Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Shrinking My Life (and No Weaving in This Post)

No weaving today, because I got distracted. I signed up to take a four-week introductory pottery (handbuild) class Esther was/is teaching. I've wanted to give pottery a go since 1974, (50 years!) and went to two half-day classes in that time. I thought this might be my last chance for a wholehearted effort. Before, I wanted to make nice things to use and be amateur-good; now, I want better understanding of the craft so I can properly appreciate good pottery as well as love something for its good look/feel. And I wanted to the experience of having had a go, if you know what I mean.
I really, really enjoyed looking up images online, filling tiny handmade scrapbooks, trying to figure out what I liked about the different images, and taking notes, noting techniques/tools if they were mentioned.
And then making more A6 books as I ran out. I enjoyed this.
But pottery itself, I soon realized, wasn't for me. I'm glad I took the class; now I got it out of my system. I'll certainly go until the end of the course to finish the pieces I started, but after that, for the time being, I'm done.
Ben and I had a jolly good time on Sunday using up my clay. Ben made a whole lot of small things, practical and not, in quick succession, (the practical bits are on a different tray,) putting some back in the clay bag and remaking into something else. I'm more deliberate; I made fake stones so I can play with glazes and one dish, but that was too thin it went back into the clay bag. I might make a couple of more stones, or a small something with that last bit of clay. (Something I learned Sunday night from Esther: I poked a bunch of holes where you can't see, maybe more than necessary, so they don't explode in the kiln!)
This is hardly the first time I got a craft out of my system. I was fascinated by bookbinding most of my life until I took a course, and realized the degree of exactitude required, and the difficulties being short and having short arms. I'm serious. I didn't want to invest the time to practice, and now I'm happy making and using my wonky notebooks/sketchbooks. And I still enjoy looking at bookbinding books and vids; it's a lovely hobby.

Picture framing was another; this was a hobby both Ben and I found attractive, and practical for his photography. We've been to several workshops, but, again, the exactitude and upper arm strength I found lacking, and, we don't have as much wall space as we would like. On a rare occasion, Ben still makes frames, and I may assist, while I'm happy designing and having Ben cut me some matts.
The reason why pottery is not for me, in the first instance, is my mouth feels gritty and horrible, though surgical masks, (I haven't tried N95 in class); wet clay is surprisingly delicate and just putting down a piece wrong, just brushing against it by mistake, warps/dents the clay; and most of all, there isn't the leeway wool/cashmere weaving affords.

More importantly, it's a craft; it requires years and years of practice and mistakes to improve, and I don't want to give it that. Here, we return to my usual refrain: I want to use the rest of my time weaving and getting better at it. This became clear when I remembered Esther saying in the first session, and I paraphrase, the first time she handled clay, she knew she was in her element, that pottery was her thing. I felt exactly the same when I wove my first sample on Hiroshima Day in 1995. (After letting the rigid heddle kit sit in the hallway of our Auckland rental house for ten weeks, because it was an incumbent gift from Mom. LOL.) I had nothing like that lizard brain reaction to pottery, only doubt and frustration shouting at me. 

And it doesn't mean I won't engage with pottery again. At tines I felt the same about drawing; it took me six months in figure drawing class until I found some quiet space in my head. It still doesn't come naturally, but from time to time I enjoy it, filling the pages of my wonky handmade sketchbooks with wonky drawings, and even coloring them in. So I might try potter again, especially Ben comes along, because his child-like ease with the material, (he starts making without knowing what he is going to make!) can keep me from getting too serious. If I don't, not a loss. 

In a way, I'm shrinking my life again. I think often of when I gave up writing, and I know I'm still on the same right-for-me course. I really want to weave decent pieces, unrushed, (but a bit more quickly,) on my own terms, the way I want to. I'm forever on my apprenticeship Randy suggested. I'm shrinking lengthwise; my muscles don't stretch like they used to and I can't reach the higher shelves. And since it takes me so much longer to do anything, and I require multiple checking and rechecking and another round for good measure, I feel good with this additional shedding and clarification. More time to weave!  
* * * * *
Yesterday I had my first old-lady fall; I lost my balance and fell backwards on my bottom while trying to kneel, forward, placing more wet pottery pieces on a tray. Gah!

I turn 66 tomorrow. The way I've been feeling, I wouldn't mind if it were 666.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Agriculture Report

The temperature has cooled down a little in the last fortnight, although it's bound to go back up again as we only entered autumn six days ago. Our last 20% of Roma tomatoes have not grown in size, nor turned red, nor even orange, and many seem to be just hanging in there for that last blast of heat. The minis did worse - they started falling off in their respective stages of growth, so we picked everything and pulled out the plants. I hope to put in some broad beans after cleaning up and feeding the soil.
It's only a momentary reprieve after the harried summer of veg, as there is so much, (more than I can ever hope,) to do in the coming wet season. I was feeling angry at being deprived of my best weaving season, (I weave more in the summer,) so I'm trying to make the most of now.
* * * * *

I wove a second, smaller sample with wefts I have enough of to weave proper pieces. My beat is better, although the fell must come a little further forward for best results, and the warp needs advancing more frequently. I have managed to come up with a more readable way to print the treadling, and marked some of the picks, so it should be easier but I still get confused. The treadling isn't all that complicated, so I persists, but this cognitive decline annoys the heck out of me.

Anyhoo, my thoughts about weft candidates: I'm going to compare colors which are near each other in the sample, bypassing a green in one pic with a yellow in another behaving similarly against the warp. I might sound as if I'm contradicting myself in that respect, but I'm good; I only wanted three or four good options.  
I still like the lighter colors that don't overwhelm the delicate variation in the warp, while Ben still prefers darker values. Above, I find the top pale blue somewhat overwhelming; the middle yellow green friendlier; and the bottom "lime sorbet" slightly subdued.
Here, the top yellow is slightly brash; the middle dirty yellow too dominant; while the bottom dirty yellow lovely. The interesting thing is, the two bottom dirty yellows are in fact very similar colors, so much so when they were in the same bag, I wasn't sure if I had two colors or just one.

