Saturday, September 30, 2017

Holding Space; Beyond the Basics

Taking tapestry classes is one of my favorite things and Tommye Scanlon is one of my favorite tapestry weavers.  I admire her work and love having the opportunity to take another class with her.  The Triangle Weavers Guild brought Tommye in for a Beyond the Basics class.

The Triangle Fiber Arts Center is a great venue for classes. 

Happy tapestry weavers!

Friday, day one we discussed looms, warping and setting tips.

Tommye has dozens of woven samples to illustrate different techniques.

This sample was woven to demonstrate the use of blending with complementary colors.

Decreasing, increasing, hills and valleys oh my.

Saturday, day two involved specific techniques, attaching the cartoon and inking the warp.

Tommye talks about her design process.

One on one assistance with hands on by Tommye.

My yarns and sampling progress.  You may remember these yarns from here.  I dyed them ages ago for a project entitled Holding Space.  I have been waiting for a clear vision of how to weave this piece. My inspiration is the fabric scrap pictured below.

Holding Space is to walk along side someone, be present without judgement or one's own agenda or ego.  When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.
What is most amazing for me is that in August of 2016, my interest in holding space was related to a dear friend undergoing challenging treatment for cancer.  I wanted to be a support and not presume to know what were the right choices for her.
The yarns and fabric remained to be used and I continued to endeavor to hold space and be present for those struggling in my life.  December 2016 my sister had a tragic accident and endured three weeks of intensive care.  The opportunity to be present, make decisions against self interest and love unconditionally were abundant. Holding Space for my sister and then for myself after her death was all encompassing.  I am ready to weave this tapestry now.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Ode to Goldenrod

they rise in a stiff sweetness, in the pure peace of giving one's gold away.

~Mary Oliver

The scientific name for goldenrod is Solidago which means "to make whole."  This weekend involved experimentation with dyeing wool with freshly gathered goldenrod.

Norsk Fjord Fiber vevgarn Frid is imported from Hiilesvag Ullvarefabrikk, a fifth generation spinnery on the west coast of Norway.  This is my favorite yarn for tapestry.  It comes in multiple natural shades of natural grey and white, which made for fun dyeing possibilities. 

Dear hubs was alarmed when I explained my plan to gather goldenrod along the highway.  He decided adult supervision was required.

3.25 pounds of goldenrod.

After washing all the yarn in Synthrapol, I mordanted it.  Some in alum (4 tbsp in 4 gallons of water) and some in iron (2 tbsp in 4 gallons).  

After mordanting and rinsing the yarn the goldenrod was placed in a large enamel pot and covered with water.  The pot was brought to just under a boil (about 200 degrees) and simmered for one hour.  I removed the goldenrod and divided the liquid between two pots.  The iron mordanted yarn was placed in one pot and turned dark olive green immediately.  The alum mordanted yarn was placed in the other pot and began turning yellow.

The yarns to the far left were the iron mordant and all the yellows were the alum mordant.

All in all a successful experiment with goldenrod.  I tied some skeins before dyeing and played with ikat as well.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

BIC Report

I may need to explain a bit.  My sister, Janet and I made a commitment to one another.  It was over breakfast at First Watch in Deerfield Beach in August 2016.  We each had dreams that we were procrastinating pursuing.  Janet was a writer and as most writers had trouble dedicating time to write without distraction.  I am an aspiring tapestry weaver with exactly the same problem.

One of my favorite authors Anne Lamott when asked about waiting for inspiration said no writer waits for inspiration.  You sit down and do what it takes to "keep your big fabulous butt in the chair " and write.  I shared this with Janet and we decided to commit to being accountability partners, calling each other weekly with a butt in chair or BIC report.  Her goal was a writing submission and mine was to enter a tapestry in a juried show.

We faithfully did our BIC reports and reviewed the ways we kept ourselves from spending time writing and weaving.  We encouraged and chastised each other.  Janet died on January 17, 2017 and I spent a lot of time after her death reading her writing.  I read two of her poems at her memorial service. 

Time for me to do a BIC report.

Tonight I submitted my submission for a juried show.  artspace in Raleigh Fine Contemporary Craft call for submissions closes tomorrow.  I hold no illusions about my skills or experience as a tapestry weaver.  I am still learning and growing as an artist, but it is time to be bold.  Keep my butt in the chair, put my work out there and make my sister proud.

 My Artist Statement
I have had a life long love for all things fiber. Wool, silk and linen have been my medium and spinning wheels and looms my tools. I discovered tapestry weaving three years ago.

Almost immediately, wedge weave captured my attention. This ancient Navajo technique allows the weaver to transcend the vertical warp and horizontal weft by weaving on the diagonal. The distortion of the selvedges and the ability to allow the colors and shapes to develop intuitively at the loom appeal to me. It is a departure from the structured grid of life. Tapestry weaving is slow, meditative and an anchor in rough waters.

My Submissions

How Green is My Valley - Peters Valley
Tapestry Weaving

14" x 11" x 1.5"


Year Completed:

Primary Discipline:
Fiber Art

Art in Public Places:

This wedge weave tapestry serves as my touchstone for a wonderful week at Peters Valley School of Craft this summer. The verdant greens of the Delaware Water Gap, the ditch lilies, the rustic buildings and the bright red of a cardinal winging by. I fell in love with wedge weave and the valley.

American Rhetoric
Tapestry Weaving
14" x 6" x 1.5"
Year Completed:
Primary Discipline:
Fiber Art
Art in Public Places:
I have been overwhelmed by the American political scene, the distortion, the acrimony and fractured sense of who we are and where we are headed. Using the natural distortion of wedge weave tapestry and hand dyed and space dyed yarns helped me capture my discomfort.

