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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weaving Lesson: Threading a Loom

McMorran Balance, Weighing Yarn, Finding Sett

When I wrote on Facebook that winding warps was one of my favorite activities, my friend Ann said I was "wacky." But i do love the set up of a loom, winding the warp and dressing the loom, something I miss when I add a new warp to the TC-1 loom by tying knots that connect the old warp to the new one. For all those of you who think weaving and setting up a loom is a boring process, I say, it is fraught with tension--a mine field where every step has a possible mishap lurking. So I photographed my process the other day to share with those of you who have never woven, and might be interested in the process. Before you actually get to throw the shuttle and actively make cloth, there are dozens of steps that proceed, and lots of lovely tools to help in the process.

One warp I wanted to make was from a spool of linen thread, which had no data on it--so I took out my McMorran Balance to find out the approximate yards per pound of this yarn (1300). Then I weighed the spool (15 ounces); and then I did a warp wrapping to find out how many ends per inch would work for a balanced plain weave (10 epi) (the warp sett). Calculator, pen and paper (not photographed) got me the calculations that I could safely wind a 24 inch width at 10 epi of almost 3 yards and have enough yarn left for the weft. (We will see.)

Overall Picture of Threading Loom; Counting 40 Warp Ends

With the warp wound, I can go to the loom. The following pictures are of a different warp than discussed above--this one is 40 inches wide, Borgs Bomullin (50% flax and 50% cotton). I wound on an 11 yard warp (with the help of my husband), and the plan is to thread 20 ends per inch--800 threads. What isn't pictured is the hours spent counting the heddles on each shaft, moving them over so they are in the proper place on each shaft (these shafts are divided into three areas) and adding heddles on each of the eight shafts since none of them had enough heddles. There was math involved here too--800 divided by 8 = 100 heddles per shaft; then divided appropriately for the three sections which are not identical in width. Above you see the general set up--note the important coffee cup which seems to be making an appearance in every step of the process. On the right you see me counting off a group of 40 ends.

Counting and Moving Over Heddles; Threading Heddles

Then I count off a group of 40 heddles--5 on each shaft (40 divided by 8 = 5). I should note that I go for accuracy rather than speed and I have these processes which help show me as I am going whether I have made a mistake or not. I would much rather correct a mistake in 40 threads than find out at the end that there is a problem somewhere in the middle, or anywhere. I hold the 40 ends in my right hand, along with a threading hook, and use my left hand to move over the correct heddle and pull out the next thread from the group and hold it taunt so the hook can grab it and pull the thread through the eye of the heddle. If I have done everything right, there are now five threaded heddles per shaft and no extra threads in my hand, and no shaft with more or less than five threads.

Pulling Group of Warps in heddles and tying them in a knot

Then I pull the group tight and make an overhand knot in front of the heddles. Even though i don't go for speed (I always lost to my friend Marilyn when we worked together in her studio in Brooklyn in the mid-80s), I am always amazed how fast this process can go. It definitely takes me about a third of the time to thread a loom than to tie the knots on the TC-1.

Pulling two warp ends through dent of reed using a hook and tying groups in a knot

After all the warp ends are through heddles, I get to thread the reed. In this case I used a 10 dent reed, and put two ends per dent (bringing the sett up to 20 epi). Reeds come in different divisions, and over the years I have acquired a great variety. If I had decided on 30 epi, I could use this 10 dent reed (10 spaces per inch) and put three threads per dent, or I could use a 15 dent reed and put two threads per inch, or, if I had it, and the threads moved smoothly through the space, I could use a 30 dent reed and put one thread per dent. The cloth I am going to make is going to be a fairly open plain weave, but the cloth will shrink when washed and make the cloth firmer. It is going to be used by my husband, Mark Goodwin, for his work.

Mark and I have talked about collaboration before, or tried to talk about it--I guess I am not an easy collaborator. But he has been doing some experiments on cloth I have given him, and the results are starting to be really intriguing. You can see two of them below. So now I am going to make yardage for him so he can really explore. I don't know if the energy I am putting into the weaving is really making a difference, and I don't actually think this is a collaboration, since the creativity is all coming from his side once he has the cloth, but I do like the idea that the cloth is a catalyst for him, and I like that I have this weaving to do. It is different than the work on the TC-1, less demanding in terms of expectations on my part. Thinking about why I like dressing a loom so much, I realize it is an activity where I feel in control--I have mastery. It is one of those mind-body connections where I have done it so often that the smoothness of the process feels right--I feel right--in other words, I know what I am doing.

