I’m Home!

Actually, I’ve been home for a couple of days, but I got in really late Tuesday night, and I hit the ground running Wednesday morning, with very little sleep.  Could it have been the caffeine I consumed to keep me awake for the four hour drive Tuesday night?  Duh…

Anyway, I spent Wednesday morning with my 16 year old daughter at the local county college, where she was taking advantage of a HS challenge program and signing up for a class in Japanese.  Her five text books cost $125.  She was very excited to think of herself as a college student.  Of course she still has two more years of HS…  But it is a great opportunity and she will get college credit for the course.

I spent the rest of Wednesday unpacking, doing the laundry, actually working in the yard for an hour, which felt wonderful.  I haven’t spent any time, either working on or enjoying my lovely gardens this summer, and playing in the dirt after such a grueling six weeks of conferences was healing.  My husband, bless him, has done an amazing job keeping up the gardens which I assure you is NOT a one person job.  There is a ton of weeding that needs to be done, to be sure, but he has kept the worst of the weeds at bay, and installed a ton of downlights around the ponds, which glow like fairy pools in the late evening.  I’m looking forward to the fall, which is usually glorious in NJ.

Last night, my husband and I bought tickets, right before I left, for Noises Off, at the NJ Shakespeare Theatre which is housed in a gorgeous building at Drew University in Madison, NJ.  We bought the tickets based on the Newspaper review, which was stellar, and we laughed through the entire performance.  I adore British farces, lots of door slamming, flawless timing, as only a Shakespeare Company can do, and we enjoyed the show so much, we bought additional tickets for Twelfth Night, and The Grapes of Wrath, which close out the 2009 season.  In addition, we just received the season tickets for the Papermill Playhouse.  So much live theatre to see!

So today, I looked at my poor neglected house, and decided that I needed to spend the day, really cleaning it, which meant all sorts of detours, including cleaning out the snake cage.  Don’t ask.  I worked straight through the day, and only managed to clean one floor.  That’s what happens when you leave for a few weeks, the house gets dirty without you.  I’ll continue it tomorrow, but tomorrow, being the end of the month, is paperwork day.  I have a huge stack, all the accounts and bills have to be addressed, and that will be my priority tomorrow.

Since Project Runway starts in half an hour, I thought I’d post the photos of the jackets from my class at the Felter’s Fling.  They were amazing.  I had five students, and they were working like crazy right up to the end, there are still a lot of pins in the jackets, along with tailor’s tacks, and errant threads.  But everyone was really thrilled, they learned so much, and I heard from more than one student that, “they enjoyed this so much they might even start sewing!”


A Sunny Day?

Wow, the sun actually came out today.  What a surprise!  Course more rain due in tomorrow, there was even a front page article in the newspaper today about how serious climate/weather pattern changes are here.  Well the plants are loving it!

shippingI’m now in wind down mode, tying up loose ends, starting the preparations for my trip next week to the Midwest Weavers Conference in Grinnell, Iowa.  I’ve never been to Iowa, so this should be a treat.  A week before I leave, I need to ship out the consummable stuff, like the handouts, raw materials, and some monographs to sell.  So yesterday, I spent the entire day printing and binding stacks of monographs, and the handouts, and burnt out my year old new binding machine.  Bummer…

The box is packed, and on its way to Grinnell, and the good news, is it contains about 50 yards of Red Dot Tracer, which I’m happy to say, is finally available, from Pellon, after months of gnashing of teeth and complaining, and moaning, I got 150 yards of it via UPS yesterday, in time to chop it up in two yard packs and ship it with the handouts.  I have been in a quandry since HTCW stopped shipping early last fall, and the product became unavailable.  Pellon bought the plates for the Red Dot Pattern Tracing Material, but they printed it on their Tru-Grid base, though improved from the original Tru-Grid base, this one is more stable than the old one, I still don’t like it because it doesn’t hold a pencil mark well.  For a number of reasons, this is really important to me.  I have multi-sized patterns I use for my classes, and the lines have to stay true and accurate.  And so do the lines the students trace.  Anyway, the Red Dot has now been printed on a different base, one closer to the original one from HTCW, and I’m hoping it will perform as well.  I’m crossing my fingers.

