Thursday, March 31, 2011

This and That and the Other

"The difference between art and craft could be... art decides on the concept first, while with craft, the technique is predetermined" I thought, mildly pleased I got started on the hearts blankets early this morning.  Then a couple of seconds passed, and I realized this is what art teachers have been telling me ever since I started asking two-plus years ago.

Another few shots of the hearts, and I wondered; did Michelangelo really consider mixed media of cloth and marble first, try it out, and later decided to go with marble only?  Because the concept-driven art education has been in vogue, but it wasn't always thus; traditional art education put a lot more emphasis on the expertise of technique and knowledge of material, from what I've read.  Apprenticeship was an important part, if not the only way.  So how does this knowledge benefit my conundrum/hysteria about the proposed group?  

* * * * *

And then Shaft 2 ceased to lift.  It happened once yesterday, but rebooting the computer solved the problem then.  This morning, several rebooting, defragging, rechecking the hardware/connections didn't solve the problem, so I gave up.  Ben will have to have a look.

I threaded and sleyed the cashmere Log Cabin warp in two teals on the 4-shaft, but I didn't start weaving, because there is enough warp for 10 scarves, and if I had, I'll put the hearts on the back burner.  Again.

* * * * *

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, you may be enjoying the arrival of spring and flowers.  I think a lot about bright colors in the autumn as well as in spring, and I put it to the clarity of the air and sharpness of light this time of the year.  Colors really come to life and I've had my 20/2 mercirized cotton cones on the stairway for over a month now, and I keep coming up with saturated color combinations.  The warp I started making yesterday was fat stripes of two purples, two reds and two oranges separated by skinny light yellow-greens, and I'm not counting, so the stripes will come out in different widths.

While playing with that idea, I dared treaded on into the hitherto-forbidden red/pink and orange/pink territory; I used to hate these combinations, especially red/pink, but now I am attracted to the richness, the almost three-dimensional quality of these combinations. Blame it on the autumnal lights.  The days are getting shorter, though, and throughout the day the colors keep changing, making it difficult to learn about each pairing.

* * * * *

I'm still working on that biography of van Gogh, not a big book, but I'm reading slowly.  I'm taking solace and feeling alarmed by his peculiar personality. And I'm still not sure where the group thing is going, or where I'm going with that one.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


This is about the study group.  And before I get stuck in, (or you get stuck in reading,) I have to stress I don't know which way I'm going, because the group has not even met. With that in mind...

Development: Jo, Pat and I invited three others.  We three have ideas/directions we want the group to take, but shall discuss/decide together when the whole group meets; we have yet one other artist we want to invite.

I met one of the three on Friday for the first time, don't know the other two well, though I do know the one remaining. I'm sorry I'm so cryptic, but I'm not sure how much I should disclose at this stage without others' knowledge.  But that's inconsequential to my problem.

Pros: Being in discussion with and working along textile artists of esteem, (some locally but at least one having shown in as far away as Dunedin and Sweden,) is no doubt a great learning opportunity for me. They will, as the saying goes, make me "push the envelope", "stretch the boundaries", "think outside of the box," and all that.

Cons: It goes against my beliefs to belong to a group that is by invitation only, let alone be one of the instigators.  It really pains me, but I agree this is important for the quality of our experience.

This second is the more dire problem.  The original Textile Lunches started right after the first Changing Threads exhibition opened, because they violated their own brief, (partially posted here,) in their selection.  This discrepancy was seen in their second exhibition as well, which I helped install and was privy to the reasons for some of the inclusion.

I wanted to know how woven cloths can be shown in the textile art context; how I can show cloth without prostituting my creativity/principals because adulterating the woven cloth, to me, is pandering to the fashion of the day, fashion that welcomes "textile art" but devalues the art-ness of weaving.  I also wanted to know what selectors honestly looked for, as opposed to where they said they wanted the entrants to aim, as one of the Textile Lunchers were heavily involved in the first year's selection.  I felt I, too, could have just woven something, take fab pics, and entered it. 

It's easy to forgive Changing Threads now; this is what I meant by this third skein/spool/strand/exhibition being so much better, because the selection made clear what the exhibition looked, they selected what they asked for in the brief, and the abundance of worthy entries show textile artists are getting it and responding.  (I need to dig out my notebooks, but the wording in this year's brief may have changed slightly.  No, I didn't study it word for word this year.)

In entering discussions with Pat and Jo, I must have forgotten this was my starting point for a study group.

Pat weaves, though I think her primary artistic expression is through tapestry weaving.  The others are "textile artists", their techniques include sewing, patchwork, quilting, felting, dyeing, embroidery, perhaps knitting, beading, and other embellishments; you could say they make sculptures out of fiber; one says she makes whatever she wants and her current material/techniques happen to be fiber.  Put crudely, their techniques allow picture-making in ways mine doesn't.

Starting to get the picture?  I am loyal to weaving, to making cloth.  Though I may dabble in other techniques, though you may rightly accuse me of disliking without giving it a go, staying within the confines of weaving is a point I am unwilling to compromise.

Being among "textile artists", (and I don't know how many of them now the mechanism of weaving,) I worry I will be told to "push/stretch/think" beyond the confines of the warp/weft structure, because will only resist as I have not found a way to include "concepts" into weaving in ways that appear fashionable today.    

I've been thinking of an appropriate euphemism and the best I came up with is I'm a long-distance runner, and they, dancers; we try to excel in our respective fields, but currently dance is in.  Does this mean I'm asking to run around the stage while they dance?

From my point of view, the group's raisen d'etre has changed.  I don't mind the control of the group going to someone else; in fact it will free me to think more about my "making".  Yet I don't want to be included only because I was one of the instigators; I don't want to be seen to be pulling the leg of the group because the current fashion undervalues weaving,  But if the last two and a half years is anything to go by, I'm not sure if I will find a solution.  And I don't have the stomach to stay if I'm going to feel miserable or weaving belittled.   

