"This is It", as the Man Said

January 31. I'm not sure what I achieved by photographing my lettuce patch for a month, but here we are, the end of the month.  No, I know; I did pretty up the patch considerably more than I would have if you weren't looking.

I was conscientious about taking and uploading pictures, but I'm not sure if I tried hard enough to look, observe or contemplate, in the design context.  I didn't emphasize with the lettuce leaves nor the patch, and I need that shared experience to elevate a relationship; I was always aware I was the master/caretaker and the patch there to service me, so that imbalance discouraged me from taking... the lettuce patch as a serious contender for design inspiration. I learned that much.  

This January we had more changeable weather than usual, I think, including two had-been tropical storms, and far more gusts for this time of year.  But then weather here, like everywhere else, has been changing markedly, so observing is all I do nowadays.  The patch, though, kept us in good supply of leaves, and I admit, this is the first year I made nice salads for lunch for one as well as for two at dinnertime.  And it'll keep giving, though in the left bottom quadrant, I'm sure two packets of seeds morphed into weeds. 

It's a new week and almost a new month and I'm looking forward to working today, though I'm not sure what I'll do: I could finish threading the orange and purple Log Cabin warp, design a commission baby blanket and make the warp, photograph pieces I've got on hand in preparation for Etsy, or hem the cashmere and alpaca scarves piling up on the couch. But no computers today; I overdid it for the Festival yesterday; the entire length of my short right arm, lower back, and eyes hurt. I think some lovely tactile time is needed.


Lettuces and 2012

Last Sunday night we lost the Internet and long story short, we only got it back yesterday afternoon.  So here are my lettuces.

January 24.
January 25 - we had changeable weather last week.  Some rain, some sun, lots of wind.  Elsewhere in New Zealand, the rain that caused havoc in Australia is doing the same, especially on the North Island.
January 26 - we spent the day, (belated yay to Australia Day) in Wellington looking at the Brian Brake photo exhibition at Te Papa.  Awesome photos from the days when photojournalism was star, some before television, all well before the Internet. He apprenticed in a portrait studio, which influenced his "staged" journalism, but still wonderful to see the era through pictures. 

January 27. A totally tired day of not doing anything at all.

January 28 - my parents' friends Ron and Elspeth were in Nelson for a wedding this weekend, so we did the first little bit of the Abel Tasman National Park walk (from Marahau to Tinline Bay) and laughed a lot and ate a lot together.

January 29. A totally tired day of not doing much.

January 30.

It was a good time to loose the connection as I got to weave more and now I have a few cashmeres needing hemming, wet finishing, tagging and recording so I can take them to galleries, as well as the new Log Cabin warp halfway on. I've also started to look into Etsy, at long last. (Desperately needing money is as good a motivation as I can think of.) In fact, I've been feeling great and working well, but that's for another post.

As soon as we regained the connection, I resumed work on something I volunteered for instead of being a member of Marlborough Weavers this year.  In April 2012, Marlborough Weavers' parent group Marlborough Creative Fibre Guild hosts the annual festival for the "national guild", (Creative Fibre, a.k.a. New Zealand Spinning, Weaving, and Wooldrafts Society, Inc., a.k.a. NZSWWS), and I'm setting up such things as a blog/website, Facebook fan page and Twitter.  There is a committee involved, so I have to explain how things work, and they have to discuss and make policy decisions before I can implement, but I'm shielded from the Committee madness and it's been an interesting experience so far albeit at times so slow.  I can delegate decisions and demand texts and photos, which makes the task easy in many ways, but I can't decide anything so everything is a waiting game, and I'm not good at that.  Anyhoo, I'm hoping Marlborough will bring the Festival belatedly to the new century a little bit, (especially the Society really wants more young members coming in) and if I can play a small part, that's great.  I'll put links and such once it's "live" but don't expect it to happen this side of April, to be honest.

In a way it's strange because not being a member of Marlborough Weavers this year means I'm not a member of NG, a.k.a. CF, a.k.a. NZSWWS either, but I'll get back on that loom bench in a year's time.  For now it's nice to have fewer people I have to confer with so I can concentrate on my own work. I will be updating Marlborough Weavers blog, though, whenever weavers send me stuff, so please drop by over there from time to time.


Strange Weather

January 23.  It's been windy so I watered the pots and the patch this morning.  That's why the taller leaves are bowing.  You can see my tiny bok choy in a tidy row, and broad beans on the side, but the two kinds of greens I planted at the top left, one being "easy to grow" endives, have not come out and I swear most of what's growing in that quarter of the patch is weeds.

We're traveling east to Blenheim today, to have a vineyard lunch, to pick up some work I sent for a small exhibition last November, and hopefully, to visit Win Currie.

* * * * *

I am experiencing a strange non-problem with my Artist's Way.  The weekly Artist's Date used to be the highlight of my Artist's Day week, but now almost all of my life is several strains of prolonged Artist's Date, which is wonderful, and I find it difficult to think of something new to do to to massage my right brain.  So I try something like collage or gazing or photography, but they feel more like "work".  I know this is a relatively easy problem to overcome, but I'm heading into Week Four, and I haven't done a proper Artist's Date yet, which feels so strange.

I've been a bit lazy on the walking front, however, and I feel guilty about that.  I think it comes down to laziness, but short walks around the airport yesterday allowed me to sleep well and feel rested this morning, so any fool knows if I did short ones every day and a long one once or twice a week, my life would be oh, so much healthier.


Lazy Saturday

January 22, just before a lazy weekend lunch. Right above me was what is called "Sun Dog"; never seen nor heard it before.

