Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sketchbook Update

I visited Florida last week for the first time and I didn't bring my camera. Well ok, my daughter did. But still, what fun it is to sketch  your way through the wonders of Miami.

What glorious weather - we WI folks appreciate something like this in January, I had a hard time remembering it wasn't summer. Here you see me working on a quick sketch of the Cape Florida Lighthouse at Key Biscayne.

Drawing helps you slow down and really look at your surroundings. I can completely understand how people get excited about painting palm trees now. When we walked past a street of houses days later I realized there was my painted house, I knew it instantly.

Who knows what ideas will emerge from all this, I don't try to quantify, I'm just glad I had the chance.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Value, Word of the Year

I ran across several references during 2014 to an important artist concept, something to the effect of "value does the work, color gets all the credit". Years of art work have helped me understand the truth of those words and so I decided to choose value as my woven word of 2015 and I hope to explore it's meaning in several ways.

Value in art refers to how light or how dark something is, but it is a word rich with multiple meanings. Thank goodness for context and sometimes that doesn't even help you. Are you talking lights and darks or how much it's worth? Apparently with value, it's worth a lot.

Take the values of these wonderful little balls of yarn my friend Debbie sent me for Christmas. They've already been fun to arrange in different combinations. It almost doesn't matter what the color is if the values are the same. Of course brightness jumps in on occasion, not to mention the surface quality of the yarn.

So much to know.

Which is why I continue to think more about value each passing year.

My first woven strip of 2015 will be 2 simple neutral values, woven on the horizontal.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Try Collage for Design Ideas

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop run by collage artist Christine Echtner.

Her artwork combines acrylic paint and collage techniques to tell stories about her characters. Character development is something I've been thinking a lot about this year so I was interested to learn more about her process.

Collage is a great vehicle to create ideas. Printed text, discarded books, ads from magazines all provide material with which to play. Ideas can be generated quickly, some discarded, others layered or painted over. For someone who works in the deliberate and time intensive field of tapestry weaving, this is a freeing experience.

The process is simple to do at home, but the advantage of the workshop is the ideas multiply as you see the work others are doing. Possibilities for future weavings abound.

Find some friends and give it a try.

P.S. The portrait in my Pensamientos series continues to grow. Next, the face.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ladies in the Garden

Haven't seen anyone out in the garden lately, but then again I had thought the official Yard Season was over.

Yet coming back from a walk with Porkchop, on a rather mild and sunny Sunday, I turned the corner and there she was.

I suppose it was the balmy 50 degrees that prompted this lady to head out to the garden. She holds the fall season to the calendar and not this week's forecast in WI. The north winds will be blowing.

Even the plein air painter seems to have given up, although he left his easel behind. I'm never sure what to do with things like this. Should I try to return it? Will he be back for it?

Her sweater looks comfy, but she'll be wanting more by Wednesday. At any rate she should move, the creeping charley is gaining ground. Nothing seems to stop that stuff.

Hunker down. I'm going to go look for mittens.

P.S. My last blog talked about a piece I was trying to design for my Pensamientos series. I've been working and so far, so good.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Developing an Idea

Pansies and Pensamientos...

I recently enjoyed a blog written by my tapestry friend Rebecca Mezoff about the artist's struggle to bring an idea to fruition. Take time to read it here. She writes about author Ann Patchett's thoughts on a brilliant idea appearing, glowing in your mind, and the effort it takes to bring it to life on the printed page. It caused me to think of an idea I've had simmering for a couple years.

I've been working on a series that came to me in one flash while having a conversation with my daughter. Since that time I've been pushing my way through this idea. The working title of the series is Pensamientos, the spanish word for both "thoughts" and "pansies". That fact has many layers of meaning for me. When I dig into one area it's easy to get lost and confused.

Like Patchett, I initially have no clear vision in my head to lead me through the weaving of this idea, just the strong belief that it needs to be developed.

I remember showing a piece to artist and tapestry designer Yael Lurie in a workshop 25 years ago. I had been thinking about the relativity of time and what makes something take "too long" and produced a piece on the subject that I'm still fond of. I told her, "I don't know what to do next." I'll bet she was amused at that comment. She replied, "But you've only just started."

I'm guessing Pensamientos will be another one of those things. The initial glow will simmer, shift, and change many times before it runs its course.

watercolor study for "Pensar"
border design for "Pensar"
"Pensar", 9" wide warp, 10 ends per inch

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 WI Sheep & Wool

This week I returned to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival held the first week of September in the town of Jefferson, a 40' drive from Madison. This event is always a pleasure to attend, with all the trappings for people with fiber obsessions. A user friendly facility, nice variety of vendors, good organization, and newborn lambs. How can you resist?

But is it really possible to teach tapestry in an afternoon?

This year I decided to offer "Tapestry Trees" and 11 enthusiastic students signed up, none of who had ever woven tapestry. I supplied all materials but encouraged students to bring their handspun. Wisconsin has a very vibrant hand spinning community.

We wound a 3" warp with seine twine onto a simple board loom, skipped foundation knots or twining and dove right into the weaving. I asked them to consider what sort of land their tree was growing on and with some simple "over/under" demonstrating, they took off.

I wonder about rushing people so much, pushing them to move on, telling them there are 20 minutes left until cutoff. On the other hand, if this is a taste of tapestry, perhaps this sampling will encourage some to study further.

As usual my students surprise and amaze me. When the tree trunk was started they were setting up three opposing wefts. They sorted through value choices and considered how to weave the shape to suggest an evergreen, maple or birch. One student chose the desert as her landscape.

There are many Sheep and Wool events across the country. Check one out if you can. I imagine you'll return home satisfied, possibly with a new skein of yarn.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer Sketchbook

I continue my Summer Reset, those last few precious days. One of the delights has been my obsession with my little sketchbook and I feel the need to share.

I may owe the initial push from my tapestry friend Janette Meetze who has inspired many of us on Facebook with the sketches of her travels. I often do the same but not as a daily practice. I decided to take on the challenge.

Watercolor artist Cathy Johnson reminded me of the simplicity of the "meander book" made from one page of paper - instructions found here. I folded up a piece of paper and realized it was a perfect opportunity to use one of the tiny tapestries from my handspun landscape course for the cover.

This book has two covers so you can work from either end of the accordion. Sometimes you get to a two page spread which feels rather special. For this one I documented my dyeing session on the deck.

My sketchbook starts July 27, the day before my daughter arrived from Spain and continues through 24 days of family visits. It shows the importance of everyday life - a strawberry eaten, coffee made, a trip to the laundromat. Each day is dated with just enough words to evoke the memory. I used ink, watercolor, pencil, whatever it took to tell the story.

I enjoyed the break from the loom, I need that time to recharge. Next weekend is Labor Day, but there are still a few more slow days of summer. Sketchbook and coffee will be in my future till then.