Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm not inconsistant... really!

OK, you ask, why is this not OK, but this is more than OK? Well, I'll tell you. First of all, the snow in the photo above is in the mountains, where snow belongs, and the snow I've been whining about for the past month is here in the desert valley, where snow does NOT belong! Secondly, look at that snow! See the beautiful shadows? There is SUNshine! We have not had sunshine since I-can't-remember-when. Snow with sunshine is glorious. You can sit on the balcony in the sunshine with just a sweater on. You can ski or snowshoe in your wool sweater and a vest, and be very warm. You can play in and enjoy snow when it is where it belongs, and when there is sunshine. The grey sunless snow we have had down here in the valley for the past month and a half has not been playing-in snow. Not even for Booker.

Booker loved the snow at the cabin. He would bounce into it, chasing the scent of an animal track, and would end up almost buried in snow. No matter how deep he dug, there was just more pristine snow - no mud.

See this? I actually cast a shadow! This groundhog hasn't cast a shadow for absolutely ages! (By the way, the extra bulk on that shadow is because of all the layers I had on. Just thought I'd point that out, for the record. It has nothing to do with the chocolate binging I have been doing due to SAD.)

We took our snowshoes up this time, instead of our cross-country skis. Our cabin can only be accessed by climbing up a fairly steep hill that we park at the bottom of, then going down the road a piece, and down another longish drive. This is the first time I've used our new snowshoes, and I really like them! Going uphill is easier on snowshoes than it is on skis! I believe I might be sore in new places tomorrow, though.

Last night was the largest full moon of the year. My husband got this shot of it coming up over the top of the mountain. Beautiful, bright night!

But now we are home again. Back to deal with our dining room ceiling, that is now dry. As we drove back into the valley, there was a definite spot where we left the sunshine and descended into the valley's grey inversion-fog. I will miss the sunshine. But it's nice to know that it's just a short drive away.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Today the sky fell...

... both inside and outside! I took my morning bath, and heard water running downstairs. When I went to investigate, I saw water rushing through the dining room ceiling! I grabbed a bucket and put it under the biggest fountain, then pulled my large Spring Seasons tapestry off the wall, as water was running down on it. I moved the table and chairs, which were soaked, then called my husband, who told me to turn off the water, in case it was from the pipes, not the drain. So I did that, then I had to swap out my big stock pot (which was full) for the next biggest one. I called a friend and she and her son came over and helped me haul the rug out onto the porch, where it is probably freezing, rather than drying. I then called our plumber, who came right over. The drain pipe had just broken, which was good, because he looked at the pipe configuration behind the tub and said, "Oh dear, I've never seen pipes like this!" Anyway, he fixed the drain pipe, so now 'all we have to do' is to fix the dining room ceiling. HA! If you are an old home owner, you know that will open a Pandora's box, of sorts. Things like this always have a domino effect. For example, I went to the basement and found that the water had leaked all the way down there, flooding my husband's box which holds his collection of woodworking planes, which I had to dry out. This photo of the dining room shows only one of the places where water gushed down. There are at least three more like it. The whole ceiling will need to be re-done. My husband told me to poke one of them to see if there was more water underneath, or if it was soft. I chose to not do that, as I didn't want the ceiling to fall on my head. I don't know if it is lathe and plaster or drywall. Most everything here is lathe and plaster, and when that comes down, I think it might hurt. Especially if the tub from above came with it.

And it snowed again. Sue, from Life Looms Large suggests we post the colors of our world each month. Well, here is our color: grey. Still. I am Quite. Tired. Of. Grey.

I began a small painting of my neighbors house, and when I realized how much grey I was painting, I had to quit. I also am having a hard time working on the small duck tapestry because much of the water is (you guessed it) grey. I think I need to get the March tapestry, with all it's bright yellows and purples, on the big loom for these days when the sky falls around me, and I need some color to cheer me up.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The joy of being a Sunday painter!

Ah, so Sunday afternoon comes along and I have some choices. My husband is watching both football and Booker, so I am free! Do I run errands, take a nap, work, or play? Well, I did a bit of it all today! I went to the grocery store and the library, took a short nap, and then spent a short time painting this tiny warm-up painting. It's just 5x5". It was so much fun (in spite of all the green, which I am not fond of mixing) that I think it qualifies as 'play' and not work! But I also did some touch-up finishing work on another painting, so there was a bit of work involved, too.

This evening, I'm going back into the studio until football is over, then I'll settle down with some knitting in front of Masterpiece Theater's new version of "Emma." Overall, a pretty nice day!

