Friday, October 26, 2012


I don’t think of myself as a consumer, but I love to shop for some things. Groceries are top on my list. Did I write about this before? How I came home late one evening from two years living in Guatemala and Mexico and immediately went to the grocery store and walked up and down every aisle. I just starred at all the boxes of cereal, all the types of cookies, all the cheeses, and all the fruit and vegetables out of season for that area but available to purchase anyway. These days I don’t go up and down every aisle, in fact I never go past the boxed cereals or canned vegetables, but I still love going to the supermarket and slowly going through my list. I try to limit myself to a written list, but never manage to succeed. Besides the monthly bills that must get paid (like the mortgage), the grocery stores get most of my money. When times are rough, I ask Mark to do the shopping. He sticks to the list.

The other item on which I spend money is books. I used to buy textile related books. I have learned that if I see a book that looks good, I had better get it, because it won’t be there next time I look. The bookstores in Santa Fe always had something to tempt me. One memorable trip there, a fantastic bookstore was going out of business, and we flew home with armfuls of heavy art books. That was before the airlines started to charge for luggage. The books stay with us, from house to house, as we crisscross the country. They fill shelves in almost every room. Sometimes I don’t take one off the shelf for months, but when I do, it is like visiting an old friend.

 I go in cycles of topics. Indonesian textiles were high on my list for a while. In fact, almost any book on ethnographic textiles will catch my attention. These books are usually filled with lots of photos, and admittedly, I have looked at the pictures more than I have read the texts. I also like how-to books on weaving. No book has come close to Deborah Chandlers’ Beginning Weaving, one of the first books I owned, but that doesn’t stop me from buying all the ones that have come out since hers, explaining how to wind a warp, or set up a loom, or weave simple fabrics. There is this thing that comes over me when I find one of these books—I think it is called greed. I just have to have it. It’s as if my life will not be complete unless that book is put on my shelf. This hasn’t happened in Vermont because I have never seen a book on weaving that I don’t already own in any of the bookstores here.

 Lately cookbooks are calling to me. There used to be a Borders within a half hour of my house, and I would loose myself looking at all their cookbooks. Now I find I am creating quite a long wish list on Amazon; books on chocolate are piling up fast. I haven’t actually made any chocolates yet—but I am reading about them—and lusting after more books on them. Reading is definitely less fattening than making and eating, but I know that soon I am going to start…and then my list of needs will increase to molds, and dipping forks, and exotic ingredients. Cookbooks always seem to lead to purchases of kitchen tools.

 Desire is an interesting phenomenon. I can thumb through dozens of books and put them back on the shelf without a flicker of interest—but suddenly, when something catches my fancy, it seems like dozens of others are suddenly enticing. I have some control, so I whittle things down to one or two purchases, which then trigger a delayed action. Sooner or later I will be back to get the others. I have rationalized some of it. A book on weaving or cooking is something you return to again and again. It isn’t an item you can get from inter-library loan because you never are quite finished with it. Even if it isn’t a very good cookbook or textile book, still you might need to use it again in the future; and if it is a good cookbook or weaving book then you definitely will need to use it again. These are research items. Research is such a respectable word that allows me to indulge in consumerism. Mark thinks I should do some weavings based on cooking. Now that will really legitimize my research.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Master Weavers

Mark Goodwin deciding what to install next after hanging My Roof by Bhakti Ziek on back wall at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire.

I am currently in two concurrent exhibitions with Cyndy Barbone, Deborah Carlson and Fuyuko Matsubara. It surprises me that many people think we are showing the same work at both venues, since their dates overlap. So just to be clear, the makers are the same, the work is different. The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts is hosting Grand Tales of the Loom: Four Master Weavers until January 20, 2013; AVA Art Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire is hosting Affinity: Cyndy Barbone, Deborah Frazee Carlson, Fuyuko Matsubara and Bhakti Ziek from October 19 - November 16, 2012. Since we hung the AVA show on Saturday, I can post pictures from that installation in this post.

