My Convergence To-Do List…

I’m nothing if not organized.  Compulsively organized.  Obsessively organized.  I took a daytimer, the old fashion kind you write in, and I plotted out everything that needs to get done before Convergence, crossed off days where I wouldn’t be in the studio, and carefully filled in the remaining days so I had a feel of the time crunch ahead of me.  It all fit in nicely, and I did a little exhale.  And then the universe laughed at me.  I know well that nothing goes as planned.

First thing up on my list, which I started Tuesday afternoon, was to finish the Rest in Peace Diptych.  The story here, is I created one of my woven postcards, a Diptych, and entered Small Expressions.  The piece wasn’t accepted.  So I decided to send it to the faculty exhibit for Convergence.  No problem there.  Except I entered an exhibit in Massachusetts on a whim, and of course, it got in, and the timing is too close to ensure it will be back from one exhibit, to turn around and ship to the other since I’ll be leaving more than a week ahead for Convergence.  (For a mini vacation with my husband, can you believe it?)

The exhibit committee, graciously agreed that I could send a replacement piece to them, actually the same piece in a much larger scale. As long as it matched the photo of the original piece.  Which meant I had to weave it.  One of the panels had been finished last year, but I needed to do the second one.  That’s the piece I wove last month when I ran out of warp.  I squeaked it out, splicing in 900 ends.  So all I had to do was mount the two pieces, right?

I budgeted a day for this effort, maybe a day and a half.  Silly me.  I spent an entire afternoon at the art supply store, just trying to figure out how to mount the two panels, so they would look like the original.  The original piece was 6″ x 10″.  I mounted the woven fabric by wrapping it around stiff interfacing and used the spine of a spiral notebook for the bridge in between the piece.  The replacement work is nearly four times that size, roughly 24″ x 38″.

I bought all kinds of stuff, and came home and plowed in head first.  After careful measurements, the pair of 18″ x 24″ canvases I purchased were actually one inch too wide.  So I consulted my tech guy, who happens to be in the country for a brief week or two before heading back to Saudi Arabia (I hear this will be a year long back and forth commute, and I’m trying hard not to think about that).  He came in an with a few swipes of a utility knife, he sliced off the offending inch, and now my canvas backboard is 18″ x 23″.

I wrapped the canvas board in two layers of craft fleece, and lashed it on the back side in both directions so it was really drum tight. I covered the lashing with two layers of fleece, and stitched that all the way around.  Then I decided that I’d like that side to be face up.  It was slightly more rounded.

I wrapped the entire panel in grey silk, and carefully pinned that together.  Then I stitched the grey silk all the way around.  I laid the woven panel on top of the grey base, and turned under the edges until everything measured perfectly and pinned.  I wisely decided not to stitch the panel permanently at this point, until I mounted the second panel.  So I started the process all over again for the remaining panel.  Now I’m seriously into day two of this project.  And it isn’t looking good for finishing any time soon.

I got to the part where I started to pin the second panel to the second grey silk covered backboard and I did a big fat groan.  Bet you heard it all the way to Canada.  See, when I printed the second  8 1/2″ x 16″ silk strip to create the image, at the very top of the strip was a little plop of yellow ink jet ink, right at the top edge, in the sky over the twin towers.  There were only two choices, to reprint the strip, but that would mean replacing the cartridges, which I didn’t have, and then it would more than likely not match the first half of the image, or make the whole image a half inch shorter.  I chose option B.

No matter now I stretched and shrunk, and manipulated the second panel, (which was actually the original panel, woven in full last year), there was nothing to be done but take out two rows of the design.  Because you know, fabric only stretches and shrinks and can be manipulated when you don’t want it to…

So I pulled out two silk strips, and then carefully pulled out the tie down threads at the top of the panel.  Each thread had to be pulled through to the back and tied off.  Now I’m seriously into day 3.  I’m groaning because my to do list is already off by a couple of days and I don’t know where to put all the things that were on the list that haven’t gotten finished.  Or started for that matter.

But the good news is now the panels are exactly the same size and the second panel (which is really the first, is anyone still following this whole escapade?) perfectly fits the back board.

I stitched the panels onto the grey silk back boards, all the way around with invisible stitches.  Then I had to invent some kind of spine in the middle.  On the original piece, the spine represented a child’s copybook or a photo album, and alternately represented the barbed wire that wrapped the perimeter of the roof of the World Trade Center.  You can see it if you look carefully in the photo of my two kids on top of the World Trade Center Tower, which we took two weeks before September 11.  I remember at the time looking at the barbed wire and asking about it and being told that it was there so the public wouldn’t climb past the railing and do something like try to jump.  And I thought about all those people jumping off the towers two weeks later and I remembered the barbed wire…

I found the perfect spiral wire in a sketch book at the art supply store.  I could only find it twelve inches long, but I figured I could splice two end on end and come up with the 24″ length I needed.  And turns out there was enough spring in the wire binding that it could be squished to 23″.  I carefully removed 100 sheets from two sketch books to get the binding wires.  Then I had to figure out how to stitch them onto the two panels.  With a series of long straight needles and a curved one and some strategically place T-pins, I managed to lash the wire spine to the two panels.  Now all I have to do is mount some kind of hanging device on the back, take a formal photo of the piece, label the back, and figure out how to invent an additional two days over the next couple of weeks to accomplish everything I didn’t do while I was working on mounting this diptych…  No sweat…

It’s really not about the extension cord…

Poet extraordinaire Maya Angelou wrote, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

I don’t do Christmas lights, we actually bought a pre-lit fake tree a couple of years ago, works perfectly, and I love rainy days, that means I don’t have to water, and can’t do yard work so I get to work more in the studio, and so far, I haven’t had to deal with lost luggage (she says as she is furiously pounding on the wood desktop, though I’m not sure I would handle that with grace and ease if I were on my way to a teaching assignment).

