Green grass, winged tigers, and Arkansas…

Many years ago my father said something to me, sort of prophetic, but not something I appreciated at the time.  I had asked my parents to babysit my young children while I attended a weekend event in the next town from them for a HS reunion.  He declined, saying to me, “Grass doesn’t grow under your feet, you’ll figure it out.”  I did figure it out, hiring the teenage daughter of one of my HS classmates to watch my kids at the shore resort, but the comment has stayed with me for more than 20 years.  When my husband was dying, I desperately asked him about finances, and how to connect with his HR department at his office, and he said, “You’ll figure it out”.  Really.  That phrase has haunted me, because in fact, I did figure it out.  I always figure it out.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t figure it out kicking and screaming silently all the way.  There are many many times when I would love someone to figure it out for me.  And yet, the two most important men in my life pushed me to stand on my own feet, and “figure it out”.  The grass does not grow under my feet.  By any stretch of the imagination.

A little over a week ago, I attended an expensive fund raiser for The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ.  I adore their productions and since I was home, a rare occurrence this fall, I not only attended, but called them to see if they wanted a donation of a handwoven scarf for their silent auction.  They were thrilled, and I shipped off one of my handwoven scarves to the director.  I was very pleased to find the scarf displayed quite creatively, and there was some furious bidding for it.  The winner was the actual director of development for the Shakespeare Theater and I was more than pleased that it found a good home for a good cause.  I got a “backstage” tour of their facility, and it was fun to meet some of my favorite actors, seeing them in real street clothes instead of Shakespearean costume!  

Saturday a week ago, I drove down to Clinton NJ to the Hunterdon Art Museum to see an exhibit called Lace, Not Lace.  This museum has had some wonderful exhibits in the past, and though the lace exhibit is continuing until January, I believe, The Urchins, large lace sea urchins by artists Choi and Shine, which hung outdoors over the river, would be leaving that weekend.  

Unfortunately the area was mobbed from a festival, so I had to park about a mile away, and it was hard to get up close to the urchins, but I managed a couple of lovely photos.

The exhibit inside was incredible.  I am a lace maker, bobbin lace specifically.  I’ve blogged about those adventures in the past.  So this exhibit was especially exciting for me, to see what the global lacemaking community is creating, and how they are pushing the envelope as to what is lace and what is not.  Which is really lace after all.  The highlight of course, is a lace carriage, full size, from copper wire, that fills an entire room.  I took many photos of the carriage, the lighting and shadows the lace created on the walls were a completely wonderful dimension to an already breathtaking piece.

I showed my daughter the images I took and she looked curiously at this one…

She said to me, “Mommy, I’ve seen that image before, we had a book I loved as a child called the Winged Tiger, that image is in there.”  OK, now I’m completely blown away.  We had the book on the shelf, and she showed me that indeed, this lovely quirky children’s story was illustrated with images of panels from a lace chariot in progress and there, in the middle of the book was the lace panel from the carriage.  As a matter of fact, the whole story is about a lace princess building a lace carriage to release the winged tiger.  

The book is called The Winged Tiger and the Lace Princess, by Phil Yeh and Lieve Jerger.  The lace carriage in the exhibit is by Lieve Jerger, and it took her 45 years to complete.  This book was published in 1998, when my daughter was 6 years old.  Lieve Jerger had only half completed the carriage, and there is a photo of her on the back cover with the work in progress.

The fact that my daughter remembered this image from 20 years ago was remarkable in itself.  But then we know she is a remarkable kid.  I am even more stunned by the images of the carriage knowing this particular part of the story that isn’t shared in the wall bio of the artist.

Sunday morning I got on a plane for Arkansas.

OK, I’m going to say this right up front.  Arkansas?  I’m a northeast snob and had no idea that there could be anything worth traveling to in Arkansas, and I have never been so wrong about anything in my entire life.  And being wrong and admitting it is not such a terrible sin in this day and age.  

There is a lovely little knitting shop called Red Scottie Fibers in Northwest Arkansas, in a town called Eureka Springs.  The town was built in the mid 1800’s, around the restorative waters of the mineral springs.  It is a fairly liberal enclave with a lovely group of residents and shop owners who have migrated there from other parts of the country.  There is a huge arts community there, studios, craftsmen, galleries, all built in and around beautifully restored and maintained 1800’s structures.  It is all in the Ozarks, some of the streets go straight up, very well read and educated community, and I desperately wanted to move there.  I’ve never been more serious in my life.  The restaurants were amazing, the scenery breathtaking, hiking and biking trails unlike anywhere else in the US, all a 2-3 hour plane ride from Newark, depending on the direction you are going.  

