Friday, April 19, 2019

What has been Up, you Ask?


a) A few days after the last post I wove a second sample on the cotton warp. I had a biggish list of problems/observations as a result, the peskiest being when I throw the wrong shuttle, (i.e. mistake the thick/thin order,) I cannot see it from the side facing up, and I can't change face as some sheds will then have nearly all shafts up and the shuttle will fall through the gaps. So regrettably it was time to switch to a more viable solution, (as opposed to researching and experimenting the entire 10m, which was an option at the start but of which I grew weary,) and I modified the old hellebore design, reducing the warp ends, and intend to rethread, and resley at 42EPI rather than the current 39, making the width-on-loom more manageable.
b) As an alternative creative outlet, I started another needlepoint project a couple of days after the last post. It was one of the gazillion projects I was itching to get started, and it's been a savior of what remains of my sanity during this strange summer. 

c) Not only has the Tasman fire settled, but our water restriction eased in March, and that's six weeks ago so now sure where we're at but nowhere as dry as back then.

d) I fell into the rabbit hole of Japanese bureaucracy for new passports. Japan doesn't allow dual citizenship, so we remain Japanese with permanent residency in New Zealand, and we must renew our Japanese passports every 10 years. That's not a big deal, but we must appear at the Embassy in Wellington to pick them up, so I thought to get some Japanese Pension paperwork out of the way as well, because some of that require personal pick-up also.

(I have no idea how much I'll get; I'll be exempt from the Japanese income tax but subject to the New Zealand one; and if it's complicated I'll have to pay an accountant to file returns, so I can't even speculate if it's worth it, but it's that warped sense of civic duty in my DNA.)

The difficulty comes partially from the complexity of any bureaucracy, but mainly from my short fuse and near-inability to calmly read complex Japanese texts. I didn't need to while working in Japan; if you work for one employer and don't have debts nor otherwise complicated financial existence, the workplace takes care of it. 

e) Christchurch happened. Brexit and Trump have been driving me mad, "demanding" so much of my time. 

f) We did go to Wellington on my birthday and had a lovely three-day holiday, walking up and down the small area of Te Ara, around Cuba Street, eating really good food, (good to have many foodie friends,) visiting young Tom's jewelry studio and ordering our 30th anniversary, (end of next April, not this one as Ben reminded me,) un-matching rings, and waltzing in and out of beautiful used book shops. Ben bought me a pair of low boots, we got our passports, and we did go see the terracotta warriors at Te Papa.
Funny story, I went to Xian in 1986 and saw the many soldiers from a platform in an airport hanger-like structure and I heard Te Papa borrowed a dozen so it felt like a joke. The night before we left Nelson we watched a doco on what horrible men the First Emperor and his successor, his youngest son, were. So I was pretty set on not going. But after we picked up our passports, rain was forecast. Wellington wind was picking up, and we were, after all, so near the place and admission only $20. So we went. And it was good.

There were only eight soldiers plus two horses in the main display, in glass, but one could walk right up and view astonishing details such as braids in their hair. There were many other artefacts, not only from the First Emperor's tomb but from different era for comparison. (His was the most elaborate, of course.) The highlight for me, though, was witnessing folks I assumed to be Chinese Kiwis, in awe, face to face with their history. I'd like to imagine some may have lived in regions far from Xian or big cities and would never have had the chance like this had they not come to New Zealand. Bless them.

g) There was no telly in our accommodation, which we knew, so we dipped into printed books. It was/has been bliss. 

h) I came home to finish the pension bit, but 1) I couldn't get as much help from a someone in Japan I was counting on for a reason; 2) post/mail takes much longer these days due to cost cutting on the New Zealand side, and 3) I forgot about Japan's Golden Week; April 29, May 3, 4 and 5 are national holidays plus weekends on both sides make upwards of 10 days with fewer work/school days than holidays, but this year, the Emperor is abdicating so the country is closed April 27-May 6. One of the forms must be submitted within 30 days of issue, so rather than risking preparing a package only for it to be delivered during the holiday and later rejected, we decided we'll make another trip to Wellington in the next few months, and I found I could do a couple of things directly by correspondence without relying on family. Re. Q&A corresponding is harder; phone calls have been more productive. Lesson learned.

