Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In my much neglected garden...

My garden has been neglected even more than usual this year, as we have plans to renovate it a bit, and make it more desert-friendly (or, not as expensive to water!) It doesn't seem to matter. It continues to bloom, in spite of the neglect. My lilacs gave in to a late freeze, so I did miss their wonderful scent this year, but the lilies of the valley have made up for their loss, filling the air with their sweetness.

They are such a subtle plant, people will stand on my porch and look around to see what smells so good, and are amazed when I tell them it is these tiny plants.

My peonies are blooming now, as well. I have several colors, and I have decided to keep them, even though they are not a desert plant. Some things are just worth what they demand.

On the side of our house we have two old-fashioned rose bushes. They are the kind that are called 'wild roses' here. Several weeks ago, they were in a riot of bloom, totally covered with roses. It just takes one big wind, though, and the blooms fly away. The strange thing about these  bushes though, is that, although one of them is a yellow rose and the other is a bright red-orange bush, a week or two after those roses are gone, the past few years the red bush has put on a few dozen pink blooms. The pink ones are on the same branches that have previously held red blooms, so I am not quite sure where these pink ones come from! And, though the rose bushes were here long before we moved into the house, it has just been the past few years (3, maybe) that the bush has bloomed in pink, as well as red.

My clematis  is doing well this year, too. It has bloomed several times before now, and it is climbing up the old iron bed headboard I have put in the garden for it.

In addition to blooms, the garden is filled with winged visitors, as well. The hummingbirds arrived just after our big April snow storm, which gave me hope that the winter was truly over at last.

And there is something in our garden or yard that yellow swallowtails just love. I do have a butterfly bush, but it is just beginning to bloom. I think they might like the peonies. We have a lot of them flitting through the yard and garden, at any rate.

We also have a lot of bees. The bees love the flowering crabtree when it is in bloom. It absolutely buzzes with their presence. That tree bloomed about a month ago, though, so they have also moved on to the peonies, or whatever else they can find to fill up on.

I don't know what this little moth is, but she was flitting around in the strawberry bed, just begging me to take her photo when I was out there with the camera a little while ago! I am hoping she will be content with strawberry leaves. We do not seem to have yarn-eating moths here, and I would like it to stay that way!

I will be having a weaving marathon for the next four-five days. My husband will be otherwise occupied, so I intend to get the October tapestry finished and off the loom. (More garden neglect time.) I'll let you know when that happens!

Monday, May 27, 2013

A bit more from SPUN...

One of the exhibits I enjoyed at the SPUN exhibits at the Denver Art Museum was the exhibit,  "Pattern Play: The contemporary Designs of Jacqueline Groag." I love pattern! Next to color, it is my favorite design element. The walls were hung with pieces of fabric, and some seemed very familiar to me, especially the ones in the photo just above. They reminded me of the curtains I grew up with, which I wove in my "Big Green Chair" tapestry. The dates on the fabrics are just listed as 'post WWII.'

"Fiesta Brown Eyed Beauty" by Wm Penhallow Henderson

"Don't You go Frettin' Sallie, I'll Tend to it" by Wm HD Koerner

Another exhibit I enjoyed was  "Western Duds: How Clothing Helped Create an Archetype." It included beautiful paintings of the 'wild west,' showing how the clothing worn in the photos identified time and place. The exhibit blurb said there were also exhibited clothes in the exhibit, but all we saw were a pair of very old Levis and a serape shawl. I was a bit disappointed not to see more actual clothing, but the paintings were lovely.  (Again, excuse my poor iPhone photos!)

This exhibit reminded me of the exhibit the Met put on a few years ago, of Matisse's paintings and the fabric that inspired them. I didn't get to see the exhibit, but have the catalog. 

I have also woven and painted a few pieces, inspired by pieces of fabric. "The Big Green Chair" linked above, the jacket and mittens in the Winter seasons tapestry, and the dress in the "Dama con Mangoes" tapestry, to share a few. And I still have some pieces of fabric, filled with pattern, that are inspiring me for future works! These two exhibits did flame the fire of inspiration in that direction!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SPUN at the Denver Art Museum

This past weekend, I got to go over to Denver to spend some time with my youngest son and his family. On Sunday, my son took me to the opening day of the much touted SPUN, Adventures in Textiles exhibits at the Denver Art Museum.

