White Yarn Everywhere…

I actually thought I had a rather good idea when I wrote my last post.  I really do need to get all my naked looms warped, especially the large one, I fear I haven’t actually put a warp on it since I started this blog, and that was almost a year ago.  Shame on me…

Largely I need to dye more warps, I was so inspired with the last set of warps I dyed, and I spent the better part of 2007 weaving up the yardage from all the dyed warps.  I spent the whole spring of this past year sewing garments from that yardage, and I’m completely out of all my handwoven yardage (except vintage scraps) and there are no more dyed warps just hanging around to inspire me.

I am probably sitting on 50-75 pounds of white yarn.  All kinds of white yarn.  I’d say the bulk is rayon, and there is of course a lot of cotton as well.  I’ve only a couple of large cones of a loop mohair and some beautiful cashmere and something, again, all white.  All of it needs dyeing.  I also have a cabinet full of MX dyes from Pro-Chem.  I’ve been talking about doing a week of dyeing, but that would mean a week with nothing on the calendar demanding my time, where I can turn my space into a dye studio, and work uninterrupted.

Now I actually have the time, all my calendar commitments are finished for the year, and the yardage deadline for HGA Convergence Exhibit is a mere two months away.  I need to get cracking.  I decided to take advantage of the fact that my son is into me for more than $200. and put him to work.  Winding warps is basically mindless work, hard to mess up, and I’d be working right next to him making sure that there are no screw-ups.  He worked very slowly and very carefully, and I was pretty proud of how he stuck with it.

Eric helps me wind warps for dyeing.
Eric helps me wind warps for dyeing.
Using a cone holder and a paddle, I wound eight ends at a time.
Using a cone holder and a paddle, I wound eight ends at a time.

I pulled down all the white cones I thought I wanted to wind into 10 yard warps.  I grouped cones together,  If I had one gigantic cone, I gave it to my son, and he started to wind, single thread, listening to his tunes, and plodding along.  I took advantage of cones where I had multiples of the same yarn, and used the paddle on another warping mill, and we both spent the weekend winding white warps.

Some of the warps we wound, and lots of yarn still to wind...
Some of the warps we wound, and lots of yarn still to wind...

One of my readers, Diane, commented on the last post, asking why I didn’t use the AVL warping mill for this task.  I thought about it, and decided that the standard warping mill was still the best, easiest to get a cross, and put a large amount of ends, I usually wind anywhere from 250-500 ends, depending on the size of the yarn and how much is on the cone.  I’ll figure out later what I want to do with it.  And I think it is easier to be able to tie everything off before chaining, when it is on a standard mill.

However, I did get to thinking about Diane’s

The AVL mill comes in handy once again, for winding 2 yard skeins for dyeing.
The AVL mill comes in handy once again, for winding 2 yard skeins for dyeing.

suggestion of using the AVL warping wheel and thought it was a pretty good idea for winding skeins for dyeing.  I don’t think a three yard skein would fit on the umbrella swift for winding back into a ball once it is dyed, three yards being the outer perimeter of the AVL mill, but if I moved the brackets down the struts, I can get a two yard circumference, and that’s perfect for winding a skein.  So I played around with the mill, I haven’t ever moved the brackets to the two yard set up, and I was surprised at how easy it was.  I had a full skein on the wheel in no time, a lot faster than winding yarn for  skeins around the standard mill.  I just used the little reed to help guide the yarn into position on the wheel.  Once the skein was wound, I just unbolted two of the brackets and popped them out and I could easily pull off the skein.

The yarn does me no good on the shelf, so I might as well just wind.

Using stretcher bars as a frame, we warped with strips of quilt fabric, and started twining a mat.
Using stretcher bars as a frame, we warped with strips of quilt fabric, and started twining a mat.

Meanwhile, I mentioned the Frances Irwin Handweavers meeting  Monday the 9th, where member Jeri Shankler gave a lovely presentation on twining a mat.  She made little frames for everyone, with nails across both ends, and we cut 2″ strips of quilt fabrics and warped with the fabric strips.  Twining is actually a technique I use to use for texture when I did tapestry, so the concept came pretty quickly.  She had an illustration and I can’t tell you how much fun I had just twining away with the fabric, chatting with the guild member next to me.  I wanted to clear the project off my cutting table to make way for all the white yarn.

The finished mat.
The finished mat.

