Tiny Project - January

I'm relieved I didn't show you a month's worth of lettuce patch photos this year. What was I thinking! This was the tiny project I undertook in January.
While at home, Mama and I started writing on tiny notebooks something that may (or may not) help us later with our weaving; seeds of inspirations, you could say. Though I started out with gusto, on the subject of "artifacts", (four pages at the start of the notebook,) as we got busier with Dad, mine fell way by the wayside until I was on the bus heading to the airport to come back. Not wanting to forfeit the comfortable bond of writing into similar notebooks, I concocted a tiny assignment for myself for this month, something I knew I could absolutely commit to.

I enjoyed the absence of responsibility as a result of this; it was just one thing a day of something I may or may not want to revisit. Among these, though, I would consider spending some time thinking about.


Japan - Part 12: Loot

Or, gazillion reasons why I don't need to shop!

Books on design and Japanese culture, (some I bought for 1 yen plus shipping,) one fab memoir by picture book artist Anno Mitsumasa, three booklets on Oribe-yaki pottery, one how-to book, patterns for simple bags for children; I have a few of these, but this book had illustrations of some parts I find tricky.

There are two lots of strange, stringy, papery silk yarns towards the front left; I forgot the story on these, but Mama should remember. Not the kind of thing I would normally rescue or contemplate using, but Pat in Group R is making leaps and bounds on her thinking and making, and that I even looked at these tells me her energy pushing me.  

The blue skein in the front has a story: Mama bought it, along with the purple variegated, and a whole bunch of similar silks, from a kimono weaver who comes to a craft market in Yokohama every year. But she couldn't stand the screaming, in-your-face aqua blue variegation, so first we dedyed portions of the skein using bleach in a spray bottle.  That got us nowhere, so we put some bleach in a tub of water, didn't mix it much, dropped the skein and left it for a while. I also sprayed some areas additionally later. Anyway, it became a kind of strong aqua with a few pale bits; Mama thought it's tolerable; I wasn't sure.  But I wanted to put it on the 16-shaft and create swirly or fussy shapes, so brought it back.

Without knowing I've been into golds and dirty yellows and oranges, (which originates in Mama's love for brick oranges anyway,) Mama also had three or four or five golds and dirty yellows of the same silk, and I had intended to pinch some of each to use as wefts, but I forgot. But I have enough gold and dirty yellows I'll manage. 

I might still do something with the color before I make the warp, though. Just wondering...


Almost the Weekend

Tons to tell you!!

Finished tax return work after 7PM Tuesday; task definitely takes longer now I have to download invoices; not sure if saving the forest and opting out of paper bills is good for my soul. Still, done and dusted and once again vowed not to waste money buying stuff: it saves $, it saves space from clutter, and most importantly I save fewer receipts that needs scrutiny.

Came Wednesday; ran errands; went to The Suter to see three fab ceramics exhibitions; (I do like craft exhibitions better than "art"; must return to enjoy it more throughly;) want catalogs to both exhibitions, one rather expensive; then remembered another book I want badly. Then I went to the library and got my hands on India Flint's new book, "Second Skin".  Good God...

Beautiful, well-written, but also big and heavy and I'm too clumsy to read it comfortably; it's the kind of book you want to take on a holiday and not do anything else but read it, OR, be transported to a holiday but making time to read it in peace.  More dedicated fans may clean out the closet and reorganize life; I'll clean my closet, at least, and dye the cottons I prepared for India's workshop in 2010 which I had to bow out because both cars needed urgent attention a month prior. Confronted by  body size/image issues vs wanting to learn to make patterns and sew better; reminded of a talk Mama had with me about how I'm lazy about looking nice and respectable.  That's for a whole other post; way, way too loaded, eh.

Recommend reading the words and considering the issues, not just gazing at the pictures. Surely I am not the only one? And yes, the oft-mentioned Jo Kinross is our own Group R's Jo. Vicarious fame; at this rate, including Jo's name in my posts will become name-dropping!
Had an overnight house guest, Kate. (We don't have a guest room, so she toughs out on the living room floor, bless her.) Every time she leaves, I'm left with a sack full of seeds for thought.  Annoying, but exhilarating.

TAFA website is updated; click on the picture. If you sell your work and have a blog and/or Facebook Page and/or Flickr and/or especially Etsy promoting your work, you should consider signing up by contacting Rachel Biel. She takes good care of you.

Having to update my TAFA profile was part of why I had a rethink about photos and images and such. I've also had a good talk with Andrea from The Suter Store, and decided I don't want to make any more simple-structure/easy-to-weave pieces to sell; I want to up my game and spend longer time with each piece.  More artist-like, if you please. 

I think many of us thought we could sell a bit of work around the World Cup time, and it turned out retail in general, not just art, did badly anyway. I wove an awfully lot of Log Cabins, (and I still have the last warp on the 4-shaft Jack), but I find the "bread and butter" range demoralizing. I feel they don't represent the kind of pieces I like/want to weave. And though Andrea is too polite, I think she doesn't want any more of those pieces. So a goal for the rest of 2012: no more b&b "merchandises" after the current warp.  With the wonky arm and the two exhibitions coming up, I may not have any time for them anyway.

Another problem is NZ prices and exchange rate.  London, Honolulu and Tokyo have always been considered some of the most expensive places on earth; this time around I didn't feel Yokohama, (included in the greater Tokyo when it comes to economics, if not more expensive than,) was any more expensive than Nelson. And that's saying something.  So not only do I have to rethink the type of things I want to weave, but the prices, too, if I want to Etsy.  But then buying NZ yarns, I'll really be slave-laboring.

Good grief!  Still, tomorrow is another "making" day! And we've a long weekend coming up.



Early-Morning-Basement pictures; they look so blue, but I concentrated on the colors of the yarns, so please excuse me/them.
Read before you become unduly impressed. Mama bought four (or five?) colors of tweedy wool some years ago. They labels read A: Charcoal, B: Light Gray, C: Mid Gray or Light Beige, D: Brown. They are somewhat rough to the touch, so I was thinking of vest or skirt fabric. There was a wee problem: there were two balls of each color and four of C, two of which had said Mid Gray and two other Light Beige, except we couldn't tell them apart. For two weeks, we had them at different parts of the house and looked at them at different times of the day, but neither Ben nor I could tell the difference. Ben though they got slightly different (in their minds) colors in different dye lots so they called them different names, but these yarns come from a huge mill in Japan, so I would have thought they would have better quality control. Who knows.

