Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Old Stuff...

Today was a beautiful day, the first day of spring, a perfect gardening day, and even I thought of venturing outside, but I've been feeling a little oozy from the antibiotics, so I stayed inside and worked on the website some more. (Oh, the tooth; it now transpires it could be a wisdom tooth, which I thought I'd had extracted decades ago! I was told sometimes a course or two of antibiotics can make the problem go away without extracting the tooth. I'm all for ooziness in that case!)

I went looking for nice photos for the website; most of the ones I liked were from 2007; I was equally enthusiastic about weaving and photography, and the house was tidier and, I hesitate to say, I had a wee bit less stash. I had some terrific pieces, if I may say so, as well as terrific pics of rather sad pieces. And some of the pieces I thought were poorly designed turned out to be not so bad; I might go into Red to make myself reacquainted with them.

(Not the pic, but the series of three of these.)

Lately I am interested in designing and getting a piece done, and everything I do is finished just in the nick of time (or later), I don't have many good pics of any of the pieces I've woven this year. The yellow pic a couple of posts ago is the one of the very few I like, so it's popping up all over the place. Must try harder!

However, I had taken some strategically out-of-focus pictures specifically for the website, (and things like business cards, brochures, posters, should I need them), and some of these finally got to see daylight. (The berry-colored banner at the top of this blog is one of them.)

I had planned to completely revamp and rewrite the web site, but whether I tried to edit the old version, or started typing on a blank screen, I ended up with pretty much the same thing. Likewise I shuffled the contents around a little to make it more interesting, but the sections more or less fell back into familiar positions. So I concluded Ben and I gave it enough thought at the start, and Martin Rodgers gave me very good advice soon afterwards, that I decided not to tamper with those sections too much.

It's mostly the gallery part that I hope to update often, and possibly add an exhibition section, but that will be in the next phase. It's a good thing I'm finally far more interested in weaving than in marketing, (took me eight years to get here), but I should keep working on the "business"side, too, incrementally.

So here's an idea: the next time you feel a piece didn't work well, stick it in the back of your closet and pull it out six months from now. I swear, you'll see lots of good things about it; from that distance, you can be more objective about your work. OR, if you have a digital camera or video, take deliberately blurred, "moody" shots; you could make good use of it another time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Ben told me his Flickr prompted him to renew his Pro account. This means mine is about to "expire", too, so we hurriedly paid for the Pro account today. We couldn't possibly let anything happen to the first SSVE, you know. (Ben thought if we let this payment lapse, the free account would allow no "collections" and up to only three "sets".)

We upgraded to Pro account when I was starting to think about upgrading my website. This must been a years since I thought of it. My current website sits in the server under Ben's desk, and among other issues, it's noisy and hot because it's an old "tower". Plus somehow we settled on a convoluted system where I created or revised the html files, Ben resized/repositioned pics, sometimes did other stuff to unify the looks, (even though we worked off a template he made), and then copied the finished file to the server, and finally updated my copies... Often I find one word I wanted to change, or a typo, or spacing anomaly, which had to wait until he was home to be fixed. You can see how it didn't suit my temperament. At least I learned Frontpage and Dreamweaver, but nigher were entertaining enough for me to enjoy the process.

So we've been looking at options, and though some WordPress sites looked breathtaking, and Ben even built me a prototype over one weekend, I just couldn't be bothered learning a new editor or set of vocabulary. So it's going to be on familiar turf.

I finished the draft today, both in English and Japanese. Not a lot of changes, virtually no pics yet, and nothing in the gallery, but it'll be easier to update, and this setup is easier to work incrementally, and I can update immediately. And we can shut off this noisy boy soon.

It was a semi-productive day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

This Will Have to Do

I am not displeased. I used the highest contrast (value and hue) yarn in the weft thus far; I wove my hither-to favorite 15-shaft structure, (which can still use some editing); the selvedge is a little savage, but this will have to do as my submission to the National exhibition, due Tuesday or Wednesday.

On to the next thing. I'm skipping the wider cotton warp I had planned for National for the time being, and working on a small merino commission piece, and cashmeres, after I borrow an 8-shaft table loom from Ronette, hopefully tomorrow night.


Ugh, I hate thinking about colors. I know a whopping majority of you weavers would writhe to think of a fellow weaver who isn't thrilled, even giddy and delirious, about colors; c'est moi.

I took a short correspondence course on colors in 2000 through the New Zealand national guild. It was a hard slog, (Nancy's wading through it right now), and though I enjoyed learning the theory, combinations and terminology, I now have a permanent pair of tinted glasses without which I cannot "observe" colors, yet my knowledge is minimal I can't understand/describe in those terms what I see. Or, the left brain can't allow the right brain to jump up and clap its tiny gray hands when it sees something pretty, and instead has to butt in and analyze why it produces a pleasing effect, to legitimatize the right-brain/gut-feeling appreciation. Alas, I don't want to spend the rest of my life leaning about colors, when I could be weaving.

This is one game my left and right halves can never play nicely together, but I need them to, to progress to dyeing.

So it is that with trepidation I went to my second Color Workshop yesterday; this time the tutor was ex-Polytech tutor, modernist painter and friend Errol Shaw. This guy is a deep man, and I might have walked into the workshop ready to be balled over by his philosophical observations and modernist inclinations, but I found he is a proper teacher, and I appreciated his allusions to music and cooking to make a point about colors and paintings. Needless to say, the rest of the class consisted of painters, some very experienced, and they were familiar with colors and color names commonly used on paint tubes. ("Ultramarine" is the only one I knew.) I did find the mood of the class overly painting-centric, (what else he could have done), in using tube names and specific properties of the tube-name-color, Needless to say, this was much appreciated by the others. However, he knows what I do, and he's seen some of my pieces, so when it came to individual instructions, he was able to speak to me at my level, and even better, he asked me what I liked/disliked about the experiments and how I thought I could improve on them, and he confirmed/corrected my observations and prompted me to do more.

