Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Report on Road Trip -- Part III

Beautiful Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. was showing all its beauty last week, and I was thrilled to have a strong fix of urban energy. One stop was to see the work of Ford/Forlano who were exhibiting their incredible jewelry in a small show downtown. I might not wear jewelry myself, but I am always inspired by the creativity of Steve and David. We also stopped by Hemphill Fine Arts to see the current exhibition and catch up with one of the directors, Mary Early, whom I met in Vermont recently. Mary's sculptures were featured in the January/February 2011 issue of Sculpture Magazine. Next time I am in D.C. I will definitely make time to visit her studio.

I was very concerned about the potential government shut-down (not just because it proved that politicians think life is a reality TV show and the public so stupid that they can't see through their cliff-hanging-wait-to-the-last-minute shenanigans) but because I really wanted to get to the Hirshhorn Museum to see the Blinky Palermo exhibition, and of course all the Smithsonian Museums would all be closed if the government was shut down. Mark has mentioned Palermo to me for many years, and he particularly wanted me to see the work shown in the image below (which I found on the web since I wasn't allowed to photograph in the exhibition itself). When I walked into the room I thought they were paintings, but in fact they are dyed cloth impeccably sewn together so you hardly notice the seam lines. Beautiful nuanced use of color, and a very innovative way to paint back in the late '60s. Even today it would be considered innovative (in any other world except the textile world). Another contemporary artist who works with fabric but is not defining himself in terms of textiles is Sergej Jensen.

Fabric paintings by Blinky Palermo

One of the things that really delighted me about the Palermo exhibition was that they gave the work the space it needed. In one room, there were four small cubes of color attached to a corner, two on either side of the wall joint. That was it. It just thrills me to see work displayed like this. On my way home, I stopped for lunch in Philadelphia with my friends Michelle Liao, Meg Richter, and John Struble. We had a delicious beet salad in Michelle and John's loft, which is above Michelle's store, the Liao Collection. It also happens to be blocks from Chinatown. So I was impressed that I enjoyed the salad so much (so much that I made it for Mark's birthday a few days later) that I didn't kick and scream about not having dim sum with them. Maybe it was because hanging out in that loft is like going to the museum--there is nothing redundant or frivolous in the space. Every object is perfect, and they are placed so the whole is about air and light and beautiful energy. I love these three people so much that I could weep every time I think about leaving Philadelphia and our weekly dinners together. What is incredible though is that life has brought important changes to all of us, but the heart connection is still so strong and vibrant. A trip back to Philadelphia is definitely in the works.

Philadelphia Friends: Meg Richter on left, Michelle Liao in center, John Struble on right

I drove from Philadelphia to Greenwich, NY without problems--but arrived at my friends Cyndy Barbone and John Golde's home in the dark. I must have driven up and down the same stretch of road six times before I finally parked my car in someone's driveway and got out to try and find a house number. I found one four houses down from my car--and when I counted back, it turns out I had pulled into their driveway. Cyndy is an amazing weaver. She usually makes narrative panels that add up to a story about light and spirit. A visit to her studio the next morning showed some of those, as well as fabric being woven on her loom that will become a winter coat. Since Cyndy has visited us in Vermont a couple of times, I was so glad to reciprocate and see her place. It is really rather close, so I imagine we will see more of them this summer.

Cyndy Barbone with her weaving and Peanut on the left;
work in progress and sample woven and shrunk on the right

So that pretty much covers my amazing, energy-filled trip to Maryland/D.C. area. While I think about it, I want to mention a book I just finished: Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton. It is not the art world that I know. In fact, I doubt if anyone I know on a day to day basis is part of this art world--but it is a world that influences all of us, and perhaps what we aspire to (sort of). It describes a type of collected work that is beyond my sense of ambition. I keep thinking, how could I possibly return to the loom and make new work if one of my pieces sold in auction for 2.5 million dollars yesterday? I would be paralyzed with doubt. It would be out of all proportion to the sense of exploration that I need when I go in the studio. In order to work, I have to allow myself to fail, but if I had those kinds of expectations surrounding my work, I would certainly fail because I couldn't start. That said, I am excited that one of my most ambitious weavings is going to be on exhibit in Barre, Vermont at Studio Arts Place. I am not sure where it was seen, but someone who saw the piece on line (I think) suggested to the director that this work would fit the theme Refuge. I liked the idea, not just because the weaving forms an enclosure, but because it also has references to the Buddhist Wheel of Life and has an image of the sleeping buddha on one of the panels. Buddhists often "take refuge in the Budhha, the Dharma, and the Sangha." My weaving, Wheel of Life: The Passing on of Knowledge will be on view from April 26th to June 4th.