A is a lovely dark charcoal gray, without the hint of pink/red I see in this photo, whereas D is a delicious hot-choc without the sickly green; B to C look pretty accurate on my screen. Lower case letters indicate yarns I dyed, the original being the counterpart in Capitals.

The interesting thing is, sometimes the walnut solution took on a hint of green when I dyed gray yarns, but not always. In some cases it worked, in case of b, it became a sickly unattractive mess, almost military. After tentative washing and squeezing, the yarn's texture improved; they are probably nice enough for outdoorsy wraps, for example, (think Helen Mirren walking the dogs as The Queen;) or something folksy in a log-cabin cabin, not the structure necessarily.
My fav, I think. Again the photograph looks a little sickly, but the yarn colors on my screen look close, the original gray color at far right. In the evening, under the right light, this color can look like dark mid-silver, a sedate, non-abrasive, mature color, if slightly darker, it is called "oxidized silver" in Japan. In daylight, it is pale and pinky and tries too hard to be a grownup color. Again, I have no idea how I got grays in some cases, but they most definitely have green hues. The second greeny-gray, Medusa, I realized is sometimes referred to in Japanese as "sewage rat gray"!! Towards the brown/red end, the balls are yummy tea-with-milk browns, with the red hue being more noticeable.

Now that I have this many, I have to think carefully so I can make the most of the variety.

I started to discard the remaining solutions, but it still felt ever so slightly muddy, so I put it back in the urn. I might try smaller skeins of the second yarn. Or undyed skinny merinos.



It appears even Blogger got sick of me talking about tax returns, it is not allowing me to hear back from you, on Thursday (Cally) and Friday (Connie). Or not? Dot could on Saturday; perhaps Blogger recognizes weekends, though everyday is like the weekend for me; I know this after Seven Weeks Hard Labor. 

I have been doing my tax work, three afternoons this week, (OK, short durations within three afternoons.) I am flummoxed at/by the time required to uncover printable invoices in the darkness that is websites. There must be a law in New Zealand that dictates every website must have a different and unexpected way to hide such invoices, and the more confusing, the bigger tax break, because us stupid tax payers won't attach evidences and the government can come after us and penalize us.


And then in some instances I need to go into my PayPal/credit card history, where I discover, every year around this time, some financial institutions don't keep records for very long! And there is no conspiracy?

After I got sick talking to help center staff of various establishments, I played some more with the dye. The current lot will be the very last; the pillow case was ceremoniously taken out of the urn and the husks distributed under a cherry tree yesterday afternoon. Goodness, I had a good go of it; 39 skeins of different sizes and yarns, and three narrow warps. In this last lot are my favorite yarns and I'll post them in a day or two, but here are some unfavorites dyed this week.
Rescued cashmere from Mama's stash. I didn't like the original color (far left and slightly bluer in the photo but close), which is either a pale, mature, sophisticated peachy beige, or the color of a car-sick child. I didn't care for the color so I noted there were six balls and stuck them a box some years ago. I came doing something else last week, and though I could only improve them.  The first two balls came out a slightly yellower light/mid-gray-brown, (in the middle;) the second two a slightly brown version of the original, (right.)  I thought the three colors would look good together so I left two balls undyed.

What I discovered while handling the yarn was, this is not 100% cashmere nor cash/silk mix I am familiar with from this source; this is a cashmere/wool/angora/polyester mix, single, in size Awfully-Skinny, and angora flies all over and contaminates the dye bath. (I picked out the angora hair form two other skeins of wool, and scooped them out of the dye bath with a net.) If I have the patience to weave with this yarn in both directions, it will make a light, lacy, almost-angelic texture reminiscent of some pieces Mama brought back from India.  But it breaks, eh.  And it is dusty to handle.  So, though I'm not displeased with the colors, on to the back burner they go.
Wool of unknown origin, pretty horrible to handle, but has a more-than-subtle sheen. Again, the result is not very saturated for undyed wool, and this one is an unattractive straw yellow-brown; back of back burner.  Or, to tie sticks and reeds while I prepare a loom?

On another note, the loving patch-up I did on the umbrella/swift didn't last long.  I've since mended it twice, but I need a harder metal to hold the two bits together.  I'm thinking of taking it to the bead shop and see if any of the tiny metal rings would fit, and hold.

Now I must coerce B to stack some of the firewood to make space for another load coming in 10 days.

Enjoy your weekend, lovely people. 


A Broken Joint

 A healthy joint
And a color-coordinated kiss.

EDIT: At around midday my time, Thursday, Cally said:

"Blogger is refusing to let me post a comment on your blog! I have entered about 20 different verification whatsits so far and have lost patience with it. Also, it's time for bed. But is it just me?"

So sorry, anyone else having problems? I haven't changed anything.


Please Forgive Me for Being a Hypocrite

I love photos and pictures and drawings on your blogs, but I can go on a bit (??) with only words on mine. I'm a such a hypocrite but my blog, for me, is also a diary, to which I frequently refer not only in trying to remember what, when or how I did something, (almost a proof that I don't sit around and do nothing all the time,) but to ascertain accurate dates for tax return purposes, also.)  My peripheral vision caught a not-so polite word, "blogarrhea" on Facebook yesterday, and while I prefer to call what I do "cognitive discharge", I see not a lot of difference in the two.  And, oh, yes, I took it personally.
So, here's the Invisiblest Log Cabin in the world, so far.  The problem is, I put in medium-dark and medium-light navy in the warp and medium and medium-light purple in the weft.  Doh! Usually there is that magical time of late afternoon and the magical angle from which I can see the squares and rectangles, but this one, nada.  Today was the fourth time I've tried photographing this and still, nada.

This is the first of five from this warp, but seeing as it will take 5-10 days to weave one scarf, after I'm done with this piece, I shall proceed to the Big Loom with Tim's, (belated 50th birthday, due 38 months ago,) and Mama's so I can free up the loom to weave whatever loony, I mean, loomy things I need for the two exhibitions.

I have finally started, I think I'm qualified to say, on my tax return work.  I have slacked off on Carla Sonheim drawings after a cruisey first couple of days, but I hope to return to it.  Ronette resumes figure drawing class on February 3, and I have paid and secured my place.  Though my walnut husk solution finally started to look a bit tired, I think I can get a couple of more pale brown lots from it. First of two loads of firewood was delivered this morning; I am not stacking even one piece of it. And thank you for reading these not very insightful words. I shall now return to shuffling receipts and old envelopes and dried/discolored Post-It bits.


