Tuesday, February 12, 2019

All Tied Up

I haven't forgotten about Japan trip posts. So you know.

The commission blanket is on hold. I found perfect colors to match the client's cushion cover, and needed to order just one more color, but my source is out of that color, (and no other,) and don't know when it'll become available. I can of course build the project on colors I have, or think of something entirely different. I'm opting to put it on hold.

Syrie is never far from my mind, but there is a possibility it's become about Gaza, Syria and now Pigeon Valley fire. With that last addition, and seeing wildfire flames from our own windows, my ideas may change. Or not.

I wrote previously I was thinking of putting this orange warp while I think about the commission and Syrie. To mix things up, I split that warp and inserted another small warp in the middle on the spur of the moment. And because of the colors, my first thought was satin, except just all over satin would be boring, (it's not silk, either...) so not having any idea for weeks, (and again, I blame the heat!) I started reading about tied weaves, one of those ideas I put on the back burner some time ago.

You know how bad I am at understanding weaving when it's written in words. Day One I read the same sentences over and over and over and fell asleep several times. Three hours on I had read about three paragraphs and was completely fed up. Day Two, I tried reading parts out loud; comprehension wasn't any better but I felt slightly less frustrated, and had a pleasant nap. Then came Day Three and suddenly all the words fell into place. I must have finished and understood half a dozen articles in Best of Weaver's, and skimmed through a few others on the subject. Phew.

My biggest problem was, I've always designed with the warp in the first instance, then when I start to sample I see warp+weft, so mine are never warp-faced per se. While in tied weaves designs are made up of pattern wefts in the first instance. So even with the assistance of drafts, illustrations and photographs, understanding the text required a paradigm shift. When I picked up on this fact, I started to understand what the authors meant, although whether it will work as I start on drafts is uncertain.  

There are so many ways to approach tied weaves, and I've looked at Summer & Winter, Bergman and Quigley. I had to draw a mind-map-like notes to see how many paths I have, and how they relate to each other.
The warp is cotton, 20/2, 1134 ends, probably 42EPI; the weft will be the same for pattern wefts and 60/2 for the tie down, which is counter to convention but what the heck. The original orange warp has four colors in AA-AB-BB-BC... progression; the middle part is only one yellow.  

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Cost and Reward of Depression / Changing Outlook

Hello. Seven weeks since the last post? I hope you survived the festive season if you celebrate and  crazy weather if you had it. We've had a heatwave; the season started out cool and occasionally wet, turning into endless days of, (OK, maybe nine?) 29C-at-1AM, no rain and high winds. We had 32C a few days and it might have been the hottest equal we experienced in this house. It's cooled down a while, but going back up this week. Some days I laid down on the floor reading because sitting up, let alone getting up on the chair, was perceptibly hotter. I stopped eating ice cream and moved on to popsicles, then quit that and have been sucking on ice cubes. Low cal and virtually free! 

Let me bunch up the non-weaving items, as much as I can remember, and get them out of the way.

By far the biggest thing is the Pigeon Valley Fire, not totally unexpected with the weather but still shocking. At the moment it's the fourth largest wildfire in New Zealand and we're on Day Seven. Burning 20km southwest of us, we can see the entire ridgeway and saw huge flames and plumes smoke, (when the wind wasn't blowing the latter our way,) but it's been better since Day Five. We're told, to completely eradicate the hot spots will take a month, but it's hoped that, weather (i.e. wind, because we're not forecast to have any precipitation for at least another fortnight,) permitting, yesterday afternoon was a turning point and things are going to calm down. 2,300ha is the biggest number I've seen for the area, but there has been no injuries, one hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and one house lost. (The largest fire ever in New Zealand, and the current one in Tasmania was/is roughly 30,000ha, while Australia have seen 100,000ha events!) But then we've had two unrelated fires due to crazies, one right in town, (someone lost a deck,) so we remain vigilant. 