I think after a good night's sleep I appreciate his instructions more than I did last night. My classmate Jo (also in my figure drawing) is going to see if a workshop of a recurring kind can be set up; regardless, I might go see him for private critiques so I can add a bit of spark to my weaving.

In Rose Shepherd's workshop I experienced pleasure because I stuck to abstract experiments; this time I had collected what I thought were as abstract materials, but I was unconsciously emulating those around me and spent much too much energy and time trying to make the experiments descriptive, and wasted valuable time. So, no pictures. And more homework.

What we learned yesterday were the eight color compositions: color-wheel-based, chromatic, achromatic, monochromatic, naturalistic, spatial, optical, and selected palettes. Most importantly, these are not mutually exclusive or clear-cut, but often overlap.

Next workshop is titled "Color and Expression"; the blurb says; "This workshop will to allow you to explore your personal and cultural response to colour through a series of creative exercises." That's going to be a loaded experience for me, I know it: I'd better start massaging my right brain now so I set myself up to enjoy it.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I may have a monumental toothache, but I am lucky, and spoiled. I have a husband with a day job, who not only approves and supports me in my weaving, financially and practically, but also comes home from work and cooks me dinner sometimes. I haven't got kids, so most of my time is mine.

Oh, sure, I can stand to live in a bigger house with space for more books; I'd love another computer-controlled loom; and I sure won't die if Ben's pay is doubled. I won't cry if you made me go on nice holidays more than once in a great, great while. But I have it better than most of the 6,718,428,132 people around the world. (It's scary going to this web site and pressing F5 and watching the number grow so rapidly.)

I was reminded of this when Sam, a classmate in my figure drawing course, casually confirmed the start time for tomorrow's color workshop; Sam is a mum so she has to organize her morning. And then by Taueret's comment here.

I noticed this morning the interesting glass in B Block (Visual Arts block) inside entrance doors. I don't think I want it in my house, but I love the fabric-like feel. Well, actually, I may not mind having this on my studio door.

Is This Getting Old?

You know... Operating heavy machinery... Big loom... Sorry...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Still Alive

I survived the day.

The Council man Gary was nice, but I don't get it; he didn't even look at the handrails on the stairs; he was overly concerned with the downstairs bathroom, which the other Council man Andrew checked thoroughly ten years ago. Whatever. All we need now is a certification from our tile guy Fraser that says he did membrane work (???) so the structure of the house doesn't get wet every time we shower. I can do that.

Then Joan and Win came over from Blenheim, and we had my mushroom soup (looked horrible, tasted almost ok.) Win traveled to Egypt and Joan to Northeastern and Northwestern China this year, and they had nice travel stories. Joan also showed me textiles she bought in China.

This was my favorite, an Indigo apron front. The center part is embroidered; the boarders woven on two shafts with pick up! Imagine that! She said all over town people were embroidering.

This is a traditional baby wrap, but these wraps are still in use. This piece, the corner was possibly worn, because there was a different fabric sewn, with the same embroidery work done to make the "ribbon" pattern.

And then I finished my last scarf. That will have to do for the National exhibition. It's considerably smaller and less-challenging. But it will have to do.

Tomorrow is figure drawing; Saturday is the second color workshop. I got the syllabus for Saturday, and I'm quite uncomfortable; tutor Errol Shaw broke down what we'll be doing in such detail it reads like a NASA schedule, or at least a Japanese train timetable. We are definitely going to draw, and paint. Yikes.

Plan vs Life

This is an unusually dull post, even for me, everybody. It's about a toothache. So I don't blame you if you don't want to finish. It just helps me concentrate on something other than the toothache.

The plan was to weave off the yellow warp last week, put on a wider cotton warp in scintillating color progression over the weekend, and weave the 15-shaft draft I made up for The Wall. That draft was meant to be an emergency draft, but it's my best draft to date. Around today or tomorrow, I was going to post it to the national guild (New Zealand Spinning, Weaving and Woolcrafts Society) exhibition, due next Monday-Wednesday.

The fact is, the yellow warp was heaps longer than I remembered, so after I wove the 11 samples, 15cm long, for the Cross Country sample exchange, due sometime last February-March-ish, I still got a proper scarf, and another.

By Monday I realized that I may not get around to warping and dressing the loom for a wider piece, so I'm weaving this last one in the 15-shaft draft just in case this is all I can finish in time (even though my form says it's about 30cm side). At least a backup, in case the wide one doesn't work out.

On Tuesday I cut in half and heated up a ciabatta in the oven. I was going to put sun-dried tomato spread, salami and leaves. While the bread was in the oven, I blogged a bit and bread got a little tough. But no worries, I went downstairs and ate it while looking at the piece off and on the loom. Well, the bread was quite tough, but the combination yummy.

That afternoon my teeth started to hurt, but I wasn't sure which one. By evening it was throbbing so I took two aspirin. It got progressively worse and I had to take a sleeping pill to go to sleep. But it got pretty bad so I resorted to this barbaric old Japanese pills that numbs the tissues inside my mouth; we use it maybe once ever five years, but we always have it, just in case. And ususally one-half does more than the trick, but that night, I ended up with something like eight in my mouth.