The shop was cozy, and fortunately the class I was teaching didn’t involve actually making a garment.  It was a three day garment construction intensive, geared to handweavers, and I had a full class of 12 squeezed in among the looms.  Everyone was flexible, figuratively and literally, since many of the participants decided to spread out on the floor to trace my patterns.  They were enthusiastic and fun to be around.  They had the opportunity to trace all of my patterns, and there are a lot, and I interspersed lectures on various aspects of garment construction in relationship to handwoven fabrics.  It is a great class if you only have three days. They want me back for a five day intensive, the earliest I have free in my calendar is May of 2020.

I didn’t fly home until the evening following the last day of class, so my lovely hostess, and owner of Red Scottie Fibers took me to see Crystal Bridges Art Museum which was close to XNA, Bentonville airport, which is home of Walmart.  And it was Mrs. Walton, wife of the founder of Walmart who created this incredible art museum, focusing on her vast collection of American Art, and included a Frank Lloyd Wright house which was painstakingly moved, brick by brick from its former home in Millstone, NJ.  Huh…

The museum is world class, even the courtyard at the entrance of the museum had one of Louise Bourgeois’ famous spiders.  I look forward to returning and spending more than just a couple hours.  

While I was in Arkansas, I was able to finish up my sweater, and start a new one.  This one is a pattern called Brianna, from C2Knits.com.  I knitted the sweater from 2 strands of shetland wool and a silk/wool, both mill ends I bought years ago from WEBS.  It hasn’t been blocked yet, and will really soften up, but it is now in the 40’s and my heat isn’t on yet in the house.  Next up on the needles is a Merino and Silk yarn from Berroco I picked up at Sievers, I’m making a vest.  

I got home late Friday night.  My daughter has moved back home, which isn’t a terrible thing, I do enjoy her company, but the down side is she moved back home with all her stuff.  And she has a studio that exceeds the quantity of yarn and looms  I have collected over the last 40 years.  Much of the equipment is temperature sensitive, meaning looms can’t sit in the garage all winter, besides, I want my garage bay back, winter is coming.  She moved home to take a job at a research facility, which sadly still pays less than she will need to get out on her own, but it is a good career move.  She had only unpacked a few boxes in the week I was away.  

Because I care a lot about looms and keeping them in optimal conditions, I decided, really reluctantly, to make room in my studio, my lovely roomy recently redone studio, for two additional 8 shaft 45″ looms.  Sigh.  This means that now to work in my studio, I need to shimmy sideways around the furniture like the cutting table, ironing board, and of course numerous large looms.  I’m not happy, but it needed to be done for now.  My son will be deploying to the middle east again in January, and I’m hoping she can take at least one of the large looms and move to the basement to take over his space until she can afford to move herself out.

Winter is coming…

Meanwhile, I got word that my duster coat won the HGA award at the Blue Ridge Fiber Festival in Asheville, an award that has always alluded me, and now I can say I finally got one.  And my latest article is out, this time in Heddlecraft Magazine, an online digital handweaving publication, a terrific magazine, if you are a handweaver, you should be subscribing.  My article is titled Ten tips for inspiring good design and better creativity.  I had a blast writing it.

And today, I joined a local chapter of the American Sewing Guild for a field trip to a historic site in Morristown, NJ, called Acorn Hall.  It is mid 1800’s Italianate Victorian mansion, part of the Morris County Historical Society, and they have just installed a wonderful exhibit in the rooms of the mansion called “Iconic Culture: From Little Black Dress to Bell Bottoms, A Cultural Retrospective, 1920-1979.”  We had a private tour and it was a great way to spend the afternoon.  The garments were lovely staged among the period furnishings in this grand home, and all of this only 20 minutes from my house.  

Grass does not ever grow under my feet.  My dad was right.  Reluctantly, I always figure it out.  

And now dear readers, I am going to hide in my studio for a week, coming out only to answer the back log of emails, pay my quarterly sales taxes and monthly bills, and fill out a few contracts for 2019, and the rest of the time will be devoted to prepping the scripts and step-outs for three days of video shoots the following week with Threads Magazine.  I’m having anxiety attacks over the amount of work I still have to do, but my dad and my late husband’s confidence in me keeps me moving forward.  48 hours after I finish the video shoot, I start the trek down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for another five day garment construction retreat.  