This warp highlights very slight differences of hues and values of the wefts. Looking at the second sample made me return to the monochromatic part of my first. When I wove it, I liked the palest gray best, even though it muddled the hues of the warp, making it look dull. Today, I prefer the medium-light gray, (the bit sandwiched between pale gray stripes,) as it shows off the different hues better. 

I'm not sure which one I'll start with, but I have enough good options now. I also made a couple of new drafts with shorter treadling repeats; they look like simpler versions of the first draft. I am thinking of weaving three pieces with different treadling, or not; if I get used to the longest original treadling, I might stick with it.
Thinking further about solid colors which can show off these drafts, I came across some "natural" colors/browns in the bottom of one box. The two on the left are yak yarns from our usual cashmere source. I knew she had them, but I stick with what I know, whereas my mom bought anything. I don't think she's ever woven or knitted with yak, but I'm reading about them now and I might use them in combination with cashmere. Apparently yak yarns don't full at all, so I'm not thinking of using one in the warp and the other in the weft, but some testing will be forthcoming.
EDIT: I take back some of the vehemence I feel about the fragmented/eclectic nature of Mom's yarn stash. If she hadn't ventured into cashmeres, I never would have on my own, and I am glad she did. Still, it's a heck of a messy lot. :-D

Friday, March 1, 2024

So, That Took a While... Or, Yet Another Glutton for Punishment Project?

Goodness, this recent lack-of-idea phase was long and thorough. I wrote paragraphs after paragraphs, but they looked all the same: "Joy, blah, blah... Interesting, blah, blah... I don't want to... " Even I tired of hearing/reading me. 
I think one reason was I wanted more complexity than what I am used to weaving on four shafts, but also the speed and physicality of a foot loom. For whatever reason, I revisited old draft files, and found an "options" file. I make these when I'm brain-storming with myself, after setting the parameters like purpose, fiber, color, size, loom, "the look", etc.
This file is so big I can only show you a portion but you get the gist. This is also a very fun phase of any project. The original project was a commission for a solid red piece using 100% cashmere one way and 70% cashmere/30% silk the other. You know pattern was paramount. 
I manipulated a section, trying to create movement, and came up with this. Not bad. Except it's not the best answer for the current project, because I decided:
1) I would use one of the pre-made multi-colored warps, which will not show the pattern effectively. In fact, neither warp was wide enough for a threading repeat, so I used them both. The value variance in the right warps makes showing off the pattern even harder. 

2) I wanted to sley this at 16EPI rather than my recent standard 18, because it's cashmere, and 16, (or even 15) makes the feather-weight fabric I can't from any other fiber. The ultra-heavy underslung beater makes controlling the beat difficult, so the diamonds are bound to be flattened, but this is something, with practice and vigilance, I should be able to manage.

3) Though woven on four treadles, each treadling repeat is long with a succession of similar-but-not-same sequences.
(Not sure why this pic looks so blurry but trust me on this.) With my non-existent short-term memory, I tried two ways of printing out the treadling, but I still lost my place constantly. I can print it out with even fewer rows/columns on each sheet but having pages and pages on my flimsy music stand feels awkward. I also wonder if I can find a small magnetic board to go on the stand so I can use magnets to help: I had a desk-top version when I was a secretary.  
Alternatively I could simplify the treadling, which sounds saner, but I haven't given up just yet. 
4) After sampling, I didn't like the bitsy stripes made with dark purples on the right, so I moved one and removed nine. It looks tidier.  
Moving on to the first sample. It's a big one because I needed to practice gentle beating and gnarly treadling. All the wefts were cone-end bits or thrums so it looks bumpy, and I don't necessarily have all these colors for a proper piece. Never mind, this is only preliminary.  I sampled 100% 26/2, 100% 20/2 and cashmere/silk 18/2.  
Cashmere doesn't full much, but the cashmere/silk (in pale pink) doesn't full at all. On the other hand, you can see how the lustre shows off the pattern even against warp ends with similar values.
Because I had a lot of achromatics, I tried different values, and I liked the palest gray best, although it does wash out the hues in the warp. White or black work, but I'm not a fan of either as a solution to dealing with "difficult" color combinations, so if I'm going in that direction, I'll look for the palest of yellow or green, or dark blues and purples.  
Of the colors sampled, I liked the very- to medium-pale yellows and oranges the best, but Ben said, "Today, I like the dark ones because I can see the pattern." He's not wrong there.

Coming up next: practicing the beat and treadling, (not giving up yet,) while auditioning weft colors I have enough of to weave a piece. This is a 10m warp, so I hope to get two long pieces or three short.

Also, consider solid, or "very close" color warps for this or similar drafts to really show off the pattern. That is so my thing.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

I Daresay I am a Better Weaver Than a Weeder

In the last days of January, I made four cotton warps in quick succession, still struggling with blues. Then I did nothing for 11 days weaving-related. Even though I've been fairly productive and healthy this summer, (take away a couple of days on a couple of occasions I was knocked out by vaccination side effect; I never ever used to be so "delicate", even as recently as my second Covid jab!) Normally I wouldn't worry about the 11 days since I'm now retired, but I did promise the new Suger Gallery Shop manager on December 19 I'd come around with a few things in the new year, (therefore becoming semi-retired,) and now it's February, heading towards mid-February. Not only have I not done that, I don't have anything I want to show her on hand, nor made plans.