Wednesday was the pits. I was moaning and groaning because something about emitting voice produces nice vibration on the mouth/cheek area that seemed to soften the pain. I took some of Ben's regular Nurofen, and started to weave bright and early. After about 200 picks, I though I'd fall off the bench. Ben went to get Nurofen Plus (with codeine!!) and dropped it off before heading for work. I ripped right in, but they took two hours to kick in. You can only take two of these every four hours and maximum of 12 a day, for three days. And I don't think this is enough.

I rang the dentist, even though I knew he was in Europe for a month playing cricket, but I could have gone to see a locum today at 11 - except the City Cocuncil guy is coming to inspect a stairway and a workshop we got consent for... 10 years ago. The workshop was long done, (you know this because I've been weaving there for over five years) but we didn't want a stairway handrail (makes the stairs narrower) so we never installed it, AND the Council guy 10 years ago said it's OK as long as we installed it when we sell the house.

Since we have to replace the wood burner this summer, I thought it wiser to close any previous consent issues, so Ben installed the handrail, and that's getting inspected today, at 10:45. Besides, two of my favorite weavers are coming from Blenheim to have lunch at my house today; one's coming to see her dentist in Nelson apparently. So yesterday afternoon I made a creamy mushroom soup (and was sufficiently preoccupied) and then the rest of the day I squirmed on the couch, watched Oprah and read the NZ Listener (the lightest weight reading material I had). I intended to pick up and tidy the living room a bit, but I was too feverish I gave up.

So we'll see how today goes. Ideally, the Council guy will be happy how we've finished everything and close the case; Joan and Win will like the soup and we can talk weaving without my shivering or making inappropriate noises, and I can finish weaving the last scarf. Then I will go to figure drawing tomorrow morning, come home (canceled lunch with Rosie - I just couldn't see myself doing that,) wash/press the scarf. Come Saturday morning I shall post it and then go to my second color workshop. Or, I'll go find another dentist tomorrow.

But you know how life doesn't always work out the way you planned. At least I'm going though all my almost-finished moisturizers.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Question I've Long Been Afraid to Ask

So... are all of you cat-people? Any other dog-loving weavers? Vote on the poll on the sidebar, everybody.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Donkey with a Beret

Having confessed to experiencing left-brain malfunction and eyesight problems, I astound myself in finishing six posts and adding another in one go. I am nothing if not garrulous.

But they had been on my mind. I hate posting a question and then not giving my thoughts; it feel irresponsible. I still have more on my list.

On Friday I was rushing to my drawing class when I saw this tree root; then, it looked like a reclining female figure; today it looks like a dead donkey.

Why Blog? - My Take - Extra

Excerpt from Taueret's post, in case I forget what I liked about it.
"The fact that so many other people have blogs now makes it so much more fun, and such a fantastic "talk to me!" sign to hang around my own neck, without having to go the extra step of actually risking face to face interaction- which never goes as well as I'd like, somehow."
The way she describes her learning-to-draw process is exactly the same is my learning-to-sing-from-Mom experience. Then, there's the big about friends.
"It reminds me a little of being in school- in primary school you are forced to be friends with kids because they merely live in your neighbourhood, and school throws you together."
Or because Mom liked them; funny how she seldom liked the friends, and later boyfriends, I picked. But I know most parents try their darndest best on the spot, rather than try to be vituperative, and mine have been trying to make up by encouraging me in my weaving.

It turns out Taueret started her fibre geekery 11 days before I did. I feel that "maternity ward at the same time" thing again.

Why Blog? - My Take - Part 3

I don't know when things started to change, but suddenly I was blessed with all you visiting me. Overnight, (that's how it felt), I was being read. I couldn't believe my luck!

Unravelling, to me, is the easiest forum to ask questions. (Do you sense a big one coming?) It's a fun place to exchange opinions, to meet with friends (as are your blogs) and play, to make a fool of myself, and to post self-congratulatory, right-brain pics. And because there is nowhere I am expected to show up on more or less a regular basis, (think office,) I show up here and be noted and counted, and I really appreciate that. And, sometimes I post even though I don't have a sublime thought or respectable progress report, just so you know I haven't fallen off the bottom of the planet. (There is a line I've wanted to use to start a short story: "I started to write because nobody was expecting to see me at 9AM on Monday morning." I didn't know this when I wrote this years ago, but I'm starting to get a feel of the loneliness of art making.)

As well, I've felt a certain sense of responsibility in what and how I write; I can't describe this any better, but I know it sometimes conflicts with my penchant for flippant remarks, but I'd like to think it's done me good in making me grow up a little. I am divided in my desire to be totally honest with you in all aspects of my life, (which should be different from giving too much information, but I haven't found a good guideline for that,) and, believe it or not, there is also a burning desire to remain private and anonymous.

I think it's this last bit that sometimes makes me want to delete the whole thing and start over, or not blog at all. A kind of a rebranding of me as a person, a fresh start, or just escaping from the responsibilities I put on myselfl or purging the image of the person I think I created. And I can't gauge if I were to do this, it would be by impulse or something deeper that I don't know about. Ah, heck, I can't see myself deleting Unravelling just now; too much work creating a new identity, you know; I'm much too lazy. Besides, you all are too fun and I'd miss you too much.

There you go; my long-winded answer for why I blog about weaving; at least Part 1 started from that thought. For a more sapient take, see Taueret's post here. Truth to tell, her recent love/hate relationship with blogging was catalyst to my asking why all of you blog. I had my finger hovering over the delete button around the same time as hers.

Why Blog? - My Take - Part 2

In my notes for Matt's question "3) Why do you blog?", in Jan 07, I wrote:
  • Failed writer.
  • Put thoughts on “paper”; then move on. (I can’t multitask.)
  • Communicate with other weavers (not a lot) and other artists (much more) from around the world. In fact, GREAT feedback on advices experiences from a jewelery maker, graphic artists, weavers, and textile aficionados the USA and Europe.
So here's the whole story, thus far.

