Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stardust

Stardust by Bhakti Ziek, a permanent installation at Whitman College, Princeton University (photo by Ed Wendell)

I have been working on Stardust (a permanent installation at Whitman College, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ) since May 2013. It was installed March 19-20, 2014. There are six panels, each 16 feet high x 27.25 inches wide. They are handwoven weft-backed jacquards made out of silk, tencel, and metallic yarns.

It was an incredible year. One that called on me to use all the knowledge I have acquired over the years related to weaving and art, and still it pushed me to new territory and insights. I will write more about it soon (relatively soon) but for now you can see more images (photos by Ed Wendell) on my facebook page if you go to this link.


Princeton University commissioned a video on the making of Stardust. It was produced and edited by Michael Sacca. Click here to see.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Familiarity

New York City sky

I used to say that New York City is the only place where I know north, south, east and west. Just put me down somewhere in Manhattan and I can tell you where I am. I was born in Manhattan but raised on Long Island. My siblings and I knew that we didn’t belong there, and as we listened to our parents moan about life in that small town (whose edges blended seamlessly with all the other small towns on the south shore), we would encourage them to move back to the city. Maybe it was lack of courage, or maybe they really meant it when they said they had moved there for us—but it certainly didn’t make any sense since the schools were better in the city, the ease of attending cultural events couldn’t be argued, and the ability to have dim sum every day, or real Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, or any ethnic food was an important point. I guess riding your bicycle in the street was a plus for Long Island, but by the time I reached junior high I was taking two buses, and a subway almost every weekend to the city to attend a Broadway play with another friend whose parents had excelled her on Long Island.

Guggenheim Museum, NYC 
We were raised to understand that school meant kindergarten through college, and then we could move back to Manhattan. That is almost exactly what I did—with a few months in Europe before moving to the City. Until I was 42, I moved in and out of the city—thriving and excited until I would reach the point where I was reading the New York Times on a Sunday, mentally attending all the week’s activities, and then doing nothing. The four walls of my apartment would become my boundaries, and I would know it was time to move. The last time I left the city (this time from Brooklyn, not Manhattan) I went to graduate school. In a way it marked a change in my life because it opened up the possibilities of jobs with responsibility and creative outlets. It helped that my first full-time job was only two hours from New York City. That first year or two we drove there almost every weekend. I distinctly remember the evening we were stopped in a traffic jam trying to enter one of the bridges, and pulled over, singled out because our car had out of state plates. That $200 fine really hurt, and our trips to the city dropped off as we began to investigate Philadelphia.

33 Years! 
There have been lots of moves in my 33 years with Mark (anniversary next week), and now we are trying to figure out the next one. Just last week a friend looked at me with an extremely severe, stern expression on her face and reminded me that I have a beautiful house with lots of room (meaning studio space). Yes, I know she is right. But I can’t help thinking that we are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, me and Mark, locked together and trying to find the surrounding puzzle where we fit. You know how you have a puzzle piece that looks like it should fit in a space, and you move it around in every possible position trying to get it in, and you sort of can even squeeze it in, but you know it isn’t right. When the piece fits, it eases into place with an audible sigh of relief. We are looking for that ease.

Mark Goodwin's studio in Vermont 
In the last few years, now that we are back on the East Coast, we have had the chance to return to New York and Philadelphia, and a few other places we have called home, and just this week I returned from a fabulous two weeks in New Mexico, the last place we called home. What I have learned is that my compass has expanded. New York, Santa Fe, Philadelphia—each of these places is familiar. Walking their streets is like an embrace by someone you love. There is a constant nodding of recognition, an internal ahhhhh, the yes of knowing where you are and what is around the corner. Of course there are changes—and despite the economic woes of these times—those changes feel vital and good.

Love my Friends!
Returning to these familiar places has also shown me what a people person I am. I love my friends. I love sitting with them (in that Chinese buffet where the food is not really very good but where we feel comfortable to sit for hours and talk; or in their kitchen which is a new place for me but still feels known because of all their possessions moved from the old house to the new) and catching up on their children, or siblings, or mutual friends, or themselves. Names of people I have never thought of since the last time I sat with them bubble up in my consciousness and I can ask how they are, what they are doing, where they are. It isn’t just gossip, or chatter, it is taking a reckoning of position, it is settling into home.

