I'm Two

Two years ago today, I started blogging about my thoughts on weaving while feeling frustrated with a tendinitis on my right wrist and unable to weave.

I'd never seen a blog, didn't know there were non-political blogs, and had imagined something like Doogie Howser's electronic diary. (Remember that at the end of each episode?) Then, my best friend from high school, Liz, told me about her blog, and it was beautiful and fancy and spontaneous and wonderful and I had to get me one right away.

"Unravelling" started as my meditation, as it were; I was writing to myself to clear my head and move on to my next task/project/topic of meditation. My Japanese blog title can be translated to something like "Fabric Scraps, Loose Ends and Talking to Myself".

I had one reader in mind: me.

Then I started to make new friends and some of you left nice comments, and "Unravelling" became something of a platform to report what I've done, to share my thoughts, introduce weavers and information I found, and solicit help. Interaction makes the experience more personal and I felt a change in my tone: less article, more conversation. At times I felt I needed to watch what I say or be selective about the topics, but that changes the nature of my relationship with "Unravelling". So I go back and forth.

You know I'm under-tall and un-thin, cranky and 50, and though I love weaving, I find it terribly difficult to make the kind of cloth I'd be happy to put my name on . I get massive creative blocks and stay away from my looms for big chunks of time, then over-commit and work like a one-woman production line. And in between time, I get delightfully depressed, or I have to go away to relearn to play like a child.

I thought life was going to get easier when I grew up; either I haven't grown up yet, or I keep choosing difficult paths, or everybody is having a hard time but don't make a fuss. As long as I keep playing this game, though, of weaving, of blogging, and of growing up, I'm going to make sure I have fun.

That's all I've got tonight; the design thing is intriguing, but I've got to get back on that loom bench.

This Book Makes Me Thirsty

I now recant my cynicism about the book, "Finding Your Own Visual Language"; it is as wonderful as everybody says.

It is a nice-looking book, but the authors didn't concentrate as much on making a beautiful book as they did on making us get to work and be excited about the making. There are just enough examples showing how the exercises can be done, but not enough to make the book prescriptive, and some examples show how ideas germinated in the exercises have been developed into pieces of work.

The book also has a lot of reminders I didn't know I needed until I read them. Here's one: "... don't be intimidated by the idea that a shape has been 'done'. (They) are all symbols as old as human kind. No one owns these images. They are part of our collective unconscious."

The exercises are simple yet versatile, so I can revisit them for the fun of it, to develop the idea further, to try different options, or to restart with a different topic. Yesterday I made eight examples for Exercise 1 in the afternoon, but my head was flooding with variations I had to try 13 more in the evening. And there's isn't a lot of drawing! Yay!

The exercises are about 2/3 of the book; the authors suggest how I can use these techniques continuously or repeatedly, productively or unproductively (which is just as important) in my work. In this respect, "Finding" may become my Betty Crocker's big red cookbook or Edmonds Cookery Book where I know my favorite recipes but I return time and time again, modifying, multiplying, or just for old times' sake.

I haven't exactly done a lot of design/creativity-training to compare; I did The Artist's Way on my own in late 2003, and one correspondence and two workshops with Alison in the last six years.

The Artist's Way is designed by writer Julia Cameron, so though I enjoyed the process, I needed a few extra step between all the thinking/writing, and the making of something visual. Alison's methods, I really didn't get until the March workshop, so I need to experiment more, but the main difference is, for Alison, I need to research a topic before I can get my hands dirty. With "Finding", it's as if Mom dropped me right in the middle of the kindy where all the material have been laid out and all I that's expected of me is to play.

Or, it's because of my epiphany in the March workshop I can now jump right in without forming expectations. Either way, I think the authors intended to write a book to make us get going.

"Finding" doesn't decrease my liking of Julia Cameron's softly-softly approach, but I've been doing this art thing a while now, and I like the little sturdier nudge I find in "Finding" more honest. This is a book that can lead you to water and make you mighty thirsty.

Kaz the Curious Weaver has a less gushy, more concise description of the book, as well as examples of what she did with the exercises here. (If anyone else has posted something about working with this book, please let me know.)


Happy Birthday, Bonnie Inouye!!

Happy Belated Birthday, Bonnie Inouye! (Her birthday was on the 23rd. I just readjusted my monitor to make emails easier to read, and reread her email of the 22nd and there I found it. Sorry, folks.) And enjoy the workshop in Richmond, VA; I know your students will.

Her workshops are exciting because not only do you get the feel of Bonnie as a weaver and teacher, you can tap into her knowledge of weave structures and weaving geography/anthropology, (ancient Peru, for example), and say exotic phrases like "turned taqueté" without blushing. But for me by far the most wonderful was to see her scarves and shawls wrapped around a person, and in motion.

I know we know bodies aren't cylindrical, and we think of the movements when we design our textiles, blah blah blah, but I still remember a jaw-dropping experience in 2002 of seeing a red shawl with big circles (in themselves impressive,) strategically placed to make an impression as the wearer walked away. I slithered off the chair and kowtowed.

I also discovered the magic and convenience of a digital camera; she showed us slides of dinner scene of the previous night! This promoted hubby to buy his first one later in the year; can't imagine life without one of them, either, any more, can we?


Good Books

Just this morning, I was gazing at the revamped The Artist's Way web site, thinking of doing a second stint this winter, since I already have more Julia Cameron books than an artist can swing a stick at. Then in our PO box, I found my copy of Finding Your Own Visual Language, from Amazon.jp, via my mother.

Honestly, when some of you were going all googoo gaga over this book, I was a little skeptical; no book can be that good to so many people. But I could be wrong; I've only had once glance though the book just once so far, but it looks interesting and very intelligent.

