Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reconfiguring the TC-1

TC-1 with 4 modules, 60 epi, 14.4" in reed

I have always been weaving on my TC-1 (Thread Controller 1 Loom from Digital Weaving Norway) loom with four modules set up one behind the other, giving me a warp density (sett) of 60 ends per inch (epi) and a weaving width at the reed of 14.4 inches. Since the interlacement of warp and weft (weave structures) brings the warp in, most of my final work has averaged 13.5 inches in width. You can see the loom above from different sides. Note that the cardboard box is my own invention--cat-proofing the springs and heddles. I had it in my head that I would do a large weaving for my upcoming show (two-person exhibition at the Chandler Gallery) if I had the time, and, if so, I would reconfigure the loom to weave full-width. This would mean I would have a width of 28.8 inches at the reed, but my sett would decrease to 30 ends per inch.

When I finished my sky weavings--East and West--which I love, by the way, I started debating with myself--leave the loom alone or take a chance on reconfiguration? Everything was working so well, did I want to rock the boat? Would I have time to complete a piece? Did I have enough warp (it would have to be heavier than the 60/2 silk I was using to account for the smaller sett) for the new piece? If it was possible to worry about it, I did. But I always came back to the conviction that this was the time to change the loom and weave at a larger width. Call it fate.

My in-house saint, Mark Goodwin, reconfiguring the TC-1

Of course, my reconfiguring the TC-1 loom translates to Mark reconfiguring the TC-1 loom. You'd think it was enough that he has made all the beautiful frames for mounting my new work, but there is always something else I can think of to ask him to do. (Do you know that expression, honey-do?) We were greatly aided by a video clip of the process that Vibeke Vestby, the inventor of the TC-1, sent to us. We (I did help) had to remove the modules, put two of them together, replace them on the loom, modify the bottom slides that hold the springs, and basically we were done. It was amazingly easy and I could move on to my next fear--rethreading the loom.

Because the modules were moved, I had to completely rethread the loom. First we had to take a trip to Massachusetts to buy new yarn (I am using 20/2 silk from Webs) (now I can worry about my credit card bill), then I wound an 18 yard warp (my longest ever) and I put it on the back beam. In the past I used a quarter-inch raddle--but that left my hands when I sold my AVL dobby loom--so I used a one-inch raddle and knew the whole time I was doing it that it wasn't right. My back beam has flanges which need to be placed at exactly the width of the warp, but I had mine wider. Don't ask me why I didn't stop and get it right--I just didn't. Then I threaded the loom. There are 880 hooks on my loom, therefore 880 threads, and after a while I got a rhythm going--count out 10 heddles from the bottom spring bar, count out 10 threads, thread the heddles. Tie them off to the right. Untie ten threads from the group tied off to the left. Start again. If you read this blog regularly you already know that counting and numbers are a big part of my life, and repeating actions are basically the life of a weaver.

The threading went smoothly too--another worry hits the dust. Threading the reed was really simple--I just made a weave file that lifted two ends at a time and ran through that file putting the lifted ends into the dents of the reed. Then I pulled the whole 18 yards forward through the reed, called for Mark's help, measured and repositioned the flanges correctly, then slowly and very carefully wound back the warp under even tension. It looks great now.

TC-1 reconfigured to 30 epi, width at reed 28.8"

Note that the cat-protector had to be modified since the box was not wide enough to fit around the reconfigured springs. I think the corrugated cardboard looks much nicer.

Recently I got a copy of Weaving for Beginners by Peggy Osterkamp. I have been reading it at night, always receptive to find a new way to do something, and Peggy has plenty of smart ideas in this book. I usually lash on my warps to tension them at the front of the loom, and she suggests using a smooth slippery yarn, like a chalk and mason line nylon. A cry to Mark and immediately I had this hot pink nylon in my hands. It has replaced the cotton cord that I used to use. I am not sure it made a difference, but like the corrugated cardboard, it looks nicer.

Note the new pink cord tensioning the warp

The weaving I wove while I was debating the reconfiguration of the loom is called His Wife. I think of it as a self-portrait. It is probably the last 13.5" width weaving I will make for a long time. Now on to that big weaving.

