Yay, Megg!

Megg Hewlett and her felted bags are going to Culverden Christmas Fête, and she kindly offered to take a few of my scarves. I had never heard of this event, but apparently it's beautiful and fancy, and hard to get a stall in, so well done Megg, and thank you!

I wanted to make mine a self-contained package to make things easy for Megg, so I bought a small papier-mâché hat box, covered it with soft yellow paper; it looks pretty OK on the sides, but hidious on the top and bottom. I scrunched some yellow and white tissues, (I used both because the yellow alone looked so harsh), but the tissues just looked wrinkled.

I can't believe I spent all day making this package, and for all the effort it looked terribly below-average, but it's easy to transport, and I trust Megg will fluff things up and make it more attractive. I have her extra tissues, too.

And beyond, you can see I've been shopping; I have a legitimate reason for needing more yarns, but more on that in a few days.


Sending Up Art Talk

Don't think for a minute that I seriously think this is an "art" piece. Suddenly this morning, I though I needed to clarify that. It was my first attempt at an un-usable piece, that's all.

Today, I gave a speech at my Toastmasters Club, based on my experience with this piece. Every word I said was genuine, every process true, and I lived through it just recently, so I remembered the details. Somehow, though, the speech sounded like I was sending up art talk.

I'm in two minds about that, the "art talk". Sometimes I try to listen or read a critique, and there are so many polysyllabic words I'm lost by the middle of the second sentence; sometimes it reads not like a critique of work or artist, but more a catalog of the critic's knowledge or a list of his friends and acquaintances.

But then, when asked about a particular piece, or a particular experience, or a particular process of mine, I can go into quite a long spiel about what I was thinking, how I eliminated alternatives, or how I arrived at the finished product, as I do here. And while my intention is not to impress but to explain, and to take the asker back to relive my process and emotions, I can be just as pompous and boring.

I also had to put into succinct words, and in an orderly fashion, my design process for this particular piece. And though I followed through each step carefully, the finished product seemed less than the sum of all the thoughts that went into the designing.

PS. Without even discussing it with Andy, I just assumed it was going to be hung much higher - perhaps even draping over the rafter. I went to the Refinery to see what width I needed and discussed it a little with Duncan, and I wove this at 8 inches wide on the loom. If I would have known it was going to be a bit lower, I might have woven in a tad narrower. I have my sample piece right beside me now, and I'm amazed how wide it look in the photo.


I Promise This Is The Last One This Year!

I Amaze Myself

After I went to see Andy and friend hanging my piece on Wednesday, (though I haven't seen how it was finally hung), I felt less hostile to weaving other non-utilitarian pieces. Since I went to a sculpture exhibit on Sunday, I keep designing others in my mind and cannot escape from this peculiar "head space".

It's hilarious, because the piece I wove was something like a badly planned lunch mat or a rustic-looking table center for an old-fashioned Thanksgiving table, and an extension of, rather than a departure from, what I normally do. The "new" ideas are hardly new and I can be recalling something I've seen but forgotten. Yet I can't shake this feeling akin to a slight envy for pure visual artists who don't have to worry about utility.

Or do they? We had terrible gusts all weekend, but the sculpture works were still standing. It's all a little Joycean. Suffice it to say, where my own mind wanders can sometimes amaze me. A more romantic artist might call this a muse; for me, it's a terrible two-year old I have to run after.



I mentioned before that I was the only child until I was six-and-a-half, and so I play alone well. And because I am easily distracted/confused even when I'm alone, I prefer to work solo, and I love the cocoon that is my basement studio. So collaboration is not my forte.

As far as the "creative process" goes, this latest project was hardly "collaborative", and yet, there was a lot I left to Andy, his experience and judgment, and to chance. In some respects, I felt less anxious as I only needed to concentrate on weaving a good piece, though I did worry if it'd meet his expectations, or if it fitted in the context.

As it turns out, if I would have woven another meter, the piece would have hung just as Andy envisioned, but I know he'll do me justice. Needless to say, that's Andy in the red, and friend/assistant on the ladder.

