…the quality or fact of being very determined.

At the risk of pissing someone off, I’m going to make an observation, one that I’ve experienced in my 35 years of teaching.  You may chose to disagree, but my blog my observations…

I have traveled a lot, stayed in a lot of homes of handweavers and other fiber enthusiasts, but mostly handweavers.  I’ve seen more studios than you can possibly imagine, I’ve seen some that could easily grace the cover of Architectural Digest, beautifully designed with not a thread visible except what is on the loom.  I’ve seen studios that I couldn’t actually walk into, the debris filled every square inch of floor space, and there wasn’t any possible way my host could actually work in there.  There are usually apologies about how they are meaning to clean it all up.  I’ve seen studios that have the bare minimum, and I’ve stayed in houses that are the whole studio, that stuff leaks to every corner of every room.  I pass no judgements.  We are all doing the best we can.

I do however have an observation.  The amount of and organization of said equipment does not the craftsman make.  I have seen people with more equipment than God, than any human should ever be allowed to have, very expensive equipment, every book, bins and bins of yarns, and they do nothing with it.  And I have looked at the work of fiber artists like Lavern Waddington, who makes the most exquisite textiles I’ve ever seen with a simple backstrap loom.  She ties herself to something with a couple of sticks and some thread and creates shear joy.  My friend Diane Savona, one of the most celebrated fiber artists of this century, creates huge installations, with more content and social commentary, with a simple needle and thread and crap she finds at garage sales.  I suppose she has a sewing machine, but all of her work is stitched and assembled by hand.

The point here, is that just because you have fantastic equipment, doesn’t mean you do anything with it.  I’ve judged many shows where the weaver gushes with how much complex textiles excites them, and I look at their 42 shaft creation and think, “Wow, I could have done this on four shafts…”.

Anyway, next Thursday I leave for Peters Valley.  For the first time in a very long time, I’m actually taking a class.  I’m going to be a student.  I’m taking a five day water color class.  Yes I’ve painted with water colors before.  Yes, I actually have a degree in Fine Arts.  But I want to push myself way outside my comfort zone, and study something that is unfamiliar and so very opposite of the structure of fiber interlacement.  I want to play with two dimensions and something fluid like pigmented water with a gum Arabic binder…

In my workshops, I give a very long list of equipment to bring, and at the top of the list of course is a sewing machine.  I adore weavers.  I’d say that 75 percent of the handweavers who take my classes bring in really old sewing machines.  The kind that weight 30 pounds, solid metal, that do very little extra stuff, but make a wonderful straight stitch and sew through anything.  Weavers are the most tenacious people I know.  They have what they have, and they make it work.  Their equipment sometimes holds them back, but it isn’t about the equipment for a handweaver, it is about the process and they are determined to make it work.  They have more tenacity than any other group of fiber enthusiasts I’ve come across.  Really.

So yesterday I went shopping.  To Jerry’s Artarama.  It is a pretty well known chain, in direct competition with Dick Blick.  There is a retail location about 20 minutes from my house.  I started out looking online at what I needed for my water color class and gave up and actually drove to the store.  There was also a demonstration of a very expensive brand of German Watercolor at 11:30, and knowing absolutely nothing except the different between tube and pan watercolors, and turns out I didn’t even know that, I went to see what it was all about and buy what was on my materials list.  

I first dug through my cabinet to see what I already had.  I had some tablets of water color paper, a handful of brushes, a couple trays of cheap pan watercolors.  I had a couple of sets of cheap tube water colors we had given to my daughter many years ago.  Mostly unused.  All of this dated from about 15 years old to probably 40.  The brushes probably all came from my days working at the Craft Showcase, a mall craft shop in the Paramus Park Mall.  I left there in 1979.  I don’t think brushes or paper goes bad.  But tube watercolors?  I had no idea.  

I looked at the materials list.  There were things like, “Bring a portable table and chair, and whatever outdoor set up you like for plein air painting…”  Say what?  I don’t have a set up for Plein air painting.  I would like to, but I don’t have a clue.   There is probably a portable camp table and chair in the shed.  I’m hoping that can work.  But I don’t know if my water colors are appropriate and she gave us very specific colors to have in our palettes.  

I’m a weaver.  I work with whatever I have.  Still I find it hard for my students who have less than adequate equipment (“I bought my machine at a garage sale for $25….) to do the job needed in the workshop.  My dilemma was, do I just bring whatever was around the house?  Or do I make sure my equipment won’t hold me back.  I went to the lecture on this very expensive top of the line German watercolor brand, and it all sounded lovely, but in the end, do I really need to spend $15. a 15ml tube for something I can get for $8.?  I really don’t know.  Part of me wanted to just spend the money and buy all new stuff, but then the weaver in me won out and I sort of compromised.  I bought an assortment of good paints, in the recommended hues, and then added all the cheap ones I was sitting on.  There was no one brand that carried all the recommended hues, so I got a few of each.  I’ll see if there is a difference, and if I’m even going to continue to paint.  


How many of us spend a fortune on equipment for the technique du jour, and then never touch it again?  I did buy the recommended paper, but I did not buy any new brushes.  There were water color brushes that cost as much as a weaving shuttle.  Mine will hopefully be fine, and I’ll find out what I truly need.  If I continue to paint.

