Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weaving Music

When I teach beginning weaving, I like to suggest to students that instead of listening to their ipods, that they listen to the music of weaving. You get a lot of feedback about your work from the sounds of the weaving--it tells you about your rhythm, which can affect the beat of your weft; it tells you about the smoothness of the weft winding off the bobbin; it can tell you if a metal heddle hook falls off of a pedal. The other day, our 30th anniversary, we decided to change our dining room curtains. I had woven some plain weave linen yardage awhile back, and as an anniversary present, I brought the cloth downstairs to make into curtains. I had three lengths--a white linen, a dark natural linen, and a light tan linen. None of them was long enough to cover the window area, but all together they just fit. At least, they fit until Mark dyed the white fabric in tea and coffee and it shrunk. So I decided to weave some more of the light tan linen yardage, which was a narrower band than the other two.

As I was winding my warp, the warping reel was making loud cacophonous sound and no amount of spray silicon could silence it. Suddenly I got inspired to make a video of this "musical." Mark obliged me by being the cameraman, but when we downloaded it we discovered our digital camera does not have a sound component. I was crestfallen and returned to winding the warp, when it occurred to me that my computer could record sound. I didn't have a clue where to begin, but a few words in google and I was able to read enough about imovie to get started. We recorded the sound and Mark made several videos, and then I assembled everything in imovie, then converted it to a quick time clip. Here it is, my first movie!

Winding Warp Musical

Today, while weaving, I realized the music of the loom was much softer; kinder to the ears. I heard the sounds of the weft unreeling from the bobbin, the sounds of the beater moving the weft into place, the sounds of the heddles moving--especially when I wound the warp forward. So I asked Mark to work with me again, and we made the following movie--Weaving Plain Weave.

Plain Weave Musical

The opening at BigTown Gallery yesterday was lovely. I was thrilled to see my weaving Crabapple on the front wall as you enter the gallery. It was a very festive, happy occasion, lots of wishes placed in the Wishing Wall, and later at our house home made pizza (Mark the chef). Definitely delicious.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Invitation to an Exhibition

Sled Ride in Vermont, collage by Varujan Boghosian
Invitation to BigTown Gallery exhibition
Modern Treasures for the Holidays

Inside of the exhibition invitation
Big Town Gallery
99 North Main
Rochester, VT 05767

The opening of Modern Treasures for the Holidays is opening this Saturday, November 28th at 4 p.m. at BigTown Gallery. If you click on the image above, the image should open in a large file, allowing you to read the names of the participants--but just in case it doesn't work, here are the featured artists: Varujan Boghasian, Lizi Boyd, Leslie Fry, Pat dipaula Klein, Abby Rieser, Charles Spurrier, Charles Shackleton, Miranda Thomas, Holly Walker, Bhakti Ziek.

Again, I am not sure if the writing on the left page of the invitation will show up in the larger image or not, but it describes the Wish Wall that is going to part of the Holiday Exhibition. Anyone can put as many wishes as they want into the wall. It is going to be a sea of color and I am sure it is going to emanate good energy. I like having more than one wish possible--then I can be selfish with some and generous with others. Of course, when one wishes something like "peace for all" or "health and prosperity for everyone" then I guess it covers oneself as well as others.

If you read this blog regularly, you know Holly Walker and I are friends. She just received great news--her work is on the cover of a new book, Masters: Earthenware by Ray Hemachandra, editor with Matthias Ostermann, curator. Pat dipaula Klein is also a friend of mine--we both were teachers at Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (PCTS) at the same time--she in print design, me in weave. She has lovely embroideries in the exhibit.

I have a range of work in the show, some handpicked lampas weavings where I dyed the warp with natural dyes using ikat resist techniques. Also some handwoven jacquards as well as digitally woven jacquards. Birds 2, below, is one of the pieces that will be at the gallery. The background cloth, woven on a fully electronic jacquard loom at PCTS is based on a historical Italian damask from the 14th century (if my memory is right--not that I was alive then, remembering from history of textiles class). The top cloth, woven with fine, almost-invisible-as-a-single-strand silk, I handwove on a 19th century jacquard loom at Fondazione della Seta Lisio, in Florence, Italy.

I love that Birds 2 encompassed old and new modes of jacquard weaving in its making, and that the historical image is done on the new equipment, while the contemporary image (my drawing from birds in a plaza) was done with the historical equipment. The material is also flipped--silk in a form that is hardly used today for the top panel and polyester and cotton for the background. I am always talking about a continuum in weaving that goes from the first weaver to the present weaver (me, you, us), a continuum of ideas, of processes, of kinetic knowledge that helps shape an awareness of the world. Weaving is a process of unity--of bringing individual elements into a whole--chaos to order. I am sure there are weavers in this continuum who would fall in every one of the categories listed in my last blog, we are diverse as well as similar, but it wouldn't surprise me if themes like structure, systems, stories, and identity cropped up again and again.

