Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh, to be on Island Time!

Tomorrow we leave for Whidbey Island, Washington. I have been there before, but then I went with my painting friends on a sketching/image collecting trip. It was wonderful! I have great expectations that this trip with my husband will be wonderful, as well. How can a week on an island not be terrific? Even if it rains all week (which looks like a possibility) I have a couple of good books packed, a few magazines, my grandson's Christmas sweater to knit, my camera, iPod, sketching materials, and binoculars for catching glimpses of Orcas. We plan to eat seafood until we can't stand anymore - which will never happen.
Here are some pages from the album/journal I put together from the last trip there:

A sketch I did on a paper bag. I believe there's a poem inside it.

This is a small (6"x8") acrylic sketch I did of one of my friend's wading in the ocean:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I have decided that I need to be more confident about my work. Not just my tapestries, because I have quite a bit (enough, at least) of confidence where they are concerned. I KNOW that I can weave, at any rate. But with my painting... I need to come out of the closet or woodwork, or wherever it is that I crawl whenever it comes up and admit that, YES, I DO paint. Period. And, by the way, I LIKE painting. Sometimes I even really NEED to paint. That is what I'm feeling today - the need to paint.
It is pretty funny though, that my need to paint always seems to surface when I have this huge ToDo list staring me in the face: weave an inch today; do laundry and pack for a trip; clean the house; hydrate the cat; clean out the garden..... blahblahblah.
I guess my desire to paint comes from having taken two paintings out of my studio to exhibit. I have some empty easels now, and have propped blank canvases on them, and they are goading me to fill them.
Well... here are the two paintings I sent to exhibit.

The first is called "A Peace of Quiet II". It is of my lovely daughter-in-law in my garden. I admit that I really DO like this painting. It feels quite classical to me.

This painting is called "Mutual Admiration". I painted it from a photo that I took in the Metropolitan Museum last fall. I confess that I'm pretty happy with this painting, too. Wow, such confessions! I am getting much too bold, don't you think?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lower border...

I have finished the weaving of the lower border - which gives me the rest of today and tomorrow to paint the maquette and enlarge the cartoon for the next section, which includes the main body and the side borders of the piece.

I'm pretty happy with the lower border. It is much more 'weaver-ly' than the weaving on some of the other Seasons pieces; much more about woven squirrel, grouse, and pumpkins than it is about actual squirrel, grouse, and pumpkins, if you can understand the distinction. Above is the border (it doesn't curve like that at top and bottom - that is camera distortion, as it's 36" wide). Below are some detail shots.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11th

Days like today come and go. Some are good; some are not. No American who was alive and aware on September 11th, 2001 will ever be able to spend a September 11th of any other year without some thought, reflection, and most probably some tears. And, unfortunately, the events since then have not been very healing for us.

On the morning of September 12th, 2001 I was standing in front of my kitchen TV, which, remarkably, was turned on. I say 'remarkably' because my TV is never on in the daytime, but I couldn't pull myself away from it. A lot of things were swirling around in my mind; one of them was, "how can those broadcasters sit there and talk about this without weeping?" I remembered vividly when Walter Cronkite announced the death of President Kennedy, showing his grief and despair clearly for the world to see. That seemed so much more human, more natural than the almost excited airs of the broadcasters after September 11th. And I thought, "it's because we have lost our soft hearts that things like this can and do happen." We have become so tough. Our reaction even then was, "how can we be even tougher than those who have done this to us?"

The next thing I thought then was, "what can I do?" After all, I am not a politician, I am an artist. So I realized I needed to react to this horror by making some art. I went to my studio and, with tears running down my face, I painted the painting above - which is unlike anything I had ever done, or have done since. I let the paint weep onto the paper.

Evidently others had the same thought - if you are an artist, you must respond with the tools of your trade. Monique Lehman, a tapestry artist in California, sent out a request for tapestries to commemorate the day in a small size, which would all be put together as one large Memorial Tapestry. So I used a part of the painting I had done on September 12th, and wove it into a 10"x10" tapestry to be a part of this project. One of the things I like most about it is that is is somewhat chaotic - which was very much how those days following September 11th felt to me. I could no longer maintain the illusion that I - or anyone else 'down here'- was in control. The Memorial Tapestry has been exhibited often, and in worldwide venues, since then.

