Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One deadline met... next one coming up!

I drove to Winston-Salem on Monday to deliver my piece for the Piedmont Craftsmen exhibit, "Inspired Reuse"--that's a a five + hour trip from here and it was the price I had to pay for not being able to complete the weaving in time to get it shipped! I'm a slow learner--the lesson of how long will it take to finish a piece is one that I have to learn over and over again. Of course, "finishing" doesn't mean just taking the weaving off the loom--if only it did! If I were a potter, I'd open the kiln and take out the glazed pot and it would be done. Ok, I know there's a lot to the process of getting the thing in the kiln in the first place--I'm not implying the potter has it easy. But I thought I'd just whine for a while.

My completed piece was quite different than I'd intended. Once I got it off the loom so I could see the entire thing, 12" x 60" that combined pick and pick with rya, I realized the idea I'd had didn't work. The rya and the pick and pick were too different. It might have been resolved if the colors of the handwoven fabric used for the pick and pick had been more similar to that in the rya. But...

After stewing over that for a day and a night, I took the leap of cutting the two apart. I stitched one line of machine zig-zag stitches into the pick and pick fabric, to give about 6" of warp once I unravelled some of the fabric. That part of the warp that was now the new end of the rya was given a half Damascus edge and then turned back on itself to be hand hemmed as a thin rolled edge. The loom waste was at the opposite end and that I also did half Damascus edge with, and another finish from Collingwood along with thick braids. As it turns out, after trying different hanging ideas I hid those braided ends to the inside.

I began to try different ways to hang the piece so that it would be three-dimensional. My husband suggested that I try a wall mount that had been used for another art work, one that had a metal bracket extending several inches from a wooden hanging device. After padding the bracket and shaping a rounded knob, I placed the rya over it.

Now the piece hangs as a soft cone, rounded at the top and ending with a flattened edge. It's 12" at the bottom edge, about 4" at the top, 36" long and 6" deep. I liked the shaping of the rya and happy to have taken my husband's suggestion in this case (don't always follow his advice but I respect it). The title is "Rethinking the Colors of My World."

So, let's total up the lessons learned with this challenge:

1. DON'T OVERESTIMATE the time available for making, finishing and delivering work for an exhibit.

2. REMEMBER, It takes WAY longer to reuse from yarn bundles of past works than to take directly from the source. Great idea to reuse and why I've been saving all the weft tail ends for twenty years... but, it takes TIME to unwind butterflies, recombine in new color arrangements, match lengths, etc.

3. Designing on the fly ISN'T the best way for me to work, especially when the resulting weaving is being wound onto the cloth beam and out of sight.

4. DON'T hesitate to say the design isn't working and try to adapt once it's off the loom and can be seen!

5. And, after all... it's only time that's being spent. Not time wasted, time spent. I hope to make use of the pick and pick portion I cut off as either a portfolio cover or a bag... certainly will be sturdy enough for that!

Now... next deadline... late May for the SEFEA exhibit at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Plenty of time....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Tulips have come and gone in my yard now. I'm sitting here at my computer and if I lean just a bit to the right I can see the street lined with dogwood trees in bloom and long shadows of early morning--all beautiful to contemplate as I ease myself into Earth Day. For me this day is becoming a New Year's Day--a time to reflect and to begin anew. I'll be celebrating throughout the day in many ways. First thing this morning I opened up another blog for public viewing. Called Tapestry Share, this is one I started after my recent Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild tapestry class. All of the students were invited to post to the blog and several have started doing that. I hope this can be a place for sharing many ideas about tapestry and I'll be inviting other of my former students to become blog authors to it, also.