i) Brexit and Trump continue to chip away at my sanity while Jacinda keeps shining.

j) I had a 24-36 hour flu and I missed a small operatic performance by Alison, accompanied by eight celli. Yes, eight cello players playing behind one singer, live, in Nelson. (And to illustrate what small town living is like, Alison is Esther's singing teacher, and the daughter of our long-time health professional, Kathleen. I used to feel Nelson was closing in on us, but not so much of late.) 

k) I've not been exactly chipper; it's that same-old cold-that's-not-quite-a cold thing. I'm unmotivated; paperwork is constantly on my mind; I know I had a whole bunch of projects all summer, started or under consideration, but don't have the energy to revisit any, so much so it took a few days just to list up what I remember. The only reprieve have been the needlepoint, young adult novels, and some days, but not everyday, cooking, some to hilarious effect. Many days diary entries read: "looking for a project" when I think I mean, "motivation".

We ran into Mark, my art teacher from a short course I did at the Suter a year ago, at the supermarket, and we asked after the latest in each other's lives. For my part I covered the still-weaving but not-selling and was surprised to hear me explain because I wasn't selling, I could "afford" the time to work through concepts, blah blah, which sounded like... ummm... real bullshit. I realized I do not know how I fell about art.vs craft; my definition of "art" is borrowed/taught and not my own; I don't know, or have, what I genuinely want/like to do re. weaving; and that not selling and not having a mentor/shop manager like Andrea is really affecting me negatively now.

l) I've been pining to go to another writing workshop for two or three years. I find them rewarding in a way I imagine some folks do after communing with nature or attending a yoga/religious retreat. Except I haven't found a suitable subject/angle/reason/motivation to excite me.  In other words, I want to go beyond the usual first draft of a part of a cutesy short story I'll mull on a while afterwards then put on the back burner.

When I was a kid I understood adults around me had in mind a mediocre academic track in my future because I didn't excel in anything notable, and my family background was in the university business. Accordingly I put in a sporadic effort with my usually well-intended but short-breathed enthusiasm. One of the things I picked up was I needed to train myself to use words articulately, and, honest, to have an opinion on everything, ideally based on research/facts, but in practice voicing a quick answer whenever drilled by adults. In short, I grew into an explainer/translator/smart-bottom without the depth that would have made me... ummm... a thinker. I also gave my opinion "freely" because that was the right modus operandi, or so I thought, in my family, (enthusiasm, (pro)active participation, robust conversation, etc,) and from there a short walk to a compulsive sharer. :-D

I organized my thoughts in words, lists, structured and in order, editing out ideas and matters that didn't fit. At the beginning of this century while struggling to "be" a better a weaver, (as opposed to weaving better,) I did the whole Artist's Way thing, read a bunch of self-help books attended design courses, and spoke to a lot of art educators, art administrators and artists. It took years before I started to see another way of "thinking": not everything that popped up in my mind/head could be described in words, and some qualities/aspects/elements of the idea were lost in translation. Then, I gradually shied away from translating because the non-verbal soup suited better in holding as much in tact compared to a neat list. Also, words/texts meant creative commitment at times and I began to want to hold on to options longer. Most recently I felt this new lack of compulsion to share meant I was finally maturing.

Except some days it feels a little different; the kind of maturity I had in mind was built on solid cognitive ability/activity and relatively constant/consistent productivity, just more in the background than in your face. What's happening inside me recently is more a lack of activity, a real nothing box, a stepping back from my own life, not observing anything, not doing anything. Similar to depressive episodes but more... "natural". I've had a handful of scary instances where I spent a few moments trying to recall how I did some of the most mundane of activities, and collectively they felt more more like a general direction than my average "senior" moments. I'm also repeating myself a lot more than I used to. So there's that.


