Friday, November 8, 2019

Book review: Spinning and Weaving: Heritage Crafts and Skills series


Spinning and Weaving by Lynn Huggins-Cooper is a newly released book in the Heritage Crafts and Skills series, published in the UK by Pen and Sword Books, Ltd. The book begins by introducing us to the purpose of the book, which is to be an historical overview of the heritage crafts of, and related to, spinning and weaving. According to Ms. Cooper, heritage crafts "are a part of ...the glue that held families and communities together for centuries.... often handed down through families... and a part of the customs and cultural heritage of the areas where they began."  It is the belief that these activities are becoming endangered that led to a list of at risk heritage crafts, this series of books, and a Heritage Crafts Association in the UK.

The book is divided into two sections. The first half shares the rich history of spinning and fibre and fabric making mostly, but not exclusively, relating to the UK. This history is fascinating. Reading about those who worked with wool, linen, cotton and silk long before I came to be a part of the craft is like discovering that I am just one strand woven into a tapestry much larger than any one weaver could create. It creates a sympathy for those who had to spin and weave to keep their loved ones warm or who were part of the large group of women weavers who worked long hours and labored hard under difficult conditions to feed their families, keeping the world clothed. The history alludes to the cotton fields of the southern US, the silk weavers of the East, and home spinners in the UK: a thread circling the globe. It takes us from prehistoric discovery of how to make fibre, through the times in the UK when "it took around three carders to produce enough roving for one spinner and around three spinners to provide yarn for one hand weaver," and to the industrial revolution and modern times when very few people are now needed to create cloth for the world. Fiber has always been used to denote economic and social wealth, with richer fibers allowing people to "peacock their status."

The historical half of the book is summed up with an encouragement to today's fiber workers, as the author says, "It is very grounding to carry out these actions, knowing that you are doing something that has been done for tens of thousands of years."

The second half of the book contains a number of 'Artisan Interviews,' including spinners, knitters, weavers and sheep growers in the UK. I was disappointed to not see photos from each of the artisans, though some were included. However, for most of the craftswomen there are links included to their blogs, online shops, or websites. 

The back of the book includes indices, mostly for UK readers. They include a "directory of Suppliers," a list of "Wool and Fiber Festivals" and of "Training Courses and Spinning Guilds," and a list of "Useful Books and Websites."

This book was sent to me to read and review and, as a fiber artist myself, I could not help but be pulled in and feel a part of the continuing narrative of working wool with my hands. I truly am hopeful that, along with the work of the artisans included in this treatise and the work I do and the many weavers and spinners I have connections with, weaving and spinning will continue as a craft and skill stretching as far into the future as it has done in the past.

This book is available here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

On exhibit....


If you are in the ST. Louis, MO area, my tapestries, 'She's a Little Bit Country' and 'November,' are included November 12- December 20 in the Between the Threads / Innovations in Textiles 2019 exhibit. I won't be able to go to the exhibit, so if you go, please let me know!

I'm always happy to have my work selected for a juried exhibit, and I especially love having a tapestry to go to a place that has once been my home! We lived in St. Louis for 7 years, while my husband went to Washington University medical school, and did his internship and residency at Barnes and Childrens' Hospitals. Our two sons were born there, before we moved to Colorado. So, even if I don't get to 'go back' this time, I'm very happy that a bit of me, in the form of these tapestries, will be visiting St. Louis!

This tapestry is of my favorite boots, a favorite skirt, and my Taylor Guitar. The title refers to the music I play with a partner several times a month, for retired folks in various settings. Although country music is not exactly my favorite genre, it is requested a lot, here in the 'wild west,' so we do perform quite a few country songs, from Patsy Cline to Emmylou Harris. Music is a big part of my life, as is weaving. This tapestry is one of several I have done that combine them both!



The 'November' tapestry was woven from a photo I took one cold fall night at our mountain cabin. There was a harvest moon, and, because there are no artificial city lights there, it was bright and looked huge through the bare branches of the scrub oak trees. This is one of my favorite Calendar Series tapestries. One of the things I love most about it is something that does not show well in a photo: I do not ever weave with pure black. The darks in this are purple-blacks, green blacks, and brown blacks, but all read as a dark night sky.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Inktober: It's a Wrap!