OK, I lied. I thought about it quantitatively a lot, but qualitatively nada. I've been thinking of a "quick" cashmere warp or two on the 4-shaft jack, but I don't want to make "boring," so I'm stumped. We've arranged our furniture in the living room last October, so I can't set up an 8-shaft there, either. So the choice has been either an interesting piece on 4 downstairs, or on Klick in the stash room, which involves much tidying up and putting away, which I don't mind as long as I have a good project/idea/plan, but I don't. Yet. Plus, I had to put away my warp-making thinking cap because, seriously, I'm trying to reduce the number of pre-made warps, and did quite well last year, so I don't want more without weaving some first.
What I'm learning is, unlike flower gardening, (the way I grow them,) veg growing is such a high-maintenance, every day job, weeding, checking bugs and ripeness, and at our place, checking daily or even several times a day for wind damage. We've had 50- and 60kms winds on several occasions, and 30kms all the time. I untied the tomatoes from stakes at one point so they don't break where it's tied, and stuck and restuck stakes a few times a day so the plants lean on them instead. That I have them growing more densely probably doesn't help, (or does it?); some natural attrition has occurred, and I manage to weed as much as my arms reach, so they are doing OK, but in spite of their good looks, are far from ripe. Yesterday was a rare cool day I could stand to have the oven on, so I slow-roasted the reddest looking ones, but they were so not ready none of the dried pieces had the summer sweetness of acid-free toms.

This veg-growing is like having kids or pets, I tell you.

While I await my orange gems to ripen, there are other signs autumn is definitely approaching, and with that comes the exciting/dreadful prospect of the cold/wet-weather gardening. I'm mindful my arthritis has been oh-so-much better since I stopped pulling out the really difficult weeds and break clay. This summer I told myself it's OK just to pull the top of the weeds, when I do weed, because it's been so dry and getting the roots out is too difficult. But also, I've managed less and less every hour/day/week I work outside, so even on conscientious years, the sum of work I get done year have been curtailed, not to mention our weeds came through 60cm of mulching once. So what's the plan this season? Do we want to grow veg again next year? And if not, do we have a long-term "solution"?? 

Some days I get so angry having to balance gardening and weaving, when I have ideas or plans I'd like to work out, especially because if I weave, I get scarves, but if I weed, in two or three weeks the weeds come back, in some cases more robustly because I made nice gaps for them to grow into! In a way, this has been nagging me since last April-ish, particularly this summer since I tend to get more weaving time in the dry, hot season. While the thought of growing into a nice old lady pottering around a nice old garden is (somewhat) inviting, and I do genuinely dislike living amongst so much mess, "old" is the key; I have to take care of my body and apply due caution, not to mention, think of how many good weaving years this body got left.

* * * * *

An intriguing thought that requires further thinking: the lockdown internet activity as an equalizer of sorts.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Tuesday Instinctive or Experiential/Learned Knowing Blues

One of the things Esther brought up last Tuesday was: there are things she knows, (in/about her making, but also in life,) which she doesn't have to think/test but can rely on. While I agreed on principle, I wasn't sure if it applied to my weaving, with the exception of a small portion about colors, and even that, I wasn't sure. 
Esther has been in ceramics for a long time, and a gallery art educator for as long or longer. While I have no doubt she has instincts, my immediate thought was she must have learned/harvested skills from her formal education in teaching and ceramics, and her years of creating class contents based on artworks and artists in a given exhibition. In other words, at least part of her instinct/knowledge must have come from and were improved by her experience, i.e. "learned". At the same time, I don't want to deny (possibly/seemingly) unlearned instincts exist, for her or for anyone, because these "where did that come from?" type surprises are some of most pleasurable experiences in our making, and produce some of the most satisfying outcomes.

It's easier to talk about me, because I know some things about what goes on inside my head, but  more because I knew next to nothing about weaving before I began. I knew names of a few natural fibers and some of their characteristics as a wearer/user, (mostly care instructions,) but looking back, so very precious little else. In my case, it's safe to say, the knowledge I have about weaving that I don't have to test every time came from studying, experimentation, and experiences, including dismally failures. 
Sett comes to mind. In early days, I sampled a lot and settled on a range of setts for each of my favorite yarns. I'm sure you have a similar mental chart of your favorites. I don't wrap them around a ruler, but start somewhere along these numbers and resley if necessary after sampling. That's my learned instinct/knowledge.

I can't think of another instinct/knowledge just now, but that maybe one characteristic, learned or not; some instincts are passive knowledge which stops us from grabbing something hot in the oven with bare hands, (I do this oh-so-often!) although we may not think about it until we open the oven. Rosie, the bookbinder, and I laughed so hard one Christmas, because we both experienced being advised by respected/adored mentors to try alternative ways, which we knew wouldn't work for us, but we tried anyway spending precious material/energy/time, only to confirm we were right in the first place. We couldn't tell why we foresaw the disaster, but nevertheless gave it a go out of respect for the mentors, and maybe even hoped to be surprised/astounded/awe-stricken. Meh.

One instinct/knowledge I put in the unlearned category is colors, although is it preference rather, and/or is there a difference? Most people have it, although in my case, the more I work with colors the less strongly I feel about my any one particular, thus my mantra, "there are no ugly colors, only ugly combinations." These days I use more of my All-my-life-until-2000-single-most-hated-color, orange, than navies, blues and grays.
I can tell you when it started: in 2000 I did a color studies course though the guild. As you can imagine, part of the requirement was to make color wheels and wrapped samples of different relationships like complementary and triadic. I had no orange paint, pen, coloring pencil, crayon, yarn, paper including origami, or cloth, so I bought a tiny tube of orange guache and the smallest, cheapest ball of yarn. The orange portion of the course felt disproportionately long and arduous, but as my mind took in complementary, simultaneous contrast, and the like, as the focus moved away from orange itself to more orange-ish and orange-in-relation-to-others, I became OK with it. Plus our living room windows face west and northwest, so if there is a sunset, we can't avoid it. (My high school colors were orange and blue; I never wore them, and it wasn't a particularly inspiring blue, so I'm good.)
After studying orange, I came to use orange in my weaving comfortably. In fact, it was almost thrilling at the start, knowing I conquered something. I also applied this with peripheral greens, (green is still not a favorite hue), and learned the usefulness of olive- and yellow-greens. Mind you, I liked yellows, so yellow-green wasn't a far stretch. I must add, even when I've studied a color, even when a color combination works, I can't necessarily elucidate why something works or why I like it. Sometimes it's merely a choice, not a necessarily preference of one over an equally good other; other times it can be out of habit. 