So, now to the next project, which is a gallery talk I have to give next Wednesday as one of the exhibiting artists at HGA’s Small Expressions Exhibit at Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery.  I wanted to finish one of the pieces on the loom that I started last spring, so I could get a shot of it and include it in my talk, since it is woven in the same technique as the pieces on exhibit there.  (If you click on “Small Expressions” under “Upcoming Events/February 24th” – which was when the show originally opened in Missouri, you will see the pieces they selected for exhibit)

loomsilkI’ve blogged about this technique, a Theo Moorman Inlay on a cotton ground, in many previous posts.  Search for “Big Sister” and you’ll find many references.  I printed the image on silk, and then cut it into quarter inch strips, and wove them back into the loom, in sequence while weaving a backing fabric at the same time.  One of my blogs has detailed shots of the process.  If I have time I’ll search for it.

wtcAnyway, the image here was shot the end of August, 2001, while vacationing a mere 20 miles away with my children.  We took them to the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, and then up to the roof of the World Trade Center.  I titled this photo “Top of the World”.  I don’t need to tell anyone what happened a mere two weeks later…

It is a chilling photo, the shaky appearance of the towering structure, from the rewoven strips, two innocent children doing what children do when posing for a photo for dad, (notice the rabbit ears my son is sneaking in behind his sister’s back),  I am haunted by this photo every time I look at it.  Reweaving it back together row by row, was somehow healing.

My daughter walked in tonight while I was photographing this for the blog, and plopped her latest adventure in boxesfront of me, a large paper box, carefully folded into a square.  She said, “Guess how many boxes are inside of this?”.  I took a wild guess at 10, and was sort of surprised when she told me I wasn’t even close.  Can you believe there were 20 little paper boxes, all just a fraction smaller than each one they nest into, and she proceeded to unwrap each origami box to unveil the next box, until she had them all lined up on my cutting table.  The smallest one was half the size of my thumbnail.

You have to love hanging around with my daughter.  She disappears into her room, and comes out with the oddest adventures, she should have been studying for her Spanish final tomorrow, but folding paper boxes was much more soothing to her soul, and she was quite proud of her accomplishment.

Ah to be 16 again…  See, that’s my problem.  I never blow anything off I’m suppose to be doing for the shear joy of creating.  I’ve gotten way too responsible in my old age…

Speaking of old age, we had a couple of great theatre adventures, last Friday we saw The Full Monty at the Papermill Playhouse, which was absolutely a terrific piece of theatre, the cast was unbelievable, one scene stealer after another, and if you live anywhere near Northern NJ or NYC, get yourself a ticket now!  The show runs until July 14th I believe.  There is a cameo appearance by stage veteran Elaine Stritch, who according to the papers is 84 years old.  I want to be able to get out there and still perform in my studio and on the road at 84.  That would mean I have another 30 years to go!

And last night, my husband and I escaped to the movie theatre to see “Up”.  Another Pixar/Disney hit, one of the most charming stories I’ve seen in a long time, well, you just have to take my word and go to the movies.  You won’t be sorry.  The star of “Up” is a very old man, who is about to be forceably taken to a retirement home, the love of his life is gone, and he gets his house to lift off into the air with a gazillion helium balloons and flies it all the way to Paradise Falls in South America.  I know it sounds like the oddest plot line imaginable, but to see it, and how the story develops, is truely amazing.  It is almost believable.  It has been a long time since I’ve been to the movies and heard an audience applaud at the end of a film.  The show was packed, and they did applaud.

Dreary Day Reprieve

Finally, some sun shine.  Honestly, I haven’t been home enough to even notice, since my last blog Wednesday afternooon, I have been largely out of the studio/house.

Wednesday night was the business meeting for my guild, Jockey Hollow Weavers, and the new board was “sworn in” so to speak.  So now I am officially the program chairperson, and I am off to a running start.

rosesMy daughter is a member of the guild, and they always welcome her and are so supportive of whatever she comes up with.  While we were going through the show and tell, she happily sat sculpting rose candles from the red wax left over from the Bonne Belle cheeses at the snack table.