It's a much slimmer volume than I expected, but I like that UK and US artists collaborated in writing, so they left the spelling the way each author spelled in the first place. (Which made me think: why aren't there more fabulous books co-written by Australian and New Zealand artists?? You've an eager reader in me!)

It appears Jane Dunnewold, the American author, also hosts Art Cloth Studio, and she has a rather introspective reading list. (If you'd like a copy of this book, you may be able to find used ones, or contact Jane, or Dale Rollerson at The Thread Studio in Australia.)

I can't wait to get started, but not until I finish my first fabric stash reduction effort at long last.


Dye Discharge

One of the things Randy Darwall and Brian Murphy did in their workshop was to demonstrate dye discharge. They bought a piece of drab-looking (sorry!) brown wool (?) fabric in the local shop. They might have scrunched it a little, but Randy sprayed it with undiluted (?) bleach in a spray bottle. And voilà it became an attractive piece of cloth. I've always wanted to do this, but couldn't think of what to use to experiment.

One of my favorite pieces of clothes, a dark blue cotton double-knit cardigan, has been looking tired, out of shape and I've started to loose the buttons, so I finally bit the bullet and tried it. I chose this afternoon because it was sunny, dry, with gale-force winds, and I just hung the cardi behind a garden chair and sprayed away.

I chose a spray bottle with fine mist, so the discharge occurred in areas rather than in spots. I don't know if this prevented splotches, or made the pattern less interesting. I was disappointed the discharged area came out almost purple/pink rather than white-ish, and the purple/pink are almost all the same regardless of whether I sprayed just once or several times. In short, the whole garment looks not as exciting as I had imagined.

You can see in the lower back I tried to discharge more than other parts. I wonder if I should have sprayed, then let the area dry, then sprayed some more, instead of spraying continuously in one area. I have other blotches, and some areas where I must have touched while my rubber gloves had residual bleach.

I am thinking of having another go, either with some more bleach, or with dye, with this one. I'm also looking at what other old pieces of clothing I have with which I can experiment; there's a bright red cotton turtle neck whose neck is looking tired and horrified in the laundry basket just now.


Printing is so free of restrictions I wonder why anyone would choose weave structures to put on fabric, but then I am strangely drawn to these. Ditto with embroidery and needlepoint; I've recreated the appearance of weave structures in these crafts. I must really like them.



Peg is Right

Have a look at THIS! Thanks, Peg, and Leigh, of course.

Dazed and Confused

I had an idea of converting a simple weave into double weave and putting a twist to it, but I couldn't figure it out on the computer or the paper so I've resorted to some basic methods. Here I'm weaving on a frame loom Mom made me yonks ago when she started to get into frame, tapestry and other "picture" style weaving; the poor loom sat quietly in the drawer until yesterday.

First I thought if I saw the weave on a single layer, I'd understand if what I'm trying to do is unreasonable; then I tried it in double and didn't like the look; now I keep modifying the idea in my head but my hands are slow to follow.

Never mind. Southerlies are blowing (that's the cold wind for us) and the fire is going all weekend, and it's a good chance to appreciate what a slow craft we practice.

Once I figure it out, it's going to be such a "D'OH!!" moment you'll have to excuse me if you hear me at your place.


Finally Done

Oh, boy, that was a lot of work, but a lot of fun. In all, these four tiny bags required a day's work. The store didn't have the dull gray ribbons I sampled with; in fact the only grosgrain ribbon in the "gray" range was a slightly wider one in silver, and after looking at the dull yellows (there were two: not-very-dull, and not-dull-at-all,) I decided to go for the slightly blingy silver. Its brightness obscures my name in silver gel pen, but I don't mind that. Shorter handle would have looked nicer, but I had to be careful putting my hands though the sample, and my hands aren't big, so I made them a tad longer.

I hope Jay approves. Because four more are in the pipeline. Well, for another rainy day.


Converting a 14-Shaft Draft to 8

A while ago, I wove few of what I call "Donat's Diamonds" from Kris Bruland's Handweaving.net; these are draft numbers 27454-27473, and I wove them turned on 14 shafts straight draw.

I'd forgotten that one of the things I did was to weave with undyed merino warp and undyed merino/mohair weft, and left it in a dye bath as an experiment, and gave it to my mother. This was before digital cameras, and I can't remember much else.

So, bless her, she wants the draft years (?) later, and can I please send it to her, but no hurry, dear, anytime you get around to it. It took a few trips down dusty archived folders lane on another computer before I figured it was maybe, probably, hopefully, Draft 27463. Except it's in 14 shafts, and the most shafts she has is eight on a table loom. So the dutiful daughter that I am, I set out to try to replicate the mood of the draft on 8 shafts, something I've done for the first time. And boy, is this difficult!!

This is the original draft, turned, and converted to a lift plan.

My first method was to try to create a draft as close to the original as possible in a tie-up mode. I didn't like that the diamonds were so squashed, but experimenting with only 10 or 12 treadles, I felt I was stuck with them. The diamonds are pretty flat in the original draft, but but that didn't help.

So I studied the lift plan of the original, and started to make elongated diamonds. After a while I was doodling in the lift plan as usual, and half a dozen drafts later, I got this.

This is too lacy and not diamond-shaped, but does convey the atmosphere of some of the other drafts in the series, so I decided to send this to her. Some of the earlier, simpler drafts might have been closer to the original, but I didn't like any. I haven't found the trick to capturing the mood of a draft.

I think I can do better. Since this request had sat on my desk for two months, I decided to send these to her for now. Mom is capable of working out drafts herself, so I hope she will try something as well, she does have a computer, and I would like to revisit this another day so I can send her something better.

It remains to be seen whether this was the draft in question in the first place; I'll either get a joyous, lilting phone call, or a "Huh?" fax soon.

