Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lake time!

Speaking of memories... We were up at our lake cabin for the past two days. On one of our walks we noticed how big our aspen grove has become! When we bought the cabin, the trees were only about as tall as my husband. Now they tower over the top of the cabin, fully mature forest giants. "So how long have we had the cabin?" I asked. The answer shocked me: 26 years! Oh my word! (To quote my grand-daughter, quoting me.)

We have SO MANY wonderful and precious memories from that small, rustic bit of heaven on earth. Memories of our sons as children, and now we are making memories with our grandchildren there as well. And we love making memories of quiet times alone together there, away from the stresses of daily life, like we had this weekend.

We sat under the trees and watched the birds and chipmunks skitter about us, as unconcerned about our presence as we were about theirs. We listened to the wren sing, the chickadees chatter, an overhead hawk crying out his warning, and the nearby tapping of a woodpecker. I heard a slither in the grass, and spotted a small snake. (My youngest son, who taught me to listen for snakes, rather than to look for them will be so proud that I learned that lesson so well). As I was sketching, a young doe walked out of the forest onto the driveway, less than ten steps away from me and my big yellow lab. The three of us froze, staring curiously at each other, then the doe turned and went back into the trees. Wooster watched that spot for the rest of the morning, hoping to see our new friend return. We drove around the lake and took our traditional sunset photo, a nice one, as fires in the area make the sky pink. Then, as all the campers, SUV's, and off-road vehicles arrived for the holiday weekend, we packed up and came home.

To us, the lake cabin is a place of quiet; a place for making new memories and quietly remembering old ones.

Illustration Friday topic: Memories

Brandi Carlile's song, The Story says "...these stories don't mean anything when you've got no-one to tell them to...". I guess you, and all viewers of my work are the ones my stories are for. All of my work is story-driven. Much of it is memory driven.
This tapestry, "The Big Green Chair", was based on my memory of my parents reading to us as children. It includes images from stories I remember so clearly. Below is the tiny 2x3" contact photo I based the tapestry on. I also remember the drapes very clearly and I loved weaving them! My brother once went behind the sofa and cut a large hole in those drapes. Scissor practice, I guess. He somehow survived. My family had the big green chair ( a really hideous piece of furniture) for a long time. They still had it when I got married... another memory of it is my now-husband sitting and waiting for me when he came to pick me up for dates. As you can see, it was large and cozy; it easily held an adult and several children.

"The Big Green Chair" is just one of five Heritage Series Tapestries, all about family memories. They, and their separate stories, can be seen on my website here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"What is the significance of the birds?"

Many years ago, when I was fairly new to tapestry weaving, I took my half-dozen or so completed tapestries, rolled up together, to a well known tapestry artist for a critique and some guidance. She was very gentle and generous in her critique. We visited over my work for the allotted time, then I rolled my work back up and prepared to leave. Just as I got to the door, and was starting through it, she asked, "What is the significance of the birds?"

That question stopped me in my tracks. "What birds?" I stupidly asked back. "The birds in all of your tapestries," she gently explained. "All of your tapestries have birds in them. Is there a significance?" To be honest, not only did I not know what the significance of them was, but I had not even realized that I was weaving that many birds! Up to that point, I was just concentrating on how to weave, weaving whatever image I could conjure up to learn a specific technique. Evidently, I had been sub- or un-consciously conjuring up birds.

For quite awhile after that, I tried to avoid weaving birds. I don't know why. Possibly because I still did not know the answer to that question... what was their significance? But then they starting winging their way back into my tapestries. I have woven many, many birds. I am weaving another today. What is their significance? I'm not sure... but I'm sure they are significant.

About the tapestries: (Top to Bottom)
"Fifth Day" a creation tapestry 34"x40" 1989 (still available)
"Faith" 38"x36" 1990 Collection of the State of Colorado
"Turtle Song" 40"x42" 1989 Private Collection
"What is this bird that sings while it is yet dark?" a tapestry about finding joy in difficult times and places (a Gulf war tapestry) 38"x44" 1992 Private Collection

Sunday, August 24, 2008

and speaking of routines....

