Monday, June 29, 2020

Still here... at home, mostly. Somewhere around day 107?

It's easy to lose track of time now. We've been staying at home for the most part for the last three + months although we've been out more lately. Each time we're out it's either in open areas where distancing is easy and/or with our masks in place. Hand washing frequently, of course--as each one of you is doing, I'm sure.

People who downplay, don't understand, don't believe, or otherwise ignore the potential of the pandemic are making the situation worse for everyone. Wear the damn mask! 

Times are harsh in other ways, too. The anger and frustration bursting forth about ongoing racism and fear of "others" show us all how ignorance about and intolerance of difference is corrosive.

In this situation, with the world in turmoil and lives being needlessly lost I hesitate to mention this bit of (for me) good news--the upcoming publication of my book being published by the University of North Georgia Press. Release date is in September and I hope by then that I'll be able to have a book signing at the Hambidge Center where I'm scheduled for an exhibit around that time. We'll just have to see how things turn out.

More about the book may be found at the UNG Press link here.

Here's wishing and hoping for all of you health, safety, and better times ahead. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

In for the Long 68 or so..but who's counting?

Well, I've tried to count the days we've been mostly at home so far. I think it's at least sixty-eight by now. When I say "mostly at home" I mean we've not visited friends and only had one brief trip to see family early in April. Our outside activities include placing online orders for groceries from Walmart (our ONLY grocery store option in town) and picking them up in the parking lot, taking masked trips to the post office (1), the bank (2), and one or two other places for curbside pickups (6 or 7). I've continued my daily walks and those are done early enough that there aren't any other people around.

When I'm out to walk I almost always photograph one or more things. In fact, on Facebook I usually post a "Good morning, Dahlonega" photo each day. It's something that catches my attention--even sometimes making me stop in my tracks to take another look. I don't go out looking for what might be found... but there are so many wonderful details in the multiplicity of things that make up the world that something will be there. Here's what I posted yesterday:

We have a few friends who've stopped by to drop off fresh eggs and to have a conversation through the open window. My husband had a nice chat with a friend who was driving by when he walked out to the mail box last week--she in her truck across the street and he on the sidewalk.

Our big excitement was to get a haircut at our house last week. The fellow who cuts our hair was willing to come over and use the "salon" we'd set up with a chair on the back porch. My husband and I each had a turn getting our pandemic dos altered into something less scary. All of us masked throughout. It was nice to see the lawn, blue sky and clouds while getting shorn!

My studio work is slower now, even the daily tapestry diary parts I weave. My focus for monthly images to inset into the days is feathers this year. So far, I'm lagging behind in getting the one for May well underway. I've selected the feather (blue jay), drawn it and have woven to the point of starting the feather itself. I have now eleven days to complete it.

I've done a bit of other weaving for another project and sewn the tapestries into a couple of things:

This pillow has the tapestry center sewn into the larger cotton flannel fabric borders.
And, this pincushion is about 3" square.

In early March before the virus began to take its own horrific march through our state I borrowed a Mirrix loom from a friend (thanks, Dinah!) to weave a couple of small tapestries, each based on a photograph of a periwinkle I made earlier this spring. These are for an upcoming project that I'll talk more about later when the time's right.

I hope soon to be able to adjust to whatever the new normal will look like in our world. In the meantime, I have more masks to make and give away.  

Health and safety wishes to all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Stay at home, shelter in place, hunker down...

...or whatever you choose to call this time of being dormant. Suggested and/or forced, yes. But necessary. It's almost impossible to comprehend what's going on. How could we have been participating in our daily "normal" lives as the new year began ... and three months later be in this situation?

I don't have an answer to that and neither does anyone else, no matter how loudly one says it.

So we get on with our lives as best we can, knowing that many are much worse off and others are in different, more fortunate circumstances.

My daily routine is much the same as always up to a point: get up; write morning pages and have coffee; walk a mile or two around town; weave my daily bit on the tapestry diary; get ready for the rest of the day. By then it's about 11 or noon... if noon, I have lunch and then go to the studio. If 11, I pack lunch and then go to the studio. Once there, that's when the routine changes.