Bag Lady

Gee, I felt bad about having neglected the bag Jay at the Red Art Gallery asked me to work on; I had thought it was a few months ago, but it was well before the Expo and Re:fine hooha, meaning, it must have been nearly a year ago. I did make some mock ups, and we discussed it and Jay thought a "landscape" orientation was a little retro and elegant. I got them out of the box, made a few more mock ups in different sizes, and made four of the "landscape" on the right.

On the left is my first trial bag in a size perfect for the cashmere scarf, and on the right is one of the final style, with a false front with wide handle attached with a paper clip. I can't decide if I want to go with the narrower or wider grosgrain ribbon, and though gray looks good, pale yellow and black look ok, too.

It took me more than half a day to make four, and the first one is a little shallower because of a folding glitch, and I still need to get ribbons, and write "MegWeaves" or something with a silver gel pen.

Weaving is the easiest part, isn't it?


Brave, Fearless or Dangerous?

Still a little high from the Design Workshop, I did something I've been wanting to do for eight years; I've signed up for Ronette Pickering's figure drawing course. She was a weaver, weaving teacher (?), and the head of the local Polytechnic's Visual Art school, but now she's retired and is a legendary figure drawing teacher, and also a consultant to the Refinery Art Space gallery.

So with the material list in hand, I went to Betts Stationary on Hardy Street, and asked Tony to help me gather the stuff. I am now have, in a little cardboard box:

2 x 4B and 2 x 6B pencils
1 graphite stick (the thin one with the black lacquer coating)
4 x thick vine (willow) charcoal
4 – 6 medium pit charcoal
2 x white, black and sepia conté
2 x black and 2 x white pastel
Eraser (pink or green ones from Betts cheapest and also best)
2 x large bulldog clips (the ones with the wire handles)

This graphite stick is nicer than the naked one I already had. I asked Tony what contés are, but I can't remember his answer, except French ones are creamier and German ones more powdery. I do remember the difference between the vine and pit charcoals; the former is more fibrous, the latter is soot bound with an agent, so is creamier. But you knew this already. yeah?

And though not on the list, I also put in the box one of Ben's old shirts and a small notebook.

The class starts at the start of May and runs for 10 weeks. I can't wait.

Speaking of Digi Photography...

Ben tried to explain to me the language and logic of hue manipulation in my software, but it sounded like a lot of "blah blah blah" to me. I did find some "hidden" buttons and levers to play with. Fun.


Digital Photography

I was cleaning out my supposedly-weaving-related drawer of my desk just now, and came across a brag book I compiled the night before I went to the Symposium in March, 2006. Turns out I didn't make new friends, so I didn't show it to anybody but Trish, but it was an interesting exercise. It's just a postcard-size plastic folder with around 40 photos of my then-new pieces.

I was stuck by how dated the photos, or my work, look. The pieces aren't all that different from what my current "style" if you can call it that, but I see all kinds of other things I've done meanwhile, that my 2005 pieces appear so last-era. I'm happy to report that my photographic skill has improved a tad, too.

With a digital photography, videos and sound devices, and means like phones, email, blog and photo blogs, we're constantly showing and seeing each other's latest works, and because in most cases the communication is two- or more-ways, we can even solicit help, or laugh and commiserate together, almost instantly. So the more static material, like photos, brag books or even a static web site need to focus on other things; stable facts (contact info, data, history, archival material, etc.) on the one hand, and the tangible "goodie bag" aspect on the other.

With that in mind, I'm still not sure what I want to do with my static web site, but also have been considering having outrageously expensive business cards printed, too. Well, maybe not right away. I used to print out cards with care instructions using a photo of the piece the care instructions were going to be attached to. Then I started using my logo, and then my standard computer-print-out business card. Two big problems here: ink jet is not waterproof, and it fades in the Ozon-hole Nelson sun after about nine months. I'm aiming for a mixture of personal/handmade, and the professional look, and to that end, Taueret's suggestion of Moo.com mini cards might be what I'm looking for, but I wished they had business cards. Does anybody know of similar operations? (I got a 10-piece trial pack once, and did only 1 photo of my weaving. Shocking.)
Red Art Gallery has been asking me to develop a special, tiny carry bag for my cashmere pieces, and that's been on the back burner for a year now. Terrible.

The other development is, a few months after the two bigger exhibitions, Re:fine and Culturally Routed, closed, I received packages from the curators; each pack included a Thank You letter, a copy of the visitors' comments, catalog of the exhibition in once instance, and a CD Rom of professionally shot photos of the exhibition. The copyrights of these photos were not identified, but it's probably worth asking if I'm allowed to upload them with proper credit.

Times are changing. I'm glad I'm here now, but sometimes it's hard to keep up. Please share your thoughts.

PS, Qoop.com has 3.5 in*2 in cards, but you have to have the same photo/s on all 100 cards, unlike Moo where you can have 100 different cards if you so choose.

Guidelines to Our Small Scarf Virtual Exhibition

According to Wiki, today is Buddha's Birthday, which sounds as good a day as any to announce the Small Scarf Virtual Exhibition guidelines. You don't have to have contacted me already to join, as long as you weave and get some pics and blurbs prepared in time.


* Please weave a small scarf, say 6 inches wide, give or take a few inches, or select one you wove in 2008. If you are productive, you are allowed to exhibit up to 3 scarves. The scarves must be handwoven, (and that includes loom-knitting), but can be subsequently embellished or felted. Dye, and any other details, e.g. warp paint, before weaving is also allowed.

* For each completed scarf, send me 2 or 3 photos showing different views of the piece, plus a paragraph or two about either the weaver or the piece. Weaver's profile shot, or body parts near the loom, is also most welcome. No shots of the scarf on the loom this time, unless your hand is included and you would like to use it as your profile shot.

* If you don't feel comfortable writing in English, you can either just send me the photos with your name, city/country of residence, and contact email address, OR, write it in whatever language you feel comfortable, and maybe we'll come across another weaver who can tell us the gist of your blurb.