Margaret Jacobs, head of exhibitions at AVA Gallery (on ladder) and her assistant, Kayla Gilbert, did an amazing job hanging Fuyuko Matsubara's masterpiece, In the Earth 2, at AVA Gallery and Art Space, Lebanon, New Hampshire.

This is a good time for weaving and textiles in general. Material explorations have exploded and when one sees work using fiber materials in art galleries now it is just identified as art, not ghettoized as fiber art. Most of these artists will roam from media to media, as their ideas or fashion dictate, and I have no problem with this. Nor do I mind that many of them are reworking ideas that have been done before--though I do think it is sad that their education has not informed them of the artists who trod the path before them. And I do mind it when I read statements implying that they are the first ones to combine concepts with fiber materials--a blatant sign of ignorance and self-aggrandizement. On the other hand, one has to excuse some of their ignorance because many artists using fiber materials that express ideas have been excluded from major museums, galleries, exhibitions and catalogs just because they were using those materials.

Cyndy Barbone (left) and Deborah Carlson (right) photographing the installation at AVA Gallery and Art Space, Lebanon, New Hampshire with Cyndy's weaving on the left wall and Deborah's weaving on the wall between windows.

So I think it is a great thing that the walls seem to be coming down (okay, I am skeptical--just like when I think that women have come a long way since my youth, I realize how few women are in the senate or house of representatives or hold positions of real power, and I wonder if they will repeal the woman's right to vote after they take away her right to choose). And I think this is the time for all of us who have been working for years to make an effort to show. So naturally I am thrilled that I can be part of two strong shows happening right now. Thrilled because when I stand in front of the work of Cyndy, or Deborah, or Fuyuko I am reminded of why I love weaving (as a medium, not as a process). Of the awe I feel when I realize that they have patiently manipulated vertical and horizontal threads to create these personal, passionate narrative works that evoke place and spirit and light. I can get lost in front of each work in these shows, whether small in scale or large, mesmerized by their beauty and substance. 

Portrait by Cyndy Barbone (on display at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH) is woven with inlays of yarns of different densities creating a figure from degrees of transparency. 

And I realize that what I am looking at is the product of years of study, research, exploration and learning. Each of us has been weaving for more than thirty years. We bring knowledge of dyes and dyeing, materials, and weave structure to the table. Double weave or triple weave isn't used because it is complicated but because it is the right method to produce the elements needed for the ideas being expressed. The slowness of a process is not an end goal, but if the only way to produce the idea is slow, then that is the path that must be followed. The fact that I am using a computerized loom ("new technologies") is something I have grown into, from hand manipulated supplementary weft to weft-backed satin structures; it facilitates the making of my current work but it doesn't do the work for me. And our work is informed by the awareness of great works of art in textile form, from Coptic textiles to Safavid to Bauhaus to contemporary fiber art. We know we are the current practitioners of a long lineage of artists who have found their voice at the loom; a practice that dates back to centuries dated B.C. We want people to understand through our work that the expression of woven threads is sublime and spiritual.

Deborah Carlson's woven portrait of a memory, with its golden heart, and surrounding gold leaf will draw you into the room at the exhibition Affinity at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

Just like I have earned the right to use my Thread Controller loom, so all of us have earned the title of Master Weaver. We aren't the only ones. I can name a handful of amazing artists who are also master weavers and could easily be in the shows with us. So I hope this is just the beginning. That our work will travel, that there will be other shows with more people, other shows with more work to dazzle the eyes and entice the contemporary public to appreciate weaving as an art form.

Deborah Carlson's work on left of left wall; Bhakti Ziek's weaving Vowels to right of it; and Bhakti Ziek's My Roof on back wall--on view at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

Fuyuko Matsubara's weaving to the left; Cyndy Barbone's weavings are in the center and to the right--on view at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, NH.