Stay tuned…

 

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Three in a row…

This has been quite the marathon, and I’m only at the midpoint of the fall extravaganza of crammed together venues.  I so want to fire my booking agent, sadly there is only me to blame for the tight schedule, but so far I’m handling it.  She says with perfect confidence.  Hahahahahah!

All kidding aside, I adore teaching at Sievers, like I do at my regular gigs like Harrisville.  After a week at John C Campbell where I didn’t know the ropes, the campus, the studio, the meal routine, anything about the place, at Sievers, like Harrisville, I know the routine and know what to expect and I know most of my students.  In fact at Sievers this year, only four of the twelve in the class were new to me.  And the new women were really strong sewers.  They worked independently, and were great to work with.

This year we were back in the Walter studio, an octagonal building with lots of light and air.  Tables are paired for many of the students, and this year in particular there was a lot of humor and joking and pranks, especially when I fell asleep in the middle of class.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that, or if I did it wasn’t captured on film.  They were planning all sorts of mischievous deeds.  But they settled on just posting the photo on social media.  The comments were hilarious.  And touching.  Especially this one from Rebecca Mezoff, and extraordinary teacher herself.  

“Just remember, that is what your teacher feels like at a workshop! It is such hard work! (fun, but exhausting)”

Sievers always starts with the ferry ride.

The studio was all set up and ready to go when I arrived the day before.  They all know what I need and everything is in its place.

In a five day class, my students can explore whatever they want, some make my patterns, I have lots of silhouettes now to choose from. Others bring their own. 

Cindy, Ellen, and Gerri made variations on my collared jacket.  Cindy and Gerri’s jackets are handwoven.  Remember everything is still full of pins, tailors tacks and none of the handwork has even been started.  They save that part for home.

And Terry and Ginnie made swing coats.  We all got lots of laughs when we carefully planned out the back of her digitally printed silk lining, which looked great as the back, but when she held it up to her front, well, it was pretty entertaining.  Ginnie’s is handwoven.

Terry worked harder than I’ve ever seen her work.  She has taken more than 14 classes with me, and I can’t imagine a Siever’s class without her. Even she fell asleep!

Karen and Janene made my new vest pattern with the collar, and Terry started one the last day after finishing up all but the handwork on her swing coat.  Both Janene’s and Terry’s are handwoven.

Linda brought her own patterns, and worked on a plaid shirt, and then a Today’s Fit Vogue, which Joy played around with as well.

Janene started cutting out a tunic from the most gorgeous chenille, once she finished the vest, and I had to smile when I looked over at one of the cutting tables and saw Terry and Karen hard at work, both wearing their tunics they made last year.  Terry’s is handwoven.

Jill made a straightforward Daryl Jacket from Ultrasuede and then started on my vest with armhole bands, piecing the bands with a stack of beautiful quilt fabrics.

Cristel made the same vest in a longer version from handwoven fabric, and then went on to play around with another piece of fabric and made up her own vest pattern based on one I had from an article I wrote for Handwoven Magazine many years ago.  Cristel is pretty skilled.

And one of my new students Wendy has a special place in my heart.  Wendy is very skilled, but came from a professional alterations background, she spent a lifetime working for others, figuring out what the client needs, and is now looking to start listening to what she wants to make for herself.  I so got where Wendy was coming from, I felt like that when I gave up alterations and then again when I gave up craft fairs.  Wendy had no other agenda but consulting with what she brought, and tracing all my patterns.  She is a bit of a weaver, and had a couple of nice pieces of yardage which she can’t wait to work on.  Meanwhile, she did play around with my bias top, test garments are hard here since all fabrics fall differently on the bias.  She whipped up a sample which gave us clear direction on how much to increase the bust cup.  I know she will be fine, her smile says it all.

Ginnie presented me with a copy of my side pocket pattern where she wrote what she thought was my ultimate job was, and I can’t help but smile.  I did feel like a forensics expert, trying to figure out where a pattern or construction detail went wrong and then making it work.

And so, another Sievers group graduates, this is my 13th year teaching at Sievers.  They made me all promise I would go back to the 7 day format next year, which I couldn’t do this year for obvious reasons.  48 hours to turn around between venues is not enough!