* Send all photo files in JPG format as attachments, and the paragraph/s in the body of an email to me by Monday, June 9. please. I'd like to open the exhibition either on the Friday night or Saturday, but depending on the numbers, it could be as late as Monday, June 16. Time, link, etc., will be posted here nearer the time.

* If you blog (including Flickr-type photoblogs), here's an alternative. Weave and prepare files, create a post, and plan to publish around Friday, June 13. You must let me know of your intentions to go this way by Monday, June 9, so I can include you in the links, and also send you the links to be included at the bottom of your post. If you have weaving friends who don't blog, feel free to invite them and include their work in your post; think of it as another room in the exhibition, as it were. And the blurb being in your native language would be no problem in this case.

When you contact me regarding SSVE post on your own blog (sounds like a government department or a new type of vehicle,) please include the nicknames or names of all the weavers whose work you will be showing. If you can't decide, I suggest sending me the first name and surname initial of the weaver/s, (so I'm Meg N). I'll use the surname initial only if there are two or more weavers with the same first name spelled the same way, so not for Lynne and Lynn, for e.g. If you do not disclose your real name on your blog, remind me what you would like to be known as, but not a very long one, please. Below is an example of the link, (and here I'm using Deep End without consulting her only because I couldn't find her name at first glance), and we could include city/state/country if you like.

Deep End, Florida => Meg N, Rose, another-weaver, and hopefully-another-weaver => another blog => and hopefully more blogs..... and so on.

* Just thought of this. I get the feeling everybody here gets the purpose of this wee event, but I feel I should spell it out. This is an attempt to share/show/see what we do, so no links to "selling" websites or platforms, please. Of course you can include your contact email address and blot url.

Notice I changed the name from Virtual Small Scarf Exhibition to Small Scarf Virtual Exhibition? If you can come up with a snappier name, and I'm sure many of you can, please leave it in the comment so others can be impressed and we can have a better name.

It's a low-keyed thing, and I think I've covered everything, but if you have any questions or proposals, feel free to email me or leave a comment.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, and I really look forward to see your work.

Susan B, the ring can't be that different from the links I will be creating, but I haven't had the time to look into it, so for this round, at least, I'll be a simpler version. But thank you for the suggestion; I would have never thought of it.


Purpose of the Piece

I may repeat what I wrote when I finished weaving this piece, but please bear with me.

I believe it was on the last day of her workshop that Bonnie Inouye gave us bullet points on good design, and the first thing she mentioned was the purpose of the piece. I can't tell you which weaving books say this and which ones don't, because I don't read the words in weaving books very carefully, but I was surprised and pleased she started with this. As we rack up our weaving mileage, I'm sure we pick up the knowledge, and it's nice to remember this when a different kind of project comes and and requires me to re-think.

I make shawls with merino, possum/merino/silk, or merino/mohair, and small scarves with cashmere and cashmere/silk. So, very soft. I've just started to branch out to 20/2 and 60/2 mercerized cotton but I'm still learning about those yarns.

This is the third baby blanket I wove; previously the blankets were for yet-unborn babies. I consulted with the clients about colors, and as softness was paramount to me I used merino, and I avoided floats where tiny fingers and toes could get caught. Beyond that, I designed the blankets to please the parents, and me.

I'm getting a little more used to thinking about babies and safety, and thus I decided not to dye my yarns and risk amateur-dyed fiber getting into this wee one's mouth, hoping commercially dyed yarns are safer, and stitched my label all the way around instead of my usual top-and-bottom only, again so fingers don't get caught.

When I weave pieces like wedding and baby presents, I also want them to last even with daily or rigorous use. Ergo the blanket single, and I had fun imagining this wee boy at around age 4 or 5 dragging a tattered-but-still-intact blanket.

All in all, this piece suits the purpose and I did good. But I'm still iffy about the aesthetics of the piece, and wonder if I should have gone softer by sourcing blue or navy 4-ply merino. Or should have planned the stripe width and colors more carefully. Hummm.....


Trish Leaves

My friend Trish, who has been a much-appreciated critic of my efforts, even when only family and one other friend knew I was weaving, gave me this card and a handpainted Turkish bowl for my birthday. She knows me well; she knew I'd try to recreate part of this in a draft, and I've been thinking my un-corkscrew. But if I know more weave structures, I'm sure I will have more options to consider, well, as long as they are one-shuttle weaves. (So far the only two-shuttle weave I remember was one warp of Repp for the sample exchange; I was six months behind everybody else AND I was recovering from tendinitis AND I had a sticky warp so it was, let's just say, maddening. )

For those of you looking for a case study on mild (even light-hearted) depression and attempts to reduce intensity/frequency by cognitive behavioral therapy, contact me. I was reading some more of "Feeling Good" by David D Burns, and I was laughing so hard I was shaking. I'm not as harsh a critic as the examples in the book, but I was exclaiming, "Yup, yup, yup" for about 12 pages.

I'm starting to see how people in the creative fields can fall into this trap. My simplistic view is we are our own bosses, critics harsh or not, and quality control inspectors> We often work physically alone, and/or not show or discuss work until they are finished and "ready" to be seen. It's easy to start chasing one's tail and go round and round. In my past work, when I needed to prepare a manual, for example, I had my own ideas but consulted other manuals and discussed the contents and possible improvements from the start; I even had others read parts as I was writing the next part, so the finished product was always a group effort, and I was never isolated. While I enjoy the total control over the "content" of my weaving, the burden of emotional responsibility can accumulate and appear a bit overwhelming when I don't like the look of the last piece, and the warp tension is going silly on the current, and the yarn order on the next project is taking a little longer to arrive.

And in that vein, blogging, commenting and these interactions are good tools/toys for me to stay in the community, as it were.

Thank you, community.