Exterior Views of Wheel of Life: The Passing on of Knowledge by Bhakti Ziek

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Report on Road Trip--Part II


Friday afternoon, after the study group left, Chris Spangler and I went into D.C. to the Textile Museum. They were just mounting their exhibition Green, so we couldn't see everything, but we did manage to get glimpses. One work in the exhibition is a Safavid embroidery dated 16th/17th century that I feel is an old friend. I first saw it in a show that originated at that museum called Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart, curated by Carol Biers. I used to give a slide lecture on Safavid textiles, and always included this delightful narrative about Yusuf and Zulaykha. Another piece we enjoyed seeing was a woven leaf by Emily DuBois. I like that the show is a mix of contemporary and historical textiles.

The next morning I gave a talk on my work to The Potomac Fiber Arts Guild. With the names of people I had met the day before fresh in my mind, my sister Robin in the audience, and several people that I have met before also in the audience, I immediately felt rapport with this group. They were very receptive to my stories, and afterwards, honestly, I felt high with excitement and appreciation. One of the people who came up afterwards to introduce themselves was Claudia Segal, shown below with me. Claudia is one of the co-founders of Weavolution, an online gathering place and forum for textiles. My co-author of The Woven Pixel, Alice Schlein, did an online class for them recently. It looks like it will become an important resource for our field, and maybe in the future Claudia and I will figure out something interesting for me to offer on their site.

Don't you think the picture below is interesting? It looks like I have a halo--only it is rectangular instead of circular. Now what does that mean?

Bhakti Ziek (left) and Claudia Segal (right) of Weavolution

I taught two classes for the Potomac Guild. Saturday was an afternoon workshop on using Photoshop for fiber design. Instead of focusing on weaving, I introduced some skills that could be used by anyone in terms of imagery and various fiber processes. We covered making repeats, and modifying colors, and some basic tools and filters. Even though there were many different programs in use (various versions of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, as well as Mac versus PC) we mostly managed to stay on the same page.

Dinner with Chris and Ann Sanderoff-Walker was not only wonderful because it was authentic Indian food (and I had the most delicious masala dosa), but because Ann and I had spent days together in Santa Fe in 2006 in a workshop that I taught that was the model for the workshop that I was giving for the next two days. Ann has many skills (sewer, weaver, quilter) and this trip I was happy to see her work in several places.

I didn't get any photographs of the Photoshop workshop, but I did take a few during the two day workshop on design for fibers. There were 21 people in the workshop, and they were all bright spirited, confident and engaged--so it was easy to learn and remember their names. We did a number of exercises, though I felt they were already had strong bases to their work and probably the workshop was more about community and the fun of working side by side than any profound insights into making work. We did spend a significant part of the workshop looking and discussing work by each participant. Again, I was struck by the ability of these women to talk about the work in ways that were helpful to each other, focusing on questions that were asked, and giving serious consideration to their answers. To me, this is what a gathering should be about. It is why I still feel so close to my graduate school colleagues. I do hope some of the people in this group will continue to gather for kind, serious discussions of work, that encourage and help each other to grow as expressive artists.

Workshop participants from the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild.
In the center is a compilation of two exercises done in the workshop.

At the end of the day, my sister Robin Ziek, who happens to work in Rockville (check out the Catalog of Historic Buildings she created for the City of Rockville), where the workshop took place, met me and took me to her house. She has the ideal urban farm. Five acres with sheep and chickens and just at the end of the road is bumper to bumper traffic heading here and there. It was great to have a few days with my sister and her family. I will complete this travelog soon.

Robin Ziek with her dog Cody

Robin's sheep

Monday, April 18, 2011

Report on Road Trip--Part I

Myra Serrins in her studio
Natural Dyes 1 by Bhakti Ziek on left
Woven Dyed Piece by Myra Serrins on right

My road trip to Maryland/Washington DC area was so chock full of experiences that I will have to report on it in several posts. I stopped the first night with my friends Myra and Marty--just in time to go to Myra's yoga class. She is the teacher--and a really good one too. I didn't like yoga when I did it in the 70s, and I didn't like it recently when I tried a class here, but I actually enjoyed working with Myra. It definitely felt like the perfect antidote to hours of sitting in the car. I was pleased to see a couple of my weavings hanging in their house. Natural Dyes 1 is shown above, left. I wove it in New Mexico, and the warp was ikat dyed using natural dyes. Myra is a serious committed artist (my favorite type) who works in several medium, including weaving. I love the depth of black in her weaving on the right. If you click on the image it will open in a separate window and you can see the details of it better.

Blossoms Two Ways

I left piles of snow and no traffic, but the snow was gone by lower Vermont. By the time I reached Webs in north central Massachusetts my hands hurt from gripping the steering wheel with tension. I tried to remember Mark's suggestion--just stay in your lane and you will be okay. You would never know from my fear of traffic that I am a New Yorker. The first day was the worst--then I calmed down. (And I did manage to make it home safely, so I guess everything in terms of driving went well.) The trees had fresh small leaves in Massachusetts, there was green grass in upper New Jersey, and flowering trees in Maryland. I had to go and meet Spring, since she hasn't shown up here yet.