I've enjoyed watching the Olympics, and will miss them. They have been one of the better reality shows on TV recently. I am not really much of a reality show fan, but, oh my!... Look at what those girls can do!! I have to wonder though, what happened to the men's synchronized swimming event? I was really looking forward to watching some burly, hairy guys do these formations. But I guess the burly, hairy ones aren't allowed in the Olympic pool, anyway. Sigh. What we could've enjoyed! If you, like me, get to missing Olympics coverage, and what more entertainment it might have included, take a look at this.

So now that the Olympics are history, we will have only the Democratic Convention to watch. That will still be better than most reality shows. Can Obama perform the 'Phelps-ian feat' of becoming President? I will be holding my breath for the next few months to see!

I had my knitting in my hands for much of the Olympic evening coverage, but would get so caught up in what was on, I didn't get as much done as I had hoped. Just finished the back and one and a half of the fronts of a grand-daughter's Christmas cardigan. Maybe the Convention will provide less excitement and more knitting time. I hope to at least get this first (of four) sweaters done. I used to love the old Conventions when you didn't yet know who the nominee would be, until after the delegate count. Now that was reality TV at it's best!! (Albeit in black-and-white... showing my age here, aren't I?)

To completely change the topic; I got my new Victoria magazine in the mail. There is an article about Quebec in it. In fact, there is a photo that includes the window of the room we stayed in a few weeks ago. (Lower left, 2nd floor window in the building by the edge of the page.) Wonder if we were in there when they came and took the photo? Even if not, it will be a nice addition to my trip journal! Nice article, and a lovely place to visit.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Illustration Friday topic: Routine

Living a life filled with interruptions and noise, she craved a life of quiet routine.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New year / mid-February...

Yesterday started my creative year. I know, it seems an odd time to celebrate New Year's, but fall is my most productive and creative time, and my work year has always seemed to begin with the start of the school year. I was talking to a friend about it, and she said for her it goes back to the time when she lived an agricultural life, and the creative work could begin when the harvest was in. But for me (never lived on a farm, though often lived in farming communities) I believe it goes back to my school days, as I truly loved the beginning of a new school year, the smell of new crayons, the clean empty notebooks to be filled. Then, when my own children were young, the beginning of my work year was when they went back to school each year, leaving me with bits of empty time to fill with my creative work.

The photo above was from my 2nd grade year: first grade on the front row, second on the next row. I'm the one with the red arrow pointed at me (see how special I was, even then?). My older brother was a year older, and he is behind me and to the left. My dad was the music teacher and high school band director, and he is on the top row of the grouping, furthest to the right (with the flat-top). This picture represents half the school, which was grades 1-12, plus all the faculty. My older sister was three grades higher than I was, so she was in the second picture, which would have shown the other half of the school. This was a small consolidated school (the small town, and out-lying agricultural communities) in western Colorado. The school still exists, and I'm willing to bet things are still done this way. It may be smaller now, due to the demise of the small farms there. I don't see my teacher in this picture; she must be in the other half. Miss B was later fired when it was discovered that she was the enterprising Madame of a local prostitution business, and was employing girls from the upper grades. Small towns can be pretty spicy places! (No kidding... ask me to tell you about my First Grade teacher someday! Now why did I like school? - It was better than a soap opera!)

School is large in my mind this year, as my first grandchild is beginning her formal education. She started kindergarten yesterday. She's just 4 1/2 years old, but so smart that keeping her out another year would have been ridiculous (not just my grandma-opinion, she was tested and the school system agreed.) Seems like it was just a short time ago that I was in that second row. How can I now have a grandchild almost there? Now doesn't THAT sound like something a Grandma would say?!!!

Anyway... since this is my creative time, I have been working again at the loom. The "February" tapestry is a bit past the mid-point. It is still somewhat 'boring' to weave. I feel like I'm weaving the same bits over and over again! No color variation, and not a great deal of shape variation. Can't wait to get to the bird in another 2-3 inches or so!!! Variety being the spice of life, I am hoping that bit of a change will be enough to save this tapestry from truly being The World's Most Boring Tapestry!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Experimenting again...

I got some palette knives while on vacation, plus some small gessoed masonite boards to try painting on. I have been doing oils for such a short time, I have only ever painted on canvas, and with brushes. But I saw a lot of paintings in galleries that I loved which were obviously done with knives, and were not on canvas. So I did this very small painting the past couple of days. It is 5"x7", on masonite, and partially painted with knives. I need a smaller knife (and a little more expertise with it) to do detail bits.

