Saturday, August 29, 2015

You won't Believe What I'm Doing

This is the scarf I made after the wall piece. The weft is a thin, (slightly thicker than 2/60), papery silk from Mom's stash. The yarn had a starched (?) crispness, so pink from the same lot was among the wefts sampled for the wall piece. Washing, however, took away the stiffness and the fine weft all but disappeared, so not so good for a wall piece, but good for a summer scarf. And it's my kind of look, isn't it?

Except weaving this was excruciatingly boring. I had to do something for the last piece, and even though I have a love/hate relationship with the freer tapestry technique, this was the only way I could think of to put a spring in my treadling step mid-warp. Beside, I intended to try this after Kaz's Saori workshop a year ago anyway.
The weft yarns are various silks of unknown origins, some may even be Mom's hand-dyed, hand-spun singles. The draft has a short weft repeat. I gave the sett some serious thoughts, as these wefts are considerably thicker than the two previous projects, but I couldn't be bothered resleying. Below is the right half of the draft.
Four repeats took a better part of an afternoon, and made up 15cm, so this is going to be slow, but I hope gratifying. I had planned to use the same technique in the cashmere-mix warp on KLIK, so this doubles as practice before that particularly delicate warp.

My thoughts thus far is this: it's all right to delve into the spontaneous, see-what-develops way to experiment/play, but for me this is not a good way to make merchandises. I can work better if I have a piece of paper approximately the size of the finished piece, with a line indicating where I'm weaving, so I can place designs more deliberately. Learning that alone has been worth it.

* * * * *

Thursday night while Skyping with Mom, I tried to explain, more to myself, how as my weaving practice becomes more stable/constant, it has also become boring. The immediate reasons are: 1) I haven't deliberately experimented with colors of late; 2) I default to twills almost without thinking; 3) stash-busting is on my mind, and even though I have a vast choice, I'm not used to thinking yarn=>design and don a phantom straitjacket and grit my teeth; and 4) the colors in the last warp was so not me. (The wall piece is hanging on Mom's wall for now; she's going to discuss it with her students when they come back in fall, and then deliver it to the client.)

In order to keep working steadily/productively, I am not reinventing the wheel with every warp and this does contribute to less satisfaction. I don't rush, and goodness I'm still slow, but I sense, (because I can't cite instances,) a greater portion of decisions are made automatically or default to the same as a previous project. This must mean I've some experience/knowledge, which should be a good thing, and theoretically leave me free to concentrate on more interesting bits. But I haven't moved on, so I'm repeatedly taking roller coaster rides but missing out on that queasy feeling in my stomach. Because I really used to feel that when I worked.

My mind keeps wandering back to Geodyne's project a while ago and the impact it had on me, particularly the second pic. Exciting times.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hellebore Love

Ben was home for ten days. We had planned to declutter a little, garden a great deal, cook/eat well, and then go away on a road trip. We had cold weather and rain at times but rushed outside every time the sun came out to do little bits. Ben cooked delish meals and cheesecake. At times I got thoroughly sick of gardening so I read. A good deal, as it turned out. But the house and garden is slightly in a better shape. The only thing is, we didn't do the road trip.

The trip, and in fact the timing of Ben's holiday, was planned around my favorite hellebore grower, Clifton Homestead's annual open house weekend. But when I rechecked the map midweek, I was shocked to find they were way down the bottom of South Island, not in the middle just south of Christchurch, as I had misremembered from other years I checked contemplating a road trip. This would add at least another day of driving, and as we haven't been on long road trips in several years, we weren't keen on making a quick trip to where there may even be snow or ice on the road. We haven't driven on those elements since we came to New Zealand; we are so spoiled in Nelson. Maybe next year.