And now we come to the navies and blues, which are different "colors" in Japan. They have long been my favorite hues, and when in stores, fashion, ceramics/kitchen, even furniture, my eyes still spot navies first, then other blues, without my realizing. I have more navy blue yarns than any other single color. Yet I don't know if it's from confidence, conceit, or even fear, but I have never studied blues, just used them, and I've come to see my use of blues as haphazard, and results, accidental. They are not really considered, studied, and when they work it's because I happened to have/put together a nice combination. And I don't have confidence even if the result is nice. 
My brain now feels like it's on a loop. Instinct... Knowledge... and now preference... But one last point: Esther found it interesting I spend time studying colors I don't like, but not the ones I like. Touche!!! I couldn't explain it, but jested, "Japanese, female, Catholic," my shorthand for, "glutton for punishment." I spent so much time experimenting with merino, cashmere and skinny, mercerized cotton, too, so why not the color blue?
* * * * * 
On the right is the second blue warp. Although the blue hues are washed out, I like it better because it's more harmonious. It's A-B-Aa-Bb repeating in narrow stripes, A and B second right and center blues below, shown in more accurate colors, and a and b being two middle yellows in the second last pic below. (I took over 30 pics of these warps alone, but did not get anything close to real colors.)  
The colors in the first warp are closer to real life here, but the second right blue is still bleached. It's disappointing because it's one of my favorite colors among the 20/2 cottons, a cool Delft blue, so I made my "watermark" closer to it in the photo below.
I was going to make a third blue warp using only these two, in narrow stripe, taking out the yellows from today's second warp. But even in person, my favorite blue, on the left here, looks like a version of gray in the company of others, and since this is all I have left, I decided to save it for a more suitable project. 
Of course a yellow warp is always welcome, and I am looking at these now. Aren't they uplifting?
I'm not a fan of teal, and again this photo doesn't show the colors accurately, particularly the far right with more yellow in it in person, almost like a darker version of the middle. I don't like teals as colors, but I know they do a fabulous job with yellows, making the cloth shine like metal. Yes, I'm thinking about that, too. 
I hadn't visited my source's website for 18-ish months, and I was shocked to see they may be whittling down the 20/2 colors (two of the links don't work,) with half of what they do have being... green!! While options for 60/2 is more attractive, I can't see 60/2s well any more and I'm not sure if I'll continue to use them beyond what I already have, (quite a lot,) especially in the warp.
To be continued.

Thursday, January 18, 2024


Tuesday was Town Day. I had two medical appointments in the middle of the day but nothing else, so it started out at a leisurely pace.
I took a picture of this fancy rubbish bin at the back of the PO Box station; (we no longer have post offices, just counters at the back of affiliated bookshops.) It has solar panels on the top part and compacts the rubbish x5 apparently. I'm glad it's there, but look forward to see non-fossil-fuel-generated power used in public places in a more meaningful way. 
This sign stopped me in my tracks; I don't know how to interpret it. A very well-dressed woman in her 40s (??) walked past, smiling; no, I'm a retired pensioner, thanks, but do you know what this means??
Out of habit, I check bookshops and their stationary/art supply section whenever in town. Luckily, I didn't desire anything on Tuesday, but I couldn't help being attracted to these covers that could be recreated on textiles.
I think of reworking my pebbles all the time, and maybe this was a sign. 

And then I saw this cover and good thing I didn't like the inside, or else I might have concocted a weak reason to need it. Coming out of the second bookshop feeling smug about my economy, I ran into Esther on Trafalgar Street. It turned out we were both free mid-afternoon so we intrigued an Afternoon Tea.  
The first appointment was my second Singles shot, the perks (???) of being over 65. As they advised I might, I reacted badly the first time, spending two days in bed, so I had cleared my already-empty calendar for the rest of the week.

These outside the clinic, I wasn't sure if they were alstroemerias; the leaves and flowers say they are, but I don't know if I've seen bulby bits on mine.  
Nelson doesn't have a lot of World Headquarters, so I had to record this for posterity. I then had lunch at Broccoli Row, a Vegetarian institution in Nelson with the same owner and at least two staff since they opened in the mid 90s. And they still do (Green Lipped) Mussel Chowder; we were hard-pressed to find a cafe in Nelson that didn't serve chowder when we moved here in the late 90s; these days, at the top of my head, I can only think of two other. 
Then I went to my second appointment: mammogram. What worries me in retrospect is, the appointment took such a short time, and without being indelicate, the technician didn't squeeze the living daylights out of my girls as they have as long as I can remember. The machine was new, so can they get away with it? Because I'm willing to do this only once every two years.

I went back to Broccoli Row in less than half an hour to meet up with Esther. We had some interesting talks about making, confidence, Internet-selling, and for want of better terms, instinctive-knowing vs experiential-knowing. I'm still digesting the words/ideas. 

One thing to think about, though, is when speaking to non-weavers, I assume they don't know much about weaving. It's worked while speaking with visitors to exhibitions, folks who bought my pieces, or to artists in other fields. But some of my friends, and Ben, have heard me bleat for ages, and from time to time I am taken aback by the depth of their understanding. I can't figure out how I should modulate myself.  
Marge in her 2024 colors, near the bottom of the Cathedral Steps.
On the loo door at Ben's work. Before going home, we went to the supermarket and bought dinner ingredients so I wouldn't have to "cook" for a couple of nights.  

* * * * *

When I go into town, I try to get maximum stimulus for my making, but it's getting harder and harder as independent shops disappear and everybody carry samey merchandises. I was going to go to a couple of galleries, too, but the day turned out inadvertently social, so that'll have to wait.
I threw out my old Delivery Slip pad with half a dozen forms left just a few weeks ago, thinking my Gallery Store days were over. But with a new manager at the Suter, and another possibility I've been thinking about for half a dozen years, I got a new one. 
It was early but I started walking towards my clinic for the jab, hoping something will grab my attention for a half an hour on my way. Fate did not disappoint: I saw in the corner of my eye the top left ball of yarn in the window of a yarn shop Cruella. (We also have a cafe called De Ville in Nelson, because I know you had to know.) 

