Randy Darwall 2006 Review

That is not to say that I will ever do anything less than worship Randall Darwall, his work and his teaching. Besides, he and Brian are such nice guys. But I find colors difficult to work with, and I do get a right, old headache when I think about it. So I'm putting it in the "Too Hard" basket for now. Again.

I finally located a slide show on his web, and I think they are shots from shows in Baltimore, Boston and Washington (DC?) he participated in in 2006, but I'm not sure if all the pieces are by Randy. I wish I could download some of the photos for closer inspection, but I haven't found a way yet, though you could right click on any given photo and print. There's one heck of a magnificent building (in Boston?) and I'm glad they got the shot of the carpet from above; and they saved the best shot to the last for us fans.

There is definitely a high glitter quotient in the US this summer; I'm not sure about that; I don't go out after 7PM nowadays so glitters don't do much for me.

Where to Next?

It's now been 12 days since I closed my Exhibit(ion), and I've been trying to get back to my normal for the last three. And I've been wondering, "Where to next?"

I have lots of goals/items on my To Do lists: I must learn a new twill for my sample exchange; I have three commission pieces on hold; I must weave more small cashmere scarves for Red Gallery. And I have to file my tax return. I am never short of techniques and weave structures I want to learn and/or sample.

But aesthetically, in spite of Randy's workshop and the various experiments I did to weave a "collection" for the Exhibit(ion), I want to return to "my kind" of cloths. I love subtle cloths showing off weave structures and subtle differences in textures. I was cleaning up my photo files this afternoon and fell in love with some of the pieces I wove in late 2004. All in close hues, mostly in "doodle" weft-wise undulating twills. I think these cloths are more elegant than some of the pieces I wove for the Exhibit(ion), and I like them better.

Thank goodness I have several To Do lists; I don't have to choose a direction now.


Maybe I didn't Have a Late Start

Blenheim Weaver Rose took us to the home/studio of Picton damask weaver/textile artist Peg. Peg is not only an accomplished weaver, but an absolutely lovely lady with a great sense of humor; she asked me if I sold anything at the Exhibit(ion), to which I said no; she then whispered, "People are stupid."

Peg is 89, and weaves every day; she started weaving sometime in the the 1970's. So I'm thinking, with a lot of effort, I too can be an accomplished weaver by the time I'm 89, and that's been the best news I heard in a while!


D Day & Thank You

Today was the last day of the Exhibit(ion); I closed at 3PM, took off the shawls, the photos and the blurb sheets, and we came home before 6PM. I am tired and somewhat emotional.

I will miss Lloyd immensely. I will miss the high ceiling and the light, but not the heat. I won't miss the horrible-tasting water.

I'm somewhat baffled that only a year ago I was telling Ben that some day I would like to have a weaving Exhibit(ion) in the front room of Gallery 203, and now, I've done it.

I did not sell a single shawl, and to be honest, I am disappointed. Secretly, I had thought "Gentle" would go. I would have wanted at least one piece to sell, for Arts Council and all the time Lloyd spent advising/coaching me. The Shawl vs. Wraps debate started to bug me as I was dismantling my Exhibit(ion). And that might have been immaterial. Several people have commented that my prices were extremely reasonable or "too cheap; are you getting your cost back at that price?", but of course those who thought I was dreaming didn't comment.

I am tickled to think someone paid me money for my photograph!!

But without wanting to sound like a credit card commercial, it was the many new and renewed friendships that was the greatest reward in the whole project. I chose to stay in my basement in the past few years, and I chose to bury my head in the cones of yarns, but I was reminded that I am blessed with good people around me. That includes all of you visiting my blog and encouraging me and sending me emails and fabulously funny cards.

I received a card from Rita in Dallas on Thursday; in it, she wrote: "I hope you bust out some sweet weaves today!" Let my year of apprentice begin.


Debriefing with Lloyd

Meet Lloyd Harwood, painter, manager of Arts Council Nelson, and mentor extraordinaire; he paused especially for this blog.

Although he thought I had about the average number of people come and look at the Exhibit(ion), we both experienced the strange phenomenon of repeatedly being asked where the Exhibit(ion) is. Lloyd thought this was due to the perception that handwoven shawls are not something shown in an art gallery; in addition, I thought the small number of shawls lead people to think there was a bigger gallery "room" elsewhere.

We agreed this perception was the big stumbling block, (see also the February 12 post), in generating more interests or sale; whereas jewelry and pottery/ceramics have successfully made the transition into what he calls "studio" work, handweaving is still stuck in grandmother's spare room; handwoven cloth is not something one goes to see in an art gallery, but in a souvenir/craft shop. And the cloth themselves are not delicate textiles that can be worn and collected, but functional garments to be worn for a while and then be recycled as a dog blanket.