So I sat down the other night, and just finished it off.  What a fun technique, so many techniques, so little time…

And last Sunday, in the middle of the guild show and sale, I went to Bergen County to the opening of the Focus on NJ exhibit at the Art Center of Northern NJ in New Milford.  I enjoyed the exhibit, mostly painting and drawing, a few sculptures, but I got a shot of my two pieces hanging in the gallery space, happily living side by side with the other works.

My woven piece Big Sister is hanging in the upper center of the photograph.
My woven piece Big Sister is hanging in the upper center of the photograph.
My woven piece Watching Death Come is hanging in the lower right hand corner.
My woven piece Watching Death Come is hanging in the lower right hand corner.

It is interesting to view my work in a two dimensional context, surrounded by more traditional fine art medium.  I’m rather enjoying the exposure, and living in these two different worlds.  In the handweaving community, the emphasis is on technique, how you did it, and the complexity of the structure, are really important.  In the art community, how you did it is sort of a novelty, the tag only says, Mixed Media, but more importantly, it is about content and imagery.  The piece is judged on the strength of the image.  The technique is a distant second.  And of course, the metaphor of weaving, constructing a life row by row, is so commonplace among the handweavers, we sort of take it for granted, and it isn’t important to the visual imagery of the piece, but in the art community, that metaphor of reconstruction becomes a critical part of the voice of the artwork.

Friday night, my husband and I took my daughter and a friend into NYC to see the off Broadway show, Avenue Q, for her birthday.  My husband and I had seen the AvenueQsmshow many years ago, before it won the Tony Award, and now that it has moved off Broadway, into a smaller venue, we decided to take my daughter who has been dying to go every since she got hold of the score.  To say this show is funny and biting would be a bit of an understatement.  If you haven’t seen Avenue Q, it is an adult version of Sesame Street, with Henson puppets, and incredibly talented puppeteers, a biting  satirical score, and some wonderful poking fun at some of the stupidity of the human race.  My daughter didn’t stop laughing for the entire show.  Her favorite characters were these two overly cute bears, that popped up at the most unfortunate times, called the “Bad Idea Bears”.  They acted like the conscience of my 19 year old son and his friends, why buy a 6-pack when a case is more economical?  And of course all of their bad ideas had some wickedly bad consequences.

Anyway, after the show, the cast sold merchandise and a photo-op with the Bad Idea Bears and actress/puppeteer Maggie Lakis, as a fund raiser for Broadway Cares: Equity Fights Aids.  I think Brianna felt this was the best birthday present ever.

Tomorrow:  More warp winding…

Plans gone awry…

First, I have to say Happy Birthday to my now 17 year old daughter who has her driver’s license and can’t wait to find places to drive.  She decided she has to drive to the High School tomorrow because her rather large woodworking project is ready to be brought home.  Timing…  Good job Brianna!

I sat down at the computer this morning, after getting her off with the driving instructor who would take her for her test, and my plan was to catch up on some contracts and proposals that needed some attention, and start preparation for tagging and photographing items for the guild sale this weekend.  Silly me, what was I thinking…

It all started when I happened to look ahead on my Google Calendar, all the way to tomorrow.  I noticed that I was suppose to deliver my piece for the Visual Art Center Blank Canvas auction, and I completely panicked.  The piece isn’t even made yet.  Then I looked at the original sheet with the dates, and the piece isn’t due until November 20th.  Big relief!  🙂

Then I found an ad for an exhibit in Texas, an international juried art competition, but the application had to be sent out today.  🙁  So I started looking through the artwork I have committed to specific exhibits to see what pieces would be available for submission.  I came upon the outstanding entry form for the New Jersey Focus for the Art Center of Northern New Jersey exhibit, and looked at the dates and nearly had a heart attack when I read that all accepted work was due today.  🙁  I never heard from them, so my assumption was they didn’t get my application?  I called them.  In fact my work had been accepted, and it was due today, and by the way, I never picked up my piece last week from the International Juried Show…   Hmmm…..  Well, I did apparently screw up there.  I failed to mark on my trusty calendar that I had to actually pick the work up when the show was over, you may recall, that was the piece where I won the Merit award.  (In my defense, I rarely exhibit in a show that doesn’t involve shipping a piece and prepaying the return shipping, so it isn’t something I pay attention to, the piece just shows up on my doorstep. ) OK, so I just had to gather the work that had to be brought to the Art Center for the next show, and pick up my poor orphaned piece I had left behind.  I don’t usually make mistakes like that.

