Saturday, February 26, 2011


Sandra Brownlee visiting from Halifax, Nova Scotia in front of Continuum by Bhakti Ziek

Sandra Brownlee, weaver extraordinaire and one of the most creative people I know, came down from Halifax, Nova Scotia to help celebrate the last day of my show. It is always stimulating to talk to Sandra, and she walked through the exhibition giving me applause and encouragement. Since endings are beginnings, this was a perfect time for her visit. (You can purchase Sandra's book, Departures and Returns, directly from her. Just click on her name above and go to the contact page for information.)

The next day I lingered taking one last look at my work (see image below) before packing them up. Working towards a specific space was very helpful for me, giving me a parameter in terms of scale that I don't usually have. Knowing the distance between the windows for example, helped me determine the group of small rectangles. I could have gone with long vertical pieces, but didn't. I am thinking that is my next direction. So out of one project, which definitely came to a conclusion, is a spark that will ignite the coming work. Endings can be hard, but when I remember that an ending is also a beginning, and that life is a continuum, then I find a good perspective.

Last look before work comes down

I am not sure if I heard this directly from Ed Rossbach at a lecture or if I read it in a catalog--but I remember the story. Although Rossbach's work was much sought after by the time of the telling, he was referring to earlier in his career when he would send work off to shows and it would all come back after the show, and he would put it in his closet. He said one day he had a realization that would save him on expense and hassles. He realized he didn't have to send the work off, he could just make it, and then put it directly in the closet!

Definitely a man after my own heart. It took me almost a week to finish the task of getting the new work into my closet. After packing it in the gallery, I had to bring it home and repack with acid-free paper, then carry them to the third floor, remove everything from the closet so I could reorganize and repack the closet, making a chart of where things were stored as I went along. By the end I stopped writing on the chart, but I think I can find everything if necessary.
Closet for storing my work

Winter seems really long by this time of year, especially for someone like me who has never been a fan of the cold. I find refuge in the kitchen, and have had some real successes recently. I fell in love with these cooking pans at King Arthur Bakery. Online they call it a hamburger bun pan, in the store they called it an english muffin pan, but I immediately thought, little cakes. I tried to stack three layers--you can see one in the image below--but the layers were too thick for that and the rest became small two layer cakes. Next time I might try very thin layers and see how many I can stack together. And the chicken pot pies, made in individual oven proof bowls, were spectacular. I was remembering the chicken pot pies from the Horn and Hardart Automat in New York City (you would put in change and the little door in front of the item would open and you would take it out--total delight for a child and probably for the adults too.) I tried to find a recipe online and was surprised that I couldn't find one, though there is a book out that might have it. I will have to check, but the link for the book does show the bank of small food windows, if you want to see.

Recent baking triumphs

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Out and About

Tuvan Throat Singers Performing at Chandler

Five weeks after the opening of my show at Chandler (one week left to see it), I find I am checking off some things on my to-do list (fun things like doing my part of the taxes), and getting out in the world again (as much as icy roads permit). So last week Mark and I joined an almost full house to hear The Tuvan Throat Singers perform at Chandler. Sitting up in the balcony, we had front row seats of the stage, and squirming masses of school children seated below. I had never heard of Tuva, but their singing relates to sounds I have heard from Tibetan monks in Nepal and India. They make a sound that resonates through the space and literally shakes you to the core.

Addison Gallery, top left
American History Museum, rest of images

Last Thursday we actually took a road trip, to the Andover/Lowell area of Massachusetts. The Addison Gallery of the Phillips Academy is showing Sheila Hicks: 50 Years, on view through February 27th. And the American Textile History Museum is showing the American Tapestry Biennial 8, which is up through May 1. The last time Mark and I visited that museum it was located in Andover, so that is many years ago. It has gone through changes, but still has some wonderful examples of 19th century textile history on display. The sample book and indigo chunks, and the way the carding machine was painted and distressed were my favorites.

Hicks is one of the grandmothers of the fiber art movement (Zeisler, Tawney and Hicks) and I have known their works since the late '60s. I wouldn't say I am directly in any of their lineages, but anyone doing textile-related work today owes them a debt. Though Hicks' installations in the show seem a bit tired, I kept thinking that young installation artists today, if they knew her work, would be so excited by it. She really was exploring material studies before anyone was using that term. Taking the simplest element, the thread, she makes massive work dealing with compression and release, the individual and community, ground to heaven. The bulk of the exhibition are small studies which she has done since the late fifties. An image of her thesis show at Yale, showing paintings and woven work really exemplifies her spirit of adventure; her understanding that an artist has no boundaries if the exploration is authentic.

