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!