I went to my files to see what pieces had in fact been accepted.  🙂 And I nearly had another heart attack when I realized that one of the pieces had been woven, but it had never been mounted on a frame. 🙁  I didn’t even have the frame.  It was a big piece, 28 x 24″  and I just stood frozen in my studio for a good couple of minutes.  Then I sprung into action.  First I searched my stick barrel in the studio, every weaver has one.  Lease Sticks, Temples, wood slats for warping, dowels, yardsticks, all things long and wood-like reside in the barrel in the corner.  And there, like a gift from heaven, were two 28″ stretcher bars, and two 24″ ones.  🙂  This is my lucky day!

Big SisterBig Sister DetailI put them together, and built a padded cover, and then covered that with silk.  I mounted the artwork, a piece I wove a few months ago, a larger version of the original Big Sister, and carefully pinned it stretched on the frame.  Then I hand sewed it to the silk, all the way around.  The whole process took about 4 hours, and I was finally able to head out to the art center around 2:30.  This was not what I was planning to do today.  And I found out the artist’s reception is Sunday when the show opens, right in the middle of the guild sale, and no where near the guild sale.  I hate calendar collisions.

I managed to get back from Bergen County around 4pm, which left me about 40 minutes to process images, burn a CD, fill out the paperwork, make out the check, place everything in an envelope and get it to the post office before it closed today for the exhibit at University of Texas at Tyler, which is what started this whole escapade today.  I did make it to the post office with five minutes to spare.

So nothing I had planned to do today got done, except putting in the proposals for Siever’s for next year.  But that’s life in the fast lane, we all went out tonight for all you can eat Sushi for my daughter’s birthday.  I am going to finish up this blog tonight and curl up in bed and read.  I’m in the middle of two good reads, one on my iPod, and the other on my night stand.  One is an Elizabeth Berg novel, about a woman who contracted polio in the 1950’s and was pregnant, and managed to give birth to her daughter while in an iron lung. She went on to raise her daughter by herself, in spite of being completely paralyzed.  Like I said, it is a good read.  The other book is by Brett Lott, called Jewel, about a family from Mississippi whose last child has what we now call Down’s syndrome, but back then, the term was Mongolian idiot.  Both books are from the same time period, and both take place in Mississippi, and I am always appalled reading about how we treated each other and how racism and prejudice were everyday occurrences.  We have come so far and yet, not far enough…

I finally got hold of some of the images my husband shot at the musical Once on this Island, performed last weekend at County College of Morris.  The show takes place in the French Antilles, in the 1950’s.  The story is a folk tale, of an orphan after a horrific storm, who was kept alive by the gods, and how she grew up among the peasants and the indigenous peoples of the island, but falls in love with one of the French Grande Hommes, after she rescues him from a car crash.

OnceOTIsland4OnceOTIsland2OnceOTIsland1I wanted to share the photos, because I helped with the costumes, providing some of the actual garments from my vast stash of amazing clothing.  The god of water, Agwé, wore my peacock vest, actually all four of the gods wore capes of some sort, so my peacock vest was perfect to give the illusion of sparkling waves as he turned and moved around the stage.  In one scene, he covers the orphan Ti Moune, who has been taken by the god of death, (on Agwé’s right in the first two photos), with a wave of water.

I copied a dress with some handpainted silk fabric from Thailand for Erzulie the goddess of love.  OnceOTIsland5The costumer added a cape, and the actress looked like a pink froth of love!  She moved and swirled, and it was all quite effective.  On her right was the goddess of the earth, Asaka, and I put one of my sari skirts on her, and reworked the cape from a costume from another venue.

OnceOTIsland3And of course, there was my son, who played the grandfather of all the french inhabitants of the island, Armand, who came in the time of Napoleon, and in spite of having a lovely wife, to his right, he slept with all the peasants.  My son loved the role…  I designed the look for Armand, and I provided the white lace dress for his “wife”, and the peasant to his left, has on one of my silk broomstick skirts.

After the show, we carried out a carload of garments and fabric, and I’m still cleaning everything.  I was glad to have had the opportunity to help with the costumes, I actually enjoy it, and the challenge of making up something from nothing, and it only has to look good from the audience, and not up close, and it only has to make it through a weekend of shows!  The complete opposite of how I actually work!