Everybody is doing what s/he can; we brought towels and bedding, because they were what we had among yesterday's request list. Social media has done a superb job; I've heard this but it's the first time I've had to "use" it. I also spent some of my weaving money to buy let's just say a large amount of feminine products. It wasn't until I heard after the Christchurch earthquake that women hesitate to ask sometimes, but when you need them, you need them; and we know evacuees and volunteers are all going to synch, right? Anyway, the fire is on-going.
Sunset, Day Two; horizontally, the fire is roughly three times as wide now
but mostly on the other side of the ridgeway so we can't see much. These days,
our day start just before 7AM when some of the helicopters leave the airport,
and go into relaxation mode just before 9PM when they come back.

Much less significant but still a biggie for us was we cleaned the kitchen. We used to do this every year during Ben's summer break, and it used to take one day plus some hours to clean the oven, but this year we spent six and a half days including the oven, nine days if you include the three in between we couldn't be bothered. (It was the start of the heatwave.) The duration is a result of accumulated yuck; my guilt-induced inability to throw out plastics, saving everything until we have a better option than recycling, which hasn't happened; and of course, old-ing.

Depression was the turning point. Years before, we actually looked forward to the annual kitchen clean, if not to the tasks then to the refreshing new resolve afterwards. Then for some years I was so completely overwhelmed even the thought of having to think about it brought me close to tears. Then I started random abbreviated stints from time to time, but it's not the same as an all-at-once comprehensive job. Anyway, we washed everything that could be washed, including the floor, ceiling and walls; threw away a few things, and reorganized where we put things, not according to styles or function but based on frequency of use, and it feels so good.

In fact, I can't stop cooking, even in the heat. Ben's kept up with weekend smoked salmon and made exotic curries; I've slow-roasted neighbor Duane's plums gazillion times and a large paint bucket full of Sally's as well, baked a cake and some biscotti, and even tried vegetarian and vegan recipes. This summer's fad Chez Nakagawa, though, has been coleslaw: some days when it's too hot to cook or eat, we dig into the fridge for our constant supply of creative coleslaw and nibble.
Duane's plums
Sally's plums. I've been experimenting with oven temperature and duration to learn
how to make liquid-y vs in-tact results; I discovered the latter to be
so intense and pleasurable, almost decadent! I'm doing the same with tomatoes.

I sewed five pairs of boxer short of various length for both of us, not just because we needed more in this heat, but because I wanted to improve my skills. Like I did with weaving years ago, I found myself slowing down to do each task deliberately, and though the output may not have been any better, I enjoyed the process. Then I moved on to try to make a simple pattern off an old pair of pants, but found the process harder than I anticipated, (I've done this once with a vest years ago which was super easy and useful;) this last effort is resting under the couch.

The dirty kitchen and the amount of time/energy it took to clean is the cost of depression. There's much more left to do in this house, not to mention the vast wilderness outside. I have to tackle them in due course, but I can only do it on my own terms. I even gardened for one day; I got dizzy on about Hour Five in spite of hydration. The sun has been so strong going outside to weed a few pots in the morning makes my arms turn pink, inflamed and terribly itchy. This weekend Ben and I did one hour - we weren't sure if we were breathing in particles so we quit while ahead - and until it's cooler, this may be the saner approach.

But depression has not been all bad; it taught me how to find one thing at the moment which doesn't overwhelm me, and to concentrate on it. It's helped me work outside my perceived square, or look at things from a different angle, or work incrementally, or work without knowing where I'm going. At times I miss this part of depression, but at other times, when the circumstances are right, I can put myself into this mode. This is the reward.

In fact, I've felt so normal, which is refreshing. I have a slightly bigger picture of life, of time and priorities, if I don't/can't do something, I don't feel guilty but just remember to do it another time. I feel as if I can look at my life from a slightly higher position. I can manage housework incrementally without lists and cover most areas evenly; this is so new, or it's been too long. It may also mean I'm slowing down to live more deliberately, paying attention to the moment, and it has a lot to do with my thinking and saying out loud I'm now retired. Lucky me, I can still do the same thing, but I feel less... "responsible" about weaving.

