Saturday, June 30, 2007

Let's Try This Again

Regarding the two drafts that looked similar in the threading, tie-up and treadling, but were not the same in structure, I was trying to follow what Rose told me in her comments, but I thought I was going to go blind staring at the two drafts. As if she was standing behind me, she recommended I take out the color effect out of the drafts, and now I see that the structures are not identical.

This is the 7-shaft Corkscrew example.

This is the 8-shaft Shadow Weave example.

I'm not sure where I am with the definition of Corkscrew, but at least I got these two sorted, and I think the bottom one is, ummmmm, not a Corkscrew. Don't I, Rose?

Friday, June 29, 2007


In 2000 or 2001, I did a correspondence course on colors through the Guild. (Actually, the Guild was worried if this foreign-sounding-named person could cope with the course, so I had to have an informal interview of sorts before I got to sign up.) Anyway, before I did that course, I had one shelf of navy blue yarns, one shelf of other blue yarns, and half a shelf of undyed yarns. To do the course, I had to buy a few other colors, so I bought small amounts of yellows and oranges and a little bit of greens.

After I finished the course (which was much too short and brief, and we only started to learn some interesting bits towards the end,) the only thing I knew with a degree of confidence was that there were no inherently ugly colors, but just ugly combinations. So I've started stepping outside my comfort colors, and accumulated a few cones of blacks and reds and purples. But I still don't have a lot from the warmer half of the color wheel, (from about orangey red to mid-green).

I'm looking at the photos of the two green scarves I wove for Area, and the third one hanging in my laundry, and though they make perfect theoretical sense, for me, greens are good for eating and voting, but not really for weaving. It was almost incredible how underwhelming it was to be sitting in front of my loom which was dressed with two greens in the warp. I think it'll be a while before I weave in only in greens again.

OK, I'm Behind、But All Is Good

Georgina's baby was due today; I haven't heard from Georgina, so I'm not sure if the baby arrived. But I can tell you I'm once again behind schedule; for a while I thought I might get the baby blanket done by today so we could deliver it tomorrow, but no, I'm still in the middle of measuring the warp.

I had more warp left on the Area warp than I thought, and I actually got another scarf, plus some samples. Then I super-cleaned the studio yesterday afternoon because I didn't want any coarse wool dust being picked up while I wove the baby blanket. I could also tell you I had to go to the gym, and wasted a lot of time traveling to/from the gym, but gym is for myself, after all, and I'm trying to get out of this negative thinking. So there, all is well. Tonight, I warp the Baby Blanket warp.

Weavers, Help Me Understand!!

I apologize for the "foggy" pictures, but here goes.

From A Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns, edited by Carol Strickler, Interweave Press, 1991; the top draft is Example #252 on Page 63 and is an example of a 7-shaft Corkscrew Weave; the bottom draft is #269 (left) on Page 69, and this is an example of a 8-shaft Shadow Weave.

Both warps are in LDLD; both wefts are in DLDL. The appearance is slightly different because the top tie up is in 3/4 twill, whereas the bottom one is in 4/4 twill, (would that be correct?) Anyway, what I wanted to ask was.... Structurally, are they the same???

Thursday, June 28, 2007


It's been a little chilly here in Nelson for the last few days, but winter in Nelson, at its worst, is still not a very serious winter. Says this Minnesota kid.

Earlier in the week, it was sunny and the air crisp and sparkly, and though I neglected to photograph the Takaka Hills, they've looked almost exactly like the day a year ago when Jay at the Red Gallery agreed to have some of my work at the gallery. And it only feels like yesterday, or this morning. I was shaking so badly I had to sit down on the bench on Trafalgar Street, and I rang Ben, and then I rang my mother in Japan from a cell phone.

A year on, I want to get a little more creative with the pieces I have in the gallery, but I think Jay seems my pieces more as fashion pieces. There is room for discussion, but I'm still proud to have my work there. So once again, may I present to you the photo of the Takaka Hills I shot on 22 June 2006.

I Hope I Never Get Used To This

I'm not sure if I've become a pessimist, but for now, not selling enough work to generate income seems to be the only worry I should have. That, and my slowness. Otherwise I have plenty to keep me feeling happy.

Nelson Arts Marketing have spaces at Nelson Airport terminal building to showcase work by Nelson artists. Though I've always studied and admired many of the works, I never paid much attention to the displays as a potential participant, because everything I've seen have been "hard" stuff; jewelry, pottery, glass, sculpture and a few paintings. Yesterday, I was asked to bring in a few small scarves to be included in the display from August to October.

And, gee, it was nice to be asked. I've been walking on a pink cloud ever since. I hope I never get used to this; I hope every invitation and every inclusion in exhibits always make me feel ticklish and giddy.