Barbara Herbster was the speaker for the evening, and she talked first about how she uses a supplemental warp to create her beautiful scarves, some of the supplemental warp threads containing lycra to make the middle ruffle up.  barbara_scarves

Barbara has one of the best senses of color, and it was inspirational looking at her work.  Barbara was one of my most creative weavers who wove for me during the years I worked on the forecast column for Handwoven Magazine.  I could always count on her to come up with something spectacularly original, keeping with the palette, theme and inspirational photograph I’d give her.

warpedThursday morning I packed up the 8 shaft loom, and headed out to a workshop with Barbara at the guild, it was a two day workshop on supplemental warp.  Barbara pre-wound the warps, and gave them to us to beam, some were chenille, and some were bamboo.  I got one of the bamboo warps.  I struggled a bit to get it onto my loom, I had a sectional beam, which normally shouldn’t have been a problem, but there was a mis-communication about size and spacing, and it beamed incorrectly.  So I spent the day struggling through the first scarf, finally cutting it off at the end, and re-beaming the warp.  scarf1scarf_loom

Barbara wound each warp based on a photograph of some kind of flowers she took during her last vacation.  It was a great way to wind a warp, much like I used to do with the forecast column.

Friday night, after the workshop, I unpacked the loom, and the bags of stuff one carries to these kind of workshops, and headed over to the Paper Mill Playhouse, to see their current production of 1776.  May I say that was one heck of a piece of theatre.  A standing ovation, the passion of the times of the days leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the total dysfunction of the first Continental Congress, and the hilarious witty lines which could have been written about the current Congress some 200+ years later, made for a terrific evening.

This morning I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck.  Actually, I am coming down with a cold, I feel crappy, but still managed to get to my American Sewing Guild meeting, where the speaker was one of the guild members, Tomasa, who is currently attending FIT, and she demonstrated to the group how to draft a bodice pattern on a dress form.  I actually learned a few things, she was a very good teacher, and the group was really enthusiastic.  I am liking this group of women more and more, and look forward to the meetings.

I came home from the meeting, and jumped into the car with my husband and we made the hour long trek south to car_plantsRutgers, for their spring plant sale.  Plants from Rutgers University you might ask?  Who knew?  They have gorgeous gardens, spreading over acres, duh, they do have an agricultural school, and have a fabulous plant sale every spring as a fund raiser.  My husband and I always look forward to spending a weekend each spring at some nursery or garden center picking through the usual perennials, and shrubs in search of that one plant that catches our fancy.  Well, we hit the mother-lode here.  We were like two starving children in a candy shop.

We filled the car with all sorts of unusual specimens, trying to figure out where we were going to plant all these gorgeous creatures.  We have about a half acre of great gardens, ponds, perennials, all sorts of wet and dry areas, sunny and shady, and it is all pretty lush at the moment, due to all the buckets of rain that have come down in the last week or so.  So lush in fact, I was sort of shocked at how everything had grown about two feet since I last checked.

We found some really unusual things, including the small fern like tree on the left of the photo above, which is actually called Dawn Redwood, yes, that kind of redwood, it is a sequoia from China, thought to be extinct until discovered by the Japanese after WWII, grows to be more than 80 feet.  We couldn’t pass it up.  And we think we have the perfect spot for it, but will have to fell a dying birch tomorrow, before we plant it.  We have lost all of our birches in the last few years, from some birch blight, but happily that just gives us more room to plant stuff.

mahoniapulpit2pulpitThe photo on the left shows a Mahonia, an odd looking holly type of plant, with even odder flowers, which will be perfect in the shade by the bay window in the front.  After I paid for all our specimens, my husband went to get the car, and when he didn’t return, I found him back in the nursery talking to one of the volunteers, about this jack-in-the-pulpit variety, that he couldn’t resist.  So I went back to the check out table for one last plant.  Apparently this one is a male, which it is when it is suffering from transplant shock, and will eventually settle down and become a female and produce seeds once it likes its new home.  I looked at both my husband the volunteer like they had two heads each, but snatched up the plant, the story is too good to pass up.

So, tomorrow, after church and recorder practice, I’ll put on my gardening clothes, and start digging.  I’m looking forward to a mother’s day in the gardens, I promise I’ll come back with some amazing photos of our yard.  It is really gorgeous.  I just hope my cold doesn’t get in my way from spending the day outdoors.  No rain for the next few days, yippee!

Odds and Ends

The last couple of days have been whirlwind of catching up, meeting some deadlines I put off until after my California trip, contracts, cleaning, trying to find my house again, piles of laundry, and some terrific social events.

I got an email today from Lisa Skura, my class angel in the three day jacket workshop in California, letting me know that one of the conference attendees posted all of her photos, many from the fashion show, on a Picasa website, her name is Helene Korn, and the pictures are fun.  Check it out.

