Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New tapestries are underway

At last I'm weaving, seriously weaving!  I've been struggling (yet again) for almost three months to develop the design for the next tapestry.  When I think about it, seems that the winter months are ones in which I always struggle and I also apparently become forgetful--I lose sight of the fact that the down phase of my design process happens over and over.  And that the down is often in the winter.  This winter I had the extra added attraction of having the accident on February 20.  BUT, that was then... this is now.

So, I'll start with what I've been doing for the past month... this is a "challenge tapestry", the challenge having been given by one of my gurus, Steven Aimone.  I met with Steve on March 1 in Asheville for a  consultation.  I'd worked with Steve a few years ago for artistic guidance.  I gained so much from that consultation, much of what I've been able to continue with since then.  I also took a class at his studio in late 2008 right after I'd been at an artist residency at Hambidge Center... those two experiences resulted in several paintings and four tapestries came from those.

When I got back from England in December I was in a bit of a slump.  The time at West Dean was amazing and yet I didn't seem to be able to begin productive work here at my studio (remember the forgetfulness mentioned earlier?).  So I contacted Steve to see if he could possibly meet with me when I was next in Asheville... he could and we spent a couple of hours at Malaprops having coffee, looking at my portfolio and some sketches of possible ideas.  One of the things he suggested was that I might work without planning, in as much of a "stream of consciousness" way that a tapestry maker can.  He asked if I thought I could do maybe 5" square or so, one a week for a month, all without planning.  I said that I felt I could since it was so much the way I already work for the daily tapestry diary bits.

I had a warp on one of the looms and I began with his challenge on the next day.  My hand was still pretty iffy at that point since I still had stitches and was bandaged.  But I did it--that's the square that's at the right side below.  It was easier to use my hand during the second week and I began to add more shapes and meander around a bit more.  I set a few rules for myself to follow for the month's adventure--the main one being that I'd use only from my scrap weft basket.   Since I've been exploring soumak with the tapestry diary I decided to throw in some linear components done in a variety of soumak ways.

As March ends I've met the challenge set by Steve, turned in my written assessment for the week and also photos.  And I've decided to keep it up for as long as I can.  I guess it's a variation on the tapestry diary idea except that I'm doing it weekly.  I'll continue with my day-by-day weaving on another loom.  But this new challenge is quite exciting.  As you can see, there's blank warp at the left... that's because I didn't measure the amount I started with--just started.  Then the next week I decided to do the same size, and then repeated that 5" square for the four weeks.  Today I thought about it as an overall piece and am not yet sure whether to add the narrow part or to ignore it and move above the four already in place.   Got to decide.  Suggestions?

Yesterday was my last class with the NGCSU advanced weaving students.  During the first meeting with them last week they warped the Shannock tabletop looms and began basic meet and separate.  Yesterday I demonstrated pick and pick and soumak, as well as showing them how to use a cartoon behind the warp.  They have one more class session on their own and then their small pieces are due for grading next Tuesday.  It was fun to be at the NGCSU weaving studio again!

And... last photo.  This is of my space as it is right now!  Seems to have had an explosion of yarn.  I need to pull out the yarn I'm thinking of using for the piece as I begin so here most of it is.  I'm weaving on both looms -- obviously not at the same time but will have both pieces underway at once.  The loom at the left has a design that will be in neutrals; the one on the right will have color.  Both are of tree designs based on drawings and/or paintings of trees done recently.  I'm looking forward to seeing these two tapestries develop simultaneously.  Wonder if they will influence each other?

Monday, March 28, 2011

spam and the blog

For the first time I've gotten spam comments.  If, for some reason, someone who reads the blog has tried to make a comment in the past two days it's showing up as something that I won't post.  So... sorry about that and you might see if you're e-mail is hacked.  Anyway, even though there's a word recognition requirement to post a comment a couple of things have gotten through.

Now... on to more important things... like getting ready for the class I'm teaching next week at Arrowmont during the Southeast Fiber Forum.  Like getting my first large tapestry in almost a year under way.  Like getting a second tapestry underway on another loom.  Like teaching the last of the sessions at NGCSU.
Pictures of all of the above will follow eventually.

