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?


  1. Tommye,
    Looking at the tapestry, I think it would be interesting to put a unifying border on the left hand side, but just my 0.02$.

    Also, I see you use the table top Shannock. Do you like them? I have one, but it is really unstable in its base and tilts easily. Do you have the same problem? I am thinking of getting rid of it.

    Glad to see/hear that your hand is doing better.

    Susan Skalak

  2. Thanks for the thought about the left side, Susan. Today will be decision point about it--so maybe, maybe not!

    About the table top Shannock... yes, it can be tippy if the feet get a bit loose. Do you use the shedding device? If so, if the feet are tightened well it shouldn't be too prone to tip over. These looms pictured are the ones owned by the university; my Shannock of the same type has been modified with legs and treadles--John was doing those for awhile but don't know if that conversion is available any longer. That made the loom much more convenient to use.

  3. Thanks Tommye, I am in a REAL slump right now, and will try some stream of consciousness weaving myself. looks like fun and maybe it will get me 'jump started'. I vote for doing a border, try it and if you hate it you can quit ;-)

  4. Yes, Sue... just start with something. That's how I began this one. And I have started at the left, maybe will make this week a skinny one since I'm getting ready to teach next week!

    One of the things that sometimes holds me up when I struggle for the design of the next tapestry is thinking it has to be "the one"--that can be almost deadly! When I let go of that idea I can usually begin.