Pride, Confidence and Arrogance

In the last few years, I've twice watched the documentary about Cat Stevens' conversion to Islam and his return to public life as Yusuf Islam. What interests me is the changes in his attitude towards his music in relation to living life with humility. After his conversion, he withdrew from music completely because he felt living a public life was the antithesis of the new life he wanted. No doubt his teachers saw his celebrity bankable; he was persuaded to use his talent in spreading Allah's teachings, and I presume he's reconciled his feeling on the issue.

This morning's post on compliments was quite spontaneous, but it relates to an issue I've had for a while.

In Japan, especially for girls in a Catholic convent school, humility goes a long way, and expressions of false modesty can be considered in good taste at times. Written in English, the previous sentence reads peculiar even to me, but one of the measure of maturity in that country is the ability to not only read, but to speak/write, between the lines.

In New Zealand, tall poppies other than athletes are often cut down promptly, but one is allowed to be quietly confident and go about doing one's thing quietly. And there's a line so fine between being confident and gloating that you can't really know when you've crossed it unless you grew up here, I think.

When I say I'm a newbie at this game of weaving, that's not false modesty; I base that first and foremost on my lack of knowledge of weave structures. I see myself as a kind of new breed of weavers; I have a nifty setup with a computer-controlled 16-shafter, and because I know how the software and loom work, I can weave stuff that looks good to me. But when I'm asked what the structure is, I'm often dumb-struck unless it's twill; often I have to show them the draft and let them figure it out. I didn't study structures the traditional way, I wove plain weave for five years without even getting into color-and-weave, and have been working with twill for the last eight. And I'm not done with either yet.

Beyond that, I don't know how to behave in relation to the stuff I make. I'm greedy about how I want to my stuff to turn out; I see a lot of things wrong with the pieces I weave, and I am never completely happy with my outcome. I don't consider myself a perfectionist; rather I see that so far I haven't lived up to my own standards. And, true, sometimes I am unable to enjoy the fruit of my labor, but only sometimes. On the other hand, I've put in a lot of work in the last few years, changing my life and the way I think and work, in effect the essence of the type of person I am. And in networking with weavers and other artists and arts organizations, and most wholeheartedly in exhibiting handweaving when and where I can.

I would like to be able to weave well and beautifully so I can take pride in every piece I weave; I would like to be quietly confident about my abilities and outcome, but remain realistic about my limitations and shortcomings, and I don't want to be arrogant or overconfident.

So, which self-help do I need for this??

Horizontal Stripe Overalls

I love weavers, and love talking to them about weaving. Just so you know.

Still, sometimes when I'm thinking out loud vague, fuzzy, early ideas, weavers get so bogged down on the mechanism of weaving that I want to shout, "no, no, I'm thinking of something totally different," even though eventually I arrive at exactly what they were suggesting.

Since I posted the previous post, I've got one short "footage" playing in my head over and over: I'm in too-large, horizontal- stripe overalls, running around in circles inside a prison wall at full speed. But I haven't got a shackle, chain or ball.

I'm not saying I recall a specific experience of not being understood, but sometimes it's nice to talk to people who do other things. Maybe Rayna is right; perhaps we should ask why they love our work.

And isn't Rayna's "About Me" great? Aren't we all lucky to have a hobby?


Compliments are hard. I don't know what to say when I get complimented; it was not at all part of my upbringing.

I used to answer compliments with paragraphs and chapters on how things went wrong, and would point out the mistakes even though I had taken pains to hide them. Then Kate from my writers' group told me to "just smile and say, 'Thank you.'" I've stuck to that since, (hence, no wine at openings.)

Peg lead me to this blog post on the subject by textile artist Rayna, and reading comments posted there lead me to Tall Girl Carol Larson, whose few posts I scanned are hilarious.

So what do you do when someone exclaims they love your work?

Sometimes I wonder if it's flattery, or a nice way of acknowledging the artist. Sometimes I feel starting up a conversation from that point appears as if I'm asking for more compliments, or if I'll appear to be gloating. (I can do that, too, you know.) Sometimes I just say "Thank you", but put on a sad piglet look to get details. I've heard Kiwi weavers respond by crediting the fiber or the piece, e.g. "Yes, that one worked well." I've tried this, but it sounded disingenuous unless I sincerely felt that way about that particular piece. Sometimes I wonder why they are not compliment that successful piece instead.

And I can't help wondering if they are testing me if they happen to compliment my "never again" pieces.

I totally agree with Tall Girl who wrote; "It is a polite way of validation without any expense! I usually interpret it as they like the work but can't afford it." Or they don't like it enough to buy it, and I don't think we're being particularly cynical.

I am lucky I have friends who are weavers, artists in other disciplines, art historians, museum curators, gallerists and arts marketers who are able to explain succinctly what pleases or displeases them and can point to artists/places I may want to look up, just for the asking. And their opinions count, even when I disagree, because by telling me what they think, they are expressing something less vague than their undying love for me.

Compliments make me giddy for the moment, and then sometimes I start to speculate why they said it. Sometimes I should stop at at the giddiness.

Twisted Bouts

I went back to Peg's blog to re-read about bout-twisting, and I realized my problem might be a unique one. At one point, Peg seems to have twisted a bout while putting the lease sticks through, ergo the twist.

In my case, I warp a whole bunch of ends, say 250, off of one cone and make my chain. As I wind the back beam, sections within one lot of the warp chain appear/are/become(??) twisted. I was going to keep this a secret until I figured out how it happens, but since I've inadvertently outed myself, I'll have to bite the bullet and show you a picture the next time it happens. Then you can solve my problem for me?

OR, at last might I have come up with a unique, first time ever weaving problem? And is that a good thing or a bad thing??


Now THAT'S an Artist's Studio

Would you like a tour of Bonnie Tarses' studio?