We did another walk around the airport this morning; actually we went less than halfway around and then turned back so did less than a round, but we got to see a few planes take off. We went to the butcher and the veggie shop, so now I'm ready for lunch. It's been a bit hot, though, so the leaves are tired; I shall give them a cold shower and a few minutes in the fridge. And after that, weaving, or something else.


Autum Approaching

January 21, getting ready for lunch.

It's been cooler for a couple of days, my favorite kind of mood, where Summer is having to admit it's not going to last forever. We both know we'll have another blast of heat come February, but I feel settled for now.

But this is the worst time of year for creatures stirring under the roof at night. I hadn't slept well for several nights so I took half a sleeping pill.  This morning I woke up rested but dazed, and have been floating in the house like a silly character from a ghost story.

I'm glad all the pots are still lined up against the retaining wall and the house; there's a bit of lovely wind blowing today; makes me think of my soul moving to a different place a la Chocolat.

I'm having an early lunch, them weaving the last red scarf, ready or not. I'd really like to get the loom ready for the next Log Cabin (or something like it) warp.


Reds, Purples, Grays, and Reds, and Lettuces

Last night I couldn't sleep so I took out the sewing silk sample card I bought when I was home a year ago.  Color samples make me feel good at the end of the day.  Do you do this, too?
This is a catalog more or less for the stores supplying home sewers and I'd imagine other "professionals" may keep on in their work room; it should represent pretty much most colors that meet the needs of today's consumers.  With that in mind, what I noticed was...
At the start of the list were White, Red and Black samples, (not numbered,) red being the old-fashioned orange-red sometimes referred to as "Shu".  (What we might consider the yellow-red and blue-red on the color wheel are at the end of the second row and the start of the third row, though they are not represented well in the top picture.)  So, some tradition survives. 

Children, at least of the 60's and 70's, used this red to draw the sun.  When I returned home to Japan at age 6, having lived in Tucson and visited at least one meteor crater, observing all other children including my cousins draw a great big red circle in the sky was most alarming; either these children had collectively experienced a catastrophe they did not wish to discuss, or they were prophesying one.  After a few months, Mom explained to me that in Japan, sun was generally drawn in that orange red, even though we all see the yellow sun.  That was my first experience with color and symbolism, though I still think she could have told me sooner.  
Next I noticed there were relatively few purple threads, compared to what I believe we live with, what we see in textiles and ceramics, in the flowers in gardens, and the names that remain in our vocabulary.  The most notable omission is the absence of the darkest blue purple we call "Nasu-kon" or Aubergine Navy Blue, one of my all time favorite colors.  Mom and I had noticed a decline in the use of Nasu-kon in the last decade or so.

Another thing I wasn't thrilled about was the small number of blues not influenced by yellow, compared to blues which were closer to, or in some cases outright, teal, particularly in the mid-to-dark range.
But fear not.  If you are a fan of grays, well, we have died and gone to heaven.  There are even more on the row above, with hints of yellows and browns.  Bliss.

* * * * * 
Yesterday I started my third scarf on the red warp using the dark brown-burgundy silk mix weft.  It's a most interesting color, you might even call it chocolate or hot cocoa; the scarf is very late-evening, very cloudy-rain, and very grown-up looking.  Not having woven one with blueish or purplish wefts, I was going to weave the last piece with a mid-blue-purple weft, pleasing enough on the sample.  Arter I put some cotton thrums through before I got started, I started contemplating greens again. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't have cashmeres close to these cottons, so I'm back to carrying my tiny sample like a security blanket, pacing, wondering what to do.

* * * * *

After the red warp I'm going to put on the other log cabin warp; I actually made this warp first when I was thinking of log cabin; is has medium blue purple and the burnt/dirty orange used in the first scarf, and I made a warp in this combination because back then I thought purple and orange were complementary.

Using both the purple and orange in the weft in the last few pieces, I was taken aback every time I looked up because neither are boring colors, but in the warp chain they both look somewhat bleached out and unattractive, the orange in particular.
On my screen, this is pretty close to how the yarns appear in real life.  In the red sample the orange is richer and deeper, and the purple (used in the strip right above the orange) darker.  I am looking forward to a whopper of a sampling session for this warp.

The other consideration is the structure of log cabin; as much as I have enjoyed weaving the previous warp, it is, after all, a plain weave, so the vertical/horizontal changes occur across the length/width; the cloth is a series of squares and rectangles.  And because the loom I'm using has four shafts, I have been wondering if I can introduce some kind of a block element so I can stagger at least the horizontal changes.  But I'm only at a mental note-to-self stage.

* * * * *
January 20, just before lunch.  After I took this photo, I put down my camera and harvested mostly purple but some green leaves for lunch.


And Now for Something Completely Different...

What on earth was I thinking selecting a lettuce patch to observe for a whole month? Other than it was on my mind in late December; I was thinking I desperately needed to weed and tidy up so I can get my daily leaves on the cheap. And perhaps I wanted to observe something I would never normally select, something on a smaller scale and easy to focus and concentrate. And something about which I was in no thread of holding practical considerations, as in weeding.  So here it is.

January 19,  9.15PM.

There are a few colors, shapes and textures in my patch.  My eyes go straight to the purple lettuce leaves because that is what I like to eat.  On sunny mornings, the scent of basil distracts me.  And then the clovers because they are not supposed to be there.  I like the darker orange of the marigold, but I think it look lovelier when standing next to the yellower marigold, or above moist dark soil. 