I’m going to try again tomorrow to work off some of my to do list.  Wish me luck…

The Dog Ate My Phone…

phoneYep, this morning I got to sleep in a bit, in my own bed, home safe from my great weekend with the Hudson Mohawk Guild outside of Albany NY.  I got up to make waffles, and when I returned to the bedroom to make the bed and get dressed, the dog had gone to my bedroom, hopped up on the bed, and removed my phone from the nightstand.  And the rest is history.  Oddly enough, the phone still works, but I’m annoyed, and now I have to replace my phone, because I don’t want to walk around with a phone that looks like this…

The new dog is a kleptomaniac, he steals anything that’s not nailed down, usually on the floor, which is sort of funny, a great way to make my family pick up their shoes and stuff off the floor, but I was shocked he stole my phone off the nightstand.  Needless to say I wasn’t a happy camper this morning.

But the trip to Albany was great.  The drive up the NY Thruway was gorgeous, the leaves are turning, and if I wasn’t driving I would have stopped to take all kinds of photos, and gotten up to the guild way too late!

I gave a seminar on Thursday night, in the Theo Moorman technique that I use to weave the art pieces I do, it is an unusual way to apply this technique, and there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for the lecture.  The meeting was certainly crowded.  On Friday I taught a workshop in color and inspiration, I gave the participants some color exercises, and we played with wrapping yarns.  At the end, the participants used a calendar or magazine photo for inspiration and did warp wraps to coordinate with the photo.  Here are some of the end results.

wrap1wrap2wrap3wrap4wrap5I wish I could see what they end up doing with the wraps.  I think they were all gorgeous.

Friday night, one of the guild members graciously directed me on a driving tour of historic Saratoga Springs, the mineral baths, the race track, the gorgeous old Victorian homes.

On Saturday I taught a one day seminar on Closures, this would be various ways to close a garment, and we start the morning learning how to do the bound buttonhole, and a triangular variation. Once the students get to try these techniques, we move onto easier more interesting closures, and now they have no more excuses for garments that don’t close!


The drive home Saturday night was easy, and I sailed down the Thruway, listening to my audio book through my iTouch, which connects through my car radio, and the sound quality is excellent.

After my debacle this morning with the dog and the phone, I got ready and headed south to Morristown, to my recorder consort rehearsal.  We are working on Elizabethan dances, the Pavana and the Gallyard.  One of the members of the consort has a degree in Early Music, and she researched the dances and we all tried them.  It really helped to get a feel for the timing and the speed of the dances.  Of course, I wasn’t dressed to dance an Elizabethan Pavana, I was in boots with 4″ heels, but I persevered!

I raced home and picked up my husband and we headed off to the Art Center of Northern NJ which is in New Milford.  I had a piece accepted to their 18th annual National Juried Show, which runs until November 2.  The judge was Clare Bell, formerly the associate curator of Prints and Drawings at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in NYC.  I found out when I got to the show, that only 10% of the works that were submitted were accepted.  I felt privileged to have been included in the show.  There were 23 states represented, and 66 works total in the exhibit.

I was even more excited and felt even more privileged to learn I received a Merit Award for my work, and a nice check for $200. (which will pay for my new phone…) ACNNJ01There was a little ceremony announcing the winners, and because there were works from so many states, only two of us who got awards were present, and we got the opportunity to talk about our work.ACNNJ02

This is really an unusual thing for me, not to talk about my work, I do that all the time, but to talk about my work to an audience of painters, sculptors, photographers, and mixed media artists is unusual for me, and I enjoyed the experience, the questions were so different than those I get from handweavers.ACNNJ03

I spoke about the metaphor of handweaving and how the process is so critical to the work I’m doing.  The idea of taking personal images and cutting them apart, weaving them back together into a whole image, especially in the case of my piece, “The Survivor”, which is a celebratory photo depicting a breast cancer survivor, printed on silk, cut apart, and woven back together.  The imagery and the process are critical components of the work.

So now I’m home, not completely unpacked, but I did manage to get the rest of the houseplants in, there are frost warnings tonight.  My daughter is off from school tomorrow, so she can work on teaching the dog not to steal our things, (only the socks and shoes that no one puts away… )  🙂

Paperwork: Love it or hate it?

I am choking in paperwork.  There seems to be an inordinate amount of show applications due by October 1, along with the proposals for the American Sewing Guild conference.  My inbox is overflowing and all the bills are due on Thursday.  I had all the banking to do from my trip last week, and my work from the summer shows is starting to return, one of the pieces from the Small Expressions exhibition sold, and I had to ship that out this morning.