Birds 2 by Bhakti Ziek
can be seen at BigTown Gallery holiday exhibition

By the way, I am starting to read a manual on Dreamweaver, in preparation of making my own website, one for my husband, and helping two friends create their own. Reading this (it definitely is not easy reading) reminds me how some readers must feel reading The Woven Pixel, by Alice Schlein and myself. Understanding technology is learning a foreign language. I just want to open the application and get on with it--as our readers probably want to do with jacquard or dobby design--but getting an overview is important and since I am basically ignorant about web design, I have decided to take the time to read through once, acknowledging that much of it is going over my head, not in my head. When I finish, I will start again with the book open and do their exercises, as well as start my web site. Again, impatient, I want this to happen tomorrow, but I already see that assembling the parts is going to take time and if I want to put a realistic goal on my page, I will aim for a spring debut. Just my long-winded way of saying to those of you who have The Woven Pixel, or those of you who are planning on getting it (a good holiday gift), it is an instructive book that will help you become proficient, but it still is a step by step process. Take the time to read it from the start, and to follow along with the instructions, and soon you will be master of the information.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Systems and Classification

The other night I got a phone call from a friend, and I was very rude, very distracted. I was busy trying to figure out the system behind the PBS Art 21 series—how was it organized? Did each season have the same thematic words as the principal of organization? I had just started writing down the words when the phone rang, and I just could not shake myself out of my pondering, so I hung up quickly. This ability, or obsession, with focusing, sorting, cataloging and making connections between things that are sometimes correct (and, as my husband likes to point out, often bizarre and very far off the mark), helps me to understand the world.

Finally I had an ah-ha moment and realized that each program had its own word (theme) and this was divided into four segments (artists). So far there have been five seasons, every other year since 2001. Four programs per year means five times four times four equals eighty artists categorized by twenty words.

The twenty themes have been:






Loss and Desire















After I got that sorted out, I made a list of all the artists in each segment that we have seen so far. Eventually we will get to them all. Sometimes the categorization is self-evident, but more often it seems arbitrary, or at least just one part of the puzzle. I guess that is the more accurate description—since most artists or people in general are multi-faceted and could be placed in different categories. That is the fallacy of any system of division—whether it is horoscopes or numerology or whether you prefer vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream—we all have shades of the variables within us. Nevertheless, I sent an email to several friends and asked them to place themselves, and the rest of us in one of the Art 21 categories. I think it was an interesting exercise. It certainly made me think about myself and my work, and five other artists and their work, in a concentrated manner. I found certain words were easily eliminated and some seemed to cluster. Some topics could have worked for any of us (is that why we are all friends?) but in the end I made individual decisions for each of these people, as they did for the rest of us. No one had just one attribute, though there was similar choices made—which must show that we each have some consistency or clarity that is being expressed.

Now I am thinking about visual ways to express categorization or systems of being.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Art Talk

Entrance to MassMOCA

Last week brought our last fall visitors, Anne Lindberg and Marcie Miller Gross, who came from Kansas City to take down Anne's work in the H2O Film on Water exhibit at Newport Mill in New Hampshire. Marcie requested that we go to MassMOCA so we drove to North Adams last Friday. You can see how happy we were to be together--passionate talk by passionate artists--all art talk all day could have been our slogan. Though Marcie and Anne did not overlap at Cranbrook, Liz and I shared time with both of them--Anne being second year to our first year, and Marcie being first year to our second year. These connections are truly deep, and deepen every time we get together and share experiences like this one among the Sol LeWitt wall murals.

Talking, Laughing, Photographing the Sol LeWitt murals at MassMOCA

The space of MassMOCA is as inspiring as the work. We all talked about what our work would look like there, which room we would chose. Thinking about my TC1, which is set up to weave a 14-inch width right now, it seems ludicrous to consider these vast spaces for my work. But ambition has no bounds, so consider it I did. All things seem possible around these friends who work hard, really hard, to make their ideas become reality. Internally I feel shaken up, like the floor of the Kiefer piece shown below, but hopefully all this agitation and excitement will lead to something cohesive and interesting in my studio this winter.

Standing next to Anselm Keifer sculpture at MassMOCA

On Sunday we went to Newport to take down Anne's piece. She had hung thousands of threads in a wave pattern from the ceiling, and our task was to get it crated so it can be shown again in the future. We worked together as if we do this every day as a team. Of course, we did have some past experience--Liz helped Anne with her final work at Cranbrook and Marcie helped me with mine.