As I said at the start, the group has not even met once, and though I'm willing to give it a go, my foreboding is palpable. I foresee great conflict either within me or in the group, and for now it sucks.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Morning Blather

It's hardly Saturday morning now but I started this post this morning, so I shall keep the title.

I went to the drawing class yesterday morning; it might have been a Big Mistake.  I just couldn't get into drawing, (I must say, a first in a couple of years, I think,) the combination of the model and the assignment was mismatched in my mind, (but others liked it, to be fair,) and of course people asked me about my family and Japan.  Some complained about the New Zealand press coverage of the Japanese Triple-Whammies.  I should just walk away, but I gave some folks chapter and verse and felt exhausted.  I don't mind talking to friends, but I'm so bad at small talk with acquaintances.

More bad choices ensued.  After lunch with Ben and Ronette, I had four hours to kill before the opening of Changing Threads.  Instead of hiding in a cozy corner of a library, I walked around town, did my chores slowly, (I had only two,) and ran into so many people I never ever run into on a normal Friday afternoon, including one out-of-town friend.  Some understood that I didn't want to talk in details about home; some said they understood but couldn't let go of the subject.  By the time I got to the Refinery, at 5PM, half an hour early, I was ready to collapse.  But in the past I've not gone to openings or left early, and apparently Lloyd thanked me in his speeches, so I leaned on Ben and other objects and stayed.  And Jo and I were thanked.  It's very lovely of Lloyd, and he is that kind of a man, but really, I don't need to be thanked for just helping out hanging lovely textile art.  Besides, thanks to Lloyd, I take part in a community event two days a year; without his letting me do this, I'd be even more of a hermit than I am, which many books on art making and psychology tell me is not right.   

This week was tough on the Hermitess head space.  Monday and half of Tuesday were spent hanging Changing Threads; I was exhausted Tuesday afternoon and had a long nap.  Wednesday morning I went to see Andrea at the Suter to discuss prices; in the afternoon I had a long powwow with Jo and Pat about a group, (more about this soon.)

Thursday I was too tired to do much, I read, made a short warp, and had a long nap.  I also had a former friend ring me; I tried to sound engaged, but truth to tell I just wanted to hang up.  We used to work together, and I thought we were good friends, then she was away for a while, and when she returned I tried to give her moral support in her new job because she acted as if she needed it.  But soon, she began evading my every invitation to get together, ("I'll check my diary at work and let you know when we can get together for morning tea/afternoon tea/dinner,") and after four and a half years I gave up.  The last time I saw her in person she told me she wanted friends her own age, (she's about 10 years younger than me,) and though I liked her a lot, I let that part of my life go. About two years later.

After asking about my family, and after my detailed spiel, (oh, God, why do I do that??) once again she said she'll ring me so we can get together and maybe go for a walk.

Chances are, she won't call, and I hope she doesn't call. I regret not having asked her not to bother.  Coward!

* * * * *

I'm taking a break from figure drawing next term.  Initially it was a financial decision, and it still helps to skip one, but I have other reasons.  I expect everybody else to be as serious about drawing as I am that I've become intolerably intolerant of other students' bad behavior.  Yesterday it was only someone humming to the background music, but I thought my body would explode with anger.  Then again, one of my favorite classmate has moved to an evening class, and that's bee disappointing, too.

I need a break, a solitary weave-a-thon in my basement like I used to have, and take the time to get deep inside my head.

I See the Future...

Probably five projects from now.  They are short warps for only two scarves each, because I love making them but my galleries don't like stocking them.  I might fiddle with the sett to make the texture more attractive.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Group, Collective, What's in a Name?

With the demise of my Textile Lunch group, (which couldn't even get together to ceremoniously disband the group,) other friends approached me with starting up something else in mind, and we met for the first time yesterday.  We had a lovely discussion, unrushed, going off on tangents but managing to come back to focus.

What we decided was that a presentation/lecture-based study group is not what we want, a kind of book club without books I had in mind.  Instead, we thought a "place" to discuss processes (and techniques) would benefit us more immediately; techniques in parenthesis because we are only loosely connected by fiber/textiles.  We will meet again at the Changing Threads opening tomorrow and work towards getting "it" started.

During the discussion, and on another occasion while shooting the breeze with Kath Bee last week, I was asked by other makers why I make things, what it is I try to get out of the making experience.  To be honest I don't really think too often about why I do this, I'm worry more about how. .

In the first instance, I weave because I can, in ways I never could with office work, (no mid- or long-term satisfaction,) writing, (never knew when a piece was finished), or Linguistics, (I am not creative, diligent, or dogmatic enough to be an academic, and I'm not a good teacher.)

I like weaving because it's an art form/traditional technique that has technical restrictions and I must work within the parameter, (i.e. not "free-hand") and this suits me.  The process of weaving is linear, and after a certain point it is cumbersome, sometimes impossible, to backtrack; this limits my option to change my mind and start over from the top; this forces me to finish projects.   

I love the finished products, the cloth.  And because I'm a good starter but not a good finisher, I feel satisfaction in reaching the last stages of making a cloth.

And I continue to weave because I want to feel again the immense satisfaction I felt when I took a particular piece off my loom in mid-2007; it was a kind of high I don't remember ever feeling before or after that evening in my life, and it was the one piece  was never in a rush to get rid of.  This is what I wrote to Kath that evening.

* * * * *

"I have one piece I consider to be my best ever.  It's called Tapa, and I wove it in mid-2007.  Put simply, I think the pattern, (which we weavers call weave structure,) colors, material, (possum/merino/silk), and the size/proportion jelled; that the resultant cloth is much better than the sum of all its parts.  It was a hard piece to photograph, but I hope you get some sense of it.

