Friday, May 23, 2008

Winged Rain

I am a member of a fiber arts group that meets twice a month, “God willing and the crick don’t rise.” We missed the last meeting due to sick kids, costume design for a play, a boyfriend leaving for a stint on a salmon boat, loss of a car due to a camping trip… However, we started the group in January, and have been meeting regularly since. We have enjoyed sharing our work which is quite diverse. I bring my tapestries, sewing projects for my daughter, my knitting, and my art quilt (on which I have stopped work, gotta get back to it). We have a clothing designer, Rose, and a dollmaker who does amazing embroidering, Susan (see her blog Threads of Inspiration). We also have Kate, who make amazing sculptures out of different media (felt, foam, …). And finally, Susan who makes all kinds of things in her shop. Check out her blog at the Dandelion Factory.

We meet and have great things to eat. Share some laughs and then help each other with feedback and encouragement on our various endeavors. Two months ago, we started giving assignments that you could do if you wanted. We threw a bunch of words in a hat, drew two, and then you were supposed to design and make something around that theme. The first time the words that came out of the hat were telephone and closeness. Not a theme that I wanted to wrap my threads around! If you want to see the results of this first go round, then check out Susan’s posting on the projects on her blog.

This time we threw more words in a big pot and drew two out. It is funny how diverse the words are, and that they can come out with such an interesting theme. Considering that the first time I had thrown in mud and laundry and some of the other words included geometry, pigs, box, and orange, that we should get out telephone and closeness, I find rather amazing (mathematics and probability aside). Anyway, two meetings ago, we drew words again, and this time winged and rain were drawn.

I decided I needed to get going on some tapestry weaving. The last time I threw together a small quilt without much finesse. This time I decided to spend a bit more time than the 3 hours I spent on the first assignment and put together something I liked. I first went very literal as is my usual mode in life and took a photo of a drop of rain on a chicken feather. Although the feather is quite beautiful in the daylight, it lacks the life in the photo and I didn’t think I could capture its iridescence in a tapestry.
My son suggested rain with wings, I wasn’t so sure about this theme for myself, but he really dove into that idea. Here is his rendition of winged rain.
I had mentioned seeing a beautiful scene of dark rain clouds juxtaposed against the spring green of our poplar trees. Ever the Rothko fan, my husband suggested a color field of green and dark grey. I have learned to appreciate Rothko over the last 12 years of our marriage, but I didn’t want to copy (which I know is something that all artists do to learn about their style and technique). I wanted to put my own spin on the color field idea. (Another interesting color field artist to check out is Blinky Palermo, a German artist who put bought lengths of fabric on stretchers. I saw his work at a MOMA color exhibit recently.)

I warped my loom, and decided the piece would be 4 inches high by as long as I could get it on my loom, which is an Archie Brennan lap loom. It turned out 9 inches was about what it could do. I selected a couple of spring greens of Silk and Ivory by Brown Paper Packages, and then a range of greys. I started weaving (after some time spent warping the loom and readying the warp with selvedge and thread). I looked out our window and drew a tree line, and then wove in the grey. I had a color study but no rain. I decided to put the rain in with glass beads, so I sewed those on with clear thread, and I finished the top selvedge last night and cut it from the loom. So here are the results. Looking at the photo, I still need to do a little more work with the beading, and then I have to figure out how to mount it. Any ideas? Now I need to get back to work on my sandpail project, which by the way, I have started weaving.

I have no idea how I will mount this piece. Then, in the last few days as we have been taking little fun trips with our kids, I have been looking at the sky and the tree line at different times of day and have decided to do a series of these tapestries. We'll see how they turn out.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Finally ready to weave...

I have finally finished my cartoon on vellum so that I am happy with it and I am finally ready to weave. I have been working on this idea for months. I thought I could just sketch something and be ready to go. It has been a real learning experience for me to find out that to get ready to weave would take so long. I found my first drawing had no depth and the shadows on the pail were not very realistic. After spending an afternoon outside in the afternoon light, and then two days off and on coloring on my vellum, I am finally happy with my drawing. I finished weaving my selvedge this morning, and I hope to start weaving today or tomorrow.

I should have ridden today, but it is very windy here. It is really hard to ride on a very windy day. The horses are likely to be spooky and not really willing to pay attention to you. I had a riding lesson with Mike Shaffer last week. It was an interesting experience. He had me start working with Oliver in a small circle and to have him walk and trot in a small circle. Mike is like the horse whisperer of the dressage world. He believes that you can’t put a frame on a horse and move them into the bit, but that you need to let the horse discover that frame themselves by carrying you in a small circle and help them to find where their head should be carried, then let them move their heads around. Then, bring their frame back to the correct head carriage, and then let them go, so that it is a fairly quick process. The horses quickly discover that the collected mode in which you want them to go is the most comfortable for them. It does mean that you have to start with the basics and master them before moving on. Therefore it takes patience, but it is supposed to pay off with a happy horse that can quickly learn the upper movements of dressage quickly. I guess we’ll see. Now I need to get back to weaving…

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Another longterm project finished...

