Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dumpster Diving...

... or "Packing and Shipping 101."

I had to get several tapestries off to an exhibit today, and it occurred to me that all of my experience in this area may be helpful to some of you who haven't done as much as I have. I have to tell you that my experience in this area has been gained at both ends - in the shipping of pieces to many exhibits, AND (and perhaps more educationally, for me) in the receiving and unpacking and repacking of tapestries for exhibits. One of the things I am most convinced of, based on these experiences, is that if you pack and ship your work as if it is VERY valuable to you, it will be received and treated that way by others. So, here's the packing process I go through:

It begins at the Dumpster. "Ah," you say, "what kind of respect can you give your work starting at a dumpster?" Well, I'll tell you... I don't go to just any dumpster; I am somewhat picky. Here in my town, the best dumpsters are behind the bridal shop and Pier One Imports. They are the "Card Board Only" dumpsters. Pier One has lots of tapestry sized and shaped boxes, as they receive a lot of lamps and rugs. The bridal shop has large, flat, square boxes that wedding dresses come in, which are good for framed pieces. If I can't find an appropriate box at the dumpster, the packaging store is in the same strip mall, so I have to go there and spend $8-15 for a good box.

After I've got a good box, I make sure all labels required by the specific exhibit are properly attached, then I lay the tapestry(ies) out flat, cover them with a layer of clean, new tissue paper, and roll them up, rolling around the hanging bar that is attached to the top of the tapestry. After the tapestry is all rolled up with tissue paper, I roll a clean piece of fabric around the whole thing, and tie it firmly but not tightly (as I don't want to create creases in the tapestry) in several places, using some of that spare yarn that I seem to always have. After the fabric, I place the whole roll in a large trash bag - sometimes it takes two bags to cover both ends. The trash bag is important, because UPS and some other shippers want packages of value to be covered with something waterproof.

After all this wrapping, the roll goes in the box. I use plastic grocery bags to fill empty space in the box and pad the tapestry. Most exhibits now specify 'no styrofoam peanuts,' so recycling those reproducing-in-the-closet-when-you're-not-looking bags feels like a good thing! Plus, they're easier for unpackers to deal with.

Then, remembering to put the all-important return shipping label and instructions, and (usually) pre-paid check or whatever is required or arranged to get the work back to you, the box is ready to go. My UPS shipping office knows me very well, so they don't check my boxes for proper packing anymore, but some shippers will do that. So you might want to save the final taping up until you get to the shipping agent. I do also always put a warning on the box, on both sides, that there is fiber inside - a warning to the person who will open it to not just slash into the box.

The final thing I have to 'teach' you about shipping your artwork is about insurance. I do fully insure my work - ALWAYS! It takes a long time to weave a tapestry. BUT... (isn't there always a big 'but' somewhere? Like the one in the boat in the top right photo...)... I know that I would have the documentation that is required to make the insurance claimable. Shipping insurers require documentation of the value of your piece if it is lost or damaged. That documentation can be in the form of sales of similar work through reputable agents who are willing to do the paper work (ie. a retail gallery or art center or museum), or you would need to have had an appraisal of the work done by a similarly reputable agent. If you can't get that kind of documentation, you may as well take the risk and ship your work uninsured. If you can document the value, the exorbitant cost of insurance is well worth it. I say that from experience, having dealt with a lost tapestry through UPS, which was insured for full value and which they paid full value for (not mine, but a juror of a show I curated).

End of packing and shipping tutorial. Those of you who have no interest in such things, please come back another day!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Thought is like a little boat upon the sea..."

That line is from Donovan's song, "Happiness Runs," which I haven't been able to get out of my head for the past few days. Must be weaving all these boats! Oh well, there are a LOT of worse songs to have filling my head. Like the summer I couldn't rid my brain of Harry Nilsson's song, "Coconut."

