A Tale of Two Dish Towels, 4000 pages later, and other random stuff…

A good weaving buddy of mine recently contributed to a series of interesting comments on my  Facebook page after I wrote on my Wall the following query:

Daryl: Do two days off equal a vacation?

Ginnie: Does it feel like it? What’s a vacation?

Daryl: I don’t know exactly, but I see some people talking about them on Facebook.

Ginnie: Maybe you and I need to research this!

Daryl: Sounds like a plan, I’ll add “research the definition of a vacation” to my to-do list.

Daryl again: Actually, I just heard that when you have off on a Saturday and Sunday, that some people call that a “Weekend”. I’ve never experienced something like that, so I can’t verify.

Ginnie: Ah, I have heard of “weekends”, said to be invented by labor and teacher unions…. There’s a banner in our town to that effect!

Daryl: I don’t think there is any such thing as a labor union for the self employed artist. That’s probably why I am not familiar with the term “weekend” or “vacation”. Might be something else to research, it was great to have two days NOT in my studio.

Truth is, I had two glorious days last Saturday and Sunday, where no one expected anything from me, and there was nothing on the calendar for me to worry about or deal with, or get in a car or on a plane for, and I sort of didn’t quite know what to do with myself.  A gift.  There is nothing more to be said.

So I spent the last three days, gearing back up for the next event, a conference in Northern California, CNCH 2010, I leave April 8th.  I cranked up the trusty HP printer, and printed no less than 4000 pages of handouts and monographs, bound everything, packed two large Priority Flat Rate Boxes, and shipped them off to California this afternoon.  Huge exhale, that job is complete.  I paid all my bills, and now have to tackle a pile of documents due tomorrow.

On a completely different note, in a recent string of emails, about the tie up on a Tools of the Trade Loom, of which I own four, see blog post from last year, I ended up solving the problem and then deciding to purchase the loom from the person who posted the original email.  This is a sister loom to my TOTT floor looms, I own two 25″ and one 45″ floor loom and regret never having purchased the 36″ version.  I have found that, although I don’t have space for another loom there have been times where I wished I had a second bigger loom.  It would of course have to have 8 shafts, and big bonus, it has two back beams.  I wish one was a sectional, but I can deal with that.  So I will head to Maryland in April, to pick up my newest addition, and then figure out where the hell heck I’m going to put this puppy.

A Tale of Two dish towels…

I don’t weave dish towels.  I have been weaving since 1974 and I have never actually woven a dishtowel.  Is that some sort of record?  I did weave place mats, runners, scarves, throws, all kinds of products on my loom when I was in production in the 1980’s, selling my little heart out on the weekends in craft fairs, I may have mentioned that, but I never wove much less sold a dishtowel.  I don’t know exactly why that is.  It isn’t like I don’t use dishtowels.  I go through them like water, use them until they fall apart, and buy new ones at the grocery store and use them until they fall apart.  I can’t say I’m one of those who go by the motto, “It’s too good to actually use”, for goodness sake, I chop up my handwoven fabric, and make garments and wear them until I’m tired of them, they wear out, or they go out of style and then I cut them into something else.

For some odd reason, I’ve never made a dish towel.  But in the last couple of months, I’ve actually acquired two.  The first one came from Laura Fry (hey, if you are going to have someone else’s handwoven dishtowel in your house, you might as well have one from the best!).  Laura was offering an incentive on her blog, after the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, a dishtowel, to anyone donating to Doctors Without Borders.  I had planned on doing that anyway, I donate on a monthly basis now, just like I do for public radio, but I took her up on her offer and she sent me a lovely aqua cotton dish towel.  I didn’t use it, just looked at it.  OK, to be fair, we have a dog.  And this has been the rainiest March in the history of the state of NJ (and for those whose US history is a bit cloudy, we were one of the original 13 colonies.  George Washington slept in almost every town in the state in the late 1700’s or so they say…) Which means that our lovely back yard is a swamp.  Swamp + dog = muddy paws.  Dog comes in, nearest textile gets grabbed, and by the back door off the kitchen, it is usually the dishtowel.  So I haven’t actually wanted to put my lovely Laura Fry dishtowel out because it would be covered in mud within about 10 minutes.

On the drive back to the airport after my recent trip to Columbia, MO, Debbie Schluckebier, my lovely workshop coordinator and airport chauffeur, presented me with a thank you gift from the Columbia Weavers and Spinners, one of her beautiful handwoven dishtowels.  The universe was trying to tell me something.  That and the three hour trip to the Kansas City airport allowed Debbie to convince me that it was silly to have handwoven dishtowels and not love them and use them.  So I’m using them.  Both of them.  No one has died, and none have been covered with mud yet, and they are really pretty and I feel good when I use them.  I am getting dangerously close to actually wanting to warp up one of my numerous looms, all of which are naked at the moment I’m embarrassed to say, with some cotton warp, and weave some actual dishtowels.  They don’t have to be prize winning, and they don’t have to color matched to my kitchen.  And I don’t have to turn them into clothing.  I can just use them in the kitchen, and be happy, and if they get used on muddy dog paws, there is always the washing machine…  I hear they won’t disintegrate in the washer and dryer…

Almost home…

I am writing this on the plane, winging my way back to the east coast, after an exhausting but remarkable 7 guild tour in four states in just over four weeks.  It seems like just a dream that this time last month I was just finishing up in Southern California, on my way to Arizona, and this last stop in Missouri, in the middle of America’s heartland, brought a very special closure to a very special trip.