"I wanted to make something with a Pacifika feel, but not associate it one specific island/nation. I Googled Tapa cloth images, stared at them for a long time, but didn't read any texts nor make sketches.  And I just started mapping things out in a weaving software.  I made half a dozen weaving plans called "drafts" and wove, from memory, three of them, but by far this was the best.

"A woven cloth is not finished until it is fulled or wet-finished; this is a washing process, but with some fibers we do what we're not normally supposed to do.  In case of wool, I often dunk it in the hottest water that comes out of the tap, and I agitate it until it felts a little bit. In doing so, the "net" that is the warp and the weft yarns that came off the loom becomes "cloth" for the first time.  So I never know exactly how a piece of weaving is going to turn out until the piece is fulled, pressed and dried.    

"With this one, even before fulling, I knew I was on to a winner.  I still remember I couldn't put into words why I thought so, but I felt an overwhelming satisfaction that I made it.    

"Since then, I often think of what I began to call 'inevitable cloth'; some colors, patterns and material cannot help but look and feel beautiful when put together, like it was fate, as if it was inevitable they'd come together.  I try to make every piece an inevitable cloth, but so far I've not managed to recreate the satisfaction I felt that day.  But it's addictive, and I haven't given up."

* * * * *

The piece itself had an interesting journey.  It was part of the submission for Re:Fine in Wellington, but the curators could not find a good place for the piece and it was not shown.  Anna held on to it because she still wanted to show it at Re:Fine in Nelson, but something about the dull surface of Tapa, bright lights and low ceiling didn't work at the Suter, so it wasn't shown there either.   Meanwhile, knowing I was searching for outlets in Wellington, Anna wrote an email to galleries introducing me and the kind of work I do.  I had never had anything written about me nor read anything like that and was flabbergasted by what she wrote, but I felt vindicated because she described how I worked on the Tapa series and this piece in particular.  Meanwhile, this is the only piece I withheld from the galleries; it sat on my stash room floor, though I never took it out to study it or appreciate it.  I just didn't mind, unlike everything else I made, it being home.

Fast forward a few years and my parents' friends who have known me since I was three came to visit Nelson, and Ron wanted something special for Puffs' significant birthday.  I wasn't sure what she'd like so I brought the whole lot to their accommodation and left it there overnight.  It was serendipitous that she chose Tapa.  And I'd like to think it had a fate of its own, outside of my control.  I'm pretty sure I talked about this piece several times before.  Apologies.

* * * * *

Today is the first and only quiet day this week. I'm going to work on the Red Hearts blanket.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Changing Threads Vol 3 is Going to be AWESOME!!

I went to the Refinery today to help hang the Changing Threads exhibition.  In addition to Lloyd Hardwood and Ronnie Martin, I worked alongside Jo Kinross, one of my favorite Nelson textile artist.  It's a privilege to be allowed to get close and even handle the pieces, study not only how they are made but how the artists want them installed, how these instructions are written, and how the pieces are packed.  As well, I enjoy hearing everybody involved discuss individual work or the overall exhibition.  And this year, this third Changing Threads exhibition is going to be AWESOME!

I can't tell you the specifics, and I can't show you any photos, (the latter, because I forgot to turn off my camera previously and I had no juice left in the battery,) but many New Zealand fiber artists must have incorporated this annual show in their creative calendar. Textile art in general and submitted pieces in particular seemed to have grown in sophistication; concepts/ideas appear to have gone through more rigorous examinations/transformation, and are executed with more technical competance, producing pieces that appear effortless, but we know it ain't necessarily so.  Chanting Threads is definitely changing the New Zealand textile art scene; this year's exhibition will have a different feel to the previous two. 

Meanwhile, Lloyd, Ronnie, Jo and I, along with Refinery's Roger, Duncan and Vicky, have a bit more work to do tomorrow.     

* * * * *

I don't know about where you live, but in New Zealand, a lot of plant and animal matters, (feathers, shells) and stones are sometimes included in textile art.  I've learned from my participation in Handmade for Christchurch that even between New Zealand and Australia, there are so many rules and regulations prohibiting importation of plant and animal matters.  One day, if I become ambitious enough to want to send a piece of work to Australia, I will have to look up what material I can and/or cannot send to Australia.  Note to self.       

Vol 3? Third skein/spool/strand?  

* * * * *

Christchurch's second big quake, the one you've seen many dramatic pictures of, took place on February 22.  It's been a month, and recovery/rebuilding of that city is slowly but surely taking place. I was really hoping to win a bid on this doll, but a bidder from Dunedin beat me.

Japan.  Well, that's probably more complex, because not a lot is straight-forward in that country.  I don't know what to believe any more, except it is going to be a long, long time rebuilding can start in earnest. But all is not lost; on Day 9, a grannie of 80 and her 16-year-old grandson were rescued from the kitchen of their former home.  Grannie was unharmed, just a tad weak, and thanked the rescuers loudly and clearly. The grandson suffered from hypothermia, after climbing onto the roof of the rubble and getting the attention of the rescuers.   

So, here's to human resilience.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This Can't be Right

We haven't told my family yet, but we've asked our travel agent to cancel our trip.  It's just not the right time to go home, this coming Easter.  An option was to postpone our trip to, say, October, but we opted to cancel, in part, for financial reasons.  It means we don't have to find the money to pay for the trip. 

But isn't it funny how the mind works? We're momentarily feeling a little rich, as if we found some cash in a unused purse, (which happened before my last trip to Japan.) Anyway, Marlborough Weavers is hosting a workshop on blocks and designs by one Maryann Stamford a week before we were due to leave.  I had given up hopes for attending this, but now I'm in, and I'm paying with the phantom money. 

