Thursday, March 19, 2020

From a Distance...

A lot has happened since I last posted here. The opening for my exhibit at The Zesty Moose here in Grand Junction was very nice, but count on me to have an exhibit while everything is shutting down! At least 2 of the small tapestries did sell during the opening weekend, and what doesn't sell there will be listed on my Etsy site at the end of the month. I'll keep you posted on that.

In the meantime, I finally finished this small 8x10" tapestry, "Neighborhood Watch," for the American Tapestry Alliance small tapestries exhibit, Renditions, to be held (fingers crossed) at Convergence in Tennessee this coming summer. This was a very 'fiddley' bit of weaving, but I have found that, especially in times of stress, the fiddlier the better! This is of our two kittens, Ringo and Poe, keeping watch over our world.

Earlier this week, with our self-quarantine in mind, we made our annual drive to see if we could see some of the Sandhill Cranes that migrate through western Colorado. There is a reservoir about an hour from here where the cranes arrive in groups in the evening, spend the night, then wait for the warm winds the next morning to help lift them up over the Grand Mesa. Four years ago, we saw a huge group of them lift off. The next year, we somehow missed it altogether, siting just a few crane couples in the fields. Last March, we saw a fairly large group (several hundreds) in a field, but it was snowing, so they didn't even try to go anywhere.

Sunday night, we saw a post online that about 2,000 cranes had arrived at the reservoir by sundown. So Monday morning we got up early and grabbed our binoculars and cameras. We saw several groups here and there, but sited the group of 2,000 in the same cornfield they'd been in 4 years before. We settled in at an overlook between the cornfield and the Mesa. At about 11:00, a group of 5 cranes circled over the field, signaling that it was time to go. The cranes all started rising, and in groups of 50-150, they rose up over us, in a raucous chorus; the most amazing sight and sound!

Within about 20 minutes the cornfield was empty, the sky was full of cranes, circling in ever higher loops, catching the winds that would lift them over the Mesa, on to their next stop.  I turned to a couple who were watching from a ways away and said, "I needed that today."  The man just nodded, and his wife said, "Yes." We all had tears in our eyes. What a blessing to see that, no matter how crazy the world seems to get from our perspective, in reality, there is order, there is routine, there are still things to fill us with wonder.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

I've been as busy as a tapestry weaver putting together an exhibit!

I have a small exhibit through this month (March) at a local wine bar/gallery. The pieces in this exhibit are mostly small, and many have never been seen outside my studio. I loved pulling these little tapestries out of hiding, mounting and framing them, and bringing them into the light of day! They have been clamoring to be seen for such a long while!

In addition to the more than a dozen small tapestries, I have hung a few of the Calendar Tapestries and a couple of large tapestries, just for contrast.

The building this exhibit is in was built as a blacksmith shop in 1905. It is downtown here in Grand Junction, on a street that was once old bars and shoe repair shops, but is now Brew Pubs, this wine bar and gourmet shop, and the local (Colorado Mesa University) Art Gallery, next door.

There will be a First Friday Artist's Reception this coming Friday evening. First Fridays are hosted by all the local galleries, with art lovers going from one to the next. The weather is supposed to be glorious, and the dreaded virus has not yet hit Colorado (all fingers crossed for it to stay away completely!)  So, if you are in the area, come see me... and a bit of my work!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020


I have begun to weave a small tapestry for the Renditions non-juried exhibit that ATA is hosting this coming summer.  As I designed and began this tapestry, I started asking myself why I was weaving it. It's funny, but I find that when I put a question like that 'out there,' the answers often start flooding in.

We went to see the recent Tom Hanks movie about Mr. Rogers last night. Many years ago, I watched a LOT of Mr. Rogers! When my oldest son was about 2 years old, he knew exactly when the show would be on, and we watched it everyday, sometimes twice a day. When Mr. Rogers said "Hello, neighbor!" each time, my son answered, "hello, dee-bor!" It was a wonderful movie, and brought back sweet memories. Also, it was about motivation; about why Fred Rogers did what he did, and why the reporter following him did what he did. 

This morning, I read a random devotion by C S Lewis, and it turned out to be about motivation: specifically about the motivation to create, and how it is rarely, almost never, about wanting attention, glory, fame or fortune, as those things are rare results for creations. I mulled that over, on top of my Mr. Rogers mulling.

Several things have recently occurred to put me on this mind-path. First, I received top awards in two exhibits I participated in last year. That was great, but it did not feel at all like why I had created the pieces, or even why I had  entered the exhibits. I also, in the past year, created two of the most challenging tapestries I have ever woven, and I believe them to be my best work, to date. I entered them both in American Tapestry Alliance's juried exhibit, ATB13, and they were both rejected. I have been very fortunate to have had work in at least 6 ATA juried exhibits, and I have also worked with jurors on 3 of them, so I know not to take the rejection of these tapestries to heart. Oddly, I did not even feel badly about this 'rejection,' which is also why, I think, I began thinking about motivation, about why I am compelled to continue creating tapestries. Tapestries take a long time to create. They are certainly not cheap to create, in either materials or labor.