So in the box are my old brushes, and my old paints, supplemented by some pretty expensive high end and some moderately priced new paints.  I did find out from the lecture that water colors never go bad.  Even when the tube dries out, just slice it open with an Exacto knife and it is nothing more than a large lump of pan watercolor.  Add water and paint.  

I’ll let you know how I do, the class starts next Friday, and goes for five days and I leave directly from Peters Valley and head up to New England Weavers Seminar, a  weaving conference in Northampton MA.  I have to go a couple days early to judge the fashion show.  So packing will be my worst nightmare.  

Stay tuned…


Comments (14)

Liese SadlerJune 28th, 2017 at 6:41 pm

If you decide you do need new brushes, check out Rosemary & Co in the UK, handmade and many options in non-animal. Great company, great prices. I wrecked one in ignorance and they replaced it in my next order…can’t better customer service than that!

Lynne MaccoJune 28th, 2017 at 9:09 pm

I agree with your vent. Some of the most beautiful fabrics are made with the simplest equipment. That’s the challenge we embrace. I’m currently the only inhabitant of an island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, WA and have my backstrap, sticks, rope, cotton and sewing thread. I’m in heaven.

Kris SeelJune 29th, 2017 at 5:57 am

I took a class at a convergence with the great, late wonderful Randy Darwall who did all his fabulous work on only 4 shafts. His advice was to get as many colors as possible (in silk) and you’re set. I hope you love your class and your materials are just right.

Linda HealeyJune 29th, 2017 at 7:26 am

Terrific idea, taking watercolor workshops. It sure is different from weaving and sewing so all those brain cells you haven’t used for a long time will be so glad for the chance to activate again.

Linda SageJune 29th, 2017 at 8:34 am

I believe that the squared-off-end brushes are best for oil painting – you might need some new watercolor brushes. Sometimes a big water-sopping brush is needed to dampen a large area to get special effects in the sky or water. Here’s what I know,being both an artist and fiber person – your color sense will come into play, and you will get a big jump-start from that! Every artistic thing you do informs every other artistic thing you do – you will get new ideas for weaving from your watercolors, I’ll bet!
Just have a wonderful time!

Nancy WeberJune 29th, 2017 at 10:26 am

Having painted water colors for 7 years, I am excited to see what you do with them. They are pretty exciting to work with. Love some of my outside paintings, although I never woke up in the middle of the night with a concept like I do with fiber. Have a fabulous rest and fun as a student! Will be thinking of you in your new exploration. Hugs, Nancy

Ann MarieJune 29th, 2017 at 11:09 am

Have fun. And I’ll Take whatever watercolors you don’t want (if you don’t continue to paint, but I know you will) 🙂

I hear you loud and clear. Weavers are about process. I have my floor Loom in the attic, my table loom on the floor of the spare room, my inkle loom in the closet (boo) and am working on a small simple tapestry loom that easily gets me right where I want to be.

DianeJune 29th, 2017 at 8:15 pm

Daryp, I hope you have a wonderful time at Peters Valley. Whatever paint/paper/brushes you have will be fine – just bring a bottle of wine – or 2- and play-in-the-air:)
Ps…thanks for the lovely compliment.Coming from you, it means a lot

Joan AhernJune 29th, 2017 at 9:45 pm

Just came back from Peters Valley, took wedge weaving. I know exactly what you mean! Half the time you never even touch most of the supplies on the list. I’m sure you hav what you need, just relax, learn and most important, have a great time!

Laura RideeJune 30th, 2017 at 1:24 am

Weaving takes planning. Watercolors are freeing and in the moment, just go for it! No worries about brand names when learning or even after; a favorite brush of mine is one that came with a Prang set. Love the supplies and make them work! Just like when weaving. Have fun.

DeannaJune 30th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Trust me, those of us with too much stuff not doing much definitely are aware that the “stuff” isn’t the answer. I’m totally envious of those of you who just seem to get it done, no matter what tools you have at hand. Have even considered trying to find a hypnotherapist to figure out what my problem is. In the meantime, I’m surrounded by treasures, and so thankful to get to see peeks at what you doers are accomplishing.

Gerri BarossoJuly 2nd, 2017 at 7:46 am

Equipment when starting or restarting is always a dilemma for me. Good enough so it doesn’t hold me back . Not so expensive that it’s a waste if I don’t continue. Of course, the hardest part is that I love bright, shiny new equipment! Enjoy the class and NEWS.

CallyJuly 3rd, 2017 at 4:52 am

I love weavers too! They are a fantastic tribe for Making Stuff Work. That look in the eye, when a weaver is working out how they are going to get that ornery warp from A to B… and then, aha! I’ll be interested when you report back on what sort of tribe watercolourists are…

BethJuly 3rd, 2017 at 5:46 am

This might just be my favorite of all your blogs. As a weaver, I’ve never understood how owning many looms makes one a better weaver. I own two and had to push myself to buy the second, which is rarely used since I upped the shafts on the big Mac. My studio is a “stuffed to the gills” spare bedroom that I try to keep organized. Once I realized that my work was as nice as those who have real studio space, that envy became a thing of the past. You are an inspiration for me to keep chugging along. Have fun with watercolors!

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