I pay much attention to the tiny shoots coming along.  Rocket sprouts within days of sowing.  In the bottom right quadrant, bok choy (I think that's where I put them) are on their way.  Ben loves that we have green onions in the patch this year (first time) but there is his big footprint in the middle left, and there are seeds under it, too. Right under me, I did put in the second packet of broad beans, and they have come out.  I don't know if they will grow this late in the season, but I was particularly unsatisfied by the first lot so I'm hoping.  Broad bean sprouts are big and healthy and strong, nothing sprouty about them.  They look like embryonic leaves, (I think that's how I want to describe them) rather than "regular" sprouts that look totally different from the plants they will become. 

The soil is intriguing; after a few sunny windy days, it turns dry and lighter in color.  When I water, if the soil is very dry, the water won't go in straight away but sits on top and contemplates before allowed in.  Some evenings I think I soaked the patch well enough, but when I pick a few weeds the soil can be dry just under the surface.  And then other days, like today, after a good soak and then sun and wind, the surface will look dry, but under the surface the moisture still remains.

These are all things I learned in grade school, but a) I have to "live" it to relearn it, and b) because I am unsophisticated in my thinking, I am starting to develop a Pavlovian dislike for the color and texture of the dry soil.  I weeded a little bit at lunch time.

I love marigolds, but I only ever plant them around my veggie patch.  Next year, I might put them all over the place.  Cute, healthy and lovely smelling, I have no idea why I never thought of it as a "proper" flower.  

I found two pansies growing amongst the purple lettuces. :-)

A Day's Work

What do you do after a Big Bang Mojo day, when there's "storm" (and I use quotation marks with a most sarcastic of intentions) brewing outside?  Why, work in the basement, of course.

I tried not to expect the kind of high I felt on Monday again, because I would have been disappointed, so I tried to think.  Instead of moving on to other hues, I wanted to stick to the dirty orange range and I sampled with a) a dark burgundy with a bit of brown in silk/cash mix, b) a slightly dirtier orange, and c) Monday's dirty orange and said slightly dirtier orange used alternately.  I looked at the unfinished scarf, and the samples from near and far, with all available lights and with only a few of them. 

I still couldn't decide, so I brought down every single cone and ball of cashmere and silk/cashmere mix I own downstairs and sorted them.

In the end, because I can get three or four scarves from this warp, I went in another direction.  I wove with a mid/dark gray weft; this is the one where the value is so close to most of the reds in the warp that the reds almost disappear.  I'm not sure if I like it as a scarf, but the finished cloth, to me, has a look of the gray weft devouring the reds.

(The bottom gray.)  And how have I come to own so many pink cones??

Oh, I thought I'd shoot the lettuce around dusk for a change.


Where is the Storm??

January 18.  As of 111 minutes ago we were supposed to be hit by two previously-named-but-subsequently-downgraded tropical storms. We lined up the flower pots against the house and turned the outside tables upside-down last night, but so far, though, we've had lovely steady rain.

Having waxed lyrical about habits in yesterday's post, my real concern is I'm not observing nor contemplating about the lettuce patch beyond what needs doing and what is ready to eat.  I'm not looking at it the "right" way, and I'm not sure how to.

Ali the Mentor is moving out of Nelson, a good friend's father passed away, and though neither surprised me, it's still sad.  Two super good friends who were a couple decided to go their separate ways, though they are cool, modern people who will remain great friends and we can have them over together or separately.  And my friend Liz's dog died of a heart failure at age 14.  A lot of things are changing around me.

* * * * *

I've heard from several of you in the last few weeks you could not leave comments. I've had problems, too: mine is usually "comment is too long, could not post" and then when I check back, they're there.  I'll keep modifying the setting to see if the situation improves. I love and appreciate your comments, (no need to mention "lettuce", either,) so please keep trying.  Otherwise, I get that paranoid-about-talking-really-loudly-in-a-great-big-stone-structure-hall-and-hearing-only-the-echoes-of-my-voice thing, you know.

* * * * *

Having gotten my mojo back yesterday, I'm wondering how to keep it and nurture it, and retrieve it more quickly when I loose it.  Yesterday I felt elated, today I feel contended; it's more a confidence thing, a vindication from within.  Or it was possibly just adrenaline.

I have been thinking a lot about color combinations, though not exactly thinking as I know how, but more questions and observations running in the back of my mind almost constantly.  I've had the Lambert tome under my bed for a few weeks, but I haven't opened it yet because, for now, I want to savor the-cloth-color-being-different-from-the-sum-of-colors-used mystery; I'll delve into simultaneous contrast and the like later.

Mom often says "colors are 'mamono'."  Now this is a very hard word to translate: it could be a demon, a ghost, or any variety of supernatural being, or extreme (and often deviant) characteristics in some humans, but what's common in all things "mamono" is they are unknowable/unexplainable, or more like unwise to investigate lest you open a Pandora's universe, if you get my drift.

I like to think colors are slightly mysterious but more in a fairy's world and less, one might say, sinister.  Not that my mother fears colors or experimenting with them.  And she is a prolific hit-or-miss dyer.  I like the idea of floating and traveling between different worlds of colors.

I think I need a good graphic designer or illustrator to draw me a winged hippo now.


Mojo has Returned

Oh, what the heck, you don't need my usual long-winded explanation.  I just went ahead with the burnt/dirty orange weft, and I put on a Joe Cocker CD and all doubts disappeared.  This is going to be one heck of a grown-up scarf with a OTP name like "You can Leave your Hat On" or "You Give Me Reason to Live".  It's been a WHILLLLLLE, folks!

