Monday, July 30, 2007

Life Cannot Get Back to Normal Now

It feels like a lifetime ago I had this piece of cake at the Red Gallery in the morning before I left for Northland. I had a good time away, and now I've lots to think about, lots to ask, lots to weave.

The biggest, and worst, news for me is that our guardian marketer Martin Rodgers resigned from Arts Marketing in Nelson for a presumably bigger job in Wellington; very deserving, no doubt, but I do feel like an abandoned waif. He told us in an email right after I left; he must have timed it so I can't protest outside his office with a big placard!! Not good for Nelson, I tell you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Georgina's Baby Blanket #2

Yes, you heard me right; this is the second baby blanket. I'll post the details of the cost of inexperience, tomorrow if I can find the time. Meanwhile, I need to go hide under a blanket.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Megg Hewlett Says...

I love some of the words and thoughts that come out of Megg's mouth.

One of the things we were talking about was our different approaches. She commented that weaving is, within the fiber art/craft, akin to accounting in that if there is 1 cent left, I kind of worry, but 3 cents left, and I'm back to the drawing board; with her felted knit bags, she tells me she has a little more leeway in her process. I'd like to think that after 7 years, I have about, oh, 7 cents in my cash box for a rainy day, but she's right, and part of why I am a weaver is the restrictions the craft/structure poses. I can't do much that is, to me, "free form"; I can't play with clay, I can't knit, I can't paint; but within the confines of the loom, or a camera, I can "make" things.

There is much to think about here because my color selections have been based on color theories and yarn availablity in the past few years; for Megg, everything to do with colors is instinctive. I need to be open to my personal taste and make decisions based on gut feelings. Megg 1: Meg 0.

And speaking of theory/instincts, we've both tried different things in developing our creativity. I think I've written about slowing down, and letting ideas gestate, or waiting to receive inspirations. Megg, on the other hand, has a more proactive approach, where she's become a "developing ditzy". That'll make a great Exhibit title! Megg 2: Meg 0.

On the discussion of the art/craft continuum, Megg says, "Don't assume I didn't think about this," which beautifully summarizes one of the important steps all of us who "make things you can use" take. Of course we would like to put top priority on aesthetics, but if you can't use it, what we make is of no use to you, nor us. So sometimes we sacrifice the makers' aesthetic urges in preference to utility, practicality, and even longevity. Very well put. Megg 3: Meg 0.

Today has been a very tiresome day. The house next door is going on the market, and there have been some work going on in preparation. Today a huge air compressor (?) is sitting outside my studio making the loudest grunting noise all day since 8:30AM. I can't hear myself think, even though Bocelli has been serenading me at the top of his lungs all day to muffle the noise outside. I wanted a 92-end warp for a series of small cashmere scarves, and I need a few, so I'm making it a stripe in light and mid-grays, and I'm using my warping mill which gives me approximately 20 meters. I was wondering why it was taking so long, and why the wool was disappearing so fast. It took me a while to realize at some point I convinced myself I needed 180 ends. So tonight, we have to wind the warp, 92 ends going on the back beam, and the rest going into a separate warp chain. And I've simplified my problem so you'd get the gist of it.

Happy creating.

Mindblowing Ideas

The scarf belongs to Jay Farnsworth, created by Miranda Brown. From what I can tell, it was woven in twill, then dyed using shibori/tie-dye, (possibly the shibori design incorporated on the loom), and felted. This is light years away from my old-fashioned images of shibori; I was in awe.

I had another meeting with Megg Hewlett, but I have nothing concrete to report. We were throwing concepts, words, and vague images. Bliss.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Megg Hewlett and Colors

Last week, when I met with Megg Hewlett, we talked how a joint exhibit can have creative coherence, and discussed using similar colors. We grabbed a few balls of her yarns, and mixed and matched and tried to find a starting point, then she gave me samples of those colors. These are not her usual colors, but immediately she liked the combination, and I think she was already designing Bag 1 in her head. But it takes a long time for me to observe colors, combinations and proportions, and then to decide whether I like them or not. So for a week, I've been carrying them when I'm out, and they sit on the coffee table when I'm home.

