Saturday, January 13, 2018

Moving On

I can't remember at what stage my loom was at when I last posted, except that it wasn't going mere hours after Ben fixed it. I had to take a break from worrying as I was overwhelmed by questions and advices, while wondering if I was going to face an existential crisis as a weaver. (I wasn't there.) Fear no more, Ben fixed it again this morning, and though I dreaded to try it for most of the day, I managed to weave in the end.
But before this, I sampled and didn't like the threading on the left end, so I edited it twice. The end result looks way too symmetrical for a piece I threaded spontaneously; (it's not symmetrical); maybe I need to plan spontaneity on paper, although I might try this again. It's a little thrilling.
During the week, I painted Santas; 3D coloring, and I can't stay inside the lines. All that remain to paint are the beards and hairs, then let dry and spray a clear coat. I'm going to leave their faces as they are. These guys are taking far more time than I expected but they have been such good company. I also wove 35cm on the clasped weft piece; doodled more abstracts; started knitting another beanie; mended a few things; and set out to make Ben's Tardis PJ bottom.
Instead, I practiced sewing by making two bags, (3D modelling!); I actually made one; wasn't too impressed; made another; really liked it; took the first one apart and reworked it. Again, I'm making these up as I go, and I could make life easier for myself if I followed instructions or at least planned ahead, but we'll see how I get on. These aren't big; I randomly bought four 20cm zippers so you get the idea. 25cm zippers looked so long in the stores but 30cm or even longer may be more practical for bags to use in sorting things inside suitcases. My sewing skills, however, has, oh, so much room for improvement.

I am ready to get back in to Letter Journals, and about time, too. I probably broke all kinds of rules not working on them promptly, but I was LJed out before I went to Japan; I did work on two while there, and carried several around the South Island, but more than that I hate to work half-heartedly. So I piled them up on the coffee table and felt guilty every evening. I don't expect to participate as robustly as I did last year but want to stay in. But first, I need to clear the bottle neck right here. 

* * * * *

You know we had drought conditions earlier in spite of rain forecast time and time again; I quickly got used to saving water at least for our pots and was amazed appalled how much water we waste during the course of a normal day.  And that's not even saving laundry or bath water. We bought a big bucket and I save the upstairs shower water before it's warm enough to stand under; that alone is enough to water the pots every two or three days. Then suddenly we've had quite heavy rain for days and now I don't know what to do with my dish water, let alone the clean shower water! Oh, dear.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Not a food post.

Yesterday was Ben's first day back to work and I wanted to start my work year on a high note. I rethreaded roughly one-fifth of the left end of the brown warp, thought the hand-spun is the right choice for this piece, and powered up the... the... nope, the computer couldn't be turned on. I had Ben take a look in the evening and long-story-short we shall be replacing the computer, (and with it possibly the monitor.)

Sure, I'm disappointed, because behind all these troubles is the foreboding there may will come a day I won't be able to get this 16-shaft going, and would that mean the end to my weaving as I think it; but for now, phew, all these repairs have been super cheap because we're in need of really old parts; if we can find them, they don't cost much.

Today, more clasped wefts.
I started painting some of my santas with aforementioned test posts. I was taken aback most of the colors are so bright these fellows look a lot more chipper and... younger than I had expected, but that's OK, they're going  to have to sit among plants, bought and otherwise, so I'll be able to see them better this way.
I also worked on my annual project, which is going smoothly. So far I've stuck to the small size and ink pens, as I've become interested in shapes created by random lines traversing from one edge of the rectangle to another. These go faster and more mindlessly than the faces, although I keep thinking they look like quilts.

Mom's been looking for ways to spruce up her creative process and her teaching; over the years I've given her gazillion advices in words and material but I don't think she'd looked into any seriously, which frustrated me to no end. Last week during our weekly Skype, when Mom finally started taking notes, (really, pencil on paper!) Ben suggested we do it together over Skype, and we did.

Yesterday Mom collaged for the first time ever, as far as she can remember, and for someone who tires easily, she did super well working for 90 minutes. I'm very proud of her. At the start she had a lot of newbie questions, (even though we had discussed we're doing this to forfeit controls/plans, we're letting the collage itself take its own course, etc,) but after a while she started concentrating on the doing, and the few times I asked how she was going, she gave me various iterations of, "just doing as I'm told." LOL. I got that she got it, though, when she quickly remarked how collage would be good in therapy.
This is her first ever collage, which looks good considering her table was smaller than her base paper. Because her base was big she quickly started to obsess about hiding all the base, although I said once or twice she didn't have to hide them all, I tried as hard as I can not to tell her stuff. Later we compared how the white triangle in lower center-left was more annoying than upper-left. She also agreed it was more fun working big than trying to fit things conveniently. Phew.

