Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tie one on...

...and then tie 299 more on! That's how I spent my day yesterday.

I am now at a place where I'm doing the things non-tapestry weaver's never think of, when they think of tapestry weaving (that is, if that activity should ever cross through their minds at all, which it doubtless does not.) I am starting and completing; beginning and ending; prepping and finishing. I am having to do all the after-loom work on one tapestry, and all of the before-loom work on another.

Actually, I took a few days off after the cutting off and we went to our cabin for part of the weekend, where I began a new painting. I set up in the only good lighting there - the north window. It overlooks a path that deer use... see the two fawns passing by beyond my paintbrushes? Their mother had already leapt into the brush by the time I had my camera out.

I came home not feeling very well, and by yesterday, I conceded that I was as sick as ever anyone was. Oh, what a dreadful state I was in! Such tremblings, such flutterings all over me, such spasms in my middle and pains in my head! Such beatings in my heart that I could get no rest! No one was ever so sick as I... except perhaps poor Mrs. Bennett. But I am on a deadline, so, brave soul that I am, I decided that warping was easier than sewing slits or maquette design work, and certainly easier than running all the errands that need doing. So, between bouts of reposing restlessly on my fainting sofa, I warped the loom for the Fall tapestry. I don't think I've ever warped my big loom in just one day before. I hope I don't find too many errors in the warp today!

As I was warping, in my feverish state, I was thinking of all the comments we weavers get about how "patient we must be" to do this. One of my friends made the comment again at the cutting off last week. I finally thought of how I want to reply to that comment, which always takes me by surprise, no matter how many times I hear it. I have decided I will sweetly say,
"No, my dear lady, it is not because I am so patient that I weave tapestries, although I am loath to disavow you of the notion that I am in possession of such a noble one of the Virtues. In truth, it is because of my great impatience with the folly of the rest of the world that I am driven to the sanctuary and sanity of my loom."

Can you tell that I've been reading the classics? I just finished The Three Musketeers, which I enjoyed very much. But why is it that the hero always gets to be swashbuckling about France and England, while the heroine must languish away in a convent waiting to be rescued?

Well, I promised a picture of the finished Skiffs tapestry, but it is still 'resting' on the dining room table, waiting for slits to be sewn and to be blocked and lined. I hope to complete that by the end of the week - if I can survive my palpitations that long! Here is the unfinished back of the piece - the mess I must face today...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cutting off...

A cutting off is always somewhat anti-climactic, to some extent.

My first thought is usually, "so now what?" Of course, that's not the case this time, as I know what comes next... beginning again, on an even larger, more daunting tapestry. And it must be begun very soon. As a matter of fact, my few cutting off guests have just barely left, but I have already gone back into the studio to measure the warp remaining on the loom to see if there's enough for the Fall tapestry, or if I'll need to re-warp. Unfortunately, I need to re-warp. I'll start that on Monday. In the meantime, we're going to our mountain cabin this weekend, so I'll take paint and the inspirational materials that I've been collecting for the next tapestry, and will begin on the maquette.

These are pictures from the cutting off: a good supportive friend making her cut; me releasing the tapestry warp from the lower beam; some leftover snacks (see? we'd have had enough for you!); and finally, me holding up the cut off tapestry, with someone holding the maquette up beside it. I'll post a good image of the completed tapestry after the finishing process is completed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Two more... and no workman's comp!

The final two boats are woven. I now just have to fill in the 'water' areas to have this tapestry completed. I am planning a cutting off for Wednesday afternoon. I'll try to post pictures of it, and the completed tapestry, by Thursday.

In weaving this to completion, I have been weaving 8+ hours a day, at least 5 days a week. There have been consequences of such physical folly. I have had to bandage the cuticles of a number of my fingers, as the warp threads have been ravaging them, and I don't want to bleed on the tapestry. I've discovered that 1 flexible 'finger' bandaid can be cut into three lengths to quite nicely bandage 3 fingers, without too much bulk! Thought I'd pass that brilliant tidbit on to those of you who are as silly as I seem to be.

I also have the regular body aches that come from sitting in one position too long, though I do get up and stretch regularly, so it's not too bad. It could be worse. My mother-in-law was a seamstress, not a weaver. But she went to the doctor once for low back pain and he diagnosed it as 'weaver's bottom.' I'm happy to report that I don't yet have to admit to that malady!

As the end of this tapestry is in site, I am becoming quite excited to see it done. I am also looking forward with anticipation to the next tapestry - that helps me deal with the 'cutting off blues' that seem to always come with the end of a time-consuming creative project. But, as Scarlet would say, I'll think about all that tomorrow. It's after 9:00 p.m. here, and I've just finished my day's work. Must do up some kitchen work (as those house-fairies just refuse to show up), then take my sore fingers and weaver's bottom to bed. Tomorrow is another day - with at least another 5-6 hours of studio work.

p.s. Must admit that the house fairies DID show up to clean my kitchen while I was posting last night - in the form of my wonderful husband! What a delight to go down into a clean kitchen - pots and pans and all. Smootches to you, my dearest man!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Two more... and two more...