One of the suggestions he had, if I were to have another Exhibit(ion), was to generate a public discussion (possibly in the arts pages of the newspaper) as to how the art of handweaving in evolving, and following it up with an Exhibit(ion) so as to show what we have claimed. And to give credence to the discussion, he thought I could apply for funding to invite weavers successfully working with new/advanced techniques, and ask them to give floor talks or slide presentation, as well as have their work in the Exhibit(ion).

Brilliant! I don't know the practical steps I need to talk to realize this, but it sounds so exciting I'm seriously thinking about another Exhibit(ion)... in a couple of years.

Post Script: I chose to use the word "shawl", because, to me, it sounds elegant, fine and dressed-up. I was talking to Sue, and she thought the word sounds grandmotherly. What I weave is usually called "wraps" in New Zealand, a word which, to me, sounds more casual and the cloth coarser. I've heard "stole" as well, but to me, this is very grandmotherly, knitted or crocheted. What would you call the large-ish rectangular piece of cloth you could wear in the cold or in the evenings, but is rather fine and you might want to have them in a few different colors?

D Minus One Day

My goodness, I'm glad everyday was not like today; it was action packed!

I sold something, but not a shawl. A gentleman from Christchurch wanted to buy this photo, one of six I cut up in three and stuck on the stair way; he actually wanted to buy a big oil painting of this, but since I don't even doodle (except on the weaving software), he had to contend with a copy of the photo (at $10) and find a painter. Lloyd wavered the Arts Council commission and GST (sales tax)!

Three mums and four babies came to Kath's concert; I think I'm supposed to say it was wonderful. Kath certainly shines when she's around kids, and she was a superb one-woman Giggle; it's as if she gains energy from the kids that surround her. However, those of you who have/had children know how much noise they generate, and how they run/crawl in any direction you don't intend them to go; Kath, Lloyd, and Hella, who also works at Arts Council, all have/had children, but it's been a while since I've been around micropersons, so I, and only I, was going out of my mind.

Rose, a textile artists turned ceramic artist who had the seed pot installation in this very gallery some years ago, took time out of her busy day to come and visit. I got carried away talking about the process of creating an Exhibit(ion) that I didn't really get to talk to her. Then a woman joined the discussion; long story short, she (in line with the opinion of her weaving teacher who is well-known in her country) thought I need to get back to basics and try color and texture on my 4-shaft loom.

There is an outdated argument that claims weaving on computer-controlled looms is not "handweaving". There are various fine lines weavers ourselves have drawn as to what is allowable and what not in order to call one's craft "handweaving"; many claimed in the early 90's that because the mechanism of lifting the shafts and/or selecting which shaft to lift for a particular shed is mechanically controlled, setup like my big loom is not "hand" weaving. But with the proliferation of computer programs and computer-controlled (aka computer dobby) looms, I hadn't realized that there were still those who held on to this notion.

I don't know this woman, and I was quite at a loss as to why she threw a curve ball suddenly. And frankly, I found her suggestion offensive. It's too late for me to go back to 4-shaft only. While I own a 4-shaft jack loom, and enjoy weaving on it immensely, I also need the 16-shaft computer-control to weave the kind of cloth I like, and I find it odd to reject new technology or material just because they are new, as if only old methods and tools are legitimate. And I didn't see any connection between what she told me repeatedly and what I was trying to discuss with Rose. I don't think I was getting too precious because I was the "artiste", either.

If it's not dangerous and I can afford it without taking out a second mortgage, I'll try anything once, to see if the method or equipment helps me make the kind of cloth I like. I am slow to try new things, but I don't shun anything just because I am unfamiliar with them.

I was trying my best not to loose it. It was strange; I appreciate anyone bothering to come up and see my Exhibit(ion), but I just could not understand her motivation or insistence. And the sad thing is, she may have been trying to be friendly and make conversation, and I was too pig-headed to hear it that way.

Later, I had a debriefing about the Exhibit(ion) and my pieces with Lloyd; this was so interesting I'm putting it in a separate post.


Fine Work

I've been demonstrating in the gallery by weaving small scarves, approximately 6 inches wide and 150cm long (yes, like many Kiwi weavers, I think of width in imperial and length in metric!); I'm weaving these in 18DPI or 15DPI, so it's not fine, but I'm surprised with the number of people who comment how fine this appears. Weavers around the world are weaving 60DPI and 80DPI (and finer) silk scarves, so actually it's comparatively coarse nowadays. Naturally I had this idea: a group Exhibit(ion) of handwoven scarves and shawls at a minimum of 30DPI or so, called, what else, "Fine".