I fell in love with hellebores when I saw my first one about 15 years ago; I think it was a burgundy/pink single orientalis, but I can't be sure because it died, along with a light yellow green, and a greeny white, among others I planted in the shade as instructed. Having learned that in New Zealand, "shade" pertaining to plants mean "don't need 24/7 sun", I moved the few survivors to another part of the garden, just outside the kitchen window, a few years ago, and they have been doing splendidly. Encouraged by the success, I've been adding two, four or six a year thanks to Clifton.

This year, though, in search of darker grays/purples/blues, I started to read about these flowers seriously and bought seeds from Europe. Because I am in the southern hemisphere, seeds from the north are, um, out of whack with our seasons so I don't know how this will work. And then I read Japanese growers have unique flowers, so they are on next year's wishlist. I've also been pollinating regularly. The only one gray/purple I have is pollinated with itself, but other purples and clarets are cross-pollinated with the gray. I'm not going to collect them but let them come up naturally.

Hellebores are a little like weaving; it takes a long time for seeds to show any signs of life, (up to a year?) and then up to a couple of years for a plant to flower. And new hybrids aren't stable, (is that the right word?) so one never knows how the next generation will look if I cross-pollinate.

The slowness of hellebore growing made me come to terms with gardening being on-going. Unless we go the concrete/paving way. I'm not pleased; I wished I could work really hard for a while and be finished for a while, but one of the reasons we came to New Zealand was we wanted a garden all those years ago, in our misguided relative-youth and I don't mind the work. I just wished I didn't have to do so much of it. Oh, dear.
One of two strenii, this is called Clifton. It needs to move to a sunnier spot after the seedpods mature.
I'm also supposed to have purple picottees, (white with purple edges,) but they are not too evident.
From above,  I can't tell the difference between these purples and the gray, but from below the I can see the difference.
The only gray, (sometimes called slate?), which is really very dark purple, and my favorite. From above it's not as saturated purple but more purple gray.
The clarets are much bigger and have two to three dozen flowers on each plant. They self-seed robustly.
Some time ago when I couldn't sleep, I doodled on the software and came up with this drat. I'm calling it Hellebore Love, but now I think it looks more like pansies; never mind, I love them, too.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Nor Wall Pieces

Because I find it hard impossible to make them square/rectangular/perpendicular/parallel. It drives me mad. Nevertheless, one reaches a point where there's no use rehemming or redoing the casings, and I've reached it this morning. So this is done. And my eyes are dry.
It's not a big piece, but adequate for, as I keep saying, a small Japanese house or apartment.
I like the 3D-ness. The colors are truest in the top photo; this was taken under brilliant sun yesterday.
Also yesterday, I got this shot by chance, half in the sun, half in shade, though not as dark as the thumbnail suggests; silk sparkles in the sun, the 3D-ness is brought to the fore in the shade, so interesting in different lights, which was one of my goals. (This last pic is click-worthy if I may say so myself.)

I used pine dowels because I had two in just the right length already.

I've been weaving a scarf using a very thin, papery-in-texture straw-colored silk from Mom's stash. I'll show it to you in the next few days.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I don't Do Tapestries

But it's no use telling that to a septuagenarian client or an octogenarian mom. They kept waiting for "The Tapestry" commissioned when I was in Japan two years ago, to the month. So here's the wall piece.
It is 43cm wide and 109cm long plus casings on top and bottom. It took such a long time to thread, but weaving was fast. I'm going to get dowels or slats before I make the casings, trim and press again.

The warp is alternate 2/20 and 2/60 cottons, 17 colors, AbAb-bCbC-CdCd-dEdE and so forth. 80EPI. The weft is slippery, shiny silk, slightly skinnier than 2/20 cottons, in pale pink, dark peach, and screamy orange, with very little twists. The close sett and the thread combination made the hand stiffer than what I'd like in a scarf, which is perfect for a wall thing.
Backlit, it's not as hole-y/lacy as I wanted because the 2/20 cottons fulled very well. Instead it created deep texture, the bumps.
Under artificial light, the wefts shine.

