Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Technology Scream

March weaving by Bhakti Ziek
(whole image at top, details at bottom)

On this dreary wet frustrating day, I will start with an image of my finished weaving. I don't have a title yet, which is unusual for me since the weaving usually "tells" me its name while I am making it. For now, it is March weaving. My reading of A Path with Heart tells me that many people, when mediating, notice their mind stories are often self-aggrandizement's--and that certainly applies to me--not when I am meditating, since that is rare, but when I am weaving. I think this weaving is a very good beginning for a body of work, but perhaps it is not quite the shining, magnificent, awesome work that I saw as I was making it. Sometimes when I finish a work I have to put it away for a month or so before I can see it for what it is, rather than my expectations and judgements. This one is on my wall right now, which is a tribute to my early acceptance of it. It needs to be mounted and finished, but I have months to procrastinate on that.

So I have been fussing about the learning curve of new technology--in my case, a new scanner and a new digital camera. The camera is already not working--and the really frustrating aspect is that I purchased it from a vendor online, through Amazon, and, unbeknown to me on ordering, it came from Hong Kong. I have nothing against Hong Kong, but the warranty for the camera is not valid here in the USA--and I just feel like screaming. I am not a big consumer, so the idea of exchanges and exchanges that mean shipping overseas, is really frustrating me and ruining my day. Those of you who do shop online and through Amazon know that it also means email correspondence, no easy recourse to a living human being, and probably weeks until this gets resolved.

On Sunday I went to Montpelier to see Don't Know, We'll See: The Work of Karen Karnes by Lucy Massie Phenix, which was shown through the Green Mountain Film Festival. Both Karen and Lucy were there, which was very nice, and the movie was quite inspiring. At one point Karnes' studio (and house?) burnt and the film shows her the very next day going through hot smoldering destruction, pulling out a pot or two (the last kiln load of work survived). I could not believe that she was so cheerful--not a moment of self-pity. She says she is lucky because it was only things that were lost, it could have been much worse. So I am going to tell myself the same thing about today--it's only a tool/toy and even if the situation doesn't resolve itself to my satisfaction (and it probably will), it's only a thing.

Maybe you noticed that I have added a link on the right side of this blog where you can sign up for email notification that I have posted a new page. A friend asked me to do this, so I looked it up online (so technology does have some good to it today) and added it to my blog. This might mean that some of you who click often looking won't have to do that, and my numbers on the click counter won't grow so fast, but I am sure it will be more convenient for you, if you want that type of notification.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

10,000 Hits

More Images of March weaving progressing on the TC-1 Loom

This week my blog reached more than 10,000 hits. I know it doesn't mean 10,000 readers, that it could be the same loyal 49 followers reading it over and over again--but it makes me feel important to see that number grow so large. Thank you, everyone, who takes the time to read this blog.

As you can see, my weaving is progressing. In fact, I finished it this afternoon. I still have enough warp left to weave a small image, which means back to Photoshop® to design it. Probably i will do a detail from the larger piece as a reference. When I get it cut off, I will photograph the piece with my new camera, which just arrived today. The old one doesn't allow enough pixels for good prints, and it skews everything. Hopefully this one will be better.

Sheep, lambs and rooster at Highfields Farm

Curious Lamb meets Friendly Dog at Highfields Farm

We had lovely weather over the weekend and the owners of Highfields Farm in Randolph, VT called to say it was a good day to come see the lambs. In fact, it was a perfect day to see them--all eleven of them (well, maybe there are ten). They were frolicking and running around--we couldn't have asked for a cuter scene. Then Julie and Chris came back from a walk with their dogs--and I captured the image above of the curious lamb coming over to greet the dog. They actually touched noses. I really want my own farm and sheep and baby lambs, a few goats, chickens and fresh eggs, and a big garden (that someone else weeds).

