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: