Sunday, August 2, 2009

Surprise Day Trip

Detail of 4-weft lampas by Bhakti Ziek

Isn't it lovely how each day has a different surprise. I was upstairs weaving a four-weft lampas this morning, very pleased with the results, when my phone rang. It was my cousin, Matthew Shubin, and he was near White River Junction on his way to Cornish, NH. Realizing he was probably close to us, he called to see if we could come to the concert he was playing at 2 p.m. at the Saint-Guadens National Historic Site. It is always nice to see Matt and Helen, and their dog Uma--and it was especially nice to sit out on the portico (we had our dog, December, with us) and listen to the Latin Landscapes Trio (flute, bassoon and guitar) playing while looking at the incredible view through tall flowers and soft rain.

Latin Landscapes Trio playing at The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

View from my seat as I listened to the concert

We had never heard of this National Site, but it turns out to be the only national park in NH, and a very interesting place for artists to visit. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a famous and successful sculptor (1848-1907) lived here many summers, and then full-time at the end of his life. He did the kind of sculptures you see in public spaces where a person is never just a person, but the embodiment of honor or justice or truth. As I mellow (sort of) I find I can enjoy work, that I wouldn't want in my home, for its own sake, and this new tolerance even allows me to appreciate what I am seeing. I especially liked the reliefs of Saint-Gaudens, which reminded me of the beautiful Assyrian reliefs I had seen recently at the Hood Museum. I think the way image is rendered in relief is similar to the detailing possible in a weaving. I was also drawn to Saint-Gaudens use of language in his reliefs.

Detail of relief sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens

The issue of ways of drawing that are appropriate to weaving has been on my mind. There are certain time periods whose style especially "speaks" to me. Safavid textiles and Ottoman textiles both have strong natural elements that are rendered particularly well for the elements of weaving. When I put on the 60/2 silk warp (though maybe it is 20/2, I am still not sure) I decided to try harder at achieving a quality that appeals to me. I pulled out my copy of Ipek: The Crescent and the Rose (a glorious book with beautiful illustrations of Ottoman weavings) and have been flipping through the pages, exclaiming about the beauty of these fabrics. (We lived with our books packed up for so long that just having them out on the bookshelves here seemed enough for awhile. Now they are starting to come off the shelves, showing up in different rooms, my choices and Mark's, intermingling and inspiring.) These textiles always have clean flat areas of color, often outlined by another thin line that adds to their crispness and clarity. There is enough detail to distinguish the motif (usually a type of flower) but not so much that it gets lost in the pixelation of warp and weft.

Ipek: The Crescent and the Rose

Detail of Ottoman lampas photographed from Ipek

So I am trying to work my imagery accordingly. Starting with digital images of my flowers, I am drawing on top of them in a new layer in Photoshop, keeping some lines of information, but not too much. In the image below you see the threads quite clearly, but this image is taken an inch from the cloth. When you see the cloth at normal range the threads blend into a field of color. I am using four wefts (one ground and three pattern). The ground weft works both as a 4/1 satin and a 1/4 satin, and the other three wefts weave as 1/2 twills, but because their binding warps are spaced further apart than the ground warp (ratio 3 ground warp to 1 binding warp), their floats are longer than the floats of the ground weft. (All of this is explained in detail in The Woven Pixel chapter on lampas.)

Detail of a 4-weft lampas by Bhakti Ziek

I am questioning the type of silk I am using for my pattern weft. I would prefer a softer yarn--a silk floss. I will have to do an internet search to try and find appropriate weft. I have lots of tightly wound silk on my shelves (mostly white--I always think I am going to dye it but....) which is good for warp, but I want pattern wefts that pack tightly but loft and cover when floated. The damask liserie that I wove at Lisio in 1997 had silk wefts with these characteristics. There are always two wefts working in this fabric, but the colors change as you move up the cloth so it appears as if there are more weft systems than two.

Damask liserie woven by Bhakti Ziek

Detail of damask liserie by Bhakti Ziek

One last comment about the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site: they have a small gallery called The Picture Gallery which is currently showing work by Claire Watkins, on view until August 16th. She has amazing work and one piece, Flock of Needles, really enchanted me. She has a group of threaded needles where the ends of the thread is attached to a wall, and the needles hoover in air near a moving magnet. They are like a family of fish gathered around bread. If you click on her name you can see this piece and some others.


  1. There is a sculpture in Washington, DC, a grave marker for the wife of the author Henry Adams, that is said to be one of the finest works of Saint-Gaudens. If you search in Wikipedia for "Adams Memorial" you can see a photo of this elegant & beautiful sculpture.

    Saint-Gaudens also created one of the designs that were used for the US $20 "double eagle" gold coin.

  2. I just have to say I wish I could see your work in person!The colors,the motives,the material used .I like it all very much!

  3. I have that Weave-it, with the same box, which belonged to my father. He made a whole throw as a teenager in the late 1930s when he had a broken leg. My grandmother had to sew it together, and a few years ago I wove some replacements for a few squares that had been stained.

  4. I love that so many of your posts bring me back to Istanbul. It's a rainy day here in Providence, I think I'll go pull out that catalog of the tent exhibit we saw and flip though it.