We discussed various options/directions she could build this up. She didn't say enjoyed this experience, but I suspect she enjoyed tearing paper with her hands, and she was pretty quick to place images in different directions. She also saw me working standing up and turning my paper in all orientations while I worked. Mama is such a doer, not a thinker, and I should have started working together on skype long time ago!
This is mine. I can't decide which way I like better; I was very pleased when Mom asked to see a simpler example not only up and down but also sideways, in both orientation. Because I am naturally a control freak, I enjoy switching to don't-think-just-do mode. We discussed how this can happen, (gazillion collages?) but mixing natural progression with some intention/control is not bad/wrong, as long as we don't let the intention/control take over until (much) later. She also said she got the wrong material to collage, and this is a complaint I used to make early on, but I'm in two minds about it now. I think I have more of a good day vs bad. What say you??

But observe how she used red vs me, orange; family resemblance, much?

Next week we're going to do some quick/blind drawings. The reason why I'm pretty sure she enjoyed yesterday is because when I said we'll be drawing next wee, she didn't kick up a fuss. I think she is starting to understand what I call, "irresponsible" making; fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Back in Action, Sort Of

Ben woke up Saturday with a feeling my card might have arrived early, (and to send a couple of parcels for me, though I could have waited until tomorrow,) so he went to the PO, and there it was. He went straight to the loom, and long story short, (it took a few hours,) replacing the card alone didn't fix the problem but he found a way around it. I heard this strange noise from the basement while I cooked, and bless him, the loom was back in action. I rushed downstairs and sampled, hoping I might even get most of this piece, (this is a short warp,) finished. But it didn't go that way. 
The red merino, 17/2-ish, 100%, is a leftover from ages ago and I have perhaps this much left so it wasn't a candidate but a color experiment; but this has the best texture and I could use a different color, (I have black, possibly undyed, and a weird/difficult variegated in dark green, depressing orange, and brown.) The next brown weft is a 26/2 100% cashmere; I tried this because it's a strange reddish brown that doesn't go with anything else I own, a rescue from Mama's stash, and I thought per chance it might work here. In fact, the color does; you know those balls of chocolate with soft bits inside, with outside coated in cocoa powder? You might have even had some seasonal variation covered in powdered sugar or crushed candy cane recently? And the cashmere shines beautifully under fluorescent light, but read on. The white is the undyed merino single, handspun my moi; I wanted to see how the design looks when woven with an uneven-width weft.

The threading looks, for something I made up as I went, alarmingly symmetrical and I'm still contemplating editing. The warp is an Australia merino, very fine, originally gray dyed with Blenheim walnut husks and no mordant. The texture proved to be the biggest problem.

The commercial 17/2-ish merino in the weft has the most familiar cushiony feel; this yarn is always a winner. My handspun single creates an uneven feel, in place cushier, but in place, stringier, just as I expected but this is the first time I experimented with a handspun single. I'm glad I guessed right but now have a sample. After a day of touching and feeling, it's become fairly fuzzy and I don't know what the long-term use will do. I'm not a serious spinner so while I think it makes an interesting piece, I hesitate to weave this to sell. But the big surprise was the cashmere: the cashmere is airy and soft, of course, which makes the warp feel coarse, in parts particularly bad but overall uncomfortable in comparison. Made into a piece, it's not going to be a concern, but when one has a sample with a better option, one does want to make the best possible piece, every time, doesn't one? Strange and totally unexpected result!

So instead of happily weaving all day, I carried the sample around all day not knowing which way to go. 
The main culprit, an old ISA 8-bit multi-IO card, if that means anything to you; I always thought these look like tiny dioramas of industrial complexes.
Few friends have commented on the Suter Shop of late; I've been thinking about it and my options since the middle of last year. While the Suter still has a lot of local art and hasn't gone the way some other NZ gallery shops have, (more souvenirs and junk than art,) as a maker the shop has changed completely: the paperwork, to me, are incomprehensible; all works are merchandises to them; and there is no discourse on, well, anything.

At the same time, when you get to talking with people who operate arty shops around New Zealand, one is taken somewhat seriously as a maker when one's outlet includes, (or in my case, the only place is,) the Suter. (The above pic was after I sorted and folded my stuff. You can see my tag had fallen off; I found it stuck on the shelf to the left, but it's not a good look. I must peel off the white tack next time.) 

When we went after Christmas, there were eight on the shelf, but nine on the last stock list I received. The missing piece was the second of the Gray lot, one of the two pieces I ever really liked in my years of weaving, and I'd been thinking of withdrawing and keeping it for myself or putting it on the online store. When I first took them to the Suter, to Andrea at the temporary shop, we discussed how delicate and catching they were, so I put them in cellophane bags with the proviso she and staff could take them out any time someone was interested. Two sold to one person that way.

After the permanent Suter reopened and the new manager arrived, the piece was never displayed and when I inquired, she said she preferred it out of the bag. To be sure, the new manager is a lovely smiley person, but her, and the gallery's, focus is completely different from Andrea's, (who had the knack of making many of us feel any one of us was her one favorite maker.) When I went back last week to enquire, the manager said she couldn't find the gray piece, and could I wait a few days to check the inventory list on the computer; I had to put my foot down and ask her to check right away, mentioning it was the delicate piece, so she relented, and it turned out the piece was sold.

Still. It's not a situation that instills confidence, is it? I'm preaching to the choir, I know, and she/they have their reasons, but no more super fine pieces there, at least for a while. (Which is not a big problem because some of mine look delicate but are robust.)

I want to post about food but that'll be another day. Tomorrow Mom and I are going to collage together over Skype.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


I haven't done this in a while, but today turned out to be a two-post day.

I went downstairs and threaded the last 100 ends, like I said I would, sleyed at 24EPI on a 6DPI reed, and put weights on groups of 24 ends at the front of the reed. Usually I lift shafts at this point at this point to separate the ends, even out the tension, and to see if any have crossed behind the reed, before I bunch them and lash on to the cloth beam. (And already I was thinking about the next post, telling you how much I love to weave twill on my big loom.)

I turned the air compressor, the black box, the monitor and the desktop, (remember those?) and waited, and the computer asked for a Windows disk, so I restarted the computer, twice, and arrived at the usual Windows screen, went into the conversion program, and nothing lifted! 

If you've been around Unravelling long enough, you know that my 16-shaft is a NZ (Thorp) countermarche, retrofitted by the loom maker Mr Thorp to computer-controlled 16, but I use an additional conversion software written by one Mr Graham, son of a Blenheim weaver, which can translate any wif to shaft movement, to be fed into to Mr Thorp's black box. So although somewhere in the hard drive I have the program Mr Thorp wrote, into which the weaver has to manually input every move, I've never used it.

I am not the original owner of the loom/setup, don't know if I'm the second, but there are a few folks in New Zealand that has this, at least as was converted by Mr Thorp. And because both the hardware and software are old, (ancient,) and because I don't have the bits to revert this to countermarche, I've always been terrified of parts wearing out and new ones being unavailable, both software and hardware. On the other hand, the more I used the loom the fewer problem it presented, and the last heartstopping moment occurred more than seven years ago so I could not imagine today would be D Day.

So I called the resident IT department/gadget man, and he started sighing really loudly instead of giving me instants solution like he usually does.

This is my understanding: the black box requires two printer ports, ergo an old desktop with Windows 98 or older; we need pure DOS, which is what we have. Today the desktop did not recognize the second printer port nor the CD ROM, so Ben stuck a portable reader for the second problem, (handy he has these at home,) and came up with a couple of possible scenarios: 1) the printer port card died; 2) the lithium battery on the motherboard died; 3) or something else more dire and costly, which is when I stopped seriously listening to him.

He's ordered the printer port card, which is due Jan 10. If that fails, we'll get a new-to-us old computer. He's mentioned a new black box, although that's hardly something one can get at the neighbourhood hardware store. If that fails, he's saying a purpose-built computer-controlled loom may be cheaper and easier than trying to fix this one. As if we could afford such a thing.

So tonight, I'm going to wallow in self-pity, drown my sorrow in Ben's good whiskey, and contemplate the possible inevitable.
Didn't even look Greek to me. 
And these babies will have to wait a while.

But seriously, First World Problem, eh. I still have other looms; this only makes it tiresome to weave the kind of twills I like. But I'll still complain about the timing, just when I was getting back in action, feeling enthusiastic and behaving well!

Two More Normal Days Later

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to put a damper on your New Year and projects and resolutions and plans. Not one bit. I don't know anyone who relishes the thought of a first page in a diary or sketchbook more than I, but I have been stuck trying to finish last year, found it hard to catch up in the heatwave, (although we had cooler days,) and kept my "head down and bum up" until now. I felt more compelled to do this than any other year I can recall; something to do with the impending Big Six-O?

At around 2PM today I finished the faces sketchbook; this year I drew 678 faces. I had a super quick look over everything and saw changes in focus and style, but also a lot of going back and forth. To my surprise, there were a few pages I wouldn't mind sticking on a wall.
Earlier on I worked in in A4; these were outlines while looking at the Matisse figures but not the sketchbook, but not exactly blind contours.
Probably same method as above, probably Matisse; I drew in a whole lot more details when I worked in A4.
I do love colors and I used a bronze gel pen on multicolor background. Blind lines based on Picasso figures - I didn't think I'd be interested in Picasso, ever, but I so was!
Blind lines/contours, lifting the pen as little as possible, with non-dominant (left) hand. Van Gogh, of course.
Blind contour with left hand, Matisse. I like the amount of details, which disappeared when I switched  to A3.
Blind lines/contours, left hand, Picasso. I couldn't get enough of Picasso.
One of the last ones, blind contour, dominant (right) hand, based on a photograph, I think.

I switched from A4 to A3 because I couldn't get enough details in A4, but looking back I skimped on details when I had more room on the page. I can't explain why, except I liked big paper when in class, standing up in front of an easel, while these were done sitting down at the coffee table, in the evenings and very close up.