Folk Art Museum, Santa Fe, NM 
Maybe once we leave this place, we will return and find the same sense of the familiar. Five years have brought many shifts in my feelings. This spring/summer/fall were so beautiful that I couldn’t help seeing and acknowledging how gorgeous the world is in this area. But the cold has started, my arthritis is acting up, the days are too short. The litany of reasons to move doesn’t evaporate, despite the almost equal list of reasons to stay. Another place has become familiar but it still doesn’t feel like home. We have enough energy to believe that we could be happier somewhere else, enough energy to pack again and jump off the cliff. We just don’t know where we will land. I came home from Santa Fe with the same reaction I had to Philadelphia-- we can return. We just don’t know if we will return.

New Mexico Sky

Friday, October 26, 2012

Consumerism


I don’t think of myself as a consumer, but I love to shop for some things. Groceries are top on my list. Did I write about this before? How I came home late one evening from two years living in Guatemala and Mexico and immediately went to the grocery store and walked up and down every aisle. I just starred at all the boxes of cereal, all the types of cookies, all the cheeses, and all the fruit and vegetables out of season for that area but available to purchase anyway. These days I don’t go up and down every aisle, in fact I never go past the boxed cereals or canned vegetables, but I still love going to the supermarket and slowly going through my list. I try to limit myself to a written list, but never manage to succeed. Besides the monthly bills that must get paid (like the mortgage), the grocery stores get most of my money. When times are rough, I ask Mark to do the shopping. He sticks to the list.

The other item on which I spend money is books. I used to buy textile related books. I have learned that if I see a book that looks good, I had better get it, because it won’t be there next time I look. The bookstores in Santa Fe always had something to tempt me. One memorable trip there, a fantastic bookstore was going out of business, and we flew home with armfuls of heavy art books. That was before the airlines started to charge for luggage. The books stay with us, from house to house, as we crisscross the country. They fill shelves in almost every room. Sometimes I don’t take one off the shelf for months, but when I do, it is like visiting an old friend.


 I go in cycles of topics. Indonesian textiles were high on my list for a while. In fact, almost any book on ethnographic textiles will catch my attention. These books are usually filled with lots of photos, and admittedly, I have looked at the pictures more than I have read the texts. I also like how-to books on weaving. No book has come close to Deborah Chandlers’ Beginning Weaving, one of the first books I owned, but that doesn’t stop me from buying all the ones that have come out since hers, explaining how to wind a warp, or set up a loom, or weave simple fabrics. There is this thing that comes over me when I find one of these books—I think it is called greed. I just have to have it. It’s as if my life will not be complete unless that book is put on my shelf. This hasn’t happened in Vermont because I have never seen a book on weaving that I don’t already own in any of the bookstores here.


 Lately cookbooks are calling to me. There used to be a Borders within a half hour of my house, and I would loose myself looking at all their cookbooks. Now I find I am creating quite a long wish list on Amazon; books on chocolate are piling up fast. I haven’t actually made any chocolates yet—but I am reading about them—and lusting after more books on them. Reading is definitely less fattening than making and eating, but I know that soon I am going to start…and then my list of needs will increase to molds, and dipping forks, and exotic ingredients. Cookbooks always seem to lead to purchases of kitchen tools.


 Desire is an interesting phenomenon. I can thumb through dozens of books and put them back on the shelf without a flicker of interest—but suddenly, when something catches my fancy, it seems like dozens of others are suddenly enticing. I have some control, so I whittle things down to one or two purchases, which then trigger a delayed action. Sooner or later I will be back to get the others. I have rationalized some of it. A book on weaving or cooking is something you return to again and again. It isn’t an item you can get from inter-library loan because you never are quite finished with it. Even if it isn’t a very good cookbook or textile book, still you might need to use it again in the future; and if it is a good cookbook or weaving book then you definitely will need to use it again. These are research items. Research is such a respectable word that allows me to indulge in consumerism. Mark thinks I should do some weavings based on cooking. Now that will really legitimize my research.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Master Weavers

Mark Goodwin deciding what to install next after hanging My Roof by Bhakti Ziek on back wall at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire.

I am currently in two concurrent exhibitions with Cyndy Barbone, Deborah Carlson and Fuyuko Matsubara. It surprises me that many people think we are showing the same work at both venues, since their dates overlap. So just to be clear, the makers are the same, the work is different. The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts is hosting Grand Tales of the Loom: Four Master Weavers until January 20, 2013; AVA Art Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire is hosting Affinity: Cyndy Barbone, Deborah Frazee Carlson, Fuyuko Matsubara and Bhakti Ziek from October 19 - November 16, 2012. Since we hung the AVA show on Saturday, I can post pictures from that installation in this post.