I love what I do, I fly to all sorts of places in the United States, and occasionally Canada, and I meet so many different people, all devoted to creating something with their hands, and I meet the people who love them, daughters, sons, husbands, and occasionally wives.  I meet many folks who are retired from one part of their lives, who have recreated themselves again in another.  I get the privilege of staying with some of these wonderful people, who open their homes and their kitchens and their bottles of wine to me, and we share a little bit of each other’s stories, and I can’t imagine my life being nearly as full if I didn’t have this opportunity to travel.

This trip ended with an address to the Columbia Weavers and Spinners, and to my delight, they let me pick the topic.  So I chose my standard keynote address, which is my story, as it parallels the work from my hands, and from my loom; the two intertwine, warp meeting weft.  I love telling this story, because when I am finished, I am flooded by audience members who come up to me and tell me small pieces of their stories, that have unfolded as I told mine.  We all have a story, and I always feel privileged when I am able to tell mine, and have someone listen, and then share theirs.

AtWorkcolumbiaGuildVestsOn Sunday, the guild members worked feverishly to finish up their vests in the two day vest class, sewing machines were chugging along, and I ran from student to student trouble shooting where I could, and helping to make each vest turn into a personal statement for each of them.  It was great that eight of the eleven students came wearing their vests at the Tuesday night guild meeting, even though there were still quite a few pins, and unfinished handwork.  BonnieFeltedVestAnd I took a photo of Bonnie’s vest, since she was the lone felter in the group, and I am always thrilled when I have a felter in a group of handweavers because the end result is so organic and freeform.  Bonnie’s vest, coupled with the silky teal shirt, looked like she was swimming in a coral reef.

My hostess Mary Jane endured a lot having me stay with her, because I arrived last Friday evening, with the beginnings of a cold.  She provided many boxes of tissues and many bowls of hot soup, fresh bread, and a comfortable room where I could disappear and recover.  I hate when I am on the road and I get sick.  But I was lucky to have some down time on this trip, and I was able to curl up with my laptop, or a good book, and take some time to recover.  I did go to Facebook as often as I could, since the news from home was grim, a weekend storm caused severe flooding in my town, we lost one of our maple trees in the back yard, which took out the chain link fence on the side of the back yard, preventing the dog from using the yard until my husband got out there with the chain saw.  I saw photos of homes surrounded by water, landmarks I recognized from home with parking lots filled with water, and my son’s friend and another friend’s father, canoeing down the road using brooms for paddles.  I am sad for the devastation and for those still evacuated from their homes and their lives.  I was safe in the middle of the country, but my heart was heavy for those who couldn’t escape.

The highlight of my trip, was a dinner with Amy D. Preckshot, who is a member of the Columbia Weavers and Spinners Guild.  Amy is a special person and a testament to the spirit of the handweaver.  Amy is in her mid 90’s, and has a 24 shaft Toika loom visible from the parking lot in her apartment in a retirement facility.  I want to grow old and be just like Amy.  Most handweavers will recognize Amy’s work, if you have seen an ad for Webs Yarn Store, recently, you’ve seen Amy’s work.  The inside cover of the current issue of Handwoven Magazine features two of Amy’s giraffes in the Webs ad.  Amy is known for her clever handwoven stuff animals, and has written a book called, “Weaving a Zoo”, describing the animals and how to make them, and they are the first thing to sell at the annual guild sale.  My hostess Mary Jane had a collection that spanned years.  Amy graciously let me take some pictures of her whimsical animals.  She was planning the next one, I hear she is working on a red fox. Amy told me that I praised her garment in the fashion show when I did the technical critique at Convergence in Grand Rapids in 2006, and that she never forgot that experience. She hadn’t identified herself in the audience, so I never knew Amy was connected to the work I was critiquing.  She is an accomplished tailor, years of training behind her, and I was privileged to reconnect with her, and meet however briefly on the crossroads of our journeys.  I hope our paths cross again.


So I am winging my way home, only to turn around in Newark airport and meet up with the rest of my family and head south to the Carolina’s for my son Eric’s graduation from boot camp Friday.  More than likely I’ll need another box of tissues to get me through graduation, I know I’ll not be able to get through that ceremony without shedding a few tears.  Stay tuned…

Greetings from Missou…

I made it to Missouri, after bad weather, and delays and an almost three hour drive to Columbia from the Kansas City Airport.  I’m staying in a lovely home in a very rural part of Columbia, I’d love to see this area in the summer.

The workshop, a two day vest class for the Columbia Weavers and Spinners is actually being hosted by the University of Missouri Fibers Department.  I met the head of the Fibers MissouriDay1CDepartment Jo Stealy, so helpful and welcoming.  The space is amazing, high stainless steel tables everywhere, an indigo vat fermenting in the women’s bathroom, dyeing supplies stacked on shelving everywhere, looms and fibers and wonderful academic energy all around us.

The workshop participants are so delightful, I love midwesterners, hard workers, so kind and careful, and they are all doing amazing vests, there is one who brought her hand made felt, which of MissouriDay1Bcourse will make an organic, more free form garment than the woven counterparts.  Tomorrow they jump into sewing, when I left them for the evening, everyone was cut out and ready to go.

MissouriDay1AWe were able to hang my show and tell garments from one of the upper cabinets, so there is a row of my work at the back of the room, it is great to see everything hanging like that instead of jammed onto a garment rack.

My son called me tonight on my cell phone, I was so surprised to hear from him, what a treat, he gets so few calls from Boot Camp.  I’ll be able to hug him five days from now when I fly to South Carolina for his graduation.

I’m watching the severe weather alerts for back home, popping up on my screen.  Flooding looks bad, and wind gusts of up to 72 MPH.  Scary.  It is just cold and rainy here, but we are safe inside in a fiber studio doing what we love best.  Made me long for my days back at Montclair State…