True Confessions

Bound03I have a confession to make.  This is hard for me to admit, but I suffer from Blank Canvas Disorder, a common yet debilitating disorder that makes one’s brain cells completely shut down when faced with a blank canvas, paper, or anything requiring the brain to invent content for that blank canvas.

So that’s exactly why I agreed to participate again in this year’s “Blank Canvas Benefit: For Art’s Sake” at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey in Summit.  Participants are given a blank canvas, and have to create something on it, and donate it for a pricey fundraiser/auction which will happen in mid December.  Those of us who donate get a lovely reception where we get to preview the work, but alas, we don’t get to attend the auction so we have no idea how much our pieces sell for, and they won’t tell us.

I have to deliver the finished piece by Friday.  Do you think I’ve procrastinated long enough?

Knowing I have this Blank Canvas Disorder, I try to compensate by not actually trying to think of what I’m going to do with the canvas.  This is a perfect place for not thinking.  I can over think myself right into a paralyzing lather, and instead, I need to just enjoy the medium, play, and see where life takes me.  In my cleaning up of my studio, in the aftermath of the photo shoot and the guild sale, I came across the now minuscule baggie of scraps left from my Sandstone jacket and tote bag I created earlier this year.  I really had no idea what I wanted to do with this canvas, and I wasn’t even sure what medium I wanted for it.

Almost all of the other participants are painters, collage artists, photographers, etc, those who are accustom to working in two dimensional media.  I’m the lone fiber person.  Last year I mounted a version of Big Sister onto the canvas, it was an actual real canvas, the one we were given this year was a 2″ deep cradled “Claybord”.  I read the label on the board or “bord” as the label explains, and the surface will take paint,  ink, gouache, egg tempera, acrylics, airbrush, encaustics, collage, photo transfers, pencil, casein, and it can be used for mounting papers, prints and fabrics…   🙂

That last word got me to thinking, and the little bag of Sandstone scraps started me to rooting around in my stash.  I came up with a few things that I liked including a scrap of ikat cotton from a bag of scraps I bought many years ago from Mekong River Textiles at a conference.  I also found a scrap of silk where I had tested some stencils with fabric paint.

So, without any idea of where I wanted to go with this, I just played.  🙂


I played with the fabrics, and liked what happened when I took the long ikat scrap and put it together creating a “schism” between, and then taking the long selvedge of the Sandstone fabric, I began to play with the idea of binding the schism back together.  There is a lot of political content here, and I liked where the piece was headed, and loved the play of the fabrics.  I played around with yarn, making it look like brain waves, and then found my little “happy” basket of Habu yarns, I’m talking a small basket here, and found a course green cotton novelty yarn that I just started wrapping around the bundle.  I liked the effect and the purpose the binding yarn gave to the piece.

So now my next step was to actually construct the piece.  I thought about just gluing the whole thing together, even using gel medium to paint and stick everything into place, but I decided to actually sew it all together, maintaining the tactile quality of the actual fiber.  Sort of like a bound package…

Bound19Bound20Bound21To give the piece some support, I cut out two layers of a thermal fleece, the kind I use in clothing, and I also decided, as pretty as the sides of the “Claybord” were, I wanted the fabric to come all the way around the sides as well, so I could ultimately just tied the binding cords around the entire box.

Then I found an 8×10 mat I had laying around, and used it to check on the actual design that would appear on the front of the board.  I had no idea what I was doing here, just feeling my way along and having way too good of a time…

Bound22Bound24Bound25Bound26Bound27I used the sewing machine to baste the layers of fabric together, and then quilted the ikat fabric to the padding, using a metallic variegated thread in a pattern that played off the ikat.  I hand sewed the Sandstone strips in place, and then basically upholstered the box.  After making the four box corners, I covered the messy back with a piece of the stenciled silk.  I listened to the end of my Elizabeth Berg book on tape while I hand sewed the silk onto the back.

Bound29Finally, I wrapped the Habu yarn around the box, and I’ll hand sew it in place in key spots so it doesn’t shift tomorrow.