I spent the afternoon, trying to decide what images to send to a major exhibit here in NJ.  It is a show I’ve never gotten into, sponsored by the NJ State Council on the Arts, but in reality, I may have only applied a couple times in my whole career.  For the first time in my life as an artist, not just a clothing designer/handweaver, I feel like I have a strong body of work to actually use for the application.  Except I’ve already applied to two shows last week, for the same time frame, and apparently it is a big no no to use the same work for more than one application, because if the worst happens, and both shows accept the same piece, you can’t write them and say, sorry, I’m sending it to someone else.  There is gallery exhibition etiquette here, and I’m new at this game.  So I spent about 3 hours on the application, trying to figure out how to navigate this one, after driving to Bergen County with my husband for a field trip.

I got one of my pieces accepted to the Art Center of Northern NJ’s 18th National Juried Show.  I posted the show, which runs October 11-November 2, in my events calendar, in the widget on the right. The drop off for the work was today, and I invited my husband to come along for the ride.  He was born and raised in Bergen County, and I thought it would be fun to drive around the area and see what’s changed.  Change is an understatement.  I enjoyed his stories, of shooting troubles as a lineman for the phone company, where there were serious breaks in the phone lines, one on Christmas eve, where he stopped at a tree seller, and threw a Christmas tree in the back of the phone company truck on the way home to his mom’s, and hanging over a stream trying to repair a line hit by a backhoe, as a thunderstorm hit.  Funny the things we remember, vividly.  It was a lovely afternoon.

I ran into Nisha Drinkard at the Panera where we stopped for lunch, former fiber department head at William Paterson University.  We chatted for awhile.  And having just gone to the Peters Valley 38th annual craft fair yesterday, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to other fiber artists, and how they are fairing in this poor economy.  I’m always amazed at how upbeat artist’s are, and how resourceful they can be, and how they aren’t afraid to reinvent themselves.

So, back to the paperwork.  I haven’t decided if I really hate paperwork, or I am challenged by it and am really good at it.  It is a love/hate relationship, but the bottom line is, I can’t teach if I don’t write proposals, and I can’t get my work into shows if I don’t fill out entry forms and applications, and I can’t stay in my house if I don’t pay my mortgage and utility bills, all of which are due within the week.  So, whether I love it or hate it, it all still has to be done.

Which is why I took a break for what my weaving buddy Sally calls, a weaving snack.  While I was at Sievers last week, I stayed in the teacher’s cottage, which is full of lovely things that other instructors have done and donated to decorate the house.  (Note to self: I really need to make something to send to them for the house…)  On one of the end tables was a beautiful mat made from inkle loom strips,  five in each direction, plaited together and stitched around the edges.  Simple enough.  I don’t know who made the one on the table at Sievers, but I thought it was a great thing to do in about 15 minutes with a finished inkle band.  God knows I have enough of them.

So I pulled a 1″ wide inkle band out of the bin, and I chopped it into 10 6″ sections.  Then I went hunting for my macramé board, the one I’ve had around the studio since 1977.Craft_Showcase

Sidebar:  After I graduated with a degree in fine arts, in 1977, I went to work for a retail chain of mall stores, called the Craft Showcase, owned by Cole National Corp.  It was the only experience I’ve ever had working in corporate America.  And that was quite enough.  The stupidity of some of the mandates from corporate headquarters, like change every price tag in the store to read .99, instead of .00.  We had to drop one cent on the price of every item in the store, thousands of items, and when we finally finished the job, headquarters decided we had to change them all back.  I still remember stupid stuff like that.

I did enjoy the job, I taught classes in calligraphy, stained glass, macramé (which you will recall was the technique du jour in the 70’s), along with needlework, fine art techniques, and anything else that came along where we had to promote the products and teach students how to make stuff.  I was responsible for making sure the ceramic owl eyes were always in stock, making a macramé owl plant hanger was the most popular class.  And I did all the window and wall displays.  I learned a lot from that job, and I picked up a lot of things while I worked there, which still exist in my studio and come in handy.  Like my macramé board. With the $2. price tag on it.

Of course I had to go looking in my daughter’s room.  When things are missing from my studio, I can usually find them there.

cut_pinSo I plaited the 10 1″ strips of inkle weaving together, and pinned them carefully.

stitch_matI went to the sewing machine, and stitched around the perimeter, with a shallow zig-zag.

trim_matThen I trimmed the raw edges to 3/8″.  With a long pin, I carefully pulled the weft threads up to the stitching line, creating even fringe all around the edge of the mat.

And here is the final mat!


OK, so I should be working on the proposals.  But this was fun, and I got a much needed break!BjornLR

And here is a great shot of the new dog, Bjorn, that my husband took the day they brought the dog home.  He has the sweetest face.