It was healing to do the painting and the small tapestry. But I was still in grief and in shock; even more so when our president decided to add more violence, grief, and horror to the world as a response. I could hardly create. Then I went to the Botanical Garden in Denver with my son. I took lots and lots of photos of beautiful plants. But the one which struck me the most wasn't even a formal part of the gardens. It was a small desert succulent that was growing on it's own on one of the pathways. In spite of not being in the formally cared for and watered part of the garden, in spite of being on a pathway; it was not only surviving, but thriving. It was beautiful; it was a surviver. I determined that I would be like that plant. Even if all the governments of the world, my own included, did not give me the support and healing I needed, I would not only survive; I would thrive. And I would keep and nourish my own soft heart and, if I could, the soft hearts of others. I would use my art, my tools, to do this. So I took the photo of that tiny (about 1 1/2") plant and blew it up and wove it into a tapestry. I used the best materials I have ever used - I splurged on silk, and it glows when you see it in 'real life' (and it does seem to have life.) The weaving of this tapestry helped heal me. I came out of my grief. The tapestry is called "Emergence."

"Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace. At their best, artists speak not only to people; they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred and an agent of public awareness... Art opens new doors for learning, understanding, and peace among peoples and nations." Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sources... and more...

First, here is a Peace Bus that we followed on the highway before we turned up onto the Mesa where our cabin is. I Googled "Peace Bus" and found them all over the world - Australia, Germany, the Middle East, and a number of them in the US. But I didn't find this particular one. What I am wondering, since this one says, "Get us off oil" is what this thing is running on as it crosses the country? I would like to think it has maybe been converted to ethanol, but my husband the pessimist, just thinks it may be driven by someone who doesn't understand irony.

Anyway, I thought, since I talked about what inspired the things in the lower border of the tapestry I'm weaving, I would post the original sources of inspiration. These lower borders all have three items of flora and/or fauna on them. On the left side of this one will be the grouse (may actually be ptarmigan, but they're all called grouse here) from our cabin. Here's the photo I took last fall of the whole family, then the one that took of the parents, which is the one I'm working from in the tapestry.

In the middle will be three pumpkins. They are from this photo, which I took when we went to a pumpkin patch with our 'punkins' last fall. I hate leaving the cutest parts of the photo out of the tapestry, but there just isn't room in the lower border for them all!

On the right will be a squirrel, based on this detail photo of a squirrel in a large tapestry that is in the Cloisters Museum in New York city. I took this photo last fall when we went there with our Boston kids.

Of course, all of these things have been cropped, stretched to fit, and turned so that they will work in this tapestry border. But these are the places they came from, to begin with!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Fall, favorites, and fears...

September is my favorite month. Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the crisper, cooler air. I love changing leaves... I love to gather them and hang them on the refrigerator among the pictures of my grandkids. I love to hear and smell them when they fall and crunch under my feet. That has been one of my favorite sensations all my life - it's one of the few sensations I remember loving as a child. In fact, I had a jolt of that memory last fall, when my grand-daughter told me how she loves to hear leaves crunch under her tricycle tires. That's another favorite: when my grandchildren connect with the child I still am.

I have woven over 60 tapestries. Several of them were fall tapestries. One would think I'd have this down pat.
But, I am beginning the Fall tapestry for the Seasons series, and I awoke this morning with a familiar jolt: I am doing it ALL WRONG! I've woven the first inch, and have chosen colors and ordered yarns. I know an inch doesn't sound like much, but it is a significant commitment of time - not to mention the commitment I made to color by ordering the yarns I chose. But now I'm thinking I should have a dark background on the lower border, and not the muddy middle-value colors I've started with. I do this almost every time. Work and work on the design, decide it's ready and begin the weaving, and then the doubts appear. Unfortunately, sometimes the doubts have proven to be valid ones, and I've changed the design and am happier with it. Sometimes they are just trying to slow me down - stop me even. I have known doubts and fears to totally stop creative people from creating. I refuse to let that happen to me. I'd rather create something totally wrong, something BAD, than to not create anything at all.

The thing is (and here I'm trying to work out my doubts and justify my choices right in front of you - I should be so bold) I chose the background I did for a fairly sound (at the time) reason. In this tapestry, I'm not just designing and weaving a tapestry; I'm designing and weaving the conclusion of a series of four tapestries. So the design choices I'm making must work not only when it hangs alone, but when the four tapestries hang together. Of course, that may not happen often, but when it does I want it to look good, you know? So, I do truly think this tapestry would look better with a dark background on the lower border. BUT... and this is one of those big buts (like the Rap artists sing about)... the tapestries will hang together in a certain order: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. And the lower border background of Winter is light, the lower border backgrounds of Spring and Summer are both dark, so I feel like the background of the Fall one should be light, or at least lighter. See what I'm sayin'? Ah, 'tis a conundrum... and one that must be solved in my mind by the time I sit down at the loom first thing in the morning. Fears must be silenced so fingers can fly. Any input?