Here's the April tapestry diary feather of hope, a guinea feather.
Since early March it's been quite difficult for me to concentrate on anything at the studio. I have three tapestries underway but all have come to a standstill in the last two weeks. I've been making cloth masks to give to family and friends. I've used several online examples to work from, with the best tutorial for my reference being the one shown through the Northeast Georgia Medical Center site here.

This is one hand-off of masks for a friend: tied to the kitchen door, sealed in a ziplock bag, inside another plastic bag. Text friend to say it's there, ready for pickup.

Although most of my stash is yarn, I had a small amount of fabrics and even some elastic to work with. At first, I fought with my old Singer sewing machine through the construction of about five masks. The machine's foot feed doesn't work consistently and that's a PIA, big time. The back stitch also doesn't work so I had to turn the work around to sew in reverse in some places for seam security. I did a lot of cussing and shouting for a few days while doing those.

Then I remembered an impulse purchase I'd made at a fabric store about a decade ago... a little sewing machine called a "Sew Mini" by Janome. It was less than $100 when I bought it and I tried it out a few times at home, then put it away thinking I'd use it for stitching on paper (I was doing some bookmaking at the time), but never did. Once I remembered I had it, thought I'd give it a try. And, it works the way I need it to!

So, even though there is only one speed (no fast stitching along straight lines here), it has been able to handle the several layers of fabric, plus the pleating of the masks. And it goes in reverse! Thank you, little Mini, for your hard work in the past week. I can truly say that was one impulse buy that I (now) don't regret!

 I even resorted to sewing my own bias tapes once I ran out of those in my stash.

I'm off to the studio to make a few more masks today and these will probably be the last ones I sew since I'm running out of supplies. I will be back to the tapestry looms after that.

May your lives be healthy and safe.

May we all come out of this awful time as better people, if that's possible.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Troubled Times

It's hard to write about anything now. Difficult to move from moment to moment in the uncertainty that surrounds us. It would seem as a tapestry weaver who's used to spending long hours alone, and also as an introvert who prefers to have little interaction with people, this time would be ideal to be in the studio working. But anxiety is a constant companion and keeps me from staying on task with much of anything. I jump from project to project and don't really complete much of anything.

One of the plans I had for the spring was a one-person exhibit at Sarratt Gallery, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. And a workshop during that time to be held there. Well, I shipped my tapestries to the gallery on March 2. It was installed just a day or so before the university there went to online for the rest of the semester. Hadley, the director's companion dog, was with him when he sent this photo of one wall of the installation. Remember seeing sweet Hadley from a post last year when she was with him at Aya Studio in Florida? Scroll down at the post and you'll find her several times.

Photos of Sarratt Gallery installation by David Heustess
The gallery director is showing my work periodically on social media and I appreciate that effort to share my work through that means. But the tapestries won't be viewed on site in the gallery; that's one of the best things about having an exhibit--getting to see one's artwork in a gallery space.

Another plan was to submit a small tapestry for the American Tapestry Alliance small format, non-unjuried exhibit to be held in Knoxville, Tennessee this July in conjunction with Convergence. Over the past two weeks, the ATA Board had to assess the impact of the pandemic and, after much discussion, made the very difficult decision not to hold the actual exhibit, but rather to create an online exhibition of the tapestry entries. I had shipped my tapestry earlier in the month and it joined the over one hundred that had already been received by the volunteer working with the exhibit. The Board asked that other shipments be suspended (the deadline had been March 31). This was an extremely hard decision to arrive at--and I know first hand because I'm a member of the ATA Board. Many people have been disappointed by this turn of events and some are even angry. We certainly don't have a crystal ball to see what's to come but the likelihood of plans for the summer event being in jeopardy is distinct.

Here's my small tapestry, 10" x 10", called Springtime in North Georgia.
I've had to empty the studio freezer of the dye materials I'd been storing: zinnas, marigolds, black walnuts.  Making room for extra frozen food items seemed like a better use of the space right now. I've dyed several skeins of yarn so far and plan to do more today.

These are minor, unfortunate disruptions to life. Nothing comparing to the illness and death of thousands. And the fear that has swept the world since the beginning of 2020.

Springtime has arrived in north Georgia. I am still able to get out in my neighborhood to walk each day. And in the woods at our creek house nearby. In the past weeks I've watched the bloodroot and the fiddleheads return once more and that is a solace. It helps me think that things will recover... maybe not ever be the way it was before this novel coronavirus entered the world. But a new normal. Until the next crisis.