Laura Fry wrote this about blogging a while back. I sometimes think about it, but less often now. I blog to keep a record of my life and weaving, and as therapy. While I miss the robust friendships that emerged some years back, I'm OK if I'm shouting in an empty stone cathedral once again. Neither do I feel the same impulse to share every thought, (I used to feel more than a little embarrassed about it,) but prefer to think things through and no longer worry about thoughts that disappear. More generally, I feel perhaps for the first time I'm in the middle of my life, and what I think/know should be the starting point; what (I suspect) others say exist outside of me so I can choose which are important to me and when. Who would have imagined, at 60 to boot! 

At the start of the summer, I resolved to further explore printing and needlepoint. That weakened in the heatwave, and I'll get on to it in due course, but I'm into cooking and cooking comes more naturally to me. I've also resumed reading books, real ones made of paper, and what a pleasure that is. I draw occasionally, see friends, sometimes in very different circumstances: a whole afternoon picnicking near a river and playing badminton with young men among others! Yes, I do feel so normal, and except for the heat and the fire, this summer has been exceptionally delightful.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

That was a Very Long/Short Fortnight

I haven't done any weaving. A commission piece has to go on the big loom, and the piece needs to be in harmony with a fabric swatch that's making its way to Nelson. I thought I'd leave the loom free until I work on that piece, but, hey, it's the festive season, and I'm not sure if the client is in a hurry, so I'll wind the orange warp, maybe this afternoon. And weave it in the hellebore draft. Or something else.

I've been so eager to start the needlepoint project, but I can't decide if I want the design to be more or less the same as the previous as I intended, or something new. I did, though, panic-buy a whole bunch of yellow-to-orange threads a fortnight ago when I saw the business-for-sale sign in the window, second time in two years, of the only shop selling DMC needlepoint wool in Nelson. Not sure if I have quite enough, not sure if I need a few beiges/taupes, but I'm good with yellows for now.

It's been too hot and sunny or raining most days since I've come back. At least that's the story I'm sticking to. The few cloudy, cool days we've had, I really wanted to do something else... Like print-making. (And now I have to learn a bunch of print-making words. Lordy.)
First woodblock print in decades, using tools my parents bought me when I was around 10. I saw identical sets online last year, so they must be good enough. I couldn't decide on a theme or design, so I just made up designs as I worked using as many of the knives/chisels/thingies in the kit as I could.  
Linocut. This I know I've done several times since I left school. I tried to mix blue and black to create indigo, but it looks more like soft black. Ditto re. design.
I love cutting both wood and lino, but don't have the control I think I used to have, and hoped sharpening the blades would help. I first used the waterstone that came with the kit, then my big kitchen knife one. I learned these blades are made of soft metal, (i.e. cheap,) and if I were too vigorous the tips changed shapes easily. Oh, dear. So in addition to controlling the cutting of the medium, I need to learn to control my sharpening. (Both the wood and lino are maximum three-five years old, so it can't be that bad?)

I used inexpensive "print" ink I bought in Japan, which for all intents and purposes behaved like acrylic; printed on cheap, (110gsm?) drawing paper; spread the ink with a hard rubber brayer; and rubbed the back of the paper with a tiny baren. I don't have a piece of glass on which to spread the ink, so I taped a big plastic bag on my cutting board.

1) I can't control the depth of the carving (?) like I know I used to be able to. Ditto with curves, especially on lino. Improvement is much needed. I also need to learn better sharpening skills; Larry the woodworker sent me some links to YouTube vids.
2) I can do the leaving-slivers-in-space thing, (you know, as if I didn't cut as cleanly as I should have in bigger spaces, especially in woodcut,) but I opted for cleaner shapes/lines as much as I could. I'm fine with either, but don't like big, fat slivers.
3) I need a descent-size piece of glass. Spreading ink and applying thinly on the brayer is hard; spreading ink evenly on the wood/lino is harder. With some practice I could see how I could improve re. woodcut, (I had too much this round.) but lino is slippery and at least this ink is not at all suitable. I could use acrylic and add an medium, of which they are plenty around, but this time I switched to using an old waffle-weave dish towel. This was harder in spreading the ink evenly as parts of the towel spread while other picked up the ink, but there is also the possibility of creating unpredictable/uncontrolled background patterns.
4) I'm sure there is more to come, but for now I'm enjoying my own enthusiasm.