Idea for a "Conceptual" Piece

This is an idea for submission to Changing Threads exhibition, due in a month from today. First off, I have to tell you my family has a pragmatic approach to death, so if I sound callous, you'll have to excuse me.  There were a lot of deaths, all natural but sudden, in my extended family throughout my youth, and my parents were between 10-ish and 18-ish during WWII, so death was something that always existed alongside life.  (Incidentally, in one of his CDs, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole said something similar about the Hawaiian culture.)

Everyone I've ever known who have passed on died illnesses, in hospitals or hospices, suddenly or after a short illness, but they all had normal lives right up until then. So when I realized Dad was very not-OK and could not live without assistance, and yet not exactly ill in the sense a doctor could administer drugs or procedures to "fix" him, I realized for the first time there was another kind of death, that of slowly loosing previously-normal abilities and gradually fading away. That's what aging means.  (All the health complaints I've had this side of 30 and 40 and especially 50, I now know, is a natural progression and by extrapolating the decline, I will get to where my folks are now.)  I guess un/sub-consciously I began to visualize this part of Dad's life as the bottom of an unravelling cloth, with bits and pieces of warps and wefts of different sizes hanging loosely or trying to stay with the still in-tact part of the cloth. And lots of browns.

But his live wasn't always like this, and I tried to see the top of that cloth, which must have started with his birth, simple, tightly woven and structured, in orange-red, the Chinese happy color.  That's followed by the various events in his life that I know of, and don't know of, popping up sporadically in the vastness of mundane, everyday life, many, many bits forgotten or remembered incorrectly. A long and vertical timeline.

Parts are narrower, parts are wider; parts are more brilliant than others, but mostly orderly, and somewhat predictable. So, perhaps a leaf-shape.

But Dad's work, which was his true love, hit a boom late in his life, a decade starting at 62 until retirement.  (Oh, gee, I don't know when exactly he retired!) So perhaps an elongated (because he is 84 now) no garlic or onion, with few roots hanging from the bottom.  

I want to make it long so that the top is so high you really can't see the details but the colors are saturated there is no mistake there's lots happening up there.  But the mundane and the forgotten, this is where Jo's idea of gaps, of unwoven warp sections, work well, I feel.

This is as far as I got.  I don't know if I'll use material other than regular wool/cotton yarns.  I don't know if I'll embellish/distress the cloth afterwards, but I am tempted to take a blow torch for one of his experiences. I don't know if I want to keep the width universal or variable, but I am keen to pull out some warps and wefts afterwards. To tell you the truth, I don't want to make it too "arty" because that is not me, and that is so not him, but I do still want to make it an interesting piece to look at, and I don't know if I can differentiate it from "another one of those hangy things".

I have a working title of "Professor, Father, Patient", because these three seem to be the significant assignments he took up. He was an avid traveler, too, later in his life, but I haven't decided if/how to work that in; he was the kind of traveler who loved marking routes on the map; the more cities, the more mileage he covered, the happier, which is different from the kind of travels Ben and I, and for that matter Mama, enjoy.

Having written this much, recently I've become more and more comfortable with being a maker of "just" pretty things. (And that word "just" could have gone into so many different places in the previous sentence.) Yesterday during the meeting, I couldn't be bothered with "What is Art" discussion.  I'd like my piece to be selected for shows, but if what I make may not be deemed art, but "mere" craft, I'm not fussed.  And the thought liberates me to concentrate on what I make.  Which is about time.

So the most difficult part of this project is going to be how far outside my usual aesthetic I want to venture; how graphically I want to depict Dad's life.


The Good, The Bad, and The Brilliant

Because of the title of the post, I'm going to be all over, but there we are.
The Good: we had our Group R meeting today, and everybody except Ronnie brought it along.  (Ronnie's is buried in her garden for the time being.) This is Pat's; isn't it pretty? It's on her woven silk, but I love the harmony of the colors she piled on it without intention.
The Bad: the walnut husk dye continues.  I got all this from one ball of charcoal gray wool. I tried photographing this group many times, but the true colors won't show, so you have to trust what I say.  First off it's a darker collection than the photo suggests; the warp chain, far right, you might call black.  The original charcoal gray can be seen in the undyed part in the warp chain, but it was darker in real life. Dyeing turned it into a very soft black, like a warm, balmy evening when you can hear neighbors talking quietly on their porch swing if you listened.  I liked this result so much I made two more skeins to try to get  soft-dark charcoal, (the two in the middle), but they didn't turn as dark as I hoped.  One is slightly darker than the other.

Then I thought I would like to use up the rest of the ball and make two more skeins, fake-Ikat like the warp.  This time I planned the placement and sizes of the retardant carefully and tied much tighter than before; I also wanted the dyed part to be as black as the warp.


The gray isn't dark, almost the same as the previous two skeins, depending on the light, and the pigments went right though the cotton ties, even though I used the same cottons, just in different colors.  I'm not disappointed in as much as this makes more sense than the freak success of the warp fake-Ikat, but I am disappointed because I spent so much time preparing and I had wonderful pictures of fake warp- and weft-wise Ikat quietly creating a random and unexpected piece end result.


Just in case you were curious, I have a pillowcase full of walnut husks picked up from the ground last autumn and subsequently air-dried.  The pillowcase has sat in hot water since the start of this round of dye experiments, sometime late last year. My dye solution has fundamentally stayed the same, except on two occasions I added more water.  No chemical has been added intentionally, though there must be trace amounts of kitchen detergent, (from washing and preparing the wool,) and cheap white vinegar, (used in the final rinsing of wool; on two occasions, after the final rinse, I've thrown the skeins right back into the urn.)  As I say, mine is the crudest form of dyeing you can imagine. 

The Brilliant. Back to Group R. Changing Threads paperwork is due February 17; National Guild exhibition, March 1. And I can weave only 15 minutes at a time, maybe up to three times a day, and since I have wanted to weave big. I've had an idea for Chanting Threads, (in another post, as I have to gather my thoughts before I can explain,) but had convinced myself it has to go on the same warp as the National Guild piece to save time, and some thinking was required to make the warp work for both. Will I have time for both?