I am listening to Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol as I work. It is so intense, I sometimes have to back up to hear what I missed while I was lost in my right brain.

I also just finished reading La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith. I love his books (especially the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series) and highly recommend this one, too.

ps. Going to call the little painting "Watching Ewe."

Friday, January 22, 2010

The duck is growing, too...

... but clearly, ducks don't grow as fast as kudzu does! And I don't understand it, as I've put at least 5-6 hours of weaving into this thing, and it's only 10 inches wide! I am slowing down, I guess. Plus, I think those hours were more interrupted than I realize. Big Sigh! Must hustle faster than this, as it's due to the exhibit in March. I used to consider myself to be a quick and efficient weaver, but I am feeling quite like a slug lately. Sometimes it is taking me a long time to just choose the yarn for a tiny shape. I must be obsessing... must stop that, and just weave!

In the vein of trying to shut up that obsessive left brain, I have begun doing the exercises in Steven Aimone's book, Expressive Drawing. It is fun, but I know my husband, passing by the studio, can't believe I'm really working in there when I am flinging paint 'expressively' like that!

More publicity for the portrait exhibit, opening tonight, can be seen here. I was thinking this morning that, if the gallery does another such exhibit, I would weave the portrait. The pottery one shown in this article is quite amazing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another figure painting...

I have posted this painting before, while it was still on the easel. I was not happy with it, though, as it was too high contrast, and the shadows on the face were too harsh for a little boy. I made adjustments this week, and framed it this morning, so it may also be at the gallery for the Portraits exhibit. The reception for the exhibit is tomorrow evening. It's supposed to be snowy and nasty, so I don't know how well it will be attended. If you are in the area, though, come on out; The Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade, Colorado, from 5-8 p.m.

(This, by the way, is one of my grandsons. The painting is called "Sand Play" and it's 16x20" not including the frame.)

Monday, January 18, 2010


Even though I have plenty to do as a tapestry weaver, I have to confess that my head is absorbed with other people's faces this week. Friday is the opening reception of the "Art for Change" exhibit at the Blue Pig Gallery. This is an exhibit of portraits, done by 20 of the gallery artists, including myself, of community leaders. A portion of sales proceeds will be donated to local charities, which is timely, as they are almost all raising funds to send to Haiti. The portrait I did was of an admirable man who is deceased, but who was a leader in the community in many political, educational, and charitable arenas. The image I worked from was from 1944, when he was a commander in WWII. The exhibit is getting a lot of local media coverage, including a page and a half newspaper article in yesterday's paper (though I can't seem to find it online.)

Anyway, with all of the emphasis on these exhibit portraits, some of which are truly amazing, I have been wanting to work on some that have been sitting half-finished in my studio for some time. Today, I got the one shown at the top to a point where I will let it dry before making any further adjustments. It is of a lovely young woman from my church. When I saw her in all this fantastic jewelry, which had belonged to her grandmother, I really wanted to paint her. I guess I could call it "The Girl with the Turquoise Earrings." Anyway, it was fun to paint again. Sometimes when I am weaving, I don't get that same 'right-brain connection' that I get while designing or painting.

Booker is out on a hike with my husband, so I'm headed back to the studio. And maybe Gus, who's been hiding from Booker all day in the linen closet, can wake up and come out!

The paper finally put yesterday's article online. It is here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Work progressing at tapestry pace...

I have been working, though I am getting more done in my head than I am with my hands. It is still difficult for me to get much studio time. Booker is still at that like-a-toddler stage, where he makes me regret turning my back on him for more than a very short few minutes. Our temperature went above freezing yesterday, for the first time in almost a month (YEA!), so he did get to be outside a bit longer, and I worked on the small duck tapestry.

I also designed the March tapestry (above) from a photo I took in Boston last March. It will be, like all of the Calendar tapestries, 18x18 inches.