In April 06, I started Unravelling, a week after Ben and I finally got my web site up. Back then, I imagined writing polished articles occasionally (quarterly was the goal) in lieu of a marketing newsletter to email to my small circle of commission clients and vendors. I thought I could email the url, or even copy/paste the content or a post. I saw blogging as a convenient archival system, easier than the html bits-and-pieces format.

Beyond that, I didn't know anything about blogging, except that people with strong political convictions did it. A few months later, we got involved in the Daily Photo group and we discovered people visited and commented on each other's blog, and that blogging was another circle of friends.

When I started, I also had tendinitis on my right wrist and couldn't weave for over four months. (and further three months until I was comfortable weaving.) The blog was a good way to divert my energy.

For a long time I believed I wanted to be a writer, but I never had the patience to work on any one piece long enough, so writing was between the forefront of my identity, but on the back burner of my To Do list. Blogging gave, and continues to give me, a release for my writing/talking urges. And because I am not forever preparing something for possible, though improbable, publication, instead I can write and post, I don't have to regurgitate the thought in my head; I can post and be done with it, and then go downstairs.

This "do it and move on" aspect has been important for me. I have a lot of mind/brain chatter and I need a lot of energy suppressing it. One of my numerous answers to "4) Why do you weave?" reads:
"Because there is a degree of finality with each step of weaving, a point of no return, so, unlike writing, you can't go back to the beginning and start over. I need this to complete projects, a way to propel me to stop dithering with life and live it."
For months I didn't have visitors to Unravelling, and it was a quiet, room where I could complain or scream and feel good and leave. Communication started to happen after my DP friends started dropping by, possibly because I mentioned my exhibit over in Nelson Daily Photo; I can't remember. In Jan 07, most of the visitors to Unravelling were art practitioners who found me via the DP circle.

Why Blog? - My Take - Part 1

Way way back, when I was following Arts Marketing's Martin Rodger's suggestions about holding a successful exhibit, I wrote to the local paper and asked to consider putting something about it in the paper. Matt Lawry (who can now be seen/heard on television and National Radio from time to time, by the way,) said he would, and I panicked; I didn't know what to do next. I rang Arts Marketing and Julia told me to ask for a list of questions Matt might ask in the interview, so I did: here's a short list given by one journalist to one weaver before a newspaper interview about an upcoming exhibit. I'm not sure if this would be of any interest to you, but I have it, so I'll share.

1) How long have you been weaving?
2) What will be in your show?
3) Why do you blog about weaving?
4) Why do you weave?

In retrospect, I remember talking about a whole lot else but what was on the list, but sometimes I think about these questions. For a general circulation newspaper, it's the human interests that sell, so a personal story relating to weaving is the best approach. I learned during the interview that if you have a cool, calm disposition, you could, like politicians, not answer any questions but only tell the story you want to tell. But being gushy and busy, there wasn't much I could have done without extensive rehearsal.

Re-reading the linked post, I see that incoherence in my posts is nothing new. Phew, I was worried for a moment there.

The Little Picture

My right-hemisphere has been super active, to the point I can pick up a pen or a pencil and a piece of paper and start doodling a hand or a foot or a building. You had to have known me, in person, for a while, to know how earth-shattering this is.

The other side of the story is, I've been unable to read and take things in; not the City Council blurb on fireplace-replacement interest-free loans, not the newspaper, not even weaving blog posts. So I've been visiting, but just admiring the pics. If I've left inappropriate or that's-not-the-point kind of comments, it would be because I didn't read them, and I apologize. To date, I have about 73 bookmarks in the "wblogs READ!!" folder, but I'll revisit another time. It also to do with my eyesight, too, as I can't focus.

I've noticed my hemisphere-dominance switching from time to time in the last couple of years, but I've never experienced it this drastically. Without minimizing the seriousness of those who have real problems, but because I know no other adequate term, the only way I can describe it is I feel like a savant without the talent.

I also feel that I'm unable to look at the big picture, or organize different strands of ideas, but have an incredible ability to concentrate on some minute details or just once process in a big series or group; also something relatively new to me.

Albeit not as severely, it's been affecting my ability to write; I seem to jot throwaway lines intending to revise, but I feel less able (willing?) to understand what I meant in the first instance. Confusing stuff.

I realize some of my recent posts read like unconsidered ooh-ahh dribbles. But whereas a more mature person may refrain from posting at times like these, not being a woman of few words, I've accumulated a list of things I've been meaning to post, so I think I'll give some of them a go.

(In other words, I'm distracted but I'll post anyway.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

That Brass Ring

I've been tempted to drop a learning opportunity and volunteer for a newsletter duty, and have been looking at Yahoo Lists and Google Groups.

By fluke I ended up in My Yahoo horoscope, which reads: "Your ambitions have not all come to fruition, but that doesn't mean that you have failed in any way. There is a time and place for everything, so don't get distracted if that big brass ring has escaped your grasp, yet again. This is not the end of your options, so do not beat yourself up about it. Instead, focus your energy on attaining some other new goal. While you're busy climbing that mountain, forces will be working to give you another opportunity to try this one again."

That darned brass ring again, (see Lynne's comments here), but this time, I hadn't noticed that I missed out on something. Good to know, belatedly. ???