And, speaking of students, I spent a rewarding hour yesterday afternoon at Dawson County High School as a former student from my early college teaching days was given an award for his thirty years of outstanding service at the school. The 2009 award was given to only four in the state of Georgia (and there were over 120 nominations this year) and Chris Gore was selected for one of those. The Woodruff Arts In Education Award is presented to recognize the importance of education in the arts and to honor those who've given outstanding service. It's amazing to think about the hundreds of young lives he's positively influenced through the years with his strong belief in the value of art teaching. I'm so happy he was recognized for his accomplishments and was surprised, yet grateful that he mentioned my teaching as one of his influences.

Finally, my Earth Day celebration will end as I tie up loose ends with my NGCSU weaving classes at final critique tonight. I know the students have worked hard to finish their last project (some looms are probably still at work right now, in fact!). This semester's class will be my last at the university, at least for awhile. My teaching time will be concentrated into short, intense bursts of energy. My next scheduled class, in fact, will be a week-long one at John C. Campbell Folk School in August. Between now and then I might schedule a one-day tutorial at my studio--not sure yet. As I leave the university I know the textile program is alive and thriving. Jo-Marie Karst will be teaching the weaving class in the fall as well as the surface design class. Jo-Marie is also a former student of mine at NGCSU. We've been colleagues as part-time teachers at the university for the past few years and I know she'll do a grand job.

Celebrate Earth Day--honor the Earth and the life it gives us. And also honor the life we give back to the world.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Inspired Reuse

"Inspired Reuse" is an exhibit sponsored by Piedmont Craftsmen, May 1-30. I've been working on a piece to send to that show for the past several weeks. Working... as in trying to figure out how to interpret reuse into something that would push my thinking. I've been struggling both with this idea and also how to manipulate the jacquard woven fabric for the exhibit of the SEFEA members. Dealing with developing new work for both exhibits at the same time has been taking my brain in divergent directions and has been a challenge.

For the recycle/reuse exhibit piece I quickly discarded thoughts of using plastic grocery bags as weft--done by many in much better ways than I could imagine. Of course, I wanted to use fiber methods for the work. But what could I reuse or recycle that would be innovative... at least innovative for my way of working. I posted earlier about my first attempts of using remnants of my handwoven fabric as weft strips.

I tried the idea on the tapestry loom first and after thinking about it for a day or so, I liked the effect. But I knew I probably wouldn't have enough of the handwoven to make as long a piece as I hoped to for the exhibit. What could I use to extend the fabric... I didn't want to use commercial fabric strips.

It occurred to me that the solution was already handy since I've had my boxes of left-over wefts from past tapestries out as I've been using that for my tapestry diary. Why not also use these assorted lengths and colors of the wool from my tapestries combined with the handwoven fabric in the recycle piece?

I warped the floor loom with linen rug warp (OK... that's not recycled--so my concept isn't "pure"), sett at 7.5 epi, threaded as straight draw. I knew I'd have to treadle basket weave to allow for the handwoven strips to be weft-faced, but I also wanted to separate areas of fabric with the wool yarn, used two-fold and in plain weave. I wove 25" of the handwoven strips alternating with the wool weft and realized that I'd be running out of the handwoven strips before I reached the 60" length I wanted for the hanging. That's when the rya began.

Now, the piece is just over 43" long and I'll weave with rya to the end of the warp. My intention is to hang the piece vertically with the rya end at the bottom as that will have both actual and visual weight. I haven't pre-planned much about the piece but I'm pleased with what's developing so far. I unrolled it for the first time today to show it to my friend, Pat Williams, who dropped by my studio for a visit. I think I'm going to like it! Now, I just have to finish it SOON and get it shipped off to Winston-Salem for the show.

The jacquard challenge is still pending. I'll finish that soon but tapestry weaving is in the near future! I can feel the urge growing and growing as ideas are beginning to pop around like corn kernels with the heat on. Maybe this "inspired re-use" push has been just the thing to break up the creative log jam for tapestry... I surely hope so!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

what do you think about when you're weaving?

That question isn't one that was asked to me... but to my friend, Pat Williams, when she recently visited a college art history class to make a presentation about tapestry weaving. She said one of the students wanted to know.