The overall looks is fussy and delicate, which is good for a small Japanese house or apartment, but it makes the piece boring for my place as there is no big visual interest visible from a distance.

I have enough warp left for two scarves. I toyed with the idea of making another wall piece, but maybe not. I don't know. It's too... umm... sedate for Nelson.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

July was a Very Long Month

In the last little while I observed a shift in my weaving focus, the word "mediocre" floated in and out of my consciousness. It didn't demand examination or reflection, just insisted on letting its presence known to me.

Like many, when I started to weave, I wanted to be a great weaver. Or exquisite or expert or "The Best". I don't remember how I defined these words, how I would verify becoming one, but validation was to come from without; sale, prices, accolade, and the like. Then I started to worry more about pleasing myself and I sought greatness within each piece.

The more I wove, I've come to see my cloths more objectively and I suppose critically, which was a rude realization as I had imagined I would weave better and therefore would love my work more passionately. My sloppy technique is at the core of the problem, of course, but I noticed something else. 

Though my life is good, it turned out quite different to how I imagined. My everyday life in Nelson is like a holiday, but it is hard for us to go on a "real" holiday and I miss big cities. I always wanted to live in a tidy, stylish house, (and garden if I had one,) but it tuns out I don't have a good eye for design nor energy to make our place nice, and moreover, I'd rather weave. We could save money if we studied power/telco/insurance/bank options, but I can't be bothered. And our greedy right wing government keeps ruining this lovely country.

But it is what it is. If I kept thinking about injustices/inconveniences, if I keep trying to be well-informed, I won't have any life left. I am not built for a multi-faceted broad life. Growing up for me has meant discarding the unnecessary, concentrating on what I do best, and living a small but manageable life. Even if my best is mediocre.

What surprised me was how this understanding/acceptance/resignation became part of my psyche without a fanfare. Such a seemingly monumental revelation, I seem to recall, would have entailed drama in the past, but maybe I'm discarding some of that, too. Which, I guess, is nice in a way as I can do without emotional upheavals, but also sad as I feel the colors of my life are fading. 

As if I needed to revise, I had an abridged reminder. Early this week, between sleep and being awake, I had a thought: there are lives spent flying on helicopters extinguishing forest fires, or travelling around the world photographing art and architecture, but my life is spent in a cold, dark basement. 
The tone was not a regretful, "If I had chosen a different life, I could have..." variety, but most decidedly the "It is what it is" kind. And when I was awake, I had to remember step by step that I like what I do, that it was the best among all practicable choices, and there was even a certain inevitability to how I got here. It was cut and dry, no sadness, no regrets, but also not the usual enthusiasm, either.

While I threaded this warp, (which I finished at long last,) I listened to the Discworld story in which Sam Vimes realizes he is no longer a night watchman but has become a mere "manager" and feels his physical aging, then is sent back 20 years to train, as John Keel, his younger self. I'm not finished so I don't know what happens, but coincidentally Hiroshima Day coming up marks 20 years since I first threw a shuttle. (Well, it was a stick shuttle in a rigid heddle so I gingerly passed it.)

July was a long month. We had some rain, I got out some days, then we had a cold spell and wet ground. While I didn't want August to arrive, because that's the end of our winter, I kept wondering if August 1 had arrived for the last ten days. It was a strange month, this July. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Farewell, My Friends

In spite of perceived weather-weirdness, (and I can't tell if this has been a particularly cold winter, if we had more cold days but not at significantly lower temperatures, or if it's just me,) I've been making steady progress in the garden. That's steady, as in I go out and do stuff, but so far this winter it's been limited to the "outside my kitchen window" area, which is about one-seventh of our vast estate. (It used to take a couple of days to tidy this area Pre-Convolvulous.)