One of the featured exhibits in the museum for SPUN is "Red, White, & Bold: Masterworks of Navajo Design, 1840-1870." I wish I could have taken a photo there! (The one above is from the DAM website.) The room was exquisite! The tapestries, all red, white and black, were hung away from the walls, nearly all the way to the high ceilings, 'stacked' so they hung touching each other, top-to-bottom. The room was dimly lit, and the rugs (mostly chief blankets) were lit from the bottom at the back with black lights! They absolutely glowed, like they had inner light. Stunning! But no photos allowed in that room.... sigh.

I was not sure of what to expect from the exhibit. I know the museum owns some tapestries by Ramona Sakiestewa, so I was hoping to see those again. The exhibits are to celebrate the opening of the new Textile Department. So, while Ramona's tapestries were not on display this time, I hope they will rotate into the museum sometime in the future when I'm there. At least now, they will be displaying textiles regularly. The new Textile Art Galleries are on the 6th floor of the North Building.  The inaugural exhibit there is called "Cover Story." It includes the only one piece that I would classify as a traditional tapestry (above and detail below.) It is "Spring" designed by Stefan Galkowski and 'manufactured' by Wanda Cooperative in about 1961 (that is how it is listed at the museum.)

I apologize for the poor photos. I just had my iPhone with me. Photos were allowed in this gallery, so I had wished I'd taken my camera in.

There were a couple of 'Ritual Rugs' from middle eastern countries, this one from Afghanistan. They were soumack or  pile woven.  This one was a short pile.

One of the things the DAM does well is being a 'hands-on' museum. They especially do well with activities for children, related to the exhibits. I love taking my grandchildren there! So the new Textile Gallery has a room attached which has shelves filled with things related to making fiber stuff. I don't know why I didn't get a shot of the weaving area (!) but I think I liked the quote above the embroidery space better, or something.  The weaving area had small looms, including Weave-its. It is a well-done area. There is also a place for weaving on an upright loom, in which the 'warp' is mountain climbing ropes, and the weft is suitably chunky. Pretty appropriate for Denver! There are also spaces for quilting, knitting, and anything related to textiles.

There is also a creative corner about designing your own textile piece. It shows how someone was inspired by the "Spring" tapestry to create this small quilted piece, and they have paper and stamps and pictures of the tapestry for people to make their own designs.

In a different part of the museum, the Material World gallery is featuring this piece by Chuck Close.  I didn't see the 'no photos' sign anywhere in the gallery, so took this photo, though I'll also post the one from their website as well. It is quite an amazing piece! It is a short-pile tapestry of silk and linen. Up close, it is just a riot of color. From a distance, you see the portrait. I believe it was woven as a pile tapestry, and I wish I had taken a close-up shot of it. My son and I got very close to it. It is only about 1/4" think, so is very finely woven. I couldn't think of any other way it could have been created. None of the written materials I could find there say anything about where or how it was created, which was very frustrating for me, as I think the creators should be given credit for such a complex work, as well as the designer.  But it is certainly worth seeing! Below is the picture from the museum website.

The SPUN exhibits will be at the Denver Art Museum through September 22, 2013. After that, there should be textiles on exhibit always in the new Textiles Gallery. The Navajo exhibit is wonderful, and there are some other lovely bits here and there throughout the museum. I still wish they had included more tapestries, but of course I would wish that!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Colorado...

Our 40th wedding anniversary was Sunday.... an event that just seems to need to be celebrated in some way, don't you think? Forty years. Married. To the same man. Something had to be done!

So we decided to take a few days off right here in Colorado, to visit places we had seen before and a few spots that were new to us. 

Many, many people visit Colorado. To them, Colorado may be the view of blue mountains over the top of the Denver skyline. Or it may be ski resorts with snowy slopes and very pricey real estate. But I have lived in Colorado a long time - almost as long as I have been married! In fact, I was born in Colorado. So I feel like the Colorado I know is the 'real' beautiful rocky mountain state.

On this trip, we saw most of what is familiar in Colorado to me. We went to Mesa Verde, which is in the Four Corners area. On our way there, we drove two lane highways, following the river through high ranch lands, surrounded by snow-capped mountains that played peek-a-boo with us through the clouds. We were rained on, sleeted on, snowed on, and the sun briefly shone on us. We passed a stand of trees we have seen before, filled with nesting herons.

We arrived at the Mesa Verde lodge in the evening, and this was the view from our little balcony. The lit canyon sides are where most of the cliff dwellings are.