First go to Seattle, then select QuickTime or Flash, then wait to download. When downloading is completed, move your mouse a little to "walk around". (Yeah, don't just stand there forever like I did!!)

The thing I'd like to know is, how did she get to be in three places at once? If I could do that, too, I might be a little more productive.


A Joint Virtual Exhibition, Anyone?

Randy said that Sharon Alderman said she is inspired when she's walking, weaving or ironing. Now I know the first two can bring an adrenaline rush, but I had thought I was the only one who felt a bit giddy while ironing because of all the images and ideas flooding out of my head.

I gave up the idea of not talking to myself while on long walks alone, and wave my arms around like an Italian speaker while trying to get the feel of my next shawl. As to ironing, I'm hopeless when I start grabbing my calculator, playing with the software, lining up yarn cones that I seldom get through my pile at one go. (That's why Sunday morning while watching 4 straight hours of Star Trek derivatives is a good ironing time.)

As for while I'm weaving, the ideas in my head become too noisy I often have to blast the stereo to drown the thoughts so I get on with the ... weaving. Anyway, while working on the Little Man's blanket yesterday, I got this idea, and I want to run it by you.

How would you like to have a virtual joint exhibition? Here's what I'm thinking.

* Weave a small scarf, say 6 inches wide, give or take a few inches, or get one that you've woven, say, since the start of this year.
* These scarves must be handwoven, but can be subsequently embellished or felted.
* Send me up to 3 photos showing different views of the piece, plus some blurb, either about the scarf or about you or both.
* If you like, send me also your headshot, or hand/s-holding-a-shuttle shot.
* I collect all your info, arrange them in visually pleasing manner and upload it either here or on my web site for all to see.

If I can get all photos and blurb by around the end of May, the virtual exhibition can open early-ish June when it starts to get a little chilly down here. I'll make virtual invitations to let you know. It would be nice to get all levels of weavers from different places. I've been toying around the idea of dressing my Rigid Heddle again and have some fussy hand-manipulated fun. It would be nice to get, say... more than four of us?

Would anybody be interested? Please either leave a comment or contact me by email. I look forward to hearing from you.

PS - Ben came up with an alternative idea. If you do have your own blog, we could all agree to post on the same day, and put links to each other, much like the City Daily Photo theme day, and he can easily whip up the link to copy/paste. I'm still very happy to post the scarves of anyone who isn't blogging.

Oh, Bless You, Peg

I am of the belief there is probably not a lot I can do in weaving that is totally, entirely and absolutely original; rather, I'm happy with the thought that somebody somewhere, maybe 500 years ago, did something darned near what I've got on my loom at any time.

Except for "The Twist". For a long time I thought I was the only one who could manage to get portions of my warp twisted. When I wind, say 250 warps from one cone in one go, it would make sense to me for all 250 to get twisted together, but NOOOO. At times I get two or three lots all looking curly and lovely.

Peg said it wasn't my fault, but I read on and she was talking about silk's propensity to twist. Anyway, you'd better hear it from the horse's (sorry, Peg) mouth. Go to "Talk about Weaving" and start around April 1.

And these are called... bouts? A terminology used in boxing and weaving? Live and learn.


Just off the Loom - Southern Man

I finished weaving the "baby blanket" and took it off the loom; it's now hanging in the basement until I tidy/fringe/wash/press it in the next couple of days. You know the drill.

This is the second time this client asked me to weave something; the first was a wedding present in late 2005. The baby blanket was ordered first in late 2006 for her expected first grandchild, but I had my little exhibit coming up so I was unable to comply. Late last year she ordered it once again, in time for the said grandchild's first birthday, which unfortunately was sometime in February. But she had been informed.

Meanwhile, my client sent me a couple of pictures of the little boy, and I was astonished how manly he looked even when he was only a few-months-old and even more so around his first birthday. I knew he lived in the south of New Zealand (the cold end) so I wanted something sturdy and not baby-ish, but the more I looked at his photos the more I knew here was a Southern Man in the making.

The nearest I can think of to the notion of the New Zealand Southern Man is the Marlboro Man, but probably less stylish, says fewer words, and with weather-beaten, wrinkled skin. (Kiwis, feel free to pitch in.) Well, he's a man's man, and this little guy definitely is one.

I imagined a wee boy, at age 1, and 3, and maybe even 5, dragging an old blanket in a cold wooden house, or in the yard, or on the beach, or on a truck, playing, sleeping, crying over a lost fight, and cuddling a dog. (Notice, I didn't say a puppy, and I'm just imagining he lives in a rural environment but I don't know the facts.)

The client suggested a Herringbone, and requested mixtures of natural/cream, blues, navy, and mint green. The warp is in four different 110/2 merinos from natural to mid-blue, with cotton mint green boucle for accent, and the weft is an old-fashioned carpet single in the most delicious navy. The cotton boucle is threaded in addition to the merino wherever the twill changes direction, as I didn't think I had enough warp to test the different shrinkage accurately. The weave is 3/3 dornick woven in double-width.

I felt uncomfortable weaving this, as it's rough and inelegant and not the kind of cloth I like to make; let's just say it's' not "pretty". I'm not sure if the client will appreciate a "baby" blanket that feels more like an old-fashioned itchy wool blanket, though we have been in communication about this, because reading emails about it could be different from opening a parcel and touching it. I am, on the other hand, confident this one will be hard-wearing and versatile. It has been one of the most utilitarian piece I've designed to date.

Shortly before his first birthday, my client wrote me: "He recently discovered the hallway. Up to now he was carried from one room to another, but now that he can crawl, he is fascinated by this space that seemed to have always existed but was never a destination."

I hope she likes it.


Win Currie, Weaver

During the design/presentation weekend, I stayed in the beautiful home of weaver Win Currie. I was billeted with Win back in 2001 when I came out as a weaver and attended my first weaving workshop. Since then, every workshop I've attended in Blenheim Win has attended also and we've come to automatically occupy seats or desks next to each other.