The more I understood how to do blind contours, I probably paid more attention to the technique; these couple of weeks, I was finally able to slow down a bit, (something stressed over and over when in the old class, but I couldn't manage then,) and I even caught myself looking more carefully at the details of paintings. But the end results appear simpler and light on the character/quirkiness. I think if I kept drawing faces from time to time, I might eventually find a happy place where the lines are as interesting as the details. Or vice versa.

I drew the most looking at Matisse and Modigliani, some van Gogh, Chagall, possibly a couple of Cezanne, (I found him extremely difficult,) German expressionists, (their sculptures are fascinating,) Fauvists, and Picasso. I drew a few folks in the news, mostly US politicians. But I still am not that person who picks up a pencil and draw casually, or easily, for her own entertainment. I expected after a year of faces, I might feel more light-hearted, but darn. On good days, I kept working on the same painting, managing a dozen or so doodles, and I found results I liked often from these sittings.
Yesterday, Jan 1, I didn't start my 2018 project, but I made up for it this morning. I'm just going to park this pic here to remember where I started. Again I have no idea where I'm going with this but as long as I have more than 365 abstracty bits by the year's end, I'll have done what I set out to do. On my mind are: 1) size: I'm making thumbnail, or palm-sized, in A4, as they are easier and manageable, but too quick and not considered enough? I was disappointed to see as I moved on to bigger paper,my faces became less interesting. Solution: do as I please on the day but also remember to work bigger and deeper later if so inspired, make the project a starting point if it works out that way; and 2) solid color planes match the pictures in my head better, so use paints, collage, etc. when I can.

Yesterday, I also threaded the brown warp to the right end, then took out the first 123 ends on the left and started editing. I had to quit not because I got tired or it was late but the Internet connection was so bad I had to refresh my podcast connection every 6 or 8 ends! I'm going downstairs to finish that now.

So what about this new year? Rethinking distribution/outlet and reorganizing the non-weaving part of my weaving; submitting to exhibition if I can; using up all the premade warps, including the option to abort impractical/ugly projects; a few handmade postcard jolliness, the abstract every-day-ish project; reading printed books, (also audiobooks or electronic, but I do get pleasure from printed books and I don't do it enough;) robust/proactive winter gardening, and better cooking. And not wishing/hoping but making things happen myself. What about you?

If you blog, please leave your URL in the comment section; I changed my blog reader program a few times, and the last time I switched there was no automatic transfer of URLs, so I lost a few. I've amended by googling and looking into other weavers' blogs, but it'd be nice to have a bigger list as there are too few weaving blog updates in my reader. (I'm currently using bloglovn' but I'm not in love with it; what do you use?) Ditto if if you don't weave but make things and blog. Thank you.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Just Another Day

7.30PM on the last day on the calendar on 2017. 

In the last few days I wanted to finish three projects, after giving up on both of us feeling like doing housework/garden work at the same time with approximately the same gusto. We have managed to cook some delish meals and have kept the kitchen clean, but that's about it. 

First project was my quick crochet nap blanket, except I couldn't tell how much yarn was on the cone, so I kept trying to finish this all week, and finally I spent nine hours today, but got it done. Just now. I made it long enough it at covers  Ben from neck to feet, and weighs a ton so it'll be so nice come winter. . 

Midweek I wanted to weave the clasped weft piece, the one I used to called "tapestry technique"; except my hand was very rough because I got a lot of quick glue on my hand fixing two garden santas;  catching on all kinds of fiber even after I washed them in lukewarm water and kitchen cleanser, like three times. So I started threading the walnut Oz merino on the big loom, the warp I put on the loom some time ago. I started with straight draw but quickly bored and switched to undulating twill about 80 ends in; I think I'll go downstairs now and do some more. 

I won't know what this threading looks like because I'm making it up as I go, but the warp is long enough for only one piece, so I'm going to keep it simple, with my handspun merino singles in the weft. That's the plan for now. The piece may look something like this: 
And the last one is drawing faces; because I spent so much time on the crochet, I still have spaces for 51 faces. I'll do some tonight but if I don't finish tonight, no big deal, I'll just work on it next year. But this morning I was sleepily gazing at Facebook and came across a painting that instantly gave me a good idea for 2018; I'm going to draw/paint tiny abstracts. I'm setting no other restrictions so things may change/morph/criss cross a bit in the next year, but I hope to draw/paint one for every day, if not actually drawing everyday. 
I still have several more things on the To Do list I wanted to finish before the year's end, but that's life; I've got four hours and a bit left. You all be good, and see you on the other side. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Garden Santas