His Wife by Bhakti Ziek, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sky Weavings

Detail of "West" by Bhakti Ziek

I am weaving a pair of sky weavings: "East" and "West". Two wefts alternate, a blue tencel and a silver gimp, in structures that bring one to the front and the other to the back ((weft-backed structures). When you combine structures in one weaving, you have to be sure that one is not significantly tighter than the other, or you will have take-up problems. In theory my five structures were compatible, but in fact they weren't. I created an image file that was pixelated, and the switching between structures happened so often in some areas that the wefts could not pack down evenly. You can see what happens in the two images below: the fell line of the cloth becomes uneven and the reed cannot hit the cloth evenly.

Fell of the cloth is uneven

Reed hits one edge before the other

Thinking of what I could do to solve the problem before it became so exaggerated that I would not be able to complete the weaving, I came up with the idea of hand-picking the weft in the tight areas. I often say that I love the TC-1 loom because it allows me to use all the knowledge I have acquired over the years as a weaver. This was one of those times that I used a process that I thought I would never have to do again on a jacquard loom. The pictures below show what I did. The first image shows the blue weft going across the cloth in the normal shed. As you can see, the cloth curves up where the weave structures are tighter than the other structures.

Weft following normal shed

Not on every pick, but often, I would take the shuttle and bring the weft to the back of the cloth in the tight areas.

Blue weft going to the back in center area

This enabled the next pick of silver to pack down tighter, making the fell of the cloth more even. It seemed to work fine, and 6420 picks later, the first weaving, "West" is woven. No turkey for us on Thanksgiving, but plenty of gratitude at the loom.

Silver weft packs into space more evenly now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Draw Like a Weaver

5 Wefts Used to Create This Weaving

Do you want to know how to draw like a weaver? I'll use a recent weaving built with five wefts as an example. Take 6 crayons or pencils or inks and arrange them so you will use them in the same sequence, over and over and over. In this case, weft one (color 1) is salmon, weft/color 2 is black, weft/color 3 is dark green, weft/color 4 is white, and weft/color 5 is light green. The sixth color represents the warp--red in this case. It might help if you have a page with horizontal lines on it, or under it as a guide, or just go freehand--weavings tend to be wobbly even though they follow a grid.

How a Weaving Builds

Now make a series of horizontal dashes, on the same line, with the red color that represents where you want that color in your image. Follow this with some dashes on the same line with the black color where black should go. Put the black down and pick up the light green and draw your light green dashes on the same line. Then put that color down and pick up the white color--and draw your horizontal dashes on the same line, followed by some horizontal dashes of the dark green. Depending on your image, you might have filled in the complete horizontal row, if not, fill in the spaces with the red color, which represents the warp. Now move to the next line and continue building color by color, line by line. Some lines might not show any of one color. You get a break here drawing on paper, but as a weaver, that weft is still thrown, working at the back of the cloth rather than the front.

Most of my recent weavings are composed of series of four or five weft colors. I am averaging 140 picks per inch--sometimes more, sometimes less. If using four wefts, that means they pack down to look like 35 horizontal rows composed of four colors, plus warp color. To be fair, I don't actually draw my images line by line but use Photoshop to make compositions and insert weave structure. The book Alice Schlein and I wrote, The Woven Pixel: Designing for Jacquard and Dobby Looms Using Photoshop®, is a great resource if you want to learn how to do this. When I want to weave a design though, I do have to build it, pick by pick, and in this example that would mean five picks (wefts) create one horizontal row in the cloth. It is not unusual for my weavings to exceed 5000 picks. I am standing at the loom most of the time, though recently I obtained a stool that I can use too. 300-400 picks per hour adds up to alot of hours at the loom. What would be excruciating for some people turns out to be sanity for me.

Sea Glass formation on Bear Island

Sea Glass by Bhakti Ziek, handwoven jacquard 2010

Night Cap

Sometimes though I want things to move a bit faster. Sea Glass was woven in a new structure for me, a lampas that used a plain weave ground against a three shaft patterning twill. I dropped my wefts to three systems in the center, but created 15 structures with them. The sides of the weaving are a damask structure using just one weft. When I saw this bottle of wine at the store I had to buy it. I didn't know sea glass existed until the summer vacation in Maine, but the wine and wikipedia showed me it is a well-known phenomena.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two New Weavings

Continuum by Bhakti Ziek

The weaving shown in the last post is finished. I am calling it Continuum, which is also the name of my upcoming show that opens at Chandler Gallery on January 8th. The image above does not do justice to the actual piece. Maybe you can come to the exhibit and see what I mean.