I can’t tell you how much fun I had doing this piece.  Is it good?  Will it sell at the auction?  Does it really matter?  I had one of the quietest and best days I’ve had in a long time, no stress, and I just played.  Like a kid in a sandbox.  It was good for my soul and my spirit, and I am happy with what I have sitting in front of me on my desk.  I called the piece “Ties that Bind”.  I think a trip to the art supply store for more of these “Claybords” is in order…

I can’t tell all of you how much all of your comments have meant to me in yesterday’s post about selling your work.  I’ve been emailed some comments privately, and I’m waiting until more come in, and then I’ll jot down my thoughts.  All of you have such valid perspective, and there is clearly no right or wrong answer here.  And I was sort of glad to hear this isn’t just an issue in the United States, there was a comment from New Zealand, and the discussion is pretty much the same, half way round the world.

One final note, I received the 6 1/8″ Texsolv heddles for the Structo loom I talked about last week. StructoTexsolv The one my husband magically fixed, finding all the right parts in his vast stash of hardware.  I paid my son to put the 400 heddles on the shafts, and I really think they will work fine.  They aren’t real tight on the heddle bars, so they should slide OK, and I’ll have to eventually cut the bridge cords between each of the heddles, they come all attached, because I think the hooks that raise and lower the shafts will get caught on the bridge cords.  I just have to make a trip to the hardware store for some apron rods, and I have another Structo loom in working condition. 🙂

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…

A Cast of Characters

I could not get focused today.  Maybe it was because I got up at 3am to drive my husband and son to the airport.  They are taking advantage of some frequent flyer miles, my son’s spring break, and some new snow in Utah, and off they flew to Salt Lake City for the week to enjoy some guy time on the mountain.  🙂

I did go back to bed once I returned from the airport, and I did manage another four hours of sleep, but the day felt very disjointed.  So I puttered.  I did a little of this, a little of that.  After all, it is Sunday, and most normal people get off a day or two a week.  That would be a foreign word for me.  I did some grocery shopping, cleaned my bathroom, started cleaning the kitchen, the dirt doesn’t stop coming just because I left for a week for a conference.  I tackled a pile of files, deciding that my son’s progress reports and school files from elementary and middle school, now that he is in college, didn’t need to be taking up space in my file cabinet any longer.  They’ve been on my floor for awhile.  So that pile is gone.

Speaking of piles.  loom1

This is what happens when a loom is left unused for a period of time.  Piles start to cover it.  It looks lost amid the debris.  I had a major guilt attack today over my poor naked looms.  I’m in the middle of too many other projects to even think about getting a warp on this puppy, my beloved first loom, a 45″ 8 shaft double sectional back beam Tools of the Trade, I bought in 1978, right out of college.  I love this loom, I will never part with it.  I have woven thousands of yards of fabric on it.  But at the moment, it is looking like a neglected child.

Enter the twins.

twinsThis pair of looms sits beside the big loom.  I never named my looms, not sure why. It was hard enough to name my kids.  So this pair, both from Tools of the Trade as well, bought in the 1980’s at different times, helps me out when my big loom is busy.  The one on the right, 25″ wide, is four shaft, and it is warped with 10/2 cotton for my daughter’s and my placemat exchange we are doing with the Jockey Hollow Guild.  More about that later.

The one on the left, is pretty well equipped, for a 25″ wide loom, it has eight shafts, double sectional back beams, and is a little work horse.  I wove the Arctic Sky fabric on that loom.  It currently has the remaining yard or so of tencel warp from a Bonnie Inouye class I took last October (oh how embarrassing).  It had my only 25″ 12 dent reed in it, which I needed for the placemat exchange loom on the right, so I stole it.  Just pulled the warp out of the reed and moved it over.  So I couldn’t have woven the rest of the warp if I had wanted to.

loom2To the left of that loom, I have a 25″ Tools of the Trade table loom, also four shaft, that I keep warped with a Theo Moorman 10/2 cotton structure, for my art pieces.  I just finished the Big Sister piece, and I had originally needed the 12 dent reed for that one, but settled on a 6 dent reed, though I wasn’t completely happy with the reed marks it left.