The January tapestry was accepted to be in the American Tapestry Biennial 8, which I'm quite happy about. I can't believe it's already the 8th one of those exhibits! It seems not that long ago when I was planning the first one, and decided that it should be a 'biennial.' It's still going 16 years later! I am so pleased with that!!! I feel very 'attached' to the exhibit, so am glad to have a piece in it again. I think this will be the 4th juried ATA exhibit I've had work in. I'm always glad to have work chosen to be shown in ATA's exhibits. The exhibit will be in Nebraska and in Lowell, MA. I could potentially see it in both venues this time, as Nebraska is not that far from here, and I could visit my son in Boston and go to the one in Massachusetts. It would be great to go to one that I'm not in charge of, for a change!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Illustration Friday: Wilderness

The IF topic today is 'wilderness.' So I decided to post this tapestry that I wove for the Wilderness Lodge in Disney World, Orlando. It was actually a fun piece to weave! I didn't mind at all weaving a piece to 'match the couches.' It hangs somewhere in this room:

I have never been to see it, but am told it hangs by the check-in desk. For such a huge place, the tapestry is not huge. It is 3x5 feet. The specifics for the piece were very specific: I was told to weave '2 trains, a bear, a family, a ranger, 2 pine cones, etc." with no latitude for experimentation. I would not like to weave like that always, or even often, but it was kind of nice for this project. They seemed to be very happy with the end product.

The most challenging part actually was 'matching the couches.' They had sent a piece of upholstery fabric for me to match for the background, and when I had purchased all the yarn, they sent another piece, as they had changed their minds. My yarn didn't match the new piece at all, and I couldn't find anything that matched it well. I finally blended the yarn I had bought (an orange red) with another one (a burgandy red), and that blend matched perfectly. Of course, I had to weave little samplers of all these experiments to send to the decorator. When the blend finally was approved, that meant I had to ply together the two yarns for the background for the entire piece. On the spinning wheel - and I am no spinner! But it ended up looking great.

When I had agreed to do the commission, the decorator, who had evidently not worked with a tapestry artist before, asked if they could have it in three weeks! I laughed, and said I would try to get it to them in three months. I actually did get it done in three months, but was working 10-12 hour days. I would not agree to do that now, having learned my body's limitations.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If only...

If only I had a magic wand, a true super hero, a wish that could come true...

If only I had a miracle to give...

If only what I do and know how to do could make a real and lasting difference to those who are in pain, who have suffered the loss of everything...

But I don't have those things to give. And it hurts to be so powerless.

I can pray, and I do.

And I can give what I can. And so can you.

Here are places I trust to help the people of Haiti on my behalf:


Doctors Without Borders

The Clinton Foundation

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The hardest part....

Beginning is always the hardest part of a new project. Beginning says that I am committing to continue with it until the end.

One of the hardest tasks about beginning for me is choosing the colors. It is easier when I paint. I can mix pretty much any color I want with the handful of paints I have in my stash. Not so with yarn. I don't dye my own yarns unless I am really desperate for a certain shade, tint, or hue. And it seems that the more subtle the colors of the image I'll be weaving, the more difficult it is to find the right yarns. Booker is trying to help. Booker must be involved with everything I do, whether I like his help or not. If he's not 'helping' me, I have learned to be suspicious - like this morning when he disappeared for a few minutes, and I found him in the kitchen, finishing off half of a small loaf of chocolate zucchini bread. That was supposed to go with my afternoon cup of tea, too!

So I have begun. I have woven the hem, and have begun on the tapestry itself, though I've not done enough to have reached a rhythm with it. It still feels awkward, like I'm not sure what I'm doing. The rhythm should come after I've woven a half-inch or so. On with it, then.... Ready, Booker? And wipe those chocolate crumbs from your face!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Get ready; get set....

I have been warping the Mirrix this morning, getting ready to weave. (Ah! I like the sound of that!) There was some discussion recently on the tapestry list about setting up small looms, so I thought I'd post a bit about how I set mine up it, in case it might be helpful.

One 'helpful hint' I can give is to put a piece of black paper between the front and back warps, so you just see the front warp threads when picking them up to put in the string 'heddles'. (I could tell you that Booker is pointing to the paper in the above photo, to be helpful, but he is actually saying to me, "PLEASE let me see if copper pipes taste good! And let me see how quickly I could turn all that into a billion small pieces for you to pick up.")

What the list discussion was about was how to weave comfortably with a small loom. I posted that I use a cheap painter's travel easel to put my loom on. You can see it above. The loom fits between the top and bottom adjustable canvas supports. That isn't really enough to keep the loom securely on the easel, so I also use a short-ish bungee cord, hooked on the side bars of the loom and going under the legs of the easel. That holds it all together nicely.

You can see in this photo that I can now have the loom at any slant I like, out over my lap as I weave. I can also adjust the height of the easel, so it really can be 'custom fit' to make the weaving comfortable for ME.