Of course I loved the fact that I knew many of the artists showing in the Tapestry Biennial. I wasn't allowed to take pictures, but there is a good catalog that is available through the American Tapestry Alliance, and Janet Austin has pasted good images of the show on her facebook page. I always enjoy Jennifer Sargent's work, and her piece in the show was really wonderful. The open work and delicate yarns give her work a distinct presence. I have seen glossy reproductions of Michael Rohde's work that always are attractive--but they don't give a sense of the scale of his work, or the beautiful soft shading of colors that make up the whole, giving every part of the work its own nuance of character. I recently met Suzanne Pretty, who came with her husband to my talk at Chandler two weeks ago, and was pleased to see her prize winning tapestry at the entrance of the show. It is quite an honor to win first prize among so many excellent weavings.

Beth Couglan, from Chicago, visiting my exhibition

Another week, another visitor. I have just loved the stream of friends who have made it to Randolph to see my new series, Continuum. Beth is a world traveller and could have her own version of Nomad. She is also a wonderful weaver, so it was wonderful to see her enjoyment of my work. We also made an outing to King Arthur Flour to check out their new line of gluten-free products. It was a crowded morning and everyone was friendly, offering each other advice, clearly a group of foodies. I bought some white bowls to make individual pot pies--and we have been eating turkey pot pie all week.

Warp Painted with Earthues Natural Dye Extracts

I let my warp, painted with Earthues natural dye extracts, air dry for about two weeks and then steamed it. Here is the warp pre-steamed. I will show it to you again in a few weeks--after I let it air dry again and wash it. Eventually it will get on my TC-1 loom. As I check off some neglected projects I can see myself getting closer to the loom again, and the excitement is mounting.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Catching Up

Friends Visiting Exhibition

It has been wonderful to have friends from out of town visit and give me feedback on my continuum series. Since the opening (see previous post), Cyndy Barbone (top), Myra Serrins (second from top), Deborah Carlson (third from top), and Marcie Miller-Gross (shown here with Elizabeth Billings in bottom image) came to Randolph. I couldn't photograph Marcie in the show, since I was taking a workshop when she and Liz went to see it, but the phone call afterwards was sweet to my ears. All these friends are weavers (though Marcie's work has moved into another mysterious and intriguing place) and were able to give me good critical feedback to consider for future work. The show is still up until February 20th, and two more weekends will bring two more friends, so life is sweet. I did a talk on my work last weekend and Myra snapped an image of me in front of Chandler.

Bhakti standing in front of Chandler Center for the Arts with her name in lights

Canvas woven for Mark Goodwin

I haven't been focused enough to start new work on the TC-1, but have been weaving. I finished yardage of plain weave cotton/linen canvas for Mark to use in his work. The focus in our house has shifted from my preparation for an exhibition to his preparing for a one-person show at BigTown Gallery that will open on May 4th.

Sara Goodman's Dye Workshop

I also took a dye workshop with Sara Goodman in her studio in Lyme, NH. Just five of us, snow outside, warm inside, painting warps with Earthues Natural Dye Extracts. I used to think I invented painted warps (back in the late 1970s), which just shows how ignorant I was about the history of textiles, and I have written articles on the topic and taught many workshops on painted warps. I have even used the dye extracts on my own to paint a warp or two, but I didn't have a handle on the colors, the way I did with procion MX dyes. So it was wonderful for me to learn something new about something familiar, and to jump start a process that I hope to introduce into my next series of jacquard weavings. Sara also had an indigo pot going (notice how she uses all the proper gear for working with those chemicals), and at the end I was able to dip the end of my warp into both indigo and cochineal pots, ending the warp with red, purple and blue. I still have to steam it and wash it, but you can see my colorful warp wrapped in plastic above. Myra Serrins was in the class too (shown above left with Sara), and Carol and Amy (bottom left) and Toby (not shown) were also there. Sara will be teaching a dye workshop at New England Weavers Seminar 2011 (NEWS) so if you are interested, sign up. I will also be teaching there--photoshop for textile design.

Weaving crackle diamonds

Now I am trying to weave off the warp on one of my small macomber looms. I used a threading from the 8-shaft book by Carol Strickler, and am weaving off all the bits of color that are filling my bobbins. Maybe I will have some new dishtowels in the end. For sure I will have a box of empty bobbins so I can start fresh with my next work.

Lots of links in this post. I intended to try and post weekly in 2011, but have not been able to do so. I appreciate that people are still reading my blog and sending me personal emails with comments. Hope you are having as beautiful and snowy a winter as we are having in Vermont. I really loved the mental image of this country blanketed in snow from coast to coast, though I realize many places were not equipped to handle it the way they do here. Stay warm.