Sunday, December 27, 2015

Year End Cleanup

Christmas sketching with Santa

It's time to tidy up, a new year offers me a new start and I do like to fritter away a day poking through odds and ends. I tend to get distracted and it's probably time for Santa to move on.

Bus Stop Compliments, 3.5 x 5 inches

I did rediscover a piece I finished this month under the piles and I'm just pleased enough with it that I might even finish it. I wove it for a workshop I'm teaching at Convergence 2016 in Milwaukee. Exciting stuff, more to follow.

But now it's back to sorting, balling up yarn, and wondering what that post-it note really means. I even had a sudden impulse to see if I could create that inspiring studio photo. You know, the one that immediately causes envy?

high end tapestry studio

Didn't work, but I like my selfie. Surely a hand counts for a weaver?

Selfie with Bobbin, 2015

Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Donut Man, Part 2

Donut Man, Coptic Style, 3.5 x 5 inches

Finally I cut the warp off one of my pipe looms. My previous post revealed how I seemed to have accumulated 6 warped looms in various degrees of completion.

I'm most excited because the warp I finished has Donut Man, Coptic Style, my new version of the previous sample I did for the Donut Man portrait. I've done more studies for this piece than anything I've ever done, but the explorations might be paying off.

Although I plan a more realistic approach, I was interested in simplifying shapes and values via a group of weavers I admire, the Copts. My aim was to keep the intensity of the eye and see if I could translate the expression. I chose three blue values because the bag of blue yarn was sitting next to me when I started.

An interesting experiment but I think its time to go back to the larger design and work on the setting. I'll keep you posted but it won't be started until fall.

All Are Welcome, 22 x 50 inches

A new loom has been warped (ok, I"m back to 6 again) and I haven't worked on a commission of this size in years, no doubt the subject of a future blog.

Happy Holidays and may you have warps waiting in anticipation for the New Year too...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

How Long Does it Take?

If you work in the arts you certainly know that's everyone's favorite question. I've been working on a design for several years now and I'm quite glad I haven't kept track of the hours. As I heard clothing designer Anita Luvera Mayer say recently, "I just don't care how long it takes me."

This portrait idea began with a photo I took in New York City. I was interested in the expression of both the face and the hands of the man as the he held the donut.  Although I knew I wanted to work with this image I did not have a clear path and struggled with the skills I needed to understand the position of the figure. It was hard to draw and so I experimented.

I recently returned to the problem because I had a warp I needed to finish. The sample is a study of the right eye woven 'to size' for the final piece. I enjoyed the process so much (sorting values, maintaining the expression), I decided to do a Coptic inspired version of the same sample on the same warp before cutting.

Donut Man detail, 3 1/2 inches wide

Coptic design, lower left

This idea is a long way from winding a warp and selecting wefts, but the recent progress is exciting. It's validating to see my hard work in drawing pay off.

Just don't ask me how many hours it's taken.

p.s. How did I get such a clutter of frame looms with unfinished warps? I wanted to cut off my Wedge Weave Woman but feel compelled to finish that warp, this time with "Too Many Bananas". Wedge weave bananas seem possible, don't they?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Wedge Weave Woman

Always  nice when you can use an alliterative title.

I had the pleasure last week to attend the Eastern Great Lakes Fiber Conference in western New York State. Connie Lippert was teaching and I finally realized I needed to get up to speed on wedge weave...what exactly is it?, why is everyone excited to learn? The workshop did not let me down.

The idea of wedge weave has no doubt emerged from a variety of cultures, Connie pulls from the Navajo tradition. Weaving in these diagonals causes a distortion on the selvages that is quite enticing. Add to that my natural inclination to turn everything into a face and suddenly I'm confronted with the idea of Wedge Weave Woman.

I'm pretty excited.

Connie is what I want in a teacher. Clear explanation of technique yet encouraging you to take this process and integrate it into what you do. Eleven people took this in eleven different directions, a few examples follow below. Most importantly we had fun. I left with a feeling of energy and a desire to weave beyond my usual hours.

Thanks Connie, I look forward to more interaction at Convergence....we'll both be there, who knows what silliness might ensue, distorted or otherwise.

For now, I'm happy weaving and will be sure to show all of you the result.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Exposed Threads

Exposed, 12 x 12 inches

I'm always interested when I see a common thread - we're talking metaphorically here - in my work over time.
I've kept a journal for 25 years. Sometimes I flip through a few volumes and am amazed at the amount of repetition. I'm never sure if it's a good thing, but it is there.
Last week I discovered a recurrence while rooting through my basket: exposed threads.

Feather Hat, 3 x 9 inches

Some of my favorite tiny faces lately have had their warps hanging out. I was brought up as a rule follower, edges straight, ends tucked in. Lately I want to see them.

In the basket was this tiny piece on the right, grouped together here with two that I just cut off the loom. My basket piece was completed 17 years ago. I was taking a big chance then. The narrow edge on all these pieces is 3 1/2 inches.

Taking new risks, but continuing common threads. At least it's caught Porkchop's attention....

Monday, September 21, 2015

Landscape Values

Imagine teaching for a week in this studio, how lucky can I get?

This is Sophie's Studio at Sievers School of Fiber Arts on Washington Island, WI. Sievers was a place I knew about early on in my career (founded in 1979). Little did I  know I would be able to teach tapestry there one day.