Nevertheless I had a mini goal of finishing this little patch by a certain date, the third or fourth revised date having been today. Then yesterday morning, my beloved 17-year-old leather boots decided to retire and let me know by allowing two of my left toes to slip outside the boot while I perched on a slope lifting a few unsmall citrus/camellia/name-unknown branches/trunks we pruned last November and left on the ground to rot; they prevented surface weeds smartly but not the C-word, so I've been moving them to a temporary heap and digging all week.

When I got a small hole in one of the soles I bought some expensive, bouncy insoles which made these boots the heavenly, never-before experienced comfortable footwear, and watertight. When I got a small tear near my left big toe, I brought it to the local shoe wizard to have it resoled, but the leather on the sides were too far gone for repairs. Still, they lasted further six-to-nine months until the recent up-and-down with heavy load. Channeling a little VvG.
I got these when I had an office job and a cold office. The first year I wore them at work, the second year, as they started to get scuff marks, all the time, and by the third, I wore them everywhere but work. At some point, especially since the third pair of gum boots intended for garden work that didn't fit, these became my Go To guys. The leather is now so soft I can sit down on the ground the way Japanese ladies do in their kimonos, on my knees. And I can't conceive of throwing them away. But I need a new pair so I can climb the slope without half of my left foot coming out of the boot.

Never did I wished I could drive like yesterday morning; I could have gotten a new pair and carry on as if nothing happened, even though new ones would have been rather stiff. Or I could have carried on, finished yesterday's job, then gone into town. Heck, I could have done the morning's job, as I did, then taken the bus to go into town, and then I wouldn't be posting pictures on a blog this morning but would be nearly finished with this patch by now.

But I didn't. I was tired yesterday afternoon, so planned to go into town with Ben this morning, but had I done so, I would have watched a movie, walked around town, and wasted a whole day as I tend to on these occasions, so I changed my mind; that I could have gone into town, gotten a new pair, taken the bus home and get back in the garden by 11AM did not occur to me. So I sat at the kitchen table pining to haul half-rotting tree trunks and dig nasty roots, thinking of how many centimeters in which direction to move one seedling that is too near another, and planning how to proceed with the next patch.

Oh, well, we'll probably go into town tomorrow, get boots, maybe brunch or coffee and pastry, check out the bookshops, maybe the Saturday Market, maybe get some herb seedlings, and gypsum at the hardware store.

It's not that I haven't worked at all, but the house has been too cold most mornings ergo the steady gardening. Plus things haven't gone as planned.
I started threading a cotton warp, alternate 2/20 and 2/60, intended for a commission wall piece, (in spite of my repeatedly telling the client I don't do wall pieces,) but I keep changing my mind about the sett and now I think it'll be too narrow for a wall piece. It'll make a few interesting scarves, but now I may need a new warp for the said commission, and I've felt a little discouraged, let's just say, to keep warping the 1424 ends, half of which I can barely see.
I threaded a cashmere/angora/something warp of alternating native and overdyed-with-walnut-shells pale pink camel, and it was so so so fuzzy my eyes and sinuses had a hard time just with the threading, so I'm dreading the weaving. This is for one commission, one Thank You, and one merchandise. If I live to tell the tale, it should make wonderfully fluffy pieces, if not somewhat shed-y.

And I found a somewhat new obsession in the form of hellebores, but that's for another post.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

More Words

We've established inexperience/ignorance, fear, laziness/expediency are why I judge my weaving based on technique in the first instance.

It dawned on me my appraisal of technique may have inflamed my perception of the chasm between art and craft. Though I still don't like post-1980's (??) art education that produces work heavy on concept/theory and light on technique/execution.

After my second and third viewing of Agnes Martin's vid, I didn't know why/where I thought she and I shared so much sentiment towards making. Initially even her vocabulary seemed to overlap with mine, but now I'm not sure. I think she said, though, painting is how she spends her life, the purpose for which she lives, and I feel the same way about weaving.

One of the biggest difference between what she said and how I work is I don't receive/execute inspirations like her and many writers. (It's incredible how many writers claim they only took down what not-they dictated.) I pick up/out starting points, sometimes visually, sometimes in stories, but from there I work out how I can make these idea seeds into cloth.

