Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Handspun Landscape at The Porkies

     If you want to get close to nature and be hypnotized by Lake Superior, take a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I guarantee you will have a completely unique experience.

     The Porcupine Mountains are located in the western part of the Peninsula east of Duluth, Minnesota. My daughter remarked I was getting into "Fargo Territory". Trees and water are plentiful in this landscape and the area also boasts several waterfalls, hiking and camping.


     I had the opportunity to teach 12 eager participants at the Porcupine Mountain Folk School located in a cozy log cabin in the Park and run by Friends of the Porkies. We came together to spend a day creating a tapestry of a landscape of their choice. Although a few participants had specific designs in mind, I encouraged students to create and adjust their landscape as we wove.


     I offered yarns with a variety of textures along with handspun roving and locks of wool.



     This style of free form, design-as-you-go tapestry weaving is full of serendipity. Students wrapped warps to create flowers, inserted locks of fleece and bits of yarn to show waves. Many of the places evoked our Lake Superior surroundings and there were discussions of the sunset the night before and the color of the water that morning.

     All in one day! When asked, "When is my landscape done?", I replied, "At four o'clock". Pieces were cut off the loom and celebrated, participants left wanting more.


     Could it be a few more tapestry weavers have begun to grow?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Watercolor Sketches


If you want to know what something looks like, draw it.


After many years of making sure my camera was packed for a trip, now I often leave it behind. Places I loved seemed so disappointing when I looked back to remember them. That's when I bought my tiny watercolor box and now sketching is my favorite way to create these artifacts.



I drove east from Wisconsin last month and spent the afternoon by a creek that runs past a little town called Oxford on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It's a scene whose beauty can overwhelm you.
I edited, rearranged, and colored to suit my mood and to show what I felt was important at the time. I like the roughly torn edges of the paper and the documentation inked at the bottom.


Will these pieces lead somewhere else?
They may just be memories put in an accordion book and tied with a ribbon to be discovered another day.

My next adventure is north to the Porcupine Mountain Folk School to teach tapestry landscape with handspun. I might bring my camera, but I know I'll pack my sketchbook.



 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Value of Friendship

Do you value your friendships?

And what better way to show the meaning of those connections than to exchange artwork. The question was, what should I weave?

There were plenty of options. Dogs (I've already painted them), Loons (she has enough), the Adirondacks....and then I remembered the wild daffodils.

This winter stretched out longer than necessary, spring struggled to break through. I remembered a conversation when she announced the blooming of the wild daffodils in the field outside her window.. My idea was planted.
It didn't take long to design. I was constrained by a 3.5 inch warp so I knew the flower would grow on the horizontal.

I used quite a bit of handspun, no doubt some of the fleece she has sent me over the years.


And of course I took pictures as I wove, she'd feel incomplete not seeing the process.

It appears to be a successful Wisconsin spring after all.....



....and thanks for your friendship Deb.

Have you made something for your friend lately?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What is Love?



If that is the start of your design idea I empathize with you. How complicated could you possible get? This winter I received an email inviting  me to contribute to a local exhibit based on this idea. My first reaction was no.

But I like a challenge. This is a big one for me.

Artists were given a list of questions from which to choose. It was a broad template and the options were many. I wanted to weave a small face portrait, after all time is of the essence when you are talking tapestry.

I chose: What are the different expressions of love?
Expressions of love are difficult. There are those who never know what exactly they are supposed to do on any given occasion., i.e., I thought that's what she wanted and she cried...not for joy. It's a tangled web. Weavers know that.

I'm still confused, but here is the result. I even wrote a poem.

It's More Than Flowers

What do you really want?
It's so difficult to know.
Was there more you should have said?
You told me you didn't want much
and
I thought the flowers would be enough...
It's More Than Flowers, 6 x 12 inches

For those in Wisconsin the show is at Absolutely Art, with an opening on June 6.

Certainly a good time will be had by all - after all...it's love.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Pansy Lady

     You may know I've woven quite a few tiny faces. One circular warp may equal 6 or 7 new friends. That's plenty of pleasure to be had, but my designs can get stale. Who wants to meet up with the same type of person over and over again?

     New ideas can some from a new skein of yarn. One Saturday afternoon in March I walked into the booth of Bleating Heart Haven, a vendor at the Madison Knitters Guild Knit-In. I have discovered that sheep and handspun are much loved in Wisconsin. Bleating Heart raises sheep, dyes and handpaints their yarn. Each skein has a color name. I picked up a soft skein of spun cottswald and it's name was "pansy".

     There was no stopping me, I had to have that yarn.

     That evening I cut some of the yarn into yard lengths, two groups of light and dark values. The two-ply worsted was a bit thicker than I like to use for my 10 epi sett, but I also don't mind funky edges on these pieces.

     I did a quick drawing, after all it was still March so there was no question she would be wearing a winter coat. I followed the cartoon loosely and tried to make sure the weaving, not the drawing, was guiding my decisions.
The Pansy Lady, 3.5 x 4 inches

     She ended up more glamorous than I planned, but then again when it's spring in Wisconsin you need to up your game a bit...warm weather could be quite a bit away.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cupcake Shapes

When I began to weave I was sure samples were a waste of time.

Now I relish them - why rush? There's so much information in that tiny piece of cloth.


I designed a class I call "Cupcake Shapes" and  needed a set of samples to show students the possibilities of shape building in tapestry weaving. My idea was to create a series of still lifes with desserts as the focus.

Why should Wayne Thiebaud have all the fun?

Cookies

I wanted to design samples simple enough for a beginner to weave but challenging enough for a more advanced weaver to be engaged.

Oreo Cookie Pie
Bon Appetit!
Best of all, these are calorie free...

Cupcake Shapes

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weaving a Selfie

What in the world is a "selfie"?

I have always been a fan of self portraits, after all the subject is agreeable and within reach. There has been some recent discussion about weaving a "selfie" and with extra warp on the loom I took up the challenge. The drawing was very fast and much of the design choice happened on the loom. I liked the result and have had good feedback.
Selfie, 5 x 7 inches


I'm not sure I can call it a selfie though.
I recently read Jeff Lundberg's column on the subject, "Narcissistic or Not, 'Selfie' is Nunberg's Word of the Year", in hopes I could understand how that word is really used. After reading I still wasn't sure I had an answer.

I thought back to 1970 when I majored in photography in college and did a quick review of its history:
- Daguerrotype, takes forever, heads were clamped, had to be wealthy
- Eastman Kodak, Brownie camera, you take the picture we do the rest
- Polaroid, see the picture right away
- Digital, take a bunch, use the ones you want
- Smartphone, my phone is a camera
All provided the ablity to see you, the nature of the image changing as the technology changed.

Next I turned to my daughter in law. "You must be aware of the word "selfie", what's your take on that? Here's what I took away from that conversation:
- Selfie IS social media
- Selfie is about choosing the right pose
- Selfie is about having your phone (that's the camera now) always on hand

So there you have it, my research on the topic. The question remains, can a tapestry weaver take the word 'selfie' and use it to describe a piece they have woven?

What do you think?