When I was getting a second cup of coffee this morning, I picked up the morning paper, which my husband had left open to the comics. Beside the comic strips is the daily 'horoscope,' which, in our paper, is more like daily 'good advice.'  This was mine today:

See what I'm saying? Answers start coming! The true answers came from within me, though, which, of course is how it always is. You can be nudged in a direction, but you have to get at the end result yourself. 

Why I weave a particular tapestry has always been the same for me, at every step of my creative journey. I weave to 'see if I can' - each tapestry has been a challenge of some sort. It has been a 'can I really create this?' question that can only be answered by doing it. That is why I am weaving the small tapestry I'm working on now.... it is such a creative technical and design challenge, I am not even sure it will succeed, but I am determined to find out!

There is a second motivation as well, one I'm not sure I will ever quite understand. I am happy when I weave. I feel the contentment that comes when I feel like I am doing 'what I need to do,' for whatever reason. And that is very motivating!

The Duet cKathySpoering  2019

"Graffiti Garden" cKathySpoering 2019

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Small Tapestries...make one!

The American Tapestry Alliance has hosted a dozen unjuried small format tapestry exhibits, beginning in 1996. They have been held every other year, in conjunction with the Handweaver's Guild of America's Convergence.  I didn't learn of the first exhibit in time to enter it, though I was thrilled to see it in Portland. When I saw how varied and vibrant such small works could be, I was determined to be a part of the next exhibit, and each one from then on. I have kept that promise to myself, and am now preparing to begin a new small tapestry for the next one, which will be this coming summer in Tennessee.

This is the first small tapestry I created for the 1998 exhibit, "The Practical Cat." One of the best things for me about weaving small, is that I will try new things. In this tapestry, I wove only with thrums (leftover bits of yarn) from my larger tapestries.

I separated the thrums into two bundles: light values, and dark values. When I ran out of a thread, I grabbed another from the appropriate bundle, with no regard for hue. So this is a very colorful little tapestry, even though it almost reads as mostly 'black and white.'

The tapestry for the 2000 exhibit was "Beignets and Café au Lait," inspired by a trip to New Orleans. My experimentation in this one was the diagonal soumac lines in the upper portion, and the 'dots' throughout. All are woven in, not stitched on after off the loom.

The tapestry for the 2002 exhibit was woven as a demo while teaching a workshop at Ghost Ranch. The point was to take a fairly colorless object, and weave it in a colorful way, following a cartoon, which was also a new experience for most of the students.

The small format exhibits have a size limitation of 10"x10". Most of these tapestries are about 8x10 inches in size, with a warp sett of 8-10 ends per inch.

In 2006 I did a tapestry of my husband, an avid photographer, in Yellowstone National Park. It was actually part of a small series of tapestries I did of National Parks of the west.

2006 found me as a new grandmother, so the tapestry was of my first grandchild, called "Suite: Katie Blue Eyes."

For the 2008 exhibit, I wove a fairly realistic tapestry of our old yellow lab dog, mostly woven with him in the studio at my feet. This is still one of my favorite tapestries.

"Milo's Duck" was inspired by a duck following my second grandchild around, in Rocky Mountain National Park. I wanted to weave both feathers, and especially to experiment with weaving water and reflections, as this was followed by the weaving of a larger tapestry that was mostly a water scene. This tapestry was in the 2010 exhibit.

"Grace" was designed and woven for the 2012 exhibit. I was much in  need of weaving a bit of whimsey!                                                              

Following my first trip to the wonderful state of Maine in the fall, "Acadia Autumn" was woven for the 2014 exhibit. It was so beautiful in Maine, I took hundreds of photos, but rather than weave one of them, I chose to weave the experience of 'capturing' them! ATA seems to have used this tapestry quite a bit to promote the small format exhibit, and I feel honored for it to be used in this way!


In 2016, My son's family had just become 'urban farmers' with six hens producing eggs for them. They are all named, and this one is "O'Brien." Much to my surprise, I discovered that all the little detail bits that are actually abstract in the weaving are my favorite bits to weave! At this small scale, all the tiny bits of color are very small, and they rapidly change. It is a very meditative thing to weave this way.

The last unjuried small format exhibit was in 2018. I had done the 2017 and 2018 Women's March, and felt compelled to weave a self portrait of the experience. Since then, I have done two more Women's Marches (including one today) and several other marches in an attempt to make my voice heard on the side of non-violence, kindness, and acceptance.

I do not yet know what I will weave for this summer's exhibit, but I have to make that design choice very soon! The tapestries are due at the end of March. As the exhibit is not juried, any weaver can enter. Information about the upcoming exhibit (as well as information on obtaining catalogs from past exhibits) can be found on the American Tapestry Alliance website, here.

Why not get busy and join the fun?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A New Year, A New much ahead!