Red Hearts / Japan

My late-night revelation in the previous post was spot on; I changed the draft so I weave the draft on the left for the top layer, and the draft on the left for the bottom layer.  The revised double-width draft looks like this:
Thursday's sampling shows the weft  I had in mind (A) is the best for the commission piece; this doesn't happen much as I often find something else more attractive after sampling.  Since I have enough warp for two, I'd like to weave one of the grays (B); this yarn looks sad, old and dirty on the cone and even feels scratchy, but fulled, it turns into a sophisticated, lustrous, supple yarn; perhaps it can be dubbed a date/picnic blanket.    

I found a few threading mistakes so I must fix those before I can get started.  This is the only time I dread having 16 shafts, because it's nigh on impossible to see where the mistake is, to devise a temporary heddle and thread through the eye, particularly in the neighborhood of Shafts 9, 10 and 11.

This afternoon I felt restless and didn't want to tackle the threading mistakes. So instead I wound a cashmere warp on the four-shaft, another potential Log Cabin; this one has two medium navy blues, (I often hear "French" associated with navy blues of this type but I've not looked into the origin/validity of this association,) in two slightly different width. Still avoiding fixing the mistake, I tied on another Log Cabin warp, this one a mid and dark teal, the dark being a silk/cashmere mix.  I've now enough warp to weave between eight and ten small Log Cabin scarves once the blanket is finished.  I haven't threaded yet, but the first one, I might just go for big bold squares of 30 or 40 ends each for a change.      

* * * * *

It's been a strange week. I didn't go to my drawing class yesterday because I didn't want to be asked how my family is doing.  My understanding of safety has changed.  And then the family seems to have turned into an average stoic Japanese family and they aren't saying much. at least not to me.  Luckily my brother had a bright idea to evacuate south for a long weekend and catch up on sleep, so all nine are in one of my favorite cities in Japan, Okayama, having an unplanned wee holiday.

Ben and I, on the other hand, spent the week keeping an eye on two live stream television stations, and on tweets to locate articles. Quite a difference from the 1995 Kobe quake that took place two months after we came to New Zealand; we were determined to live without a television in our new life, but that afternoon we rushed to the store and bought the first one we saw.

Panic and chaos after a disaster of this magnitude can be forgiven, but a week on, the government has turned this into Japan's Katrina, dithering and politicking.  I'm also dismayed at the continuing level of support for nuclear power generation, (no numbers, just far more than I had ever imagined,) and flabbergasted at the adoration (??) for the imperial family; we had our own King's Speech video broadcast, which I found, well, astonishing.   

As I type, I'm watching tonight's news, and things look a just a bit brighter, helped by the slightly warmer temperatures, good weather, and in some places, a sea of volunteers. I feel less desperate.  But it's going to be rainy and cold again tomorrow, and even during the news, there have been aftershocks of Magnitude 6 with more tsunami warming.

I've also been wondering how I can contribute.  I don't have many more woven items to donate, and for the moment I want to concentrate on seeing Handmade for Christchurch through, because Christchurch still does need help. Understandably, there hasn't been an overwhelming effort in New Zealand, online, for Japan, that I've come across. No "Handmade for Japan" yet.  

In what feels like the first time in four decades, (with the possible exception of Kobe), organizations in Japan are calling for goods as well as money.  My first instinct was to buy a bunch of small hygiene products and baby things and post them directly to evacuation centers, hoping the parcel will get through once the postal system is back in service. I may still do this, but it appears people and municipalities in safer areas have started taking action, so I may look to contribute in a different way. 

Meanwhile, Sampling has offered two cones of  "yarns with memory" which contain stainless steel, towards Japan Quake Appeal here.  She's spoken about the yarn here, and Shipbuidling wove with it here. Even though the yarn came from Japan, I've never seen nor heard of it until Sampling brought it home from Japan recently.  Anyway, this is a good place for me to start.

* * * * *

I am blessed, that the "normal" life I'm returning to is a weaving- and textile-obsessed, carefree one.  I must make the most of it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In the Hours between Insomnia and Insanity / Japan

Well, it wasn't that bad last night, but then it is sometimes when bright ideas come to me.  Sometimes.  Last night's light bulb came in the form of problem prevention.  But let me back track a little. 

I've finally finished threading the Baby Girl Blanket yesterday and started sampling.  First I concentrated on floating selvedge on a double-width weave; both selvedges are on the right side.  Theoretically it was easy, and after a centimeter or two, after the two layers could be separated easily, I stuck a few window blind blades so I can move them around to easily see which ends belong to which selvedge. The practical difficulty was, this is a wide-ish warp and I haven't woven anything wider than 30cm since her brother's blanket; to weave properly, I have to sit in the middle of the warp, but if I do, I can't see the right selvedge well.  So with every other shot, every time the shuttled came in and out of the right selvedge, I had to move my Unsmall to the right.  Yes, slow.

While sampling, I realized some of the sheds for the bottom layer was so "thin", i.e. too many shafts were lifted so the shuttle doesn't glide over the remaining warps.  In fact, I'm using the heavy boat shuttle and sometimes it escaped right though the warp and landed on my foot.  I counted the number of warps lifted to see if I should change face so fewer shafts are lifted, but it didn't seem to make much difference on paper.

Above drafts show single layers.  Black squares show shafts lifted, so I want a draft that has more white squares than black.  Yesterday I tried the version on the left.  When I weave the bottom layer, of course all eight shafts for the top layer are lifted, so sometimes a little over 3/4 of the warps are lifted, and at 36EPI and with the heavy shuttle, it's a bit of an ask.

What I did realize in the middle of the night is this: one side of the finished blanket should be all the red hearts on white background, the other, white hearts on red background. While folded, when I weave the top layer, one set of shafts should be lifted, (let's say to weave red hearts), but when weaving the bottom layer, the other set, which create white hearts, should be lifted, yes?