m) I never read anything on the Vegan vs. Wool debate because I assumed Vegans were opposed to sheering, from the headlines and comments. And which I enthusiastically labelled, "stupid". I'm lucky to know young Jake who can explain to me these modern debates and yesterday he told me about another angle, that he objects to the ethics of bringing sheep, et al, out of their natural habit for the purposes of human consumption, be it for food, clothing, or anything else. This was new to me and we parted promising to look up water consumption for cotton, (I supposed I should add hemp and linen?) vs. sheep, cow, etc. And because we live in extraordinary times, I can't stop picturing returning the world's sheep to Mesopotamia, cows to Lavant, Jake to Scotland and beyond, and me to Japan and who knows where else. (We aren't sure where we Japanese came from.)  

n) Notre Dame burned, yet I've been strangely hopeful about her resurrection, whatever shape it takes, because she has done so in the past. Re. Palestine, Heiti, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, BLM, etc., not so much. I continue to allow Brexit, Trump and Mueller to plunder my sanity. I am not sleeping. On Wednesday I cracked a tooth and now need a crown that is going to cost me one Japan trip. I might withdraw all pieces from the gallery/shop and have a "Tiara Sale" here, because that sounds better than a "Crown Sale". Although... this may be universe's way to make me weave more.

Peace. Out. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Contrasting Simultaneously 2

I put the first sample in a laundry net through a regular cold cycle in the washing machine; my thoughts are:
  • The various orange stripes show up; yay;
  • Both sides look like B-sides, anticipating a more visually stunning A-side. (See pics in the last post). If I weave this in silk, the B-/orange side would have shown the spectacular silk sheen but this is not the case in cotton, at least it's a whole lot less;  
  • 39EPI yields a meaty, nice heavy feel; I could go 36EPI or 42EPI but 36EPI may reduce the heft while 42EPI will elongate/"skinnify" the pattern which is less attractive. I do like the hand of this fabric;  
  • The finished cloth has a surprise 3D look, as if the thick 20/2 wefts want to run away and the thin 60/2 wefts are holding them back;
  • I feel comfortable about proportion; color and combination/contrasts is another matter; I have to experiment and see before I can decide if something is good or bad, but in the end, I can't sample every single combination so there will always be elements of experimentation/surprise while weaving the "proper" pieces; 
  • I really don't like the "flecks". I'm definitely going for more harmonious paring, but not too similar the thins weft disappear;
  • When weaving, the accents look like rectangular blobs, but on the B-side they come out clearly as an O or an X, and I prefer O in this project;
  • Unlike my twills, there isn't enough interaction with the two sides; the A-/B-sides are opposites by nature, I get that, but the warp and weft color distribution feels too radical; I'm not sure if I can be bothered investigating/remedying this aspect in this project/warp, however; 
  • I sampled five different tie down patterns and the polka dot, and the more bold look seem appropriate rather than the overly fussy ones;
  • I'm not sure if I can weave more than 30-40cm on a good day. Because of the colors and the size of the threads, even the thicker threads, I have to be careful and watch out for all kinds of potential errors, including "bubbling" at the selvedges. The width tired me physically, also; 
  • I must beat hard to position the thick wefts close to each other; beat at the selvedges or somewhere between them and the yellow stripe;
  • Depending on the color, threads from the same source and same fiber content full differently, (always a dilemma,) but also the gaps appear better/worse depending on color context. Is there something I can do besides beating the living daylights...?;
  • A lot of issues I think of in the first instance are micro elements of the cloth, while the more macro elements, e.g. O vs X or the overall color scheme, are what most folks notice first. I will never forego working out the details of the micro elements to my liking, because they are what I like, but these are things only the maker and long-time user notice. Just reminding myself; 
  • Initially I planed to weave three standard pieces, but washed/pressed the sample is 69cm wide, which is amenable to a longer length than my standard 210cm without fringes. It's probably wiser to sample to my heart's content, weave two proper pieces, then use up the rest of the warp for a fun fabric as this cloth is also suitable for cutting/sewing experimentation;
  • Reed marks remain, but I only put this through a short cold cycle. Warm wash, a longer/additional wash cycle, or use take them out from experience, so I shan't worry; 
  • Right selvedge was horrible while left was near-perfect while weaving; both are serviceable after washing. Poo-poo; 
  • Once steam pressed well, it doesn't wrinkle as easily as my 20/2 twill pieces. 
Sorry, the colors are rather dull but I had to use Ben's camera to get really close up. On the whole the colors are at least a little more, if not a lot more, saturated.
3D-ish.
Flecks, which are far more annoying in real life.
O rather than X?
 