If you fly in/out of Nelson Airport between August and October, please look at the bottom of the glass case before you rush off. (Don't worry, I'll post a photo of the display in a month so there's no mistaking what it looks like.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Craft is Not Inferior Art

I was looking at an old issue of Arts New Zealand at the Red Gallery café, (gosh, doesn't that sound posh!!) and found an article on Jacquieline Fraser, a multi-media artists (I think it's safe to say) whose works are inspired by couture/high fashion. I was looking at the amazing details of Fraser's works, and thinking how much they looked like real garments.

Then I thought, with real garments, the creator/s (the artist? the designer? the pattern cutter? the machinist?) must also consider the utility of the garments, the human body movement, the wear and tear, the give, the texture. So, in fact, there are lots more practical considerations going into a creating real garment than Fraser's beautiful work.

So, going back to the art/craft continuum, utilitarian/applied art/craft is not necessarily inferior to pure visual/decorative art, because of the extra utilitarian considerations that goes into the making. And no matter what you where you want to place high fashion in this continuum, if you can't wear it, it doesn't meet the basic requirements of a garment, right?

OK, who shouted, "What about wearable arts?" Out, you!!

Click on the Exhibition titles on the left to see some photos of Fraser's works.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Creative Standstill

That's me at the Writer's Retreat, amidst a complete creative standstill. And I look exactly the way I felt.

I've been having slow but steady progress as regards weaving, if I don't worry too much about selling, in the last few weeks. In fact, I have three quite exciting prospects I've either begun to participate in, or have had proposed to me, so I should be happier. And I am, as regards weaving.

I'm a little sad, though, that I've had to put my first love, writing, on the back burner for the last seven years, and sadder that I've disappointed my long-time mentor Joan. I don't travel back and forth between my "word world" and "visual world" very well, so I've needed to stay in the "visual" to concentrate on weaving. And to be honest, I don't know if I'll ever give my writing a serious go, outside of the one weekend every year.

Think about it. Wouldn't we all rather have a nice, soft scarf, than a badly-written, smug book of my fiction?

Area 07

I worked on the Nelson/Marlborough/Buller Area (of the New Zealand Spinning, Weaving and Woolcrafts Society) Exhibit submission all week. As my Cross Country Weavers Group Mate Viv named them, I used my "un-Corkscrew weaves" to create two scarves from the same warp. It was wonderful to try not to think about marketing and selling, and to concentrate on what I like to do best.

I finished them on Thursday, and on Friday morning, in a miserably cold and gray morning, I had 15 minutes to photograph, pack, and deliver the scarves to the selection committee office, which is Margaret's house 10 minutes down the road. Poor excuse for a dull, flat-textile photo, but the light was horrible.

These are mid-size scarves, about 30cm wide, and 180cm long, with wool warp and possum/merino/silk weft. The dark green piece, Ben named "Peacock", and has five points where nine gold glass beads accentuate the center of each design repeat; the yellow-green piece I called "Nightingale" because that's what the color is called in Japanese. Both have very fine fringes. The texture is coarser than what I'm used to, because of the type of warp yarn I used, and because there are big areas in plain weave, rather than the twill I like to use lots of.

Area exhibits are important to me because this is the smallest exhibit in the national guild structure (the Society); I'm lucky to be a member of the Marlborough Weavers (the Guild), and I hope to represent my group well, and support the Area activities. I know I sound like a girl scout or some such, but I believe in the grassroots activities of the guilds, and besides, I was terribly relieved to have finished these in time. After we dropped these off at Margaret's, we packed and took off to a weekend Writer's Retreat.

This week, I weave a most luxurious baby blanket for Georgina.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Taitamariki Mihaere

A friend passed away last night. He was a respected man who did a lot for the Maori students at the Polytech and in the community. I think he was younger than me chronologically.

He was a quiet man, but wise. His health hadn't been too great, however, for quite a while.

Once I ran into him a while after I left the Polytech, and he asked me how I was. I told him I was trying to become a weaver, and he asked me how that was going. I told him I loved it, but I'd never be rich. He laughed softly and said , "Oh, kind of like being a musician, then." He told me he used to be a musician.

Back then, I also offered to teach Japanese to Maori students for free, if there was ever any interest. He came back to me perhaps four years later, but by then I was deep into this weaving thing and I couldn't deliver. I don't think I've seen him or spoken to him since. That was about three years ago.

I can just see him walking around quietly in his next place; I hope he doesn't need a walking stick where he's gone. I think he still has a youngish family, so my thoughts are with them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Terrific Day

I woke up dreaming about Georgina, so I emailed her to see if the baby had arrived, (I figured if I don't hear from her, it would mean B-Day!!), but I heard back immediately, so not just yet.

Then I had an "Aha!" moment about how to work efficiently, so I spent the rest of the day sample-weaving, washing and fine-tuning the design of the baby blanket.