56 Blossoms by Bhakti Ziek

56 Blossoms will also be in the exhibition. I was thinking about this weaving today as I worked at the loom, and this came to me: When you are in dispair, you have to come up for air. Also: Often the solution is found in the problem. Do you think I can sell these platitudes to a fortune cookie company?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Raspberry Coulis

Current Warp

I am working on this red warp that is making me hungry! It is tapping into my obsession with Top Chef, which is doing a dessert series right now, so I have named this warp Raspberry Coulis.

Work in Progress by Bhakti Ziek

It is amazing how many colors I can get out this warp and four wefts (blue, yellow, tan, and white). This is the first time I have had tension problems on the TC1, compounded by the fact that not all the wefts are the same size, and some of the structures bring two wefts to the surface and some bring one to the surface. I think the distortion is interesting, something I might want to explore this winter to see if I can control it and do it on purpose, but I am not sure how I feel about it in this piece. Well, have to finish it before I can judge.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bear Island and Code

Bear Island by Bhakti Ziek

I wove Bear Island (above) after a week on that incredible island. It is 29.5"w x 13.5" high. Think sea rocks, letters from a gravestone and an "energy" overlay.

Code by Bhakti Ziek

This is Code finished. Images of it in process were in earlier posts. It is 40.5"w x 13.25"h. If you remember the images on the loom, it has changed color. I dyed it with inexpensive black tea. I noticed the grass outside died where I poured the tea out, so image what it is doing to my insides.
Bear Island and Code with Sculpture by Mark Goodwin

An interior shot of the office room, which is looking good with work by me and Mark, and a felt rug from Turkey on the floor. Fortunately the rug is old and frayed, because our cats are making it more frayed by the minute.

Chris Allen-Wickler sewing weaving by Bhakti Ziek

Lucky me, not only do I get a visit with Chris (above) but she is helping me finish some of the weavings. When I was weaving my thesis work at Cranbrook, she and Marcie Miller-Gross saved my life by hemming the work as it came off the loom--and we were working up to the last minute. Fun to revisit those days so many years later--on one hand it seems like no time has passed, on the other when we talk about her daughter at University of Michigan, we realize it has been many years. Chris is here between shows--she will exhibiting her fabulous garments (Allen-Wickler Artwear) at the Letchworth Craft Show near Mt. Morris, NY this weekend.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Re-Entry: Fall

Night Sky by Bhakti Ziek, 2010

It has been a wonderful summer of friends, weaving, and balance. I am highly focused on work in my studio, preparing for an upcoming show in January 2011 here in Randolph, VT (hope you can make the opening, January 8th at 1pm at Chandler Art Gallery, Randolph, VT), so my blogging is going to continue to be brief, but I will try to keep you posted on the work.

Night Sky is 13.5"h x 44"w, silk warp with tencel and gold gimp wefts, woven on my TC-1 loom in a lampas construction. If you are at the TSA Symposium this week, this weaving and another one of mine are included in the exhibition Binary Fiction: Digital Weaving 2010, curated by Janice Lessman-Moss. It is on view at The Eisentrager-Howard Gallery from October 4 - October 29, 2010.

In another part of the country, Rhode Island, I will be giving a talk on my work this Friday, October 1st. It is for the Weavers Guild of Rhode Island, and will be at 11am at Slater Mill in Pawticket. It is exciting to update my powerpoint presentation, putting in the work I have been doing. Just two days ago I finished a warp, and am tying on a new red silk one now. I will try and post the new work, one at a time, for you to see.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Website Is Up

Thanks to funding from The Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, I was able to consult with a wonderful designer, Susan Lee, and finally get my website up and running. It is still a work in progress, so I will be adding to it over the summer, but please visit it and give me feedback. It isn't showing up on search engines yet, so you need to put the address in directly.

