Thursday, January 28, 2010

Code Nightmare

Code One

I don't usually think I dream, but this morning I woke from a nightmare with all the physical sensations of panic and distress, along with relief, since I "found a solution" to the problem just before I woke. In my dream I was suppose to give a talk to students at a college in California (I know it was California but didn't know the school) and I was bringing sample fabric rather than images to the presentation. I know I went with a friend to the campus originally, where I met the people and set-up the appointment, and I remember being given a brochure with a map showing that I was at campus two, somewhere in the hills of a high desert region. Then I was in the car with Mark and another friend and we were looking for the school, for me to give the talk, and I realized that I hadn't brought any of the sample textiles with me. When our friend pulled up to the campus, I also realized he had brought us to the wrong campus. I went inside to try to call the department--I didn't have any contact names or information--and no one answered the phone. No one seemed to know where the second campus was either. We went down the road, which was sort of like the yellow brick road, and a hiking couple told us we were going in the wrong direction and sent us back to a highway. When we arrived at the school, I went in first, loosing Mark and our friend, which nagged at me for the rest of the dream, and someone tried to call the department, with no luck. But then a student from the area walked by, and took me upstairs. I was going to see if I had time to go home and get the samples, when we walked into a huge room full of students, sitting waiting for me. The instructor introduced himself and I told him I had nothing with me, no samples, no images, but I thought I could talk to them anyway and keep their attention. Maybe this doesn't sound like a nightmare to you, but I do alot of preparation before talks and workshops, and I was totally upset and sweating. Then suddenly I realized they had a digital projector and I remembered that my blog had a link to my slideshow, and I could show that--and that is when I woke up.

My first degree is in psychology, maybe I thought if I studied it I would find out why I never dreamed (yes, I know about waking yourself up in the middle of the night, with a little pad of paper next to you and immediately writing down the dreams, and then one starts to remember)--so when I have a dream that I remember it is an occassion, and I do dwell on it. I see there are overtones of the talk I did last Saturday at BigTown Gallery--where Holly Walker and I each spoke about our work practices and the work in the gallery to a wonderfully receptive audience. Instead of the usual dark room and slides, I had the wonderful light pouring in the windows and clear views of the people I was talking to, and they could see me! The talk went well, Holly was terrific, and though I was nervous to begin with, it was a wonderful experience. Much like my dream.

The other part, probably the cause of the nightmare, is that I have been trying to create a website for myself (and once I did that I was going to do one for Mark). I have been reading a book on Dreamweaver CS3, and watching tutorials on the computer, and reading code everytime I open a webpage. Did you know you can go to View>View Source and you will see the code for this page, or any page that you are on? It is a new language for me--and I guess I would say I have gone from intro level to basic level. In other words, I do understand some of what I am seeing, but not enough for a conversation--certainly not enough to make a webpage with lots of images that transition smoothly from one to another. In my head I understand, but in front of the blank computer page, I am stymied. Two nights ago I was up until 5:30am trying to understand this stuff. Yesterday I was a statue frozen in front of my screen until late afternoon, when Holly called with her own computer melt-down and I went out to act the hero. How wonderful to finally have a part of the day where I knew something, instead of being in this limbo place of understanding/not understanding.

I have decided that I am going to put the website on hold for now. In a few weeks I am going to a workshop where they will talk about web design, and hopefully they will be able to offer advice that will get me going. I know if I wanted to devote the next month or two to just learning this on my own, I could do it. I need more books, and I probably could use some other software, but then if I am doing that, what about my weaving? So the nightmare has helped me have a sense of priorities. I am going back to the loom, and begin this series of work that I have been planning. And if I need someone to see my work online, well, here it is, right in this blog--just go to the right hand column and click on the image in the slideshow and it brings you to the slideshow in a bigger format.

Thank goodness for nightmares. Oh, the code below is actual code from the last blog I posted. And now I am thinking that I am going to weave code. I especially like it when it has color, like the one above.

Code from my last Blog post

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Book by Alice Schlein

New Book by Alice Schlein

I was thrilled to get Alice Schlein's new book, The Liftplan Connection, this week. Alice and I wrote The Woven Pixel together, which was a wonderful experience, learning from each other as we offered information to others. I knew I would want to use her new book, so I started preparing a few weeks ago. I wound a cotton/linen warp and put it on my AVL dobby loom. My loom had been taken apart for quite some time, and when we moved to Vermont Mark and I got it mostly assembled, but it has sat quietly, taking up space, for the year and a half we have lived in this house. It is so nice to have an inspiration that made me want to use this loom again.

What I have done is threaded the loom on a 24-shaft straight threading, and first I am weaving plain weave (all those harnesses for plain weave!) to make curtains for Mark's studio. Then I can use the remaining warp to do studies using Alice's book, and then I can tie on a new warp and do some other work.