Sometimes it's so simple.

Monday, Monday...

January 17.  Last night was another hot night. I went to bed at 10.30 and tried to read but couldn't so I watered the plants at 11PM.  (Crikey, the clover leaves look chipper...) I tried to read again but couldn't and Ben came to bed at midnight and we tossed and turned and fought for the cool part of the sheet but we couldn't go to sleep so we had a nightcap and watched half an hour of a B- or C-SciFi movie. Now he wants to rent that DVD.  I'm tired today, the kind of tiredness only weaving can fix.

Clearly I mused about habit-formation over the weekend... But it's still true.

* * * * *

Habit is an interesting thing. I no longer question the validity of photographing my lettuce patch for a month and posting and contemplating. I think of it first thing in the morning, and unless I have other intentions, (i.e. photograph it in the afternoon sun,) I do it as quickly as practicable.  It's not that I don't reflect, but my thoughts are on the shallow, practical end: what's growing, what needs doing, etc. At the moment, because I haven't come up with deeper reflections on the subject, I don't have particular hopes for the experiment contributing to a design in the near future, but since it's such a low-keyed "project" I'm not worried about that. (I mean, it's a lettuce patch, you know?) Still, I said I'd do it, so I intend to do it until the end of the month.

What has been interesting, though, is me and habits. I am a good starter.  I have lots of resolutions and plans all year around, but with some, my interest wane all too quickly.  I try to make certain activities, (exercise, accounts for my "business",) a habit, something I don't have to think/question/debate about, something I do more or less painlessly, ideal something that feels wrong to skip.  Some activities I pick up quickly, some not so in spite of great resolve and even a reward. I've tried to make certain aspects of work a habit, too; weaving on one of the looms every single day even just a little bit, even if I'm busy planning, making drafts or warps, dressing another loom, finishing pieces, whatever; drawing one-a-day; working on Ali-mentored design projects one halfday a week, (this shouldn't be hard because I do so enjoy it); and one of the easiest, keep a journal of small observations/musings which may (or may not) contribute to design ideas later on.  You get the picture.  But it seems I'm pretty bad at sticking to a plan. Ergo the simplest plan with the lettuce patch.

So I want to prove to myself I can do something I said I'd do, and stick with the plan.  And after the month of lettuce patch pictures is finished, I may try to pick up a new habit, something I'm prone to examine with  more interest. Because planning a new project is always more fun.

* * * * *

Sampling has two lovely scarves for the Queensland Flood Relief Appeal Auction here.  Do have a look.

I stood behind a flower pot and bent down to shoot from above. It wasn't planned, but I felt... tall.


How to Look

I've been gazing at some of Ben's photos, in preparation for my bit in the TinyTiny Collage Project; not collaging yet as I had enough disappointment/disillusionment/embarrassment with the sketchbook experience, so just gazing at the moment.  (Shivers, my pages still look horrible; these winkled, rippled pages will haunt me longer than the no-good unfinished scarves under my couch.)

I know I look at vastly different visual sources in pretty much the same way when I'm meant to select portions of interest: I look at tiny segments, my preference being macro shots, and point out either interesting lines or shapes, or color combinations.  The method works; lines and shapes make great motifs which can be repeated, turned, overlapped, etc, making, as we all know, patterns/repetitions relatively easily recreated on the loom.  I get through my assignments with relative ease. 

But there has got to be other possibilities: other ways of looking at visual sources, additional ways of analyzing and utilizing/manipulating areas of interest beyond the straight-forward "transfers", other ways of basing textile designs on visual clues.  I need to  investigate and learn new ways of looking.  

Fav pics of the day are the reflections on the table and the different blues in these two pics.  I like the gradation on the left side of the top pic, as well as the shapes and the lovely value contrasts in the right side.  I am also drawn to the sharper reflections in the left side of the bottom pic, but it already looks like a piece of checked cloth and is too easy a choice.  See what I mean?  

Old, New and New-Old

Ben's been going on and on about a new photographic experiment this weekend, and it took me some time to understand what all the fuss/fun was about.

He recently bought a 60mm Holga plastic lens which is meant to give the pictures on his big camera an  appearance of toy camera photography.  (Here are some experiments he did with a real plastic toy camera on film.) At the end of that lens, he stuck one of our plastic magnifiers, his is big and x8, mine tiny and x10.  The setup allows us to feel a very personal involvement with the object and especially the photographs; the larger x8 magnifier yielding photographs we liked better than my small x10 seen above.

I've been trying to understand interactions of colors in my red cashmere warp sample better, in particular the combination of several reds in the warp and a dirty orange weft.   

The experience of photographing in this manner as well as the photos confirms my naked-eye observation the dirty orange is "lifted" by the warp colors, (I've been describing it "pinkified" which cracks him up,) and you can see the different reds in the warp a little bit.

A tad moodier than a shot with my tiny camera, I think the new-contraption photo conveys the loveliness of the cashmere better, and I think it's a little more than the difference in the sharpness of focus or closeness. 

Or maybe it's just a Sunday evening thing.

Clover Army

January 16.  As soon as the sun is up, I can smell the faint aroma of my tiny basil plants; it's one of those unexpected things that is so tiny and brief, but the pleasure received is immense and sometimes even memorable.   Practically speaking, I am annoyed by the clover leaves coming up with a vengeance, and hope to weed them in the next couple of days in the afternoon coolness. 

