Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Reflections not Resolutions

New Year's Day is a natural time for reviewing the past year and thinking ahead.  2018 was an interesting year.  In looking back at my tapestries, I was not as prolific as I wished but had some successes and lots of wonderful opportunities for inspiration.  My current inspiration is arising from reading Connie Lippert's book.

The following quote from Martha Stanley really resonated with me as it did with Connie. "Time working in the same technique is always well spent, it teaches me as I push it in newer directions, trying to get closer to the core of what it can really do.  Look carefully for the parts of weaving that are trying to choose you."

I have written previously about my inexplicable attraction to wedge weave.  This is part of my artist statement.

"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. "

The two pieces from last year that brought the most satisfaction in the process and product were both wedge weave with hand dyed yarns.
A Joyful Noise
Night Chant
Even playing with natural dyes and wedge weave with less than satisfactory results is enjoyable and rich with lessons.
What's a Madder You?

This piece resulted from a natural dye class at SAFF with Jackie Ottino.  We dyed Cormo with madder using different modifiers.  This was a small sample for a larger piece that will never come to fruition.  What I had envisioned with bright reds and purple became muted pinks and lavender due to iron in the mountain water we used.  Also cormo is lovely for knitting and spinning but not for tapestry weaving, it is simply too soft.

2019, I am going to work on some larger pieces, using the Zeus.  First I will finish this.  Starting with a little unweaving.  

There will also be more of these in the next year.  2018 included a fun class with Ruth Manning and these characters resulted.

Won't You Be My Neighbor ?
An old fashion selfie taken with my young kiddos in a photo booth at Crabtree Valley mall shortly after our move to Cary.  The fortune from a cookie from lunch that day.

Weave on into 2019 with health and grace my friends!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Silvia Heyden: Tapestries

A wonderful exhibition of Silvia Heyden's work opened Tuesday night at the Betty Ray McCain Gallery  This gallery is part of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh.  What a joy to see these tapestries in person.

The exhibition was curated by Lee Hansley and a talk was presented by Silvia's daughter, Francoise Heyden.

Francoise discusses Silvia's last two tapestries.
From Above
Francoise named this tapestry, she explained that Silvia loved to fly and especially enjoyed the view of the clouds from above.

A Weaverly Path

This was Silvia's last tapestry and was cut off the loom after her death by her family.  
Francoise lovingly talked about her mother sitting at the loom staring at this tapestry without the physical strength to engage the treadles and complete the weaving.  The detail below shows the butterflies of yarn and how close to completion it was.

Detail - A Weaverly Path
The opportunity to view this work up close after viewing book illustrations and digital photos was so meaningful to me.  I so admire the tapestries and Silvia's "weaverly"  view of the world.

Greek Wave

Berea Sunset
Detail - Berea Sunset

This detail of the bottom of one of the tapestries illustrates Silvia's feather weave technique.  I submitted my entries for the ATA's Beyond the Edge on Monday.  Silvia's work is a prime example of breaking the "rules" of tapestry and creating distinctive edges.

After the Storm

Eno in Motion

Francoise stressed her mother's emphasis on movement in tapestry.  Silvia said about her work "In my decades at the loom, I have never copied images, but rather have sought to let the patterns emerge organically as dictated by the process of weaving.  Instead of superimposing a form to be woven on the weft, I have always looked with my 'loomish' eyes to see what the weft and warp would allow me to execute."

I know I will be going to see these tapestries a few more times.  Let me know if you want to come along.  I have the documentary and Silvia's book but seeing the work up close brought tears to my eyes.  Thank you Silvia and family for this opportunity.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Recombobulation Zone

My favorite thing in the world is taking tapestry classes.  It is the jammiest of my jam!  I kept stalking Ruth Manning's website to find her woven faces class.  Last May, I gave up waiting for Ruth to come south and signed up for her class at Lost Art Fiber Studio in Wisconsin.  I am so glad I did.

Last Thursday I flew into Milwaukee and drove to Waukesha.  It is a lovely little town on the Fox river.

Friday, we started class with looking at Ruth's work and enjoying freshly baked pumpkin scones and coffee Nancy lovingly provided.

Ruth's work reflects a joy and vibrancy that I love and of course her use of wedge weave with traditional techniques drew me right in.

Ruth brought an amazing variety of colors and textures for us to work with and got us started on our woven faces.

She demonstrated various techniques and because the class was small, provided lots of personal attention.

Not having a drawing or art background, I had trouble with proportion.   The upper left pic shows my fellow with way to much girth, he would have looked like the incredible hulk.  In the bottom pic, the little bit of arm gives more definition to the body.  A helpful suggestion from a classmate.

Day three, the scones were orange and almond and the coffee was plentiful.   We worked on our eyes and hair.  Such delightful characters showed up!