I had a terrific day; I hope you did, too.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Step Into My Office

I have to change the way I work.

Georgina asked me to weave a baby blanket sometime before my Exhibit; I think the baby is due next week, and I finally have an idea.

I did have trouble sourcing weft yarns to go with the the warp yarn we agreed on, and when I finally found something very nice, the weft was to be about 6 times as thick as the warp, so I've been trying out, inside my head, designs that might work in this combination, but nothing on the paper or with yarns. Then it came to me at around 2AM this morning, and I'm away working.

But I have to put more effort into designing more efficiently, quickly, rather than waiting for an idea to come to me. At least I do carry my notebook everywhere. Still, I don't want my commission pieces to be ordinary, but I want the client to take one look and know it's a one-off piece of work. And I think this one is going to be like that; I hope so.

The baby being her first, it might come a little later than expected? I hope so.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It's About My Perception

I haven't forgotten my promise to "bookend" (and yes, I coined it; it means to give some kind of a closer to something I started; part 2 of 2,) my post about the local calligraphy school. I've been thinking about it, which turned out to be some kind of a self-analysis, which became rather boring, but here it is.

First of all, I've never met the woman who runs the school, so for all we know, she could be just the loveliest person, a credit to my country, counterbalancing my brashness. So my gripe has to do, mostly, with my own perception of certain things about my culture, upbringing, experiences.

Next, did you read about the Iraqi calligrapher who was killed recently? It's not just me, but in parts of the world, good handwriting, stylish calligraphy, whatever, still commands respect and reverence. It's like martial arts; it's spiritual as well as aesthetic/athletic; therefore, I have a hard time sympathizing with someone who purports to teach Japanese calligraphy as an art form; calligraphy is more spiritual than just leaving black lines on paper. Still, I know after years of training, some people get the spirituality of martial arts without having grown up in the culture, and I'm less bothered by martial art school, so this probably comes from the misogynistic side of my background.

Next, the woman who operates the school prances around town (well, she's kind of graceful, really) in kimono; I can see this is a great marketing technique, (and calligraphy teachers do still wear kimono in Japan from time to time), but to me, it just perpetuates the Hollywood/Geisha image of Japanese women, and, well, give me a break!! There's probably a "guilt" factor, too; the guilt I feel for not becoming a lithe, plant-like woman you catch in the corner of your eye, but never really see or hear; my Dad's kind of woman, and what the Sisters at my school aspired to mold us into.

Then there is the small matter of my horrendous handwriting, in any language, so the school is a reminder of my not-so-chipper school days. Beautiful handwriting was as important as the content, so with essays, I felt defeated even before I started. Until my seventh year, when a teacher found my writing rather entertaining.

It's all about my perception; I come from a conservative extended family; my parents were liberal and education-mad; my school was a prestigious, old-fashioned Catholic school. I've not only lived in Japan, but studied and observed its history and culture from both the Japanese and Western perspectives. And I've often been labeled "unique", "difficult" or "well-read" (not necessarily a compliment when it's said of girls) by other Japanese, family or otherwise, because I have opinions and I voice them.

This subject is now closed.

Is It Worth Asking The Questions, If There Are No Answers?

Dianne's comment, "Galleries, what can we do to have you appreciate our fibre (sic) art??" keeps me pondering a cluster of thoughts I have about handweaving.

In one respect, I was seriously disappointed/discouraged/disheartened I got no deal out of the Expo. The way I saw it before the Expo, my work may be different from what gallerists might have imagined, say, compared to something off of their grandmother's loom, using natural-colored, handspuns, (or what do they expect in modern handweaving, anyway?). On the other hand, sitting amongst painters and sculptors and jewelers, I thought even in their eyes handweaving might merit some kind of a vicarious artistic credence, albeit temporarily. Well, apparently not, at least not my stuff.

Nowadays fiber art seems to point firstly to impractical objets d'art using fiber as primary materials, and a distant second to felted or handpainted articles. Successful Golden Bay fiber artists Morag Dean (go about 1/4 way down from the link to view her delicate work) confided a year ago, quite honestly and bluntly, that the moment she mounted her pieces onto frames, they started selling.

There is possibly a perception utility takes something away from aesthetics or artistic merit; consider the perceived "class" difference between potters and ceramic artists. Likewise, fiber art, good; weaving, bad.

So, where do we go from here? Lloyd once mentioned the hard work ceramicists and jewelry makers put in to elevate their crafts' status in the eyes of the consumers; maybe I am part of a group on a long and arduous path to elevate the perception of and appreciation for handweaving?

Oh, whatever!!

