Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A New Year, A New much ahead!

I've had a pretty big number of things on my mind, as well as in my schedule, since I last posted here. We went to Boston for a truly awesome family holiday trip, then to Denver for more of that, bringing home a couple of our grandkids for the most of last week.  We've also celebrated holidays here with our two Dads. Through all that, we still missed Gus, our cat of 11 years. So.... with our grandkids, we visited one of the local cat rescue places, to look for an older cat that would coexist happily with Booker, our big old Golden Retriever. However, when Booker went in, all the older cats disappeared, and these two kittens stayed to check him out. 

A sign at our vets office

These two little ones, Ringo (the grey tabby) and Poe (all black) were affectionate and playful, and not at all worried about Booker, so, with a great deal of encouragement from our animal loving teens, they have become a part of our family. They are entertaining - and distracting - us, and we have rapidly fallen in love with them.

I did this little sketch of them, with Poe on my lap most of the time.

While we were in Denver, we went to the Natural History Museum there, and I sat and did an ink sketch of the two moose in this diorama. I have been thinking a lot about Illustration, and about how to take a sketch from my sketchbook to make it into an illustration. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the original ink sketch.

Yesterday, I did paint a bit with gouache over the sketch.

Then today, I scanned it into my computer and did a bit of manipulation of it in Photoshop. I am not sure I would, at this point, consider it a successful illustration. However, I did learn a bit from the processes I used, so maybe this will be something I will be pursuing more as the year progresses. I am fairly competent in Photoshop, but it has a lot more capability than I use on a regular basis, and I hope to get better at it!

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Small tapestry is Woven....

Starting a new little tapestry, in my PJ's with my morning cup of coffee. It is on the little modified Hockett-style loom my husband made me, and the tapestry will be about 5x7inches.

In the area where the face is to be, I double warped the loom, and you can see here where I began weaving on the finer split warp on the neck. My loom sett is 8epi, so the doubled sett is 16epi. I use doubled weft in the wider sett areas, and singles in the finer sett areas.

The face is still not extremely detailed, even on the finer sett - this is a tiny tapestry, after all! But it really doesn't take much detail to make a face look like a face (especially on a child,) and it is best to leave some detail for the viewer to fill in, anyway. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! 

This is the woven tapestry, still on the little loom until I decide how I will finish it. It is 5x7 inches, sitting on the shelf in front of my filled Moleskine sketchbooks.

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


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........