I had to submit the final evaluation for the Re:fine this morning, and I discovered I feel a little more at east about leaving certain things to the others' aesthetics. There is excitement in not knowing exactly how it is going to be finally presented, which entails not quite as much anxiety as I had anticipated.

I'm enjoying taking part in exhibitions with other art forms and other aesthetics, and how my old-fashioned stuff (both the craft itself, and my non-adventurous taste) stack up. I'm enjoying seeing my stuff amongst younger people's work.

PS: In response to my wish to have schools or kindies interested in buying the latest, ergo the affordable price, Andy said: "Yeah, but they prefer to display the kids' work." Touché; didn't think of that. Darn.

PPS: there is yet another, new art place in Nelson being started by a much-loved theater guy Grae Burton, and they want to open a 2D & 3D exhibition soon. The meeting to explain all is tonight, but sanity seems to be prevailing at last; I still might go to give support, but I'm telling myself not to sign up.


Well,Well, Wellington

By far Re:fine was the biggest art event I've taken part in, and the wonderful part was we were all promoting Nelson to the rest of the country. I enjoyed that.

Because I was a novice, and because I was away at a crucial time, I kept in close touch with both the organizers and the curators. So it follows that I knew what Re:fine was meant to be, a cross between a trade/travel show and an art exhibit. To that end, I thought it was a great show, professionally and cleanly presented, and one that had something for everyone. It gave a glimpse into what's happening in Nelson's art scene, I hope. I was lucky to have had the chance to participate.

Having said that, I worked much too hard until the night before we left, was exhausted by the time we arrived at Wellington, so I didn't have head space to enjoy myself. And I don't like art openings at the best of times.

I also contacted four galleries/shops in Wellington to try to make an appointment, and two met with me. I know I sound like an old record, but handweaving is grossly underestimated and undervalued in New Zealand, and we are competing mostly with factory-made textiles, both domestically-made and imports. At best the weaver is made to feel like the outlets are doing a great favor meeting us, or sacrificing shop spaces for us, even though they may personally like what we make. There is little of the awe or respect for a handwoven textile that exist in Japan or the US, and according to Sue, even compared to Australia. It's back to where I was in January about how to change the public perception. Perhaps all the handweavers in New Zealand can unite and go on a strike, but I'm afraid nobody will take notice of us.

Having had my pieces shown with "real" (utilitarian) art made me wonder about the direction I want to take next. I like that people can wear/use what I weave, so I think I'll stick to shawls, scarves and such. When I think of art vs craft in the context of handweaving, I tend to think of more complex weave structures and more colors in finer yarns. Yet some of my favorite cloths are same-hue-different-texture in 2/2/ twill; my favorite furnitures are Shaker. So I'm not sure where I'm headed, but familializing myself with colors and dyes, and being adventurous in weave structures are good starts.

"Wave" behind Katie Gold and Owen Bartlett ceramics and in front of Tracey Smith costume. Beyond, from left to right, Scilla Young multimedia work "The Dance of Red", Catharine Hodson and Janet Bathgate paintings.

"Deep" and "Windprint" with Charles Shaw's pottery and David Haig/Lindy Harward chair. I'm not sure who bought it, but "Deep" was sold before the show opened, and now belongs to one of the curator of this exhibit.

"Bubble" and "Paua". I'm overjoyed to hear "Paua" is now accompanying a woman who is returning to Scotland; we went to Scotland for our honeymoon, and then revisited 13 years later.

My only regret is "Island" being excluded from the show at the last minute, because it was a breakthrough for me. These things happen; that's why artists need a solo show once in a while.

Every artist whose names appear in this post has been contacted re. permission to use the photographs; artists whose names appear in bold have consented to the use (and a big Thank You!!), others have not responded to date.

For details of how matters transpired (or not) in Wellington last month, may I point to a grumpier post in another blog here.

My "Art" Piece

We were also asked to submit an artist's statement, the likes of which I always ponder, groan, and postpone. It's really months, or years, afterwards, when I'm warping, or weaving, or even weeding or ironing, that I realize the real effect of a piece or a process or a person, but I had to hand in something. Curator Andy suggested I write about the process of making something "impractical", so here's what I submitted:

"I am usually a weaver of scarves and shawls, for which soft and drapy texture is most important. I also try to design pieces that are interesting to look at close up, as well as from a distance.