Jo suggested I work into the piece the fact that I can only weave for 15 minutes at a time: weave, advance warp, weave, so there are bands of woven parts and length of warp left unwoven in between.  

That is such and out-there idea for my making that normally I would reject it right away, but I've become quite receptive to ideas thrown around in Group R meetings, and in this instance, it works so well with the theme.  Brilliant. (Say it out loud like a English teenager - think Ron in Harry Potter.) Changing Threads being more conceptual than the National Guild exhibition, I feel OK about me doing this. I just need to work out the details, specifics, including how tight/untidy I want to make the woven parts.  Not just a pretty face, our Jo.  I almost wanted to come straight home and start working out the details.  And now I don't think the two submission pieces need to be on the same warp.  Maybe. 

So, a good day.  I think.

Have you Ever...

Seen prettier blues and blue grays, or sexier mid-gray enhanced by brick orange? I am speechless.  I know a couple others will be, too. Courtesy of Fabrizio Zanelli of Torino Daily Photo.


Me, Me, Me

Carla Sonheim once wrote: "Those of you who know me are wondering, 'How the heck is Carla going to be able to afford a month in India?!!' Answer: I’m not sure exactly, (but am relying on the words of R. Buckminster Fuller — and it bears repeating: 'You can rest assured that if you devote your time and attention to the highest advantage of others, the Universe will support you, always and only in the nick of time.)

And though my interpretation of the quote may seem (in subsequent discussions with Carla) somewhat different from why she repeated it in her blog, I felt rather selfish and I began thinking when is a weaver good enough to start sharing the knowledge, and what way would suit me if I were to do it.

Then someone posted a link to this list in Facebook, and BANG, the last item hit me in the face so hard it actually hurt!

I can't teach; I tried it once with a good friend and we nearly killed each other and we don't talk any more. I can't demonstrate because I get so nervous I make numerous mistakes. I've been asked a few times if I take in interns and immediately I declined because we have no spare room, we eat so irregularly, Ben's a super private person, the house is dangerously messy because my work is all over, our house is not exactly within walking distance from town and buses run hourly if that frequently, and there is the unsmall and unpredictable matter of my head.

But one of the qualities I don't like about some members of my family is they are so quick and adept at listing reasons why they can't do something, never considering why/how they can, and the possibility they might actually enjoy it. So maybe time for a rethink, eh.

The good thing, though, is, Carla makes us draw animals, real and imaginary, and animals don't appear on my radar, so I got stuck with her course immediately after a cruisy, wind-in-my-hair start. But now, I think I can draw several versions of a Sel-Fish!

Photographs/Avatars/Banners/Profiles, Brand/Range/Vision/Voice

* * * * * This is a long post, because I've been thinking about this for 25 months * * * * *

In the old days, life was simple. I wove wide shawls with a particular brand of NZ merino in the warp, and either merino, merino/mohair, (both from the same source,) or merino/possum/silk, (another source,) in the weft, and because I was restricted to two sources' color palettes, my pieces were either blue-ish/purple-ish/teal-ish, or black with/out natural. They represented, were, what I made.

Then I added cashmere; I loved colors available, but the yarns are tearfully expensive, so I decided on a range of small scarves with simple construction to make the most of cashmere's lightness and softness, and shorten the time and lighten the workload to weave each piece. This became my first merchandise/range, and in Nelson it came to best represent me. The two styles were so different in my mind, and I only sold in one gallery, so I didn't feel discordant.

Then I discovered the skinny cottons. There were gazillion colors, at least at the start, and oh, so affordable, at least at the start. These yarns enabled me to weave exactly the kind of cloth I envisioned weaving; to practice fine, flat weaving in case one day I can afford to do this in silk; to exhibit the kind of cloth I wanted to show, and to offer another merchandise range at more affordable prices relative to my other pieces. And they provided the exact kind of visuals I wanted to represent me as a maker.

Since late 2010, I've tried to add, for want of a better term, a "stash reduction" range. I have a wide range of yarns in my stash: yarns too thick/fat for my taste, colors not to my taste, discontinued products, yarns containing synthetics, ill-conceived purchases, and rescue yarns. I've wanted to reduce my stash and spending, I needed more affordable products for the-then third gallery, a non-profit. (I've always tried to differentiate style of work I sell to suit the mood and clientèle of each gallery.) Sales dropped (to the ground!) in 2010, and I needed pieces I could weave quickly and preferably on the 4-shaft Jack. And crucially, my weaving was becoming predictable and I wanted to experiment with sizes, textures, and colors/dyes, aesthetics. My current dye frenzy is partially for this.

And then I hurt my arms. Big pieces don't sell; cashmeres do better; cotton pieces don't and get stolen from exhibitions. I feel pulled in all directions, which in and of itself is not a bad thing as I can always delve further and develop ideas in any of these areas, not to mention new ones I want to try. And then there is the unsmall matter of conceptual/fiber/textile-art, which has a much wider appeal to exhibition selectors/judges/juries in the current climate, but oh, so foreign to me. And as a maker, I have been feeling eclectic, frantic, and all over the place.

In the old days, life was simple. I made a logo, picked out a typeface, and colors to for each, and used them whenever I needed a tag, an invoice, or a business card. With my woven tags, I used the typeface and colors I already used.

Then Ben made me my first website, and we considered contents, arrangements, photographs and word for months to make sure the website represented what I made and me as a maker in ways I wanted my website to. Then I started blogging, and we used as many of the same elements as possible in the appearance of the blog, and I even had an editorial direction but that went out the window fast. I also started participating in things online and created/registered/listed accounts/profiles as required, and though I tried to use the same visuals, I was seduced to using newer images from time to time. I can't recall all the places I have created/registered/listed myself any more. (Fortunately, I usually chose MegWeaves or "Meg in Nelson" for my account name because early on I tried to avoid being identified as Japanese because "Japanese+weaver" felt such a specific, cold, elite box, of which I am not a member. Nowadays, this is at the back of the queue of things to worry about.)

Ben and I made my second website on Blogger so I could update it myself, and changed quite a bit to suit where I was at the time. I had another look last year and made numerous minor changes; what you see now at MegWeaves.co.nz is, in effect, V2.5, but I don't feel comfortable/confident/sure if it represents what I make and me as a maker at this point.