I can't believe my Santas hadn't made an appearance on Unravelling. I was giddy when I adopted them in Jan/Feb 2015 (?) I couldn't stop posting on Facebook. Esther was getting rid of years of teaching samples and let me adopt these guys. (And a few spare body parts.)
I moved them around like chess pieces every time I walked by and talked to them. They are like the Terracotta Soldiers - all unique individuals. As you can imagine, I keep changing my mind about painting the whole thing, only parts, or not at all; white and pale blue, white and navy, red and white, red and green, green and white, or something totally different; to coat, or not, to protect them from mold, bird droppings, and other hazards of nature.
Then Esther gave me this guy, accompanied by spicy Christmas cookies, last week, so now I went back to white and red.
Or not. I remembered we had a bunch of test posts from when we picked colors for projects, so I'll use those, and augment with acrylics. They had a long bath last night. One Santa's hat came off a while back and another's pompom at the end of the hat, but both have been fixed. I'll work on them slowly so they all look similar but different.

They're going to guard key points of the garden when I'm done; individually or in groups, I haven't decided. I need some mechanism to at least prevent them from falling when wild animals, (wekas, possibly rodents, numerous domestic cats, and birds, especially black birds,) roam or mate in our place; sticks. Some day, our place will look interesting, and who better to stand guard than an army of Santas all year round.
And we couldn't help ourselves; we got one more fabric for Ben's PJ bottom. As a thanks for this, this morning.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Turns Out 2017 was a Busy Year

I'm dumbfounded 2017 turned out to be a really big travel/social/exhibition-going year; dumbfounded because I've been so busy thinking about the 11 months I didn't weave.

In Jan, Ruby & co visited Nelson, and it's always nice to relearn about what this little place offers, especially in the art/craft area.

In Feb and late March we hung out with Dr & Mrs Cady; this Feb bit was embarrassing because I had no idea so much of Nelson/Tasman region had changed. Then I went to see them in Auckland in Apr and went to an underwhelming exhibition on nudes.

In Jun, Ben and I went to Melbourne, our first real holiday since '03, (I was last in Oz in '14) and reconnected with some long-time friends; it was also our first time seeing van Gogh together.

Esther's birthday was in Sept, and not only did I get to see her and Jake again, but also Stella and Thomas outside Volume, and reconnect with Rosie and Richard. I used to hang out with Rosie a bit after we both left our former place of employment, but then I got into weaving big time, Rosie had Nico, and then she plunged into serious bookbinding, so outside the occasional running into each other, we'd become wizards and muggles. Around the same time I reconnected with Maria, who most emphatically buoys and expands my weaving thinking.

Came Oct, I went to Japan and re/connected with folks and went to possibly too many exhibitions. South of the South Island followed, our first significant road trip since '07, first time in Christchurch since '01 and first time in Far South possibly this century; re-reconnected with Dr & Mrs Cady and I saw Dr Cady present a keynote, and he still looked to the heavens to his left when he paused. A week later we were in Wellington, a first since Apr '14 on a rainy birthday, and we could not find the lovely Italian place this trip, but I went to a few more exhibitions.
So it turns out 2017 has not been as big a write off as I had hastily decided back in Aug/Sept/Oct; it's just I wove so few. But I drew a few faces, and it's not too late to weave another piece. And I've really learned I treasure output more than input these days. (I made 22 in '15, not 2!)

The constant in my life have been Ben and family, the "garden", Stella and Thomas, friends via Letter Journal, and all of you, so a big thanks to everybody.

And there are still five days to go!

* * * * *

My Pop-Up Shop has temporarily turned permanent-for-the-foreseeable-future, probably until the end of autumn here, May-ish. I'm exploring other venues/ways to sell. If you have a good idea, do please share?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


This morning we had some rain! Two all-too-brief periods, but rain nevertheless, hardly enough for the plants, and now it's sunny and blowing, so gone before we knew it, but it's amazing what they did to the mind. I'm so optimistic now, I am looking forward to gardening in the cooler season, (and plenty of prep weeding/clearing prior,) and have even started thinking of practicing sewing to improve my skills. I'm thinking of making a series of small bags using cotton scraps to practice such things as sewing straight, buttonholes, and zippers. Then I'll move on to a few more house pants, a couple of longer PJ bottoms for Ben and a few of different length for moi, but paying closer attention to the sewing.
While digging up pants patterns, I came across a vest pattern I took directly off of one of Mom's made with handwoven fabric from somewhere in East Asia. I was secretly hoping to adopt the vest after Mom tired of it, but wasn't fast enough and it was gone in a couple of seasons. I wished I had a photo of the garment for reference. It was probably in Japanese-medium-ish, (skinny, or other-East-Asian-medium,  which is skinnier,) and it might have had a pocket which I didn't bother with. After I decipher my codes, (I didn't trace two garments, I remember reworking the one; who knows what I intended!) if I try making one, I'll show you more.

* * * * *

For decades Mom talked about colors in weaving and how she'd like to learn/manage/control them in her work; she introduced me to the name Itten in the early 90's. So as an obliging daughter that I am, (even though I was completely and happily in the structure camp then,) I studied it myself enough to know how to talk about color wheels, relationships, values, saturations, simultaneous contrast, and the like. I even made up a exercise sketchbook she can play around with hues of her choice, and we continued to discuss it over Skype.