I want to work next on the top drawing of Ben sleeping on the bullet train in woodcut. The outline is easy enough, but I've been looking at one Renee Gouin's monotype prints to learn about color planes without outlines. And her colors are lovely, too. So much possibilities! I was also reminded, while looking up print-related stuff, that when we were in school, we used to cut cardboard in positive, to-be-inked, shapes and pasted them on another cardboard and made prints this way. I'm keen to give that a go, too.
I also started four pots of lovely-smelling geraniums this winter, but could find only very old plastic pots that were big enough for my idea. I painted the pots last week I can gift these next week. With the cats-dogs-and-monkeys rain I've almost given up the idea, but today I can apply a clear coat to try and protect the paint work, even though, as they are from sample pots, they won't last forever.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Projected Projects

I'm still in a mental coma, but that is not to say I'm not scheming... 

1) As soon as I boarded my return flight 11 days ago, I've had in mind another needle point project, so this piece has been sitting in the middle of the living room floor and I am looking at it all the time. I'll stick to colors around rusty yellows because I like them and I learned how to match them in pleasing and disruptive ways. Although I'd still like a bigger piece to hang inside my front door, I'll do another biggish sample to experiment more.

2) There is a new pattern emerging, and that is, the last few times I've returned from Japan, whether I sought them or not, I come home super interested in making prints; woodcut and lino in particular, because they don't require a press and suit the naive look I like. I brought back a few postcard-size wood and lino, super keen to get stuck in, but had no idea what of, so I vaguely thought perhaps repeats of shuttles, inspired by thin Japanese cotton "towels" that often use everyday motifs.

Maureen posted pics of prints made by kids in her gallery, and I mentioned my predicament, to which she suggested weaving patterns. Well, I never thought of that, and I don't know where to start, but it would make a terrific abstract if nothing else. I don't know where to start but most definitely a good idea.

Just as well, too, because after two, (or was it three?) cancelled workshops, (although she kept teaching small groups in her studio,) Judith has taken on a multi-year contract to teach art on the Cook Islands! All the very best to her, but my guys will have to be put on hold.

3) I had to keep reminding myself to draw while in Japan; it's still not a natural activity to me, not in the way needlepoint is, and I run out of patience very quickly. But I had a couple of good experiences. 
On the bullet train down south, Ben sat on the window seat, me in the middle, mom on the isle seat with the best chance to see Mt Fuji. I was so close to Ben I couldn't figure out how to fit as much of him on a postcard-sized page for a long time. This was my first attempt.
This was my second, with colors added later. This makes more sense, with his big camera bag between his knees, nodding off after a very early morning, but I like the first much better.
This pic of lovely high school boys was taken on a slow, tiny local train down south. 
It was much later I thought to draw them, and though I worked quickly, all too soon they got off and in came co-ed school students, who were visually not interesting. (Sorry, very white pages, pale pencil lines; the pic was manipulated as much as I could, but...)

I also did some travel journal collages, including in my seat on the bullet train, (I am kicking myself for not photographing that,) but I have to wait to finish it as I posted it by sea mail. This one started out well, but I've gave into my compulsion to paste everything, maps, whole pamphlets and even small posters, so the journal lost the curated feel, and spaces to write/draw. I've run out of pages anyway so I've made a simple one of the same size and will combine the two at the end. I also hope to have some handwritten elements, including Best Meal, (we had so much good sashimi and sushi,) and the list of exhibitions.

I'm also doing a tiny bit of Letter Journaling again; they're the perfect vehicle to keep dipping in and out of designing, color experiments, and visual problem solving; unlike solo projects, I need to post them on, so I do get things done, pretty or otherwise.

4) Ben bought one and I bought two cotton T-shirts for me to tie-dye. I'm thrilled about the project but am not sure what kind of designs I want. 

With regards to weaving, I haven't had any compelling ideas or projects but:

1) I'd like to finish the achromatic warp, and the current three-weft project in particular. I've been working on it for too long.

2) There is that red Syrie warp, and the need to make space for the tapestry loom. There is also another double-with commission, so I must prioritize wisely. 

3) I want to do a few warps in cotton, with a focus on colors.  