Duncan the Metal Bender at the Expo

Metal Sculptor (would that be the label you like?) Duncan Leask, at the Expo, last month. I met Duncan when he came to submit his application for the Expo in January; I was waiting for Martin at Arts Marketing for an appointment; Martin was late, so I got to meet Duncan.

From his artist's statement: "My eyes and hands are my best tools. Steel is easily manipulated once heated; I am of the earth, fire feels natural, metal melts, I sweat, my muscles burn, my eyes see, my heart pounds, the hammer sounds, a smile on my lips, I enjoy the hits."

One of the things I discovered while talking to others was now that I, too, am a person who makes things, I appreciate the process as much as I do the finished artworks, and I've stopped (or at least try to) judge works and artists by first impressions. This is me becoming open-minded; it's new and it feels great.

In Duncan's case, the physicality of his work, of heating and bending something I normally think of as cold and hard, intrigued me. His process sounds so "opposite" to mine. And very masculine, (though mine is not feminine.)

His station was only three down from mine, and whenever I turned slightly to the right from my seat, his giant Tiki, unintentionally lit perfectly by the florescent lights under the pelmet, stared back at me. That's an image hard to forget.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Ian Longley

I carried Ian's business card in my wallet since 1998 until last year when I finally went to see him and ordered a Christmas present for Ben. So it was a great privilege and pleasure to be stationed next to him at the Expo. In New Zealand, it's bad luck to buy your own Greenstone/Jade, so Ben's been begging for a Greenstone fish hook for years. But then if you knew Ben, you could never imagine him with any kind of jewelry, ergo the delay. Ben hasn't taken this off since Christmas, and Ian said when the cord goes, I can bring it back to him.

Towards the end of the one-and-a-half days, he was sketching his next idea.

Working with stones is a slow process; even slower than weaving. The pieces on the wooden boxes are "holding" pieces, or what I think of as meditation pieces. Ian said he didn't look at them but felt them while he polished, not knowing what kinds of shapes they would end up, but they came out beautiful to look at as well as to hold. I like to imagine Ian working on these pieces.

The front piece has my name on it; don't anybody go and buy it.

The Art Expo

I got no deal. In fact, in the one and a half days there, I spoke to only two-and-a-half galleries; some gallerists didn't want anything to do with weaving, some didn't even want to make eye-contact with me. So, about an hour after we opened the venue, I was deep into Paranoia-land. Is it weaving in general, (I stuck to this line while talking to other artists); or is it my stuff, or my display, or me? My display looked dull compared to others, but unrolled the shawls ceremoniously to drape them over people each time. I was in a good position, between two successful jewelers and next to the water cooler, near the entrance, but that didn't help.

Sue did better; two out of four places she spoke to were interested in her pieces, and good on her! There was another weaver, also Sue, and I hear she's done very well; she's possibly one of the only two weavers in Nelson who make a living out of what they do, though, so no surprises there.

So it's me, isn't it?

I ran into Tim Wraight the first night at the Expo dinner, and got to thinking this "no deal" might not be such a bad thing. In 2000, while setting my goals in conjunction with the Small Business marketing courses, I resolved, as a weaver, I wanted to bake cake, not bread, and everything I've been doing indicates that I'm heading that way. I mean no disrespect for what other weavers weave, but maybe mine's not a gallery/shop kind of stuff, (at least I'm sticking to this theory for now,) and thankfully, I don't have to make a living out of this. I'd just like to be able to finance the venture, though.

Oh, I did sell a cashmere piece to a smartly-dressed painter Kathy Reilly of Golden Bay. In fact, I've been buying her cards for a while now, and discovered she does a totally different type of drawings as well. In fact, it was wonderful to connect names/faces to the artworks; I've been familiar with so many of the artists' works for a while.

Am I Weaving Professionally?

Lovely Win Currie asked me the last time I was in Marlborough if I am now weaving "professionally." Yes, in as much as one beautiful gallery has my stuff and occasionally some of the pieces sell, and that's my only income. That, and some commission work. But to say I am weaving "professionally" is an exaggeration.

What I don't understand is, I do love every single process involved in weaving, (except winding the warp onto the back beam.) I revel in the simplicity of each task, and the repetitive physicality. As soon as I start one or another of the process, my body remembers it, and I'm on almost-auto-pilot. So why do I avoid work so often?

I'm beginning to see I will never be a prodigious weaver, or a prodigious anything, but will forever be distracted by lots of things, blogging included. I still find the required transition between the word world and the design world difficult, and I have to move between the two deliberately. Sometimes I just need to shut up and stop reading words and go to my stash room. But sometimes, lately, it happens without my intending to, and I find myself in the other place, like Scotty beamed me up or down or sideways without my asking.

Years ago, I saw a documentary in which a young Russian woman said in Russia, before you go somewhere, you sit down on a chair by your door and relax just for a minute before you leave. I want a mental chair so I can travel back and forth at will.