Today, when I was photographing the first Christmas present scarf, these samples were sitting nearby. And after I shot the scarf, I was amazed how many of these sample colors were in my scarf. I mean, look.

I admire Megg for being so at ease with colors, and for her spontaneity. We're really going to have fun trying to build an exhibit together.

My Treasure

I was given this wool scarf for Christmas in 1961. I can't remember by whom, but most likely it was Jane McCoid, the most beautiful, fashionable person we knew then.

We had been in the US about four months. A week before Christmas, she visited us at home late in the afternoon, and stayed for a short time. She gave me our first ever Christmas present just before she left. (Back then, Christmas was a strictly religious occasion in Japan, and though about one-third on my mother's side is Catholic, we never exchanged gifts.) We knew the rules; we were supposed to put it under the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve, then open it. And we even had a Christmas tree; I don't remember if it was a tiny plastic one, or a big real one, but I do remember scouting the vicinity carefully in the days leading up to Christmas.

After she left, mom and I felt giddy staring at the beautifully wrapped, lonely present under the tree. Mom asked me, three or four times, if I wanted to open it. We hesitated a little, then tore the present open. I do remember being disappointed because it wasn't a toy, and told Mom she can have it, but not disappointed enough to take away the giddiness. And Mom wore it, lovingly, for a decade or two. Then, sometime in 80's or the 90's, she found it in her drawer somewhere, and asked me if I wanted it back. It's been mine ever since.

It is made of very fine wool but it's been washed and dry-cleaned several times, to say the least, and it has a coarse, scratchy feel, but the brightness and the Chrismtasy feeling is still there.

When we left Minnesota, I was five, and Jane McCoid gave me a single pearl on a silver chain; I still have that, too. And that's amazing, because over the years I've moved a few times, and ever time I moved I shed material possessions so I don't have many "things" from my childhood.

I still feel giddy remembering receiving our first Christmas present, and how naughty it felt to conspire with Mom and open it early.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

My First Collapsed Weave

True story. My first floor loom was built by a doctor for his wife in the 60's or the 70's or the 80's in Waikato; the couple broke up, and though she was never wove again, for some reason, the Mrs took the dismantled loom every time she moved house. By the time I bought it, the loom had been stored, for over 10 years, under each house she lived.

It was an old-fashioned upright 4-shaft Jack designed for wool (and mostly handspun at that) so it wasn't particularly sturdy, and was prone to creek and move when I wove Swedish cottolin under high tension; I even got grooves from the cottolin in the breast beam to prove it, but I was too new to understand these things. It also had these flimsy wooden brakes (I can't really recall the exact mechanism now), but the breaks didn't really stop the warp from advancing completely, so the tension control was iffy at best.

For a US-based napkin/serviette exchange I signed up for in 1997, I put on a warp for 8 napkins/serviette, pale lavender, space/cram 10DPI/30DPI stripes in either plain weave or 2/2 twill. I was weaving my third serviette, and I was unhappy with the tension, so I advanced the warp just a wee bit, and pulled the tension as tightly as I could, and passed the shuttle (I only had stick shuttles from my rigid heddle loom back then), and beat hard, and BANG, the loom collapsed. I can't remember exactly what kind of shape it was in, but I could not weave on it.

A weaver friend came to have a look and said one word: "firewood", but I didn't have the heart to live without a floor loom, so I had Ben reassemble it, with the warp in tact, so at least it stood upright on its own, and stayed in the living room looking pretty until I borrowed a better one from the local polytech in 2001. After I started to weave on the borrowed loom, there was no way I was going back to the old loom, so Ben took it apart, and built a loom bench for me. I seem to recall having woven the remainder of the lavender warp, but I can't remember on which loom it was.

As for the real collapsed weave, I did two, wasn't interested in the textural variations, so that was the end of that. When the polytech sold off all the weaving equipment, in around 2004, I bought the previously-borrowed loom. I weave most of my cashmere on it, sitting on the ex-loom bench.

Edwin Sumun Photographs

©Edwin Sumun. Photograph posted with permission.

Eddie is a theater guy, an actor/producer?/director/teacher ?, as well as a semi-professional?? photographer. I have all these "?" marks because I've never met him, but surmise from his various photo blogs' posts.