One of the conversations we had was about the PBS series, Art 21. Mark, Marcie and Anne all knew about it, have watched these incredible interviews, but it was news to Liz and me. The last few nights Mark and I have been watching some of the programs on our computer. So far we have seen 14 artist segments. I am realizing how out of touch I am with the contemporary art scene, and that I miss going to New York galleries. Most of the artists we watched so far are people who do the kind of monolithic work that fit spaces like MassMOCA--and most of them work with teams of young people who execute the work. It seems foreign to me, I have always worked alone, yet the history of art is all about masters and apprentices; the Angers Tapestries wouldn't exist if only one person had made them. After watching the programs on Julie Mehretu and Doris Salcedo, I realized I had just encountered two new forces of inspiration--women, like my friends, who are passionate about their art.

Anne Lindberg in front of her piece at Newport Mill

Team Work

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reading, Architecture and Holloween

Architecture 2051 at Vermont Technical College
(top left to right: Holly Walker at her house; Erin Fajins; James Vincent;
center left to right: Michael Wilson; Professor Paul Hartmann and Jamison Cook; Jamison Cook;
bottom left to right: Jess Mosman; Majken Thomas; Ashley Fernandes

I just finished reading The Women by T.C. Boyle, about the wives and mistresses of Frank Lloyd Wright, a novel that vividly brings all the contradictions of Wright's personality and creativity to life, and filled me with images of the horror of love and divorce one hundred years ago. One hundred years ago--that sounds like a long time, doesn't it? Yet Wright is still seen by most people as a contemporary architect and visionary. Just this summer my brother, a long time fan, went on about Wright's attempts to marry buildings with landscape. I remember reacting with a slightly bored, jaded attitude--but reading this book has rekindled my curiosity about him, getting me to take another look at images of his buildings.

Coincidentally to my reading, Holly Walker and Geof Finkels invited us to attend the presentations of the students in Professor Paul Hartmann's Architecture 2051 class at Vermont Technical College. The students had come to their house to see the site, and were making proposals for a pottery studio for Holly. When I was a teacher, I sometimes had projects where students made proposals for real sites, and I know how working this way makes a project really tangible for them. There were actually two classes, and two days of presentations. Almost all of the students took the project very seriously and made clear presentations of their ideas. It seems as if they fell into three categories: an addition to the west, connecting the garage and the house with a studio, or a separate building to the east. After the second critique, I walked around the property with Holly, offering my own suggestions, trying to consider her needs as well as the feasibility of construction by Geof. On Saturday Mark and I went back and all four of us walked around, standing in different spots so Holly could go inside and see if a building where we stood would affect their views.

I love architecture and building, probably inherited from my mother, though I never considered it for myself (though my sister became an architect). Of course the reading and discussions has made me think about buying land and starting over--really getting it right this time. I don't think we are going to move any time soon, but it has to be sooner than later if we are going to do it in our lifetimes. Going into a classroom full of young people coming into their own strengths and ideas was so invigorating. It did make me miss being a teacher and how vital it is for everyone involved (teacher and students) in a studio where questioning is encouraged, and all ideas are allowed expression.

Now I am reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. It focuses more on Mamah Borthwick than Frank Lloyd Wright, fleshes her out in a different way than in T.C. Boyle's book, makes her dilemma about leaving husband and children for a married man seem more complex than in his book. She was an early feminist, a creative force who couldn't quite find the right outlet for her own intelligence. I feel that Horan has captured many of my own frustrations through her character. Again, this is a novel based on historical figures. Many known facts are accurate, but it is Horan who supplies the angst and internal conversations. Mamah's frustration about how to use her intelligence is hitting me hard, as I see myself spinning my wheels instead of going to my studio. Good books do this, don't they--make you think about your own life and what you are doing with the gift of time.

Well, Holloween came and went in Randolph along with a fierce rain storm. We live in an area where children and parents from all the surrounding villages, as well as our own town, come to say "Trick or Treat!" I was prepared with too much candy, knowing I could bring back unopened packages to the supermarket. Last year we had between 300 and 400 visitors, this year I gave out about 250 pieces of candy. The rain became a deluge just when I was at the bottom of the bowl. I could open another package, knowing I would end up eating most of it since parents and children were running to their cars to get out of the rain, or blow out the pumpkin and turn off the lights. I choose the later (can you see my halo?). Many of the parents, as well as all the children, were in costume. I remember going out with siblings and friends on Holloween--we were allowed to expand our circle wider than just our known neighbors, so I didn't mind giving candy to all these strangers. Plus I got to take alot of nice pictures.

Trick or Treaters--top picks

More Trick or Treaters