Material and structure are so integral to what we do we can't disregard them when discussing weaving, but discussions of paintings are sometimes divorced from their materiality, instead focusing on the painter's intentions, their place in various isms, (which are named/assigned in retrospect, sometimes against the painter's will,) or larger social/historical context. We're not often asked what we'd hoped to express with our weaving, are we? I must not forget, however, paintings do have physical attributes and this is why I can't really experience a painting from JPGs, posters, or even heavy, expensive art books.

I also need to remind myself I often talk directly to weavers and textile artists, or read what they wrote, whereas I read what art critics and historians wrote about painters and paintings more often than not. And we know they are very different stuff.

* * * * *

What, then, do I mean when I say weaving? Some of the components/factors, with some overlap, are:

  • Purpose of the piece - what is it?
  • Shape/size/dimension of the piece;
  • Fibers used and their characteristics and/or suitability to the purpose, (including using unsuitable fibers for non-utilitarian reasons;)
  • Hues/values/intensity or saturation/sheen of constituent yarns, proportion, and overall look/effect/mood;
  • Shape of the constituent yarns, (straight, slub, bouclé, etc), proportion, and physical depth, (flat vs 3D) of the finished piece;
  • Weave structure, scale, combination with hue/value/intensity/sheen, and overall visual impact; 
  • Hand/drape;
  • Main visual elements, (lines, shapes, motif, scale, proportion, balance, hues/values/intensity) and the overall impact/impression;
  • Sometimes price;
  • Sometimes even the suitability of the washing instructions;
  • What else can you think of?? 

(When I use write "impact", I don't necessarily mean a strong impact is better, and I wondered if effect or visual outcome were better. Like intensity of colors, I think the most desirable impact depends on the purpose and the taste of the piece.)

But this doesn't exhaust what constitute weaving/cloth; I would add:

  • My emotional reaction. Is this the same as taste?
  • Mood;
  • Historical/ethnic/traditional context if any;
  • The maker and her/his story;
  • Overall technique and the maker's knowledge. I don't mean, necessarily, selvedge, etc, but I cannot help being impressed when a knowledgeable maker sheds much to concentrate on/highlight a few elements. This is when the piece stands out as a whole rather than the sum, (sublime?) but I don't feel it necessarily means less is more; 
  • Suitability of the piece to the purpose, because let's face it, good exhibition pieces can look like cousins thrice removed by four marriages, and 30 years younger than my fav cashmere; 
  • The piece and the physical surrounds, especially in shops and exhibitions;  
  • Inevitably, in the appropriate context, value for money;
  • What else can you think of, even if only paraphrasing??

Why is this discourse important to me? Well, for one I had thought I wasn't getting enough creative pleasure out of stash-busting making, but I was wrong; I so enjoyed the brown pieces, (the outcome was wonderful,) but not so much weaving with my default yarns. So I'm not so sure what activity/result give me pleasure these days. I also need to not feel so bad about the limitations of my technique, so excuses or not, I need to cultivate a new perspective. But perhaps it's time I lift my game some, to make something a little better than before, or at least please me just a bit more.

With that in view, what do I aim for with my weaving?

  • Not the approval of experienced weavers, not any more. I know this is as extrinsic to the object as it is intrinsic, and technically I can never meet the old school approval; 
  • I am looking for that one person who wants to wear/hang a piece I made and experience gushing joy or unexpected solace. If I can make a few folks giggle with excitement on the way, that's an added bonus;
  • I want to please/surprise/astound myself with what I can make. At the end of my time, I hope to feel my life had been worthwhile making a few pretty things, that I see some were indeed pretty. I want to know I've worked hard and the effort/result pleases me. In the end, I hope I can approve of myself. 

Enough words; now I weave.