And, lastly... had the final physical therapy visit today and I am on my own with my hand now!  I've been using it well for several days and the last stints in the studio where I've worked with my hand almost as long as I normally did before are showing me that the accident shouldn't hinder my progress further.  Hooray for that!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring is all around

Although it's rainy and chilly today the past couple of weeks have shown proof that winter's nearly over here in north Georgia.  Last week when I walked on campus at NGCSU here's what I saw:

Blossoms lined the edge of the street like snow drifts.

I love this... new blossoms mingling with old leaf litter.
It seems that I've been cold since I left for England at the first of November and am I ever ready for Georgia's steamy hot summer to begin!  I'm sitting here in the studio now wondering if I should turn up heat before continuing to work at the loom.  Maybe not.

Last week I began a two session class with the four students who're in the advanced weaving class at NGCSU.  On Tuesday they warped the four Shannock tabletop looms that are in the weaving studio and they got underway.  Next Tuesday I'll go back to the class to see where've they've taken the basic meet and separate, then I'll show them about using a cartoon, introduce pick and pick and soumak.  They should have time over the next couple of weeks to complete a sampler that's 6" wide by about 16" to 20" high.  
A bit of exercise to squat then stand to put the warps on the looms!

College students have to grab lunch when and where they can!  

On Thursday the students had a visit from Erin M. Riley, an artist who works in tapestry.  She came to NGCSU on Wednesday night to speak, along with another artist, about artistic freedom and censorship in a talk that was sponsored by the Visual Art Department.

The next day in the weaving class, Erin demonstrated the tapestry process briefly then showed several of her tapestries.  She talked about her motivation for choosing the images she does and answered questions posed by the students.  There's an article about Erin's work in the latest Fiberarts magazine (Sept. 2011) and here's a link to her website.  Erin is twenty-five, two years out of graduate school and is striving to make her way as an artist.  So far, she's had several artist residencies and a couple more to come during the year.  Since beginning to work in the medium of tapestry only a few years ago she's produced around sixty tapestries, she said.  She is one of the up and coming artists to watch and I'm glad we were able to have her visit NGCSU!

Erin and several of her tapestries.

Rolling them up, ready to pack them in her truck and head home to Philadelphia.
Three Strikes, tapestry, 25" x 36" by Erin M. Riley

shown with Erin's permission

Sunday, March 20, 2011

onward and upward--a month after the accident

My hand is recovering well.  I've had three physical therapy sessions now and have another one in a week. After that I'll probably be on my own.  I've been weaving almost daily since the accident happened although slowly at first.  I'm still not putting in as much time at the loom as I normally can but knowing that I'm going to be able work the way I want to again is very encouraging.

Yesterday I decided to put a warp on the Baby Wolf loom (now named Cujo) and so I decided to use 12/6 cotton seine twine in a deep red color.  I want to use it for tapestry in which I combine setts and also use thick bundles of weft.  The warp will show somewhat, I expect, and the colored warp will be less distracting than white or natural linen.  It's now tied on, header is woven and a cartoon is stitched underneath.  I'll talk more about the design for that once it gets underway.

Today I also made a warp for the Fireside loom and beamed it.  I'll thread it later in the week.  Having warps ready for weaving is like having blank canvas to paint on.  I don't like to have looms sitting empty for too long.  I also wanted to see how my hand would hold up to warping and dressing the looms.  So far, fine.

Yes, those are C-clamps and a hammer hanging from the warp bundles for weight!