I think I need a combined draft to weave the two widths.  That's next.

EDIT: In the top, flat cloth, the second line should read: "white hearts on red".

* * * * *

In light of what's been happening in Japan, Ben and I have been discussing whether to postpone or cancel the upcoming trip home.  I haven't had the heart to discuss it with my parents, but have sought Brother's and Sister's views.  Yokohama is included in the electricity ration, which is officially expected to go on to the end of April, but since we lost the power generating facilities, (this morning, a thermal power plant was damaged,) I can't see how it can end in a month.  Most supermarket stock disappeared a couple of days ago, though this may or may not be temporary.

Late Tuesday, the "traditional" epicenter near Mt Fuji started rumbling at around Mag 6.4.  This is the one that shakes the Kanto region, including Tokyo and Yokohama, and continues rocking at Japanese Scale 3-5.  There is apparently yet another epicenter further west, in addition to the one in the Japan Alps which has been shaking since the original big one.  And then there is the small matter of the nuclear disaster.

We are weighing how much of a burden we will be if two extra people stay in my family's homes for three weeks, (we've given up the idea of traveling around,) both to our immediate family and to the region, verses how much we may be able to help, which will mostly be in the form of distracting/entertaining them. If Dad could travel, I'd at least get my parents out via Osaka, but I don't think he'd even want to travel to Osaka, so that is not an option.

Oh, the smoke ghost.  S/he finally went away last Thursday.  Then this thing since Friday.  Occasionally s/he's been back, but this time in an extremely strong cigarette smell.  Yuuuuuuck!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We're Getting There

Learning from Andrea at The Suter the Kayan Weavers are demonstrating weaving at Race Unity Day celebration, four weavers, (Ronette, Pat Spitz, Nola Fournier and moi,) met at Victory Square this afternoon.  It took us a while to find the ladies, they had finished weaving one scarf in the morning and were going to weave no more.

They did allow us to photograph the piece on the loom, (already sold), but they had taken out the crucial two pieces of wood that would have explained how the two sets of warps were lifted. 

What we do know are:
  • They use back-strap looms; 
  • The yarns used are 2/20 mercerized cotton, same as mine, woven at 40 or closer EPI.
  • The pieces are in fancy, warp-faced, plain weave.  
  • They use thin bamboo sticks as spacers. 
  • Wefts are two 2/20 cotton, not plied.  
  • When the warp is in two colors, those two colors are used in the weft; in multi-colored warps, it appears the two weft colors could be anything.  
  • There is no treatment at the start or the finish.
  • Pieces today were not wet-finished nor washed; I can't remember how they were finished for the gallery shops, however.  
Enough words; now for the pictures.  The dark, lovely piece was sold while being woven, but Mama had asked me to buy a piece that would look love on her wall, and Nola and I chose a cheerful-colored one.

The top part shows the start of the scarf, and the bottom (with the "beater" still in place) is the end of the scarf.
The weaver showed us the two sticks under the yellow arrow, but neither had any strings on them; they looked like smooth, round cross sticks.  The stick at the end of the green arrow seems to me like the bamboo stick inserted at the start of the scarf, but I can't be sure.
Two sides of one piece.
It's easier to tell what two colors are used in the weft in this piece.
A little harder here; one is white, and the other is a very pale peach color not used in the weft.
No hemming, no fringing.  I can live with that!

Because I was shameless in asking question after question about the structure of the loom, the daughter of one of the weavers who speaks English invited us to their home to have a private demonstration, so four of us are going.  I shall definitely keep you posted.

The weavers were dressed in their traditional Kayan costume,  but since they spent a decade in Thai refugee camps as "tourist attractions", I hesitated to ask if I can take pictures of them, so if interested, please click here.

EDIT: I never imagined I can pick out a face from Google image search, but Zembar is the daughter I met.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And Once Again, with Thanks...

My family in Japan is safe. Thank you for asking.  As Shirley said, it's happening too often, isn't it?

In Japan we use a scale of our own, and around Miyagi Pref, the quake was around Scale 7, which neither Ben nor I had ever heard of; at least we don't remember a Scale 7 in recent years,  This region is one of the quake-prone regions and when I was a student they had at least one really big one.

Around Yokohama was Scale 5.  Normally, this is scary but not dangerous.  I remember the last time I was in a Scale 5, a good friend and I were having a night out in the town.  We were walking near a railway over-bridge, (the train goes above us?) and she halted and shouted.  I replied, "No, it's just the train passing," to which a nice policeman called out, "This is a big one, Miss."  I only remember many liquor stores suffering great damage, but not much else. 

This time, however, even the same Scale 5 appears to have been more serious. I got through to my brother via the Internet quite quickly because he was in the office, but the cell network was totally down, land line sporadic; my sister got a hold of me three hours after the fact; my parents had finally gotten through to her via an old-fashioned pay phone.

My parents were in a mall, a new and safe building.  Since the area around the mall has buildings, and since all trains had stopped, they asked customers to stay inside.  I don't know for how long, but I'm chuckling at the idea of Dad having to spend the night in a mall!  At least they have food, running water, and Ben reminded me, massage chairs!

My brother-in-law is safe but he's having to spend the night in his office. My mother is a fanatic when it comes to making homes quake-safe.  My sister said nothing fell in her house, and nothing broke; a good thing considering they have an impressive little collection of ceramics.

All things considered, my family came out unscathed.  But pockets of Yokohama and Tokyo, and the greater northern region, not so.

EDIT: I still can't ring any of them, so I sit and hope they can get through to me, or get on the Internet.

It turned out my parents did spend the night at the mall, and went home on 5.53AM train, to find not even a picture frame was out of place there.  Almost reverse-shocking.