So I was pretty embarrassed that nothing was happening on any of my four looms, one without a reed, one with the wrong reed, one with a warp and nothing started, and one with no warp at all.

So I looked through my vast stash of reeds, and found an extra 12 dent reed I had purchased used many years ago, for my 45″ loom, and I had my daughter hacksaw the thing into two pieces.  I decided that I needed to spend the day paying some attention to my poor neglected looms, and I resleyed the tencel warp into the replacement reed, and I switched out the reed on the table loom, tied both warps on the front beams, and they are ready to weave.

dog_tracksI turned my attention to the placemat exchange, and spent some time getting the structure to work right.  I took it from a workshop I took many years ago with Barbara Miller on 18th Century Structures.  It is a four shaft overshot pattern called Dog Tracks.  My daughter and I are both participating in this exchange, each of the 16 participants picks a 5/2 cotton weft color, and winds off a couple ounces and passes a ball off to each of the other 7 participants in their group.  My daughter and I are in two different groups.  So we will each have eight different overshot placemats at the end, all in our selected color.  I chose a grayed green, and I started the whole thing with mine.  Once I reworked the treadling, to give me the placement of the blocks I wanted, it started to weave quite well.  warp

I detest two shuttle weaves.  I know, I know…  But I am use to weaving yardage, lots of yardage, I like my shuttles to fly, and two shuttle weaves just don’t produce the speed of a one shuttle structure.  Part of the problem here is the size of the loom.  There isn’t room for the two shuttles to fit on the web, when I beat, they bounce right off the loom into my lap and onto the floor.  I solved this problem on another warp I did, by taking the unused second back beam from the eight shaft (remember two warp beams require a second back beam), and clipping it onto the front of the loom, with a heavy plastic ruler clipped to the surface so I have an extra ledge to support the shuttles while I’m weaving.

I did manage to get to Morristown today, to practice with my recorder group.  I probably didn’t mention that I play Baroque recorder, I play alto with this group, and we got all new music today, something new to practice, a whole play list of French love songs from the 1600’s.    And I did manage to get down to my neighbor’s house for our Sunday night ritual, a gathering of the women to watch Desperate Housewives.  We hoot and howl all the way through it, and will be really sorry when the season ends, it is a long way until September….

It turned out to be a productive day after all, and the looms (all except my big one) look so much more happy.  I think tomorrow I will clean off the big loom so it doesn’t feel so burdened with my junk…

More Loom Adventures

Well, my boxes have arrived safely in California, and I shipped my Big Sister piece to Kansas City.  I always feel when my work is out traveling, that it is sort of like sending your children out into the world, they get to go places and see things without you.  I have two pieces in Mississippi, one on the way to Missouri, and some inkle looms and lots of samples sitting in someone’s house in Southern California.  Little bits of my self scattered like dandelion seeds…

Speaking of Inkle Looms…

inkle_warpI kept one of my baby Inklettes (by Ashford) behind, (which you can get from any dealer who sells Ashford Looms), because the warp on it was used up, and I needed to re-warp for the conference.  I decided to kill two birds with one stone, (actually that is a terrible analogy, why would I want to kill any birds?) and put on the warp to make key fobs for my guild.

Sidebar: It is very common for a guild to get together and make small tokens of their talent, advertising the guild, for the “goody” bags you receive at the conferences.  My guild chose this year, to send off to the MAFA conference (which I won’t be attending because I’ll be at the conference in Durango) small pieces woven on an inkle loom and made into keyrings.  I volunteered to make 7, which is how many including fringe, you can make on one fully loaded baby Inklette.  I adore this loom.  It’s profile is so small it can fit in the bottom of that same conference tote, or even on the little fold down table on the plane.  (I haven’t actually tried this, since I am too overloaded with computer and projector and all my clothes for a week, when I travel to teach, but my weaving buddy Sally, who travels all the time for work, usually has a bag full of little bands whenever she returns from a trip).  I had given a workshop to my guild, Frances Irwin Handweavers, in inkle loom weaving, and everyone had such a blast, they are all now prolific ‘Inklers’, and always have a new pattern or some interesting pick-up design to share at every show and tell.

inkle_loomSo here I am all warped up.  I had some diversions today, like my Thursday Philosophy Club lunch, there were six of us in attendance, and lots of catching up to do.  I also ran around buying more stuff for props, and of course a trip to my favorite shipper to package my piece for Kansas City.