I fell in love with this loom when I first saw it--and I still think it is one of the prettiest looms around. But I have hardly used it in the almost 20 years that I have owned it. I remember early on, complaining to a senior member of the AVL team about threading the loom, how difficult it was for me, and his response was, don't you put on 200 yards and just weave, then tie on a new warp? I guess this was their intention, a loom for production weavers, but at that time I was usually making 3 or 4 yard warps, each different for my work, and usually threaded differently too. So no, I couldn't put on long warps and when done tie to it. In hindsight maybe I should have realized that this wasn't the ideal loom for my needs and just loved it far afar. But I didn't, I bought it, and have dragged it around the country with me, taking it apart each time, putting it back together, just to have it sit idle, but pretty.

I have tried to sell the loom on and off, right now it is on, and just after I threaded the loom (still a struggle, I just don't enjoy that aspect of working on this loom) I got a call from someone who might be interested. I have just started weaving and I do think the action is fantastic--so light to lift 12 shafts, and everything is working smoothly. I have a compu-dobby box for the loom, but since I am doing plain weave, I am leaving the manual dobby attachment on the loom until I have a need to do fancy designing in the lift plan. Even then, I might just peg some designs before switching out the dobby boxes. Meanwhile I am reading Alice's book and thoroughly enjoying it.

The book is not a replacement for The Woven Pixel. We have information in there for dobby looms, but not as much as for jacquard design. This book deals exclusively with dobby design and also it has more information on Photoshop Elements than in our book (though it is in there too). Personally I would recommend that all weavers have both books on their shelves.

AVL Dobby Loom
24-shaft compudobby,
currently set up with manual dobby

I got some offline comments from friends about my discussion about functional work versus my art work. I want to make it clear that I did not say anything about good, better, best in my comments. It was not a value judgement--but I definitely think the two types of work demand different ways of thinking and acting by me, and it was those differences that I was referring to.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some Finished Projects

Modelling both sides of Knit Hat

The days are still short, but I can feel them growing, which encourages me to get some work done. Making mental lists of what I need to do the next day is also helping. I finished my hat and have worn it with great satisfaction. It is comfortable, but when the wind blows it still penetrates all those layers over my ears. I saw a friend's knitted gloves, which had a soft flannel-like lining, which makes sense with the open stitch of knits, but it is too late to try and do something like that with this hat. I won't say next time because I doubt if there will be another one.

Roll of hand towels on front beam and finished on right

I also finished my hand towels--well, sort of. I was starting to worry that the roll was getting so big I would not be able to wind any more on the cloth beam, but it never got that big. This morning I stitched between the towels and cut them apart, then washed them in my washing machine and dried them in the dryer. I was worried about both processes but since these are intended to be functional, they have to function properly--which means getting thrown in the wash. They shrunk about three inches in the length and an inch in the width. Even before washing I realized I had made them smaller than I intended. I just measured a finished towel that I like and found it to be 30 inches by 18 inches, while my towels are ending up at about 22 inches by 13 inches. I am still in the process of sewing under the hems, but a few towels are finished and folded.

I want to be clear about this work that I am doing. One of the reasons I am still a weaver, after 41 years (how is that possible when I am only in my 30's?), is that there are so many ways of working as a weaver that it is impossible in one life time to cover them all. I think I told you this already, but maybe not. I began to weave with the intention of taking this skill to a commune--and in the commune I would weave whatever was needed. There was no intention of being an artist, nor, at that time, did I even realize that weaving could be an art form. Later, when I lived in Guatemala and studied brocading on backstrap weaving, I was entranced by the figurative motifs, sometimes abstracted, used by the Mayan weavers. And when I did my senior fiber studio for my BFA at the University of Kansas (which still has an excellent program), and began the body of work that started my reputation as a weaver, I used the brocading process to tell my own stories. Here and there, over the years, I have woven a scarf, or some dishtowels, but I have never seriously undertaken the work of a functional weaver. I have certainly admired other weavers who work this way, and right now I am testing the waters, seeing if I have the skills to make textiles that I would want to use in my own life.

Detail of a drawing by Bhakti Ziek

It is not an all or nothing proposition for me, more an addition to an already crowded room. I have an exhibition coming up in the Fall of 2010, and I want to do a new body of work specifically for the gallery space involved. At the same time, i want to keep going with my exploration of functional textiles, using several of my floor looms. I am not sure if I can actually balance several projects at once, but my idea is to devote one day a week, or perhaps part of each day, to weaving curtains for Mark's studio, scarfs for sale, and getting the hand towels right. The majority of my time will be focused on the work for the exhibition. I have an idea of a very long weaving, segmented, but linear, and have started some drawings, a detail of which is shown above. So it is good that some projects are done, clearing a space for new ones to start.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Almost Perfect Life

Final Version of Curtains

I finished the new central curtains yesterday. As you can see, the panel in the very center has a seam through it. I was using a pin to measure the lengths of the panels--so I would hang the yardage, put a marking pin in the cloth, return to my sewing machine and sew two parallel zigzag lines that allowed for turning under the cloth so the pin would be at the bottom hem, and then cutting the cloth between the zigzag stitched lines. Then I turned under the hem, sewed it down, ironed the cloth, and hung it. Much to my chagrin, I discovered the length was too short. Now how did that happen? I went back to the remaining yardage and found another pin in it--at the place where the length would have been correct. Obviously I must have left one of my marking pins in the yardage, the ones I use when measuring the cloth on the loom. How annoying!! Now I am not a perfectionist by any means, but I do like to get things right, and this mistake really upset me, even though I quickly resolved that I would add the additional fabric to the panel and live with a central seam.