Win is one of the founder members of the Marlborough Guild, but she couldn't tell me what year that was!

She's been very active in Marlborough Tapestry Weavers for a few years now. Though she's worked on abstract group projects as well, for her own projects she likes fine pictorial pieces, often with seabird bird theme. These are about the size of a postcard.

But really, Win is known for her apparently open-weave scarves in fine merino, alpaca and silk. Featherlight, soft and tearfully elegant, her pieces appear loosely woven, but they are designed intelligently and finished heartily, so one need not worry about pilling. These are the shots from her Black and Gold series, something of a trademark and a series Win is rightly proud of.

Next is from a new series of lovely small, casual, unisex scarves. Win has lots of silks, and I got to play with her spools and we selected colors for future warps in this series, so there will be heaps more of these lovely gems.

Win sometimes turns her scarves (and I can't remember what she called them) fluffy and scrunchy. This is one Ben and I fell in love with during the February Weavers' meeting; interesting considering I normally prefer flat textiles. Anyway, need I say more? This now lives in my closet.

The only dilemma I have is this: another of Win's trademarks is the long and elegant fringes. If I shorten and combine the fringes, this scarf can easily be unisex. I have discussed this with Win, so she knows, and I might just do it so Ben and I can share the scarf.

Win Currie Contact

Randall Darwall Workshop Presentation Night

Monday night after the design workshop, I gave my presentation to the Marlborough Weavers. Many of us were still high from the workshop so the presentation proceeded in a jovial, creative atmosphere, and since photos of Randy's scarves can wow even the most cynical, weathered weaver, so suffice it to say the presentation went without a hitch.

Since then, however, I've been wondering about the danger/wisdom of my talking about Randy's workshop, even though I stressed enough times these were my recollections, impressions and interpretations. It's made me realize how little I remember of those frantic five days, and how very little I know him, and I've been feeling somewhat irresponsible about interpreting his words and concepts.

I enjoyed preparing the presentation, going over the notes, and particularly looking at the photographs to select the best ones and cleaning them up, but I feel a little funny about the ethics of it, even though it was a small presentation to my own guild, reporting back, as it were.

But as you see, the weavers had fun putting my RD scarf on Joan in the manner prescribed by Brian Murphy on www.RandallDarwall.com. It really works.

Marlborough Design Workshop Part 2

Here are what I came up with.

I like this one because it's so chaotic, layered, and still ordered, and I can't believe this came to being painlessly and quickly. At the base is an abstract "painting" with pale pastel crayons representing good things in life, washed with purple dye representing my life (which on the whole is cruise-y), washed with diluted black water color to represent depression.

On a A2 sheet, I collaged and then drew some more the bright light at the end of the tunnel which I see even in the midst of a bad patch, (this is what makes me the most light-hearted depressed person in New Zealand!). I tore the first "painting" and pasted in a sun-ray like manner. I added more colorful, good bits in life, including fine lines with a gold gel pen, and then painted over the entire piece with gray. Still not happy with the vividness of the piece, I mixed glue, black watercolor paint and water, and pasted a sheet of white tissue paper over the whole thing with my fingers and hands, and ripped out the tissue over the light.

The tissue paper was bigger than the sheet, so I started cutting it with scissors, but I didn't like the clean sharp edges. I also noticed the entire thing was stuck on the one piece of newspaper that was torn in the corner. And that's when I thought life is messy, so I'm going to keep the over sized tissue and the newspaper as part of my piece. (One of the purple collaged strips didn't fit the A2 but this was planned.)

I didn't like the cloudy feel the tissue paper gave, and at show and tell, someone said I could tear some more of the tissue paper. This I did and it produces a nuance in the greyness I found pleasing. (I tore off a little too much torn on the upper right quadrant after I came home, but that's OK.) I can't see the gold gel pen marks any more, but there are wrinkles and dirt and parts that didn't adhere and bubbles and all sorts. I just can't believe I did something so spontaneous.

The tissue paper gives pleasing nuances, and I've found quite a few usable section when I looked through the square.
I have no idea what that brown substance is in the middle one, but it appeared in two areas, and I love the rusty look. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to use these as a design base for my scarves yet; it would be easier if I felted, or wove tapestries, but I see that that's is not the point, and sometime in the future, an idea based on these may pop up. And even if not, I had fun.

The second one is a time line of a depression episode.

The base was a piece of paper where I made all kinds of marks using India ink and different "brushes" made of paper. At first, I tore the marked sheet in strips and pasted them on an A2 size paper in an orderly manner. I added marks with paint, black ink, and yarns to accentuate the good and the bad bits. Then two minutes before we had to clean up, I decided a proper A2 sheet didn't represent a time line, so I cut it in varying width, and made an uneven strip. I think I could safely say that Alison was astonished by my transformation, that I would think, literally, outside the A2 rectangle, and that I would deliberately cut them in uneven width.

Alison suggested I do something like this during a bad patch, a small piece each day collected to and make a series. We discussed this idea further, and I decided to prepare a box full of materials as I can well imagine not being able to muster the energy to find stuff, but if it's already all in one place, there's less excuse not to. And yes, I did say, "I can't wait for my next bad patch!!"

I started one more, where I let the media work their own thing. It has small pieces of the same purple dye piece in the lower center, with black crayon rays extending in all direction. I applied pale yellow, pink, blue and green water colors on top; in this one, the black crayon is literally resisting the colors. I'm not finished with it, and I'm not sure what I want to do with it, but another person who has experienced depression said this is the best depiction of her experience and asked to photograph it, so I shall keep working on it in my own time.

Looking back, I fought all the way through the correspondence course and the 2005 workshop, resisting forfeiting control, protesting rather loudly, and disliking Alison's methods because they are messy. Had I known how much fun I'd have, I would have done it earlier.