Dinner Party with my tablecloth--notice that it shrunk

Well, the tablecloth definitely shrunk. I can't hem the ends or it won't fit lengthwise--and it just barely goes edge to edge in width. I really thought I had woven enough--I certainly had the warp to extend it by a foot. Oh well, it still works and my dinner party was a success. Can't say that about the latest power of myth gathering. Oh, the gathering was fantastic (thank you Kelly and Forest)--lots of fun--but the consensus is to leave Joseph Campbell in the dust. There actually is an option here--whoever hosts the future gatherings can choose the video--or I suppose they could choose to do a poetry reading, or play charades--but my vision of six meetings watching the six episodes, with six discussions really ended after session one. This one didn't exactly count since the video turned out to be the second one of a different series, a bit more pedantic as if Campbell was lecturing to his Sarah Lawrence class. I felt I should get a notebook and take notes, quickly, so I could be prepared for the upcoming test. It just didn't generate the type of conversation we had after watching the Moyers-Campbell part one. Mostly that conversation was about how dated their clothes and hair styles were, and how funny all that star wars stuff was--but it was still good conversation. This evening had its unexpected highlights though--like Tommy playing the piano. The entire house filled with powerful sound--it was like magic.

Hardly any snow on March 20th

We have had rain for the last two days, sunny warm days before that, and you can, almost all the snow was gone on Saturday, so after the rain, there won't be any. But I am warned, anything is possible in Vermont until May, or even later. I refuse to believe it though. Spring is here and i am all for warmth.

Spring also has brought registration for the summer classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. They just finished registration for their students, and this week they open it up to anyone who wants to attend. There are some openings in my class, so if you want to study with me, sign up at www.saic.edu/summer. The class is open to any level of student--beginner to advanced--and students will work on floor looms as well as the TC-1 hand jacquard loom. This is the only venue where I will be teaching this summer, and probably for the rest of the year.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Busy Weaving

March weaving growing on TC-1 loom

It is so good to have obligations on the calendar that force me to stop playing computer games and return to the loom. I gave a talk on Saturday morning for the Vermont Weavers Guild, then they came to my house to see the TC-1 loom in action. I also put out most of my ethnographic textile collection in hope that pieces would find new homes (and a few did). Spurred on by the visit, i got busy last week weaving. I always wonder why I have these long breaks, once I return to the loom--because it really is exciting to see the image grow. This weaving is going to be approximately 42 inches wide so the motif that you see developing in the images above will be on the left side of the final weaving. It is one of the drawings I did when i was trying to figure out classification awhile back (remember, the PBS Art 21 series?). I never did decide where I would place myself, but I like the motif and am very pleased how it is working in the cloth. There is a gold metallic weft that is being used both for the ground and for patterning, and my photos are not giving you a clear sense of the simmer and shine of the piece. Maybe when my new camera arrives I will be able to show you it better. And by then, it should have become much longer too.

Two of my studio walls with structural studies hanging

I hung the walls of my studio with the structural studies for the guild to see. I find them very useful myself but have given up on the idea of making them my art work. They are what they are--and that is enough. I see I have different aspirations for the current piece than I do for them. That means I will be very critical of the weaving when it first gets off the loom, and then, hopefully, I will soften with time.

Some of the ethnographic textiles in my collection

After the excitement of the talk, and a house full of weavers, I had a quiet day putting all the textiles back in the containers where I store them. It is almost a ritual, to take them out, try to sell them, remember when and where i bought them--usually directly from their maker--then carefully fold them up and put them away. I wonder if they will end up in some thrift store when I die? I hope not. India, Guatemala, Uzbekistan and Japan are all represented in the fabrics above.

On Monday, Liz and I had a lesson in coiled pots by Holly. We really had a good time. I definitely felt like a grade-school child, awkward and out of control. I had to put my first attempt back in the recycle pile, but my second attempt has possibilities. It is going to be a spoon pot for our wooden spoons and stirrers. It was really informative to work with Holly and see how skilled and joyful she is with the clay. One little pat or pinch by her and our work would shape up.

Holly Walker and Liz Billings making coiled pots

Yesterday Mark and I drove to Pawtucket, RI to pick up two of my weavings that had been in an exhibition at the Slater Mill Gallery, juried by Norma Smayda (center below) and Jody Brown (right below). Andrian Paquette (left below) was kind enough to show us around Slater Mill, which has wonderful old textile equipment that is still running. Andrian demonstrated the narrow tape loom which is shown in the image below. We also saw the renovated studios where classes are taught and meetings are held by a number of guilds. The waterfall outside the mill was really roaring and Andy said the river was about 8 feet higher than normal.