I love this sign just past the screening checkpost at the Milwaukee airport!  I am home and so thankful to have had this opportunity.  Ruth is a knowledgeable and generous teacher and Nancy Wilson a terrific host.  The other students were so much fun, who knew Wisconsin people are so nice.

Thursday, August 16, 2018


While camping last weekend at Parker's Creek we had a beautiful site right on the lake, a terrific climbing log and lots of cool mushrooms.  Riley and I tromped through the woods collecting all the different kinds of mushrooms we could find.  It was great fun, smelly slimy but fun.

I dutifully did research for the proper methods, there are many sites about dyeing wool with mushrooms.
  • I placed my chopped up mushrooms into jars, filled the jars with water and let them "steep" in the sun for two days.
  • Strained the extremely slimy and smelly mushrooms and placed them in cheesecloth. 
  • Scoured and mordanted 40 grams of wool yarn.
  • Brought mushroom/ yarn up to 170 degrees and held it for one hour.
  • Soaked overnight and VOILA!

Five of the most uninspiring shades of beige yarn ever produced.
Bonus, it smelled so bad even after multiple washings... I threw it out!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Night Chant

It is a challenge to describe this tapestry's path from conception to fruition.  It started with the fabric scrap pictured below and dyeing yarns in a gradient to match.

The concept was holding space, also known as "suspended self importance" or it isn't all about me.  Being present without judgement or control and offering unconditional love and support. 

I sampled for this tapestry and lined up my yarns.  The original gradient plus black, some deep purple and purple and silver glitz.

I checked for value below using grayscale.  Thank you Tommye Scanlon

Finally began the weaving on July 8th at Arrowmont. 

Most of my family and friends know of my interest in all things Navajo, especially weaving related.  I was scheduled to attend a class at Arrowmont  this summer but unfortunately the Navajo weaving class had to be cancelled.  I'd read all of the Hillerman books over the last few months and enjoyed not only  the mysteries but also all the information related to life on and off the reservation.

Some of the most interesting information was about the religous ceremonies.  Especially the Night Chant.  This is a nine day ceremony, involving the whole family and community coming together to contribute to the healing and or restoration of balance to loved one.  The cermony is complex, involving multiple dances, sand painting, chants and more.  This is just a few verses of the poem.

Dark cloud is at the door.

The trail out of it is dark cloud.
The zigzag lightning stands high upon it.
An offering I make.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
Restore my voice for me.
This very day take out your spell for me.

As I read about the Night Chant I thought of dozens of people coming together, putting their lives on hold for nine days to dance, sing, chant and pray another into health and balance.  Holding Space Navajo style.

I finished this tapestry on August 3, 2018.  It was woven at 10 epi with hand dyed Frid on my C. Cactus Flower loom.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Arrowmont Day Two

I cannot say enough good things about this place.  Although it was a scramble to arrange for our alternate class, everything is going beautifully.  The staff is amazingly responsive and the weaving studio is spacious and well equipped.  Today we tackled ikat.  This is a resist dyeing technique where the yarns used for weaving are wrapped in areas to resist the dye such as pictured below.

See these wrapped little bundles almost ready for the dye pot.

Sasha going over acid dye basics.

Below Sasha demonstrates untying the yarn bundles to begin weaving.

This is Katsuri, an even more labor intensive method of dyeing.  Sasha is wrapping yarn precisely over a comma.  Then you mark the fabric so the image of the comma is covered with the resist tape.

Below is my sample weaving as I practice weaving with my ikat dyed yarns.

Day two at Arrowmont  is done.  Tomorrow we will begin weaving larger peices, putting into practice the tecniques learned today.  Sometimes life brings you surprises that are just what you need.  Learning these ikat techniques from Sasha is actually more applicable to my tapestry practice than the Navajo class would have been.  Go figure!


It is surprising that I haven't posted in a month, but I have not been idle.  My tapestry weaving of late has been more about process and play than product.
I had such fun with the dye experiments chronicled a few posts ago.

 I am not in love with the tapestry that resulted.  But I achieved the goal of using texture in wedge weave with mixed fibers all dyed in the same fustic pot.

I love rusty stuff so added this rusted tin sun.  This is aptly titled "Good Day Sunshine."  My tapestry "A Joyful Noise " is in Reno at Convergence.  What I am most pleased with is the vibrant color from my natural dyeing efforts.

I also did a small Navajo sampler last week to get ready for my class at Arrowmont .  Unfortunately the instructor had a medical emergency and could not teach the Navajo class as scheduled.  Arrowmont scrambled to replace the class with one on Ikat in weft faced weaving with Sasha Baskin.

Sasha is an artist in residence and a talented textile artist.  My favorite type of instructor as well, knowledgeable , organized and encouraging .  We have a small class of six women.  Many of them were new to tapestry but Sasha had them weaving with a completed sampler tonight.

Tomorrow, ikat dyeing!  Least you think it is all good food and giggles...we work hard here at Arrowmont.   See below!