Prompts: Dragon, Ash (wood in bat,) Legend (Carole King,) Overgrown, Dizzy

This is the fourth year I have participated in #Inktober. In 2015 and 2016, I was very diligent and enjoyed creating daily sketches from the prompts. In 2017, I participated, but was not able to do everyday sketches. Last year, I had more than enough going on, so did not add to my stress level by even attempting to participate. So this year, I took a 'middle of the road' approach, and decided to sketch on the days I could and/or wanted to. I ended up doing 21 sketches, with ink as the primary (usually the only) medium. I relied heavily on ballpoint pens for color, and I am actually amazed at the results you can get from this very cheap and available medium!
Prompts: Wild, Ornament, Coat, Tasty, Injured (the candy,) Ride, Ripe, no prompt
Some of my sketches may not seem to fit their prompts, but, in my mind, I made them fit. The last sketch was a 'bonus' for Halloween yesterday.

Here is what I gained from doing Inktober this year: 
  ..I can do 'OK' sketches with a minimum of simple materials. 
  ..I used not only simple pens, but a 'cheap' (as in 'free' from an art store giveaway) sketchbook. I did not like it. It was made for dry media, and was not at all good for anything wet, which often limited me from using my Intense color pencils or brushed on ink.  So I discovered that good paper is important to me. A few of these sketches were done in my Moleskine sketch journal, which was a bit better, but yesterday I gave in and ordered another of my favorite Stillman & Birn sketchbooks. I know that, after this month, I will heave a great sigh of contentment when I first open and use it!
  ..I do not 'love' any of these sketches. I didn't set out to make 'art' in any of them, and I didn't spend a great deal of time on any of them. Part of that was because ink is really not 'my medium,' part because of the horrid paper I was using, and part was because I was reacting to prompts that I had not chosen, and most were from images from the Sktchy app, so were not personally meaningful to me. 
  ..I loved seeing what other Inktober participants created; how they used the different media and how they responded to the prompts!
 ..Even when I am not in love with the product or the outcome, it is VERY valuable for me to continue to create. I have been having issues with chronic pain during the last month, and when I sketch, or when I am making music, and especially when I weave, the pain does not control my life.
  

Will I participate in Inktober next year? I'm betting that I will - with better paper, and perhaps my own images and/or prompts. But, for awhile anyway, I'm fairly ready to put the ink pens away and pull out some yarn!
  

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Inktober 2019!

This will be the third (maybe fourth?) year that I have participated in the online challenge Jake Parker set up for artists to do a sketch or drawing in ink every day in October. I succeeded in meeting that challenge a few times, but totally missed it altogether last year. So this year I am participating, as much as I can, without causing myself stress.  There have already been a couple of days that I didn't do a sketch, as too much else was going on.  

Each day has a prompt. Day one's prompt (above sketch) was 'ring.'

Day2  'Mindless'


 Many of the artists are attempting to become more proficient with the medium (ink - in all it's varied forms.)  My goal this year, though, is to remind myself that my sketchbook is for fun, a place to play with images, ideas, and a medium I am not extremely familiar with.


Day3   'Bait'
 The main inking tools I have been using so far are a fountain pen, with waterproof ink; a brush pen (also waterproof ink;) ballpoint pens (in many colors); and occasionally Inktense water soluble pencils. Ballpoint pens have been what I've been using mostly, as they are quick and easy to grab, so I can sketch watching TV in the basement, in my sitting room or studio, or even on the porch. A true lazy artist's medium, I am finding!
Day 4   'Freeze'

Day 5  'Build'

Day 7  'Enchanted'

Day 9   'Swing'
 With the exception of Day 3 ('Bait' - which is a sketch of my husband) I have used images to sketch from that are posted on the #Sktchy App, for artists to use.
Day 10   'Pattern'




Saturday, September 28, 2019

Endings...


This morning, this is where I am on the "Graffiti Garden" tapestry, after an hour or two of morning work. As I sat weaving, it became apparent that I could actually finish weaving this tapestry and cut it off tonight or tomorrow. That thought stopped my work, and actually brought tears to my eyes. How bizarre!

I am normally excited to cut a tapestry from the loom, and I am, after all, trying to complete this to meet a deadline. So why should it make me sad to finish it? I confess that I am not someone who just lets these thoughts pass by... I had to examine this feeling of 'loss' - and yes, I think I feel that I will have 'lost' something when the weaving ends on this tapestry.

I will have lost a feeling that there is something that I can control, in this world that is spinning totally out of control. I will have lost the solitude of weaving, that I often had to fight to create time for during the creation of this tapestry. I have a very strong connection to this tapestry, as it's meaning has morphed several times during it's design and weaving process (and I will share those changes at some later time.) 