I should probably put a sign here saying gone fishing for the summer only instead of fishing, it is bare with me, while I focus on my work for awhile.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

State of Craft at Bennington Museum

Bennington Museum, Bennington, VT

I feel very fortunate to have one of my weavings, "House," be included in the current exhibition, State of Craft, at The Bennington Museum. The subtitle is Exploring the Studio Craft Movement in Vermont 1960-2010. Although I am new to Vermont, my tenure here is encompassed in those years, and the curators of the exhibition, Anne Majusiak and Jamie Franklin, felt my weaving of our Randolph home, with words superimposed on a street map of the town, appropriate for this exhibition.

Area with weaving by Bhakti Ziek and weavings by Elizabeth Billings; Mark Goodwin and Elizabeth Billings on the right

Anne came to my open studio last Memorial Day weekend. (I leave for Chicago during this year's Open Studios and couldn't participate, but I plan to next year. It is a wonderful chance to see artist's in their working environment. Here is a link to David Hurwitz's studio in Randolph, which is on the tour--and David also has a beautiful table in the Bennington exhibition.) Anyway, Anne came at the suggestion of Liz Billings, and when we arrived (Liz, Mark and me) and discovered our work was in the same area, I think we both were thrilled. Liz must be psychic, she dressed to match the wall behind our works. As you can see the opening (this was for the artists, trustees, and other people who have supported the exhibition and museum) was very lively and crowded. I will have to go back later in the summer and have a quiet look at all the work. The exhibition is open until October 31, 2010.

Sunsets in Vermont

Driving down and back to Bennington from our area (2.5 hours each way) has left my shoulder sore, not good since I have to sew all day with that arm, but it was so worthwhile to be part of the celebration, and then to see the Vermont sunset at the end of the day--which looked pure New Mexico to me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Weaving, New Group, New Pots

Code Weaving being woven on TC-1 loom

With all the talk about an open source loom, I hope you didn't get the wrong impression--my TC-1 is still my first love (not counting my family of course). I have been standing at it this week, weaving the code I discussed previously on my blog. I am still deeply immersed in reading about code, and working on my own website. I even dreamed code the other night. But don't think I have any fluency yet--I just think I do, but I don't. I realized that making a website using xhtml and css is very similar to the process of weaving--there is structure and there is style. xhtml is equal to the weave structure that makes up a weaving and css is equal to the yarn, color, and distribution of color in a weaving. I wonder if coders split themselves into structuralist and colorists, like some people like to divide up the weaving community?

Detail showing white weft working alone in box on left and with a supplementary weft added to the white weft on right (brocading)

My current weaving not only has code in it, it also is brocaded. I wanted to use a white weft on the white warp, and hoped the two versions of white (a warp-faced structure versus a weft-faced structure) would result in the popping of the image that is found in damask. Sometimes I let the white weft images remain that way, but sometimes I increased their visibility by adding a supplementary weft, as seen in the words in the image above, bottom right corner. When the piece is off the loom and I can see it hanging on a wall, then I will decide whether I should increase the visibility even more by embroidering the letters. Over the years I have often noticed that I will spend a lot of time on elements of a weaving that end up being invisible. Even aware of this happening as I am working, still I continue, because it seems important. In a discussion this weekend with a new group of weavers, I learned that other people also experience this sense of weaving the emperor's new clothes.

Explanation for cardboard box--Mali

The TC-1 loom does not come with a used cardboard box wrapped around the bottom springs--a rather ugly addition, in fact. But the picture above clearly shows one half of the reason that I have one on my loom. I don't really know whether Mali or Dylan was the culprit that had fun clawing the springs--but now I am very careful to protect my loom.

Electronic Weavers Get-together
(left to right, back: Sara, Dini, Tom, Sandy, Kate, Ruby, Julie, Ruth, Sandy, Ginny; left to right, front: Barbara, Deb, Trudy; not shown Georgia, Bhakti)

The new group I mentioned is a group of electronic weavers that gathered yesterday in Craftsbury, Vermont. Laurie Autio (who sadly had to miss the gathering) and Dini Cameron thought it would be a good idea to get together with some weavers who work on electronically driven looms and talk about the experience. Fifteen weavers gathered, from Canada, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Dini, well-known as the developer of ProWeave software for weave design, is an amazing weaver. Everyone showed samples of work they have done on dobby or jacquard looms, a wide-range of explorations in weaving, but I was most surprised by Dini's beautiful work. I wonder why I didn't realize what a fine weaver she is--and that her knowledge is the basis for why her software program is so good. Anyway, I was very glad I participated yesterday--we discussed work, design, loom issues--and enjoyed a delicious meal together too. The gathering took place at The Craftsbury Inn, owned by Kathy and Bill Maire, and now I know a wonderful place to suggest that visitors to Vermont spend a night, and eat a good meal. Also, they can watch Kathy spin on a spinning wheel. This was a self-selecting group, more people were invited and could have attended, and I am sure it would still have been good, but I do think that the size of the group as it turned out allowed everyone to have a chance to ask questions, talk, and learn about and from each other.