It all started with photographs, most specifically when we spent a day with Doni and Husband. I always loved the quiet and uncluttered photographs on Doni's blog, (Shipbuilding posts in similar style); they allow me to focus and contemplate. Best of all they envelope me in a cocoon of calm.

After watching Doni and her camera in action, Ben explained to me some of the qualities I love are characteristic of SLR cameras, and I could emulate, to a degree, using his first, ancient digital Canon. I tried, but an old worry resurfaced: it's not only the camera, nor the lens, but what I have around me, how I see the world, how I live that's reflected in my photos. My photos are eclectic, frantic, and all over the place.

My present conundrum is not a marketing exercise in the first instance; I can't be bothered updating everything constantly and simultaneously. But it is a "Who am I? What am I supposed to be doing?" question, supported by an affinity with/for uniformity and simplicity.

What visual elements am I using now to represent me? (That I remember?)

I still like the grays I chose, pale yellow in combination, typeface Monotype Corsiva, my tulip weaving draft logo, and the smaller of my tags. I like the colors of the banners but I feel they don't represent what I make, and both avatars feel ancient; I dislike how vivid I made the gold, (though it stand out as an avatar, and when I'm depressed it takes that degree of saturation/contrast to see things.) Most of all, I don't like so many different elements from different era purporting to represent what I make and me the maker today. Variety is good, but I have a blurred vision of the present, and until I can see more clearly, I don't think I can't solve the present conundrum.

So, is that it? Is this where I am? Thanks a bunch for clarifying it. Do you think I need a colorful goo image in the meantime?


That Kinda Friday

I worked too hard doing housework on Wednesday so I was a little tired on yesterday and elected to do Not A Lot. Today was looking to go the same way, so I decided I'd do something productive, if not what I was supposed to have finished last Friday: tax returns.  Which ended up having to select a few photographs of my pieces.  I'll see if I can collect my thoughts on this subject for another post; truth to tell I've been thinking about this for nearly two years now.  Suffice it to say, the photos representing me on the Internet are all over the place; I can't even remember some of the places I created profiles/accounts, and some are those artist directory type places.  Yikes.

And, boy, does my hard drive need some serious tidying up!

* * * * *

Looking at stuff I made made me want to weave, so I decided to weave for just 15 minutes.  According to my notes, the last time I wove was early August last year, (except for the Pomegranate combo in Jaapn,) and it was good for this weaver to, errr, weave.

The piece is another almost-invisible Log Cabin, but the great thing about Log Cabin is, the wefts go in either A-B-A-B or B-A-B-A alternately, so the order lets me know where I am.  13.5 minutes in, with one more pick to go, I realized the order was wrong; this block should end with A so I can resume tomorrow with A, but noooooo!!!  I unpicked for seven minutes, then wove for another five, and left it 39 picks shorter than where I was before. But I walked away.   Maybe if I'm good, I can do two lots of 15 minutes tomorrow.

Knowing it'd be hard to walk away from the loom after only 15 minutes which turned into 25.5 minutes, I had selected three cones to prepare for dyeing before I started weaving, which was a tood strategy.  I made two skeins each of two types of yarn, finished up the day sticking them in the urn, and headed for the shower.

But you know, showers are dangerous; ideas inflilterate your head then consumes your thoughts. 

Because I liked the way my non-Ikat warp (in the fourth pic) turned out, I wound two skeins of the same yarn am tying randomly again this evening.  This can be the weft for this warp, or for another. The tying, though, I have to proceed with caution, because there's a lot of wrist action in tying.

* * * * * 

Errata: the warp chain shown in the first pic is NZ merino, because I knew when I made the warp that it was merino.  Which means the pale gray cone I'm loving this time around is most probably Australian merino.  I can't tell the difference by looking at them very closely, except the NZ merino was undyed and probably why the brown is so saturated.  They feels extremely similar, if not identical.  If you towered above me and insisted they are different, then the only thing I may be willing to admit is that the NZ merino could be slightly skinnier. Depending on the way you hold your tongue.



After 10 consecutive days of dyeing, I didn't do any today; I was expecting a few deliveries and didn't feel like I can be holed up in the basement. But 10 days of 3-5 skeins daily add up to a pretty good number, and I've been thinking of what all this experience means. Instead of showing you my loot chronologically, I'll show you some interesting, (good and bad) ones.   
This is my fav; the Australian soft yarn, possibly merino.  After Medusa, I was scared so I didn't boil the solution, and I got a softer olive gray, which I either love, (beautifully elegant,) or loath, (very old looking.)  So I boiled the newest skeins twice, but the color reverted to brown!  I love the color, but goodness me, if I have a choice, I'll take nuanced gray every time.  As you can see, I still have quite a bit of the original yarn so I'm keen to dye some more, and the solution still looks strong, but now I'm wondering why I got two lots of gray and then back to brown again, and weather I should add anything to get gray.  The only possible things that went into the dye pot were very diluted soap or vinegar, but they don't correspond to the dye lots which yielded grays. Any suggestions?
These are rather unsubstantial, (i.e. airy but with no substance,) soft merino, about 8-ply, and the first undyed yarn to go into the walnut husk solution. Considering they were undyed, (a little paler than the photo,) they didn't take much color.  Unsubstantial body and tentative dye job mean I need really good quality wool for the warp for these babies.

I've become interested in the chemistry of wool and dyes, though I keep no record so there isn't much to fall back on. Still, I thought the oxidization of the liquid, through many times boiling the solution, was what made the yarns come out gray, but that wasn't the case. Curiouser and curiouser.  I can see myself spending hours and hours of undocumented dyeing if I didn't have a few deadlines with my weaving this year.

* * * * *

Today was one of the hottest days this summer, and at the hottest time of the day, around 3PM, our new stove was delivered. Not that there was much wrong with the old one: it was a 1989 model, (the same year as Ben's beloved red candy car,) and the oven was 10C cooler than what it said, one hob was either off or all the way up, one plastic handle had crumbled, and none of the parts were available any more.  So we didn't have a handle on the wonky hob; big deal.