If you want to read more about my thoughts, there is an interview with me on the Fuller Craft tumblr site. I don't remember sending it off with all the typos and misspellings and words that should be other words (like wave for weave), but maybe I did. So if you can overlook those things, you might find it interesting to read. Click here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Catch Up

Fall in Vermont
This fall is going so quickly that I am just going to play catch up and post briefly about several events. It has really been a beautiful fall, following a magical summer, so I have some hope for winter.

Four "Master Weavers" standing in front of Cyndy Barbone's work at top left with Cyndy second from left; standing in front of Deborah Carlson's work with Deborah at right; standing in front of Fuyuko Matsubara's work with Fuyuko second from right; and standing in front of Bhakti Ziek's work with Bhakti at left (photos by Cyndy Barbone).
The Fuller Craft Museum exhibition opened with a reception for the four "master weavers" (I love writing master weaver and really, we all have earned that title and deserve to be honored this way) on September 30th. It was a lively, well-attended event and the work of each of us shone on its own and worked in harmony with the other weavings. This exhibition will be on view through January 20th. On November 18th we will return and give artists' talks at 1 p.m. Here is a walk-through of the exhibition:

Top left is view from the entrance and top right is looking back to the entrance showing the title wall with work by Deborah Carlson and the side wall with work by Deborah Carlson; the middle left image shows the right wall with work by Bhakti Ziek; and the middle right image is the back wall with work by Fuyuko Matsubara; the bottom left image shows Cyndy Barbone's work which hangs on the left wall; and the bottom right image shows work by Deborah Carlson which is on the front wall.
Top left: Marianne McCann in front of her gypsy wagon and studio building; Top right: Holly Jennings at left, Marianne, Barbara Moon Boertzel and Harry Boertzel; Middle Left: Marianne in front of one of her paintings which she made for her mother but I always think she is talking to me; Center Top Right: lunch on Andy Wasserman's porch--Andy is on the right at the back, I am across from her; Center Bottom Right: Vermont view; Bottom Left: spur of the moment salad--yum; Bottom Right: Andy's chickens. 
A visit by Barbara Moon Boertzel and Harry Boertzel brought together a group of us who all know them from different times related to Cranbrook. We had a delicious Portuguese dinner their first night here made by Holly, Marianne and myself because we are all focusing on David Leite's The New Portuguese Table for this round of the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club. No pictures but good memories. Next day we visited Marianne and Andy. We had plans to go to Montpelier for lunch and drink Vermont beer but never got there. Instead we had a marvelous spontaneous lunch that was truly a feast at Andy's house. The stop at Marianne's reminded me that despite her M.F.A. (all the women at the lunch table have their M.F.A.s from Cranbrook) she is truly an original folk artist. If the right person from the outsider art world fan group discovered her, she would have a long list of people wanting her work.

Jennifer Moore from Santa Fe, NM standing in front of a table of her samples that she brought to the Vermont Weavers Guild workshop at the White River Craft Center.
Just this morning we took Jennifer Moore to the airport. She came to Randolph to teach a workshop on doubleweave for the Vermont Weavers Guild. I know Jennifer from Santa Fe, so was happy to spend evenings together catching up. You can see from the photo above that Jennifer loves color and knows how to use doubleweave in so many ways to bring color and structure together. If you want to know more about her work check out her excellent book, Doubleweave. And if you are a member of a guild or group that brings in people to teach workshops, you should definitely put her high on your list. I walked through her class yesterday morning and was so impressed by the energy coming from each loom.

In just a few weeks, the trees went from green to a myriad of color. To my eyes, the sumac is an especially vibrant red this year. I googled garlic and read that when the hills were a field of color, that was the time to plant the bulbs. So I did. Then heaped on leaves, which are falling fast. The color never lasts long enough, just like summer never stays quite as long as I want. But the beauty of each season seems particularly beautiful to me this year, and I am curious to see what Winter will bring. Meanwhile the fires in the wood stove, which have begun, seem more like a luxury than a necessity.

One of the last walks before all the leaves are gone.