There were lots of group hugs as we all started packing up the last day, and five of us managed to be together on the ferry going home.

Joy was my driver to the airport and we stopped for lunch at a place I’ve never been, Al Johnson’s in Sister Bay, famous for having goats on the roof.  Really.  While waiting for a table, I wandered around the gift shop and managed to come home with an Icelandic knit dress in Merino wool.  That was an expensive lunch.

And so I have caught up on bookkeeping for the quarter, balanced the accounts and paid the bills.  And now I prep for Arkansas, I leave next weekend.  No rest for the weary…

Stay tuned…

 

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Running From the Storm…

What a week.  I’m not sure where to begin, except to say right up front I’m home safe in NJ, for now.  

I left a week ago for Atlanta, and on to John C Campbell, a folk school in the Appalachian mountains in the western corner of NC where they meet TN and GA.  We had heavy thunderstorms almost every day, but they were unrelated to what was happening in the Atlantic.  The folk school is gorgeous, magical, and I can see why it is a popular place to learn craft.  I am so grateful to add this to my resume, my students, the facility, the food, housing, staff and infrastructure were all wonderful and encouraging and promoting of creativity and inspiration.

I took a break from teaching my regular garment construction intensive, and taught a five day inkle weaving intensive.  I don’t think I am capable anymore of teaching anything but an intensive. I work my students hard.  I don’t think anyone has ever complained that they didn’t get their money’s worth in one of my classes.  And this one in particular was pretty challenging, especially if you had little or no weaving experience.  I started students off, (there were 10 of them) learning about the inkle loom, and how to set it up efficiently and how to weave a competent band.  By lunch the first day, they were all right there and doing really well.  

Then I introduced supplemental weft, which was lots of fun and very creative.

Followed by supplemental warp.  

The afternoon of the first day we tackled what at first seemed challenging, but by the time the class ended, everyone was thinking that this technique was really elementary! This is a 2:1 pick up, often called Baltic.  Most students did the designs on five thread, a couple with more experience managed 9 thread.

On Tuesday we rewarped the looms, using complementary warps, light vs. dark.  The first technique was name drafts, which again, seemed so hard at the time, but by the end, students were returning to the name draft for a bit of a break!

Then we explored pebble weave, some simple diamonds, each technique building on the previous one.

It became pretty obvious that there was some serious stuff happening in the Atlantic, and one of the students lived on the coast and decided to leave after lunch on Wednesday, to head back to retrieve her animals so she could evacuate.  I saw a lot of very nervous students, trying to decide what to do.  Meanwhile there were heavy thunderstorms throughout my stay, which resulted in some pretty awesome rainbows.

Next up was a free form technique or Runic as Ann Dixon calls it.  I explained the basics of how it was done, and students just made up their designs.  Many of the techniques are adapted from Ann Dixon’s book of Inkle loom patterns, I make up the patterns for them to use, but encourage them to buy her book for more ideas.  Most had a copy by the time the class ended.

Wednesday afternoon they were ready to tackle Paired Pebbles, which is an Andean technique, and one of my favorites.  Laverne Waddington publishes many books of patterns, usually done on the backstrap loom, but very doable on an inkle loom.  Students were all copying the links so they could order for themselves.  Laverne’s books are available as downloads from Patternfish.com.

Thursday morning we rewarped the loom, and you could see how exhausted everyone was, but I saved the best for last, and once everyone caught on, there were some really pretty designs using a three shaft technique called Turned Krokbragd. 

One of my students Margaret rewarped a companion loom to coordinate with her Krokbragd piece, so she had these beautiful small inkle looms, handmade from gorgeous woods, which she had bought on the internet.

I had a mom and daughter team, which was so wonderful and sweet to watch, sort of like watching my daughter and me in a workshop together.  Sarah, like my daughter, though she had no previous weaving experience, ran rings around everyone in the room.  To be young again with all that stamina and energy.  At one point, late one afternoon they asked if they could just warp up something simple, like shoe laces.  I had showed the link for the article my daughter wrote 10 years ago when she was just 15, for an online magazine called Weavezine.  Though the magazine is not in publication anymore, the archives are still there, and they went off and downloaded the article.  Next thing I new, they were both happily weaving off a pair of shoelaces each.