When she brought up the subject again in October, it suddenly dawned on me there are topics she loves to rehash, how she'd like to master them, while not really meaning it. So in the interest of saving us both a lot of time and, on my part a lot of grief from having to repeat the same discussions, I asked if her wish was genuine, and she said no. So that took care of that.

On my part, I do keep harping on a few things without making any efforts, but I am a tad younger than Mom and do hope to get to them eventually. Even if cursory.

Instead Mom wanted to be able to see images she's collected, so we strung pieces of fishing line the length of her dining and living rooms and I got a few postcards to get started, and also asked the rest of the family to send her colorful stuff. 

* * * * *

I had an inkling I love/need my me/quiet time more than I realize and this turned out to be so true. I managed some while at Mom's but not anywhere near enough, and while travelling South, I got so out of practice, even when I could have drawn, (and I bought a selection, including LJs that needed to be sent forward,) I gazed at the telly. So now I know I need it; it's part of my brain/mind makeup, but it's not quite part of my routine; I have made up some of it since we've been home, but it still feels slightly foreign. I wonder if I need to read up on the matter.

Which leads me to something I've felt particularly keenly since my Auckland trip in April; there I had a basic accommodation with everything I needed but nothing I didn't, (no internet but a telly/Al Jazeera the day the US bombed Syria,) and staying there alone gave me a lot of headspace to think and not think and work. Which made me feel I was living "deeply", shall I say? While in Auckland I didn't go to all/many interesting art/book/craft places but returned to Auckland Art Gallery time and again.  (At the time it was a hard choice as Auckland War Memorial has a solid Pacific collection and a small but touching Holocaust room, both of which I love.) But in retrospect it was so the right thing to do.

(Likewise, we did well booking accommodations in the South, targeting three-stars, saving some $ and not being distracted by compulsively learning what else the accommodations offer.)

I like being the person who needs fewer inspirations but can consider/work with the few in some depth/originality, undistracted, and this was was hard in Japan/Dunedin/Wellington as FOMO, (that's "fear of missing out", Mom!) was hard to beat. When travelling with someone else, there is the balance to consider, too. But requiring fewer conforms to my idea of someone who makes things, while serially going to exhibitions can be me turning into a mere consumer. Hard to tell, as exhibitions' value/effect on me become evident in retrospect, and sometimes years later.

This ties back to accommodations. With fewer belongings/choices, life allows me to concentrate on the doing, leading to more meaningful/satisfying inner life. Of course we can't live permanently with a subset of belongings as we do while travelling, (or can we??) but I/we can do with a whole lot less.  I was doing well with books until Volume emerged a year ago and I've become interested in Richard Ford, (who must be read and not listened to unless he is reading.) I have become more discerning, not buying something just because I visit a place or skipping shops altogether because I know I don't need anything at the moment. (Art supplies!) I even got quite overwhelmed with choices in Japan I had to do neighbourhood stationary and book places in small doses. I say I am making progress but not fast enough to please myself. 

Except Ben said if one makes things, we do need material/tools/options, option being a big one for small town folks like me. So there is that.

* * * * *

Wellington used to be a treat; we had mapped out nine of our favorite book places and used to stroll from one end of the CBD to the other, or Parliament/Lambton Quay to Willis, and moved on to another section of town, Cuba St, maybe even to Courtney. And that's not counting gallery shops' book sections. Today I can only name eight in the CBD, and fortnight ago we found two remaining and went to one, plus three used on Cuba. Most of the demise are blamed on the Internet, although a couple had to do with retirement from memory.   

In the past I bought a bit from Amazon US/UK but postage became outrageous I quit; I still shop from Amazon in Japan before/when I'm there but mostly used. I also occasionally shop at Book Depository UK. For used books and old exhibition catalogues, (especially old exhibition catalogues,) there is none better than Book Depository. And for the foreseeable future I can't give up Audible, but am perfectly happy to switch if a better/ethical alternative pops up.

But if you expected me to complain, you'd be wrong. Volume is tiny, but every single book they have is interesting, so you can easily pick up a few and browse for an hour or two and if you engage in a discussion with Stella or Thomas, well, there goes another half an hour, easy. This has decreased our FOMO and compulsion to visit less attractive bookstores remarkable, and also the need to buy and lug heavy stuff, as Volume can so easily order if they haven't got it already. And this last part is what got me completely floored; we spent quite a bit of time at Unity in Welly, (the only remaining worthy new book bookstore we know of,) and there were a few I was interested in but I planned to ask Volume, and when we returned, they had them all. Even some books I read about on Paris Review, LRB or New York Review of Books, or hear about on NPR are sometimes already there if not coming soon.

