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?


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?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Interest

I took a walk this morning and it was 2 degrees.

There haven't been many times when I've lifted my head up to see beyond the sidewalk this winter, but yet there were tapestries growing in the winter garden.
Tenacious ones.

I asked a friend this past fall whether I should cut down some of the plants I had in the garden. They had bloomed, we had entered fall, naively unaware what winter had in store for us. She replied, "I leave them for winter interest." Any invitation to be lazy seems good to me and so they stayed. Seeing them today I'm grateful.

And then there was a face.
Tapestries grow in winter, they're not put off by the negative temperatures. This woman dressed for the weather.

I prefer a scarf, but perhaps she feels a warming trend coming.

Lift your head up on your next walk, you never know what winter interest may be around the corner.
And keep weaving.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Spring in WI

Acceptance is a wonderful thing.

     For artists, acceptance into a show is a special kind of wonderful, so imagine designing a tapestry for the American Tapestry Alliance "UNTITLED/UNJURIED small format show in 2014. All entries are accepted in this celebration of tapestry to be shown in Providence, Rhode Island this summer. You can experiment and for me it's a time to have fun.

     The below zero temps in Wisconsin this winter are a trial for the best of positive attitudes. In the midst of the deep freeze I remembered a photo I posted on Facebook and Jan Austin's comment, "nice spring colors".

     I decided to use my hat, push the colors toward summer and combine it with a taste of endless winter.

     Spring in Wisconsin was born.

     I did very little planning for the design, a quick sketch on recycled paper and a few marks on the warp.

     It was stress free weaving that grew from the bottom to the top in clear sections, face to hat to snow. I even considered putting in a snowdrop, the first thing to bloom around here in the spring, but it just doesn't seem possible at the moment.
Spring in Wisconsin, 7 x 8 inches
     I have one warm thought though, I know I'm part of the show.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Welcome to 2014

Welcome to 2014
"Bienvenido" 3 x 16 inches

For many of us, it was a cold welcome. Design ideas had to come from peering out windows, imagining what -15 might feel like.

Some weavers begin their year with a tapestry calendar (if you haven't seen them you really need to check out Tommye Scanlin, Jan Austin, and Janette Meetze's efforts). I start my year weaving letters and revisiting my skills, free from the complications of ideas.
The act of weaving letters was introduced to  me several years ago in a workshop with Archie Brennan, a weaver I consider my mentor. My word strips can be completed in a small amount of time and often develop interesting meanings.

The first sunny day of 2014, the back yard offered more design ideas. There was another connection to Archie, a frozen leash that became a line I might "take for a walk" in my weaving. It's good to remember the special language of tapestry, the marks you can make with a warp and weft. I might need to search for more Wisconsin whites though.

Happy 2014 and Bienvenido!
Please come back and visit any time and express your thoughts, in whatever language you speak.
You are always welcome.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Custom Portrait for Christmas

How do you design a portrait for a client that has no photos?
I've woven many tapestry portraits and the process usually follows a familiar format.

The client sends me a variety of photos. We talk about the personalities of the people, clothes they might wear, hair style, earrings, flashy or conservative, turtleneck or button down, and we discuss it until we get it right.

This time it was different. Clear photos of her two close friends were difficult to find and I couldn't get a clear idea of what the couple looked like. Once we both realized another approach was needed the design process opened up and we quickly settled on her friends' love of biking in the Fingerlakes area of Upstate New York.

All that remained were the details (her favorite color is pink) and the background (mountains will be in the distance) and I was ready to weave.

The piece will be ready for Christmas.
And don't worry, I made sure they were wearing bike helmets.
Biking on the Fingerlakes, 3 1/2 x 9 inches