It didn't take too long for me to get back inside my head yesterday, as once again I'm feeling I don't have enough time to try out all the ideas I have. And I'm not physically tired. But I had to spend quite a bit of time washing more dishes and posts from Thursday night. Finally all done.  But the oven looks like it could use some TLC...

* * * * *

Last night I felt the living room looked oh, so wrong, with all my work stuff out of the way. I was ready to resume work, or activities associated with textile or design, and I did, I looked through Ben's photographs choose ones to play with, finding interesting lines, motifs, trying to select pics that are different from what I normally select, but not in the living room.

This morning, I like the comparatively stark emptiness; it provides space to breathe deeply and, would I be right in describing it "loosely"? It appeals to the person who always wanted to live in a disused art gallery with all the walls and nooks ready to display art, a space created for appreciative minds to leave the daily busy-ness and be with oneself, a space waiting to be adorned thoughtfully, but not just yet.  So much potential it makes me head spin, and I get all that from a cleared coffee table and surrounds, lucky me.

I might try to contain my work in the stash/design room and downstairs for a while.  Even though I know it won't last.

* * * * *

I've been meaning to show you the stamp on Lalla's Christmas card; a commemorative joint issue celebrating 45 years of diplomatic relations between Kuwait and Romania, and guess what?!
I wanted to know if the entire series is dedicated to textiles of crafts from both countries, and leave it to bloggers around the world to do us a favor; here they are, though I was hoping for multiple textile stamps, the Romania version, (the currency and the Arabic lettering being the difference.) 

Lalla's father was the biggest philatelist I've known in my life, and by "knowing" I never met Mr Jones but since Dad has always been prolific in buying and using interesting Japanese stamps, we facilitated their exchanging stamps a couple of times. And this year she addressed the card in my maiden name. I'd like to think all this is pointing me in a new direction.


Weekend, and Life Returning to Normal

January 15. Noon. Sunny.

I canceled tonight's Textile Lunch do. None of the original group could come, and in all I would have had three out of 12 invited attend, which would have been great because these are active and knowledgeable women, but then one got sick and after speaking to Pat, I decided to cancel.

I felt a little unpopular all week, but I heard enthusiastic apologies from unexpected quarters, from people I know less well, looking forward to the next do.  Today I don't feel like organizing another, but there is definitely a new group of textile friends emerging, be they in an organized, regular study group, or more loosely in the periphery.  And these women are helping me move on to the next thing.  

Realistically, though, I am still a bit tired from Thursday night, and a teenage party on our street last night, (VERY loud, started a little after lunch, but this house unfailingly begins to wind down every party around 10.30 and by 11 they're contained; good on them!) so I don't mind an afternoon and evening of retreating into my head.

The living room has looked strange with all of my work bits moved out; time to bring the stuff back.

* * * * *

Shipbuilding is taking part in the Queensland (Australia) Flood Relief Appeal Auction and has offered a lovely handmade broach.  Anyone in need of a splendid gift for yourself or a loved on?


T. G. I. F.

January 14, 4PM. I've been exhausted today, washing dishes in increments, but otherwise my mind is blank. It's been a very long week.


Overnight Rain, Clovers, and Inadvertently Busy

January 13. We had some overnight rain, with or without which the clovers are coming up with a vengeance now that the coast is clear, though the edible leaves including those forcefully relocated Saturday are doing well.

With the tax work dropped off at the accountant's office, I was looking forward to a lovely, solitary few of days of weaving.  However, in a few minutes, you will find me frantically trying to childproof the living room, the loo and the kitchen and tidy at least the approach to the front door.

Yukiko and Kazuki from Auckland, lovely friends on their tenth wedding anniversary trip, are coming over for a "Kiwi" barbie tonight.  With them their two little daughters, (they are good girls but one may be too young to understand a weaver has scissors, needles, and all sorts of other dangerous or delicate things strategically place all over the house), and Yukiko's parents.  Even though I'd rather spend more of my time weaving than gardening, it is at times like these I feel terribly embarrassed and guilty about being a slack housewife.  I feel the primordial Japanese-female-ness creep up expecting older Japanese people - a combination that makes me sit up straight and see my lifestyle from a more conventional perspective.  Plus, usually in Nelson this time of the year, I could have concentrated on improving the outside and cleaning just the loo, but there is rain forecast, wouldn't you know!! 

Still, Yukiko and Kazuki are funky, stress-free couple, so I forgive them for being conscientious veggie gardeners, and I know we'll have a lovely,memorable evening.  I have first-time textile visitors Saturday night, too, so you could say it's two birds with one stone. Or a boulder.  

And a shout-out to Yoko in Kyushu: I hope it's OK for me to show Yukiko your Christmas card.  Let me know your current email address, please? 


A Visitor

January 12.  Because I've photographed the lettuces about the same time, in the early to mid morning most days, I thought to shoot them in the glare of the mid-afternoon for a change. When I looked up from the kitchen, though, I had an unexpected visitor - our resident C Street tui . For a moment he was sitting on the taller stick staring at the lettuces, (or something else), and then he hopped on to the baby rocket area, even after I quietly opened the door, but then a few seconds later he was gone.  I must not have had whatever he hoped to catch.

We have a little breeze this morning.


Sketchbook, "Art Scarf", and Questions and Answers

I procrastinated far longer today, but I finished the tax work. What a relief! So on to more pleasant subjects.