The painting was done from an intentionally blurry photo I took on the Terrasse Dufferin on top of the city wall in Quebec City. It was a rainy night, and I wanted to work from a blurred photo so I wouldn't get caught up in details, which is one of my vices. The painting doesn't look bad, if you see it from a distance. So walk across the room, turn and take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Friday, August 15, 2008

IF topic: Detach

I am posting this painting, "Next Stop, Wonderland," for this week's Illustration Friday topic, which is 'detach.' People on subways are all together for a time in a small confined space and experience, but they maintain their detachment. I love to take subway photos! It's one place where you can photograph people and they don't even notice. They are all safely detached in their own worlds.

I shot the photo that I painted this from on the Boston T. There actually is a T stop in Boston called "Wonderland" -  it's at the end of the Blue line. Though the painting was done from people I saw on the Green line, they just look like they should be wanting to go to Wonderland, don't they?

This painting now belongs to my daughter-in-law.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Seeking light...

In Quebec City, we went to the impressive Musée de la Civilisation one rainy afternoon. There were two interconnected exhibits at that time, one called "Wounded Artifacts: Repair Work in Africa" and the other was "Ideqqi: Art of Berber Women." Both were stunning exhibits. The first one was about how old artifacts are never discarded or replaced, but, when broken, are repaired in such a way that the repair shows and is done elegantly, so that the spirit of the original maker and that of the one who makes the repair are connected. The maker and repairer were also usually related, as objects passed down through families. A very 'green' concept, as well as being quite creative. I wish I had taken some photos of the repaired objects, but I didn't. The room was not really conducive to photography, though non-flash photos were allowed.

I did take a few photos in the second exhibit, as there were several lovely weavings there. The work was all fairly new, not ancient objects. The lighting in that room was also dim, and the objects were all, of course, under glass. The room was also interspersed with large beautiful photos of the women who had created the pieces, like this one:

When I later looked at the photos of the weavings that I had taken, I found that several of the photographs from across the room (behind me) were reflected in my photos of the objects. I really like the effect, as it seems to enhance the idea that the spirit of the maker is in the object. As a maker myself, I know my spirit, my experiences, and my stories are firmly woven in the threads that I carefully weave together. Wouldn't it be awesome if it showed in our work in this way?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Home again...

We have been gone for the past two weeks. I filled two 128 MB camera memory discs twice each. Most are photos of grandchildren, which I will not force on you. (Well, maybe a couple of them, as they are soooo cute.)

Some of the photos I took are ones I shot with a thought that I might want to paint from them, or put some part of them into paintings, maybe even leading to tapestries. But most are just of beautiful Quebec City, which is celebrating it's 400th birthday this year, so I'll share some of those with you.

We were amused to see hundreds, perhaps thousands, of "Moose Caution" signs as we drove through New England and Quebec. Most were similar to the one I photographed, but some added things like "Moose next 6 miles" or "Moose on Highway." Some even had flashing lights. My favorite was "Attention! Moose." In spite of all the signs, the moose were not paying attention, and refused to come out onto the highway to pose for me, so the two moose photos are from museums we went to in Denver and Boston on the very first and last days of our trip, each with different pairs of grandkids.)

I did also get to see some good art: two lovely tapestries, one (with burro detail shown) in a Quebec museum, and a Morris & Co. tapestry in the Boston MFA. The MFA also has a wonderful (but small) Winslow Homer exhibit up now.

So that's my trip in a nutshell, or rather in a digestible blog post. Tonight I will sit in front of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and will start my own Olympic Speed Knitting trials. And much much much is awaiting my attention tomorrow... including the tapestry on the loom, as my needed yarn arrived while I was away.

Illustration Friday topic: Sail

OK... I know these aren't sailboats. But I decided I'd post this tapestry for the IF topic this week, as it will reach a different audience than those who saw it when I posted it before, and I'd like as many eyes as possible looking for this piece! This tapestry is called "Rockport Skiffs." It is handwoven in wool weft on cotton warp. It is 35" wide and 30" high. It was STOLEN from a gallery in Asheville, NC. If anyone ever sees this tapestry, PLEASE contact me and let me know!! I never really even got the chance to exhibit it before it was stolen. ARRRRGH! It still makes me huffy!