Though they might really look like remnants of bed sheets and get shaken terribly. /retaliatory_sarcasm

D Minus Two Days

Looking back, "bored" may have been the wrong word. My creativity feels constrained because I am not home and I don't have my equipment. Because I can weave in the gallery, rather than weave and design and warp and wash and daydream and all the rest of the tasks I do to create a shawl. I feel constrained because I can only weave; it sounds contradictory, but any given day, I pace around the house, put cones next to each other to see if the color combination works; smell the scaly merino yarns; see if a new twill idea would work on the computer; look out the window; call my mother and ask what she's weaving; and reread my notes and look at the photos from Randy's workshop and try to recall the sensation of seeing his scarves. I hadn't realized until now how kinetic my design process is. I keep thinking of what our friend Gino Rocco said: the best way to shut up an Italian is to tie his hands behind his back.

I love talking to people who come up these stairs. Some are weavers or people involved in other fiber crafts; some read Matt's article; some are tourists who read the letters "Weaver --->" on the pavement at the bottom of the stairs; and some are my friends. I love talking to Lloyd about colors and values and the drama in his paintings, or where craft, and weaving, is going in New Zealand. I have enjoyed all these conversations, and some of the ideas while talking will make into my work. But I miss my pace, and I miss my basement. And I look forward to going back to my norm, of having my mind's hands untied so I can wave them all I want. All in three days.

And when I go back, I know I'll miss not being able to talk to Lloyd; he is a gentle man (especially when he's not holding a sandpaper), a knowledgeable painter, and a generous mentor. I'll miss the high ceilings and tall windows of these rooms. I'll miss the peppermint green loo. But having an Exhibit(ion) was like having a holiday; I have been there, and if I want to, I can go back there, but the second time will not be the same as the first.

Tomorrow is Kath's last Lunch time concert.


D Minus Three Days

Today started out cool and ended up hot again. I've been feeling a little sad about the impending last day of the Exhibit(ion), at the same time just can't finish it quickly enough. It hasn't been as much an emotional roller coaster, as a merry-go-round, and my boredom threshold is low on hot days. And I wonder if there are fewer folks in town this week, because the "Weaver --->" letters I write with chalk on the footpath every morning hadn't disappeared by the end of the day.

I love the gallery space, it's high ceiling and strange windows. I love being able to talk to Lloyd about colors and values and Nelson's attitude to the arts. But I'm ready to move on, move back into my basement and concoct my next shawl on the big loom. I miss the solitude, my hermit-like life.

I've been gradually getting back to my "normal" life, going to the gym again and taking the bus home. The next exhibitor's paintings were delivered this afternoon. My turn is nearly over.



I have a web site, and I blog. I had a wee piece in the local newspaper. And I tried to get people to come to my Exhibit(ion), and some do. Yet, it's kind of unnerving when strangers know my name and ask me about my time in the US or about my mother and tell me it is nice to finally meet me - and I have no idea who they are or what they do.

I'm so glad I never made it to Hollywood. I love my basement, thank you.

Week 3: Handwoven Shawls - Why Bother?

I'm not sure if the heatwave is gone or we're having a short reprieve; at any rate, the last few days have been cooler and I've been able to think. No, that's not entirely true; the second week was very quiet at the gallery and I had plenty of time to think, but it was too hot to do anything when we got home. So here's what I've been thinking.

Marketing research prior to the Exhibit(ion) said after school starts, Kiwi families will be busy trying to get back to normal life, but oldies with disposable income and several thousand tourists facing a return to the Northern winter would materialize and buy up my Exhibit(ion). I think they missed a turn on State Highway 6. Yoo hoo!!! Over here!!

But seriously, Lloyd warned me that I won't sell too much at Gallery 203, so I don't feel too bad, but it would still be nice to sell one or two just to make it worthwhile for Arts Council and for all the time Lloyd has spent and continues to spend guiding/coaching/advising me, and for my ego. I'm not sure if mine has turned out to be a particularly unpopular Exhibit(ion) at Gallery 203; I must ask Lloyd; and I have no other experiences to compare this to.

Handweaving is still seen as some kind of a crude, cottage craft in Nelson. I've seen more than a few women pull my shawls in a way one would pull or shake wet sheets before hanging them on the clothes line. Geez, my shawls are stable so they will withstand the treatment, but it says more about you than about me or my work, Lady! And some of these people are... weavers. I encourage people to touch my shawls, but not if you be have like a cavewoman!