Well, the first is not exactly "pleasant"; I feel ambivalent about this. My Sketchbook Project sketchbook left Nelson yesterday, January 10; I stuck a note asking them to mark the postmark date clearly; I hope they obliged. I did a lot of collage pages, because I was reluctant to draw, partially because I'm not confident, but also because the paper was thinner than I expected; I didn't want to use wet medium.  Even the markers bled through.  And I couldn't believe how hard it was to draw outside the drawing class, so I brought the book to class a couple of times and worked quick drawings into the book. 

I like collaging for my own pleasure, or to share with friends, but certainly not for the public to see. Among other things, the stores discontinued my fav glue stick so I used another which left blobs and gobs all over. I also tried my PVC, but that was worse.  I had to separate the pages and let the book dry for a few days! I now know I can do some layered collages; I even tried some doodling on top of the collage, but I still prefer the simpler pages. 

When I was working on the project, I had in mind as a reader/viewer a child or a young person who knew little about weaving. I tried to show a little bit of how one weaver's mind works but result was a mishmash of half-baked ideas, I felt. I managed to stick in three drafts, and three woven samples, but the sketchbook felt... unresolved.  If I were ever to do this again, and I honestly don't know if I will in a hurry, I may take no prisoner and launch straight into hard-core weaving stuff. I tend to underestimate the intelligence of young people, and if I provide enough visuals, weaving makes sense to people even if they don't know the parlance, I think. I also tried to introduce New Zealand, but halfway through I saw too much of it and pasted over some pages.

I think my book has the look and feel of a moderately successful middle-school student project.  Enough said.

* * * * *

I don't want to get too hung up on the words, but I think I'll try to envision what I'm calling "art scarf" when I plan each piece from now. I'm not declaring it's art, it's not a challenge, but I like the name and it tells me what I have in mind.  Just a thought.

* * * * *

I've been working on Julia Cameron's "Walking in this World", the second of The Artist's Way trilogy, since the start of the year.  When I work on The Artist's Way books, I'm conscientious and serious, but this time I'm skipping the Morning Pages, an introspective journal she'd like us to work on first thing in the morning every morning.  It is an interesting exercise, and I got a lot out of it when I worked on "The Artist's Way" in 2002; I pretty much lived in the The Artist's Way world for three months.  But in 2008, when I started to work on "Walking in this World" the first time around, I couldn't get my head out of the peculiar Julia Cameron world and I had to either strop weaving for the duration, or stop working on the book, and I chose the latter.

From time to time I need some gentle coaching and hand-holding, and I've been thinking about redoing this second book.  On New Year's Eve, the idea came to me that I didn't have to do absolutely everything, and I decided to skip Morning Pages.  It's a big part of The Artist's Way experience, and I felt like a renegade, but I'd rather keep weaving, and for me blogging and pretty much everyday living provides enough introspection so I'll be alright.  I can always sit down any time of the day and write the kind of journal entry if I wanted to, if I think it helps.

The Artist's Way books try to nurture the artist/child in everyone, and part of the process leads to reflections on our childhood and whether we were encouraged/discouraged to engage in art, and if so by whom.  Inevitably some of this leads to blame. I had a volatile relationship with my parents when I was a child and I wasn't even aware of it then, so it's been painful learning about it through this process but more through counseling for depression.  But you see, I'm 52, and even if I did have a strict,. volatile, and anxious upbringing, that was the past and I don't want to waste my life and energy rehashing it any more.  This is another reason I'm skipping the Morning Pages. 

That being said, she makes us do a variety of interesting and fun tasks, and I still think back to a few of the things I did in 2002.  This week, I astonished myself when I couldn't finish these sentences. I usually have multiple answers for this sort of quizzes, so there is definitely changes happening in my head, and I'm curious to know where it's (I'm?) going.  And if it's that dreaded lack of imagination, I do hope it's temporary. 

* If it weren't so foollish, I'd love to try _____
* If I were 21 again, I would let myself study _____
* If it weren't so nuts, I'd love to try _____
* If I gave into my secret dream, I would let myself _____


Trying to Observe

January 11; I'm trying to make this not about me but about the lettuce patch and the lettuces.

There is so much clover here this year, they are hard to eradicate and I'll have to think of something drastic when the lettuce season ends. We haven't had the horrible winds and the evening temperatures have been saner, so the leaves are doing better; the ground hasn't been dusty dry for a while but I am also watering more conscientiously.

The lettuces seem to grow upright and nicer from the point of view of harvesting when planted closer together than when planted spread apart.  Having said that, the ones you see upright have been harvested (chopped at around an inch off the ground) a few times, and I wonder if this helps.This made me consider Japanese commuter trains; urban Japanese don't necessarily have better postures, so we must require more sun!  :-)


Let Me Try This Again

On Reading Rachel Beckman front, it's still early days, but she touched on my favorite topic for the first time in her blog here, (I've been dying to know how she reconciles the not-very-high status weaving commands,)  proving herself to be versatile, an artist, a beautiful and optimistic soul, a totally different kind of a beast, (a "beast" like a gazelle to my hippo! And that's not self-deprecating because I love hippos; I feel an affinity towards their mostly-submerged life.) I learned from how she stands by her work.

About my not having the tools to think about "art" making: I think about what I do, plan my pieces, and in a half-detached, fearful way, struggle with combining concepts with cloth weaving, much the way one uses extra-long tongs to pick up trash.  Sometimes I spend too much time thinking and not enough doing, but I am reconfirming my suspicion I lack the tools (understanding of the art school parlance??) to think constructively and be able to converse about my cloth making.  It's a pleasure and a privilege to be able to read Rachel's thinking and how ideas manifest into tangible work.  So what can I do to think more effectively?  For starters, to be more vigilant about the vocabulary.