* * * * *

This warped/twisted spiderweb keeps coming back just outside the kitchen window. The first two were blown away in the recent gale winds and this is the third, smaller and less intricate than the first two. A wink/nod my way?

* * * * *

Young Annie came over on Wednesday and we powwowed for five hours non-stop. She had tuition from a wonderful weaver, and Annie's knowledge/technique/competence (hemstitching! spinning! dyeing!) are miles ahead of me. Wonderful!

EDIT: Annie was confronted with, "But is it art?" in her first year of weaving; she's better equipped than I, having been to art school, and I wished I remember how she said she responded. I was also a little surprised she's stayed, so far, on fabric-weaving track, as we discussed the art/textile art track as well before we got started. That feels like years ago and just a few months ago at once.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Words

It is advisable to sit on my thought-y drafts to avoid dribbling verbiage I think I will revisit but never do. I know. Lately I have been more disciplined, to the point most drafts get deleted after reaching a kind of satisfying resolution. Except if I don't write it down I forget where I went, and if I don't map the evanescent path I don't remember the trip, leaving me with that sinking feeling I wasted hours/days/years of my life once again.

There is that counterargument some thoughts are better left not translated into words, at least not prematurely, but the general mood in my head of late is, this isn't one of them. Ergo another "I have no idea where I'm going with this" tautology. (And this'd better be important because I've spent two lovely winter-gardening days pondering.)

It's about technique, aesthetics, value of a piece of weaving, perspective, and whatever else that surrounds them.

Dad, even though he never said it, (which was rare because he was firmly in the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do school,) believed striving is what made life worth living, particularly pertaining to one's study/work. (Being moral/transparent was incontrovertible and never troubled him so he had a lot of time to think of doing-striving rather than being-striving, but his rage/disgust towards those who weren't ate him up, too.) Dad also believed though we can't completely create/control our fate, one can often find room for effort and good planning. I appreciate him as a role model, though now i can't remember if I ever told him.

You know I can never not see my glaring technical weaknesses, nor can stop thinking/talking about them. As I learns more about weaving, about how to solve/remedy some of the technical issues, I see and evaluate my, and others', weaving from this perspective. (And by and large my experiences with the New Zealand guild's education and exhibition focused on this only.)

Except this is not the only perspective. It's actually a bad one in our multifarious post-modern world. It makes easy measurement for those who want to yield authority, to mark/score and rank us, akin to true/false, multiple choice, fill the gap exam questions. It provides empirical got-it/don't-got-it-ness embroidered as objectivity but doesn't reflect our human-ness, the inexplicable whole. Technique is only one part.

When we praise craft in Japan, there is much written about technique and execution, and of course of tradition, but also the unspoken but shared understanding of a something else that please us, that the whole is not only greater but when successful far more sublime and mysterious than the sum of the parts. And that if you don't get it, you're not Japanese enough. Conversely this is probably how we learn what's desirable of Japanese aesthetics, of being Japanese. It helps that the language is not one of exposition but of much implication so simpleton like I am never sure of exactly what I am appreciating, but that I have to be in awe. This loose but sometimes threatening nature of our language, (i.e. thinking,) keeps many Japanese from misbehaving, from being extra-ordinary, but to behave maturely, adhering to common sense. It's hard work.

I can see this something else in other people's work; weaving, pottery, music, theater, sports, life, and sometimes prefer the jagged, bent, skewed or the smudged, but not in my weaving. (It's easier with my drawing.) I keep myself in line by pretending to be a responsible grownup maker, in talking the talk. This is partly due to accepting everybody having different tastes, (taste being perception and preference?) that there is no good or bad tastes. (At least we don't talk about it even though as makers we know best what good taste is!) It's also due to the inside of my head being perpetually disorganized and my not knowing how to remedy, or being too busy weaving to take the time to investigate. It's also due to my lack of self-knowledge/confidence and/or experience in being allowed to choose having been raised Japanese, female, and Catholic. Even though I'm old, the old Japanese saying, "a three-year-old's spirit stays until 100," rings true in my case. Or it's post-menopausal indecision. Whatever it is, the empirical measurement is instant and easy, and being an impatient person, that is the easiest place to start scrutiny.