My sister-in-law stayed overnight at her office, but brother and niece stayed at her parents' house, 5 minutes away from his house, and a condo in a new building.  But the blue ribbon goes to my brother-in-law, who not only walked home from work, 4.5 hours, but had contemplated this kind of an eventuality and had mapped out a route home before the event.  My sister would have preferred he stayed put in a safe place; she is happy and furious.

Power supply in parts of Yokohama is running low, so everybody is prepared for the possibility of power cut tonight.  Otherwise, my family, and Ben's, are all accounted for, with no scratches.  Thank you again for your concern.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Never Said They Were Wrong...

But I now have to declare they were so right.  If you sell work at galleries, shops, or even in your own electronic venue, unless the contract or other conditions dictate otherwise, you must have at least 10-12 items in each shop at all times.

I never doubted the wisdom of weavers or gallerists who know better and appreciated their gentle nudging and coaxing, but when the same pieces sit in these galleries month after month, when nothing sells for an awfully long time, it is hard to be motivated to make new things. I even felt I was burdening the galleries by bringing in more.  But it's not true.

Last Friday I delivered two pieces to the Refinery and sold one that afternoon.  The week before, I delivered half a dozen Log Cabin pieces to the Suter and they sold one on last Sunday.  It may be all a fluke, but I'm having good luck: my total number of pieces sold this tax year jumped up to.... five!  (I know.  Pathetic, but it's a fact.) 

From the point of view of a consumer, (and I am often a prospective one when I go to any of the galleries stocking my pieces,) seeing only few works by an artist, especially someone I like and have followed, make me wonder if s/he is no longer serious about selling, at least in the venue I am in, and instead is concentrating on some other outlet or new creative ventures.  When there are only a few, sometimes familiar, pieces sitting forlornly, they look as if they've been neglected/abandoned by their makers. But even the old familiar pieces look happier in the company of newer work, as if they are surrounded by family.

So why I couldn't see my stuff in that light until now, I don't know.  When I see my pieces in galleries, I see individual pieces, and do a mental row call, a head count, but don't see them collectively.  I'm starting to understand the pleasure gallerists show when I (or any other artists) deliver new pieces is not only a reflection of their personal support for artists, but also because they can add more excitement/flavor to their galleries.     

So, in between my slightly-scratchy red warp threading, I made two more cashmere warps.  The colors in this photo is inaccurate, but I couldn't fix it any more; nevertheless, I'm ready.  I doubt I can get started on these until after my trip, but I have renewed enthusiasm form my Bread-and-Butter line, and appreciation for my gallerists.  Bliss!

These two warps will most likely be woven in Log Cabin again, because recently while looking for something else, I came across these collages and thought this method would work great in thinking about Log Cabin colors.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Often when I'm weaving, I chuckle to myself because I'm doing something so old, time-consuming and archaic, in this 21st Century. Weaving is so slow and so low-tech, and other-worldly.

I tried to be light-hearted about threading today, but the wool was slightly scratchy and I was overcome with boredom several times; I had to take long breaks, go away and read a magazine, watch television, and eat frozen yoghurt.

I threaded just shy of 1/3 of this warp.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


My baby brother turns 40 today. It's looking to be a busy but wonderful decade for him and his family.  Bless him and bless them all.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Whoa! Good Luck with Weaving??

Apologies for the sickly looking photo; I was in a hurry to post it on my family blog to ask something.

You need to know that in Japan we "mix" religions easily, because "religion" is less philosophical/metaphysical, and more a matter of habit/customs.  When children are born, we take them to a Shinto shrine to pray for long and healthy life; plenty of Japanese marry in Christian churches, but at the end, most people are farewell at Buddhist funerals.  As religions arrived from the west, (not The West, because until around 1868, most/all foreign influence came via China and Korea,) they often built on top of pagan and other preexisting customs, rituals, and thinking.

(Do take what I write with a grain of salt as I come from a long line of Skeptics and Agnostics, but then many Japanese are not philosophically/metaphysically religious.) 

What's different about Japan and The West is we never had an overwhelmingly strong religion covering up and taking over the older traditions.  That's why we're fine with mixing pagan, Shinto, Buddhist, Taoist, and even Christian traditions and rituals. Christian missionaries have always been suspicious of the commitment of "rice-eating Christians" because even the most committed don't behave like a monotheist.       

I'm finally getting to the heart of this post.  Sorry.  

My parents recently visited the older parts of Tokyo, and in one of the shrines Dad bought me a lucky charm, as you do, of Daikokuten.  He's a Buddhist guy who found his way to becoming one of "ancient"/pagan Seven Lucky Gods.  He's usually considered the money god, and I'm sure Dad sent this to me tongue-in-cheek because I'm always whining about not having money.

I've been looking at his smiley face for days, but I read the blurb for the first time this morning.  It reads something like this:

Daikokuten Lucky Charm (Eradicates seven kinds of hardship and causes, immediately, seven kinds of luck)

He is a god who controls: Food/Drink, Match/Marriage, Work, Business, Social Stability, Wealth, Science, Agriculture and Weaving.

(And then in verse) When Daikoku shakes his Lucky Mallet, he proceeds without hardship and obstacles.  (It sounds a lot better than my translation.)

Fukagawa Fudo Do (name of the shrine)

Notwithstanding the blurb-writer's hardship with math, yeah, I mean, weaving? I thought the word had more than one meaning, like perhaps craft in general or women's work, or cottage industry, but several online dictionaries translated the word as "weaving of cloth on looms, or weavers"!!

Well, blow me away.  What more can I say!  I'm going to visit as many Daikokuten shrines as possible in the upcoming trip!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

I learned from Mama yesterday that my favorite notions shop in Yokohama is closing its doors at the end of the month.  It's the store where I got the sewing silks last year.  I suppose the "good" news is it's not closing because of the economy.  An entire area around Yokohama Station is going to be demolished and rebuilt as a result of Kobe earthquake and many regional authorities finally taking a hard look at the safety of older public buildings.  The really bad news is they are not relocating or reopening, as far as Mom could find out.