Everyday at the folk school is magical, from the well maintained wooded paths, to early morning song where local folk singers come to perform, to Tuesday yoga, demonstrations, concerts, and stuff that was hard to fit in sometimes.  I tried to keep the studio open in the evenings, so students could concentrate better with less distraction.  The last day was graduation day, and each of the dozen classes that happened during the week, from clay and woodturning, to blacksmithing, enameling, painting and photography, had a show and tell of students accomplishments for the week.  The dulcimer students gave a lovely performance singing and playing in a round.  My class set up their table with looms still in progress and a stunning array of bands, they were so proud of what they had done.  The class photo was missing a few students, some had already left to beat the storm, but the joy and pride was evident on their faces.

All of these technique are available as a download and as a bound monograph on my website in my book, Advanced Inkle Loom Techniques.

I had planned to stay on for the weekend to take a sketchbooking class.  As I followed the path of Florence, it became apparent that it was headed for the folk school and though I didn’t think the storm would directly affect operations, maybe knocking out the WIFI, I was worried that the storm would graze Atlanta and I wouldn’t get out Sunday night.  With a turn around flight Wednesday to Sievers in Wisconsin, I decided not to chance it and rebooked my flight to Friday night (thank you United for not charging me to rebook) and took off shortly after the presentation, hopped the shuttle to the airport and made it home safely and uneventfully by late Friday night.  Oddly enough, the storm is veering back toward the Atlantic, heading right over NJ, and I’m hoping the rain and wind are finished before I fly Wednesday morning.  Crossing fingers.

Stay tuned…

 

 

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One down, five to go…

The fall series of classes is happening, and I have little time between to regroup, it all sounds great in theory when I book venues to teach, I’m just sure I’ll be able to do it, and then the time comes and I want to fire my booking agent.  Which is me of course.  And in reality, it all works out, really it does.

One of the great gifts of my career is being able to return year after year to the same venue.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Harrisville in the fall to teach, maybe 9 times?  I just returned from yet again, another wonderful five day class, though some opted to stay for six, and of the fourteen students who took this journey with me, I think only six were first time students.  Two or three of the students have been with me almost from the beginning.  I’ve watched their skills grow, we have become good friends, and I look forward to my week like a family reunion of sorts.  

I love the Harrisville setting, a gorgeous old mill town in rural NH, about five hours north of me.  It is always fall like and lovely, green and idyllic.  Except for this year of course where I doubt there wasn’t a single place in the world that wasn’t experiencing record weather of some kind.  They had just had record rainfall, and many of the roads had washed out, and this past week it was in the 90’s, nearing 100 one day.  So unusual for NH, no one has airconditioning.  We did have a window unit or two in the classroom, and it helped, but there will always be the airconditioning wars, some like it super cold, some like it moderate, and some absolutely hate airconditioning.  Put a group of 15 women together and no one can agree on temperature!

A week at Harrisville usually comes with a mid week tour of the spinning mill.  I’ve been there a couple of times, so I opted to stay behind to help those who were behind, but when the class who attended the tour returned, we all went down to Mill No. 6 where they have the loom building shop.  Harrisville looms have been around since the 70’s, maybe longer, and they are one of the few looms made like an Ikea kitchen, the loom comes in a couple boxes and has to be put together carefully but once you’ve done it, you know that loom intimately, and they have been competent light weight very portable folding looms that have served many many weavers well.  I’ve never seen the loom building area, and this was a lot of fun.  There is a finishing section for the yarn, where it is washed, dried and skeined. 

They have set ups to box their kits for kid looms, which come pre assembled with warps.  

And part of the area where they build and assemble stock, with a beautiful Bird’s Eye Maple custom built loom from the early days of Harrisville that recently came home to live.  

There were some lovely photos of the area in spite of the heat, and the sunsets and moon shots were beautiful.  Even with my Samsung Galaxy camera!

And my students.  I love them all, even though they had me running like crazy, I earn my money, but in the end, they all did a great job.  Of course there is always one that for some reason escapes photos, and leaves early to go off to a trip to Europe, so doesn’t even appear in the class photo, so Jan, I’m so sorry I never got a single photo of your tunic.  There were so many pins in the piece as she flew out the door the last day, she couldn’t try it on, but I was sure I had a least one photo.

My regulars Carole and Jane, both opted to make my new vest.  Carole’s was created from an old raglan sleeve handwoven mohair jacket she no longer liked or wanted so she cut it up and made the vest.  Both are handwoven.

And Amy, who weaves finer than I’ll ever attempt, wove this beautiful 60/2 silk shirt. 