4) I keep telling myself I am interested in double weave as a design tool. :-D Also, in dyeing.

5) I fancy exploring fabulous/shocking/unexpected look based on Davidson's green four-shaft book.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hellebore Love

Hello, again. I've been home for ten days but in an existential coma. As I get older, flights gets longer, luggage gets heavier, and airplane meals hideous-er. Just as well we can't travel too often, (I have no idea how my parents did most of their travels in their 70's!) and the reason I like to stay a while once I get to wherever I get to.

In time I'm hoping to tell you about, (unless I change my mind, have more interesting news, or slack off):
  • our trip to the south of Japan;
  • exhibitions;
  • projected projects; and
  • family, if I can collect my thoughts.
But first, something I'm pretty proud of. Or at least I was until I came home. The very last week before we left, instead of weaving or finishing items on my To Do list, I went whole hog taking care of my hellebore patch. It looked kind of like this before:
But in six days/33.5 hours, (including two hours on the day we left,) it looked like this, with all the seedlings planted and marked either with sticks or shells.
 The right edge of not-purple area, weeded a little; this extends a little further left.
The left end of the not-purple area and the approach to the purple area.
The purple area I started some years ago; I've taken out not-hellebores, (except one small chrysanthemum,) and extended the patch further back.
 The left end of former old purple area, with a few more planted closer to the boundary.
The extension is almost as wide as the old purple area, but not nearly as deep. This is where most of the new seedlings went in. There is some space for extension where old branches and leaves are piled up by the boundary; I didn't have time to move them. I'll have plenty of self-seeding babies from the older plants to fill that space eventually, although we stand there while removing the ivy, too, ergo the rubbish being more convenient there. The rubbish bags are still there; again, ran out of time, but then, not high priority. :-D

Looking at the photos, I am genuinely proud, even if you can't see much. :-D It was very hard work under a scorching sun, but I was determined to get it done, and for once I did. While we were away, neighbor Barbara offered to water the pots and this patch, but she messaged me to say there was quite a lot of rain in Nelson and... well, the "before" photo above, that was actually taken today. See the rubbish bags? :->
We bought chili and parsley/coriander seedlings on the weekend, so yesterday, along with a bunch of old (some expired but not all) seed packs, I took care of them. It's been raining more than usual for this time of year, but it's warm, so great for purchased plants, just peachy for weeds, and white flies have come back with a vengeance; in other words, Kafka's Garden as usual. But I intend to keep going outside on cooler, cloudier days.

There, I said it.
And for another pic that doesn't show much, I need to spray the patio for green growth, weed the pots, rearrange them for the summer sun, and bring up all the tiny ones I filled yesterday. There are a few pots that can be emptied, (for more old seeds, ahem,) and the hinterland, (pity you can't see the lavender and carnation that went in during that same week;) most propagation have been successful but they've been obscured, too.

Today, we have thunder storm forecast, but pffffft, the sun's been in and out. Typical.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Fail, Fail, Ugh, OK

We've been trying to use up things in the kitchen and have not had Earl Gray tea leaves, among many other stuff. Good thing Kath had her own tea bags in her purse yesterday afternoon; good thing I had hot water and milk. And sugar/honey if she wanted some, but we were too busy talking I forgot to ask. Which part should we label "Fail"?

Also, I gave her the pink silk/cashmere piece from the gray warp, just because she liked it, and I did not photograph it. Dang! It was the first time I came face to face with issues arising from my habit of designing with warps, which is hard to explain without pictures. In short, I have a habit of concentrating on the movement of the warp ends in designing, even though I look at both sides while working. The merit of the habit depends on the fiber and sett, but in this case it was extremely marked and took me by surprise. Maybe I'll borrow it later to shoot it. Anyhoo, Fail for not photographing.

Her life is going really well right now, she's just returned from Europe where, among other things, she met the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and had afternoon tea at her house and ate her baking!
Mom's cowl didn't work out, either. The cashmere yarns were too soft and there is not a lot of support structures, (in my mind, more interaction of knitting and purling?) so the piece flops on the shoulder, not to mention it's much too wide for Mom. I knew the wide part while knitting, but I somehow hoped it would shrink in the wet-finishing. Fail. I might start another with the same yarns, or mixed with something else soonish; I could finish it while there? Or start there while I have Mom's head nearby.

