Monday, May 18, 2015

Into the Woods

Into the Woods  10 x 10 inches

That's the name of a piece I recently had accepted into Contemporary Portraits at the Water Street Gallery in Batavia, Illinois. Roughly a two hour drive from Madison, I decided I would go to the opening. I'm glad I did.

Main Street, Batavia, Illinois

It was a lengthy enough day trip I could declare it a sketchbook day, the best way for me to see a new area. Batavia is on the Fox River, west of Chicago and has some history with windmills and Conestoga wagons, so how could it not be a good day?

The Gallery, along the Fox River

I was so proud to be in this show, the only tapestry piece among 54 superb and diverse portraits. I enjoyed looking at each piece for the hour I was there, each artist's approach gave me much food for thought.

The gallery staff did a wonderful job of hanging the show in a nifty limestone wall venue. Snacks were plentiful.

I've been in several shows that I've never's so much better to see your baby in person. Not to mention I had ice cream for dinner...caramel no less.

Ice Cream for Dinner

Sunday, May 3, 2015


This portrait I'm finishing reminds me how distinctive the language of tapestry weaving can be. Working at this large scale, 6 ends in an inch rather than 10, truly makes every pass of the weft yarns count. A weaver's "highs and lows" become critical and this time I'm not talking about our mood. Although that might enter into it after all.

If you have followed the design development of this piece you know it all started with a cookie platter in a Martha Stewart Christmas issue and moved on from there to what you see today. The core idea is still in place but changes happen many times along the way. I spent several days working on the eyes, weaving and unweaving many times over the course of a week. The eyebrows are done and I've moved on to finish the hair piece.

I hope she's not too sad, she's not meant to be, but expressions are tricky and subtle. We'll see what her attitude is when the warps are cut.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sketching Faces

If you have read this blog before you know that portraits and the stories of people's lives never ceases to interest me. There is an endless amount of material out there, the key is to get out and notice it. No better way to do that than to sit down and draw.

Madison winters take me to mall food courts and coffee shops, but occasionally I look at photographs. The ones I used this month were found in a pile at a flea market, so no family ties to confuse things.

I used ink pen to avoid the erasing temptation and spent more time looking at the photo than the paper though they aren't completely blind contour. I didn't worry about resemblance, only gesture. These people are a mystery to me anyway.

In my final drawing I picked 4 photos randomly from the pile and drew one person from each drawing left to right. I like the potential for story telling here and hope to do more.

Tomorrow I'll be back to observing, this time the Earth Day gathering down at the park. The farmers market is opening up too, no problem filling up the sketchbook now that spring is here.

Social Graces continues to grow. Yarns are finally set, time to sit down and do it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Social Graces Moves On

Last month I shared the beginning of my new tapestry with the working title Social Graces. The title fits so well I may not have to change it. This month I thought I'd tell you a bit more about how the idea came about.

I was flipping through a Martha Stewart mag from the library give-aways, tearing out shapes and objects. It may not be my style, but you can't deny the high quality of the pics. When I'm trying to get ideas I will glue random shapes in my sketchbook without much thought and see what shows up. One of her fancy serving platters intrigued me. It looked like a hairpiece so I painted a face in the spot where the cookies had been.

This is a tiny idea, the sketchbook is about 3 x 5 inches. I lived with the idea for a long time and enlarged it with a watercolor sketch. Then I came across the cotton gloves my mother bought me when I was 13. I needed them because I was signed up for an etiquette class in town, you did things like that back in the early 1960's. Another class confronted me at  boarding school a few years later, but by then it was 1966 and social graces were disappearing. It was mostly unpleasant so I find it interesting that I enjoy having the gloves.

The colors for this tapestry are very unplanned and grow from what has been woven before, I have picked up the drop spindle fairly often and still wonder what the colors around her face will be.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Ice Age Trail

It all started with sock yarn.

Those of you who follow my work are aware I like a very lively surface on my tapestries. Basically I will use whatever it takes, within reason.

While in Minneapolis teaching a workshop I began to consider sock yarn, the self striping knitting yarn, more carefully and dug through my basket to find the appropriate WI winter skein. I thought of the Ice Age Trail and some walks I had taken on this 1,000 mile hiking path that extends throughout Wisconsin. Seemed appropriate to think of that landscape on a below zero day a few weeks ago.

I gathered together a few yarns I had bought at the Madison Knitting Guild's recent Knit In event. And yes I realize I already have "enough" but....

As I think about the landscape workshop I'll be teaching at Siever's School of Fiber Arts this summer I realized I wanted to create a few more stories that focused on my local landscape. I did very little planning for this design, letting the yarns guide me through my memories of those walks with Porkchop.

I need to finish this. There are rumors this week that temperatures will climb above 50 degrees and a new landscape with hope of taking off the beloved red coat will be in order. New yarns will be needed.......

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Weaving Big

The cold winds of February make me hide inside and work on art. Often I find myself trying something new and so I warped my Hagen loom a whopping 20 inches wide. I was working big.

Perhaps not big to some but I rarely venture beyond ten inches. It's been a whole new mindset in my approach to design. Instead of working 10 warps in an inch, I'm down to 6 for each inch. Few choices, bigger groups of yarns to weave with. Pieces I wove 20 years ago were done this way and after so many years of tiny t's it's interesting to think about how this change of scale can affect the shapes I make. The slits are mighty big too, check out that "r" I use as my woven signature.

Just observations and no long term switch to "big" in the works, I have too many ideas to get through for that.

Monday, February 2, 2015

New Faces in Tapestry

The Birthday Bash continues.

Seven eager weavers meet in Minneapolis, ready for a 2 1/2 day workshop with the daunting task of creating new faces. What sort of character will they create?

This group was the most skilled class I've taught so far. I enjoy teaching beginners, explaining the bones of tapestry and watching their understanding emerge. This group already had the basics and there were no fires to put out. Let the personalities emerge.

When I teach a class about weaving new personalities I focus on surface texture and face expression. Ok, we are always thinking about value. And the farther we get to the finish line, the more difficult the use of value becomes.

Meet the new ladies ( why are there rarely any men?) I bet you might even know some of these folks.

Happy Graduation All!