He posts all kinds of photos, but I am hopelessly enamored by his people shots: theater mates and backstage, vendors on the streets, and friends' and family's babies. I suspect, either his keen interest in people visually led him to the theater, OR his life in the theater honed his skills in capturing faces and expressions so beautifully. Though, again, I've never asked him so I may be wrong.

I find this an interesting contrast to what I've done most of my life, which is to listen to people's speeches. Without intending to eavesdrop, I've enjoyed listening to people's voices, intonations, and pronunciations, as well as phrases and wit; I used to want to be a playwright. Although I can't remember the contents of conversations, sometimes I can recall a person's manner of speech quite vividly.

Here are some of Ed's photo blogs: Flickr, Kuala Lumpur Daily Photo (though sadly this is no longer posted daily), and Vision 20/20. For the best of his theater photos, see here, here, and here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

I Want to be a Good Weaver (Area Exhibit Opening Part 4)

It appears to me that in the past, the Best Use of Color award in the Area Exhibits have been awarded to colorful pieces, not necessarily ones demonstrating the makers' knowledge of color theory, which is what I thought was the aim of the award.

I think a lot of us thought another piece, a Kimono-style garment with three different handwoven fabrics, would win the top prize; I certainly thought so. But I'm still glad Colleen's installation won because it gave me a lot to think about.

Still, I shouldn't get so worked up by these openings and by others' works; I finally felt mildly sleepy at 1:45, but was up and thinking again before 5:30 this morning. And I have to give another speech at Toastmasters at 12 today, for which I'm ill-prepared.

But all in all, I think what I want the most is to be a good weaver. I don't know when/where this concept of me as an artist came up, (yes, I do; it's when I joined Arts Marketing and began being included in the category "artists", because I didn't belong to catetories educators, arts administrators, or art purchasers/gallerists. ) And, sure, I want to be able to make pieces that move viewers/wearers, but above all, I want to be a good weaver. "What's wrong with that?" Ben asked me last night. Absolutely nothing.

I'm remembering my humbler (at heart) days when I was tickled pink to just say the word "weaver" out loud, in private, of course. But then, you know me, I'm sure the pendulum will swing the other way again.

Oh, and the Toastmasters, for my Speech 3, I'm talking about Color-and-Weave and optical illusions, and I'm spreading the word for the Exhibit as well.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Arts Marketing Stapler

I still admire the combination of beauty/quirkiness/interest and utility.

Area Exhibit Opening Part 3

And here's the best part; my friend Colleen won the top prize. I'm thrilled for her; her felted garment-cum-installation was stunning. (Sorry, I never got the photo from Colleen.)

I'm grateful the judge chose her piece for the prize, and I'm grateful Colleen submitted her work at all. It's a garment, and yet it's installation art, and edgy in the context of the Area Exhibit.

I can blog on and on about "art vs craft", and how I see "what I do", and whether I am an artist, an artisan/craftsperson, or a weaver. But let's face it, I make scarves and shawls with wool, (top quality, wonderful texture, but still wool), and I don't dye my own colors or even use lots of colors. So, even though I manage to make them look a little flashy, on account of having 16 computer-controlled shafts, I realize, thanks to Colleen, it's not art.

Art, starting today, is going to require a bit more thinking on my part; not just taking longer to design something more complicated, but something qualitatively different, something about more of the maker's soul being included in the finished work. Her work is not at the high end on the art/craft spectrum, but in a totally different place.

Food for thought.

Area Exhibit Opening Part 2

But wait, there's more.

I hear there were somewhere around 120 works submitted; two selectors selected 66 works; my friend Nancy, who didn't submit any work, helped the selection process, and told me it was objective, fair, and impressive. Another judge awarded four or five prizes. (I was too busy being mindless I even forgot to buy a catalog!) NZSWWS's national president, Nynke, mentioned in her speech she has heard said a small group of people win prizes every time.

I present to you these facts and opinions, because, after all, a show/exhibit of any kind rests on the decisions of those who are entrusted to make the decisions. And I believe selection is subjective.