I’d really like to think of myself as flexible and easy going, but the truth is, I get stonewalled by the stupidest things.  I eventually adjust; after all, I’m from NJ*, but not without a fight. And when I do get railroaded by stupid things, there is usually something else lurking in the back of my head, some insecurity that causes me to momentarily panic.

I’m teaching at Convergence this summer, and for better or for worse, the jury is still out, I’m teaching seven seminars/workshops.  That is a huge amount for a four day conference.  I’m in essence teaching in every time slot, and there is little relationship between the six seminars and one full day workshop. (i.e. Website Design vs. Inkle Loom Weaving)  This situation alone is just a little scary.  OK, more than a little scary.

I got the numbers update for my seminars and workshop and I sort of panicked.  They are huge.  Part of me is really thrilled that so many want to take my seminars and part of me slides into that old insecurity, OMG, what if I screw up, what if things go wrong, what if I’m not prepared…  (Yep, seriously, I go through this every time I’m about to teach…, my version of stage fright…).  Two of my seminars alone have more than 50 students.  Those numbers are a bit unwieldy and as prepared as I usually am, I’m struggling with how I’m going to pull this off.

So when there was a caveat at the bottom of the email about not being able to provide me with an industrial extension cord to power my projector/laptop, I sort of overreacted.  I realize that extension cords in a conference center can cost upwards of $50, with all the union costs of installing and taping, etc. and that if every instructor needed one, it could break the conference budget.  But airline weight and luggage restrictions make it impossible to add anything additional like a bulky industrial extension cord to luggage that will already be unwieldy packing for seven seminars and a workshop.  I’ll be shipping a ridiculous amount ahead, and that just seemed one thing too much.

And then there was the discovery that there is a typo in the conference brochure.  Who is at fault in the proofing of said brochure isn’t the issue (I may not have caught it on the final copy, though my proposal was correct) and now I can’t offer a handout to 58 people in one of my seminars.  This has put me into a tailspin, my handouts are critical to my teaching experiences and I’m walking around like someone died.  I’ve tried sharing my frustration with a couple of trusted friends and my husband and all I get are quotes and reassurances that in the broad picture, this is a nothing issue.  They are right of course, and I will eventually get to that place, but not without a fight.  The fight is all internal, as much as I preach plan B and C, etc. to students in my workshops, I have my actual workshop formats down to a well oiled machine, and I’m  so much less flexible when wrenches are thrown into the works.  Remember, I suffer from the insecurity of “What if something goes wrong…”  At least I know ahead of time, and of course students can obtain the handout from my web store after the fact.  Still, I’m not accepting this whole situation with grace.  And I apologize for that.  I do know how to let go and get on with it, but first I need to sit on the proverbial pity pot and stew awhile.  And sometimes I want a friend to just say, yep, this sucks, and don’t you just hate when that happens?  I’ll figure it out, I always do, but having really solid perspective thrown at me (which is incidentally what I would be doing in the reverse situation) is only making me more cranky.

So, I spent the weekend weaving off  the companion piece of a diptych to replace the piece I was suppose to send to the faculty exhibit for Convergence.  The original piece was unexpectedly accepted to an exhibit at a gallery in New Bedford MA, and won’t be available.  To their credit, the committee graciously allowed me to substitute the same work in a different scale, since it will work with the image I had already submitted.

I leave tomorrow to teach a private workshop with two lovely women, both felters, we are spending four days in western Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains.  I’m looking forward to this trip, one of my favorite states is Virginia, my mom’s father’s family is all from Virginia, and I have wonderful memories of what a beautiful state it is.  And I look forward to applying some of my garment construction techniques to felt.

So today I pack, and try hard not to focus on a conference which is another six weeks away, there isn’t much I can do at this point but adjust, (and I arranged for a friend driving to the conference to bring me an extension cord).  My primary focus right now is my two students paying me for this workshop, and leaving my house in the care of my son and his National Guard buddies who seem to have taken up residence in my basement.  They are good kids, and with my very competent daughter, they should be able to hold things together until my husband’s return from Saudi Arabia at the end of the week.  The list of what they need to take care of and what to watch out for is going on two pages on a yellow legal pad…  They are already experiencing eye spasms from rolling their eyes too much…

*Excerpt from the song, I’m From New Jersey by John Gorka

I’m from New Jersey
I don’t expect too much
If the world ended today
I would adjust