On our first full day there we decided to leave the park and see new things. We went to the Canyons of the Ancients, and my husband (for 40 years) rode his bike along a trail, while I sketched a bit, and walked some, looking at the wildflowers and blooming cacti, and spotting little cliff dwellings (or evidences of where they had been) in about  every overhang of the canyon walls.


The day began to cloud up again, as we headed to Hovenweep. There are still pueblos (villages) of mesa-top ruins there, atop a number of canyons. I love the two towers in this one, which are each on it's own  rock outcrop, separated by a deep ravine. The canyons were chosen for building in because of access to scarce water.

As we drove across the top of the mesa back to the national park, the sky put on a show for us. You can see so far in my Colorado, with nothing to block the view. I am sure the ancient people who once lived here loved this about their home, as I do.

On our last day, we visited the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. I love this photo that I took, because it looks a lot like the old photos that were taken shortly after Cliff House was 'discovered' by anglos. The park service and the rangers are very respectful of the history of this place. It is still regarded as a sacred place by the many Native Americans who live in this area. Horses that belong to the nearby Ute ranchers have free reign in the park, with signs up along the road to watch for them. However, oddly (to me) none of the tribes in the area claim to be descendants of the people who built and lived in these amazing cities.

When we left to come back home, we returned by another way, again following a river along a two-lane highway. This took us into the red rock canyons, where the valley floors are greening up with springtime.

Isn't my Colorado a beautiful and diverse place?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Inside and Outside...

Our winter was so dry, that we are thrilled to be having some moisture now this spring! Most of us are anyway.... Booker does not like lightening, and we had quite a bit of it yesterday; enough rain to soak me, as I came out of the grocery store. That doesn't happen often here. Most people around here don't even own a umbrella, and we certainly don't carry them with us!

It rained again today. So it was a lovely day to be inside at the art center, doing some portrait practice. We had our first male model today, and he was a delight to paint.


Just outside the gallery, in the center's zen garden, it kept raining. We heard the steady sound of it on the roof as we worked, keeping time with the quiet classical music we paint to. What a lovely rarity, to have a standing puddle of rainwater! I had to capture it.

I did not paint a masterpiece today, but I enjoyed my painting time. We have only one more session before the summer art camp begins, so we will have to find other things to do and places to work through the summer. I will be in my own studio, hopefully. But I may occasionally stop the weaving just long enough to grab a willing model to paint from, as this has been a good challenge for me to do.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Slit Sewing 101....

Most of my designs have both vertical and horizontal lines and shapes in them. So, even after choosing the best direction to weave the image in (see this post for more about that) I usually have some vertical slits to deal with as I weave. If the slits will be long ones, I usually try to sew the slits as I weave, for structural strength, to keep shapes and edges from pulling in, and to keep the number of slits I have to sew after the tapestry comes off the loom to as few as possible.

Sewing a slit as you weave is not difficult. I don't sew little slits this way, because I would have to keep knotting the thread and beginning it again, which would really slow me down.

But this tapestry has fairly vertical tree trunks which go all the way up the tapestry, so sewing the slits as I go just makes sense. I weave an inch (or two or three), then I stop and sew the slits.

To sew the slit, choose a thread that is close in color to one of the colors on the tapestry slit edge. Thread the needle; knot the end of the thread, and tuck the knot through the slit to the back of the tapestry. Then slip the needle up through one of the slit edges, going just inside the weft, but NOT catching the warp thread. This is pretty easy to do when you get the hang of it. If you sew through the warp, you risk weakening it, and I hate broken warp threads! I sew up through that side of the weft/slit edge about 1/8th of an inch, then stick the needle back out. (See above photo.)

Then I do the same on the opposite side of the slit, going up inside the weft edge along the warp, and pulling it out.

I alternate sides, back-and-forth, up the slit edge. I move over when the slit moves over, continuing up the shape edges. You can see the thread between the slit edges in the photo below, because I have pulled the slit open a bit. But when you pull the thread taut, the stitching will not show at all.

If you are smart (and sometimes I am) you will sew your slits before you have moved too far up the cartoon. This is helpful, because, even on a large tapestry, you can sometimes reach your hand down behind the fell edge, and help guide your needle up the slit from behind.

When you have reached the end of the slit, or your thread has run out, make a knot in the thread that will be to the BACK of the tapestry, then pull a bit of excess thread into the nearby weft, pull it through,  and either cut it close to the front, or (preferably, if you can) cut it with a small tail hanging on the back.

Maybe you already know all of this. but I thought, as I was sewing slits on this tapestry, it would be a good time to share it with you. And if you have a better way, please let me know!