"When Andy challenged me to weave something to make me look up, “long” and “bright” first came to mind. The focus became more on grabbing my attention quickly, as well as making the eyes travel up and down the length of the cloth. On the other hand, texture and matters that arise from close inspection became comparatively unimportant. In fact, a degree of stiffness in the cloth became vital in keeping the piece taught and straight.

"“Places I’ve been” is made of coarse wool, and with 13 colours; it is by far the boldest piece I’ve woven, but still has the fine weave patters (sic) that are interesting if you can see (it) close up. The pattern is based on a (sic) flame, an idea that came to me while thinking about the places I’ve lived or visited, and flying from one place to another. I go back and forth to these places, so the flames move forwards and backwards. Though there is no association between the colours and the places, this is a map of the places I’ve lived, Japan, the US, and New Zealand, and the places I’ve visited, Scotland, Ireland, China, Australia, and the Pacific Islands."

Noticed how I spelled "colours"? I also put a low price on it, so low Andy checked back with me. I wanted a school or a kindy to be interested, ergo the affordable price. I believe the piece has that kind of an appeal.

Perception of Fiber Crafts

This is an excerpt from Marlborough Creative Fibre Guild's October 2007 newsletter. Our president Christine, who wrote this, is a fiber artists/felter. Creative Fibre is a guild for spinners, knitters, weavers and felters.

"Why is it that people can’t get their head around Creative Fibre? I was asked, yet again, by someone who should know better, if I was involved in the quilt exhibition coming up! It really annoys me, as I just don’t quilt. Not that I have anything against quilting, but I do something totally different. We should work on increasing our profile."

No, nobody is against quilting, or embroidery or sewing; in fact, we are interested in what others do with fiber/textile, and many of us enjoy these crafts as well.

This is part of the reason I keep signing up for exhibits with other art forms; I want to keep reminding folks that handweaving is alive and well in New Zealand. Tomorrow is the opening of the last show I'm involved in this year, and I'm putting in not a shawl, but an almost-made-to-order non-utilitarian piece.

This is a "ribbon" about 22cm wide and 10.2m long in 13 colors. Here you see the sedate end - the other end has teal and orange/pink bright yellow, among others. This end has a sewn seam with a dowel though it; the other end is fringed. I made three extra support dowels with foamy insulation strips in case it needs to "float".

Curator Andy
saw tiny cashmere scarves drying in my laundry, and asked for a "ribbon". He wanted something to make people look up as the venue has a six-meter ceiling, so I put on a 20-meter warp, but it was much slower weaving than I expected, (120cm a day maximum), and I ran out of time. Its coarse wool fibers flew all over, so the second half was woven with antihistamine and protective glasses. It's a good thing I didn't weave something longer, as the 10 meters took up nearly the length of the house to lie flat. I'm looking forward to see what Andy does with it.



I think I'll call this one that. It's a scaled-down version of the bold Tapa/Pacific/Island design, possum/merino/silk both ways.

I've written a post about my thoughts on Wellington and Re:fine, but am still in the process of getting permissions from other artists whose work appear in the photos; one shot showed glimpses of a whopping six other artists' works, so it might take a bit longer.


Randall Darwall Workshop - One Year On for a Monotone Weaver

I've been thinking about this for a while now.

The thing that jumps out is the joie de vive Randy holds for his life and art; I can't think of Randy and Brian and not remember their excitement for what they do and how they live. With their textiles, there was much experimenting and playing "just to see what happens"; a lot of weavers have this same wonder and play, and I'm not devoid of it, but I tend to stick to the plans because when I do deviate, it doesn't work for me. I have noticed, though, that I see the world differently, that there's no separation of work and life. (And there's a whole blog post there.)