These are Shoppel Zauberball in singles; 75% Wool/25% Polymide, two on the left, and 100% wool on the right. The company also produces two-plies, and together I believe they are sold as sock wool. If you're used to merino or cashmere, even the 100% feel impossibly "tight", and I really didn't want Polymide anywhere near me, even if the label says it'll biodegrade in 5 years. And they are expensive, (I'd say "very",) at NZ$36/100g; NZ$67-ish for two plies but I forgot the weight. But it was the colorway on the left, (the two balls are of the same colorways,) that caught my eye in the first place, because they felt like relatives of my cotton warp currently on my 16-shaft, so I went back four hours later and ooohed and ahhhed some more and got them. The gentler 100% is more in the image of a spring garden.

They have many more subdued colorways, and a few monochromes. I was taken by the yellow, brick orange, and the blue monochromes, but I can do those on my own, or at least I have to try.

What will I do with them? I'll look at them and handle them for a while, unravel and feel them. And when I've done enough, I think they will become cushion covers. Though single, I wonder if they can even stand to be in the warp on a table loom, because I don't like variegated yarns making strips in the weft. Oh, if they weren't so pricey, I have a perfect chair I pinched from the back of a girlfriend's car to cover.

Knowing I can only knit tubes and rectangles, do you have other weaving/knitting suggestions? I very likely have a number of single-color yarns I can match with either. 
And speaking of doing blues on my own, I've been planning a gentler but more interesting pale blue warp, in the usual looking-at-cones-in-all-lights-over-multiple-days/weeks/months method.

That was Tuesday. Came Wednesday and, not to mention it was hot and humid, I had the same post-Shingles-jab symptoms as the last: headache, sore throat, fever, and upper body that felt like I was beaten up in the back alley by a couple of thugs not exactly yesterday, but maybe a week ago. One paracetamol takes most of it away, but four hours later the body screams out for more drugs; I made the intervals five hours because I'm not a fan of pharmaceuticals. It's now late afternoon Thursday, the day felt much cooler, and I've needed only one. I still have the fever, but the muscles aren't driving me nuts. Tomorrow, I might be able to swing my arms and make another warp.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Still (Not) Thinking about Thinking

I haven't stopped thinking about, or more accurately having different feelings about, the thinking/design issue I wrote about in the last post. One discovery is, I don't spend enough time cogitating/exploring ideas before moving onto what almost feels an automatic "design process;" one reason why my end piece/s are  same-y. Sometimes I suspect I unconsciously have ideas about the end piece/s, and work backwards towards the initial thought.

An opposite question is, how much do I want to invest in making "nice pieces" to sell? Not having any answers or preferences or ideas of what to do next, I went downstairs to tidy the messed up tied-unit-weave warp yesterday, so I can thread it again, but didn't start because I hadn't come up with a new threading scheme. I looked at the pre-made warps, looking for something  I may be able to put on the four-shaft Jack for a quick project, but nothing stood out.

I have wanted to make a blue cotton warp for a while, probably because it's been so hot and humid. Without thinking much, (which was the whole point, bypassing the thinky bits,) and without being able to see well in the twilight, I cooked up a crude plan and stood before my warping board. It was nice engage with my tools, nice to be doing something that may produce a few scarves if all goes well, but the way I (almost didn't) plan/ed it was facile, unsatisfying, and the resultant warp, ugly. It screams out, "I didn't put my heart and soul into it." I don't want to make this about, oh, river or the sea; I'm hoping interesting weft colors will make them... interesting. I'm hoping these colors will grow on me.

Call me childish, selfish, hedonistic; I suffer from an inability to think deeply, understand profoundly or observe dispassionately, and yet I forever seek satisfaction not only from the end piece/s, (this seldom happens,) but gratification of having put my heart and soul into the making.   
For a couple of days this past week, I binged on reading and listening to the LRB articles and podcasts. I like listening to writers' interviews because I think I understand them better than artists'. Even then, I can never get rid of an acute and specific FOMO, because often authors or reviewers or even my friends speak of things in books and stories I completely miss. (Joyce was so not the guy to read for my B.A.) 
It brings me back to when I started school; it's the first week and everybody else in class could read music, while I didn't even have the slightest idea which page we were meant to be looking at, let alone sing the first song: a simple, short song about the Japanese flag, the red circle in the white field. How often have I screamed in my head, "Where on earth did you get that??" 

On LRB, Toibin is my undisputed favorite. The other day, an interviewer mentioned in passing that Toibin thought "Animal Farm" was about farm animals, not a critique on society. I just had to look it up right away. Oh, I am so on your wavelength, Mr Toibin; what a relief/joy/privilege to be in the same club!

Monday, January 8, 2024

Thoughts, Transformations, End Products

I have to jot down a few things my maker friends and I talked about just now. Like minutes ago. These may come to something, or not, but these makers have heaps more experience making, read in depth, and think about making, than I, so there's always something to be learned. 
This post is not logical/orderly/comprehensive; just notes, stream of consciousness stuff. 
I think my question came out of an academic making project being abandoned (?) because the maker thought her thinking wasn't reflected enough in the final piece/s. I asked her if it was necessary, and she said in this case, yes.

This brought me to something I kind of suspected; that I can think, (I enjoy it,) and read some, (though I struggle with high-minded art writing,) but as I think, I'm giving sideway glances to design processes I learned, so my thinking is not purely thinking about an idea, but thinking with the next step in mind. I haven't found a satisfying way to connect my thinking to what comes off the loom; as if there is a big schism/leap somewhere; as if I move on to designing too soon. Or because it's easier, I've increasingly concentrated on the technical aspect of designing that should come after much more exploration. I don't explore enough. 

And then there's the other thing. I've been listening to a sprawling Ross King book called, "The Judgement of Paris: The Revolutionary Period that Gave the World Impressionism" for the third time. It's about that time in Paris and France; the politics of Académie; Louis Napoleon/Franco-Prussian War; when painting's focus moved away from religious and historical "records" to the everyday life and regular people. The story focuses on the life and activities of Meisonnier, (yeah, who?) and Manet, but includes many, many painters and writers we know, and the one who came out as a real vanguard is Courbet. 
Needless to say, there's much explanation on what different painters tried to do on the canvas. But I can't get rid of the quasi-envy painting/sculptures, jewelry making and ceramics, even tapestry weaving and felt-making, what I call "free form" making, offer easier canvas//base/platform? to express thoughts, than the grid on the loom. Is this the limitation of our discipline, or is it merely that I haven't found a way?

