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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Weaving Face Expressions

Sixteen people came together at the Weaver's Guild of Rochester in Rochester, New York and brought 16 new personalities to life with handwoven tapestry technique.

In preparing for my workshop Face Expressions, I purposely did not ask for cartoons, photos or preconceived notions of whom you might want to weave. I find a workshop can be more exciting if you experiment and let the process reveal the ended exploration.

I encouraged names for all our new people and often the titles had to change as the weaving progressed. Zsa Zsa became Gertrude, then the Queen Mum and back to Gertie again. It's hard to ignore someone with boucle hair and why not try that overspun handspun you have in the basket.

Whether fully completed or still in progress, our woven people left with their personalities intact, sure to be finished at a future date.
Try faces, see what you reveal.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Creative Design in Rochester NY

There's a lot of power in a group of people.
I just arrived home from teaching in Rochester, NY and it all began with Creative Design at the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center. Ten students came together for an afternoon of possibilities at this gem of an arts center that provides classes of a wide variety, from multi-harness floor loom techniques, to felting and dyeing. It's become the "go to" place for fiber arts in the Rochester area.

I had asked students to consider a place that had meaning to them and begin to collect materials and imagery prior to class. I led them through a series of exercises as they explored their idea and wrote, painted, and collaged their findings into a small handmade book.

The results were quite remarkable. There were places they remembered, treasured, and feared. Some places were in crisis, some intangible, and through it all they took risks, pushed forward, and kept their hands moving on the paper.

That's remarkable, but it's not what I thought of the most on the journey home. It was the power of a group, coming together, working on a big idea, and giving themselves the gift of time to think and explore, then sharing it with others.

It's an incredible risk to take.
The results were rich and deep. Some may come to fruition, some simmer, and other will be tucked away in journals, but for that afternoon we came together and saw something in a new way.

And we are all the richer for it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Allure of Autumn

How do you grow the Big Idea?

Last week I drove down my street and was met with the arrival of fall. It had all the making of a good drama.

Yesterday's fog and humidity had blown away and the dried yellow leaves scraped their way down the street.

Skies were a bright blue and the tempo changed as the wind picked up one more time.

I love fall.

But how do I tackle this Big Idea, when I'm surrounded by seductive colors, an array of textures and strong values?

Where do I begin?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Matter of Time

My tapestry was accepted into an art show.

I'm excited for a variety of reasons. The show was open to all media, the location is the National Clock and Watch Museum and most of all, it was a mighty tiny tapestry. Let me share my design inspiration.

It really started with my mentor, Archie Brennan. I took a few transformative classes with Archie and Susan Maffei in the past and immediately was drawn to the use of humor, metaphor, and double meanings I found in their approach. I began to understand basic technique and walked away thinking if I practice letters on that I inch strip of weaving I will get somewhere. It may take time, but I will.

And so emerged This Takes Time.
This Takes Time, 1 x 13 inches

Lettering is a marvelous way to hold your feet to the fire. An A is an A, there is no fudging. The intensity of that weaving left little energy for finishing, hence the hanging threads. My instruction to the museum was, "The piece is hung with one exposed, preferably rusted, nail and found wire."
Apparently enough time had already gone by.

The exhibit will be at the National Watch & Clock Museum in Pennsylvania from October 25, 2013 through May 31, 2014. If any of you get a chance to see it, let me know, it could prove an interesting show.

Meanwhile, prepare that garden of ideas as we head into fall...winter may be coming, but the burst of color ahead is a true delight.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Designing a Series

I've always been attracted to working in threes.
Choices, 14x10 inches 

It may have something to do with beginning, middle, and end or simply the need to keep weaving.

Who wants to stop at 1?

The latest newsletter from the American Tapestry Alliance asked tapestry artists who prefer to work in a series what moves them to choose that direction. As you can imagine there were a variety of answers and I found myself thinking about my own reasons.
Naturally I came up with 3.
Beyond Repair, 12x11 inches

Focus...I keep a journal recording thoughts and ideas, bit of paper scraps with pencil notes ripped, painted and glued into place. It can get overwhelming at times flipping through this book. Thinking in threes is a way for me to begin to tackle The Big Idea.

Story...I do love a story and even when one doesn't follow the Beginning/Middle/End structure, a set of three designs helps ground my idea.

Display...My work is tiny. One tiny tapestry seems lonely when displayed, three together are a happier group.

Now that I think of it, the same thing happens when planting tulip bulbs.
 Hammer in Flight, 12x12 inches
Displayed in this post is a threesome from my series entitled Choices, part of a bigger idea, entitled Story Problems.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival: Show That Handspun!

I learn so much from my students.

This weekend I spent a day teaching at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival, east of Madison at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. This was the first time most of these students had ever tried tapestry and as the common thread among us seemed to be sheep,

I had them create a handspun landscape.

There was a bit of hand wringing by a few, but once they left their plans behind and let their materials show them the way, some amazing things began to happen. The group was asked to bring bits and pieces of handspun, roving and commercially spun yarn. I asked them to look and imagine their landscape.

Armed with very basic weaving tools and technique the land began to emerge; sand dunes, water, forests and sunrises. An intended tree trunk turned into night sky and a campfire appeared when a neighbor's fleece was borrowed.

Design driven by process.

Next time, flaunt your handspun if you've got it. If not, make friends with someone who spins.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Time for a Tapestry Makeover

I've woven a lot of faces in my life, many from customer photos that become gifts...

others a combination of observation and imagination.

As with all ideas, sometimes the well runs dry and things become a bit wilted. In the final hot weeks of summer I decided to turn to something I'm told "everyone needs at least once", a complete makeover.

And yes I know I could use one, but we're talking tapestries.

So I went to one of my favorite places to get ideas, the library, and found a great book by designer Isaac Mizrahi called, How to Have Style.

Personalities are important and reveal themselves over time. Some of my ladies have embraced their makeover more than others. This one seems fairly pleased, most likely she won't change back into sweatpants once she gets home.

I'm hoping your idea well hasn't run dry these last few weeks...if so, there is the possibility of a makeover...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Welcome to my new blog, Growing a Tapestry

On this page you'll find my thoughts and questions about how art grows from the tiniest seed, to a big idea, to the finished piece. Its a path full of pitfalls, risk taking, wonderful highs and despairing lows. Yet I keep coming back, it's what sustains me.

I decided on the title while struggling with a new back yard and photographing art work simultaneously. In the end I solved more photography issues than weed ones. 

I like the way this new environment for photographing my ladies helps me discover their personalities.
Stay tuned for  more.