As for dropping/volunteering, I haven't made up my mind. The two are not mutually exclusive, I really don't want another regular To Do at this point, and I'm consumed with my health non-problems just now. Besides, a large group receive this newsletter on paper. Maybe that's the deal breaker; maybe it's really not my thing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hi from Ben's Office

Hi, everyone. I'm in Ben's office waiting for him to finish work, so no pics or any inspiring thoughts from me tonight; just blah-blahing.

I went to a floor talk at an installation art; installation is one of the art forms I have great problems with, so it was nice to hear Anna-Marie tell us why artists started these. It still feels gimmicky to me, but perhaps I won't be so judgmental in the future. (Nah, not likely.)

After that, I bought acrylic paint retardant and gesso, so I can continue the Schiele color study. And then I braved the Polytech library looking for Schiele books, and I found two. I didn't find the Artist's Wife, Seated in one, so I had to go through a second, thicker book, page by page, and I tell you, I am all porned-out. Not a nice collection of paintings to go through, especially in a public place, until the last one or two years of his life. (Even then, he couldn't stop himself; he even painted the Mrs in, you know, poses...) The images of the paintings in the Phaidon I used on Saturday were big and vivid, but in the small Taschen, and another one book, the paintings are much smaller and the colors less vivid. The red dress of the child look completely different, so I might have to go to the public library to see if they have the Phaidon. Or else I'll have to whitewash the board with gesso and start over. The colors in the two smaller books are very close, so perhaps they are truer, but the Phaidon shows the layers and brush strokes much better. Anyway, Schiele did some nice things with colors, but still absolutely not for family viewing.

In the evening I went to The Suter to listen to a lecture on colors by Julie Catchpole. (It's nice The Suter and Refinery Art Space coordinated to have lectures/forum and workshops on colors at the same time. Even though we are a small town, this type of coordination never used to happen. I'm thinking it was Ronette Pickering's stroke of genius.) It was a short, general overview of colors, cultural meanings, plants and minerals as pigment sources, and some stories on chemical reactions and pigment deteriorations; nicely done.

For example, I learned that in 8C AD Japan, documents on color theory mentioned four colors: white, black, red and blue, but these seem to signify qualities more than hues: light, dark, brilliant and clear. (Many colors in Japan to this day are named after plants; sometimes the same or very similar colors have different names depending on the season the colors [ergo, the plants] are supposed to appear. It's not that we didn't have other colors, but they didn't appear in the document on theory.) There is a good book on the subject at the public library, I discovered, so I'll go investigate some time.

I was surprised that blue ("ao") appeared in the 8C document. There is an old saying that goes: "Blue ("ao") came out of indigo ("ai") but is bluer than indigo." It means sometimes an apprentice or child grows up to surpass the master or parent, but I distinctly remember learning in Fourth Grade Japanese class that for a long time we didn't have blue pigments/dyes but only indigo, and when someone came up with the way to produce blue (most probably in textiles), everybody was in awe.

Ugh, something's gone wrong and Ben's nowhere near going home. I got the Met's book on Matisse and Textiles from the library, as an antidote to Schiele; I've been coveting this ever since it came out so I get it out of the library every 18 months or so. I'll go sit quietly and admire the pictures. Good night. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Right-Brain Thinking

I need a few days to recover after I have an intensive right-brain experience, as in the one on Saturday. I have the board standing below the TV, so while Ben's watching the Olympics, I sit next to him and stare at it.

Layers are fascinating. I used to like more straight-forward art, mine and in paintings, but I've been going through my art books looking for layers of colors, and have been discovering a different set of favorites. I can't wait to go to the library to get an Egon Schiele book so I can continue working on this board.

Oh, my loom seems to be fixed; this afternoon I wove swatches for the long-overdue sample exchange.

Why Blog?

"As an aid to her future memory [Cally Booker] now chronicles her weaving ups and downs in her blog t’katch." As found at the bottom of her article in WeaveZine.

Why did you start blogging?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Horse Poo Paper

While weaving the cottons, I was thinking of how to improve the weaving environment when working with skinny yarns. With merino and merino mixes, I use this one sheet of rather robust bubble wrap, (which has plastic covering the bubbles on both sides,) to wind around the cloth beam. With cashmeres and cottons I never found the perfect medium, and up to now I've been using these relatively sturdy pages from an old calendar; these sheets were great for a few years, but after a dozen or so warps, they have become marked and wrinkled, even though I've steam-pressed them several times.

I asked Mama what she uses, and nonchalantly she lilted, "horse poo papers!" I thought she was joking, but apparently silk weavers in Japan can ring up a supplier and let them know the loom's weaving width or the width of your cloth, and they cut it to width and send you about a dozen sheets. Mama hasn't got a potty mouth like I do, but she had some of these sheets, and promptly sent me some.

They are nondescript, smooth, brown cardboard, the kind you find at the back of an inexpensive notepad. Folk etymology being one of my hobbies, as I wound my first sheet gingerly under my cotton scarf, I contemplated the possibility of these sheets being made of, you know, watered-down horse droppings. I imagined Japanese farmers feeding only certain kinds of hay to their horses under contract with the Horse Poo Paper merchants, who are in tern under contract with the silk weavers' guild or similar. Around 700AD, in the days of The Tale of Gengi days; pre-1868 tops.

Well, it turns out they never use real horse droppings, but the mixture resembles horse droppings at one stage, apparently. Older people reckon "younger" (post-1955-ish) people never heard the cardboard called by this name. There are, however, real elephant poo papers, which has a nice texture and Japanese zoos sometimes commission them to sell as souvenirs and fund raisers.

As for what it's supposed to do, it'll work for a while, but this is not the long-term solution for me.