Maybe some of the curiosity about what happens inside the weaver's head comes from the nature of the tapestry making... nothing big and loud going on, like when weaving on a floor loom with the shuttle flying back and forth, beater thumping, shafts raising and falling in rhythm. With tapestry weaving little evidence (to others) of anything really taking place happens as one weaves... except after a long time when a shape is in place where there was only empty warp before.

So after Pat told me the story of the student asking that question I started thinking about just what it is that I think about when weaving tapestry... doing some metacognition, I guess. Thinking about my thinking.

And what does my thinking about my thinking tell me I think about as I'm weaving? I'm mulling over thoughts like this, for one thing. Other thoughts are about whether it's time for lunch yet--or the afternoon snack. I think about what to listen to: NPR, music CD, book on CD, silence of the room (oh yeah, there's the timer on the lamp doing its subtle pace through the seconds... not total silence after all). Old friends come to mind... old times. New friends pop up, too. Past tapestries float past. Past lives are in the mix, as well. Color decisions are interspersed with wonderings about my upcoming trip to Vermont to study with Bhakti Ziek. Deadlines approaching for exhibits intertwine themselves in the shifting strands of thoughts and feelings. Never the same things... yet not much difference, overall.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the state of my creative flow. A flow that isn't happening right now. How outrageous to find myself in this point yet again! And, didn't I just recently write an article for the latest American Tapestry Alliance newsletter, Tapestry Topics, titled "Mining the Vein of Creativity"--how embarrassing.

I get to this point over and over and over and over. I continue to have to remind myself of that. Sometimes I really can't see the forest for the trees. I need to once more relearn the lesson I'm given each time I see the season change from the bleak cold of winter with the coming warmth of spring. And surely I can convince myself yet one more time that there's something for me to create in the future. The very near future, I hope.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More of this and that

I've been playing around with the jacquard woven fabric after cutting it up. I still have two of the original five that I haven't altered yet. I'd like to keep one as it was woven but will probably do something with the fourth. So here's what's happened to three of the squares, to this point.

The back and front of the original weaving showed a positive and negative effect so I thought it might be interesting to combine the two sides. First, I cut up two of the squares into 2" strips, then reassembled the strips in order with front and back stitched together, side-by-side.

By adding the second square into the first, the image becomes abstracted even more. The leaf shapes are still able to be "read" as leaves but the effect now seems like they are fluttering in the breeze. I also liked the black and white checkered effect that happened in the border--I wasn't planning for that since I was so focused on what would happen to the leaf image. But that was one of the happy accidents that sometimes comes about when playing around.

Next I thought I'd try one of the squares as a nine patch, again combining front and back. Here are the three strips of three before sewing them together:

I then cut the nine patch into quarters to try something called "disappearing nine patch" that I'd read about at one of the online quilt blogs.

I tried various combinations of the quarters before deciding on the version I stitched together--and now the image is quite abstracted. So much so that the original leaf image is totally hidden.

I am also going to weave handwoven fabric to use as border fabrics around these reassembled jacquard fabric pieces. Just last week I wove a sample for school using an aluminum/poly thread, sett at 30 epi and with a simple point twill on a four shaft loom. This yarn has been recently donated to our weaving program at the university and I wanted to sample with it before turning students loose with it--I wasn't sure what challenges it might give them since I haven't used that kind of yarn before. The warp I set up was only about a yard long and 3" wide. I had some challenges with the beaming because the thread is flexible yet heavy and quite slippery. It definitely has a mind of its own! Once I had it under control, though, it wove up just fine and I didn't have any threads breaking along the way. Perhaps this sample will become a strip in the border of the jacquard piece.

For a bit of R & R I'm going to a mini-meeting for Tapestry Weavers South this weekend at Oak Ridge. Marti Fleischer, former president of TWS and also American Tapestry Alliance, has planned a day for TWS members who can get there and I'm looking forward to seeing a few old friends for some down and dirty tapestry talk!