So, yeah, larger new book bookstores in larger cities have become less shiny, and I can't find the right words to describe what a gift this little bookstore in Nelson is, because, you all know, books aren't just things; they are ideas and teachers and entertainment and virtual travel and potential life changers; good booksellers are better than therapists. We are so very, very lucky.

Ben and I won't stop visiting used book bookstores. One can't beat time spent in dusty, cavernous and slightly dangerous used bookstores; it's time/space travel, not shopping. I regret not picking up a Colm Toibin I've been after but just couldn't be bothered carrying that day in Welly; it does make the memory of time in that particular shop unforgettable, though.
This is from Slightly Foxed in Oamaru. If you like old books and find yourself in Oamaru, don't forget the antique stores.

* * * * *

Something we noticed while travelling in the South was the development of lovely cafe-style food in smaller places with high concentration of visitors; we found Twizel and Oamaru particularly pleasing in this respect, while Dunedin, Christchurch and even some in Wellington appeared stuck in the 90's/2000's. We don't go to tourist towns, bypassing Wanaka and Queenstown this trip for e.g, but it would have been interesting research; we just can't cope with the traffic and parking. I'm trying to think of where Nelson stands. We did walk around Arrowtown at lunch time, and it was murderously crowded we escaped with only coffee and... ummm... a custard square. 

We're nearing the first anniversary of reducing carbohydrate, which worked for both of us, I might add. I did fine in Japan but in South it was devastatingly difficult, faced with scrumptious baking in Dunedin in particular. (Otago Museum Cafe; if you ever go to Dunedin, have a wee carbo blitz there, unless you're celiac, of course.) We've been trying to get back on our horses, but I especially have had irresistible hunkering for sugar and baking. Must. Remedy. Now.

* * * * *

We've been reconnecting with a few friends, which as been wonderful. JB and Ali are back in town and we're already met once at the Vietnamese restaurant before Christmas; fingers crossed, more to come. That sewing entered my mind at all has a lot to do with the prospect of seeing more of Maria. We've also been to Rosie's house twice in one week, talking and laughing and discussing a lot of things I'm interested in: art/the art world, the environment, and healthy eating. And some gardening.

Rosie has a windchime very similar to one Mom had in the old house; they are made of different lengths of metal pipes hanging from a piece of wood, usually circular, with a wooden disk hanging in the middle, and another piece of flat, decorative wood tied to the disc to catch the wind. As the last piece dances gently, (or not depending on the wind,) the disk hits the pipes, making soothing, almost church-bell like sounds. These were sold all over in the 90's but by the time we started looking for one for ourselves, they were gone. Mom managed to snag one with particular pleasing low pitched sounds, and on seeing Rosie's, in the same forest-green, I realised Mom's thrown out hers when she left the house. I should have pinched it; I never found another with the same low pitch. I wonder if Ben and I can make one.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Knitting, Napping and Exhibitions Extra

I tried two shops in Wellington and two in Nelson but nobody carried this series of yarns, so I cast off, using a ball similar enough from the stash, and made this a earmuff/Victorian collar. I promptly started another beanie, but after several false starts, I switched to crocheting a huge nap blanket for Ben; this should take a while; another structural experiment beanie after that.
On the loom I started the tapestry technique piece. I think I prefer the more regular patterns to contrast its regularity vs erratic shapes/changes of colors, but I'll live; I'll stick to this pattern until the end of this warp, (two pieces?). And although I'm not thinking of anything overly complicated, I've been gazing at Miro paintings.

I've not been able to do much thinking, like blogging, preferring mundane/busy work, like knitting, mending, and ironing on cool mornings; I've accumulated embarrassingly many journals that need working and sending forward, but last week I concentrated on finishing this year's project, the faces almost every day, which I neglected since late September. Luckily there was a whole bunch of Modigliani on Art and Artists blog, so it didn't take too long to catch up. My notes tell me I drew 600 faces as of Dec 22, but who knows how accurate that is because the number of days for 2017, according to those notes, looks to be 367. In the remaining week it'd be nice if I could doodle 63 faces, (very doable if I stick with ultrasimple blind-ish contours I've been doing, which by the way for the first time has been making me look carefully at the original artwork,) I will finish the sketchbook, which would be a plus.

I've started wishing I had a good idea for a 2018 project but haven't spent energy exploring. Yet. Something will turn up, and I'm usually better off if I whip up a quick idea on the spur of the moment rather than plan/schedule/envision a grandiose "Project".

It's been hot and dry and we've had water restrictions so I've been spending some time carrying dish washing water to the flower pots; that and three hours of weeding have been the only gardening I've done, but I do intend to on cool mornings this season. It's just that we tend to do a lot in the kitchen most mornings, and by the time we're done it's uncomfortable out there.

The house needs cleaning rather direly; that'll happen soon, I hope, but for now Ben and I have been napping a lot in the afternoons. At first I thought, at least for me, the body was trying to make up for the busy-ness since October, but I've more than made up for that, so the only explanation is our old bods are finding the heat still difficult. That said, we have become more acclimatized in the last fortnight, so as long as we are inside, in the shade, there is breeze, and it's under say 23-25C, we're OK. We're such a delicate pair!