Drawing by Mark Goodwin on cloth woven by Bhakti Ziek

Another Mark Goodwin drawing on Bhakti Ziek cloth plus more work by Mark Goodwin

Will end with an image of the beautiful light pattern on Mark's studio wall yesterday. We both wish we could claim it as our art.

Light Pattern on Wall

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Spring Returns

Here's our first spring flowers! So the cycle starts over. I guess you could say this every day--every morning a fresh start; every evening a return to sleep. But sometimes it takes something remarkable to make you conscious of the passage of time and the recycling of events. The almost 80 degree temperature the last few days was certainly a jolt--but for me it was the jauntiness of these crocuses that really said, once again it is spring.

Weaving cycle: winding warp, tying knots

Weaving is all about cycles, repetition and movement. I am all over the house right now working on the next weaving. Winding the warp on the ground floor meant bringing skein winder, spool holder, bobbin winder, yarn, scissors, and tying thread downstairs so skeins of yarn could be converted to a new 4 yard warp. I am aware that my process is very inefficient--tying 880 ends, new to old, for just four yards is going to really get to me after a few warps--but I don't want to have the same ground on these weavings, and I don't want to paint my warps. I was talking to a friend about this, how a process that was once almost my signature has no draw for me now. I did consider it, it would enable me to wind a long warp and make each section different--but then I would be locked into the colors that I dyed now--and really, I want each piece to inform the next one. So I have opted for "slow" work--each warp short and distinct. The current one is stripes of white yarn--a silk and ramie mix, a silk and linen mix, and several variations of 100% silk. All 880 knots are now tied.

I took the knot tying as an opportunity to have a Bob Dylan festival--all Dylan all day for two days--one of my favorite events that has cycled through my life ever since I first became a fan. At one point I was sure I would meet him--it was inevitable. One of the first weavings I did was a guitar strap woven on a belt loom that an acquaintance of mine, who knew Dylan, supposedly gave him from me. That was back in 1969. I guess I hoped I would see it on his guitar at one of the concerts, or, even better, on one of his album covers. It was inevitable, right. Listening to him sing brings on such a weird combination of nostalgia and the present moment. How many classes did I cut when Blond on Blond was first released? I had never heard a sound like that album before--I just couldn't get enough of it. As soon as it reached the end, I would just get up to start it over, then lie down on the floor again, completely mesmerized. As often as I have listened to his music, I can still hear a new phrase, or get a jolt from a familiar one. So I will never get to say thank you in person, but these days I realize I don't need to meet him. I think the gratitude in my heart is enough.

Detail showing front and back of March weaving

One of the things I like about lampas is that the front and back of the cloth can be so different. Here is a detail of both sides from the March weaving that I posted last time. I used four wefts--and on the front you see distinct areas of color (plus you are seeing warp strips too) but on the back the wefts combine to give a completely different coloring. Sometimes I have combined both surfaces in one weaving, but not in this one; nor in the small weaving I squeezed out of the final bit of warp. I guess you could call this the cliff notes version of my March weaving, or Mini March. There are differences, the gold lattice is not outlined in black, the warp stripes run vertically here where they are horizontal in the large weaving. They are clearly related though: cycle and recycle.

Cliff notes version of March weaving

Both Mark and I have been busy in our studios these last few weeks. It's not like we aren't always doing something, we are, but some periods are just more productive than others. Again, a cycle. When we first met, as students at the University of Kansas, we would work late into the night, into the morning really. Around 2 or 3 a.m. one of us would go find the other (I was on the 5th floor, he was in the basement) and we would head home. Thirty years later we are still spending our finest hours alone in our studios--but this work, these hours, it is what makes our time together potent and interesting. Living with an artist means I have a partner who understands and honors the fact that making my work demands private time, lots of private time--just as I honor his work space and needs too. It is nice though, that I can tell him in person, periodically, how lucky I am to share my life with him. Personal cycles.

Drawing by Mark Goodwin