Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Elizabeth Billings at Fleming Museum

Exhibition of work by Elizabeth Billings at Fleming Museum

Today I drove up to Burlington with Elizabeth Billings to see her show, The Ties That Bind, at the Fleming Museum, and to hear her give a public talk about her work. The show is up until October 4th and if you are in the area, you really must go see it. Liz is a person with true integrity, and her talk poignantly shared experiences that have helped her shape a life for herself and her family that honors and extends generations of principles connected to and respectful of nature.

Elizabeth Billings at the exhibition of her work

Liz's work often incorporates poetry, or meaningful language. In a series of "handtowels" called Handprint Series, she incorporated one-line entries from a diary written between 1850 - 1865 by Harriet Warren Vail. These pithy remarks ("just the facts, ma'am") capture a busy life, by necessity in tune with the seasons, but also they show us an awareness appreciative of the changes of the elements. It is wonderful to discover the diary on display along with Billings' work at the Fleming.

Diary of Harriet Warren Vail

Part of the Handprint Series by Elizabeth Billings

On opposing walls, you can see two of Liz's monumental pieces, Wall of Ancestors, done in the late '80's, and a Sapling piece, done this year. Before anyone was doing or talking about woven shibori, Liz was gathering areas of her work to create texture. She takes strip weaving to a new dimension, using the repetition of ikatted skulls, to remind us of the generations that came before us.

Wall of Ancestors by Elizabeth Billings

detail of Wall of Ancestors by Elizabeth Billings

In many of her public art pieces, Liz has removed bark from saplings and branches, making magnified ikat threads out of the wood. The beauty of her newest work, with the organic flow of the branches contrasting the delineated line of the bark that remains (the resisted area of an ikat thread), and the scale of the work, which fills an entire museum wall, is not given justice in my photograph below.

Sapling sculpture by Elizabeth Billings

It was a beautiful day in Vermont, and Liz's thoughtful talk made me really aware of the beauty around me as I sat on my porch when I got home, rocking, enjoying the warmth, and the light, and the smell of freshly mowed grass, and even the little bugs swarming and biting. Just in case you think I am having too much fun, not enough work, I did finish my own "ties that bind" and wound the new warp back on the TC-1. Much to my relief, it wasn't just three yards, but 6 yards in length. I bought this silk, 60/2 (I think, but maybe it is 20/2--I will have to search my files), from Redfish at the Surface Design Conference in 2007, and wound the warp in Arizona in the spring of 2008, before we moved to Vermont. Tomorrow I will have to see if I have those crossed threads that have been worrying me the whole time I was tying knots, or not. I hope it is "or not."

Silk warp wound back on TC-1--waiting to discover if threads are crossed or not

Here is an image of the view in front me on the road home from Tunbridge Hill Farm on Monday, when I went to get my farm share. Being part of a CSF is one of the highlights of summer in Vermont. This is our second year participating, and it just gets better. You can see the fresh garlic and radishes that were part of this week's share.

Cows moving from one pasture to another

Produce from Tunbridge Hill Farm, Tunbridge, VT


  1. A new wrinkle in CSF (sometimes called CSA--community supported agricultures) is CSA shares for hand-spinners. I'm eagerly awaiting my this year's Coopworth roving from Hatchtown Farm in Maine. I love the CSF/CSA concept.

  2. Suzanne StritzlerJuly 29, 2009 at 12:15 AM

    I've seen Liz's show and really wanted to go to the talk (not least because I thought you'd be there!). My son had already been dragged around all morning following other people's agendas, so it was a no-go. So sorry I missed it, and you.
    It seems everywhere I go lately I run into Liz's work. l had to go to the state tax offices a few weeks ago and was surprised to find a piece of hers there too.
    Your jam looks great! I'd better get picking!