Of course rarely does anyone completely finish their piece before the end of class, there is always that rush to get it to the point where just the handwork needs to be finished, and sometimes I don’t get last shots of the pieces.  So I’m always grateful when former students stop in to show off what they made in a previous class.  Beate and Judy came in to show off their jackets from a previous year, maybe 2016?  I still see what suspiciously looks like pins still in Judy’s jacket!

And Jan, though I didn’t get a photo of your tunic, I did get a shot of the vest you made last year, which you thankfully brought completed so everyone could ohhhh and ahhhhh!  Handwoven sakiori technique of using thin strips of fabric.

MJ and Pat were returning students, and MJ who is a quilter, made the fabric for a variation of the new vest, she put sleeves on the jacket.  Pat wove a lovely cotton fabric for a shirt.  She copied the shirt from a ready to wear piece she wore to class the first day.

My French sisters Sylvy and Judit were new students and an instant delight.  They came in from Quebec City, and they made a couple of beautiful garments which in the chaos at the end, I failed to get final photos.  But Sylvy made a gorgeous white wool vest with a fun lining, it has a beautiful shawl collar and armhole bands, and she is an embroiderer and plans to embroider beautiful designs on the vest.  Judit used a cotton table cloth that she wove, apparently her loom is 104″ wide, or something like that, she said it takes two people to pass the shuttle back and forth.  She was able to get this lovely swing coat, and it does have a neck band and sleeves.

Lynn was also a new student, and brought in a simple subtle plaid commercial fabric, and gets the gold star for never having her name on the Daryl Alert list.  She sat quietly and just followed the directions.  Made me smile.

Liz took my class a couple of years ago, she is a saori weaver, so makes lovely serendipitous fabric, and she didn’t disappoint!  She brought two different fabrics to combine into this commercial jacket pattern, I think it is a McCall’s.  She was down to the lining when she left Friday afternoon.

This is Anne’s fourth class with me, and this time she brought a commercial tweed from Joann’s and made my swing coat.  She had sleeves on by late Saturday afternoon, but again, I apparently failed to get a final photo.  She was so thrilled to have made a bound buttonhole.  There were lots of squeals from that corner of the room.

Emily was a new student but had mad wicked skills already, having studied handwork in Sweden, she left with a finished jacket, cut out a tunic, and drafted a pattern for a top, edited from my jacket pattern.  I only got a photo of the jacket, all though were handwoven.

And then there were my two new students Tegan and Christine.  Tegan reminded me so much of me when I was that age.  Just out of her  20’s and already an accomplished production weaver, I was well into my craft fair years when I was that age, and her fresh youthful enthusiasm made everyone in the room want to be her mom.  We all had lots of business advice to share, and her talent is exceptional.  She shared with me that she switched into weaving from an arts background after reading an article I wrote for Threads Magazine a number of years ago, on Sewing with Handwovens.  We never know who we reach from the simplest of gestures.  The shear joy when she showed me the piping she put on the band of her swing coat, a gorgeous 16 shaft wool block twill pattern, was infectious. And her adorable sense of style came shining through when she said, I think I want to close it with a tie.  So I told her how to make one and off she went.

Christine like Tegan had very minimal clothing experience.  Christine is a pretty competent weaver, and did bring some handwoven cloth, but opted to do her first jacket out of a spectacular wool gabardine she purchased from Mood.  Christine was sharp and focused, and was such a good sport.  We spent some time in the beginning making her a custom fit pattern and no one is more pleased than me at how it all turned out in the end.  There was a lot of hand holding, but Christine smiled through the whole thing, even when she found out there would be a lot of handwork which she admitted wasn’t her favorite thing, and I think she was really happy with the coat and all the possibilities she has with fit now that she knows what questions to ask.

My beautiful class of 2018, minus Jan.

I’m leaving again Sunday for JC Campbell in southwestern NC.  I’ll only have about a 48 hour turn around before I head to Sievers but I’ll do my best to report in!  Stay tuned…

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Just do it…

I’m in the final prep stages for my fall teaching extravaganza, I’ll be bouncing all over the country for the next couple of months, with sometimes only 48 hours to change suitcases and head out again.  I’d like to think I’ve got this, and having an assistant has really helped me stay on task and focused.  