I wouldn't lie to you about something as important as this.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Barbie vs Bratz

I feel compelled to share with you that I find the Barbie vs Bratz law suits surreal. It's like a bad custody case in a cartoon (animation, not tapestry) world battled out in a real court room; Roger Rabbit X-Years On.

I remember when Bratz first came out; it was my guilty pleasure sneaking into the local toy shop looking at their clothes and accessories in total fascination; Bratz, to me, were as unreal as GI Joes, but naughtier. But then my Barbie, a hand-me-down of the scariest, super-sexed 60's version (this haircut, but these eyes) looked surreal, too. Mom preferred I played with Tammy; the doll was possibly also a hand-me-down, but my parents bought me heaps of new clothes.

EDIT: Umm, apparently Bratz Daddy Carter Bryant, at the the time Bratz was conceived, was still married to but separated from Barbie's Mom, Mattel, and wanted Dad to pay damages. In July Mattel won this case, but now in the civil court, a jury member made inappropriate remarks about Bratz Grandad Isaac Larian and from memory this has been deemed a mistrial. Here's one newspaper clip.

Places That Make Up "Me"

I've lived in a few places at some length, as you know. I got started in Yokohama, Japan; then had two years in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the year JFK was shot I was in Kindy in Tucson, Arizona. I went home and lived in Yokohama, but went to a Catholic convent school in Tokyo for 10 years; when I was 16, I went to a public highs school in Minneapolis and a then private collage in St. Paul. I went home to Yokohama and worked for 14 years, all but the last three years in Tokyo. Then we moved to Auckland, New Zealand for two years, and we've been in little old Nelson for the last 12. In between, I've traveled a little bit, too; most notable to China on my own in '86, Australia in '88 and Scotland in '90 and '03.

Each place and each era had different influences on me; the influences also depended on my age at the time and what I was doing. And all the places and times make up this collection of cells that's known as me; I'm a sample book of sounds, colors, tastes and beliefs of all these places. I'm by no means unique in having lived in many places, (in Nelson, it's excruciatingly difficult to find a Nelsonian who has lived here all his/her life,) but I still seem to not fit so many people's prototypical mold and being told off for not behaving appropriately has been the story of my life, starting with my family, but even by others who have lived in many places. (I've also had friends who appreciated me as an anthropological anomaly.)

So, in my case, my workplace was often my "group"; I identified myself by my workplace, I socialized with the people from my workplace, and I worked hard to try to carry my weight at my workplace.

It's only recently that I discovered Ben to be a true ally; not having had "best" friends in the movie/TV sense, I was always prepared to have Ben disappoint me, or to disappoint Ben, not in the sense of us divorcing, but in the way my family criticizes and disapproves of the way I am. Not a bad thing at 50. And just in time, because I don't have that crucial compass, my workplace.

I am a weaver now, and I love to work alone in my basement. I go into lockdown from time to time when I don't go out and don't talk to anyone but Ben for days and weeks. I know I'm not alone in wanting to be apart from the world and work in solitude, but I hear often enough that it's better for humans to be in touch with other humans, to live in a community.

On days when I laboriously get out of my PJs and go into town to meet up with a friend, I come home elated and inspired, and I renew my appreciation for how big a contribution that particular friend makes in my life. Some of them I met after I've become a weaver and they offer me sincere camaraderie; some knew me in my previous life, and I'm particularly appreciative of these friends' ability to update their understanding of me. With them, there may have been temporary drifts while I was figuring out what I was doing, but the bond now is stronger and more precious. And sadly there are friends who don't see or can't accept I'm a different person from when they met me, (or don't care where I'm at because they are too busy discussing their latest allergies,) but I feel less guilt in distancing myself, because it's important that I stay on track just now.

And then there's you. I don't much care for the term cyberspace, because after all we live on the same Planet Earth, so I don't know how to describe our "place", but I take pride in being a member of our group, and thanks for letting me talk about me-things.

Name-Dropping: Totally Different or Exactly The Same?

I continue to read Rita Angus's biography in dribs and drabs; it's not the kind of book I want to race through, so I might read half a chapter and put it down and walk away. It's lovely reading a book slowly this way; it's something new to me. It's nice to come away and Google Kiwi artists or places mentioned in the book so I have a slightly better understanding of her time and place.

I've also been thinking about name-dropping, and/or name-checking, (I'm not sure if the two are the same, but I hear the latter term more often in New Zealand) and living in a small town.

I try to be accurate when I write here, and try to include names and links just in case someone or some place rings a bell in your memory. I also try to promote other Nelson and Kiwi artists and art establishments. Something I can't or won't purge is the fact I read James Joyce for my BA, and the details of Dublin in his stories impressed me deeply, and I do try to convey a feel of Nelson here from time to time.

Nelson is a small place, of about 50,000, and even though I hear there are higher proportion of people practicing art, as a hobby, part time, or seriously, there aren't many of us. So I think we often end up name-dropping, not so much to impress the other party, but to map out each other's circles of influence and position each other; for a newbie and an outsider, it's also a mechanism to validate what I'm doing and justify my being here.

Now that I find myself on the periphery of Nelson's art community, in a small way, (by which I mean I go to floor talks, workshops and meetings and I may recognize , or go to an exhibition and may recognize names, not because I've read/heard about him/her, but because I had a natter at such places previously,) I am also expected to know certain things, and finally, I'm starting to learning about them.

Ooops, my mind is wandering...

Saturday, August 9, 2008


This is the piece of glass I used as my palette. Before I started, it had some of the previous student's colors, which I found very pretty and it reminded me of some of Chagall's colors. (I was sitting almost directly under an infrared heater, ergo the additional red.)

You Want ME to Do WHAT???