Finished pots, left to right: Bhakti's, Liz's (2), Holly's

Another small group that I have been part of, maybe we should be called pinchers, gathered this week to see the results of our actions. My pot is on the left, above, and now at home it is full of wooden spoons and large utensils. Liz did the middle pots, and an older piece by Holly, head pincher, is on the right. This experience really gave Liz and I, both weavers, insight into the process Holly employs, and respect for her master skill at what she does.

Gathering in small groups and learning from a teacher and from each other is one of the shared experiences most weavers have experienced. Learning a process that is different from the one you are really familiar with can bring new insights to what you know so well. This summer, through the Vermont Surface Design Summer Workshop, run by Pippa Drew, in Post Mills, Vermont, Akemi Nakano Cohn will be teaching Katazome (rice paste resist technique) to a small group of students. Akemi is a gifted teacher, and anyone working with her comes away with a renewed sense about the kindness and generosity possible between people. Here is an opportunity not only to study with a master, and learn a new process, but also to make friends with a new group of people, and to enjoy the beauty of Vermont. This sounds like a winning combination to me! I think there still is an opportunity to join this group, so contact Pippa for details.

I will get to meet my own new group of people in Chicago in two weeks. As I prepare, I really feel the excitement of possibilities. Learning from each other is a superb reason for groups to gather.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dance Recital

Life's a bit busy right now, trying to move forward on my website designing, weaving, and preparing for SAIC (class is full and overflowing, which is great)--so instead of words I will post images of the fabulous day I had yesterday. Thank you In Motion Dance Studio and all the budding ballerinas in Randolph.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Building a Loom


1971. Paragon in NYC was sold out of the red Kelty backback that was essential for my upcoming trip to Mexico. Panicked, my dear friend Marty agreed to take the train to Westchester with me so I could get one there. I moved to San Miguel de Allende to do graduate work in crafts, but dropped out when I realized it lacked any standards or rigor. By then I was living in a three-story building on a street that crept up one of the hills. It had a glass-walled room on the roof that opened to a patio. Rent was higher than my former NYC apartment, but the view was better. I decided to stay. And I decided to have a loom built--an eight shaft loom--which was four times the normal number of shafts available on any other loom in that town. Vaguely I remember traveling to Mexico City to purchase some parts (was it the heddles? the shafts? both?). How did I even find a carpenter to build the thing? And how did we communicate--my Spanish was very sparse at the time. I do remember the loom sitting outside on the patio, and how much I loved looking at it from my bedroom--the glass-walled room. I also wove on it too. I know I made some tapestries on it, and my memory says, just tapestry. So why 8 shafts when the norm for that town, two, would have been enough? Well, that is hindsight--of course at the time I wanted more so I could explore freely. At that time, 8 shafts meant total freedom to me.

I only had that loom about six months. Friends came through, I sold the loom to a potter, and we headed off to South America--or so I thought. My friends actually got to the tip of the continent, but I settled in Guatemala. We all have our own karma. The Osloom project, which is now fully funded, got me remembering that rooftop loom and the thrill of building it. 193 supporters will all share in that feeling of having built a loom when the first Osloom is done.

I have to chuckle when I think of the future--a two car garage--on one side someone is building a boat, on the other, someone is building an Osloom.

Spring Blooms

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Seafood Stew

April Snowstorm

Woke to a heavy April snowstorm and lovely walk with my dog. The other day, on a sunny blue-sky day, we ran into three little girls, who ran over to pet December. We got to talking and decided they should change their names to reflect the way our dog is named--so now they became July, August, and June. June was elated because her new name was a "real" name. I continued my walk, thinking, "I am living in a Norman Rockwell painting."