Sometime after Ben came back from Japan but before my return, the stove did something that angered him, (who is by far the better and more-frequent cook Chez Nakagawa,) so much, he let me know his feeling (!) on Skype.  As far as I was concerned, if need be, we could have had a fancy, dedicated pair of pliers nearby and lived in peace for another ten years, but Ben wanted to check out the Boxing Day sale on Boxing Day, and I was too sick to argue, so when he asked me to pick one, I picked the least fancy one for one reason: it was a smidgen shorter/lower than the rest, nearly the same as the old one. 
I've noticed no amount of dish washing in Mama's kitchen made my arms ache, but here in my kitchen, just a short time makes me almost want to cream and we figured it's the slight difference in the height of the sink.  When my arms were not hurt, I got back pains after spending a long time in the kitchen, but now I get acute shoulder/arm pains, so Ben is going to build me a step thingie, (picture a very wide footrest you might have under your computer desk,) soon.

All was not lost.  As we disconnected the old stove, Sparky Leroy discovered one of the four wires extending from the wall but inside the old stove just about had it.  I still prefer not to throw away things that still work, (the old one is just going to landfill!), and would have liked to have bought a new couch, or a mattress, or a washing machine, but never mind...   All I had to do was to keep the oven on full blast for half an hour afterwards. 

* * * * *  

Group R homework. Dis-like. The directive is too Keri Smith, (other members appear to be smitten by her,) and though I like her blog, I find her approach too violent and extreme; I can imagine it being attractive to young folks, but to me it epitomizes the emphasis on the artist/concept/performance, and not the technique. Whilst I can see accomplished artists discovering interesting triggers from her processes, or simple joy, it's not for me for now, so I defied our rules and have been more intentional.

After leaving my rag outside in the rain for several days, I've been dipping/dunking/leaving it in the dye urn from time to time, and sticking it with the rest of my washing from time to time. I have no attachment to the piece, found nothing interesting, and can't wait to be done with it.  The gesso-ed side retains pigments better, (well, doh!) but not the other side; that's about it.

* * * * *

The irony of the day is, I don't have to cook tonight, because I cooked a whole chicken as a farewell to my old stove last night.



Last lot of the Walnut Husk juice dye, yesterday; well, this morning, because I didn't go downstairs to check until 1AM.

I am such a natural dye newbie I forgot the same solution can yield different colors from one lot to another.  I had this mature, seductive silver gray skeins in the pot, (like seals swimming in shallow sea,) but since I was looking at an already-gray yarn, I thought they were only wet, and wished if only the yarns would look like that when dried!  AND, I forget why I wanted to dye with walnuts in the first place: the lush silver gray!  That's what Doni wrote a while back, I think, and that's why I've been obsessed with walnut dyeing since. Anyway, the liquid looked the same muddy brown, and I kept almost boiling the yarns for half an hour or longer!

What I got instead is one warp of lame matted gray of Japanese-manufactured tweed wool, (the original yarn is much darker than seen here),
And two skeins of mature dreadlocks, middle-aged Medusa wig, or a spoiled cat's plaything; the yarn is the same Australian wool as the second picture yesterday...
But I love, love, love the second color, I'm making three more skeins of this and trying again, keeping fingers, toes and eyes crossed I get the same/similar gray.


Dyed and Gone to Purgatory

It's been cloudy all day and if it's hard to show you accurate colors on better days, light like today's can't do justice.  With that in mind, in no particular order, along with skeins of the same type dyed previously, (also in inaccurate colors)... 
Very scratch Tweedy gray wool of unknown origin; the top of the cone was already yellowed when I bought it some years ago.  This yarn, for some reason, makes the Walnut brown appear yellower than other yarns.  It's still scratchy. 
Soft skinny Australian wool of unknown breed; possibly merino, in a criminally unattractive light gray. They are more saturated than seen here, and redder that the previous yarn. I can't tell if there is any correlation between the saturation, temperature or length of time in the dye bath.  But nice.

When I saw the two very lighter skeins, I thought it'd go nicely with a black warp, then remembered a pre-made one. Putting these skeins next to the black warp chain, the black was too saturated and jarring, so I dyed the warp, too.
The ever so slight softening of the black of this warp (foreground) made it friendlier; now my problem is, it's an 8-meter warp and I don't think I have enough wefts. Still, nice.
My fav, and another one I can't photograph to do justice.  A lovely dark almost-black wool of unknown origin, possibly a Japanese product, but who knows where the bahbahs lived.  I made a short warp, then tied at irregular intervals and irregular tightness before dyeing, as seen in the right.  Imagine a badly made length of sausage links in your dye bath. I intended the tied bits to act as retardant rather than resist, used old mercerized cotton, and hoped they will come out slightly lighter with gradated boundaries, but the ties prevented the walnut juice seeping through.  The light bits remained "undyed" but both the original and dyed parts are darker than seen here.  This warp, I'll try to show you when it's on the loom, perhaps. 
The last of the very bad pics: many years ago I started buying yarns in colors I wouldn't normally buy; autumn colors, yellows, oranges, and greens. One KG of this was the apex of such effort; it looked more muted on the website, but oh-so-in-your-face in real life, so it sat at the back of the shelf for a decade. After I saw how nicely the black warp morphed, I dunked the two pre-measured warp chains that sat in the pre-measured warp drawer for also a very long time. It's now slightly more manageable, but I'm still not sure about what weft to use.

Three more skeins in the urn; the liquid still looks chocolatey dark, but the skeins have sat in the urn all afternoon and not picked up much hue.  I'm not sure what I'll do with them.

As regards the title of my previous post, he did.  A ripe pineapple was sitting on the kitchen table for a week; it was unbearably inviting.  Yum yum. 

Dice Me some Pineapples

Arms tingling, head hazy, but life is good. 

Yesterday was Epiphany Day in Italy. I knew that's when the Three Wise Men arrived with three not very useful gifts, and modern day Christmas celebration finishes in Italy.  I didn't know, though, that there is a lost witch involved.  I like that.  Besides, I always held a Joycean understanding of "epiphany", of understanding one's destiny/vocation, rather than deity; though in Joyce's world they were inseparable and now I wonder if my university's un-Catholic, pale Wesleyan view influenced me, or was I hearing only what I wanted to hear, because I still carried a lingering guilt for no having had The Calling. No matter; just don't grow up Catholic in Japan if you can help it. 

This year, I am going to make, either for myself only or for Ben and me, Christmas stocking/s shaped like Italy.  Sicily and all.  

I had another Blah day, dyeing some more stuff in walnut husk solution, but I finally started using the Grown-Up's Dye Urn, and, well, doesn't that make things easy!  As with so many things in my life I wait for before I try, why didn't I do it earlier?