My husband and I are self-isolating and plan to for some time to come. How long? Who knows but hope is still with us for health and safety in these trying times. I wish the same for each of you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

YouTube conversation about "Streams and Strands"

In the last post I mentioned the two-person exhibit that Dianne Mize and I are having at the Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center right now. The show, called "Streams and Strands," is there until March 1.

Dianne is a painter and teaches primarily through her online courses. She also has free "Quick Tips" online about many different facets of art making. Check out her website for links to her Quick Tips and other information about her courses. Her book, Finding Freedom to Create: A Painter's Roadmap, is one that I've recommended to students and that I often refer to for ideas about design and creativity.

Last Sunday, Dianne and I met with Roger Williams of SauteeLive, a video production company. Roger filmed our rambling conversation about our art making practices. Here's the YouTube link to that conversation. In the video each of us talk about a few of our works that are hanging in the show.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

January is ending ...

... and my tapestry diary for 2020 is progressing. I'm weaving my way through the eleventh year of this perhaps obsessive daily practice. And I still find that weaving every darn day on a tapestry diary is something that I need to do. Even a few minutes spent putting a little weft into a warp that I know will be on the loom for twelve months is rewarding. It's also rewarding to not have a lot of planning in the weaving other than the image chosen to accomplish within the span of each month's time.

This year the month's images are to be of feathers. The Emily Dickinson quote: "'Hope' is the thing with feathers--/That perches in the soul--/And sings the tune without the words--/And never stops--at all--" is one that's often with me in troubling times. It's one that I'm using a lot right now.

Here's January's hope:

The feather is from my friends' turkeys, dropped in the yard--not plucked!

Each day I'm weaving a rectangle of color selected from the natural dyed yarns. I have several values of brown and tans from the black walnut and the henna dyes. Those are being alternated with other hues. I'm throwing a die again this year to select the color.

One of the things that always amazes me is how much compression there is in tapestry weft as the passes above an area are woven. This morning I took a photo of the very obvious difference. You can see on the left the woven area and on the right how the white weft is higher, so far. When I weave in tomorrow's area on top of that it will press down to be level with what's at the left.

I've used wool for the background and thin linen for the feather, giving a contrast of color and texture. I've also used thin lines of wool as linear details in some part of the feather, and slits that are pulled open a little so that the shadow becomes the line.

Other things going on are a couple of tapestries that are in progress. This one is on my Fireside Cantilever loom. The warp is sett at 8 epi and is wool. The weft is from Weavers Bazaar, the fine size and I'm using it seven strands per weft bundle. The width is about 22" and it's being woven turned 90˚ to the image when completed.

 I have another warp on the Ashford tapestry loom. I haven't worked too much on it lately but I hope to complete it before too many more months pass.

This loom is at home in the room I've claimed as my studio. The other loom is in the "real" studio nearby.

Other things happening include weaving a small heart to be used (perhaps) in something online very soon. I put the warp on a pipe loom and a piece of paper behind it so I could photograph the steps of the weaving process. It remains to be seen if this will be effective in the way it's going to be used but it was interesting to photograph it in stages.

Dianne Mize and I have paintings and tapestries being exhibited currently in "Streams and Strands" at the Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center near Helen, Georgia. The show is up until March 1. For March through April tapestries will go to the Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. Later in the summer there will be other exhibits in which I'll have tapestries, as well. I'll post more about those later. Here are a couple of photos from my end of the hall; Dianne's paintings are at the opposite end. She and I were interviewed and filmed recently. I'll post a link to the video when it's available.

I was excited to recently learn that one of my tapestries has been accepted into the American Tapestry Alliance Biennial exhibit, ATB13. That exhibit, sponsored by the ATA, is one that features a variety of tapestries currently being done by tapestry artists from around the world. Each time the works are selected by a different curator; having different eyes and aesthetic sense for selections sometimes gives thought-provoking results. It will be interesting to see what this year's curator, Nick DeFord, has chosen.  I've entered almost every one of these shows and have gotten into some and not others. I don't think I'll be able to see the exhibit in person this year because of the distance of the venues for me. But there will be a catalog that I'll be eager to see.