I received an email notification a couple days ago, that I was finally accepted to teach at the CNCH (Conference of Northern California Handweavers), April 8-11, 2010, in Santa Clara.  This is a particularly important conference to me, and getting this acceptance means a lot.

Sidebar:  When I was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, one of the hardest things for me to face, and I know this is going to sound really odd, was writing the letters canceling four teaching commitments, three of them conferences, and it was that act, not losing a breast, not the trauma to my family, not the six months of chemo, but the canceling of commitments that nearly undid me.  When you face a life altering thing like cancer, the stress manifests itself in the oddest places.  I honestly didn’t care about the breast.  I was happy to lose it if it would save my life.  I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t finish what I had started, the conferences that I had committed to, and my work meant everything to me.

One of the conferences I had to cancel was the CNCH conference for 2002.  I was eventually invited to participate in the Asilomar Retreat held on the off years of the CNCH, but not the conference itself.  I always felt like I had something to finish and was frustrated I couldn’t make up for not being able to follow through.

So, when I returned from California, earlier this week, I had an acceptance waiting for me, to teach at the CNCH conference, and I immediately felt a huge relief that I could finally finish what I had started seven years ago.  I will eventually update my website calendar when the dust settles a bit more around here, so stay tuned…

Yesterday evening, I hopped on a bus, and headed into NYC to hear a lecture, sponsored by the Textile Study Group of NY.  The lecture was on Photographing your Work.  Yes, I know I teach this subject, I just gave the workshop to a wonderful group of people in Southern California, but when I offered my services to the Textile Study Group, I was told that they were looking for a real professional photographer.

So, I paid my $25. and hopped on a bus, and went to hear D. James Dee, a very well respected art photographer in NYC, teach a seminar on Photographing your Work.  I am glad I went, first, it was so interesting to be in a HUGE space, where lights can be placed anywhere, and backdrops can cover whole walls and tables.  Also, there are things I know, things I have been taught, but I actually didn’t understand completely why they were so. I actually got some clarification on a couple things I knew instinctively, but not why.  I also understood quickly the advantages of having someone who is an experienced teacher, and knows how break things down in an organized fashion to a varied group of students of all different levels.  I followed everything he was saying, because I do this sort of thing, but I sensed that many in the class were lost.  Mr. Dee is a terrific photographer, but I am not sure how experienced he is at teaching.

Also, since he is a professional photographer, the class wasn’t so much on photographing your work as it was on what to do with the disk of images that comes from a professional photographer.  Which I can see can be a real issue for artists that aren’t so computer literate.  If nothing else, the class made me much more confident that what I teach in my class, is really useful information in an organized fashion, that can be put to immediate use by the most average picture taker.  And, I produce a monograph in full color, that is a reproduction of the PowerPoint presentation, so students don’t have to take any notes!

Today I worked the whole day working on my sister, the architect’s website, I’m making great progress on the project pages, having a blast in Photoshop CS4, taking mediocre photos of beautiful homes she has designed, and turning them into magazine shots.  In all fairness to my sister, taking shots of a 4,500 square foot sprawling home is pretty difficult to do with a point and shoot camera, without getting keystone distortion, but Photoshop is my friend, and I corrected some amazing shots.  It is also really neat to carefully work through my sister’s body of work, I know what she does, but since she lives and works in rural northern Maryland, I don’t get to see her work first hand.  She designed the addition on my home, but that was 20 years ago.  I will say I’m really impressed.

Tonight my husband, daughter and I went to the Papermill Playhouse for one of our subscription series shows, the current production is Master Class, which was worthy of the standing ovation it received.  Barbara Walsh played opera diva Maria Callas, who retired from her singing career and taught a series of renowned master classes at Julliard in 1971.  The dialogue spoke of the passion of the arts, how important they are in our lives, and about finding the soul in your work.  I would love to get a copy of the script, there are many quotable lines in the show, and it isn’t lost on me, the perfect timing of the show, especially in this very difficult time for all of the arts with the seriousness of the downturn in the economy, and how bleak the immediate future is for many of our renowned institutions.

I am promising myself, that before the weekend is over, I will finish cutting out the pieces for the Arctic Sky Jacket.  I am longing to start sewing before the weather gets warm and I can’t wear the jacket!

Tomorrow is the monthly meeting of the American Sewing Guild neighborhood chapter I wrote about in my blog last month.  I think I’ll take my dress from the fashion show for Show and Tell…