During the past two and a half weeks I've been working on a challenge weaving... I'll call it a "stream of consciousness" tapestry because that was what was suggested to me by my challenger.  I'm weaving approximately 5" square each week with no predetermined plan in mind.  I set a few rules for myself, sort of like I do for the daily tapestry diary.  For instance, I'm only using wefts from my left-over bins and baskets for the weekly pieces.  Here are two weeks completed and a couple of days of weaving on the third week:

Not all my time has been in the studio over the past couple of weeks.  I was able to spend a lovely day and night with friends last weekend.  Here we are at my friend's property in Western NC:

Noel, Denise, Tommye, and Erika sitting by Dorothy's Falls

And one last thing has taken quite a bit of my time lately... the roast and toast for charity that my husband and I were part of happened on the 17th.  Am I ever glad that's over with!  What a lot of work went into the event by everyone involved including Thomas and me, the roastees.  Quite a bit of money was raised for the effort, though.  And that was what was important.  Thomas and I, before the roasting started (my red cheeks are from rushing around throughout the afternoon to help with set-up--not from drink--that's water in both of our glasses!  I was in my work clothes about 30 minutes before the photo -- just rushed home to change and get back before the start of the festivities.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

An essay worth reading and re-reading

I am stunned by news of the earthquake and tsunami causing devastation in Japan and elsewhere now.  I just read an essay by a philosopher, Richard Van Ingram, that says some things that I am feeling and I want to share it here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

James Koehler--in memory

Last summer I was given the gift by fate to be a member of James Koehler's workshop in Santa Fe.  I say "given" because truthfully I'd wanted the other workshop when I signed up.  But I was too late with my registration and so was assigned a space in James's class instead.  However, I went willingly because I know that there's always lots to learn from whomever I study with and I've been an admirer of his tapestries for many years.  So... off to New Mexico I went, ready for an adventure with sixteen other participants in Koehler's class, July 26 through July 28, 2010.

In James Koehler's studio with fabulous wall of hand-dyed yarn behind

James Koehler had become legendary in his teaching and many who studied with James took workshops with him whenever they could.  And, once in the workshop, I immediately began to learn why.  His gentle nature put everyone at ease right away.  His insights into concepts for design were inspiring.  The handouts he gave us held gems of ideas.  In the handout titled Quality he said:
Only by acting consciously and methodically can one attain some quality or value in life and in work.... The creative process is an unceasing metamorphosis of the quantities of our experience to a level of quality, an awareness of the mundane to an awareness of the essential. 
Here are photos from the workshop and also the visit we were able to make to his home/studio.

Last week on March 3, 2011 James Koehler's time in the world came to an end.  Those who were very close to him are heart broken.  And for those, like me, who'd just begun to know him--our hearts are also hurting.  His untimely death has left a large hole in the world of tapestry as well as in that of his friends and family.  But how brightly do his gifts still shine through his wonderful tapestries and in the teachings shared with so many.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

weaving more each day

I'm certainly not back to stamina or speed for weaving as before the accident on the 20th--but I am weaving.  I've woven on the tapestry diary each day except for the day of the event and the day afterward--and for a couple of more days when I was out of town.  I completed February's diary and have begun the one for March on a frame loom.  There's more warp on the loom above February and I'll use it either for another month later in the year or for a small piece unrelated to the diary weaving.

February, 2011

March, 2011 has begun
I've been challenged to work without predetermined plan on something larger than each day's diary bit and I was able to start that yesterday.  I'll be checking in each week for the next month with my challenger to show what I've done during the week and to discuss it.  This is part of an effort to shake myself up and move into other ways of working.  It seems that my concepts and design ideas have been stale for sometime.  Even my trip to West Dean wasn't enough to move my thinking around--although some things from my time there will show up in future work, I know.

No plan... just action... where will this lead?!
I'll see the doctor for a follow-up visit tomorrow and maybe he'll take out stitches.  It will be nice to have my hand out of the gauze mitt and I hope that's on the agenda tomorrow.  Fingers feel good and the strength in my hand is improving every day.

Now... for the more fun stuff!  Thomas and I will be Roasted and Toasted by the Sunrise Rotary Club here in town on St. Patrick's Day as a fund raising event for many of the charities to which the Club donates--all in good fun (I hope!).  The photo was taken by NGCSU art major, Trevor Morris... and, yes, Thomas & I DID look that scary!  He couldn't find his pitchfork and I couldn't find anything other than the bird of paradise apron.  Plus, it was cold as ... (put your own "cold as ...." comment here) when the photo was taken.