Mark's birthday cake on left, and a seafood quiche for later in the week

I mentioned the seafood stew I made for Mark's birthday on Facebook, and several people asked for the recipe. So here it is. First, I based it on Soupe de Poisson, page 50 of my Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, et al. and Summer Seafood Stew, Bon Appetit, August 1998, that I got from Epicurious. They are quite similar, just one makes a much larger pot than the other. So if you just check those out and follow the recipes you will do fine. But here is what I did:

I bought a pound and a half of raw shrimp in shells and shelled them and put them aside; along with a pound of scallops. I put the olive oil, chopped onion and minced garlic (I added more than called for) into the pot and sauteed, then added 1-1/2 pounds of fresh chopped organic tomatoes, almost an entire bottle of white wine (the rest went into my wineglass), 2 8-ounce bottles of clam juice, and the spices (thyme, orange peel, fennel seeds, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, saffron, parsley) and cooked for about five minutes--then steamed the mussels in a steamer basket for five minutes--removed them and added a dozen clams and steamed them for 10 minutes. I would not use the clams again in the future since they got tough in cooking, but the mussels are delicious. I think I had about 2 pounds of fresh mussels, and after steaming, I removed them from their shells and set aside until the clams were done (I took them out of their shells too). Then I added some water to the pot and put in 1-1/2 pounds of haddock and cooked the mix for 45 minutes. Then I added the shrimp, mussels, clams and scallops and cooked for another ten minutes. I let it cool and put it in the refrigerator. I made this stew the night before Mark's birthday dinner, and reheat it about 45 minutes before serving.

The day of his birthday I made a chocolate cake with crushed walnuts on the outside. I served rice with the stew but it was already so much, no one bothered with it. We also had a big salad of mixed fresh greens. And, prosecco. It was a nice birthday.

Since the stew was chock full of goodies, before reheating it, I removed three big ladles full of ingredients and used it to make the seafood quiche that is pictured above with the cake. I wanted a really deep quiche--which it was--but I didn't precook the shell enough--so it was rather gooey when I served it the first time to my friend Idora Tucker. Later, when i reheat it several times, it just got better and better.

Winding bobbins for next plain weave yardage

With all my posts about Osloom (there are still three days, and funds are coming in--you can make it happen--and I hope you do), and writing a grant proposal, I haven't gotten to the loom much--but I did finish the burlap which was Mark's birthday gift, and I have wound bobbins to start weaving the next plain weave yardage for him, and I am about to start designing my next jacquard weaving (April snow inspired), so there will be more about weaving soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Help Support Osloom

The deadline for the Osloom kickstarter project is "looming" (sorry, can't help myself) and I am writing this post in hope of drumming up contributions. I know Margarita Benitez from a workshop I taught a number of years ago, and have been in contact ever since. She is a bright, energetic artist, a giving teacher, and an innovator. In her Kickstarter project, she is asking for $10,000 to create a computerized jacquard loom, which will be open-source--meaning anyone else can use her data to create their own loom.

If 100 people donated $100 dollars, she would make her goal. If 200 people donated $50, she would make her goal. Or if 400 people donated $25 each, she would make her goal.

As co-author of The Woven Pixel: Designing for Jacquard and Dobby Looms Using Photoshop® (written with Alice Schlein), I know something about contemporary digital weaving and designing. As an owner of a used TC-1 loom (the Thread Controller was invented by Vibeke Vestby and is sold through Digital Weaving Norway) I am fortunate to be able to weave the images I design in my own studio. Having travelled frequently to use other looms, before I owned my own loom, I know that there are opportunities out there, but travel and classes and materials can add up quickly.

As a teacher who frequently does workshops on digital weaving, I have run into many many many weavers who moan about the high cost of the available looms. So where are you all right now when there is an opportunity to support a new venture that could yield a solution to your desires? Whether Margarita and her team of experts succeeds or not, isn't a $25 or $50 or $100 donation worthwhile in terms of hope and moving towards a new loom?

I know there have been some negative remarks written about this project--and I believe these writers meant it as concrete criticism, nothing personal or mean-spirited--and I feel Margarita has responded in an even-handed manner. Please go to the Osloom sight, and read the debate, and decide for yourself.