After the tapestry comes off the loom, it will no longer 'belong' to me.... It will belong to exhibits and jurors and viewers, and perhaps even to someone who will find that it was created just for them to own. That is what happens when you are a working and exhibiting artist. While it is on the loom, it still has my life woven into it, (and a few cat hairs from our Gus, whom I lost during the weaving.) When it is off the loom, it will, hopefully, go out into the world, and my connection to it, my meditation time as I pass weft through it's warp, will be done.

I confess that, as an artist, it is the time at the loom which is of extreme value to me, especially as  studio time seems to be more rare and scarce than it used to be for me. This tapestry has brought me back to the loom and reminded me that I am a weaver.  So I guess I just need to keep weaving........

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Still weaving....


This was last week's progress (above) and now this morning (below,) after weaving a L.O.T. over the weekend, and for the past few days. I am trying to get this off the loom by (hopefully) the end of the month. As you can see, there is still a good bit of weaving to do - about 4.5 inches, plus a hem. Then the slit-sewing, blocking, lining, etc, that comprises the finishing process will have to take place pretty efficiently, so I can meet a deadline.


You might think that what I am weaving now, the more subtle background area, would weave more quickly and easily than the bright and wild floral areas below, but that is actually not the case. With the 'flowers,' I could weave shapes and areas up to the shapes. The background has no hard edges, and has a good bit of hatching going on. So I need to weave larger areas all together, which is v e r y slow weaving for me. I am pretty happy with the contrasting effect, however.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Graffiti Garden progress....


A bit more than halfway completed now!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

"Graffiti Garden" progress


The "Graffiti Garden" (working title) tapestry is about a quarter of the way woven now! I am really having fun with this tapestry; each day the work seems like a little tapestry of it's own! I am not trying to be literal with this piece, and I'm sure that is already visible. The 'flowers' are not really any recognizable flowers: they are just flower-like shapes and colors, as you can see in the detail shot below.


A video of weaving this in progress can be seen on my FB page here.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Sketchbook Project


I've mentioned before how important my sketchbook, and the practice of keeping a sketchbook, is to me. For this past Christmas, my son gave me a #SketchbookProject sketchbook. It was a project I have watched others participate in for some time, and it was on my 'someday' list. Well, with the gift, 'Someday' came! The sketchbook was filled and sent in shortly after the first of the year. It is finally up online, to be viewed! You can access it here.  Then you can also see other sketchbooks! If you are in the Brooklyn, NY area, you can also go and check my sketchbook out to see it 'in person.'

I think my scans of the sketches are quite a bit better than the ones they have put up, but then, I only had one sketchbook to scan, and they are trying to get thousands uploaded! You can see some of my scans here  and a flip-through of the whole book here. As I filled the sketchbook, I also posted every sketch on both my Instagram and Sktchy pages, and they are still there.

Just letting you know, as I promised I would!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Studio Tuesday 2; Graffiti Garden tapestry....


Although it may not look like much to you, I have made what I consider to be impressive progress on the new tapestry! My goal is to weave 1.5" per week up the warp, and I have almost completed that for this week! The warp is about 30" wide, as the resulting tapestry will be.  I do need to weave a bit extra this week, as my grandson will be here next week, and I fully intend to spend as much time doing what he wants to do as possible, and I'm pretty sure his choice will not be to watch me slowly weaving a tapestry!


I will be pulling a lot of yarns from my bins, as this is to be a very colorful tapestry. To keep track of colors and color blends I'm using, so they can be repeated throughout the tapestry, I weave a tiny bit of each new butterfly onto my small Hockett-style loom. As the tapestry progresses and disappears around the lower beam, this record of color and yarns used will be very important to me.


And here is another sketchbook page. It was inspired by a photo on the #Sktchy app; a lovely wall of graffiti flowers!

The sun is not yet down... a bit more weaving time for me on this Studio Tuesday!


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Graffiti Garden, from the very start....


I have had a new tapestry design working it's way out of my head for awhile. In the process of making it visible, it has gone though a number of changes, not only in how it will look, but in the concept itself. The image that finally made it's way visible started with the pastel sketch above. It will resemble the sketch, but even that has undergone a number of changes. It seemed a good starting point to share, however.


After working on the design, I needed to warp the loom. The photos above represent three days of work this week; sleying the warp threads, tying them on and tensioning them, and weaving a header (to evenly spread the warp threads) and a hem.

Yesterday, I enlarged the cartoon. So today, I am ready to begin. Beginning is always a daunting thing for me. Once I begin, I'm fine. I realize then that I know what I'm doing: the hands know how to pass the weft through the warp, the eyes know how to choose colors. But until I actually get to that point, I wonder how on earth the design I've imagined will become a real thing: a tapestry.