Margaret Jacobs, head of exhibitions at AVA Gallery (on ladder) and her assistant, Kayla Gilbert, did an amazing job hanging Fuyuko Matsubara's masterpiece, In the Earth 2, at AVA Gallery and Art Space, Lebanon, New Hampshire.

This is a good time for weaving and textiles in general. Material explorations have exploded and when one sees work using fiber materials in art galleries now it is just identified as art, not ghettoized as fiber art. Most of these artists will roam from media to media, as their ideas or fashion dictate, and I have no problem with this. Nor do I mind that many of them are reworking ideas that have been done before--though I do think it is sad that their education has not informed them of the artists who trod the path before them. And I do mind it when I read statements implying that they are the first ones to combine concepts with fiber materials--a blatant sign of ignorance and self-aggrandizement. On the other hand, one has to excuse some of their ignorance because many artists using fiber materials that express ideas have been excluded from major museums, galleries, exhibitions and catalogs just because they were using those materials.

Cyndy Barbone (left) and Deborah Carlson (right) photographing the installation at AVA Gallery and Art Space, Lebanon, New Hampshire with Cyndy's weaving on the left wall and Deborah's weaving on the wall between windows.

So I think it is a great thing that the walls seem to be coming down (okay, I am skeptical--just like when I think that women have come a long way since my youth, I realize how few women are in the senate or house of representatives or hold positions of real power, and I wonder if they will repeal the woman's right to vote after they take away her right to choose). And I think this is the time for all of us who have been working for years to make an effort to show. So naturally I am thrilled that I can be part of two strong shows happening right now. Thrilled because when I stand in front of the work of Cyndy, or Deborah, or Fuyuko I am reminded of why I love weaving (as a medium, not as a process). Of the awe I feel when I realize that they have patiently manipulated vertical and horizontal threads to create these personal, passionate narrative works that evoke place and spirit and light. I can get lost in front of each work in these shows, whether small in scale or large, mesmerized by their beauty and substance. 

Portrait by Cyndy Barbone (on display at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH) is woven with inlays of yarns of different densities creating a figure from degrees of transparency. 

And I realize that what I am looking at is the product of years of study, research, exploration and learning. Each of us has been weaving for more than thirty years. We bring knowledge of dyes and dyeing, materials, and weave structure to the table. Double weave or triple weave isn't used because it is complicated but because it is the right method to produce the elements needed for the ideas being expressed. The slowness of a process is not an end goal, but if the only way to produce the idea is slow, then that is the path that must be followed. The fact that I am using a computerized loom ("new technologies") is something I have grown into, from hand manipulated supplementary weft to weft-backed satin structures; it facilitates the making of my current work but it doesn't do the work for me. And our work is informed by the awareness of great works of art in textile form, from Coptic textiles to Safavid to Bauhaus to contemporary fiber art. We know we are the current practitioners of a long lineage of artists who have found their voice at the loom; a practice that dates back to centuries dated B.C. We want people to understand through our work that the expression of woven threads is sublime and spiritual.

Deborah Carlson's woven portrait of a memory, with its golden heart, and surrounding gold leaf will draw you into the room at the exhibition Affinity at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

Just like I have earned the right to use my Thread Controller loom, so all of us have earned the title of Master Weaver. We aren't the only ones. I can name a handful of amazing artists who are also master weavers and could easily be in the shows with us. So I hope this is just the beginning. That our work will travel, that there will be other shows with more people, other shows with more work to dazzle the eyes and entice the contemporary public to appreciate weaving as an art form.

Deborah Carlson's work on left of left wall; Bhakti Ziek's weaving Vowels to right of it; and Bhakti Ziek's My Roof on back wall--on view at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

Fuyuko Matsubara's weaving to the left; Cyndy Barbone's weavings are in the center and to the right--on view at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

If you want to read more about my thoughts, there is an interview with me on the Fuller Craft tumblr site. I don't remember sending it off with all the typos and misspellings and words that should be other words (like wave for weave), but maybe I did. So if you can overlook those things, you might find it interesting to read. Click here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Catch Up

Fall in Vermont
This fall is going so quickly that I am just going to play catch up and post briefly about several events. It has really been a beautiful fall, following a magical summer, so I have some hope for winter.

