This Moment in My Life

This morning, on our way into town, the sky looked like the first page from a sketchbook belonging to someone taking Introduction to Drawing; narrow bands of grays getting progressively darker until almost black; the bands in nearly uniform width and length, and nearly straight, but in places, not so; the blending/smudging done well in places, but in others, the pencil marks still distinct. I wished I had a camera, but we didn't have time to fetch it because I was on my way to see Jay, the owner of the aforementioned Red Art Gallery.

I had hoped to chronicle such a momentous event as this in a way these momentous events are recorded in artists' biographies, but this happened organically, and I don't remember the details. Jay and I started to talk about weaving, textile and dye in the last few months I've been loitering in her gallery on my way to or from my physiotherapist. She must have wondered about this woman who claimed to weave, but was in her gallery almost every day, right arm cradled in a slightly serious-looking splint. I, on my part, was only trying to see as many beautiful things as possible so I can use the inspirations when I finally resumed serious weaving.

One day in early June she suggested I showed her my work. So I did, this morning. And she offered to have some of my work at the Red.

I cannot contain my excitement. Some of my limbs have been shaking all morning. In terms of my weaving, I feel my effort of the last six years have paid off. As a child, I was taught it is not polite to ask for too much or too good, so I seldom pursued my first choices in life, selecting, rather, to feel benevolent/smug about settling for second choices. As regards the Red, though, I am glad I doggedly stuck to my first choice. At the same time, I didn't have to work very hard to convince Jay, and I feel extremely lucky.

I'm home now, looking west to Takaka Hills from my window. The air is clear, the colors vivid but flat and almost unreal. I couldn't imagine a better picture to express how I am feeling at this very moment.

Serendipity, fate, coincidence - call it what you will; the red shawl seen in my very first, April 30, post, in which the Red Art Gallery was mentioned, was one of the pieces selected. I posted that photograph because it is the closest to red (the piece in real life is very red, not pink). Ben insists I take and post more photographs of work not in blue, as he reckons I have too much blue on the blog and the web site and they need sprucing up!!


Humor vs. Glamour

I think I am a person with a sense of humor. I believe laughter is not only the best medicine, but probably the cheapest elixir.

What I weave, on the other hand, I would like described with words like "delicate", "elegant", "exquisite", "excellent", "feminine", and "glamorous".

Here is the problem: these adjectives and the concepts they signify are so foreign to who I am and the way I have lived my life before I became a weaver, that I needed to develop a whole new side of me, and sometimes I feel quite duplicitous.

I can't stop laughing re-reading the second paragraph; I'm not sure if I am embarrassed or feeling silly. And yet, you know, I take my weaving very seriously. Help!


You Could Have Told Me it Was No Big Deal

As a result of having purchased space in the aforementioned Nelson Regional Guide Book, Art in its Own Place, I was given the opportunity to have my work photographed by a professional photographer. At no extra cost. So I signed up.
Textile is said to be difficult to photograph. This is true in my limited experience. In photographs, I hope to convey the feel/hand/texture and weight of a shawl and accurately record the colors and the weave. I avoid hanging a square piece like a museum exhibit, and use table and chairs to drape my shawl. As a shawl is meant to be worn by a person, often in motion, I am not necessarily displeased with an out-of-focus photo if it emulates movement, and works in context. Thus far, I have had a few successes with details, but still struggle with an entire piece, and accurate colors, especially with sheen as with mohair, still elude me.

For a week prior to the shoot, I worried about how to choose the pieces and how to prepare them, and most importantly, how to transport them without getting them creased. I worried about bringing too few or too many, and I worried my work may not look beautiful or well-made to the trained eye.

The day arrived, but I still had no idea what to expect, so with variety in mind, I chose two shawls and one piece of fabric. I picked off dust and lint, steam-ironed both sides, and waited for them to dry before rolling all three in a big piece of bubble wrap. Just in case they were creased, I stuffed my iron and two bath towels into my backpack, along with my own camera to record the shooting session for future reference. I called a taxi, rolled what looked like a carpet in the back seat, and sat next to the driver.

I arrived at Arts Marketing, was asked if I wanted to be listed under my family name or as Meg Weaves, and I replied, uncharacteristically nervously, "MegWeaves, capital M, capital W, no space between the words, thanks." Then I was taken to the next room, a darkened spare office, now an ad hoc studio, and met Daniel, the professional photographer. I unrolled the roll, he threw the pieces on to the table, and before I knew it, it was over. He showed me tiny images of my pieces on his digital camera, and I unceremoniously rolled my stuff back in the bubble wrap. All in all, I must been at Arts Marketing less than ten minutes. But then the photo in the book will be about the size of an Air Mail sticker, so everything is in proportion.

Daniel's website is www.danielallen.co.nz. I didn't look this up until after the fact, but am relieved to know my shawls were in capable hands.


Financial Sanity in the 21st Century

When I was in school, I loved to read biographies of and letters by artists. I had painfully romantic images where composers lived in small 3rd/4th floor stone apartments in Vienna, and roamed the autumnal Viennese Forest in search of symphonies. Painters and sculptors lived likewise in Paris, and though they could only afford half a baguette and a hardened piece of cheese, they met with friends at the corner cafe to discuss art, love and life into the wee hours. Writers, on the other hand, preferred quaint cottages in the English countryside, or Maine or Connecticut, and corresponded with friends in beautiful, longhand letters. The intrinsic beauty of artists' lives was understood by everyone around them. I don't recall finding books about weavers, potters and cabinet makers; I wonder if these craftspersons/artisans/"applied artists" seemed less sexy and their work more "work" than art.

My life as a weaver is pretty unsexy and most of it is slow and, unless one enjoys it immensely as I do, tedious. On a good day, I am covered in fine fiber dust; on a fair day, in sheep and goat poo; and on a more colorful day, I breathe toxic dye fumes or stick my hands in piping hot water and soap. So even though my life for the last few years has evolved around attempting to create beautiful shawls, most days I don the same old track pants, Ben's old shirt, and a red synthetic apron covering me from neck to the shins. The only aspect of my life that coincides with my childhood images is privation.

Well, not really; Ben has a real job, and we can buy whole baguettes. I have, though, surprised myself with my inability to live within the rules of my life: weave, sell, earn, spend. The relationship between this mechanism and my bank account was never so crude when I worked in office jobs. I do the fourth most eagerly, and the first earnestly; I haven't yet the confidence to go about the second enthusiastically; therefore, the third isn't robust. Not many weavers in the developed world can live on handweaving alone, and not many New Zealand artists of any kind can live on their art alone, so for a newbie like myself, it is Kafka-esque.

To get a little help, but more ardently longing to belong, I joined an organization called Arts Marketing, for a fee. The organization publishes an attractive guide to Nelson's artists and art facilities on even-numbered years; a listing in this book is covered by the annual subscription, or so I thought; but no, one has to purchase space. So I did. For a fee. Previous guidebooks have been roughly A5 in size, (roughly half of letter size,) take away the margins, and my space is 1/6 of that, or just about the size of a piece of sellotape going across the page, or two Air Mail stickers sitting beside each other.

I appear to have been positively idiotic and naive about being a member of the free world in the 21st Century; of course everything costs money. My life is utterly unromantic, and the intrinsic beauty of my life is knotted and entangled. But now I am in the book; I have declared myself an artist, and the name MegWeaves will be in print. We shall see, you and I, how this works out. Have your magnifying glasses ready.


If you practice art in the Nelson area, and have not done so already, consider speaking to Martin Rodgers at Arts Marketing to see if you will benefit from the organization. Their website is www.nelsonarts.org.nz.