More words to come, but my eyes have sunk deep into my head, so I'll close this by introducing you to a short vid of Canadian/American artist Agnes Martin, whom I discovered this week.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Finding the Saddle and Some Thick Skin

Was I in a funk! It was the first time I seriously thought of quitting weaving altogether. I didn't want to think about weaving and didn't go anywhere near looms or yarns, in life or online.

Instead, I was happy to go outside, except we had some rain, another cold spell, (not as big a problem as I waited until afternoons when the frost was gone,) and severe-weather-warming gale winds, which weren't as bad as forecast but was no gardening weather.

I had a secret ambition to spend as many hours gardening in the first half of this year as I did all last year, but May and June weather made that difficult; I couldn't even do 100 hours. Oh, well.

Instead, I read. Fiction. And a lot of websites where writers wrote about writing, and listened to author interviews on Radio NZ and NPR. The book itself was not fabulous, 6.5 out of 10?, a farce about a fictional writers' festival. Now I'm reading another by the same author about writing workshops. I thought of putting in serious effort in fiction writing again, but I still remember why I chose weaving over writing fifteen years ago, and most days I sat and looked out the window waiting for the wind to stop.

Meanwhile, I found interesting what Woodson said about a writer-ly way of reading, as I most definitely am a follow-the-plot reader most days. I also contemplated reading the same book multiple times. The last I did this was with Viviano's  "Blood Washes Blood", which started out as a man's search for his ancestors but turned into Gariboldi and the start of Sicilian mafia. If I were to read a book for a second time from my adulthood, (as I reread and re-reread books in childhood,) I'd start with "The Scarlet Letter" because the first time I followed the rather unpleasant story and still noticed the magical writing.

Thursday would have been the first day I could have gardened, but I went into town to talk to Andrea and show her the pieces I had trouble with. I ended up leaving most at the Suter, because I observed her and a volunteer's reaction and comments. I never bought into it's-handweaving-imperfection-gives-character school of thought; technique has to be as good as I can make it, though that's never been my strong suit. But I decided to try out another perspective. And some thick skin.

It doesn't mean I'll stop experimenting/practicing to improve techniques, but  I want to see what I make more holistically, (is that the right word?). I'm not justifying bad techniques, but trying to think/see outside my familiar/comfort zone.

Weavers will be horrified; I may need to handmade a balaclava.

I also met with Jean for coffee that day, and she asked me what my project/s were for the next little while. I said it's stash reduction, and explained it's not the speed or quantity troubling me, but the back-to-front way of designing/planning. Since Alison told us in 2002 not to look at the yarns on hand first and base our designs on them, I've followed her instructions. Working backwards feels foreign, especially when working with some of Mom's yarns I would never have bought, but this is half a step outside my comfort zone. Shouldn't be a big deal after some practice.

Thursday night I felt excited about weaving again, but Friday morning was more like seeing an old friend with whom I had a big fight. Slowly, instead of white or undyed plain silk I went looking for, I picked a salmon pink silk bouclé weft, and I got back on the saddle. In the first 32 picks, three warp ends broke, (two in the 32nd pick,) and I braced myself for another challenging afternoon but the rest of the 500-32 wove smoothly. Today another 400 picks went without a hitch, and I even started planning/preparing the next few projects while I wove.

Big smiles.
The weft is more pink than orange or brown. I can hardly see the pattern as I weave, but it's a modified version of the second one here. It's thin and delicate but I'm curious to see how it washes. I think I'll call this, "Twin Set and Pearls".