The application required a cv, an artist statement  and photos.  All the info emphasizes professional photos.  Gulp, not in the budget.  Application completed, entry payment made.  Probably the most momentous part of this is referring to myself as an artist.  Moving forward and keeping my butt in the chair.
Copyright 2017 Western States Art Federation.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dyeing to Dye

Today was a beautiful North Carolina day, cool breezes, cloudless sky and sunshine.  Too beautiful to be inside weaving or doing chores.  A perfect day to fire up the indigo pot.  I purchased a huge lot of rug yarn on Ravelry with the intent to play with some natural dyes.
Nice natural wool
I also had some tapestry yarns in white, gray, yellow and a funky green.
The first two skeins are wrapped with plastic for an experiment in space dyeing.

I am pleased with the variety of greens and blues I achieved.
Fresh from the vat.

Not a total success, there was some bleeding under the plastic.

Ready to sample.  The intervals of wrapping were varied, more blue on the right.
Interesting striping in this sample wedge.
I am currently working on a design for my second wedge weave.  Deciding on the dimension is giving me pause right now.  I am more comfortable with the small format but want to go big.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Loving Wedge Weave

What I love about tapestry is the ability to put a thought, a feeling, an idea or the essence of something into a tangible and tactile (and yes, even textile) form.  I wanted to capture my week at Peters Valley in my first wedge weave.
The lushness of the vegetation, the rustic rambling nature of the buildings and the green, verdant nature of the place.
 How Green is My Valley
This tapestry was woven at 10 ends per inch on my Cactus Flower loom.  The warp is wool and the weft is also a two ply wool I hand dyed last year.
These are my wedge weave class samples from the week at Peters Valley with Connie Lippert.  I am loving wedge weave.  In the above samples I tried some different appproaches, mixing the wedges with plain weave and eccentric weave to see what would happen.
In How Green is My Valley I followed the diagonal path of traditional wedge weave.  You can see I am weaving diagonal stripes distorting the vertical orientation of the warp threads. 
As you can see this results in a scalloped selvedge.  This was probably why its use in Navajo rugs was short lived.  Straight selvedges were the hallmark of a proficient weaver.  I love the undulating edges.
Two excellent wedge weave resources are:

Peter Collingwood has a very good overview of the technique in his Techniques of Rug Weaving book, available via PDF here. Scroll to page 164:
Connie Lippert's article "Contemporary Interpretation of an Unusual Navajo Weaving Technique " is here
I thoroughly enjoyed weaving this piece and hope the verdant greens will take me back to my time at Peters Valley. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Peters Valley or Michiele's Big Adventure

Almost immediately after becoming interested in tapestry  I became fascinated with Wedge Weave and the work of Connie Lippert.  Despite Connie being from South Carolina I travelled to New Jersey to study with her.

Peters Valley  School of Craft is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation, founded in 1970 in partnership with the National Park Service to promote and encourage education and excellence in craft. 

I left North Carolina bright and early Thursday morning to travel to Sussex County NJ.  It was a pleasant drive through rural Virginia, Maryland and Pennslyvania.  The craft school is located in the Delaware River Water Gap and is beautiful.  The buildings are owned by the National Park Service and are quite rustic.

Greek House
Congleton House built in 1850 was my residence for the week along with five potters, a jewelry maker and two other weavers.

A beautifully decrepit barn.  I wanted to venture inside and explore but didn't have time.  Okay, kind of afraid of collapse as well.
The weaving studio was a short walk up a killer hill from the dorm.
The Macomber floor loom assigned to me for the week.  This lovely old lady almost stole my will to live  weave.

I wove some wedges, uttered some bad words and switched to my small Cactus Flower loom with Connie's  blessing.
My happy place!

Although, I didn't enjoy weaving tapestry on the floor loom I am glad to have tried it.  So many talented weavers such as Connie and Rebecca Mezoff weave tapestry on floor looms.  It was good to be "forced" to give tapestry on the floor a go and know for sure it does not suit me.  Here is a great blog post from Rebecca Mezoff on high warp (my favorite) and low warp tapestry loom weaving.

Connie offers some hands on instruction to Jessica, our studio assistant.

Donna's wedge weave in progress.

Benita's colorful wedges.

I love Joan's colors.
Our class projects.  Mine are the three little ones center left.

Classes at Peters Valley this week included pottery, metals, painting, blacksmithing and woodworking.  We had the opportunity on Saturday night to do a studio hop to check out the other students' work.  

The photography studio.

Shibori dyeing with indigo in the other fiber studio.
There were some amazingly talented artists.  There was also an auction on Monday.
The auction in progress.

Connie wove this in stolen moments during class and finished it minutes before the auction.  I was outbid but glad that it was highly valued.  One of the metals students was thrilled to have gotten it.

This is the view from the weaving studio.  I actually enjoyed winding yarn looking out the window at this scene.  There was an adorable beaver frolicking in the pond on Saturday night.

The rural setting of Peters Valley made the week so relaxed and enjoyable.  Communal meals and housing, being able to ditch the car and walk to meals and the studio added to my enjoyment.  I had made the decision to avoid news, social media and the internet before arriving.  Ahh!

Probably, the most amazing thing about my week at Peters Valley was meeting so many kindred spirits.  I arrived knowing no one and left five days later with several new friends.  My housemates, the wild potters, fellow weavers in my class and all the students and instructors I shared meals with all spoke different craft languages but had a shared passion.  Connections were effortless and pretty immediate.
If you are thinking about a craft school experience all I can say is Go!