I’ve spent the last week redoing all of the handouts I’ll be using, increasing font size, rewording things that could be worded more clearly, I do this kind of regularly, but this revamp involves hundreds of slides and there are days I’m completely cross eyed.  Cynthia and I laugh when we do really stupid stuff and can’t remember where we were and what we were working on.  I’ll apologize in advance for any minor mistakes in the rewrites because, well, you know that’s going to happen.  No matter how many times you proof something…

I had cut out a spread in the NY Times a while ago, and pinned it to my bulletin board in the mud room, of a couple exhibits I really wanted to see.  At the time, I thought, no problem, they are in NYC and I should be able to skip in this summer.  Hahahahahah…..

I revisited that article, and to my horror, one of the exhibits I wanted to see was closing on the 3rd of September.  I’m leaving on the 25th for Harrisville, coming back Labor Day weekend, have to immediately drive to Peters Valley to pick up my piece in the faculty show on the 3rd, and then ship it out to Blue Ridge Fiber Show by the 4th.  I’m not going to get into the city to see anything if I keep on this path.  

I woke up this morning to a rainy dreary Sunday, all set to jump back into handout edits and I thought to myself, just get in the car and drive into NYC and see the damn shows already.  Just do it.  

And so I did.

In fact, I hit four museums and was home by 2pm, knocking off a number of exhibits that had been on my list.  Driving into NYC on a Sunday morning is actually pleasant, the GW Bridge is beautiful and majestic and the Henry Hudson Parkway that follows the river south is dreamy with joggers running along the river on a Sunday morning, so NYC.  I parked under the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which put me in walking distance range of three of the museums with exhibits I wanted to see.

First stop was the MET Breuer.  There was an exhibit I had read about called Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Thayer Collection.  These were mostly drawings and sketches, little known works from these artists, and rarely exhibited for a number of reasons.  But it is the 100th anniversary of the death of both Klimt, whom everyone knows, and Egon Schiele, whom almost on one knows, but is one of my most favorite artists.  And of course Picasso.  You can’t take photos of course, but I’ve gotten into the curiosity of well known artists’ sketch books, considering my own quest to draw daily (which I of course have not done, no surprise there) and it was a pleasure to look at these sketches and see the raw talent each of these artists possessed.  I actually hadn’t been to the MET Breuer, since the MET took over the building vacated by the Whitney Museum when it moved to the Meat Packing district in lower Manhattan.  I don’t know why, but more contemporary art, which it mostly houses, doesn’t appeal to me the way classic work does.   The original MET Fifth Avenue is still my favorite place in the world to spend an afternoon.  

Anyway, I walked about 10 blocks north to the Neue Galerie, Museum for German and Austrian Art.  The gallery is best known for its acquisition of Klimt’s portrait of Adele Block-Bauer I, known as the Woman in Gold.  They were also having a centenary exhibition of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele’s work, because they have a heavy collection of both artist’s work, and both artists died 100 years ago this year.  Schiele died at only 28 of the Spanish Flu.  Klimt was his mentor, and he left an impressive body of work for his short life.  His portraiture was erotic, raw, graphic and I fell in love with it the first time I heard about him.  And I even love his landscapes.  Since I’d been to that museum before I’d already seen many of the pieces and I was in and out of there pretty quickly.

I walked back to the MET 5th Avenue, and decided to pop in and give another once over, as long as I was there, to the exhibit Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.  This has to be one of the best fashion exhibits they have ever done.  And it ends October 8th.  When I went when the exhibit opened in May, it was super crowded and difficult to navigate, but the brilliance of it all was to incorporate fashion into galleries that the public doesn’t usually visit.  There were exquisite fashions placed strategically all over the medieval wing, you had to look up sometimes and and of course bump into people trying to capture everything on their tablets.  The background sound track was haunting and I did a quick cruise around before checking on a couple other exhibits that were on my list.  

One was a pretty obscure little exhibit, in a pretty obscure gallery, in the basement, called “The Secret Life of Textiles: The Milton Sonday Archive.”  So this guy Milton Sonday was a pretty big authority on the structures of handmade fabrics, particularly woven works and lace.  And I’m into weaving and lace.  Apparently he created little looms and paper weavings to illustrate basic structures, and large scale lace fragments to show the interlacement or path of the threads in bobbin lace.  I didn’t take any photos, silly me, except this one which I absolutely adored.  

