I swore I would not go to bed tonight until I put up a long overdue blog post. I’ve been through a lot of drama, trauma, challenges and difficulties in my life. And I’ve survived them all, mostly. As a matter of fact today is the 18th anniversary, 2/22/2002, of my breast cancer diagnosis. 18 years of huge changes, my children grew up, for better or for worse. My son became a soldier. My daughter survived a wicked illness, went into the sciences and now she is in the arts. My beloved husband passed away almost 4 years ago. I was widowed at 61.
After my husband died, I thought I’d give myself 5 years to clean out the house, make all the extensive and necessary repairs needed, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. So many things happened to so many people I love, and they all played a huge role in where I am now. So almost four years in, I made some huge decisions that have brought me to where I am right at this moment.
Back in the late fall, I became increasingly aware, that it would make sense to hire my daughter and try to slowly back away from the only life I’ve ever known, that of being a fiber artist in whatever form that took, whether it was craft fairs in the 80’s, or learning to teach in the 90’s while trying to deal with toddlers, conferences, exhibition work, and of course writing and publishing, though it all, I had the support of my husband while I raised our kids and though there were lean years, there were also years where I was a complete crazy person with so much work I had no idea where to begin.
The problem was, the studio which I’d known and loved since we built it in the mid 1980’s was too small to accommodate both my daughter and my equipment, and yarn and looms and other fiber related paraphernalia kept appearing almost on our doorstep. We have something like 37 looms between us. And that’s just the shaft looms. It was getting harder and harder to work, and I was getting more and more cranky and frustrated and early one morning around the end of October, I woke up to a voice in my head saying, “Just renovate the garage”. Was it my late husband? I can’t say for sure, but I mulled it over in my head, was it even possible? And of course if that’s the studio, what happens to the existing studio? And the basement where my daughter is living? This is a hundred plus year old house. The basement is really a cellar with a poured concrete floor. What about all the crap in the garage, and the woodworking equipment, and Brianna also wants a fine metals bench, and all her craft supplies…
It was suggested that we rent a space off site. I immediately dismissed that idea, I’ve never “gone” to work in the last 40 years, unless it involved getting on a plane to teach a workshop. I have always had the luxury of being able to juggle office tasks, household tasks, errands, creative work, meal prep, laundry, and social time with people I care about without having to do a 9-5 thing. Sometimes I work well into the night. Sometimes I put in 16 hour days. Sometimes I don’t work at all. Sometimes my butt doesn’t get out of the chair at the computer desk, like today. I talked to my handyman. I talked to my sister the architect. I talked to my plumber guys. I talked to garage door people. I talked to friends on facebook. I talked to anyone who would listen.
And so it began. The garage, which needed to remain a garage, for tax purposes, and I kind of like the warehouse sort of look anyway, needed to be cleaned out, and cleaned up. I needed lighting, heat, air conditioning and the decision was eventually made to install a dye utility sink with cabinets and counters so I wasn’t mixing dyepots anymore in the guest bathroom.
Meanwhile my beloved studio became a trash heap.
Slowly things began to shift, this couldn’t move there until that was clear, that couldn’t be installed until this was painted. This had to shift to get that moved to over there. Brianna called it a parking lot, I called it a giant game of tetris. We have been playing this for two months. And all this time I’ve not really been able to work. Though I had a handyman who hung lights, painted concrete and installed cabinets and counters, it was Brianna who assembled probably $3,000 worth of IKEA storage units. I couldn’t have done any of this without either of them. We hauled 72″ wall units down the balcony stairs in the snow, into the back door of the garage. We packed yarn, we moved yarn, we reset yarn on shelves. I spent evenings rolling fabrics and tying them in bundles. We moved looms, we moved cabinets and storage units, and slowly we saw it all come to life.
My old studio became a proper bedroom for Brianna. She built a huge floor to ceiling PAX closet system from IKEA with glass doors, and except for falling off a stool she was standing on and nearly breaking her ankle, we survived. We compared bruises, cuts, aches and pains.
The trash men and recycling DPW guys hate us.
The basement would ultimately become my sewing room, we realized pretty quickly that no matter how big a space you think you have, it isn’t enough. So the garage would be the weaving studio and the basement would be the sewing studio. ULINE mats tetris’d all over the concrete floors in both the garage and basement. There is still so much crap in the garage, looms are on top of looms and the shed out back will eventually be a small wood shop once I repair the electric line that no longer works.