I reiterate: I haven't found a way to express my thought on the grid on the loom the way I believe my thoughts in my head should be expressed, and I don't know how "graphically" the transfer should be, how digested and regurgitated and morphed the final aesthetics should be. Now I'm only blurting out words that seem to fit the mood. 

I'm getting lost in a maze, but I'll keep going. One of the problems I have is that some of the "textile/fiber arts" I've seen are facile; that they have been easy/graphic transfers of the artists' thoughts using textiles. Others have been superb technical achievements without much discernible non-technical ideas, and though there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these works, sometimes unsatisfying. In the second case, it's entirely possible I'm too dense to see, or I'm not meant to see. My friends tonight said the final product should show "the grammar" of my thinking rather than "the words". Of course I'll have to be the judge of when my words end and my grammar begins; I'd imagine it depends on the project, and it depends on the mood of the day, but I am the arbiter, (after all I can't control others' perception,) and I have to be satisfied... with the degree of transformation?
I didn't realize I have been thinking in the back of my mind about what sort of things to make for the Suter Shop; silly-time-consuming stuff that's thrilling and rewarding to make but for which I can't even conceive adequate monetary value, or "nice" stuff, "merchandise", "bread and butter" "products"? The flip  side is I could focus solely on quality and craftspersonship; I can strive to make pieces that are parallel and perpendicular and luxurious and joyous and excellent, as these are of such importance to craft. 

Tonight it feels like a battle between making excellent craft, (being about the end product,) vs my garnering maximum joy/thrill/satisfaction in the process of making, (being about the maker.)
Fallen Alstroemeria petals in the sink; sometimes they just fall into places. And with that, I bid you good night.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

It's not Often I'm Lost for Words But

Hello, friends. I hope your year got off to a colorful start. I was going to post pretty pics on Jan 1, but as you can imagine, my year so far has been surreal, because nobody we know have been directly affected beyond the first jolt, and there've been no disaster-specific communications with them. Media coverage from Japan is more available to us cf. 2011, but mixed with much idiocy on X, while there've been bugger all in NZ except the picture of the burning plane.
As of now, 9AM Japan time, here are things that stick to my mind:
*The quake was equal to the size of 1995 Hanshin/Awaji (Osaka/Kobe) Quake, but the Sea of Japan side is not as densely populated, which is probably why NZ media only covered the removal of the Tsunami warning, but not the quake. It was much shallower and oh-so-much longer than the usual big quakes.  
* As of this morning Jan 3, bullet trains are running on schedule. This is partly due to their rail often being physically elevated or otherwise far from everyday traffic, especially outside large cities, so it's easier to inspect. From Dec-30-ish to Jan-3-ish has traditionally been when many travel to be with family, and now that Haneda is in turmoil, this was doubly needed. Whether folks can go home from their respective train station is another issue, re. road closure, petrol shortage, etc. Some flights resumed to/from the region, also.
* Speaking of flights, the plane which was hit by the JAL passenger plane belonged to Japan Coast Guard, about to deliver supplies/equipment to their division/s in the quake-hit regions. You may have heard everybody on JAL escaped, but five of six on the Coast Guard plane perished, with the captain in critical condition. 
* Any time is bad for disasters, but it's really bad now, because for about a year anti-mask/anti-vax folks have been loud, and the latest is that the earthquake was man-made. As with many other disasters, a variety of anti-[group/nation/ethnicity/individual] posts are exploding. Also, since former PM's assassination, dubious political contributions have come more to the fore, with public hearing held last month, (I'm not 100% sure about this,) so trust in the government and media is lower than low.
* It's raining in the quake-hit region today, with warnings for the wider region over the next few days. And it's the colder part of Japan, getting colder until Marchish. And it's still shaking; usually shakes as strong as the original can happen for a week. I have no words.
* I have to add this, though. Taiwan is also super quick and generous every time we face disaster. Some of their people were there, from memory, on Jan 2 already. So very appreciated.

I talked to Mom yesterday at an hour earlier than the usual time. I wasn't sure if she knew it was New Year's Day. She now speaks unclearly and I'm hard of hearing, so it was hardly a conversation, same as the last several months. I'm glad I changed the time, because the quake hit half an hour after we hung up. I wonder if I should call again soon, or leave her in peace, as she many not even know about the last few days. 

OK, enough.
* * * * * 
While reading about Gaza, and sometimes vaguely wondering how that's going to affect my Syrie project, I also try to keep up Ukraine. It's been excruciating keeping updated every day on both fronts, and I now avoid photos/vids, but I try to pick up at least the big stuff.

Since New Year's Eve I dropped a handful of comments trying to be sympathetic/encouraging. On one, I said something to the extent, "I hope and pray the madness will end soon, and Ukraine can start rebuilding in peace," and was taken aback when I got around 40 likes from folks with names in Cyrillic in a few minutes. Then of course a non-Ukrainian person jumped on the opportunity saying hoping and praying is worthless without action; I agreed, but "I don't disclose my minuscule contribution 'public'". Then this nUp edited his response so my response looked silly, then a nUpII jumped in about how many $ their government has contributed, etc., etc. etc. You get the picture. For a while I left them, (neither were bots,) to themselves, but it was so the wrong place and nUpII started to get ugly, so I deleted my comment. 
Then a friend posted about the cost of living in NZ, and his friend jumped on my comment, so I thought maybe it is/was me, and deleted that comment, too. I can see how this mine could have been misunderstood in this case, but golly, I couldn't be bothered, because he was challenging my "basic values and eagerness for consumption". Mate, you don't know how cheap I've been the last 20 odd years. I'll stop commenting altogether for a while. 