I warped the loom in my sitting room. It is upstairs, and is without a doubt the warmest place in the house. I may stay in there to weave, too! Across the room, many ancestors and family members watched as I worked. I think perhaps they would enjoy my company if I stay here to work. Gussy has also claimed this room as his domain until the spring thaw, but he will just have to share.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Milo's Duck

Today I sketched in my daily sketchbook part of what I will be weaving for the small format exhibit. I will call it "Milo's Duck." It is of a duck that followed my grandson around at a lake last summer on a trip he and his sister and I took to the mountains on the train. It was a special day, so I am excited to weave a memory of it.

I sketched it this morning so I could think more about what it is about the image that makes me want to weave it. I love the texture in the duck's head and the patterning in the feathers. I also love the designs the water makes with value differences. I have been wanting to weave the challenge of water for some time, so this small piece will make a good sampler for that! The color will be very subtle. In fact, the colors are much the same ones that I have been weaving in the almost monochromatic winter pieces; grey blues, with hints of brown and very subtle touches of orange. If I succeed, the color could be lovely.

The maquette I'll be weaving from is not the sketch, but is a photo. Here is the cartoon that will be stitched to the weaving in progress, and that I will be weaving from:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A matter of size....

As I trundle around the house in my baggy sweats (which I only wear when I'm sick) and my ever constant tissues, I have been trying to decide on what to weave for the ATA unjuried small tapestry exhibit. I have been spending time back and forth between bed and computer. I have finally made my choice! The 'winning design' is not one of the ones shown here. It was chosen mostly because of scale - it will fit best within the 10x10 inch size limit.

The two images shown were both ones I considered. They both are great for the theme, "Enchanted Pathways." And I think they will both make great tapestries at some point in time. But neither really will work well at such a small scale.

You'll have to wait and see what my choice is. I hope to begin warping the Mirrix soon. Wonder if I can do that in bed? It might be a good way of avoiding Booker's 'help,' at any rate!

But then again, perhaps I shouldn't make decisions and do tasks, large or small, when my head is full of swine ....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sketchy thoughts...

I did not actually think I could feel worse than I felt yesterday, but I was wrong. I am trying to do more than just lie around, though, so am doing little things. I printed out the entry form for the Enchanted Pathways exhibit, and filled all out except title and size of the piece, as it is not only not yet woven, but not yet conceived! Must get to that soon, I guess.

I'm posting this little sketch I did of my grand-daughter watching Sesame Street the other day. I am keeping the sketches in the new sketchbook intentionally simple. I like this one because, though it is very simply executed, I did capture her pose, so could use that for a painting or tapestry later on. I didn't have time to get the camera, so am pretty proud of my attempt to catch her relaxed concentration quickly, before she moved. (I added the color and the SS logo in PhotoShop.)

I am going to look over my images from Maine to see if I can get inspired for something for the small tapestry exhibit. I hate to send it in 'Untitled'!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's hard to be creative...

...with a tissue in your hand! And an achy body, a fever, and a cough that just won't QUIT, already!! It seems that I often begin a new year with high hopes, and a cold that brings me back down to earth.

I have sketched in my new sketchbook daily, so far. But the sketches are, well - 'sketchy', at best. Soon, I hope to do something worthy of sharing, but I am at least not sharing my cold with you!

Keeping warm, and drinking a lot.... I'll post more when the cough syrup buzz wears off!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A new start...

... a blank page, a New Year.

Next to Thanksgiving, I think my favorite celebration is the New Year. It is wonderful to me to be able to 'begin again.' I am starting a new sketchbook; the large Moleskin. My plan, goal, resolution is to sketch something in it as often as I can (hopefully, daily.) And I plan to sketch things that I love. A sort of 'gratitude sketchbook.'

It may be a challenge to begin it today, as I still have my four grandchildren here, with all of their parents and my parents, as well. Twelve of us in all. We have been having a wonderful, wild time over the holidays. We ended up the year last night with 'game night.' Jenga and a made up game with Play Doh for the small set, and Chicken Foot and Apples to Apples for the adults. If you've never played Jenga with two three-year-olds, a barely four-year-old and a six-year-old, you should open your lives to that experience. It is a loud and fun one!

I look forward to my new year. I look forward to filling the blank pages of my crisp new sketchbook. I look forward to warping my looms and filling them with colorful weft. Looking forward is what this day is all about, and I am hoping for the best future possible for all of those I love.

Happy New Year, and may joyful, hopeful creations come from us all in this year. If we fill our little parts of the world with Joy and Hope, surely if will make a difference in the world as a whole.

That is my hope for the New Year, at any rate.