While utility is important in my work, I aim for something different from hand-spun (nothing wrong with that!), 5 DPI (nothing wrong with that!), natural colored (nothing wrong with that, either!) throws and wraps. I don't use big mohair boucle to fluff up the cloth. I'm not saying mine are better, but they are different.

Nelson used to be famous for pottery, and as recently as two or three decades ago, I understand, people were producing mostly mugs and bowels and tea pots and baking dishes. While some potters continue to make these beautiful but largely functional pieces (and we are big collectors of their work), there are a few who have successfully made the transition to ceramic art. And command none-to-shabby prices.

Handweaving, in Nelson, hasn't achieved this dichotomy, or the coexistence of different points on the art/utility scale, in the minds of the consumers as well as some weavers. That is why, when the topic of outlets comes out, weavers and other art practitioners suggests souvenir shops in the region, tell me to get a stall in the Nelson Market, or advise me to "load your stuff in the back of your car and drive down the West Coast (to visit tourist shops)".

In the end, the onus is on us weavers who to raise awareness towards more delicate and artistic handwoven cloth. This is a gradual process, but the change of perception cannot come from the consumers, nor even the critics, unless we can get their attention. I think I had this in the back of my mind as one of the reasons I wanted to have a solo Exhibit(ion), now, in Nelson.

The difficult part is, I an a newbie; what I am weaving now is relatively basic as far as techniques go. Far more accomplished weavers would be better equipped to lead the way in this perception revolution, but they are too busy weaving. I look at the American textile magazines and envy the respect the well-made cloth and their makers command. What do I do next, in Nelson, in New Zealand?


Meanwhile, I've been productive on the small loom; I got four Fibonacci color change scarves from the second warp, and on the third, I've started a combination of 1/3, 2/2 and 3/1 twills in Fibonacci sequence; there is no color changes, but the proportion of warp/weft colors showing changes with the different twills. I'm looking forward to how this one turns out.

Kath Bee

This is my lovely and talented friend Kath Bee. She writes children's songs, and had a CD titled "Dragons Under My Bed" out last year; she has started working on her second CD of original children's songs. She also sings in a duo Zilk, and in a quartet called The Nancies.

The first time I heard Kath sing was last June at the Artists' Retreat; she was singing as Zilk, but also introduced some of her original songs. For a while I wanted to be a children's story writer, but I gave up because, I... grew up. I was impressed with Kath's ability to capture children's emotions and antics that are important to them but seem trivial to adults.

When Dragons came out, she emailed everybody who attended the Retreat, and I bought a CD right away. That's when we officially met. I asked if she would be interested in singing at my Exhibit(ion), thinking could she do it one Thursday during the three weeks, and she generously agreed to do an hour a week for the three weeks.

I love the songs she writes, and the songs she sings. In fact, I'm becoming quite a mad fan of hers. She has a perfect pitch, and when she harmonizes with Liz, her Zilk (get it?) partner, they create quite a dreamy atmosphere.

But Kath is important to me in my weaving,too. She took a big step last year creating the first CD, and announcing it to everybody. She works hard to get school and kindergarten gigs, and continues to write songs. I started planning my Exhibit(ion) probably when she was rehearsing and recording, and I'm looking for outlets and places to show my shawls, while weaving new and different pieces. Because our "emergence" as artists happened around the same time, I can't help thinking of us as babies born around the same time at the maternity unit.

Last Thursday, we had very few people stop by at the gallery, and I possibly embarrassed and chased out a young man who might have come to listen to her rather than to see my Exhibit(ion). Regardless, she kept on singing lovely songs, originals and cover. What a trooper. I felt bad because her time is valuable, but I couldn't help loving the private concert, either. And my experience with this Exhibit(ion) would have been much less colorful if I hadn't met Kath when I did; she's a keeper.

The only problem with her Dragon CD is I can't play it in the gallery while I weave, because I catch myself singing, quite loudly, without knowing most of the lyrics. The least I can do as a loyal fan is to learn the words!!


Week 2: The Second Half

My mother, who is nice, polite, and proper, was shocked I was bored at my Exhibit(ion) by the end of the first week; she thought I was unprofessional confessing to it. But here's the thing: I started to work on this project last May, and started weaving the shawls in November, and by the time I hung the pieces in the gallery, I've been living, breathing, photographing and blogging the Exhibit(ion) intensively for three months. So by the time it opened, I was passed all these shawls (well, maybe with the exception of the last piece, "Deep"); I now know this is a rather common sentiment.

It has been super hot in the gallery (especially in comparison to my cold, dark, basement studio); the wooden chair and small-loom combination is not as comfortable as foot looms, so by the end of the day I get kinks in my back, neck and right wrist.