Meanwhile, the two largest looms couldn’t move to the new space until the fabric on them was woven off, because the looms had to be dismantled to get them down the back stairs and through the doorways. So this happened. 8 yards washed. All of the mohair and wool warps are hand dyed. By me. In the old guest bathroom. The other loom is waiting for Brianna.
Meanwhile, life happened. I had a family funeral last week in Maryland. My mom’s sister passed, and though it is really hard to say goodbye to the generation ahead of us, it was glorious to reunite with cousins I haven’t seen in years, and meet their grown children, the next generation. Bri and I were asked the Tuesday before Valentine’s day if we would be witnesses at an impromptu wedding at Luna Parc on Valentine’s Day . Ricky Boscarino would officiate, and it would just be Brianna and me and the bride and groom. The bride was Beth Schwartz whom I’ve grown to love like a fiber sister, she is in charge of among other things, the weaving/fiber studios at Peters Valley. It seemed fitting that Brianna, who worked for her at the Valley all last summer, and I would be there to see her get hitched to her guy David. And as a thank you, she gave me the most perfect lovely leaded glass panel to hang in the new weaving studio.
And still, we carried on. I built and gave a guild lecture on my trip to Morocco in January, and we taught a Learn to Weave class for the Jockey Hollow Guild at the end of that month. 16 new weavers!
I built and gave a lecture on Doup Leno, a lace weaving technique I wrote about in Heddlecraft Magazine, to a different guild in February, and Brianna built and gave a lecture to the first guild that same month, on Krokbragd, a Norwegian rug weaving technique. Last week we gave another Learn to Weave class for Silk City Fibers at the Lion Brand Yarn outlet in Carlstadt. 18 new weavers! Those little Structo’s are getting a workout.
I also had to have an emergency root canal last week, apparently a previous root canal started to abscess, and it turned out that there was a rare hidden third root in the molar and by the time I had the emergency procedure, my face was in such pain it was hard to accomplish anything. I appreciate gifted medical people.
And still we carried on. Last Wednesday my first private student in the new sewing space arrived in an UBER, this had been booked for awhile, five days of private sewing lessons. Meg was a joy to work with, I feel really lucky that we finished the sewing studio in the basement in time, and that the space really really worked. Meg is making a basic jacket from a gorgeous wool she picked up at Mood Fabrics in NYC. She will be back Monday and Tuesday to finish. I had my son pick up a door mirror today from Target, you can’t have a sewing studio without a full length mirror. Duh…
Wednesday my new carriage style garage doors will be installed. They will be a better R value and have little windows across the upper section. Somewhere in there I’m hoping to have the split ductless HVAC system installed as well. Of course all of the looms will have to move out of the bays for the garage door installation, I’m hoping it isn’t raining on Wednesday. Thursday I drive to Lancaster PA to give another guild lecture, home Friday. The following week I leave for 10 days of teaching in Oregon. Boxes are being filled as I write with the materials and handouts I need to ship ahead.
And Brianna stopped at some point assisting in the move, to create work to take to the Baltimore Craft Market, happening this weekend. She is one of the emerging artist exhibitors under the banner of Peters Valley who has a display at the Craft Market. She has become quite proficient on the knitting machine, and since all of the looms except the Structo’s have been out of commission, she focused on creating the most amazing dragon shawls and cowls to display. Of course all last week, every horizontal surface big enough in the house had dragon shawls with a two yard wing span, drying and blocking on cutting boards all over the house. Here is one of the prototypes. A couple of photos showed up on Facebook of the Peters Valley booth at the craft market, and I caught a glimpse of her work and of Brianna wearing one of her shawls, in bright blue wool crepe.
This is where the weaving studio/dye area stands at this point, I can’t wait to have the garage doors installed and some heat in there, we have done all of this with a couple inadequate space heaters, in our down coats, and thankfully this has been one of the milder winters I’ve ever witnessed. Behind the white cabinets with all the books, is a hidden hallway for all the yarn.
Some of the take aways here,
I am never ever moving from this house. I will die first.
A good puzzle and a glass of wine will get you through just about anything.
We have an enormous amount of textile equipment and will be able to teach most everything and anything you could possibly want to learn.
The two double hung windows in the garage completely frame my husband’s beloved ponds, so I get to see the waterfalls and the fish while gazing out the windows while I weave.
My daughter is a rock star.
My late husband had a hand in this whole affair, I’m sure.
Skilled craftsmen are priceless.
Obviously I’m not retiring anytime soon, I have a couple of big beautiful studios and lots of fiber to play with.
And I’m never ever moving out of this house. Did I mention that?