Andrian Paquette, Norma Smayda, and Jody Brown at Slater Mill

Narrow tape loom which is still weaving, see all the dobby bars on the left side of the loom!

After the mill, we went into Providence to see Kristin Crane's handmade books at Craftland. Kristin was a textile designer, before most of the mills in the area closed, then studied graphic design, but she seems to be thriving as a bookmaker and one of the directors of the gallery. She also sells her work on Etsy. I was a bit overwhelmed by the city--pastoral Vermont has changed me. But not so overwhelmed that I couldn't find Whole Foods and immediately spend my lecture fee and then some. I realize I am glad we don't have a store like that near us in Vermont (I think I am sounding like that cliche about New York--you know, the one that ends "but I wouldn't want to live there.")

Kristin Crane holding one of her travel journals in Craftland

I bought the new Abstract Expressionists stamps at the post office the other day. They are so cute that they will really tempt you to send a real letter. All these miniatures of very big paintings. Some of them are huge though in terms of stamps and when I mentioned to the post person that I would have to turn the stamp to get it to fit on my envelope, and was that okay, he said, "It's abstract expressionism. You can turn it any way you want."

New stamps available at the US Post Office

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Goodbye Loom

Last project on dobby loom

Yesterday we said goodbye to the beautiful dobby loom that took center stage in our front room. The first step in disassembling the loom was to cut off the yardage that was on the loom. I laid out the damask block section on the table and am relieved to see that it is long enough to go edge to edge. I hope after washing it will still cover. Now the front room is empty, encouraging us to bring the sofa from the second floor office downstairs to be more useful.

Thank you to everyone who sent me comments on my last blog post, many of them came in direct emails to me. They all were thoughtful and encouraging. I have been rereading Jack Kornfield's wonderful book, A Path with Heart, and, honestly, I want to underline every sentence. It is reminding me that each of us has to forge our own way, authentic to ourselves. As soon as I wrote the last post, I knew that I had already come to some decisions--like focusing on weaving work for an exhibition, and not letting other things interfere with that commitment. I will have to finalize the first work soon, since the Vermont Weavers Guild is coming to see my studio on Saturday.

If you are on Weavetech (a yahoo group) or the Complex Weavers Jacquard Study Group, you already know that Garth Fletcher, the developer of JacqCAD Master, a software specifically for jacquard design, has announced that the program is now available as shareware. He explains it all on the website. When I taught in universities, this was one of the programs I used, and I had created and saved hundreds, maybe thousands, of weave structures in that program. When I left academia I no longer had access to any of that information--and it is one of the reasons I was interested in developing Photoshop for jacquard (see The Woven Pixel for those results). With my impeccable sense of timing, about a month ago I cleaned up the two computers that had all my JacqCAD files on them and threw those files into the trash! Oh well. I probably won't go back to that program, since I am quite satisfied with my method of designing and weaving using Photoshop, but it is an excellent program and Garth has offered a gift to everyone in the field.

I want to mention the Osloom project again. I like the spirit of this project. It is an attempt to open up new technologies in weaving to a larger group of people. I also want to say that I suspect that as that project unfolds, they are going to discover that the high cost of the current hand jacquards is due to the expense of manufacturing parts that are specified to the tiniest fractions of variation--and anything less than that will cause problems with the loom. Vibeke Vestby began her investigations that led to the TC1 with the same spirit of innovation and sharing that Margarita Benitez has for the Osloom. The expense of the loom has not increased because of greed but because of the value of the dollar versus the Norwegian krone. Despite the headaches of manufacturing, Vestby and her company have continued to improve the loom, and continue to offer the best customer support possible. As I return to my TC1 this week, I know for certain that I will be sending silent blessings off to Vestby, in gratitude for all she has done for me and other weavers. In that spirit, I wish Benitez support for her project, and hope you will donate to her kickstarter project. If enough of us donate $25, it can add up to the sum she needs.