Today I have to take a break from the loom to ready two tapestries to ship to the IWC exhibit in Durango. The two pieces that will be going are such different images! They make me think of the time, years ago, that Carol Russell told me that I need to develop a more recognizable look to my work. She said some of my work looks as if it's woven by two totally different artists. The funny thing is, my oil painting teacher told me the same thing about my painting last year. I guess I am just an artistic schizophrenic. But I love both of the styles I use. I love weaving 'stories', which seem to require me to use a more illustrative style; and I love bright colors and more simplistic shapes, which is the style I use to weave things which are more representative of feelings than of specific stories. The two tapestries going to this exhibit are examples of both styles. Actually, I thought the exhibit would only accept one piece per artist, or I'd probably not have entered both together, as they truly do look a bit like two artists did them.

"Dama con Mangos" is about my feelings about Honduras, where we go to work in a free medical clinic. I don't even think I could easily put into words how I feel about Honduras, especially about the women who live such difficult lives there. But I love this tapestry, which was woven with love and respect, and I hope it speaks for me. It is not a large piece. It is 24" x 36".

The second tapestry is the Winter tapestry from the Seasons series, which is called "A Peace of Quiet." It is one of the illustration/story tapestries. I love story tapestries, because historically, that is what tapestries were woven for. I love the old hunt and unicorn tapestries, and think of the stories that would have filled their viewers on seeing them. They still do, in fact. I hope my tapestries will be around a long time, as those tapestries have been. Then people who see them can know something about the stories of my life. That is such a cool thought to be floating in the little boat upon the sea!

Monday, June 18, 2007

"She needs to get her priorities straight!" R.Weasley

I've been putting alot of things ahead of weaving on the old evil ToDo list lately. It's hard not to, when you're renovating the kitchen, preparing for a home tour, and having house guests. But my work has officially been moved to top priority, as of today. I'm back to my "1-inch-per-day" quota, as I seriously need to make progress on not only this tapestry but the next one as well.

So, my little marker yarn went on the left selvedge this morning, and I've been weaving for the past seven hours. (I put a piece of yarn where I start at the beginning of the work-day so I can tell when I've woven my inch across the width of the tapestry.) I'm ALMOST there, as you can see. I'm taking my afternoon coffee break at the moment, then I'll be back at it. I'll be starting the third (of five) boats after the coffee's gone, and I've done a few back and shoulder stretches. For those of you who have never done it, seven hours at the loom is HARD on the old body! Even when I do get up and stretch every hour.

At this rate, I will reach and pass the halfway mark this week. Yea!

So back to it: "Weave, weave, weave my boats..." (Sorry 'bout that. Hope it doesn't start some annoying little tune rotating in your head or anything...)

Friday, June 8, 2007

...and a season for every purpose...

Today I have no excuse/reason/distraction to keep me from getting back to my work in earnest. The company has gone, and the house is a mess, but so be it. The first order of work I need to get back to, is to line the Winter season series tapestry. It will be due at an exhibit soon, but after finishing it (sewing slits, blocking, etc.) I wrapped it securely in clean fabric and put it up to 'rest' while I dealt with other demands. But, since those have all passed, it has moved to the top of my ToDo list.

The Winter tapestry is the third I've completed in the series of four. The series is based on the Ecclesiastes 3 passage about there being a time for every purpose under heaven. All of the works are intended to lift the viewer's vision to the "better halves" of things listed in that passage, ie. to peace, not war; to healing, not weeping... The title of this tapestry is "A Peace of Quiet."

Anyway.... in my morning meditation time, I am reading Matthew Fox's book, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet. In my reading this week, I ran across this, which I think is wonderful and encouraging to me, but also quite challenging:

All artists have to let go of the modern world's silly and reductionist notions that art is for art's sake or art is for fame's sake or art is for venting's sake and start serving the heart of God once again. Artist's need an inner life just like everyone else. They also need an outer life, that is to say, an awareness of how we got here and what "here" constitutes in it's holy vastness and it's unimaginable diversity and creativity. A return to our origins is long overdue for all professionals but especially for artists, because their task is to lead the rest of us in moving through perilous times of cynicism, boredom, and despair.