Kickstarter is an all or nothing situation--if the goal for $10,000 is not met, then the pledges already made fade away. I am quite sure that Margarita will continue with this project, whether she gets funding this way or not, but wouldn't it be wonderful if the weaving community, which numbers thousands around the world, would come together and make her dream our dream.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Just Trying To Get it Right

Lately in my lectures about my work (which is about my life, since not much is compartmentalized for me), I have noticed how often I have moved. Besides calling Mark and myself “urban nomads”, in defense of all this uprooting and replanting, I have taken to saying something like this: “I am just trying to get it right.”

This morning, as I was making my breakfast on the electric stove we inherited when we bought this house, I was mulling over the idea of learning something, and taking it into the next part of your life. After all, isn’t that what experience is for—to learn from it, so you can have a more elegant outcome the next time a similar situation presents itself? And similar situations always present themselves. In our Kansas home, year 2000, one of the first things we did was pay an outrageous amount to have a gas line put in the house so we could remove the very ugly electric stove that was there, and put in a beautiful stainless steel gas stove/oven. We had just bought a new oven for our New Mexico house (1999) but because we were off the grid, we had to buy the absolute simplest model—one without a clock, or any of the fancy regulators common on most models—a gas range that was converted to propane. Therefore, I was so pleased to be able to get what I wanted in Kansas, my new stainless steel range. However, I don’t remember it cooking or baking very well. Nothing extraordinary there, except it did look pretty.

Electric Range

Here, in our Vermont house (2008), we have a contemporary white electric range with the glass stop—no more tipping burners that disconnect in the middle of cooking (Arizona, 2007). If I want to have gas, as I was sure I would, then we have to go with propane again—but here I can get the fanciest model, whatever I want. Right now it is low on our list of priorities—a new efficient refrigerator would come first—but I am finding out something interesting. This is the best oven I have ever had. It bakes cakes perfectly. If a recipe says 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then the cake is done exactly at 30 minutes. I can even stir-fry on the glass range and things sizzle in minutes. Each day the stove’s place on the wish list drops further down. Will I request a similar stove in my next home (20??)—I don’t know. I certainly will be more open to possible solutions, depending on the circumstances.

So what did I make for breakfast? Cream cheese and lox on a tortilla. A combination of experiences from different parts of my life: cream cheese and lox from growing up days on Long Island (1950-60s), tortilla love from Guatemala (1970s). Getting it right doesn’t always mean doing it the same way. In fact, it usually means learning something and modifying it for the present circumstances. Like stopping at Trader Joe’s on my way home from Massachusetts to buy a freezer bag full of their frozen potstickers. Would I choose these if I were in New York City? Of course not—I would be down at a dim sum restaurant right this minute gorging on my favorite food. But what a treat in Vermont to be able to open a bag of these frozen dumplings.


I am almost at the end of a very interesting book called Journey of Souls by Michael Newton. It is non-fiction, but many people would call it fiction. Apparently he has written four books and this is the first. I am fascinated by what he writes, not sure where I fall on the fiction versus non-fiction. Okay, I lean more towards non-fiction. He is describing the place where souls reside between lives. The funny thing is what he has them doing there—they are studying and learning. If true, then I think I will enjoy myself. Apparently we spend a lot of time looking at our past experiences and analyzing what we did, and what we could have done better, and how we can return in a new life and try those situations over again and see if we have indeed learned a better way, or not.

There is so much to contemplate from this book—whether it is fiction or non-fiction—the purpose of all good literature, right? Maybe because it is spring, but I am certainly in contemplative, analytic mode, trying to remember what I intended to do and seeing if I can get back on track. Opening my heart, remembering kindness, listening to people with love rather than judgment—these are the sorts of things I tend to forget and am trying to rekindle and restore. I know I don’t have to move to get it right; I can just get up each day and try again.

Weaving Burlap/Jute?

Meanwhile, I have all five looms threaded. I am weaving on the warp with the mystery thread that I used the McMorran Balance to determine the yards per pound. The cloth is turning out so differently than I imagined (is this a metaphor for life?). It seems I am weaving burlap. On the spool I just couldn’t see it, but looking at the cloth, I think I can determine that the yarn is jute. It’s weaving fast—by the end of the day I will only have four of my looms threaded.