* * * * *

And now we reach Oamaru, the Steampunk Capital of New Zealand. We've been curious about this city, in the first instance because of the Oamaru Stone architecture, but more recently because of Steampunk. We arrived on a Saturday to find many places closed and the historic district smaller than we expected. Our accommodation was above a sports bar on the night of the Tonga-UK Rugby League semi final, and even though the ref was devastatingly unfair, the sports bar patrons were well-behaved, we had a good night's sleep, and discovered Sundays are the day to explore Oamaru.

First stop was Steampunk HQ. It's a "museum" and workshop of larger pieces and installations, (a few folks referred to "welding".) Inside is dark and damp-smelling, like a lair belonging to a resistance group or a mad scientist and his minions; outside looks like a junkyard belonging to a genius mechanic who creates fantastic vehicles out of spare parts. And that genius who started it all might have been one Chris Meder, who passed on all too soon in 2010. But the work is carried on by other creators and the building has so much space for expansion.
Sorry, I didn't take pics outside because I was busy climbing on some of the vehicles. Ben said he'd love to make something, (not weapons, the "war" part being the one aspect of Steampunk we're not interested in, and sculls, and these two make up a huge part of Steampunk, but pseudoscientific equipment, travel vehicles/vessels, jewelry/accessories, gadgets and documents we are most definitely interested in,) if he had welding skills and tools.

We heard the sentiment repeated by Lucretia at The Gadgetorium in the Woolstore complex. Her shop has smaller items made by her and her partner, both of them immaculately dressed in what I'd imagine perfect Steampunk fashion to be. She not only allows photographs but also handling, and intricately made items were available at stunningly reasonable prices. But Lucretia's insists, and one can easily believe, her first goal is to inspire others to make things themselves. We're definitely going back on our next trip and talk to her some more.
If you do got to Oamaru, don't use the map from the Information Center to explore the historic precinct; there are nice folks at the center, but their map was, to me, useless; look for instead/additionally the illustrated Oamaru's Victorian Precinct and Harbour map. Oamaru has other galleries/museums, including writer Janet Frame's childhood home, along with cute shops, (antiques, used books, Victorian costumes, handmade stuff of all kinds,) attractive eateries, and a small but lively Sunday farmer's market. And Ben's best find, the distillery. Last but not the east, more than a few folks wear Victorian costumes and accessories around town as normal part of the day, adding to the charm and a treat for visitors.

After Oamaru, the only gallery we checked walked into was Christchurch Art Gallery, but we didn't see any exhibitions. The gallery store was charming, with many art-gallery style nick nacks and inviting books, but we spent most of the time photographing the exterior from where we received, day and night, updates after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. We expected it would be emotional, but didn't expect it to feel so recent.

Ben had a meeting on a Monday so we went to Wellington for one night a week after we came back from South. On Sunday we walked around town, checking out several used- and one new-book stores, coffee roasteries, and Ben taking pictures; I did mostly the gallerying on Monday, with mixed results.

Te Papa had World War I and Lego exhibitions, (so nothing for us;) their museum shop had moved the books to a different part of the building and we didn't look carefully as there was a band playing Christmas music in front of it. The "shop" part has, like few other museums/galleries in New Zealand, taken on the guise of a souvenir shop, selling sometimes-overseas manufactured stuff with NZ motifs, and precious few local art. I miss the days when this place stocked, among pottery, jewelry and wood work, work by one Wellington weaver whose name I can't remember; every time I was there the first ten years of Te Papa, I dreamt of weaving sophisticated pieces like hers. Pity.

Wellington City art gallery was closed for renovation; it is a strange time to be closed, during the high season, but a person in the knows told me it has to do with funding and tax year; it being a city facility the job need be completed before the end of March. The shop, aleit a weird, tiny temporary space, was better; though there were very few local art, they carried inviting arty tidbits including toys, mouth-watering books, as well as original cards. (Although at $7.50 a pop, I didn't get any.)

Wellington Museum, (previously Maritime) added a fair number of interactive things for kids/youths, and I can definitely recommend to that target audience, but it was fun even for an old fogie like me. NZ Portrait Gallery didn't have a lot of portraits, but a good-sized retrospective Frances Hodgkins, possibly the biggest I've ever seen, but I was too hot and tired I didn't give attention due her.

By far the venue I enjoyed the most was NZ Academy of Fine Arts, which I possibly last visited a decade ago for Re:Fine. It looked like an elite art market/exhibition; I found two painters and one ceramicist at whose work I spent a lot of time gazing, but I didn't take down their names assuming I could find more about them on their website. Alas, nope.

This concludes the exhibition part of my recent trips. Pics forthcoming, perhaps in dribs and drabs. Ben's got a few in a totally random order.