Additionally, I think I did myself a favor in selecting a conceptual research subject, where I couldn't hold a mental picture of an outcome. I must have been in a vulnerable position which allowed me to do whatever Alison suggested; I was fully prepared to surrender to her directions from the start and went into the classroom in a quasi-empty-headed state. Instead of asking Alison non-questions in a squeaky voice, I just took a big table in the corner and mindlessly did my thing. It was liberating. I was visually creating my experience but not re-living it, and I was getting down and dirty. I wasn't worried, and I had successfully surrendered to the process.

I also kept thinking Alison had matured as a teacher, (I'm a teachers' kid, so I'm tough on teachers), but I see now that I was wrong; she's probably been the same fabulous teacher all along, but I never got her until now.

I loved the experience so much, I've continued to doodle and play with paint more or less consistently since I've come back. I really shocked myself when I got my sketchbook out of my pack in Otago Museum and started to draw, with my left hand, some of the Egyptian and Greek artifacts. 

What I do, or don't do with these child-like creations are not important in the first instance, but that I did create them is an accomplishment, and I've now had a taste of being mindful in the moment, or what Zen Buddhist call "mushin", ironically translated in the dictionaries as mindlessness.

Either way, life doesn't get any better than this.


After I finished the correspondence course, I promptly signed up in August 2004 for the merit portion of the design course, which is like an independent study using the methods we learned in the course proper. I'm ashamed to say, but then you know by now, that sining up and paying for it is all I've done so far. No, I take that back, I've had about four false starts, but I still have the instructions and some great research material. I think it's time I emailed the new education coordinator and see if I'm still allowed to work on it and submit it to Alison.

Marlborough Design Workshop Part 1

On the weekend of 15 & 16 March, I went to Blenheim for my guild's design workshop. This is the workshop for which I had to prepare some research material on a landscape theme, and after some to-ing and fro-ing, I decided on "the world as seen by a mildly depressed mind". (We were at the Marlborough Girl Scouts HQ; they must have had a whopper of a Halloween party, don't you think?)

The course was taught by Auckland weaver and design teacher Alison Frances.

Alison and I go back a few years in this battle of the wills. In May 2002, I signed up for the national guild's correspondence course on design; it had six modules and we were expected to start in May and finish in November/December. But because we had to draw (and I can't), and it appeared that nothing I did seemed to please Alison (for a different reason), it took me until July 2004 to complete, and neither of us were happy with my progress. In essence, I can't let go of certain control, and I have a predetermined goal I aim for, so I never experiment freely or tried to get off-track. And to a large extent, this is still how I design my scarves; I see what I want to make and work backwards. I understood her criticism as a concept, but I didn't know how else to do it.

Alison ran a similar weekend course in Blenheim in October 2005 where I enjoyed her teaching and personality, but in retrospect, even then I resisted doing what she was trying to make me do, and looking at the material I can see where I was going, or not going. The one thing I discovered was I learned a lot more by drawing and otherwise using my hands, instead of trying to produce pretty things to show the teacher by using technology. And using my hands was fun and very intimate.

Her methods are not complicated, but challenging if you like planning and control. In this March workshop, we had to select one visual resource from our own collections, and try to reproduce it in different media: crayons and watercolor, ink, oil pastel and turpentine, collage, pencils, whatever. We had to do ripped/torn collage as well as cut ones, and in the course of using these different media, we were to let the media take over and make us reproduce the idea of our subjects, but not necessarily reproduce the picture. These were supposed to be spontaneous and experimental, and we were encouraged to work quickly and make many.

On Day 2, we had to gather all the bits and pieces we made, and put them together using collage, painting over, drawing additional designs, cutting them and rearranging them, etc., in a little more considered, coherent way, based on our knowledge of our individual subjects. Because we had researched our own subjects beforehand, even within our spontaneity, some of the knowledge was supposed to seep through.

And we had a show-and-tell show at the end of the day, where we discussed how some of these material can be used as the basis of a textile project.


Spindle Whorls. Cyprus, Asia Minor, Egypt. Otago Museum, Dunedin.

I've lots to tell you, but I came home from Dunedin with a mild cold, and though I took it easy for the last two days, it's gotten progressively worse. This morning I woke up to a massive headache, with Beloved singing "Happy Birthday" repeatedly, somewhere in the depth of this fog. My eyes are blurry, my ears are ringing, and there doesn't seem to be enough oxygen going into my system. Good grief.

As of sometime later today, I will have been traipsing on this planet for 50 years. (Well, the first couple I might have been carried.) And I've been preparing for this for nearly a year. I'm grateful and relieved I discovered weaving before today, though I wish I'd discovered it earlier so I had time to get out of the murky, desperately passionate amateur stage by now. Or at least I had known a quicker way to progress and improve. On the other hand, I've got to tell you, I've been enjoying the ride, when it was smooth and when it was rough, and the fatalist in me thinks I'm exactly where I'm meant to be today.

Japanese culture places a lot of steps and requirements in aging. By the time you're 30, you should be responsible for your face, meaning you should show age-appropriate wisdom and knowledge. In your 40's, you're supposed to do something big, and in the old days for women, this meant making sure your kids grew up to be descent future citizens with all limbs in tact.

I don't remember Mom or my aunts saying anything about the 50's; they themselves weren't 50 yet, and I never contemplated I, too, could one day be 50. But 50 is also an age when one's supposed to be all grown up and know right from wrong and what duties need doing. Maybe even for a Japanese woman, it's that golden time when we're left alone, because all too soon, we'll be told to "obey our children".

Though it's just another day, a boring old Thursday, I had a few small fun idea, at this rate, it's looking like two aspirins, a tall glass of water, and reading in bed, which isn't bad because I love that very last one. And my parents are 77 and 80 and still living a fairly normal life; amen to that!!