Still, I kept the gallery open until 6.30PM on Friday, and from 11AM to 3PM on Saturday. There was a summer street market on "my" section of Trafalgar Street right in front of the gallery, but that didn't bring too many people up those strange stairs, and I had two people turning hostile because there were no paintings. Monday was hot again, and I was trying to concentrate on learning about a new weave, in which I must produce small sample pieces for an exchange. Tuesday was a national holiday and a glorious Nelson beach day, so I didn't go in. I needed to get away so I can maintain my enthusiasm for the next half of the Exhibit(ion).

Today, Wednesday, the school year started and suddenly the visitor profile changed; many of the people knew what was being shown and came specifically to see my shawls. Or was it coincidental? A former colleague colleague I hadn't seen for several years came in with her friend, and we chatted about textiles and fibers for almost half an hour. A former neighbor saw Matt's piece and came and showered me with praises. Late in the evening a woman came in; I sensed she knew a lot about colors so I thought she was a painter. It turns out she did the old Polytech's Weaving course, which apparently was famous around the country in the 70's and 80's. She had health problems which prevented her from weaving, but after reading Matt's piece, she decided to get back on the loom! We lamented the demise of the Polytech course and the drastic decrease of handweavers; we exchanged notes on dyeing techniques. I did enjoy our conversation, and I wish her many happy warps. I've also started another Fibonacci experiment on the loom; I ran into Kath in town; and finally, I went to the gym for the first time in two months.

So, as they say, I'm good today. I'm going to enjoy the second half if it kills me.


Day 5: Bored!?

Quiet day. A couple of people visited because they read about me in the paper.

In the morning, I noticed I had a paper cut about 2 inches long on my face, not deep, but noticeable; I have no idea when/how I got this, but it's as if I'm advertising that weaving is a dangerous craft.

The gallery is sunny and bright in stark contrast to my basement studio. Foot looms are full-body workouts compared to my tiny KLIK which requires the upper body only; I'm finding weaving on KLIK all day harder. As a result, I've struggled with a minor aches, and overwhelming sleepiness; I've started to pace around the gallery to the utter annoyance of the gallery manager and staff, and have started playing haunting Scottish music with lots of drums instead of Iz. It took me (and Ben) a lot of energy, time and money to get me to where I am, and I started to feel like a POW.

The parents stopped by twice; Dad to have a rest on the comfy chairs. Renting and cleaning the chairs was worth it just for them.

Friday afternoon, I stayed open late because I said I would, thinking (hoping) some of my working friends my stop by, but what was I thinking? This is Nelson, and it's a sunny summer evening, and everybody is rushing to the beach/golf course (sunset was 8:47Pm last night)/Barbie, if not further afield. The gallery got unbearably hot, and I was as bored as a five-year-old on a rainy day.

Tomorrow, Saturday, I'll be open 11-3, but from here on I don't anticipate too much action or surprises. Or do I?


Day 4: Mike, Kath and the Parents

Local spinning wheel maker Mike Keeves was kind enough to pay a visit; my mother met Mike at a NZ Fair somewhere in Japan around 2000 and I've been meaning to visit his place for years. It was nice to hear stories about weavers and spinners in Kyoto Mike knows.

Kath's gig went very well; four pairs of kids and grown-ups and a few other grown-ups enjoyed Kath's original kids' songs as well as grown-up standards. Kath is a really good singer, and she knows how to enthuse children. As one of her passionate fans, though, I really need to learn the lyrics.

I finished a particularly bad warp just before the weavers arrived yesterday, so I needed to put on another one. The tension was funny once again, and knowing my parents had arrived at Nelson and my mother was about 15 minutes away, I was tempted to ring her, but I managed on my own. I normally warp KLIK by myself with relative ease, but being in a different place it felt very strange and the task harder.

My parents came at a little before 3PM. I hadn't seen them for two years, and exactly a year ago today, Dad had a cancer surgery, ("Stay put, don't come home; it's just a routine procedure," he told me then.) 45 seconds after his arrival, Dad said, "there's a spelling mistake in your blurb."

While I was trying to put things away, an English gentleman asked me if I were the "artist", to which I said, "I'm the weaver." He asked me if my mother still wove, and I just handed him over to Mom, who stood in the doorway and kept talking and wouldn't let the gentleman go. There was a younger woman who came and saw the Exhibit(ion) and started to leave, when Dad told her to get back, have another look and talk to the weaver. Cool suave artist & family, we aren't.

The beautiful Exhibit(ion) is turning into a comedy. I am so tired I am on auto drive.

PS. I am enjoying the gallery space immensely, especially the high ceiling; that's why I don't have the heart to crop any of the pictures with extra space above.