The easiest thing is, for the foreseeable future, (until I feel more qualified and I do hope some day I do,) I'm going to stop thinking of myself as an artist but a maker, a craftsperson, an artisan (who are they anyway??), a weaver. It doesn't matter what the name is, I suppose, as long as I keep weaving.  But I still believe it is valid to discuss the art of weaving, the craft(s-person-ship) of weaving, and weaving as artwork.

About her critiques and my Textile Lunch Group: Firstly, the Textile Lunch group plus a whole lot of other textile women in Nelson are coming to my house on Saturday.  Originally it was in lieu of the end-of-the-year lunch, but I wanted to see a bunch of others, too, and they happen to be all involved with textiles, and many have known each other far longer than I've been in New Zealand, so I decided to invite them all.   

But the more I thought about constructive criticism and mutual encouragement, and that I think my Textile Lunch group has run its course, and because I know at least two others would like a regular group, I thought I'd gather as many as souls as I can and sound out some ideas.  I'd love it if my old TL friends would come, too, but I think the focus need to be on current practitioners this time.    

A common vocabulary is a great tools in sorting one's thoughts and speeds up the discourse.  When a meaningful discourse takes place, if we're careful and focused on the discourse and not the one-up-person-ship, remain genuine and honest, and I think stay in the discussion for some length of time, it has got to be a wonderful stimulation on individual (and collective) creativity.

In the end, whatever I call myself, (the tax department calls me "textile worker - miscellaneous" or similar,) whatever methods I employ to design and make my cloth, if I can make a few pieces once in a while I can be proud of, on which I'm happy to put my name, pieces that satisfy me, that's what matters.  But if I can have friends to hold hands with, in real life and in virtual life, to get over my rocky bits or to help their steep bits, that would make the experience of "making" , and therefore our lives, even more meaningful, doesn't it.

I think that's what I wanted to say in yesterday's post

* * * * *

I've been good today.  I was supposed to take my tax return information to my accountant today, but I was far from finished, so this morning, I unplugged the Internet connection from my laptop and concentrated on the task.  I had to connect again, because so many bills and statements are online nowadays, but I resisted the temptation for short breaks and kept working.

I'm only about halfway done, but by this time tomorrow, hopefully, I'll be finished for another year.


January 10.  The purple lettuces I moved are doing well; the crisp green ones, yet unknown. I have to use some of the basils because the rapid growth of the row on this side is depriving the sun from the shorter row behind.  This morning I deadheaded marigolds, and my hand smells lovely.

I love lettuces of any and all variety.  In addition, I love endives but have never been successful in growing them and I don't see them in stores too often. I love bok choi and have had successes, though sometimes they grew so big I wasn't sure if I wanted to eat them.  I love rocket; sometimes I have nothing but rocket growing, but I always call this my lettuce patch.  I like spinach but they tend to bolt quickly, and the first tine I grew New Zealand spinach, I was flabbergasted because they have thicker, very hairy leaves; I was tempted to pull them out and throw them in the compost bin, but tried cooking with them once and found they tasted the same, but with a tad more volume.

I love cabbages, too, but have not tried to grow them.

Today, I must (will?) work on my tax returns. 


Words, Words, Words...

I have several trains of thoughts taking place at once, and I feel I muddled them up, so I've taken off this post for now and will try to rework it. Sorry.


January 9.

I tidied the lettuce patch before sunset yesterday. You could say I bulldozed my way, moving lettuces, making way for more seeds. And I crammed so many more seeds, bok choi, endive and sorrel, far more than what the packets recommend. All for my aesthetic pleasure and convenience. You could say I have an industrial approach to my lettuce patch.

While walking around the airport Ben took a few pictures of me. They were astounding in that what I look like on the outside is so totally different from what I look like from the inside out. The situation is dire.

West-facing window at dusk, fig tree, navy blue window shade; the combination look like a Yukata design, especially this time of the year.


An Eye for the Man-Made

Ben and I went for a walk around the airport this morning.  In our little old Nelson, you can walk around our little airport, on a City-Council-created track called, ahem, the Airport Parameter walk.  In fact, I like to wait until a plane departs or arrives so I can see them fly right above my head, but today we found out that is not allowed, that you're to stop at a certain point if you see/hear a plane.  I had always thought the sign was meant for airport maintenance vehicles, but Ben though otherwise. Oh, well, close enough.

About half of the track goes around the airport as you and I may know it, and then it wraps around the grassy part where smaller planes and helicopters land and take off, and then it's the far end of the airport, and through small pre-fab office buildings of car rental and distribution businesses.  That's the route on the right-hand side if you go clockwise.  On your left-hand side the track starts with an estuary, then Waimea Inlet with Rabbit Island across the way, and then the dreaded golf course where I keep picturing me getting hit on the head or the face with a stay golf ball.  You may get a sense of it from the map below.  The whole walk, if you walk briskly like a Kiwi, takes less than an hour, but if you stop and shoot like we do, about an hour and a half.

View Larger Map

It's a nice walk, especially if you start off early enough so you are not walking under the scorching sun.  Whenever we go on walks like these, we regret we don't do it often.  Ben looks around in his slow, careful way, but I think he likes the sea and the birds, whereas I'm interested in the planes; I never tire of looking at planes arriving and departing and travelers getting off and on and luggage carts toing and froing with pretty much the same-looking suitcases. I also like to think of the last/next trip to Wellington which is only 25 minutes away.