Since I mentioned Webs, I might as well tell you that I was so disappointed with the yarn that is available for weavers these days. I needed some black novelty yarn, a boucle or something like that, and they had one shelf with some variegated yarn on cones, and nothing else. I ended up buying a few balls of expensive knitting yarn to try it, but....I really miss Irene and Cooper Kenworthy in Providence.

Tied-Weave Study Group on left
Chris Spangler, Lanna Ray and Caroline Harlow on the right

Chris Spangler and her husband were my next hosts. A group of fantastic weavers were meeting at her house on Friday for their Tied-Weave Study Group. I don't think that is the actual name, but this year they are studying Tied-Weaves. Bonnie Inouye (second from left on sofa) was the moderator. I can name all of the people (Joyce Keister, Bonnie Inouye, Mary Pflueger, and Janet Stollnitz are on the sofa, left to right; Lanna Ray, Fern Grapin, Anna Byrd Mays, Chris Spangler, Caroline Harlow, and Larry Novak are standing, left to right) and I am sure if you are a weaver you know many of them too. If you click HERE you will go to the Potomac Fiber Arts Gallery Members' Page, and you can see work by Joyce, Janet and Larry and many of the other people who took my workshops this week.

Everyone brought food (you know how I love pot lucks) and I was entranced by Lanna's asparagus tart. It was a Martha Stewart recipe so of course it was beautiful. She shared the recipe and I am going to make it tomorrow for Mark's birthday.

Chris Spanger at her TC-1
Weaving by Chris Spangler with detail at the bottom

Chris has a TC-1 loom like mine, except she has six modules so she can weave at 45 epi at full loom width (28"). When she upgraded from four to six modules, she also purchased the new vacuum pump which has the capacity of running eight modules. She has both the vacuum and the air compressor in her garage, so weaving is much quieter than my set up. When I arrived, we photographed her recent weaving (shown above on the right, with a detail at the bottom) so I had the image on my camera to share with you. It is really beautiful. I don't have the exact measurements but I think it is about 7 feet high. The detail shows you how she pixelated the image so close up it is very abstract but from a distance it focuses into a landscape. She wove double weave with four wefts and has enormous color variation and nuance in the work. Chris has a new blog, and you can go to it by clicking HERE.

I have been very lucky in my ownership of a TC-1 loom, and now I am even luckier, because Chris had her former vacuum pump in the hallway and wanted to get rid of it. She offered it outright, but I felt an exchange was necessary--so she now owns one of my small weavings and I now own two vacuum pumps. That means I am one giant step closer to being able to upgrade my loom to more modules. If you want to learn more about the history of the TC-1, click HERE to go to a recent entry on the TC-2 Blog.

So I had a very auspicious beginning of my trip and when I went to give my lecture and teach the first workshop the next day for The Potomac Fiber Arts Guild, I already knew the names of 8 participants.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Kitchen Stripes
Bowl in Upper left and Platter in Lower Right by Susie Rubenstein

I will do anything to procrastinate workshop preparation--hence this new blog post. Actually, I have been very busy preparing. I have this wonderful lecture on stripes that I used to do with slides and a slide projector--but my projector is long gone to the dump and my slides are buried somewhere in a closet--so I decided to create a new lecture with digital images of stripes. The most fun was walking around my house taking images. With stripes in mind, I found all sorts of examples that I wouldn't normally associate with that word. I love the bowls and platters that I own that were made by Susie Rubenstein. She runs the ceramics program at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, and has some current work in an exhibition there that runs through April 14th.

Kilim Stripes

Obviously my lecture is full of images of stripes in traditional textiles. I had such an abundance to choose from in my collection that it became frustrating. Too much had to be left out. But then, I have to leave something for the participants to discover on their own. The image above came from the book Kilims: Masterpieces from Turkey by Yanni Petsopoulos with commentary by Belkis Balpinar (NY: Rizzoli, 1991).

Loom Parts Stripes

It was fun to go up to my studio and find stripes on my looms. They are an integral part of the process of weaving. Below you can see the most current work, in progress, on my TC-1 loom. Vibeke Vestby has started a blog about the ongoing development of the TC-2. It is interesting, technical, and exciting. As one would expect from Vibeke and Digital Weaving Norway, it is very innovative and will take the potential of jacquard weaving to another level.

On Loom Now Stripes
Work in progress by Bhakti Ziek

And of course I have to show you my latest baked goods--strawberry shortcake with bananas and apricot preserve filling. Photographed on stripes of course.

Stawberry Shortcake on Tablecloth Stripes

Who are the lucky people who are going to hear my talk? Members of the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild in Maryland. I am giving a talk on my work to the guild on Saturday, April 9th. It starts at 10am and I believe it is open to the public. Then that afternoon I give a min-workshop on Photoshop for Fibers and then will do a two day workshop on design and creativity, with a focus on fibers. That is where the stripe lecture comes in.