Detail of a Korean Pojagi

Then Mark brought over one of my books on Korean pojagi and showed me the page above and said, "Look at all the mistakes they made!" I laughed and laughed and felt better about myself. I have two excellent books on these wonderful Korean wrapping cloths--Patterns and Colors of Joy: Korean Embroidery and Wrapping Cloths from the Choson Dynasty and The Wonder Cloth.

Wooden Collage by Mark Goodwin

Once the curtains were up, we changed the art work that was over my grandmother's desk to the wooden collage, shown above, that Mark made. The whole room is so pleasant and inviting now, and I am glad to be able to check off one project so early in 2010. I am trying to get myself more organized this year, so that my studio work takes priority over everything else. Sometimes in the evening now I will make a list of what I hope to accomplish the next day--and even if I don't write it down, I tell myself my intentions so I can prepare myself to get to work. I have a lot of small projects I want to finish--one is a vest I started knitting for Mark about eight years ago (honestly, I don't really know if it was 8 years or 4 or maybe 12--but it was a long time ago). But before I pick that up, I am trying to finish a double hat that I am making for myself. You knit one hat and then continue on to the other, and when done, you push one inside the other so it is double thick, warm, and reversible. I am being spurred on by the fact that I lost my hat and gloves on New Year's Eve.

Knitted hat project in process

Another project I am working on is the long heavy white cotton warp that is on my wide Macomber, where I am weaving dish towels. I am putting borders of turned twill blocks at both ends of each towel, and the body is plain weave. I think I put a 10 yard warp on the loom. Maybe I was crazy, but this is part of my thinking about money and being a weaver. Maybe it even has something to do with living in Vermont, where it seems many weavers make lovely, simple, functional textiles. Or it has to do with my sense that I want to understand all the facets of what it means to be a weaver and production weaving is something I have not explored. So I thought I would make a commitment to a product and limit myself to only that, and see how I fared. So far it hasn't been a project that generates much energy for me. I guess I am not good at repetition. However I have found by telling myself that I should do one or two towels a day, as a reason to get up to the studio and be in it, sort of creating an energetic path up to the studio, I am moving through the warp. I am also telling myself that this is the start of a body of woven work that will be affordable for people who might like my work but not be able to purchase my art weaving.

Detail of cotton dishtowel

Like many people in this country, the flow of income has slowed to almost non-existent in our household. I keep trying to think of ways to generate more money, many of which involve this blog, but a long-held idea that my work should be separate from money has been a hindrance. I have never wanted money for money's sake, and even today I think my needs are modest--I want to be able to pay my monthly bills on time, I want to be able to buy whatever groceries I want (now that might be extravagant), and I want to have a small cushion in the bank so I don't worry about checks clearing. When I was younger, I was told that if I planned to make my living as an artist I would have to do lots of activities to have income add up--sell work, do lectures, teach, write--and I have done all these things. Only when I taught full-time, did I not have to think about income. When we moved to Vermont I figured my reputation as a teacher and artist would be enough to bring in the money needed for living. It is close, but not enough. I had wonderful tutorial students come study with me in 2009, but no inquiries yet for this year. I really enjoy these one on one learning experiences, so if you are interested, please contact me.

Another idea I have had was to put an older work on my blog, one a month, in a silent auction format. I could let people know the retail value of the work, but also make it clear that I would accept the highest bid of the month for the work. Friends have encouraged me to do it, but I have been embarrassed or, as I said above, hindered by my ideas about money, to do it. Why should I feel this way about selling my work? I love it when people buy a weaving and live with it and find joy in the work, I just don't like to think of the work as a commercial product. Since this is a new year (HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you!), I am going to try to change my mindset so I can be turned on to making money. So let me say boldly that all of my weavings and all of Mark's drawings and sculpture are for sale. If you are interested, please email me for prices.

Also, I am going to end this post with an image of one of my weavings, Felted Study #2, woven in New Mexico in 2003. The felted weaving is sewn onto cloth, that is stretched on a frame and measures 18" high and 22 " wide. The materials include wool, cotton, chenille, boucles, and natural dyes. I used coffee, logwood, and indigo on the warp, and wove it as a lampas pickup. After weaving, I fulled the cloth. Because the various materials had different properties of shrinkage, the diamond forms became dimensional. It was previously offered for sale at a retail price of $2800. Today I will offer it as my first silent auction weaving, with the caveat that bids must start at a minimum of $300. If you are interested, please email me with an offer. I will notify bidders throughout the month of what the current high bid is, if it is higher than theirs, or maybe I will add the auction to the sidebar of my blog.

Felted Study #2 by Bhakti Ziek