Sunday, May 27, 2007

Top of the South Arts Expo

That's where I'm going to be for the next three days - at the Maitai Room of the Rutherford Hotel in town. I signed up for it back in January, got on their E-Catalogue, (PDF download link under "How It Will Work"), but there weren't enough gallery interest, so I was out, until after Easter, when Sue and I were told there were late responses and we qualified. Well, great; then, I just went my merry way, while Sue toiled and troubled over business cards, photographs, a portfolio and a resume.

It was only yesterday morning I realized this is going to be like a mini-trade show, and no wonder other artists have been thinking, planning, and spending money on rigging and lighting and such!!! So I got a bit worried, and this weekend, I put my label on every piece I have, wrote a tiny brochure (A4/letter-size-folded-in-3-type) with some recommended retail prices and photos, and, (this is the most pathetic part), I rang Jay at the Red and asked if I could borrow a couple of pieces for three days because I didn't have enough cashmere scarves with me, and I didn't have time to whip them up.

But then I am the artist who finished her last piece after her first day of exhibition, so I'm almost proud of procrastination/recovery skills.

It'll be exciting to take part in the Expo, even though I've got appointments with only two galleries/shops. Weaving in general is not the most popular art form, so I'll just cruise along and learn from other artists.

I've got a huge project, a proposal for which is due Friday, and have accumulated over a dozen half-finished draft posts, too, so I'm thinking and working, but it might be later in the week before I can sit down and report back.

My E-Catalogue entry says I started exhibiting and selling in 2004, but that's wrong. I've been doing this seriously since August 2005 for the Wellington exhibit; now I know this as one of the benefits of having to write up a very short resume on the back of the folded brochure.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Corkscrew Weave, Or Something Like It.

As promised, here are my samples of Corkscrew Weave. Or are they?

This is the first time I encountered a weave where the definition differed from author to author; it happens with weaving, I've known this, but it was still unsettling.

I consulted Strickler's 8-shaft book first, then Oelsner (always a big mistake for me), and Bartlett's Shadow Weave and Corkscrew Twills. After becoming throughly confused, I consulted with Rose Pelvin of Blenheim, and I went back to Strickler and summed up these elements/requirements for Corkscrew:

* Twill threading: I went with 7-ends, (so I use my usual 14 shafts) and asymmetrical undulating for interest, (which is a result of Problem 2 below);
* Batavia, in 2-2-3-3-1-1-1-1 to create long floats as well as stitched parts;
* Woven as drawn in, for simplicity; forgetting that my picks are often more packed than the sett might have contributed a little to the Problem 1 below.

I designed the drafts so I needed only one color in the warp and another in the weft; when measuring the warp, I promptly forgot this. So while sampling, I tried using warm colors that may diffuse the different values of the two blues in the warp. In the end, I chose the darker, third blue of the same constitution, 100% merino, because of the familiar texture and finish, to submit to the sample exchange.

The colors in the drafts below appear reversed; I used white wefts in the drafts so the designs show up clearly, but I wove with a blue weft darker in value than the two in the warp in the samples. And drafts, by nature, appear upside down against the sampled fabric.

This is the first draft I created. Maximum float is 7 ends, and after sampling, I discovered Problem 1: the woven shapes are not in the near-uniform width as they appear to be in the draft; I've check the threading several times, but my eyes glazed over, so I haven't located the mistake; the slaying was uniform. And this is why, although I've finished weaving these several weeks ago, I haven't sent them to the members of my group yet! Ouch.

The sample on the left is woven in dark blue; the one on the right with an orange wool with value close to the darker blue in the warp, and shows the reverse side of the textile.

Below is the second draft, and here's a trick I most likely picked up from Bonnie Inouye: the two drafts are identical, except the direction of the tie-up; maximum float in this case is 5 ends.

Again, the left is woven with dark blue weft, showing the A side; the right is woven in a very wiry yellow wool, and shows the B side.

On paper, I like them both equally, but I preferred the clarity of the first draft in the samples for the purposes of the exchange. And here comes the funny bit.

I spent a few hours reviewing the books and making notes and discovered Problem 2; I am suddenly not sure if these are in fact corkscrew weaves at all.