However, I have been doing fairly OK, compared to other times, in crossing off items on my Pre-Trip To Do list. I probably won't cross out all, and the garden is endless so that's in the Kafka list, but I'll give myself a B+ if I manage to finish the black and white warp, and A- if I finish a few paper/paint stuff requiring little effort to finish, and in some cases, send away. The other two must-do's, I can do in between the above two. The reset, pfffft.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Rain at Last

It is raining this morning, and not just tentatively or symbolically. It's been so dry for weeks, a good portion of laundry hung inside dried in half an hour. And not good for the soul, at least not this one. Happy dancing coming up.

Tuesday boost: Annabelle came over and we had a go with Letter Journaling for five hours, chatting, experimenting, and sometimes in silence. We experimented, she with collage, I with deliberately making cold vs warm backgrounds, then she having to work on top of a warm background. Not her forte. I was surprised how automatically LJing came back to me even though I haven't done in recent months, how easy it was for her. Annabelle is analytical and critical I was bracing for a heck of a lot more there-there-ing but she dove right in. Afterwards I was exhausted and energized at once. 
Wednesday, as I scheduled last week lest I keep postponing, I visited a lovely embroidery/needlepoint/knitting shop in town, Broomfields. I can't remember if it was a year ago or more, but I went in browsing and ended up approaching the shop owner about handwoven scarves and she told me to bring some in. My last gray project were in colors seen in her window this winter, (the display had changed by yesterday,) but shock, horror, she remembered my initial approach. I'm not sure if I was happy or embarrassed. Anyway, I now have two outlets. It's been 12 years since I last had to approach someone about selling my stuff, and it was just as unnerving, but with old age comes dulling of emotions in my case, so it wasn't as intimidating as Red Gallery was.

I took a bunch of pictures, inside and outside the shop, for research initially, but after I started weaving I deleted them because I wasn't aiming to "replicate" her colors. Clearing of my head, so to speak. I should have kept some to show you, how she coordinates the colors inside her shop is magical, soothing, ever so therapeutic. I'll do that before my trip. Another good luck; her name is also Andrea.

I love her embroidery and needle point kits and charts, and there is one country rabbit I'm quite keen on, but you know I just make things up as I go, and I can't read the tiny marks in charts any more, nor can be bothered enlarging/printing/coloring in, etc. But now that I'm knitting, I might need needles and such, and I can also see my using some of her lovely knitting wools to weave.

I also had lunch with Jean, which was not as fun as usual, as a mutual friend was diagnosed with cancer with perhaps weeks left. Jean's just been to see her.

I went to Ben's work's library for about an hour until he finished work. I was astounded by how many books they'd gotten rid of from the shelves. (It's school holidays so I didn't think they were all checked out.) I didn't see the fine arts section but in the applied arts section, each shelf were one-third to half empty, and none on weaving either in the art section or the other, (craft? alongside woodwork books,) I could find. After the initial shock, as one does what one can, I delved into some of the so-called "art textile" books, (&^%$#@!!!!!), and got a few rebellious ideas. There will be more on this in future.

Kath is coming later today.

Ben has a medical appointment tomorrow.

And some friends are meeting up for dinner on Saturday.

I've got nothing planned next week; just hard slog of crossing things off my to do lists.

Friday, October 5, 2018


I finished the gray warp on Wednesday; I planned to fringe two scarves yesterday and two today and wash all, and even deliver them to outlet/s Saturday, (more on this next week). The pic is not treated, just gray-looking pieces, samy and almost boring, but elegant and suitable for a new outlet I'm trying to develop.
Came yesterday, I wanted to quickly audition small sketchbooks and watercolor half pans for the trip, but because I hadn't drawn since early June, (and I'd forgotten I'd drawn abstracts "every day" until end of May,) I had to practice first. By the time I had done one round, it was after 4PM. I'm still undecided on both counts, though the grid Moleskin, however much I love grid paper, is probably not suitable for watercolor if I want to save the drawings in relatively good conditions. But I did manage to make/attach color samples on each set.
Now I have a conundrum. I love saturated colors, for which A is best, (albeit quite a strange set because, I bought colors at random one day and stuck them in a case, and I haven't even got a purple!). On the other hand, I adore moody, watery watercolor work other people do, which I understand one can practice for decades and still not control entirely, and B is best-suited. C is not as clear as the other two and for now not my favorite, but it's in my favorite case! I could easily travel with all three.