I signed up for three one-day workshops on colors; the first one was today, taught by Rose Shepherd, a popular Nelson painter/teacher. (And Ben's workmate Scott's Mum; I'm really getting used to these small-town degrees-of-separation.) I don't know what I was expecting, but I never expected to paint pictures, let alone in public, but we had to, and I did, for the first time in over 35 years. Thank goodness for the weekly figure drawing class, at least I didn't dither too long.

In the morning, we made a color wheel, confirmed what complementary and analogous colors were, made different values of the primary hues, painted a tiny piece of monochrome painting, (mine was a tiny pumpkin, but I wanted to make it purple), and recreated a tiny section of a painting from a book.

Rose brought about 50 art books. All my classmates were painters (some professional, meaning, they make a living from painting!!) and they all grabbed their favorites. I picked Egon Schiele, one of the forlorn leftovers on the floor. You know I like pretty things and happy art, so I don't need to tell you he's one of my long time "YUCK!!" lister, but I was absolutely taken by his colors for the first time. So I worked with two of his paintings.

I chose "Mother and Child" (1914) for my first, small recreation. I found the browns and the yellows too distracting, (and the expression of the mother disconcerting,) so I covered the whole page with a tiny window showing a narrow section. We only had 45 minutes for this task, and I was just getting started when everybody left for lunch. I saw so many colors in the child's red dress I could have gazed at it all day.

In the afternoon, we had the choice of painting still life, or working off of a book, and I chose a second Schiele, "Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Seated", 1918. Because I can't draw shapes, and I didn't want to waste time on worrying about shapes, I flipped it sideways and worked in this orientation. The more I looked, the more colors I found underneath the surface colors, so I felt I was working backwards, piling up colors I thought I saw below. In the end I ran out of time, and slapped on the lovely purples I had prepared first, but it will take me at least another day to finish this one. And that original painting must weight a ton.

Who would have thought I would ever show my paint concoction to any other living being!! But neither effort is finished, so I don't mind. Isn't that strange; am I becoming shameless in my old age? And I learned a few things, too: I now know how to make brown paint from primary colors+black+white; a particular green I like is not yellow+blue, but yellow+black!! And I learned that a lot of people find mixing purples difficult; not just me. Phew.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Simple but Effective

Cally's (and Stuart's) answer. By threading the fishing line in the bottom dowel to make the holes horizontal, rather than vertical (because I would place the knots below the bottom dowel, the holes would be vertical), there could be a great difference in the way the weight of the cloth rests. Simple but effective. Thank you for tolerating my barrage of questions, Cally.

An Elegant Line

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dogged Perfectionism

Mom and Dad send me newspaper clippings from time to time, mostly about weight control, sometimes articles and adverts about New Zealand, but recently there was a short series on Japanese involved in the textile art industry. And somewhere in there someone mentioned that they did not participate in a prestigious event in Paris for the first time in a while, because their work was not perfect. This kind of story is not unheard of, but in fact, almost expected of anyone making thing seriously.

I was reading Jack Lenor Larsen's memoir at the Polytech library this afternoon while waiting for Ben to finish work, and there, he wrote about the efficiency and excellence of Japanese textile workers' skill and methods, and how he thought collaboration with them made it worthwhile even when dollar/yen balance was disadvantageous for him.

It's in our DNA to not only strive for perfection, but so darned many of them achieve it, too.

As a lapsed Japanese, I need to find a happy place where I don't discard everything just because they are not perfect, but not allow myself to slip or accept a lower standard.

Like that's going to be easy...

Something Spectacular

Alliance Francaise Nelson and the French Embassy sponsored three films on French art at the Suter. I missed the first one on Degas, but today I went to see Chagall's mainly-earlier life. Quite uplifting; he was a cheerful, funny man though his life could not have been an easy one.

I kind of ignored my wall; I still have a difficult relationship with it, because of what I had wanted to do. However, it's not really that bad, and the individual pieces are nice, so I must now stop cringing and talking about it and move on. So one last glimpse.

For a good part of the afternoon, I was riveted by an exhibition of portfolio by last year tertiary students (age 17 or 18). Each student specialized in a discipline; photography, painting, print, design and sculpture. And based on their selected theme, they had three A1-size boards full of research drawings, worked options, and the final pieces. It's called Top Art and an insider, John, told me not many galleries host them, but The Suter was smart enough to have them for four days. The collections tour high schools around the country. It's a difficult web site, but please try Top Art, click on a discipline at the top, then select a student name, hover over the thumbnails、and click on the ones you like. Imagine, the tiny photos with multiple images are in fact all big boards. I took only academic subjects throughout my student life, and having never seen student art work in any depth, the caliber of work was all the more impressive. And Kiwis would be happy to hear NZQA organizes this tour!!

I ended up having coffee with Julie Catchpole, the gallery director, and Jenny Hitchings, long time volunteer and friend and Mrs Gavin; I even spotted Ali who was missing in action in France after she's gone to learn about Jacquard looms; Ali, I and a few weavers will be getting together soon to hear all about it.

A great afternoon, and lots of ideas and notes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Can you believe the third illustration in the last post took nearly three hours to draw?

This is the 15-shaft emergency draft I never got to finish, but I like this one. A lot.

No, I haven't tested the loom to see if it's fixed yet. I haven't even updated my To Do lists, but I baked a coffee cake and made a nice fish soup today.

How Not to Hang Your Scarves

I usually think of how to hang my pieces well in advance, and try to cover as many aspects as possible, e.g. venue, angle/height/weight, colors/shapes, general appearance, cost, ease of installing/uninstalling,/transporting. I start planning and consulting Ben as soon as I have a rough idea about my "set", well before I finish weaving the pieces. But I had never ever thought of the weight of my tiny cotton scarves, and did I suffer for it. Now I remember Ben voicing concern three weeks ago.