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cold Spell

Lately I've been writing, rewriting, photographing and revising new blog posts only to scrap the whole thing. I've said it all before in the last, what, nine years and two months. And unless I have a new discovery or a change of mind or new news, I don't want to repeat repeating myself. Because I do that. A lot. And when one works to focus on one thing and thus makes one's life smaller and smaller, one is bound to be left with few topics to ponder, even in this age of information and technology.

And I'm tired of listening to my own mild health woes, (although it was only just the other day I noticed I inherited it,) the garden, (winter half over and all kinds of bulbs, shoots and new leaves are coming out already,) and my problem with techniques. While washing two big pieces yesterday, I noticed something new-ish.

Because I'm less happy with the outcome of my pieces I've been deliberately slowing down, first physically but now my head follows. I try to concentrate on whichever process I'm working on at the moment and that only. Not that I ever tried anything else but I'm doing this even more deliberately. When successful, I can really stop "thinking" and just observe and absorb. No more thinking up fiction story lines, no more planning the fifth and sixth next projects, and certainly no more remembering all the other little stuff I'm meant to be doing.

What is happening, however, is not always what I intended. For e.g. when I'm weaving, I can't see both selvedges of wider pieces without moving because I'm concentrating on whichever side I can see, and also because my peripheral vision is not as good. While washing, I am more aware of how my body has shrunk; how much higher my bathtub is, (if you're short, you know taking down a mug from a high kitchen shelf may require a chair, but putting it back on the same shelf doesn't; I can't stretch as much as I used to); how my face/eyeglasses are closer to the water and the hot water steams up my glasses. And how uncomfortable and tiring washing has become. I'm not observing the cloth; I don't modify the degree of felting according to desired outcome like before. I know these things are partly physical, some to do with aging, but I also have a much "narrower" attention span, and I don't know how to remedy it.

The only idea I've had as regards techniques is this: my four-shaft weaving has better selvedges and shapes. This could be because I use different yarns and the structures are much simpler, but I wonder also if it is because I stand up to weave. So I might try a foot stool and stand up and weave of that, too; because the big loom operates with just one pedal rather than multiple treadles, standing and weaving is easier with this loom. If this doesn't work, I'll think of giving up wide pieces.

I can only hope I haven't passed the pinnacle of my weaving skills without noticing. But it is what it is, another curveball in my life.
"Wave" (?), not in a great shape but interesting because on one side the warp, and on the other the weft, stands out from the other set of yarns. Is that the right way to say it? It's... 2.5D.
I had high hopes for this, but I may have felted it a little too far; this one should have had fringes but I hemmed it. The colors are slightly more saturated. I haven't got a name yet.
"Nostalgia". Mom's old wool warp and possum/merino/silk weft, light and not so thick but very warm.
"Always". Mom's old wool both ways, and on rainy days it even smelled like sheep while I was weaving. Heavier and thicker and heftier than above, I don't think this kind of cloth will ever disappear. I once had a suit made of fabric that looked like this, (from Mom's stash,) but it contained mohair and I couldn't wear it. Silly me.

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The technique thing has bothered me more than I imagined; I caught myself wondering several times what I would do if I quit weaving. Then jokingly I thought I'd garden. But I remembered the first winter after I left my last full time job, I gardened full time for the month of August, and I enjoyed it so much the following winter I gardened full time for six or seven weeks in the winter creating a rose garden for Ben. So now I'm contemplating giving myself a holiday; for a week or two I might garden all day and not worry about weaving, because there's nothing like weeding and pruning in the crispy mild Nelson winter. Except it's been 14/15 years since those wonderful winters; goodness know how my body will cope. LOL.

But I don't plan on giving up weaving just yet; I've spent too much time and energy learning this craft; that's ten-plus years of my life.

* * * * *

My short-term memory has become so bad, sometimes I have brilliant ideas and get pumped up, then blink or breathe and I forget. Some ideas that don't disappear are too good not to hold on to, but writing/doodling distort or direct them prematurely. I need a new way of saving my ideas.