To be honest, part of yesterday morning was spent reading about paints, coveting art supplies, and comparing prices on three Japanese and two NZ websites. 

A while ago I found I could buy good pigments online in Japan, (always felt intimidated about asking in stores, even more so just boldly buying,) and make paint by mixing with media. All I knew then was gum arabic is what turns pigments into watercolor; yesterday I learned watercolor and gouache are practically the same except the amount/proportion of pigment to gum arabic; the more g.a. the clearer the paint.  (Correct/augment, please, if you know about these things.)

That made sense because a couple of years ago when an American Letter Journal swap mate commented Japanese watercolors are in fact gouache, and thinking that didn't sound entirely correct, I went looking. Japanese websites said it's because we separate "clear" and "saturated" (my word, although I mean "not clear" without saying unclear or cloudy,) watercolor paints, and use the somewhat saturated kind in schools. Some art websites treat the two as if they are different paints, as I assume it's done in Western websites, without mentioning what every living Japanese use in school which is neither. Stuff I've bought in NZ are definitely not clear; in fact I can't tell the difference between my cheap watercolor and cheap gouache so I stuck them in one box years ago.   

Here is a list of paints I grew up with:
* Oil - stinky, smelly, slow-drying; could kill you if you eat it;
* Acrylic - synthetic-based; usually dries quicker than oil but slower than watercolor; can be applied to many surfaces; allows drawing/pasting on top of paint surface; kids' oil paint;  
* "Watercolor" - the more saturated variety, which makes sense because;
* Gouache - something unique to Western art?
* Poster color - very dense, water-soluble paint; usage similar to "watercolor" but suitable for painting large areas; colors don't mix well; cheap. One source says it's identical to gouache but with cheaper binder, reflected in the price.
* Clear watercolor - for grownups; requires a driver's license to operate, but the half pan palettes look devastatingly attractive.
* Gansai (顔彩) - paint for casual Japanese brush painting; binder vary depending on websites, could be gelatin, starch, glue, sugar and gum arabic! Always dry, never in tubes, traditionally in elegant small round ceramic dishes; colors don't mix well.
* Iwa Enogu (岩絵の具) Rock Paint - traditional Japanese brush painting paint; pigment and Japanese lacquer; not for the faint-heated; requires heavy-machinery license. I hesitate even looking at them in shops when I have rare encounters.
* (Not to mention a whole world of dyes.) 
* (As well, "ink" we use in calligraphy comes in several dark colors and are used for drawing.)

If that's not confusing enough, Set A above bears a Dutch label, (though I can't tell where it's manufactured;) the clear B is made in Japan; and C has a French label, (ditto.) It's a little like when fussy friends criticize me for not distinguishing shrimp and prawn; they are both "ebi", mate.

One angel tells me to start buying better paints, (though my half pans are no sissies,) especially because I don't use that much; the other reminds me I don't need any more for now and this trip, going south with Mom, we are traveling several tax brackets above our station. Realistically, I'm hoping to augment A and fill the gaps and stop them moving around so much, and replace those almost gone in B.  

* * * * *

Mom's cowl is growing, but I'm not sure how tall to make it. We Mitsuhashis have short necks so we don't want to drown in cashmere, but I don't want to give her a mingy neck warmer, either.