B-side blobs; can you see the top two are backs of Os while the bottom is X? I couldn't while I wove!
 Bolder tie-down.
So fussy you can't even see the diamond shapes.
Weft float gappiness is worst around "whiter" pattern wefts, not so bad with darker, or wefts more in harmony with the surrounds.

On to Sample 2, then.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Contrasting Simultaneously 1

I finished threading the orange warp on Monday, and wove my first sample Monday-Wednesday. Here are some thoughts/observations I made while weaving. Some contradict each other but I'll list as many as I can remember because I think I need to reflect on them later:
  • It's been forever since I've woven with cottons; I'd forgotten how much I like how the colors interact;
  • Feels weird to be weaving a tied weave on the computer dobby; there is no control/spontaneity; 
  • I can weave this sitting down; maximum width, and I have to weave slowly, but it's doable and probably better than a potential problem with the height of the air compressor pedal and a new footstool; 
  • The thin 60/2 wefts are so fine I can't see them as I weave, a problem with "bubbling" at the selvedges; 
  • The thin weft colors are so visible they're not just adding nuances but acting independently;
  • It's slow weaving, but still faster than I imagined; instead of advancing the cloth often, I should push the reed position back for speed;
  • Two shuttles aren't as much a bother as I remembered, but when I throw the wrong one, I can't tell by looking at the draft (on the computer screen controlling the lifting,) because the lifting is repetitive/regular, (as opposed to fancy twills);
  • When I throw the wrong shuttle, sometimes I can't tell from looking at the fell because the thin wefts hide under the thicker 20/2s;
  • When "many", (in fact, every other) shafts are up, weave with the thin weft; when the lifted sheds have more gaps, weave with the thick weft;
  • Use the heavier end-feed for the thick weft and smaller boat for the thin weft;
  • Pay attention to using the correct shuttle and to the selvedges, and use both hands and hold the beater closer to the selvedge, even if this all means no rhythm; 
  • In the lighter, right half of the warp, the difference in the oranges is almost invisible; choose thick wefts that bring forward the contrast in these warp colors;
  • I don't like the small color flecks (??) thin wefts make when they are not in harmony with the "paired" thick wefts, in hue more than in value;
  • I prefer intense, saturated colors for thick wefts, and want to avoid whiter values especially. Though selecting thin wefts in hues/values too similar to the thick "partners" is boring, I don't want "contradicting" pairs; 
  • I like the greens and blues in the weft; like the pinks and reds, too;
  • I had intended to get three pieces but these are wide and should be long-ish; if I sample more and can get only two proper pieces, so be it;
  • Fabric on the loom feels coarse; always a problem with this 60/2 thread;
  • There are shot effect in some parts; I forgot how pronounced they are in these cottons;
  • And so on. And on. And on.
 End of Tuesday, looking at the wefts I used already and contemplating which others to sample.
 This is the side I saw as I wove and, yes, it is that bright.
Forever a warp girl, I like this under/B-side better. However, I can't get rid of the feeling both sides has the appearance of the "wrong" side, anticipating a fancier (?) "right" side. More observations on this sample in the next post.

Oh, a freebie! You can weave a regular "polka dot" (although they are in fact small squares) I wove at the top of my sample on eight shafts.

Here's a base draft you can adapt.
If you want to play with the tie down part, modify the first five shafts.
If you have more than eight shafts, of course you could place the dots more randomly, and/or make the dots actually round. I might try this some day in the future.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

All Tied Up 2

I started threading this week. Yesterday I think, hope, I finished my Day 2 of 5.

A week ago Tuesday, I combined past posts labeled "Summer and Winter" and "tied weaves" into one label, "Summer & Winter and Tied Weaves", (and Blogger now allows "&" in labels,) and read the 17, plus closely related posts e.g, P2P 2010. What a cringing, shriveling, embarassing experience, full of typos, missing/doubled up words, muddle thoughts, and poorly attempted humor! I knew I don't write cleanly but I didn't know how bad it was. Some years ago I started editing posts and ended up deleting a whole bunch but I only got up to early 2009. However do you put up with me? On the other hand, if you met me in person, this is how I talk. Not that that helps. 