The store, called Sanada, was in an unattractive underground area near a tunnel connecting the West and East exits of Yokohama Station.  Way, way back, in early-mid 60's, returned (from WWII) soldiers with missing limbs used to dress in Pilgrims' White, play accordions, and beg.  There was very little light and walking through the tunnel was the closest thing to looking into the world of the dead for me.  In fact when I was 6 and 7 and 8, I wasn't sure if some of them were dead or alive, and I had to ask Mama "what" they were.

As the country became wealthier and the soldiers passed on, there were fewer and fewer of these men hanging about, and in the 80's and 90's when they tried to pretty up this tunnel, the remaining guys were, I can only imagine, conveniently relocated.

At the West end of this tunnel, in what still feels like gigantic bomb shelter, there was this independently-owned emporium of mostly notions and fabrics.  If you came through the tunnel from the East side, it was surviving hell and jumping into heaven.  There used to be bolts of fabric, drawers of French, Belgian and Italian buttons and big spools of Swiss ribbons.  From memory, gradually they yarns and other craft material started to take up more space about 20 years ago, and last year there were more books and kits. 

When I was a student, I often when there, took a couple of hours to look around the entire shop, and then came home with 1 meter of ribbon, or a couple of pieces of felted wool, for no reason, but to save then in a cookie tin.  Sometimes I'd make something with these, sometimes I used them for gift-wrapping, but most of the time I just looked at the wee treasures and felt good. 

I liked their understated decor, because it exuded serious, grown-up handwork.  They didn't kowtow to fashion too much and never neglected the basics, and I know many of their clients were professional dressmakers.  I used to love to listen in on their conversations with the capable staff.

We still have a giant chain called Yuzawaya, a relative newcomer, and I assume I can find everything I might need.  Mama says they are trying hard to shed the discount-store mold, but they will never replace the local, independently-owned loveiness.

Labels and Tags

This is the aforementioned problem with my labels and tags as regards some of my pieces.

As you can see, this piece was damaged when a customer pulled on an old tag (lighter) when it was hanging from the label at the left edge of the hem.  The scarf hung in a rather precarious position in the gallery, where people walk under or past it, so I was aware this was a possibility with more loosely woven pieces or pieces made of softer yarns. But I never expected to see such pulling occur with this hem.

Now that my tags are much heavier, I had to think of a more secure way to hang them without causing damages to the piece itself.  So in the right, I put one end of the thread though the scarf itself; luckily this piece has lacy parts I could thread through without making holes in the piece.  Not so with every piece, so I need to put more thought into how to manage the labels and the tags.

The new label was sewn on the right side so as not to hide the fault.  All the tender pulling and steaming couldn't hide it, so if ever I decide to sell or give this one away I'd like the prospective buyer or recipient to know it's there.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

On Giving, and the Boundless Capacity for Guilt

I went to a Catholic convent school in Tokyo for ten years if you recall, so from early on we were taught to make sacrifice, give, and oh, pray, every time a disaster struck. It meant asking Mama for yet another hundred yen because I didn't have much pocket money and my parents often put them in my bank account anyway, but good on Mama because looking back things were tight in those days. Still, I've always kept informed of disasters this side of Biafra and have given at whichever post office I happened to walk by, (and there are many in Japan,) specifying the disaster I wish to give to, entering the amount and handing over money.  It was too easy. Of course these days, it's even easier to give not only within New Zealand but anywhere I please.

Looking back, I took to heart what the teachers and nuns did and not what they said. I conscientious keep updated about a disaster, feel powerless, give a little money, continue to feel powerless, then move on to the next disaster. And if there is no Calamité de Jour, there are always causes and regions that can use my sympathy.

In my 20s and 30s I looked into ways I can participate without medical training, but the Japanese Peace Corp-like organizations had no use for untrained, (if not in medicine, at least something practical,) volunteers, and this was in the days of mostly newspaper adverts, so unless you lived in a disaster-struck region, I believe there was little one could do except to give money.  I think Kobe was the first time un-specialized youth descended from all over the country to help out, but we were in New Zealand by then.   

It's not exactly giving, but I've been a lender at Kiva for a year and a half.  At first I was excited to take part, and enjoyed reading descriptions of entrepreneurs and selecting weavers or women otherwise involved in textiles as much as possible.  It's also a great way to stay involved if your disposable income fluctuates, as once you make a few initial deposits, you get paid back and can roll that money to lend to someone else.  But lately I felt awful catalog-shopping in this manner from the comfort of my home office.  Who am I go play god like that? I keep rolling my money to the next female entropic, but I feel less joy. 

Then came this second Christchurch earthquake.  The damage is visible and it's going to take a long time to remedy, and the press gave it unprecedented coverage, and it's the nearest disaster I've experienced.  There are plenty of worthy groups and regions in New Zealand and elsewhere that don't get press coverage, and without taking anything away from the seriousness of this quake, to be brutally honest, some need more than Christchurch does collectively. Still, the opportunity presented itself in the form of Handmade for Christchurch, and this was a big opportunity to give back to my adopted home country. 

I felt embarrassed because I didn't make anything special for the auction; they were pieces I collected for my perpetually-soon-to-come Etsy shop, (and one piece I'd forgotten about,) sitting, waiting on the stash room floor, some had sat in galleries in town.  Many were... leftovers. Still, the experience of dealing with H4C volunteers has been ever so heart-warming and uplifting. If all goes well, I would have contributed so much more than if I only had the option to give money. So I'm trying to focus on what I can do and do that well, rather than what I didn't get around to doing.  Sampling suggested that, and she's right, you know.