My draft used Shafts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13 for the first set of twills, using Shaft 1 as the first shaft. Second set of twills used Shafts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14, using Shaft 8 as the first shaft.
For those who are interested, most examples show, I now realize, the use of all shafts for all sets of twills, meaning, on an 8-shaft loom, we intertwine 8-end twills, instead of reserving specific shafts for a specific set of twills. However, if you look at p. 68 of Strickler, weaver Kathleen Bradford reserved Shafts 1-3 for the first set of twill, and 4-8 for the second set. And there lies the seed of my confusion. And if you don't get it, don't worry, I'm not 100% sure how to fix it, either.

At any rate, after consulting with Rose Pelvin for the @#$%th time, I decided these samples will be sent as they are. Whatever the name or the nature of this particular way of combining twills that I've just experimented, I do see some design possibilities; in particular, I see some shape-related designs with comparatively short floats and, therefore, structural stability. With this second draft, I even see some warpwise Randying possibilities.

I'm trying to tell myself I'm a genius rather than a total looser just now. You have to excuse me while I go away and laugh hysterically.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Vernissage Unabridged (v 1.1)
ver·nis·sage [ver-nuh-sahzh; Fr. ver-nee-sazh] –noun, plural -sages [-sah-zhiz; Fr. -sazh].
1.Also called varnishing day. the day before the opening of an art exhibition traditionally reserved for the artist to varnish the paintings.
2.a reception at a gallery for an artist whose show is about to open to the public.

[Origin: 1910–15; <>See varnish, -age] Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.


I saw this word for the first time today. Is it commonly used? I'm going to use this the next chance I can. Since it has to do with varnishing, is it only for paintings, I wonder.

Courtesy of JB at Mainz Daily Photo, with a photo of one of Lloyd Harwood's painting.

Light and Shadow

There is a magic hour on the beaches of Rabbit Island in the summer, when the light and shadow is so intense and every little grain of sand wants to stand up and be counted.


I found this on a notepad I was going through to see if there is anything worth saving. I wrote this in Ben's car while waiting for him to finish work on Tuesday. It was probably intended for the opener of my Speech 2 at Toastmasters, I can't remember. But I didn't want to throw it away, so I'll share it here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Making Art in Nelson

I could go on and on, but in short, Nelson is a wonderful place in which to be creative and appreciate other people's creativity. It still has an inimitable reputation as the arts capital (or one of the select few) of the nation.

I say "still" because as with many other places, accountants, consultants and strategists have taken over local policies in recent times, running Nelson like a business, leaving our only public art gallery in a state of disrepair and its management in flux, our theatre in a truly tragic state, and indirectly contributing to our loosing the biggest art event we had. Collectively we've been loosing confidence and with the increase of the cost of living and the rates (local tax), even long time Nelsonians stopped caring about art. Yet, a few seems to have big disposable income so some artists are benefiting.

The only kind of art initiatives considered for Council funding seems to be the shiny new events guaranteed to rake in big dollars from outside the region, and to which someone can affix their names, like bringing a game of Super 14 Rugby.

Three weeks ago, I was approached by Alan at the Nelson Mail, our local newspaper, and was asked for an opinion piece after he found me through this very blog. My main focus oscillated from appreciating Nelson's kindness to artists, to scorning looking at art and art events in terms of $ value only, and as I revised and revised some more, I became increasingly afraid of offending anyone. But heck, you know me. So this is what I sent him this morning. Please, please, please leave a comment.


Earlier this week, I attended a Communication Kawatiri workshop for artists. It was a good workshop, but the best part was meeting and catching up with other artists. And I say this with great trepidation and a little giddiness because I never imagined I would belong to, or even sit on the periphery of, that group called “artists”. I still feel I’m an impostor.

I have no background in art, and my CV lists a string of administrative and quasi-IT positions. In 2000, my then-job became untenable, and I quit. For three weeks I cleaned my house, and then, on Week Four, it hit me that nobody was waiting for me to turn up at 8:30 the next morning. And since I was over 40, the chances of getting another office job, or an interview, seemed slim.

This was an uneasy time, yet I felt emancipated; I could do something daring. Having a husband with a day job allowed me to think outside the sensible square. I knew it had to be weaving, because I’d been enjoying it as an occasional hobby for some time, and I’d amassed a respectable stash, so it shouldn’t cost anything to get started. And the idea of my becoming a weaver was so outrageous, I thought it might complete my transition to this place we now called home.

You need to understand that I come from an old place, where, to engage in certain activities beyond dabbling, particularly the traditional art/craft realm, one must be born into the right family in the right region, eat, drink and breathe the air of the place, and then work tirelessly. Failing that, if one is exceptionally talented and tenacious, one could acquire formal education in the discipline of choice, become connected with the right people, and try one’s luck. So an unemployed, middle-aged wannabe does not wake up one morning and decides to become a weaver. Except I was in now Nelson.