* * * * *

PS. In searching for "blind", "contour", "drawing", "portrait", I found some fascinating work which had additional drawing done after the initial contours, nor just applying colors. Even some of the ways colors are applied are fascinating on their own. It's worth a look if you are interested.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Taking Stock

The aforementioned cowl: I was going to start Mom's cowl with different yarns while in Japan, so I can make one in the right size; Mom has a much smaller head than I. But I needed an evening project and had I delayed the start, she might not have gotten it this winter, so here it is. In murky-colored cashmere, some of which she might have spun, chosen because together I knew I had enough for a cowl and and the values weren't that different the piece wouldn't look too mottled. I had intended to mix a cable element in this pattern but it looked messy and ineffective, so here it is, just a simple spiral. To be weaver-washed upon completion. I hope I get halfway done before I go.
This weekend's screen print workshop doesn't look likely to go ahead due to numbers, so I cleaned the stash room, putting away print-related stuff, and look at all this floor space! Still not quite enough to bring up the wools to make room for the tapestry loom downstairs, but better than before. Still on the floor in front of the bookshelf, from right to left, are:
1) Inside the green supermarket bag, stuff to take to Japan;
2) A stack of van Gogh books needing a shelf; I put large format books in the center bottom shelf, but hadn't vacated enough space for the genre, and there is at least one more biggish paperback waiting for me at Volume, so... ;
3) A stack of old notebooks/schedule books, used up the insides, but saved for the hard/paper and pretty plastic covers for possible doodling/book projects. I have upcycled two, but am unhappy with the results, so they've lived in the not-sure-what-to-do box for ages. I might cull, might chuck them all out;  
4) Books waiting to be adopted; I'll keep the page up for a while longer and then close temporarily. Ditto with scarves.
5) Weaver's and Fiber Arts magazines I'd like to have a look before I give them up for adoption.

I want to finish the skinny gray warp, and I think this is the third, last (?) piece, started this morning. I intended to wind the Syrie warp on the big loom after this, before I go, but not sure if I can manage and I'm not sure if I want Syrie to be the first project after I return. I fully intend to finish the black and white clasped weft piece, (gulp!) and weave, on the same warp but in a simpler, regular design, a piece for my cousin's husband who is having a minor surgery next week. He's taken me to great eateries the last couple of times I wast home.

And... I'd like to tidy the garden as best I can. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018


I don't believe intentions/background stories appear in artworks, unless of course there exists a  (visible) line between them, as in many but not all old religious or historical paintings. Sometimes I suspect a smart teacher came up with the idea of head stuff behind artwork so we don't despair every time the work comes short of our expectations. And for good PR. In my case, they help me seeing many options early in a project and to concentrate on the good ones later.

I also love reading others' head stuff most of the time. I imagine they nudge me to see artworks from somewhere near the makers' perspectives; sometimes they help me find different/multiple/even contrasting merits. Some distracts from what I might otherwise perceive as technical shortcomings. Do they in turn cloud instinctive/("uneducated"?) reactions? Perhaps, but I tend to remember artworks, (or take away impressions,) better if they come with good head stuff so no big losses for me. 

I think a lot, sometimes, and talk a lot and I'm long-winded. I can and do create whole scenarios in my head from hearing snippets; as an only kid I made up stories inside my head to entertain myself, although it was my sister who had an imaginary friend, not me' I was always the main character in my stories. 

Re. work, I like to package my truths in entertaining packages. There was a time I worried I'm better at stories than in weaving, and strove to shut out the voices and sit silently at the loom. Nowadays sometimes this happens automaically for no other reason than my hearing getting not so good. Also true that nowadays I try to distract, from techniques. Although it's still about the work and not about me; I want you to handle the weaving.
I had deliberately not posted a pic of my Syrie warp, because I'm still don't know what that might look like, and I hadn't worried about it until in the last month I've shown it to and spoke about it to a few friends, folks who know art and/or weaving. I sense a latent foreboding bubbling as a result of observing live humans observing me showing and speaking about it. As opposed to the one-way announcement that is this blog. I'd like to get that warp on the loom before I go, but if that doesn't happen, I'll do it after; but this performance anxiety is best gotten rid of ASAP.

After my third false start on Mom's murky-colored cowl, I remembered a plan I had in winter to knit a really weird, really big 3D something or rather in very saturated colors. (I should never have culled all of my not-soft wools!) The pictures in my head are weird, ugly, possibly in clashing colors, and the kind of thing I would tut-tut loudly if I saw it/them in a gallery, the kind of work even the best back stories can't save.