I am planning to post updates on my progress (which will be slow) weekly. My goal is to weave a couple of inches/week. Believe it or not, for this design, that is a very challenging goal! I am determined to reclaim Studio Tuesdays as total work days, so that should help, barring complications and interruptions in my personal life (always ongoing...)

In the meantime, I'll share a page from my sketchbook of one of my favorite summer pastimes!


Monday, June 24, 2019

There and Back Again....


We started our recent trip to Pennsylvania by driving over the mountains to Denver to deliver a small tapestry to the Foothills Art Center 'Amuse Yeux' small piece exhibit, and to see our grandson graduate from 8th grade. ( I made an attempt to sketch him, but sketching people who are truly special to me is a challenge I've not yet mastered! The quote was one painted on the Denver Museum wall.)


While in Denver, our 2 grandchildren went with us to the Denver Art Museum. My grandkids are all very creative, and all appreciate seeing good art. One of the featured exhibits at DAM now is of very large paintings done by Jordan Casteel, an artist formerly from Denver, in fact having gone to the high school my grandkids go to. 



Another exhibit, "Serious Play," is a mid-century modern exhibit. I especially liked the textiles, of course. The only woven piece was the large rug (in middle) by Marianne Strengell. It featured a lot of metallic yarns, which I wouldn't think would have worn well, had the rug been used.



After our short stay in Denver, we flew to Pittsburgh, for the opening of Fiberart International 2019 (see previous post.) The photo above is the baggage claim area, after everyone else had collected their bags. Ours did not come until several days later, just in time to check it again to go home.


We had included a day to rent a car to go see Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's beautiful nearby creation. We had been to Chicago to see his studio there and a number of his other buildings in Oak Park, a few years ago. On our way back to Pittsburg, we stopped and purchased a very few things to get us through the next few days without our luggage, still hoping it would be at the hotel when we returned, but it was not.


After two amazing days at the galleries for the FI2019 opening and Fiber Forum, we had an evening to walk around Pittsburgh a bit. We had heard proud residents tell us that it is the 'city of bridges' ("as many as Vienna,")  the 'city of colleges,'  the 'city of rivers,' and the 'city of cathedrals.' Indeed, there were all those things in Pittsburgh! Cathedrals alternated with colleges on every other corner, it seemed. And the two amazingly combined in the Cathedral of Learning, a very tall 40-story tower in the heart of the city  on the University of Pittsburg campus. We wandered inside to see that it truly is a gothic style 'cathedral,' dedicated to inspiring students to excellence. It is still used for classrooms, and I would absolutely have loved to have had a 'study hall' like this when I was in college! Even though the academic year was ended, the cathedral was open and available to visitors.

Our bag finally was delivered to the hotel, so we took it back to the airport, and headed home. I came home inspired to work, but am still struggling with getting a design out of my head and onto the loom. Maybe I will work small until that happens...

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Fiberart International 2019


I recently got back home from a trip to the Fiberart International 2019 exhibit opening and the accompanying 2019 Fiber Forum. It was a big trip for us, so I'm going to just post about the exhibit and associated activities here, and will post in a few days about the rest of the trip.

The Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, PA hosts the Fiberart International exhibit every three years. I was amazed and impressed by their organization for the event; the support for both artists and attendees was superb! I have been a part of many fiber and art organizations over the past 30 years, and am not easily impressed.... But I was very impressed! Months before the exhibit, participating artists were contacted about what we could expect, about housing options, and were even given a way to contact the other artists to arrange meals, travel, etc. I do not often travel to exhibit openings, as just getting my work there is often expensive enough. But all the contact and plans made me really want to be there; to not miss out!

I arrived Thursday evening, missing a party for the artists that evening while my husband and I waited (unsuccessfully) for our checked bag to arrive. The Opening Reception for the exhibit, which was held in two galleries, was Friday evening. I did not take any photos at the reception, as it was my first chance to see the exhibit. Awards were also given out, and I was thrilled to receive the award for Outstanding Weaving for my "Graffiti" tapestry!




Saturday was the Fiber Forum. Before participants arrived, I managed to take a few photos in the Contemporary Craft Gallery, where my work was hung, and where the Forum was to begin. Adrienne Sloane was adding marks for days to her knitted piece, "Marking Time" across from me in the gallery.


Each artist who was present had an assigned assistant, asking questions and taking notes as we talked, so gallery docents will later know a bit about our work.


Nicole Benner's life sized crochet performance piece, seen here in the middle, had an accompanying video to show it in motion.


And the large glass case to the right in the above photo also had supportive materials, showing several of the artist's inspirations or design methods.