Tonight I had a real treat.  In preparation for the HS Musical, which is the first weekend in March, while I’m in California of course, the Boonton High School drama club held an open mike talent night.  OMG!  Who knew a bunch of high school kids could have so much talent, so much poise on the stage, and so much presence?  I’m trying to remember back when I was in HS, the most talented kids in the school couldn’t compare to what I saw tonight on the stage.  Even the teachers performed, there were dance numbers, a martial arts presetation, rap, rock, soul, Broadway tunes, and because the school is so culturally diverse, there were some beautiful songs in other languages, duets, and even a classically trained pianist.  I was blown away.  For a small town HS, this was one class A production.

If you want to learn about inkle weaving, it is a simple loom to learn to use, without much fuss.  I sell a monograph on Inkle Weaving, but if you want a little free tutorial, go to Weavezine, the fall 2008 issue, and read the article my daughter wrote on weaving shoelaces on the inkle loom.

Following Directions

I remember when I was in grammer school, the first standardized tests were introduced, and we had to color in those little circles with the number two pencil.  Couldn’t be an HB, had to be a number two.  Following directions is the bain of my existence.  I am a creative soul, and want to do it my way.

So of course, I’m in a field where I am constantly writing proposals, filling out applications, entering exhibitions, and everyone wants the information in a different format.  Use to be I could pretty much anticipate what the general desired information would be, write it up in PDF format, and attach it to the application, but now many of the shows, and conferences are requesting electronic transmissions through something called  Juried Art Service.  The first time I set up my profile there it took me two days.  Now that I have it, I still have to keep editing, and filling out all the little fields and boxes which don’t always match with what I’m trying to say.  Makes me really long for those little circles and my trusty number two pencil.

measurefoldhemfinishedSo the good news is I finished the Big Sister piece.  Once I cut it off the loom, I had to hem it into a perfect 18″ square, steaming, pressing and blocking the image so it would full up a bit, and the spaces would close up.  There are very specific directions for this exhibit, the Members Show, “Surface Matters” at the Surface Design Conference in Kansas City in May.  The prospectus is very detailed, so I carefully read, re-read, and think I have it all in order.  There has to be a 1 1/2 inch rod pocket sewn on the back, a half inch from the top and side edges, and a label with my name and the name of the piece safety pinned in the back.  I chose to hand sew it on.  Hope that was OK.  Now I have to go to Juried Art Services online and update my profile with the image of the piece, fill out the application online, pay the entry fee, and then print the application and include it with the shipped piece, which has to go out tomorrow.

I took my daughter to volleyball tonight, and sat for an hour and a half finishing up the handwork on the piece, which worked out great, and then I raced home, threw dinner together, tacos are a wonderful quick dinner, and then we hit the stores in search of stuff for props.  My daughter is in the ensemble for the HS Musical, “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum”.  Sadly I’ll miss the entire show because of the California conference, but it has been fun watching my daughter, who with a roll of duct tape, can make anything, take on making all the props, including the bust of Domina, an ancient scroll and a giant rose bush.  Tonight we had to come up with Roman coins in a bag, washers from Home Depot took care of that.  And I had a little draw string bag I kept my glue sticks in, propso off she ran with that.  Next was large feather plumes she could make into a giant fan, the kind the slaves used to fan the royalty.  That was a little more problematic and a lot more costly.  Armed with the Michael’s 40% coupons, we picked up some white plumes, and a bamboo pole, put a white plastic hanger into the top of the pole after she cut off the hanger loop with a hack saw, and wired the plumes to the hanger in a fan shape.  She just has to finish wrapping the base of the feathers with duct tape to secure them.  I have to make a run to Party City tomorrow for Gladiator Sandals.

Off to finish cleaning my bathrooms, I accomplished a lot today, and I’m really looking forward to a good night’s sleep….