Four "Master Weavers" standing in front of Cyndy Barbone's work at top left with Cyndy second from left; standing in front of Deborah Carlson's work with Deborah at right; standing in front of Fuyuko Matsubara's work with Fuyuko second from right; and standing in front of Bhakti Ziek's work with Bhakti at left (photos by Cyndy Barbone).
The Fuller Craft Museum exhibition opened with a reception for the four "master weavers" (I love writing master weaver and really, we all have earned that title and deserve to be honored this way) on September 30th. It was a lively, well-attended event and the work of each of us shone on its own and worked in harmony with the other weavings. This exhibition will be on view through January 20th. On November 18th we will return and give artists' talks at 1 p.m. Here is a walk-through of the exhibition:

Top left is view from the entrance and top right is looking back to the entrance showing the title wall with work by Deborah Carlson and the side wall with work by Deborah Carlson; the middle left image shows the right wall with work by Bhakti Ziek; and the middle right image is the back wall with work by Fuyuko Matsubara; the bottom left image shows Cyndy Barbone's work which hangs on the left wall; and the bottom right image shows work by Deborah Carlson which is on the front wall.
Top left: Marianne McCann in front of her gypsy wagon and studio building; Top right: Holly Jennings at left, Marianne, Barbara Moon Boertzel and Harry Boertzel; Middle Left: Marianne in front of one of her paintings which she made for her mother but I always think she is talking to me; Center Top Right: lunch on Andy Wasserman's porch--Andy is on the right at the back, I am across from her; Center Bottom Right: Vermont view; Bottom Left: spur of the moment salad--yum; Bottom Right: Andy's chickens. 
A visit by Barbara Moon Boertzel and Harry Boertzel brought together a group of us who all know them from different times related to Cranbrook. We had a delicious Portuguese dinner their first night here made by Holly, Marianne and myself because we are all focusing on David Leite's The New Portuguese Table for this round of the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club. No pictures but good memories. Next day we visited Marianne and Andy. We had plans to go to Montpelier for lunch and drink Vermont beer but never got there. Instead we had a marvelous spontaneous lunch that was truly a feast at Andy's house. The stop at Marianne's reminded me that despite her M.F.A. (all the women at the lunch table have their M.F.A.s from Cranbrook) she is truly an original folk artist. If the right person from the outsider art world fan group discovered her, she would have a long list of people wanting her work.

Jennifer Moore from Santa Fe, NM standing in front of a table of her samples that she brought to the Vermont Weavers Guild workshop at the White River Craft Center.
Just this morning we took Jennifer Moore to the airport. She came to Randolph to teach a workshop on doubleweave for the Vermont Weavers Guild. I know Jennifer from Santa Fe, so was happy to spend evenings together catching up. You can see from the photo above that Jennifer loves color and knows how to use doubleweave in so many ways to bring color and structure together. If you want to know more about her work check out her excellent book, Doubleweave. And if you are a member of a guild or group that brings in people to teach workshops, you should definitely put her high on your list. I walked through her class yesterday morning and was so impressed by the energy coming from each loom.

In just a few weeks, the trees went from green to a myriad of color. To my eyes, the sumac is an especially vibrant red this year. I googled garlic and read that when the hills were a field of color, that was the time to plant the bulbs. So I did. Then heaped on leaves, which are falling fast. The color never lasts long enough, just like summer never stays quite as long as I want. But the beauty of each season seems particularly beautiful to me this year, and I am curious to see what Winter will bring. Meanwhile the fires in the wood stove, which have begun, seem more like a luxury than a necessity.

One of the last walks before all the leaves are gone.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Woven Pixel Goes to Handweaving.net

Front Cover of The Woven Pixel

The Woven Pixel: Designing for Jacquard and Dobby Looms Using Photoshop®, Alice Schlein and Bhakti Ziek, was first published in 2006 in physical form. It was a 362-page black & white book with accompanying compact disk; the CD included all of the major illustrations in color, and all of the more than 1400 weaves described in the book immediately loadable as Photoshop Pattern Presets. The book went through two print editions.

After all the physical copies were sold in 2010, the authors offered the book and CD contents as a digital download, at a reduced price. Sales of the digital download continued until the present time (2012).

In the original TWP, the authors were working with Photoshop CS2 and Elements 4. The Adobe software has gone through many versions since then, and as I write this, Photoshop CS6 and Elements 10 are being sold. The techniques described in the book remain mostly valid for these later versions, although the user may have to look for  different paths to achieve the same ends.

The original TWP contains lists of resources, some of which are sadly out of date.

