for a long time.

The second box, same size as the first and woven on the same warp (2.5" x 2.5" x 2.5") is woven from left-over ribbons that were dangling from a mass of balloons given to my husband after surgery in January. This box holds children's plastic letters that I covered on the back with prints of the letters scanned and repeated over and over--didn't want the raw, open backs to show up and felt I should manipulate them in some way, anyway. I bought three $1 each tubes of letters at a local dollar store, pulled out the letters to read "OUT OF THE BOX" --stuffed them back into the box, with the intent that it will be displayed tipped over with the letters spilling out in any old way. I just lined them up in a legible fashion to take the photo below.

This out of the box experience for me has been great fun! OK, so it's kept me from the fiddlehead tapestry for a day or so. In all, I guess I've spent maybe four days with the whole challenge, from warping, threading my floor loom, weaving the first box, fiddling with it for a day or so to find the finishing solution, completing it to my liking, moving on to the second box, weaving it, getting the "inspiration" of the children's letters as I wandered through the toy section of the store looking for likely things to be spilling out of a fun box...almost a toy box, if you thought of it that way!

Along the way I solved the box shape to my satisfaction, reverting back to a four-shaft floor loom to do it in double weave.  But I've realized how I can do a similar three-dimensional object on one of my tapestry frame looms.  I may try that for another small box and do more tapestry on the surface than I did on this one.  I've also learned a bit about needle felting, which I've avoided doing because I thought I might like it too much!  Well, I don't believe I'll be a converted needle felter now but I have discovered that this is nifty way to hide the warp tail ends under a felted covering.  Now I'm thinking about how it will work with a wool warp and how the whole surface of the tapestry can be manipulated...or only parts of the surface...and on and on it goes!!!  

I'd like to be able to see the show in October...I'm sure it will be quite an interesting one as everyone who enters meets the challenge in her/his own way. Sure got me thinking differently for a change!  

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Review of "Mining the Surface: New Sensibilities in Art Textiles" in August 29 Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The reception for the "Mining the Surface" exhibition at Swan Coach House Gallery in Atlanta is this Thursday evening, Sept. 4, 6-8 p.m.  The gallery e-mailed a link to a review written of the exhibit by Debra Wolf for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  She says: "Bottom line: In a show that encourages us to look closely at the range and skill involved in fiber arts, diverse themes and techniques come together in a lively exhibition."  My work was noted in the very last sentence:  "There's plenty more to appreciate in this exhibition, including...Tommye Scanlin's soft-spoken tapestry...."  So nice to have mention, even in the last words!