Last year I decided to order a sketchbook from the Sketchbook Project of the Brooklyn Art Library. I kept the sketchbook on the kitchen table at the studio and often made simple line drawings when I sat down for an afternoon break and snack. Here's a page from the book. I mailed it back recently and it will be among the thousands of others at the library. I've ordered a new one and am eager to start drawing it it. My first one will be digitized and be available for online viewing. I don't have the link for that yet, however. This is quite an intriguing effort. I learned more about it at this episode of the Ephemeral podcast in the interview with the founder of the Sketchbook Project, Steven Peterman.

And finally, here's a selfie with my fragmented landscape. I needed a headshot for the ATB13 catalog and so this is what I sent.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

And so it begins again

A New Year.

Last year held highs and lows both personally and professionally. I won't go into any of those because I don't want to. Suffice it to say that I was more than glad to see the back side of 2019. Didn't stay up to see in 2020 but could hear fireworks in the neighborhood somewhere. I'm glad someone felt like celebrating. Their time is coming when the celebratory mood might be dampened. I don't wish it for anyone... but it comes for us all, those dark and trying times.

Even though the year was not the best ever I continued my tapestry diary practice and having that as a daily respite was a good thing. Some days I would only weave a single pass of weft but I was still practicing what gives me most pleasure in the world--weaving tapestry.

I even managed to finish a large tapestry during the year, one I'd started with the hopes of having it off the loom in just a few months. Instead it was on the loom for almost a year. I don't have a title for it yet. Based on a painting I made while in residence at Lillian Smith Center a few years ago it's the fourth tapestry I've completed from the several paintings done in about two weeks time at the Center. All are of leaves that are woven much larger than life. Maybe I'll post all of them together along with the paintings from which I worked at a later time. For now, here's the latest:

Back to the tapestry diary practice. It's something I've been doing for a decade now--weaving a small bit each day. In 2015 I decided to also incorporate a larger section of weaving among the daily parts. I began by doing four things throughout each month. I liked the finished piece but it really became a chore to accomplish four small tapestries each month, essentially what that turned out to be, in addition to the other studio work. In 2016 I changed the idea to have each month as a single design element within the multiple days of the year. Here's a link to several of my ten tapestry diary years at my website. I've continued that concept for the next years from then to now--and that's what I'll be doing once again this year. However, what I will weave each month for 2020 is still a bit of a puzzle for me. I have a couple of ideas... and I'll begin something soon. After all, it's already day 2 of the month of January! I must select my subject soon!

For last year I decided that I'd roll a die each day to determine the color I'd use for the daily part. I had quite a bit of the natural dyes remaining from an earlier tapestry so I put those into six color groups: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and violet. I assigned each pip of the die to a color: 1=red, 2=yellow, etc. Each morning I threw the die and recorded the number that turned up, then selected from my several values of each of the colors what I'd use.

My subject for the year was flowers that were growing seasonally wherever I happened to be for a particular month. I started January with the Lenten Roses that were blooming outside the house then, followed by daffodils that were coming out in February here in north Georgia. It was quite interesting to see how much color there was in the natural world in the winter months. The only month that I didn't use a flower as the design was October. That was represented by a single black square. October was the month our beloved kitty died and I just couldn't bring myself to have any other image there.

Here's the whole thing when I cut it off on December 31, 2019. 

Next, comes the finishing of the back and the ends. I'm working on that for the next several days. There's an exhibit coming up soon and it needs to be completed to include in that.

Lots of ends to clip shorter and those near the edges to tack back with thread so they don't show when the tapestry hangs.

I have the warp for 2020's tapestry diary tied on now and have woven two days into the new year. For that process, I wound a three yard warp on the warping mill (I use 10/3 linen sett at 8 epi), then tied the ends of the new warp onto the remains of 2019. I've done that for several years; that serves two purposes--I don't have to totally re-thread the loom, thus saves time, and it also symbolically links the new year to the old. All of that was completed yesterday and I wove the first day of the new year as a green band across the bottom marked with one small line of a dark rust color to indicate month one of 2020.

Here's the new year's tapestry diary in the second day. Green band for January 1, brown rectangle for January 2. On and on it will go for the next 364 days. May this year be a good one for one and all.