I'm accumulating a whole lot of brown wool yarns of different sizes and softness in different shades and strength of coffee-browns, because I thought dyeing is less taking on the old arm. Most of it is overdyeing, mostly various gray wools, but also a variegated "regret" brown/green/red/yellow of the loveliest quality merino, dark charcoal grays and a black merino warp.  I'll show them all to you in the next couple of days because I think the walnut husks just about had it and I can stop now. 

The dyed wool, when wet, has a faint smell of dusty, walnutty, (and a fainter but definite cheap white vinegar) smell, which is nice.  The browns are mostly blue-browns, between milky-coffee and hot chocolate, which I like.  I've learned that the same yarn from the same cone wound in different skeins, washed together, rinsed together, dyed at the same time and handled about the same can end up looking quite different, which worries me about overdyeing pieces woven with different yarns to accentuate the structure, as that's one of my final destinations in dyeing.  I knew dyeing is difficult; it involves a lot of careful measurements and planning, and this is why I resisted it for so long, but I still think it's a great way to give my arms a rest, or at least a variety of movements. Besides, I've had everything I need to dye wool and cotton for ages.

I do like this slightly longer relationship with the yarns, and I do like handling my yarns in the dye pot.  With the walnut shells and husks I've been handling the solutions and yarns without gloves, and I love wool's weighty, sexy, shiny, slinkiness when wet; they're like [insert favorite female sexiness] soaking in a marble tub filled with honey or milk or [insert favorite bath flavoring].  They're more like cats than dogs, and I'm a complete dogaphile, (I don't like caninophile - they sound like wolf-lovers,) to the exclusion of cats.  (Whoa, that's a good way to say I don't like cats!)  But in this case, I don't mind!

I have one problem, though;  I am so not a brown weaver.

The great thing about Epiphany Day was, I had a flashing glimpse of a woven piece, I think in the afternoon, supposedly woven by me, a decorative piece. It was quite big, a lot of mid and dark grays, but it was just a flash.  Still, La Befana's gift to me.

Today I'm going to have a go at weaving. 


Thank Goodness Ben Works One More Day

And then he has the weekend off. I miss him when he's away, though I like having the house to myself.

I woke up this morning, after having one of those instrument-of-the-Goddess dreams, no pun intended. I was in a town most probably Nelson, in a church I've never seen.  I was invited to a concert by Japanese school children bands/orchestras by one of the participants, a 15-year-old boy prodigy on a South/Central American mouth-organ-like instrument I've never seen or heard of, (most probably not real,) though during the concert, he played a recorder and a guitar.  He told one of the teachers/organizers I was his mother's English teacher.

During a break or after the concert, while discussing his music, he asked me how I approach my making, to which I had a nice short answer; it translates to something like, "Original look, easy care." Except the word "original" is a loaded word; online dictionaries say "original, creative" but the original (huh!) Japanese word is "zanshin" (斬新), which also means bold, unique, never tried before.  No matter what my stuff look like, they are sturdy and easy to care for, that much is true, but I had never said or heard it in Japanese.  But the zanshin part - that could be where I need to go next.

I had a hard time getting up and feeling unreasonably tired, and this morning I figured out my annoying little friend that is mild-to-moderate depression was revisiting.  I'm not sure, but the good doctor and I decided just last Friday that we could suspend my medication. I weighed between taking the medication, (because I have some left still,) and drinking St John's Wort tea, and went for the latter.

Unable to get my gray matters working enough to plan my next productive mood, I gazed once again at Carla Sonheim's website/blog, and signed up for The Art of Silliness 1.  I got started as soon as I got the links. I'm supposed to do one sheet a day, but I went ahead and did three rather quickly, and enjoyed the experience immensely. I think by working through one sheet a day, I would get more out of each page and instructions, but the old head never came right today, and since nobody was watching, I broke the rules.  Maybe I'll have enough gumption tomorrow to do some real life stuff, like starting on my tax return work, in addition to the worksheets. 

Carla's on-line courses, at least the one I'm doing now, is a little bit like a visual The Artist's Way, but gentler.  Instead of thinking or writing a lot of words, I move drawing medium across the paper, which in my current condition produces better vibes. Carla's instructions are gentler, a little less "out there" than Keri Smith, and more doable, inviting, and practical for me. 

If you or someone you know has to live with not-too-serious mental or life afflictions, even kids, I heartily recommend you look into Carla's Silliness series, because it's a good invitation to drawing, a good motivation to go from 0 to somewhere, in a most pleasant and kind way.  And, almost forgot, they are affordable!!

I've half a mind to start a new sketchbook for my Carla work, but I'm not in a rush; for now I'm just going to gaze at the three pages I did today, see if I want to add lines or colors or do something else on blank sheets, and I'm trying very hard not to take a peek at future sheets.

Other soothing reads: I finished reading "Nigella Bites", and am considering rereading "How to Eat". (I have these two and "How to be a Domestic Goddess".)  I reread Erica de Ruiter's articles in "The Best of Weaver's: Thick 'n Thin" and have more idea brewing, but after having tried a few drafts on the software, I thought simple might be best when using her techniques, so I'm back to the drawing board.

I think I'll go back to the Rothko book tonight.   

So, which one of you pointed me in Carla's direction anyway? 


Monday Morning this Wednesday

Ben's gone to work and I have the house to myself. I'm supposed to do my tax return work for the next three days, though if I put my mind to it, it only takes one day.

My seven weeks in Japan were very real, a sort of immersion course on the life of oldies in that country. When I came back I couldn't believe how surreal my normal life was, and felt outright guilty I had it so easy. Then, Ben and I taking turns being "sick" (and boy, is this a relative term!) for a couple of weeks was surreal; time was suspended, the outside world didn't exist; we slept a lot and didn't do much thinking.  So, today we're sucked back into our respective realities.

I woke up startled because NZ Guild's National Exhibition submission paperwork is due March 1.  I know, because I'm the one who warns folks about this, but I hadn't realized it's less than two months.   Changing Threads paperwork is due February 17 - that's 45 days and no taking advantage of the leap year here.  I knew these days at the back of the back of my mind; it just hadn't entered my consciousness that December 2011 has come and gone and now it's January 2012.  Panic!

Garden, housework, weaving and dyeing will have to be measured and balanced.  The arms haven't stopped tingling, and I'd like to keep them and hopefully use them until my last day. 