The vast majority of the book, however, remains as valuable today as it was in 2006: chapters on jacquard history, jacquard design, weave structures used by jacquard and dobby weavers, and an extensive bibliography are among the many gems to be found here.

The authors are not inclined to undertake a major revision of TWP, but want to ensure that this important text remains available to the weaving community. Toward that end, we have made an arrangement with Kris Bruland at www.handweaving.net to offer the digital version of the book, minus the CD, as a free download. We are grateful to our many supporters who have invested in the print and digital versions of the book and CD; without them we couldn't have committed two years of our lives to the work. The original CD will not be included in the free version of the book, but will be available as a digital download at a cost of $100. Contact Bhakti Ziek (ziekgoodwin[at]gmail[dot]com) or Alice Schlein (aschlein[at]att[dot]net) for more information.

We hope you will agree that TWP was an important contribuion to the world of jacquard design and that  it will continue to inspire weavers and add to the spirit of sharing which  is a hallmark of the present-day weaving community.

Back cover of The Woven Pixel

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Repetitive Motions

This has been the summer of repetitive motions. You might leap to the conclusion that I am talking about weaving--the rhythmic throwing of the shuttle from one selvedge to the other, feet alternately depressing pedals--but I am talking about scraping paint off the house, painting on primer, painting the first coat of color, then painting the second coat. Of action that seems like it is going nowhere but suddenly a new view pops into focus. The last week or so it seems the house really is looking different.

Summer house work in Vermont
That's Mark's woodpile at the bottom, referencing the Green Mountains of Vermont. Stacking the wood started the summer work. After some attempts to avoid the house painting (successfully ignored for several years) we just bit the bullet and started scraping. What you can't see are all the clapboards Mark had to replace, or the rotting window frames he fixed, or that the steps are new and include a poured cement step. In other words, what he has done looks so good that you don't notice how much he has done. It's like that with art too.

Garlic from Tunbridge Hill Farm, Tunbridge, VT
It's like that with the garlic we have been peeling for the last month and will continue through October. I never realized that the bulbs I have purchased in the past, white and clean, had to be carefully peeled to remove the dirt in which they grew and the outer stained layers so that the customer could purchase the illusion of pristine bulbs. So, in exchange for our CSA share, we have put peeling garlic into our summer routine. Scrape, scrape, peel, peel. Read.

I am reading Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory. Recommended by a friend, it made my eyes sparkle from the very first sentence. I am trying to understand the myth of place, and this author, who addresses it, along with fascinating, meandering discussions that others might ignore but that he, happily, feels it necessary to explore in order to complete the idea he is addressing. Big old Victorian houses that need painting every year and garlic bulbs and local food are part of the landscape of Vermont. What parts of the illusion do I cherish and want to keep in my life? What parts seem like the DisneyWorld Pastoral Ride to me? It seems many of the places I have lived have strong identities ("Santa Fe" evokes a rich tapestry of images that are quite distinct from the equally rich tapestry of images evoked by the word "Vermont"). When I look at a map of the USA I realize that ideas of place keep me from considering many states as home. In fact, right now, I think the lack of a myth about another place is keeping us stationary.

Elin Noble and friends at her exhibition at Colo Colo
Stationary, not immobile. Just had a wonderful day with a friend driving down and back to New Bedford to see Elin Noble's inspiring exhibition at Colo Colo Gallery. These small marbled pictures are worlds within worlds, swirling energies of macro and microcosm, everything contained in nuances of black and white.

Garden Spirits by Lasse Antonsen at Slocum's River Reserve
We also got to visit the Slocum's River Reserve to see Lasse Antonsen's installation of Garden Spirits. Eeire forms, part tree, part insect, part alien figure, the installation is a wonderful start of a career change where Lasse has exchanged his curator's hat for that of an artist's. I am sure this multi-faceted creator is actually going to be many-headed continuing as writer, teacher, artist, explorer.

Amaral's in New Bedford, MA
What we didn't get to do was shop at Amaral's or walk the beach at Horseneck Beach--both priorities on the trip but proof that things are not in our control. However, I was able to get some Portuguese food items at Marketbasket--needed because the current Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club selection is David Leite's The New Portuguese Table. I made his green soup last night and it was delicious--perfect for these early fall days that seem colder than they are because they are in such close proximity to the glorious warmth of summer. You know I am not a cold weather aficianado, but I admit that I am ready to put away the scraper and pick up a shuttle, exchanging one repetitive motion for another.