I said I design, in the first instance, with the warp, maybe due to my first looms being jack looms. I never consider not all drafts are made with rising sheds in mind, and never remember this when looking up books. But for weaves where pattern wefts are the strongest element, I need to think sinking sheds, or keep in mind I could be designing/weaving with the B-side up.


There are many things I assume since I've been more or less mechanically designing and weaving  
twills for many years, and the assumptions don't necessary transfer to tied weaves. So I'm revisiting some basics, actually putting them into words and reading them out loud:
  1. Vertical elements, warp threads and threading, are trickier to change once the loom is dressed, though not impossible, especially adding supplementaries; 
  2. Weft threads are the easiest to change after the loom is dressed or after weaving starts;  
  3. Sett is easily changed even after the loom is dressed, but I prefer to resley to a denser sett, so start with looser option; 
  4. Lifting, (or tie-up/treadling,) can be changed after the loom is dressed or after weaving starts. On the big dobby, multiple variations should be prepared to generate different designs from the same warp/threading anyway; 
  5. Surely more to come? 
Because I'm almost more interested in the tie-down pattern than what shapes pattern wefts make, I'm trying to understand how that works:
  1. Tie-down patterns/shafts must be decided to determine the threading; it's the same for the pattern wefts but you see how I think. However, anything that can be woven from the same threading can be woven; this is such a "Ya think?" when you put it into words, but it took a while for this to sink in re. tie-down; 
  2. Tie-down pattern is most visible in the warp-dominant areas, i.e. when the warp is raised, which may explain my interest; for me, this is weaving as usual;
  3. But tie-down changes the shape of how the smallest unit of pattern wefts are shaped, the pixels; look up any old book to see pics of O vs X, for e.g;
  4. Never forget about treadling, especially simple elongation/shortening and repeating. Because tie-down is not the main/only focus of the cloth, slight changes in the numbers can create a big enough change to the tie-down pattern for the whole cloth without it being boringly obvious as with all-over twills; 
  5. What else? I know there is more.
Having arrived at this murky stage where I understand a few things when I'm told but haven't learned/experienced enough to proactively use them, I made up a few drafts and decided on something like this for the orange warp. (That is not to say I'm going to stop reading, no way, tied weaves are so interesting! But you know, the weaver wants to weave a little.)
Full width. The colors are very approximate; the "white" horizontal lines are blank lines between treadling units.
The pattern appears as an oval, but if you look at the "negative" space the shapes can appear as ovals or x's. All three pics are segments of the same draft but the colors get darker as I go closer. They are clean, clear colors in real life.
 
I used shafts 1 to 5 to make the diamonds; 6 to 16 for the pattern. 

Most of my tied weave samples are woven with 20/2 cottons in the warp, 20/2 and 60/2 in the weft, at 36EPI. The convention is to use threads the same size as the thinner weft as the warp, and I'd imagine a sett closer than 36EPI with this combo, to produce the characteristic pixilated look. 36EPI produces a lovely hand suitable for scarves, and shows off more of the color interactions than the pixels, both desirable for my purpose, so I thought to stay at 36. But, simple calculation said this would mean on-the-loom width just short of 78cm, with two shuttles, much too wide for me, and I'd need new footstool so I can weave standing on the big loom. I'm sleying at 39EPI to start with, and if I think it won't be horrible, may even move on to 42EPI. But I'll probably need another footstool anyway.

My workshop sample is still missing, although I have all others I've done. That big sample would have been handy because I used a slightly thicker cotton and I recall being more ambitious in the tie-down, but perhaps not. I've looked for it so many times in recent years I think it's safe to say I lost it. Boo hoo.

I also looked at my stash of 60/2 cottons, hoping I have a variation of purples to play against the oranges in the warp; I have one very dark one, and that's it; that's all the source has, too. In which case there may be a variety of purple pattern wefts in one of the pieces. Oh, I wished there were a few lavenders and red-violets in 60/2.  


Nevertheless I persist.

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.

Issues:
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.