Oh, wah wah wah; this has been such a "Wake Up, Dorothy" morning! Why does the sun have to be so bright??


The Trapunto-de Ruiter Conundrum

In studying Erica's Magic-Step Towels draft, I learned the following.  (This is exactly the kind of wordy writing about weaving I loathe, but unless I write this, I can't even tell if I am not understanding something.  And it's weird for me but I'm going to read the draft threading from left to right, as yo use it in the linked draft.)  

You have two choices in the threading:
2-2-2-1-2-2-2-1-2-2-2-1-2-2-1-1-2-2-1-1-2-2-1-1-2-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-2, or,
 (Consider the two threads in red a convenient spacer so the sub-blocks appear identical.  But if you want to weave anything, consider carefully where these go, as I haven't figured out yet, but they probably go between blocks, rather than inside.  Or not??)

Changes of warp colors coincide with changes of the shaft, and Erica started with the dark thread:

Woven as drawn in, it's easy to see we have a choice of 2x1, or two block, a vertical and a horizontal "stripes", with lighter color always coming from either the top or the right of each square in the draft, or the bottom and or the right in the cloth.)
The mild-OC in me wondered how many expressions I would get if I used 2 threading schemes x 2 color order, or four combination; I didn't get 4x4 or 16 different expressions, but four.
Light (or dark) colors coming from top, right, bottom and left.
Two expressions in each column/row.  I was quite pleased with this draft, but I do so like mirrored looks, so what would happen if I mirror-repeated each block. And, well, I can see it's a logical extrapolation of the above, but a bit disappointing, don't you think?
A little more contemplation needed, I think.

But the walnut husk dye should be finished.

Last Day of the Holiday

And I am expressly happy and a little bit sad; a little bit sad because today is the last day of having Ben at home but because one or both of us were sick with a bit-punchier-than-mild colds for the last 14 days, we didn't do anything special; we slept a lot, took turns taking over-the-counter cold capsules, and managed only a little weeding.  But we cooked and ate well with still one-third left of a cake I baked on Boxing day.  Controlled indulgence, folks. (Still my body remains an enigma to health professionals; with the amount of physical activities and a drastic change in my diet and portion for seven weeks in Japan, I didn't loose an ounce; it was thus when I worked out at the gym 3+ times a week 2006/07.)  

Expressly happy (and a little bit sad) because I managed to start work on January 1; that I did this, and that I'm looking into new things bring a tiny but steady grin on my face.  "A grin, and not a smile,? I hear you ask; for now it's a grin, I can't explain way, but I assure you it's a good grin.

Project 1: Dyeing
Because I want to include some hand-dyeing into my "real" work I started making short warps and skeins to dye/overdye first thing in the morning on Jan 1.  Though I had specific plans then, I keep changing my mind so I'm not sure what I'm going to do in the next few days, but at least I have these babies and a couple more waiting, and a nice dark walnut husk solution brewing as I type. I'm sensing that when one ventures into the world of dyeing, measuring becomes important; it's something I didn't do much while just playing around. 

I have mixed feelings with my speed.  Normally I would have made these warps/skeins in a couple of hours, but this lot took me two half-days in three goes, and even then I had overnight more-than-discomfort-but-less-than-pain on both arms both nights. I had thought my Wonky Arms were temporary, that with care I'll get over it, but I've only just start to entertain the dreadful possibility this is for ever and I really have to learn how to control my body and work wisely.  (See me roll my eyes; it's so much easier said than done.)

Which, in a perverted but hopeful way, generates excitement because when one changes the way one works, I'm convinced, it changes what one makes.  In my case, I'll be an even slower weaver, but I'll spend more time with each piece, which has got to be a good thing.

Project 2: Trapunto Made Me Do It

Yesterday Trapunto gave us a link to Erica de Ruiter's taken on Log Cabin/Basket weave.  You might call it synchronicity, but this morning I was gazing at "The Best of Weaver's: Thick 'n Thin" and, lo, there are heaps of Erica's articles for weaving with less than four shafts.

True story: I've been avoiding anything to do with Erica because I think she taught in New Zealand, (and so I'm convinced it included Blenheim,) relatively recently, and though I was a member of the national guild, it completely went under my radar and I found out about it after she'd gone home!  I kicked myself then and I kick myself today that I missed this opportunity, and I felt sad every time I saw her name.

Well, no more.  As you know, my primary "production" (if you can call it that) loom is the four-shaft Jack so I'm always on a lookout for interesting four-or-fewer (preferably without pickup) ideas, so Erica and her articles are most definitely on my radar now.

Not Quite Project 3: Speaking of Trapunto
I think I looked up "trapunto" some time ago when I first "met" her.  But, again, the Goddess of Weaving led me to a picture of woven trapunto in "The Best of Weaver's: Fabrics that Go Bump", page 13, by Alice Schlein, and this is most definitely something I'd like to do sometime in the future.

I love "The Best of Weaver's" books and I have them all, but texture is not something I'm interested in weaving, (though I love it when others do it well,) that these two books I bought when they came out but never really looked at until this morning. That's got to be a good sign. 

* * * * *

I started a wee, tiny non-project for the month of January.  It's laughable, but doable, so I'll show it to you on the 31st. 

* * * * *

Some years ago I created a Flickr group called Weaving Booboos.  So far it's been only me posting booboo pics, but if you are so inclined, I'd love for you to share some of yours, too.


A Day in the Life of Looms 2012

Mine, 2:15 PM, 1/1/2012, Nelson, New Zealand, 41°18 0"S / 173°13'10"E.
Rigid Heddle; I might put the first project of the year on this one.  More on this later.
8-shaft sample loom unfortunately didn't see any progress in 2011.
16-shaft Klik has the same color (as last year) but a different experimental warp.
4-shaft Jack has the last of the cashmere Log Cabin warp.
16-shaft Mac has the dark gray cashmere warp; Tim's birthday scarf is next, then Mom's.

4-shaft Jack loom. Why am I weaving a braid in the Creative Fibre colours? You will have to wait till festival this April to find out.
8-shaft table loom. Not sure if you call this a naked loom or not.
There is no warp on it but it is loaded with fabrics waiting to be made into garments.
8-shaft countermarch. An odd photo but I wanted to show both sides of the fabric - very different. I didn't particularly need another woolly sofa throw right on summer holiday time but I weaving keeps me sane - and the slubby multicolour yarn was looking at me.