Maybe I did listen to what the teachers and nuns said as well; one of the things I have in boundless amounts is to find guilt everywhere. I think I"ll go now and wrap the donated items and pack to post.

Saturday Morning Blather

It was another unusual week; eventful may be the right word. 

I spent much of the week preparing to send stuff to Handmade for Christchurch, both physically and electronically.  I had intended to send four more cottons, but I found minute damages in two, so I stopped at 12.  These damages are due to the material of my labels and the weight of my tags hanging from the labels; so, inadvertently, a good lesson for me and a change of tactics; I'll show you what I mean some time.
Pricing for charity is difficult; I didn't want to undercut galleries or clients who have already bought similar pieces, so I withdrew similar pieces from the galleries and had to think of past prices.  (My record keeping is a little beyond shocking, so I didn't even go there.) I just couldn't remember the price of one series, but I hope I'm forgiven because it was a few years ago.

I had no idea for good start bid prices; it appears there are no similar stuff donated to H4C, so I made a rule for myself to ask for roughly 1/3 to 1/4 of what I thought the retail prices might have been. Experimental pieces and woven-just-for fun pieces were easier. I'm still not sure if some are set too high, and because it's charity, I so desperately want them to be affordable and attractive and to sell.  For the Sallies and Women's Refuge, and for H4C.

And... yeah, it would be a little embarrassing if nobody bids, but I have a couple of ideas about what to do if that happens. 

* * * * *

The TV earthquake coverage has been curtailed, somewhat after the one week mark on Tuesday, and quite a bit more after rescue turned into recovery on Thursday, and what coverage they do tended to be more tabloid, so I'm not interested. I've been listening to National Radio more, as they continue to alter their program somewhat, but all in all it was probably good timing because I've been thinking I need to ween myself from the coverage a little bit.   

The "smoke" in the living room has "spread" into the office early in the week and started to give me a stinging sensation inside my nose; it started to give me a weak but stinging sensation in my mouth around Thursday; crept into the bedroom Thursday night; and finally it came with me to the drawing class yesterday.

It's not 24/7, and when it really bothers me, I put on nice smelling salves or drink lovely smelling tea, but I wished it were a less alarming smell, so I don't rush around looking for fire every so often. 

Thursday night, Kath told me a friend of hers thought it was a ghost of a person who died in fire or smoke.  Kath and I don't believe in the supernatural too seriously, but I did think of two groups of Japanese students who parishes in English language school in the Canterbury TV building, the only building top have suffered from extensive fire after the quake. Kath told me her friend said  my ghost/s had unresolved issues so I needed to ask what they wanted and then ask them to go away.  And not knowing how to communicate with ghosts, I left a pen and a notepad in the living room Thursday night.

I really did!

Because I still think the smell of smoke is psychosomatic, if there were such lost souls, and if I could help, (I had in mind a young Japanese man to tell his parents a final "thanks" or some such,) I wasn't going to let my skepticism get in the way.  But no message in the morning.  Though the lid of the CD player was open.

It. Was.  

* * * * *

Friday morning class was good.  Ronette swapped classrooms so we had a wee bit more space, and we had a lovely model, and all was good.  We did pale wash and minimum contours or darker wash, and it was hard to not overdo the contours.  One extra line ruined the whole lot, but it was exciting to thinking about maximum effect for minimum drawing.

After lunch I delivered two pieces to the Refinery, not the alpacas, chatted with Roger, spoke to Lloyd as he shot out the building, went to the Red to see the teal/burnt-orange painting again, (which turned out to be a much more scintillating painting that I had thought last week; I can see why Jay loves it,) tried to politely and secretly exorcise myself of the alpaca scarves but couldn't because the swing tags were attached too securely and I didn't have scissors with me. 

I went to the cinema to see what was playing, didn't find anything unless I was to wait nearly two hours, discovered a bus was leaving in 10 minutes, ran, hopped on the bus, and came home.  I turned on the computer to email Ben that I was home, (so he wouldn't wait for me to show up at his office at the end of his work day,) found an email from Lloyd telling me Refinery sold one piece, so they need another!  First sale in more than six months.

Ben came home with easy-to-assemble supper parts, handed me mail from the Suter, (another sale!), and we sat down for a decadent wine and snack supper. I was feeling exhausted and bothered by the smoke.  Later, I was still watching the telly when Ben shouted and told me to come to the office right away.  I slowly made my way like a slug, when he showed me one of my pieces had been listed on H4C and someone had put a bid already! (Thank you so very much, Judy!)

What can I say?  Life is good. I doubled the number of items sold this tax year, (April - March), in one afternoon.  I'm finally contributing to H4C.  The Weaving Goddess is looking after me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Where there is no Smoke...

Life continues to be a bit strange for me, a little on the edge.  I'm looking for a new norm.

I wound the very red warp on the big loom on Tuesday, and had intended to start threading yesterday, but instead I spent the afternoon with Kath Bee. Ostensibly we worked to consolidate and simplify Kath's various Internet presence, (we made some progress, thank you!) but we also talked about natural disasters and ways in which those of us far away can help. Particularly those of us without medical skills or cash. Kath has become involved with Purple Cake Day, a fundraiser started by a Nelson woman who lost family in Haiti, and Kath told me about this new event/group. We talked about press, politics, scale, and value of one life, all topics I've been thinking about for a long time.

Meanwhile, Handmade for Christchurch has made it easy for me to do something about one disaster, and I continue to prep my bit of donation for my adopted home country.  Truth to tell, I really enjoy dealing with the women behind H4C and they keep me wanting to do more for them.

I still smell smoke; it may be getting stronger, and I'm now checking the space under the roof every so often, but I can't find anything. But just in case there is something somewhere, I haven't lit candles or used aromatic oils.

OK, today's donation next, and then threading.