I have finished weaving two more boats; and I still have two more boats to weave. I am coming to the part of the tapestry where I know I will have to do some serious talking to myself. There are design things going on that, up close as I weave small details, will seem 'wrong' to me. But I already worked all these things out in the maquette (the painted design I'm working from), so I will have to just keep telling myself to 'have faith' and to 'trust the maquette.' In other words, to just WEAVE IT, even if the little bits look 'wrong,' trusting that the whole, completed work will come out 'right.'

I often have to talk to myself this way. I teach my students to do the same kind of self-arguing, and to try to WIN the arguments, whenever possible. To not win, would be to keep un- and re-weaving little passages, not trusting that they will come out right if I just persevere through them. The hard part about these arguments is that if I'm wrong and I keep going, there is no real way to 'fix' a woven tapestry. But I have proven to myself many times that trusting the maquette and the design choices I made in it is the best way to go.

So... deep breath, and into the deep end I go!

Monday, August 13, 2007

On the drawing board...

With the end in sight on the Skiffs tapestry, my mind is turning to the next piece. It needs to be ready to weave by the time this piece is cut off. This morning I've been pulling together some of the images I'll be working with in it. The Fall tapestry was the first of the Seasons pieces that I envisioned, even though it will be the last one I'll be creating. So it has been in the back of my mind for a long time. During that time, I've collected things here and there that said, "fall tapestry" to me. Many of them are from nearby - like my favorite cottonwood tree that we pass every time we go to the mountains. And the grouse couple that lives at our cabin. I also got some great pumpkin photos when we went with the grandkids to a pumpkin patch last year.

I posed myself for the central figure of the tapestry - but I don't really intend it to look like me. I just needed to get the gesture right for the figure. So I'll have to work that out, as well. But it is coming together in my mind. I'm beginning to see it as a tapestry with all of the seemingly disparate 'things' in their proper places.

I love this part of my work! The design work is like a big puzzle for me. I am putting things together that speak to me of the season, autumn. But I am also aware of the symbolic meanings of all of the things that I will include. The title of this tapestry will be "The Gift" and it will have a great deal of spiritual significance for me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

One down, four to go!

I finished weaving one of the boats in the skiff tapestry today. There are two more mostly done - I hope to finish them off in the next day or so. Then there are two more not even begun. I have about 10-12" yet to weave to finish this tapestry before I can cut it off. I hope to get it done by the end of next week - or middle of the following week, at the latest. Which means I'll not be doing much BUT weaving! Which is OK. I've missed my loom time, and it feels good to be at work again.

I'm showing you the finished boat as I see it. I haven't seen the whole boat yet. I won't see it all as one complete image until I cut the finished tapestry from the loom. As I weave, I wind the woven part of the tapestry around the lower beam of the loom when enough is woven, so that I'll have access to the unwoven warp. I can only see about 10" of length (bottom to top) of the woven tapestry at a time. On this tapestry, that is about a third of the total piece. So, above is a photo I took several weeks ago of the lower part of the boat. And here's a picture I took of what I can see today. I guess I could try to piece the photos together to see a complete image of the boat, but that feels like cheating. Or like technology is stealing the surprise; like when you find out the sex of a baby before it's born. It would be convenient, but would it necessarily be accurate? I wouldn't really know until the cutting off. So we'll just wait until then, like I always do.

This boat is along the right edge of the tapestry, and the color in the photo I took of the bottom part is more accurate, color-wise. I took today's photo this evening, in artificial light.

AHA! Now I have a little boat to float upon tonight's river of dreams!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A cuppa, cuppa, cuppa, cuppa, cup...

I finally took pictures of the Percolator tapestry I did at Ghost Ranch. I didn't realize how often coffee/tea/pots/containers/etc. are in my work. I am often slow that way. But a student pointed out to me how many of my small sample tapestries contain these things. She asked if I like coffee. Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do! Evidently I like it a LOT! And tea, too. And the social aspect of sitting down with a cuppa something strong and hot... or sometimes cold, in this weather

I did not confess to my students that I also paint cups of coffee or tea. Not all obsessions need to be confessed, after all.

The same student that noticed my coffee/tea obsession reminded me of the lines in T S Eliot's "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" about teacups and drinking tea. Though Eliot used to be my favorite poet, I'd not thought of that poem in quite some time. I especially like this part:

After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!

I was very excited to learn that I received the Best of Show award at the Fiber Celebrated exhibit for my tapestry, "Dama con Mangoes." This has been a good month, not only for JK Rowling, but (on a much more modest, manageable scale) for me as well!

Let's raise our tea or coffee (or MochaLite frappacinno) cups to an equally good August for ALL of us!