At first I wanted it simple, a dowel with a fishing line tied to nails at each end, so I can put nails in the wall and hang them. Then Rosie made me want to hang them away from the wall. And I thought of the traffic (to the right of where Ben stands is the entrance to the cafe,) and the possibility of the scarves sliding off, so I thought of clamping the scarf between two pieces of wood and securing the sides with screws and wing nuts.

Ben used to correct me when I called them butterfly wings or Micky Mouse ears, so at least from this exercise, I learned the correct name. I thought this way I can reuse the clamps at the Refinery Art Space shop, where staff can easily unscrew the wing nuts when a piece sold. I hadn't thought of how the whole thing would be secured to the wall. At any rate, we couldn't find small, "elegant" looking wing nuts, (yeah, yeah, I know how funny this sounds now, but I was only hoping for smallish brass ones,) so we used Ben's small brass screws.

Note this method allows me to show mostly one side of the scarf by having most of the piece in front of the front wood piece, or both sides of the scarf by having some of the scarf showing at the front, with the remainder sandwiched between the two pieces of wood. I opted for the first choice, because I didn't want my hems showing.

I thought we could rest the clamp on top of two nails in the wall, but the clamp tilted forward and, once, fell when I breathed a sigh of relief! Then we tried cheap picture frame saw tooth, but the saw tooth were too large, so the clamp was too far away from wall, and once again, the scarf bowed.

Ben tried bending the saw tooth to no avail. We thought of getting L-shaped hooks to sit the clamps on, or O-shaped hooks to hang from, but I thought both options were too ugly.
In the end, we went for the no-fault option Ben had in mind when we started this discussion weeks ago; we unscrewed the clamp, nailed the back piece of to the wall, repositioned the scarf and the front piece, and screwed the brass screws back on.

They won't tilt, the scarves won't fall of, and they are away from the wall and the scarves move when people walk by.

EDIT: The second illustration is inaccurate; the scarf should have draped over the front piece of wood on the left. But I know you forgive me.


I keep chanting these words to remind me I'm supposed to be happy looking at these. In fact, the individual pieces are better-constructed than my February pieces, but even the photos I took on Monday look a little sad.

I had in mind a cascade of seven or so scarves in this space, all with slightly different colored wefts and different "variations on a theme" drafts. The scarves weren't badly wrinkles at home; it got a bit crushed in transit, but badly so because the method I devised to hang the pieces didn't work (separate post), and Ben tried a few different things until we settled on the very first method he proposed weeks ago, which I thought was "too hard". And while experimenting with all these, they became sadder and sadder.

I included my yellow frame, because after a couple of months of sitting on the floor, I couldn't right the right place for it in my house. But the frames are too close to each other.

That's Ben putting his tools away and heading off to work.

I shall endeavor to take a bigger picture tomorrow so I can show you why I needed more pieces.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


On Friday, I treated myself to a new notebook. After staring at my drafts for a few weeks, I felt the presence of a kindred spirit. It was the last of the kind and the front cover was beat up a bit and by the time I finish using it, the fluffy white parts will look disgusting, but we connected. Plus I had a $5 off thing.

On Saturday at the art supply shop, I treated myself to an embossed A4 (roughly letter) sheet of paper. It's forest green in color, but like my cottons, the light plays on it in interesting ways.

As well, I found this blurb on paints; I'm not interested in the paint, but couldn't help myself.

Today, I hemmed and washed and pressed my cottons, named the pieces, wrote up my list of works for the museum, put stickers on the backs of the frames which came back from Pete very nicely on Friday. (Told ya, he is the best.) Ben did as much as he could with the loom so I have to test it tomorrow. Then this evening we made up these "clamps" (two pieces of wood and two screws each, really) to hang my scarves. The scarves were clamped while still damp so they are on the floor doing the rest of drying just now.

Then I think I'll have a mental holiday. My To Do list is long, my garden is screaming out for help, but I think I'll just sit for a day or two before the next thing.

That Thing Called Money

My figure drawing teacher Ronette is having an exhibition, and I finally went yesterday. I like to go when the gallery is quiet because her drawings requires a lot of time to observe. And now that I'm learning to draw, I've learned even more ways to see, and I had to check if she's practicing what she's preaching;-) This time around (this is the third exhibition of hers I've been to), she employed different techniques and different media, so there were groups of three and four drawings of several different styles/looks to suit the subject, I think. Small sea shells were in hard, pale, fine pencil lines, for example.

(The ones I really liked were sold, but I've always regretted not having bought some of her garlic drawings years ago, and yesterday I found out Ben was thinking the same!)

I was stunned and so happy for her that the majority of her work had sold. I can imagine many of her friends buying them in sets, too. And my initial reaction, seeing so many red dots as we approached her section of the gallery, was, "Woohoo, she's in the money!" I know it's a hideous reaction, but having been on that side a couple of times now, I do get excited for the artist/s when I see red dots at almost any exhibition, especially as the economy is said to be going south.

But I know how much commission this gallery takes, (and I've come to not begrudge this any more, but have come to celebrate their success, too,) and I can guesstimate the cost of frames and framing, (and she probably got a great deal,), and I know the weeks and months she agonized and worked and reworked the drawings.

I still get excited about opportunities to show my stuff; don't get me wrong. And I don't go cheap on fixtures and rigs, either, though I do reuse them. But I am amazed how easy it was to make a living working in an office; it was as if I was being compensated for having to live without exercising my creativity for all those years.