The mixing of colors is not working for me. Case in point, the current, blindingly bright multi-colored "ribbon" which will be hung from either the 3 meter rafter or 6 meter ceiling in a gallery about to rebrand/relaunch itself in mid-October. The piece will be about eight inches wide and up to 20 meters long; the warp has only six colors, (green, two blue greens, two blue yellows and a yellow). I stuck two ends of purple and two of apricot after much consideration and though I don't mind the apricot, the purple looks dumb. If this would have been a scarf warp, I would have taken it out or changed things at this point, but I couldn't think of how to remedy this, and hoping something three to six meter high would look a bit different, I left them and started weaving. There's always supplementary warps, I thought.

Proportion and Fibonacci sequence present less problems. Whereas the selection of colors is more intuitive than logical, and therefore entails no real right or wrong answers, these numbers are in black and white, and I've felt more at liberty to experiment, some with a degree of success, some to utterly hidious effect. With my own textiles, however, it's hard to separate the color or textural aspects from the proportions, so looking at some of the utterly hidious results, I can't always pinpoint the cause of the disasters.

That which completely boggled this feeble mind before the workshop, the "dynamic proportion", I'm starting to understand conceptually. I consciously examine textiles and other designs in terms of how they make my eyes move from one area to another, and I believe Randy was trying to make us think of using different colors in different proportions to entice the viewers to do the same. With this, understanding this is one thing; practicing is totally another.

Even before Randy's workshop, probably since Philippa Vine's color course in 2001, I've been conscientiously planning my textiles counter-intuitively, hoping to surprise myself. So far, it's been aggravating and dissatisfying, because what I get take off the loom are not as beautiful as I think I can make them. The next step for me is to have a comfort-weaving blitz, of weaving intuitively and against everything I've learned in the last few years, and see if I still prefer those results. Yes, it's taken me a year to figure out how to start my year of apprenticeship.

Randall Darwall Workshop - One Year On

It has been one year since 12 eager weavers gathered at a small but beautiful polytechnic campus in Paraparaumu, north of Wellington. When I think back, I still feel the giddiness of anticipation I felt as we sat around the picnic tables in the courtyard, waiting for the opening ceremony. I remember spotting Brian first, because he turned his head in just the way he was photographed on Randy's website back then.

I've asked my classmates for their observations and reminiscences one year on.

Robyn wrote: "Randy's workshop was a good boost to my weaving. I have been putting more effort into planning my scarves and wraps, adding more texture and color. I have spent more time on each and consequently am charging more for them.

"I think you have captured the sense of camaraderie that existed in the class and for me that was a real conduit for creative thinking.

"Off now for two months in Europe and all the textile excitement that entails."

Agnes said: "I thoroughly enjoyed the week in Paraparaumu, no emails, no phone calls, just get up every morning and weave all day long amongst a great bunch of like minded people and getting great inspiration from Randy and Brian - it was a fantastic holiday! As to how the weeks experience reflects in my new work - well, not really, at least not yet. My passion still is in warp painting and creating curves, waves, moving images in the design and not so much in the use of 50 or more warp and weft colours but who knows, maybe the bug will bite me at a later stage."

Margaret K remarked: "I still think about Randy's work and what he taught us, I'd love to do another workshop with him."

Ann commented: "To me the Randy Darwall class allowed me to rekindle aspects of my weaving I had passed over in recent years. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop with a 'Master Weaver', his dynamic partner Brian and like-minded weavers. Being able to share the knowledge gained with other weavers is an on going privilege. I am enclosing photos of three scarves I recently wove on the one warp using, dare I say it, 50 colours!"

And Dianne remembers: "Well its there but often I feel its etherial rather than tangible. Most of my work since the workshop has been orders for shops so my influence is not great. I did make a series of wraps some time ago in red(s). If I recall I had 14 chains all of different combinations of reds including black, hot pink, orange, starting dark on one side and moving through to orangey red on the other.

"The quote I keep hearing at present is "if its not working add more colour".

"I'm working my through an order for 12 blankets and 18 throws at present; white warp, black mohair weft; taupe warp, black weft; Wedgewood blue warp white weft etc. As you see not great scope for playing."

So what of me? I've been thinking about this for a month, and I'm feeling very lame.