Since design is a focus on my blog I'm going to show you the initial piece the class worked based on values. This idea came to me from something I had done with Archie Brennan years ago. I asked the students to choose 3 values (light, medium, dark) from the yarns I brought and weave three bands with them. They could use the values in any order, but the middle band needed to have some shape to it, eccentric or otherwise.

Here are the results and I was blown away. Those minimal requirements created interesting graphic pieces in a day. Warp width was 4" wide and there were 8 threads in an inch. It got the juices flowing for the next piece.

Now I feel like I want to do one. No thinking about color, just value.

Try it.

p.s. look at the pile of Paternayan yarn John was flaunting on his table.....more about their second landscape to follow...

Monday, September 7, 2015

Social Graces

You remember, right?

The gloves, the sketch from the tiny bit of a Martha Stewart magazine, the agonizing over the expression?

It's done, but even the finishing is not without angst. Leave it to me to get wedded to the idea of sparkle. Must be a holdover from my adventures as an elementary art teacher, I just wanted so badly to have a sparkly lavender silver background.

Only problem? It didn't work and thanks to my friend Chris I finally let go of the idea and moved on.

But I still have the tube of silver paint. You never know...............

Social Graces, 20 x 24 inches

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What is Tapestry Anyway?

Rebecca Mezoff's recent blog couldn't have come at a better time, she must have been reading my mind. The focus of her writing (and you can find the blog here) was a question her grandmother posed in 1979: What is tapestry these days anyhow?

This past Saturday I spent a wonderful day with four eager students at Shake Rag Alley. This is an amazing location, part historical village, part arts center. When I walked back the path to the Potter's House I felt completely transported. If you come anywhere near Mineral Point, WI in your travels, you need to stop.

One of the first questions I was asked was "what is tapestry anyway?" This is a common question for someone teaching a 1 day 'Weave a Landscape' class. My classes usually have at least one person who has never woven before, perhaps never done much of anything with fibers. More than one of you are thinking... tapestry in a day, are you nuts?

Obviously some basics are explained, but much of the day is spent taking a lot of risks. Land gets personal and all my students have personal ideas they are compelled to create: three kayaks in the water, the view at the cabin, the family farm complete with sheep, a landscape abstraction. Try it, see what happens!

I am grateful for my adventure I had as an elementary art teacher in the middle of my tapestry career. It opened my eyes to the value of these explorations, helped me let go of rigidness.

I have no idea where tapestry will be going in the future or how anyone could possibly devote the time needed to develop a high level skill set. Perhaps the students I had will never try tapestry again. But that one day in the Potter's Barn 5 people worked together, broke a few tapestry rules and created art that was personal to them.

Sounds like a good day to me.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ladies in the Garden

People in WI were complaining about the heat last week, if 86 degrees is what you consider hot. Small wonder I found this lady napping in the shade of the backyard....a worthy pursuit no matter what the temperature.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Fun

I said I was going to do more sketching this summer but I hadn't really planned to have the produce aisle of the local supermarket be my locale.

It all started with this new online course I was taking with my friend Deb, Sketching Foundations with Liz Steel. If you ever want a good grounding in drawing presented in a user friendly way go check this out. Liz and Sketchbook Skool have figured out how to "do" the online thing and many of us are hooked.

Week 1 had us heading out in public to draw with confidence 2 or 3 objects and do it twice, sort of a get to know your materials exercise. My daughter thought I needed to raise the bar and challenged me to head to the produce department of Hyvee Supermarket here in Madison.

Naturally I packed my bag and took off. I settled on the squash and cheese display, an interesting pairing. Maybe I wouldn't get in the way of too many shoppers.

I set up the scene with a micro pen. Notice I do have a jar of marmalade and muffin mix to purchase just in case the management begins to wonder.

I might have scared that lady away though.

I even got the paints out and still nobody questioned my actions, most likely they thought I was "someone famous". Liz wanted us to paint using only one color to keep it simple.

I headed off to pay for my items, placing the wet painting by the scanner in the express lane. Still no comments.

So if you are hesitant to draw in public, go ahead - apparently no one even notices you.

Most of all, have fun.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Landscape Feelings

How do you feel about the place you live?

I have begun to think more about this question as I look forward to the workshop I'm teaching at Sievers School this September. Washington Island, located on Lake Michigan, is a unique setting and I'm hoping we can spend time exploring what that location means to us individually.

Which is why I started thinking about Madison, Wisconsin. My roots are not deep, I've just completed year 4, so what could I explore to give my students an idea of what I'm asking?

I decided to focus on the isthmus. Madison is uniquely positioned on an isthmus between two lakes and there are many ways to access views. One of my favorite is Olin Park at Turville Point, so I headed out early one morning in a light rain with sketchbook and camera. Rain has been our constant companion in WI this spring.

Quiet and solitude is an important part of this place, knowing you are still a part of the city. Although I don't like to work from photos, I will take a few as reference for later. They could help remind me of the mood or a shape I had forgotten.

I sketched an outline of the horizon from one side to the other, broken into three parts. The motor boats were pretty cool too.

Then I completed a quick sketch of the elements I liked the most in this space. You'll notice the dome building on the horizon, the Wisconsin Capitol is a big deal here, as it should be, an amazing piece of architecture inside and out.

It was a restful morning. Aside from the fishermen, there were a few joggers and a couple having their pictures taken. I spent most of my time just looking and trying to remember.

I've begun the tapestry which, I'm happy to say, will not be an accurate rendering of the area.

It's more how I feel about it.