I've had a pretty big number of things on my mind, as well as in my schedule, since I last posted here. We went to Boston for a truly awesome family holiday trip, then to Denver for more of that, bringing home a couple of our grandkids for the most of last week.  We've also celebrated holidays here with our two Dads. Through all that, we still missed Gus, our cat of 11 years. So.... with our grandkids, we visited one of the local cat rescue places, to look for an older cat that would coexist happily with Booker, our big old Golden Retriever. However, when Booker went in, all the older cats disappeared, and these two kittens stayed to check him out. 

A sign at our vets office

These two little ones, Ringo (the grey tabby) and Poe (all black) were affectionate and playful, and not at all worried about Booker, so, with a great deal of encouragement from our animal loving teens, they have become a part of our family. They are entertaining - and distracting - us, and we have rapidly fallen in love with them.

I did this little sketch of them, with Poe on my lap most of the time.

While we were in Denver, we went to the Natural History Museum there, and I sat and did an ink sketch of the two moose in this diorama. I have been thinking a lot about Illustration, and about how to take a sketch from my sketchbook to make it into an illustration. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the original ink sketch.

Yesterday, I did paint a bit with gouache over the sketch.

Then today, I scanned it into my computer and did a bit of manipulation of it in Photoshop. I am not sure I would, at this point, consider it a successful illustration. However, I did learn a bit from the processes I used, so maybe this will be something I will be pursuing more as the year progresses. I am fairly competent in Photoshop, but it has a lot more capability than I use on a regular basis, and I hope to get better at it!

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Small tapestry is Woven....

Starting a new little tapestry, in my PJ's with my morning cup of coffee. It is on the little modified Hockett-style loom my husband made me, and the tapestry will be about 5x7inches.

In the area where the face is to be, I double warped the loom, and you can see here where I began weaving on the finer split warp on the neck. My loom sett is 8epi, so the doubled sett is 16epi. I use doubled weft in the wider sett areas, and singles in the finer sett areas.

The face is still not extremely detailed, even on the finer sett - this is a tiny tapestry, after all! But it really doesn't take much detail to make a face look like a face (especially on a child,) and it is best to leave some detail for the viewer to fill in, anyway. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! 

This is the woven tapestry, still on the little loom until I decide how I will finish it. It is 5x7 inches, sitting on the shelf in front of my filled Moleskine sketchbooks.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Book review: Spinning and Weaving: Heritage Crafts and Skills series

Spinning and Weaving by Lynn Huggins-Cooper is a newly released book in the Heritage Crafts and Skills series, published in the UK by Pen and Sword Books, Ltd. The book begins by introducing us to the purpose of the book, which is to be an historical overview of the heritage crafts of, and related to, spinning and weaving. According to Ms. Cooper, heritage crafts "are a part of ...the glue that held families and communities together for centuries.... often handed down through families... and a part of the customs and cultural heritage of the areas where they began."  It is the belief that these activities are becoming endangered that led to a list of at risk heritage crafts, this series of books, and a Heritage Crafts Association in the UK.

The book is divided into two sections. The first half shares the rich history of spinning and fibre and fabric making mostly, but not exclusively, relating to the UK. This history is fascinating. Reading about those who worked with wool, linen, cotton and silk long before I came to be a part of the craft is like discovering that I am just one strand woven into a tapestry much larger than any one weaver could create. It creates a sympathy for those who had to spin and weave to keep their loved ones warm or who were part of the large group of women weavers who worked long hours and labored hard under difficult conditions to feed their families, keeping the world clothed. The history alludes to the cotton fields of the southern US, the silk weavers of the East, and home spinners in the UK: a thread circling the globe. It takes us from prehistoric discovery of how to make fibre, through the times in the UK when "it took around three carders to produce enough roving for one spinner and around three spinners to provide yarn for one hand weaver," and to the industrial revolution and modern times when very few people are now needed to create cloth for the world. Fiber has always been used to denote economic and social wealth, with richer fibers allowing people to "peacock their status."

The historical half of the book is summed up with an encouragement to today's fiber workers, as the author says, "It is very grounding to carry out these actions, knowing that you are doing something that has been done for tens of thousands of years."

The second half of the book contains a number of 'Artisan Interviews,' including spinners, knitters, weavers and sheep growers in the UK. I was disappointed to not see photos from each of the artisans, though some were included. However, for most of the craftswomen there are links included to their blogs, online shops, or websites. 

The back of the book includes indices, mostly for UK readers. They include a "directory of Suppliers," a list of "Wool and Fiber Festivals" and of "Training Courses and Spinning Guilds," and a list of "Useful Books and Websites."

This book was sent to me to read and review and, as a fiber artist myself, I could not help but be pulled in and feel a part of the continuing narrative of working wool with my hands. I truly am hopeful that, along with the work of the artisans included in this treatise and the work I do and the many weavers and spinners I have connections with, weaving and spinning will continue as a craft and skill stretching as far into the future as it has done in the past.

This book is available here.