Re. donations, though, as I said in my last post, small amounts repeated do add up. For Ukraine I buy PDFs on Etsy, because I got started shortly after Feb 2021 when there weren't active solicitations from Ukraine yet, (remember when folks outside Ukraine started promoting Ukraine-based AirBnB and Etsy?); it's easy; and even though I know it's needed, I can't bring myself to donate towards weapons; and I'd already established something of a relationship with one vendor in particular. My $ has gone to Yuliia in the main. We've used half a dozen of her recipes, and they've all been easy to follow, delicious, and for this iffy baker, successful, not to mention her stunning photography. I can do more if NZ$ is stronger against US$, but, again, "Thank you, Pension." 
As of January 1, 2024: 
US$10 = NZ$15.82 =381.41 UAH (Ukrainian Hryvni)
And here are some examples of prices in Ukraine as of last month, although we can imagine there are vast differences between regions, and most importantly, availability.

* * * * *

Now this one is guaranteed uplifting. 
I have an online Australian-in-the-Philippines boat designer friend named Michael. (What am I saying! He's an Aussie; of course his close friends call him Mick!) He has different POVs and passions from mine, which are ever so intriguing and valuable, even when I don't fully understand, because boat folks use as much jargon as we do.

On Jan 1, he posted a 15 second clip from a video which intrigued me, so I watched the whole 1:05:19. And boy, was it worth it! Let the space/math/science bits wash over you if you prefer, but listen to the gist of the message, and enjoy the unapologetically upbeat host. I think I can use it in the way I weave this year.

* * * * *

Today is Day 11/22 of Ben's summer holiday, and unlike other years we've done zero house projects so far, sleeping in, reading, screening, eating carbohydrate instead. (It's been too hot to cook/eat proper meals, so I hate to check our blood sugar levels.) Today we start slowly, and try to get a few things off the decades-old To Do list.

I hope I didn't bring you down too much. Think of colors! Think of textures! Think of evenly-tensioned warps!! But also, let's keep in mind so many around the world who are having a terrible time.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Things I Encountered for the First Time in my 65th Year Part II (The Less Tragic Bits)

I haven't done two posts/day in a while, but I didn't want to finish with a downer so here come the good bits. 

* * * * * 

Since turning 65, I started receiving pension, and that's made a big difference in my outlook on life. For the first time I am saying out loud I had no net income since I left my last office job in February 2000, (except for a six-month stint in 2004,) which is over half of my adult working life. It's not that I never thought about this, and I always said Ben "lets me do this", (and when he was alive, "with a little help from Dad,") but to declare it freely feels honest and liberating. So let's hear it: financially I've been a looser and a waster, and there's nothing I can do now to remedy the past. 
I felt really bad for a day or two after I typed these sentiments, but that won't change the past. That post, "Did I Live My Life the Right Way?" was supposed to be a look back at how I could not look at weaving as a financial venture, or change my ways to try to make it so. I was and am a slow weaver, and "minimum 10 in each gallery" was the best I could achieve, thanks to slow sales. Local galleries were my safest bet, even though Auckland and Queenstown may have been more lucrative as I was reminded often, I am a control freak and if I can't visit the galleries often to see how things were displayed, what was selling, those places weren't for me. (I did try Wellington in 2007.) And I had heard enough stories of some of the well-known galleries/shops not paying artists or paying upwards of nine months later after much reminder/peasing; who needs that?
I also know that in my job in the 80s at IBM to the ones here at the Polytech, I always felt varying degrees of dissatisfaction, admin/secretarial/even entry-level IT jobs never rising above "busy work". I got paid just for showing up and I put in 110%, because I don't know any other MO, but there was never time to put thoughts into what I was doing, to make something better, to instill quality into the output. Regardless of the outcome of the pieces, I get that satisfaction from weaving. (Or unimaginable regret/disgust/dismay I never felt in office jobs. :-D)

I also couldn't get rid of the defeatist aftertaste of having retired because I couldn't sell my work. But it's true: I couldn't, so I did. And that led to the loss of confidence and detachment which prevented me from trying to make nicer/different things without diluting my making, or approach other galleries.  

The best remedy was to get back on the loom, with Sunflower II, after long months of pulling out weeds and breaking clay with my hands. It felt lovely to be weaving again, thinking about colors for this project, plans for future ones, and knowing this piece is going to be... OK! I missed having projects one after another, not rushing to "make things" but to keep thinking of the next project and the one after, as future projects are destined to be better than the current. In my head. 

Opportunely, Esther told me the Suter Shop had a new manager, so I went to meet her. Annie is lovely, calm, professional, and we seem to have similar ideas about what the Suter Shop should be. Even better, the shop itself had calmed down, shedding the gift shop busyness, heading back towards a craft-oriented "local" gallery shop. And that on the 19th of December is quite an achievement! Textiles were not shoved in the bottom shelf, some just rolled up like in a teenager's close, but displayed all around/near/between other attractive work. I told her I might bring something in the near future, but that will be next year. We'll see how it goes. 

I am not coming out of retirement. Nooooo! But I hope I can still make a few nice things in my own time. This may be my last hurrah in making-to-sell, and if so, dare I hope it last several years? This could also be an atonement for my financial failure, not a reparation, but a reconciliation with myself.

* * * * *

Also new this year: Pension now allows me to think about things we put off, particularly in the years I travelled to Japan to help my elderly parents. Looking back I don't know if I was indeed helping, if they felt I was, or if the trips were just nice holidays for me while Ben stayed behind working.

The Top Two of the things I put off have been replacing the primary heating system from wood to electric, and fixing my teeth. Re. the heating, it has not been just the cost, though; the most popular method being heat pumps/air conditioners, we've had a couple of assessments but I don't like hot or cold air blowing in my direction. We are getting too old to haul firewood up steep and turning steps, and we seem to need more wood/heat as we get older, so we need a solution soon. I am even toying with the idea of solar panels, (they they are again!) to store power rather than heat water. The more straight-forward is of course the teeth: I don't like going to the dentists. But one front tooth keeps chipping away.