See, Nelson is wasted on me.  If you like swimming, kayaking, hiking or even skiing and snowboarding, all these are available within an hour from our house.  But me, I would rather go to several bookshops in succession, (Nelson has only one independently-owned bookshop and two used-book stores,) galleries, (of which we have a good number for the size of the town,) museums, walk around town gazing at buildings, gates, bridges, preferably old stone ones, (of which we have not,) and end up in a theater in the evening, (don't get me started on this one.)  A good day of walking, to me, is visiting a big museum or two and going to every single floor and reading every single blurb on the wall.

I am attracted to man-made things, like architecture, sculptures, urban parks; I am interested in stories of people. I enjoy reading history and biography.  Sometimes living in a small place without a sense of history frustrates me; it makes me feel as if I am living on a cardboard city.  I also think my art-making would be so much better if I lived in a place where architecture/cityscape were beautiful.  

But Nelson is a beautiful place; we have a big sky and lovely water.  Always in the background are the  hills that can surprise you with white stuff on top when you didn't expect it.  And though small, it is a community kind towards artists and art-making, and if I packed my looms and moved somewhere, I could do much, much worse.  I know this.

How Many Posts Shall I En/title "Lettuce"?

January 8.  We had crazy wind and blaring sun yesterday, and the ground looked dry, but thanks to the rain on Thursday, the ground under the surface was sufficiently moist.  I know this because when I watered, the water stayed on the surface and created small pools, whereas last week before the rain, no matter how much I watered, it went right though as if through a sieve.

I am happy to see the quick regeneration of lettuce in the lower right quadrant.  And some (most) of what I thought was new weed growth in the on the top right quadrant turned out to be the rocket I sewed on Tuesday.  I must have spilled the seeds for them to create an L-shape, because I thought I made two short horizontal rows.  Basil at the far end is taking off now that I've removed the bolted rocket and the sun hits them directly.

Ben likes to keep the green onions until the moment he wants to use them; I'm tempted to take them all out and weed and put bok choi in.  I've left the lower left quadrant empty so I can kneel and weed between the onions; must do this really soon.  


Returning Where?

With the red cashmere warp, I found myself revisiting something I did at the earliest stages of my weaving.

I think it was in 1997. I had owned my first four-shaft jack floor loom for two years, but never wove on it, because I was intimidated by it. And even though I coveted four shafts so I could weave twills, and undulating twills in particular, the first warp I finally decided to put on was plain weave. I think I told myself I wanted to get used to the loom first, but the fact is, having woven only on a rigid heddle for so long, the concept of twill boggled my rigid mind, and I did not understand the structure.  And I still tend not to try a new structure until I "understand" it.  (I wove my first undulated twill in, I think, 2002, on my current jack loom.)

I wanted to weave a set of napkins/serviettes with my Swedish cottolins, of which I had many shades of blue, a green, a pale yellow and a pink.  But I wanted something more than mere arrangements of colors.

I found a lovely example in "Handwoven's Design Collection 15: Sensational Scarves", page 4, and of course it was a lovely blue piece.  The example uses two weights of cottons in stripes in the warp and the weft, ergo creating a check with density.   I read the instructions on page 2, and to my amazement, it was dead easy to understand.  There was the minor point of the example using threads of two weights, whereas all my cottolins were the same size, but I figured using three ends in place of the thicker yarn would work, so I put on a warp.

The vertical stripes worked like a charm, but my beating was unsteady and I decided to weave in stripes and not checks. (To this day, I am intimidated by strips for fear of inconsistent beating.) Here they are, 14 years later, my well-loved set is a little stiffer, but still in use especially when we go on picnics.
Back then, I don't remember calculating the different DPIs, but I played it by ear, or eye in this case.  And I admire my gutsy newbie self.

I had a warp in five or six different reds in a random order, and some time in the last week or so for no apparent reason I had decided I was going to weave the same crammed/spaced plain weave.  But this time I changed the width of "stripes" as well as the EPI several times before I was willing to sample.

At first I wanted to weave "clear" colors, and tried dark grays and black as well as several purple/blues.  But I enjoyed the unexpected results in my last warp, where the color of the cloth were quite different from what one might expect looking at the individual colors used.  (I promise I'll take pictures of the Log Cabin scarves once I wet-finish them.) I wanted to do some samples with unexpected combinations, and with a red warp, what better (or worse) than green wefts??
I like the "clarity" in sample with the darkest purple weft; it would be a rather stark looking piece.  The different reds stand out equally against the black weft, making it almost a severe piece.  But I can't stop looking at the dark green weft sample, (the one further away,) either; the green is a slightly blue olive green, but in the cloth it almost looks a nuanced gray, much nicer than the three grays I sampled. 

I don't know if I am going to stay with these DPIs; the washed but not pressed sample looks a little too rustic for my taste, especially in the spaced parts.  I don't know if I will weave pieces with one weft color, or mix and even attempt a check.

Colors are  interesting; the more I look, the more I prefer the unlikeliest combinations.  And I get to sample them and decide which ones to use; it is a little bit like playing god.

Sun, Wind, Did I Mention the Sun??

January 7.  We had some rain yesterday morning, and then it's been sunny as anything, and I see weeds coming back where I put in rocket, in the top right quadrant. Heck...

I am supposed to be working on my minuscule tax return; some years it takes a day, others it takes two days to do this; but it's usually preceded by days and weeks of procrastination.  Instead I fixed my red cashmere warp downstairs this morning, and did a small sample piece; I don't like the look of it, so I'm going to sleep on it and maybe change the threading or undo the crammed/spaced sleying. 

Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up feeling like doing the taxes.