You can see my "Graffiti" tapestry in the back of this photo. I had packed a small supporting tapestry, a sketchbook and a few other support materials in my checked bag. The bag finally arrived after I left the hotel for the Forum on Saturday, so my husband brought my 'stuff' to me. Forum participants were interested in everything, and they were also interesting! I met so may other tapestry weavers, of every skill and experience level. That is a rare gift for me, as I am a geographically isolated tapestry weaver.


After a delightful catered lunch, with one of the juror's, Jane Sauer, giving a Keynote Speech, we all went to the Brew House Gallery for the afternoon session of the Forum.  You can see Michael Rohde's "Interrogative" tapestry on the back wall in this gallery shot.


The works chosen to be in the exhibit include quilted pieces, felted works, several punch needle and hooked pieces, knitting and crochet, sewing, stitching and embroidery, as well as weaving.


The exhibit is up in both galleries through August 24, 2019. If you happen to be in the Pittsburgh area, it is well worth seeing. In addition, there is a beautiful color catalog, which I am sure you can get through Fiberart International.

Friday, May 17, 2019

On Exhibit....


Opening tonight, I have a small tapestry in this exhibit in Arlington, MA.


In a few weeks, we will go to the Fiberart International opening weekend in Pittsburg, where my "Graffiti" tapestry will be on exhibit in the Contemporary Craft gallery.

I just got a tapestry back home from an exhibit in Rhode Island, which I didn't get to attend.  And I also got notification that another small tapestry was accepted into the Amuse Yeux all media small piece exhibit, at the Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colorado. It opens June 6th, and runs through the first of September.

I have not had this many pieces coming and going to exhibits for several years. It is not because my work was not accepted; it is because I've not been getting to create much work to even enter for the past few years. 'Back in the day' when I was really a working artist, I had to keep a separate calendar for my exhibit schedule, with exhibits color coded, and tapestries going and coming carefully recorded and documented. That was a lot of busy work to keep up with, in addition to the designing and weaving of 3-5 large tapestries per year. I loved it. All of it. And I miss it, so this little dip back into the art world has made me pretty happy. I want... no, I intend to keep it up as long as I can.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May, already!


I know that one of the things an artist must do, if she is to remain an artist, is to be challenged to do something she is not sure she can do, at least occasionally. I have had a rough winter; family and personal illness and pain, lots of company. etc. It was definitely the 'winter of our discontent' - one I'd just as soon not repeat. It left me feeling like not much of an artist at all, as the best I could do was an occasional sketch in my sketchbook, which is not a challenge, but a necessary survival thing. (Oh, and I did do The Sketchbook Project! I'll post a link to that soon, as it's being digitized for their website.)

So... a challenge was in order! I decided I would weave a tiny 'sketch tapestry,' (which I have done before) with limits set on myself. My limits were that I would weave it on my little Hokett-style loom, so it would be portable. The sett on that loom is 8 warps per inch, or even a bit less. So weaving a detailed, very small face is a BIG challenge! I wanted to be able to color blend the background, so the sett was perfect for that. But when I got to the actual face, I found I wanted more warp. Actually, I needed a finer sett to get the facial detail I wanted. So I added an after-the-fact supplemental warp to double the sett in the face area. I have to tell you, I was loving not knowing how this would turn out! That, I believe, is an artist's delight: creating something that you really don't know that you can create - whether it is a success, or not. (Of course, it's best when it does succeed!)


Here is the woven face. still on the little loom. The woven area, not including the hems at top and bottom, is 5 3/4x 5 3/4 inches. You can see my supplemental warp. I was pretty happy with the result.


The tapestry, plus a pile of other tiny 'sketch tapestries,' sat for a bit in the studio. Then I decided to do something with them. So I blocked them all, and yesterday I mounted and framed three of them, hoping to find a place for them someday soon.

This is in a 6" frame, mounted on linen. The title for this is "Let It Be."



This is the silly little goose I did, also on a Hokett-style loom. (I have to say "Hokett-style," because I purchased a Hokett loom, but there were some things I wanted to be different on it, so I had my wood-worker husband make me a few more, for myself and grandkids, with adjustments made: mostly, more depth between the back 'handle' and the weaving area, so I can weave more detail and get my hands and fingers in there more easily.) This tapestry is about 6.5 x 5.25 inches in an 8x10 frame, again mounted on fabric.

This is another little sketch tapestry, called "Lost Tooth." It was also woven on the same loom, but at the original sett. It is about 4x4 inches, in a 6x6" frame.

I am ready for another challenge now. I wonder what it will be?