What is it about this place we live in, this place called Nelson, where everywhere there are art makers busy at work, where we are surrounded by new, beautiful, stunning, whimsical, familiar, kind, controversial, questionable, challenging, strange, or weird works of art? A place where the air is thick with pungent anticipation of more art and artists to emerge, where the same air makes many more want to give art a go?

What is it about this place where anyone can casually visit artists’ studios and actually meet them, where even the successful artists are friendly and approachable? A place where the art/craft distinction is not crucial, but where artists, without hierarchy, share tips and sources and camaraderie? (And bless you if you don’t understand what I mean.) And for the timid, there are organizations to join without being asked for credentials?

What is it about this place, where in the absence of stale traditions, artists are truly innovative, and new things are not scorned but encouraged? A place where so many of its citizens know much about local artists and events, view and buy and collect art, but more stunningly, appreciate the process and the effort involved in the work?

I still find the transition from whoever I was, to living in a weaver’s skin, foreign. It’s not a job, but a life, and it doesn’t switch off like the computer in an office. But I’ve been breathing the Nelson air for a decade, and I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable. When I disclose that I am a weaver, I don’t get a snigger or astonishment in disguise; instead I’m asked where my work can be seen. This would have never have happened anywhere else I know.


Meg Nakagawa is a handweaver in Nelson. She lived in Japan and the USA before coming to New Zealand. Some days, she can be found blissfully banging and clanking on her loom in her basement; other days she blogs and ponders living a life of a handweaver.

(And there'll be a huge thumbnail-sized mugshot.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

People Who Give Courage and Support

I recently met a woman who works in a support role for artists. Let's call her Peaches, because she has such a peachy, perky personality; she's the kind of woman who can brighten the room by her unassuming presence. Instantly you feels enormous and sincere encouragement coming from her. To tell the truth, I almost want to touch her to steal some of Peaches's wonderfulness. You know her kids are successful people because they have her for their mom, and you forever associate her with the picket-fence-dog-and-cat happiness.

On Friday I found out she has a child who is going to have a serious surgery, for the second time in his short life; her family travels to Auckland the day after Mother's day.

I feel humbled and privileged to have known her these last couple of weeks. It must have been a horrible time for her, but she seems to have an endless reserve of, and I know I've already used these words in this short post, sincere cheerfulness. I wish all the success and happiness for the child, Peaches, and her family. I look forward to her return, and when she gets back, I want 1/100 of her penchant for laughter and joie de vive, and her humility.

And I thought that was the only lesson of the week.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Longevity of a Shawl

In the days when clothing wasn't as disposable as they are today, I'd like to think we took better care of them. We used less chemicals, and cleaned them with sheer brute force; we also mended them, and wore them for more than a season or two. We had a longer and more involved relationship with our clothing. (I surprised Ben by showing him how to use a wooden egg to mend socks and stockings.)

Martin Rodgers at Arts Marketing suggested we all take a look at the proposed changes to our laws regarding on-selling of art works, and compensation/loyalty to the artists. If you're a painter or a sculptor and someone buys your work as an investment, and on-sells it for a great profit, the current government thinks you should get a share of the profit.

I don't think it's a bad idea if the value of your art work can increase so drastically in your lifetime, though I have serious misgivings about the kind of people who buy art as a form of investment. Textiles aren't bought/sold for investment, though, and the best I can hope for is a fraying piece of shawl getting handed down to a daughter, or a son, or a dog, after a decade or two of loving use.

The photo is of three lovely leather cases for men's detachable shirt collars, found at Richmond Antiques & Curios; each case was around NZ$35. The man at the shop said some cases have a collar left in them, but none of these three did. I didn't come home with them only because I couldn't chose one, and it felt terrible to separate the trio, each one with different kind of charm. (Ben surprised me by guessing straight away what these cases were for; I had thought they were for small hats for women, the kind with the piece of veil in front.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What Do You Do with Leftover Art?

I sent four pieces to this year's National Exhibit by the New Zealand Spinning, Weaving and Woolcraft Society; all four were accepted; they were in the show, but the show is now over, and I got back three pieces and a check for the fourth. Hurray, I sold one more.

But what do I do with "stash" that's growing in the middle of my stash room. I walk around it every morning to open the shades and the window of that room, trying not to step on the edges, not sure whether to make eye contact or be in denial.