* * * * *

"They" say one should do good deeds and not talk about it, or something to that extent. But I'm going to, not to boast, but because I've been so very happy about these. It's been worth paying taxes, even in the years of my negative net income, now that my pension is allowing me to give back a little, and be nit-picky in the process. 

Something I'd long forgotten was I always hoped to donate to a good cause in a "big" way, and in a somewhat sustained manner. I used to give to large organization at times of natural disasters around the world, but I haven't trusted large organizations for a couple of decades, too much administration cost, with money/goods not reaching the folks who actually need them. So this century, it's been to local organizations I can see and visit in Nelson, and preferably good so I can contribute to local retailers if not NZ manufacturers.

This winter, for the first time, I donated a good number of NZ-made soup mixes, King's, every time we went to the supermarket, sometimes multiple times a week. This is a reliable product that we bought when we first came to New Zealand to cook on a black pot belly stove in our round black ceramic pot; tastes good and not pre-processed/artificial; comes in a small-ish packet making 8 servings, (we tested a few to make sure;) fits the donation box criteria, (here, supermarkets have large bins you can drop donations in, super easy;) and inexpensive and affordable for me. At first I felt good, but like all good deeds, once you get in the habit, it's just part of life. Until the temperatures warmed up and these packs were moved within the store. I haven't found a suitable warm-season replacement that is healthy and NZ-made, (I figure, why not help two parties if I can,) but if not, I'll stick with Kings, (we have soups in summer?), or go with healthy Australian. :-D And because sadly some folks are really going to need help under our new government.

The other thing I've done over the years was to donate books, particularly to young people, and this has been super easy since the opening of, you know, Volume. (Full disclosure, owners Stella and Thomas have saved my sanity figuratively and "literally", almost weekly.) Not only does the shop participate in seasonal donation drives, I can buy online and just put a note to please give to a suitable school/persons.

Goodness me, I am choosy; I scour Volume's website, publishers'/authors' websites, watch interview vids if any, and even some Amazon reviews, (UK or Australia if I can find any as their views are closer to Kiwis',) before deciding. It's now almost a hobby. I've upped my game of late, and I'm super happy about the books I've chosen and the opportunities I have. Enough said.  
In October, I spoke to a young library staff in the neighbouring town of Motueka, as we drove near their fancy new building we were totally unaware of. In the true spirit of a vocational librarian, (i.e. it is her vocation,) what made her happiest about the new building was the community is using their conference space, including local schools who have seen funding cuts for books and resources. So I'm on the right track, though I might have to expand the geography.

* * * * * 

I organized a party for "strangers". As I mentioned in the last post, Ben's department has been going through a number of organization changes since 2019/20 with staff leaving/joining. I've been lucky enough to make friends with a few of the wives, mostly online, one leaving Nelson altogether. And many staff being of the younger lot, there have been three new humans joining the "family". By chance, (I asked on FB if anyone wanted to adopt plants I propagated,) I learned Mrs Christchurch was coming on a family holiday to Nelson, and because I talk/type before I think, I asked if she would like me to organize a get-together so her kids could make a grand debut, and she was game. 

The magnitude of the endeavour slowly reached me that night. We're talking the middle of a busy summer holiday; at least five staff who have left; and six current staff, three of whom I've never even met, though Ben insists I met one. Can I get a hold of everybody? As luck would have it, Ben had the email addresses of folks who weren't my FB friends, and the current Manager helped me read the new folks, so using DM and email, it wasn't difficult. Although in the emails, I always said, "Meg,  Ben's Wife". And in the final, formal invite, I forgot to put in the date. :-D 

The get-together was last Friday. We had around 12 grownups and four littlies, and it was a cacophony of merriment, reminiscing, catching up and comparing notes on IT work places. Two more grownups abstained because they woke up with coughs; two forgot after they returned from walking the Abel Tasman the previous day, (we settled on the 29th because they would be back!! :-D) and one family couldn't make it after another a do earlier in the day. It was really indeed lovely to catch up, meet people I've been talking to online, but also to talk properly outside the office. And I offloaded a dozen plants, and even got lovely feedback about my weaving, including from one person I did not realize knew I wove. And I got to hold a five-month-old, the first babe since Jan 2001 after my nephew #2.

It was in a large room, but sans windows, sans much air flow, and yeah, we were more than a little nervous, but then there was the food drinks so the masks came off. Ben woke up with a cough and I with a scratchy throat on Saturday, so we'll test in the next few days even though we're without symptoms today. (We have six boxes due to expire in January, so might as well.) We are still living cautiously and Ben masks up often when indoors, me when in close quarters indoors, so I can't say nonchalantly that it was all worth it. But... it was fun, and lovely, and very much worth organizing. And I keep telling you, Ben really works with some of the nicest folks we know.

It's not the first time it happened, but it was the first time I was very much aware I was oldest in the room. That's going to happen more and more often, I reckon.
* * * * * 
I might have known about the Green Bin scheme for a couple of years, but Esther definitely recommended it late last year, and we joined in April. The company collects up to 240L/70kg, (which is not a lot,) of garden rubbish every fortnight. We have to haul it up the steep driveway, but then the rubbish is gone. It's much more convenient, pleasant, and encouraging than saving the rubbish all year and getting a large skip once a year about now to load up the stuff. It also makes me go outside for short spurts even if I can't be bothered investing a whole day of weeding and digging and breaking clay.

This is definitely one of the top, bestest things we started this year, and we intend to continue the subscription.
* * * * *
I've finally started buying Paperblank notebooks for myself in 2019. Before that, only as gifts as I was so afraid of ruining them. But jotting down a few lines of mundane blather each day has been useful in noting some of life's "events" lest I'll forget the next day. Tonight is the last I write in the Morris, and tomorrow I start on Vincent. (It's a bit too sparkly, but never mind, it's in my favored shape/size.) This feels like a steady component in a life without too many steady components. There is nothing new about these, but that's OK, too. 

And thus I conclude what I think is the last post of 2023. (Can't guarantee, still not 5PM here.) Dear friends, I hope the turning of the calendar gives you hope and resolve and most of all a little light in your 2024.

See you on the other side.