After learning to weave a tapestry four years ago while my daughter was an infant, I have finally finished the series of tapestries that I began. I started with a sampler, and then I moved on to a series of persimmons. I had taken a photograph of five persimmons in various stages of ripening. I had first thought I would knit a sweater based on the photograph, but then when I saw Joan Griffin’s class on tapestry weaving I got other ideas. I took a series of lessons from her, and then I embarked on a process of weaving these persimmons. At first I thought I would weave five of the persimmons in various phases of ripening. But, I wove my first and it was rather more like a diamond than a circle, and had poor color representation. So, I began again. The second persimmon was better, but I still was not happy. I began a third tapestry, but this time I worked on the yellow or golden persimmon. I was finally happy with my result. Next, I wove yet another green persimmon. Finally, I wove an orange persimmon. I did end up weaving five persimmons, but was only happy with three of them.

So, here I am with three very traditional 5X5” tapestries. My husband and I like modern art. What am I going to do with these tapestries? I had a few ideas: build multi-layer shadow boxes out of wood and stain them a light green, or mount them with painted canvasses. My fiber arts group liked the last idea. So, I have spent the last two weeks painting canvasses. Yesterday, I joined them altogether and hung the piece. My husband likes it. Earth colors are not his favorite pallet, and after painting and weaving for the last four years, I have changed the pallet in which I work. So, I now tend to work with brighter colors. However, that said, I still think the piece turned out pretty well. And of course, the next piece I am working on, the sandpail in the sand box has a lot of gold in it, but it also has purple, red and pink.

Anyway, I am really happy to have these pieces finished and mounted. Now, I feel like I can move on to other subjects. But now that I have said that, I still have two persimmon pieces to finish. I started a triptych with one weaving of a green persimmon, one small quilt piece, and then a paper collage piece. I mounted them but then when I saw them altogether, I decided that I did not like the paper collage piece. I decided to embroider a green persimmon to replace the paper one. So, now I am in the midst of embroidering yet another persimmon. Finally, I have a painting with persimmons hanging from a branch that I need to finish. After these two pieces are done, I WILL BE DONE WITH MY PERSIMMON PERIOD. Yeah!

I haven’t been able to ride for two days. My silly horse has a tendency to roll into fences. For some silly reason, he lays down to close to the fence, rolls over and gets his legs stuck. Low and behold, he came in yesterday morning with two huge scrapes on his leg and with it swollen. He had rolled into the fence during the night. It seems after doing this 3 or 4 times and really scraping up his leg he would figure it out. My husband just laughed and said, “well, I always thought horses were a little dull…”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Finishing up projects....

I have been trying to finish up a lot of projects that have been dragging on too long. I first have to give you background on this first project that I recently finished.

My mother was always sewing or knitting something. It used to drive my father crazy, "Click, clack, click, clack...all that clicking drives me nuts". Of course this statement came just after he was forced to give up his 3 pack a day smoking habit after suffering a massive heart attack. So, I think my mother's clicking needles normally didn't bother him, but, his 3 pack a day cigarette habit had turned into a nervous 5 pack a day Dentyne habit. My mother continued to knit, sew, and at the age of 65 decided to learn to quilt. In the last two years of her life, her arthritic hands prevented her from sewing and knitting, but she still loved to do handwork. I had decided to try and make this as my first quilt project. I thought it looked pretty easy. After cutting out the first few squares I was flagging in my efforts. Then, my sister suggested that my mother needed a project: enter the quilt square cutting project. Over the next few months, my mother started cutting up blue jeans gathered from my husband, my sister, my brother-in-law, my father, our neighbors and friends. My father passed away at age 87 and then my mother’s health continued to decline. After a two week hospital stay, she was told she either had to move in with me or my sister or move into a nursing home. My sister brought our mother to live with my family under hospice care. She continued to cut squares every day. Then, one day she seemed really driven and cut out 60 squares. The next day she lapsed into a coma, and died two days later at the age of 83.

This quilt was such a wonderful gift from my mother to her young grandson. After 4 years, I have finally finished sewing together the squares for this quilt. My son is very pleased with it. Now, after finally finishing this quilt, I made a discovery about myself. Traditional quilting is not for me! Lining up all those squares made me crazy, but I am pleased with the result and it is a great heirloom for my son It is a blanket of love as a last gift from my mother to me and to my son.