Last spring I did a research piece for a recorder group I occasionally play with, on the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a Flemish painter, juxtaposed to musical works by Susato, who lived and worked at the same time as Bruegel in Antwerp.  Both lived and worked in the early part of the 17th century.  In my research I came across Bruegel’s mentor, Pieter Coecke van Aelst, a painter of considerable merit, but not one I knew.  So I was completely enchanted with this work that hung over a display case of paper woven works.

 The piece is called “Interlace after Pieter Coecke van Aelst and an anonymous lace designer, 2015.  It is woven completely of paper strips.

I went from that basement gallery to the second floor of the MET, the ultimate treasure hunt to navigate this monster of a museum, to an exhibit of drawings of Eugène Delacroix.  Again with the sketch book.  Small treasures that show skill and yet the beginnings of something wonderful with no regard to the end product.  I took a single photo here, of a lovely simple watercolor and pencil that is the kind of thing I’d like to see in my own sketch book, simple rendering of a lovely scene, captured quickly.  This piece was the size of a post card and still in the opened sketchbook.

I got back to my car, and decided that if I didn’t head up to the Cloisters and see the second part of Heavenly Bodies, I’d never get to see it, as it also closes October 8th and I’ll be traveling most of September.  The Cloisters is about 15 minutes up the parkway, only a few minutes from the GW Bridge, which I had to cross anyway to get back to Jersey.  I love the Cloisters, it is part of the MET Museum, and though I’ve been there many times, I had never seen the cloistered area gardens because I always seem to get there in the winter.  Usually for a concert or something.

So just seeing those lovely wild gardens was a treat.  Made me want to sit and paint.

And the Heavenly Bodies exhibit continued.  I have to say, this was even better than the first part at the MET 5th Avenue.  Everywhere you looked, contemporary fashion was hidden in a way that you totally believed it was there all along.  I actually did take a couple photos, since they were allowed, and this one, though not my favorite garment, looked amazing in one of my favorite galleries that houses the famed Unicorn Tapestries.  This is a Thom Browne wedding ensemble from the Spring/Summer 2018 collection in white silk organza with white mink.

I came into this chapel, and audibly gasped.  Ave Maria was playing over the sound system and I just stood there with my jaw dropped.  This wedding dress from the House of Dior from 2018 was apparently modeled after the original design from 1961.  It is also white silk organza.

And then I came upon these lovely pieces, there were about six in the collection, set up in a stone hallway that led to yet another outdoor cloistered area. 

 They were a series of ensembles from 2015 by Jun Takahasi for Undercover.  I was not familiar with his work.  But I was very familiar with the images printed on the fabrics, they are digital prints from Hieronymous Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights.  I studied Early Netherlandish painting quite extensively back in the 70’s as part of my Fine Arts Degree, and this artist was front and center.  He died shortly before Pieter Bruegel the Elder was born, and his work heavily influenced Bruegel.  Bosch was a whack job, his images were all over the place, haunting, erotic, grotesque, but the kind of imagery you can’t look away from.  As a 20 something, I found a kind of naughty pleasure in his work. This is the triptych, it starts with the Garden of Eden on the left, and a grotesque hell on the right.  A total expose on the fate of humanity, we are all doomed…

I was pretty proud of myself for achieving the Triple Play, all three MET museums in one day. 

 

And so I had my fill of inspiration, that should last for a number of months.  I will be packing of course my knitting and my sketchbook and pencils and watercolors, and armed with newly updated handouts, and some new patterns and samples, I start with Harrisville in NH next weekend, followed by a five day class in Inkle Weaving at John C Campbell in western NC, immediately followed by Sievers on Washington Island WI.  That’s the 48 hour turn around.  I’m going to try not to unpack after Harrisville.  I immediately head to Arkansas and the Ozarks followed by three days of video shoots for Threads Magazine and then my retreat at the Outer Banks of NC.  My guild show and sale is in November (I’m the treasurer) and I end the year in December with a trip to the Milwaukee Guild.  And then I write an article for Heddlecraft.  I do love my life, and I especially love when I can spend an unexpected day getting inspired.  I’m madly trying to finish off this Krokbragd band on the inkle loom, so I can take it as a sample to John C. Campbell, and of course my shadow has returned, now that my daughter has moved back home to take a new job in central Jersey.  

And about that daily sketching thing…

I did manage to finish up a drawing I did of the kitchen, that I started while I was at Peters Valley teaching a couple weeks ago.  

But now I’m inspired to draw people.  I know my portfolio of life drawing subjects from the 70’s is floating around the attic somewhere…

Stay tuned…

 

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