I mean, think about it. The task is unlike a quality control inspection on a factory line. Selection criteria for a show like this is not by measurements of demensions, accuracy of computation, or how much pressure can be applied before the material rips. A piece of work has to have artistic, aesthetic, and technical merit.

I'm not complaining; I got both of my pieces accepted, but I didn't win any prizes. Speaking to friends who won prizes, who had work accepted, and who had work rejected, there is really no apparent "objective" set of criteria on which all, or most, of us could agree, or based on which which we can unanimously accept/reject work. So I hold that selection is subjective.

The reason why I'm so hung up on this tonight is this; while waiting for our order to be cooked at the Fish and Chip shop, I realized that the kind of textile I want to weave is predictable, not edgy, not even colorful; I like subtle, delicate, and sophisticated. And Ben thought this year bright and colorful works won prizes. So, then, the next time I work on a project to submit to Area, or National, or wherever, I can try to please the unknown selectors and judges based on what seemed to please the previous selectors and judges, or, I can just do my thing and make cloth that please me. The answer is quite simple, and yet I find myself becoming more competitive and greedy. Is this to be my downfall?

Details of Thistle Scarf, pick up, by June McKenzie

Area Exhibit Opening Part 1

Tonight, the Area Exhibit opened at the Suter Gallery in Nelson.

Even though I live in Nelson, I belong to the Marlborough Weavers, a region 90 minutes east of Nelson, because this is a group for weavers. In Nelson, the groups are geographically divided, so in any given group, there are weavers, spinners, knitters, and felters. So for me, belonging to a group focusing on weaving is more suitable at this time. Having said that, there are some terrific people in the Nelson groups, so it's good Marlborough and Nelson groups belong to the same Nelson/Marlborough/Buller Area of the greater New Zealand Spinning, Weaving, and Woolcrafts Society, and our annual Area Exhibit covers all of us. (That should be enough for a study in New Zealand geography.)

Tonight was the opening of the this year's Area Exhibit. I hate openings, of any kind; I never know what to say, and blabber on while my brain shuts down; but still, it's nice to be there. A certain curator, whom I'm trying to impress, was speechless while I went on about how my pieces were products of a mistake.

The McKee Gallery of the Suter is, to be honest, an unattractive space; it has low ceilings, no natural light, and is an awkward rectangular shape. But the Nelson group did amazingly well presenting the works attractively.

Many wore garment they wove, knitted or felted, and this is one place where we are allowed to walk up to a stranger and feel their clothes, with just a smile and a nod. Heavenly.

I think I'm supposed to say, good time was had by all.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Here I Go Again

I had my first meeting with Megg Hewlett today. Megg makes beautiful and funky knitted-then-felted handbags, which are functional, sturdy, but most of all, exude fun. (I always forget to photograph her or her work, because I'm so bedazzled by her colors.) I don't have a bag by her yet, because I can never decide on the color combination.

I first met her at the Artists' Retreat in June 06. I'm sure I've seen her around at other times, too, but we had lunch together during a workshop leading up to the Expo, and then talked some more during the Expo. Whilst once again handling her bags and trying to see if I can settle on one bag at the Expo, I talked to her about two things: 1) we'll do a swap, a scarf for a bag, and 2) we'll have a joint exhibition. The second one just popped out, but today's meeting was about the joint exhibition.

Megg is intelligent, decisive, (and tall), and as I said, had incredible (and possibly instinctive) understanding of colors and proportions. She just picks up balls of yarns and matches them to create an attractive combination, in the same time I pick up one ball and feel it and read the label and try to imagine the texture and appearance when it's woven in, say, a 2/2 twill. We were at her house for maybe 45 minutes, and one after another, we decided the rough outline of our plans and the steps we will take to realize our plan. Just like that.

And, in between these discussions, she gave me some advice on mixing/matching colors, and all I could do was to understand and remember what she said because, you know me, I'm going to have to design, sample, and mull over the results over many weeks. I just hope she can put up with that.

Putting on an exhibition with her will be a fun process, and the show will have a nice, clean, sumptuous looking collection of works. Suffice it to say, we're hoping to have it in June 08, but the rest, I'm not spilling the beans just yet.

PS: She got orders from five (5!!) places at the Expo, and there were beautiful bags all over her house in various stages, which was fantastic.