How long do I keep them? I'm not adverse to giving them for good causes, but when and how do I decide what to give away? My accountant, who is a painter, told me, "TradeMe", a successful NZ version of EBay; spoken like a true accountant. Is that what I should do?

In New Zealand, there are charity bins all over town, where you can donate used or new clothes, shoes, bags, books, toys, etc. to good causes. That's where my rejects go, did I tell you? But not these ones, not yet.

Autumnal Leaves

I didn't grow up looking at fields of wheat or ocean crashing into the rocks or whatever else the word "nature" reminds you of. I grew up looking at the sky in between tall buildings, or what little I glimpsed at from the train window, during my 90-minute commute to school, or 1 hour 45 minutes commute to work, back in Tokyo. So when I read about artists who are inspired by their environment, by nature, I feel half envious, half doubtful, that they really get inspired by... "nature".

Still, this is our 11th year looking out of our bed room window at a giant liquid amber tree, and for me, autumnal leaves and trees are the best source of inspiration in the colors and shapes they hold, in even one branch, let alone the whole tree.

So without further ado, these are some images I collected on a rugby field last Thursday.

I am especially enamored with the way nature combines reds/purples with greens, and the way a boring old mid-brown becomes golden when placed next to more vibrant colors.

What also pleased me was that I got a bit innovative. Not being satisfied with a) the composition restrictions of still photography, and b) not being able to photograph the movements created by wind, I started tampering with the video function of my small camera.

I tried eight footage, and none were of good quality, but I'm proud of myself for thinking outside of my tiny, rigid square and attempting something new. Here's an example.

This was my "movement" footage. Looking at this, one cannot escape shouting, "I have, I have!!" to Rossetti.

Price of Art

I've been reluctant to get on with my commission works, because I don't want to contact the client who ordered the piece I should be working on right now.

When I sent my first ever submission to an exhibit and it was accepted, I sent her a photograph, and she celebrated with me, by correspondence. She asked how much I was asking for for that particular piece, so I told her.

A few months later, she commissioned me a piece, about twice the size of the said exhibition piece, and when we started discussing the price, she felt I mislead her into thinking my prices were lower. So we reached a compromise. Much to my dismay.

Once again she was kind enough to order another present, this one a very special one for her, and I'm reluctant to contact her because of this. I fear she's going to want to negotiate the price again. What's worse, a company that used to produce beautiful but relatively inexpensive (compared to my usual "boutique") yarns in Auckland closed shop in December.

She is one of the few returning clients, and I appreciate that. She also knows a thing or two about textiles, and I'm flattered that my work is worth ordering months ahead. And she's a lovely person.

At the same time, I can't get motivated to put in a lot of energy on designing a beautiful piece, knowing, monetarily, it's going to cost a whole lot less than the value I assign to it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ah, Office Work

I went to help Martin and Maria at Arts Marketing to take care of a small section of a big event they are holding at the end of May. It was a simple task, but great fun putting on my events managing cap again. And after the debacle at my six-month stint in office work in 2004, it was reassuring to know I still had it in me to produce satisfying results.

The event is called the Top of the South Arts Expo, a kind of a match-making between artists and galleries/shops. Back in January, Arts Marketing asked visual artists looking for outlets to submit a mini portfolio; galleries/shops around the country had a chance to see these, and some expressed interest in meeting some of us. So we are getting together over two days at the end of the month, artists displaying samples of their work, and galleries/shops looking for new talents.

At the very last minute, I qualified to attend the Expo, so I'm looking forward to strutting my stuff, after I make a few new ones, and possibly redesign my logo/business card. I know there will always be some who are unhappy with aspects of any event and we'll hear from them louder than those who were satisfied, but it's always more rewarding to be involved in different capacities in these events.

Thank you for the opportunity, Martin and Maria.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Self Pity and Too Much Time

Kath Bee's two posts of April 30th makes me think about what I do and where I am. Well, they are meant to stop me thinking, but they do make me wonder. I do have too much time on my hand, and I do go into a self-pity spiral, but this art thing is new and I don't know where I'm going, so I have to think before I go down the wrong way, some of the time.... Am I making sense?

Another thing is, Kiwis are, if I'm allowed to generalize, practical "doers", rather than ranting, raving, pacing ponderers. I appreciate I'm becoming a bit more of a doer, but I miss the pop-wowing of ideas with people of similar interests.

OK, corkscrew beckons.