Letter Journal - Newbie's Thoughts

Over the last two weekends, I spent some time working on the aforementioned Letter Journals, one each weekend. It's that thing where we make small booklets, work on a bit of mixed media, pass it on to another person, and when we get our own back the book will have been worked on by around four people. I wanted to record my thoughts before I forget them.

Material/Media: I'm unfamiliar with too many. In drawing classes, we used mostly dry media: pencils, charcoals, conté, pastel and graphite; occasionally crayons and felt-tip pens; wet media and other techniques like collage and print less often. We also used inexpensive drawing paper, (for me, the larger the better,) and I chose to always use a easel and work standing up.

In these journals, for whatever reason, I tried to use what others appear to be using to achieve the mixed-media-y look. Most of what I own are the cheapest and/or student grade; I live in a small town where that is what is readily available, and it's never hindered my enjoyment. Alternatively I could shop online or in Japan, but even then I tend to buy the cheapest or whatever is on sale, because I don't take my paper play seriously. That's not a bad thing, is it?

I don't have many fancy mixed media "products", but I have enough stuff, and once or twice "products" disappointed big time. (It probably would have been a different story had I gotten better-quality brands.) As I said, I have enough, but what I do have, I need to spend time with, play with, learn characteristics and workable combinations. (I am the weaver who wove nothing but plain weave for seven years. I like learning.)

Because of the postal weight restrictions of many countries, (NZ Post allows 200g for a DL envelope as opposed to some countries' 50!!) we're recommended to use copy/cartridge and other light-weight paper. Papers I chose didn't like water at all and in some cases even iron didn't remedy the warped shapes. I've more light-weight paper to experiment with, like onion-skin typing paper, (remember them? I still have some!) coloring book pages, accounting and music notebooks, thin graph papers, etc., but familiarizing myself with material/media is urgent. I will probably start making my own collage material, too, as I use glossy mags in the main but they really add to the weight. Collage being my go-to technique, this is important.

Drawing: I never learned to paint, except to make backgrounds/washes, so that's a totally different kettle of whales, but I did take drawing lessons for six years and I loved it, so I should be less reluctant to draw. But I am. So I started copying tiny drawings and photographs, but it's not going well and sitting down at the coffee table and drawing in A4 or smaller sketchbooks is a completely different activity to what I did in class. I could get my easel out, I suppose, but I couldn't work on my journal this way, can I?

Layers: This is like texture in weaving: I love it when others do it well but I like to make simpler, "thinner" end-product. With collage postcards, I've become less reluctant to to create layers on paper, but my preference is still less/fewer, and I may be doing too little backgrounds.

Originality: As with my drawing, I want to eventually make my journal contributions look different from other folks', (or that's what I thought about my drawing but it may not be the case,) to claim I'm not a paper/mixed media person but I'm a weaver, (beyond pasting tiny cut-up drafts,) and a bit weird. (Which is one reason I don't want to accumulate "products".) To that end, drawings has got to be at the top of the list; I also want to try stamp-making and small prints; even turn my drawings into stamps and prints.

Collaboration: We are meant to complete a couple of spreads in every journal so nobody else works on them, and create/add to backgrounds on other pages. So far I've not worried about originality on my or anyone else's because I'm too busy "doing", but I worry about layers of backgrounds I see posted in our Facebook group. Some, to me, look much too much from the start, and at least in the thumbnail pictures I see no way of my adding anything further. On the other hand, I wonder if my background contributions will look less-than-half-hearted for their sparsity, although at least three others are going to pile on stuff, so I don't think it's a big problem. Maybe there're folks who love to pile on stuff.

We'll see. Experience will help, but in the end I think what others in a particular swap like/make will tell me what to do. Fingers crossed.

The first theme I signed up for was "patterns". What weaver wouldn't. I made the cover paper with acrylic two years ago post-Seth's workshop. It's actually more saturated and has purples, oranges and quite a few blues you can't see in the scan, and I thought it was regular but not identical, my kind of a pattern.
This is my one satisfying background page. On other pages, I sort of cheated, pasting one or a few big pictures showing patterns. I had printed/cut out some weaving drafts but they never found a place in this journal; perhaps they will on others' on the same theme.
This is my "finished" page, which turned out completely different from how I imagined. For one thing, cheap paint is less intense! I signed it to signal "finished", but I didn't spray the top coat because I want to work some more in the bottom purple part when it comes back. (Not sure if you can see the original painting on the top half of the right page; I used the colors and extrapolated the lines.)
Jade is in Oz and there are a lot of Oz members, and because their postal weight limit is 50g, there are a lot of calls for Australia-only swaps; the group has been going for a while so some are by-invite only. But the group is kind to newbies, to everybody, so no worries. After I sent off my first journal, I was itching to join another, and waited for another International swap with a not-too challenging theme. Not finding any, I went called my own, with a Mail/Post/Letter-theme.

Not thrilling when I don't like the cover, but live and learn. It's a recycled envelope. And though it's a theme/motif I liked since I was little, somehow it wasn't as encouraging as I thought it would be. Maybe I have to many preconceived images.
This is a spread where I used wax and water-soluble crayons. The wash was so pale and crinkly I worked over with more crayons, which made it worse. I thought of gessoing over, or at least sponge-rolling with gouache, but gazing at a totally different example on Facebook, I started making shapes with gel pens. What I really wanted to do was to draw a woman writing and reading letters, and I practiced about eight times each, when it came to drawing on the page, they turned out weird. I'd like to blame the crayon build-up underneath, but that would be untrue. The hands on the cover didn't have crayon underneath. I thought of going over the drawings with a thicker pen, but whenever I try to remedy things I made them worse so I left them. Finished.
The small page is a postcard I "wrote" to Dad; the picture side is blank. The text side is finished.
This is how I feel every time I finish a journal. And just when I gave the envelope to Ben to post, he remembered I had received someone else's! But I think I'd like to work on twill drafts now.

If you are interested in joining the Letter Journal group, contact Jade.

* * * * *

Ben's back at work this week. We only gardened that one afternoon, but he smoked a big piece of pork, and beef (?) sausages one day, chicken drumsticks and salmon another day, and chicken breasts, and pork sausages another day, and we had bread from the best bakery in town, so every single day we had healthy open sandwiches laden with lettuce, tomatoes, gherkins and smoked protein. Which reminds me, we ate the last of the chicken last night so I have to cook dinner tonight.

I finished threading the white warp on Monday just so I don't have to tell mom I hadn't, again, on our weekly Skype.

Dad would have been 89 today. He's gone 3.5 years but I don't miss him any less, so it's a big fat lie it gets easier with time. The good part for me is, it's darn hard to remember his bad bits.


A Week of... Gardening??

On Tuesday, I tidied my stash room a little and evacuated all mixed media stuff from the living room. Because I've been in full work mode, (whatever "full" means when one's been mildly/moderately depressed and is fighting sporadic joint pains,) I had yarns all over the floor I could hardly move. Now, most wooly stuff are back in boxes or downstairs, and mixed media stuff re-sorted with even a wee table surface to see, select and try out ideas. This is not a change in focus, but for right brain massaging. I've been working on a post about my first Letter Journal experience; I hope to finish soon.
On Wednesday I finished the practice needlepoint piece. The one-horizontal-one-vertical in combination with a long-and-skinny made it impossible to shape it in its original rectangle; I don't have a needlepoint frame, so I wonder if this would be a problem with a larger, more or less square piece. Towards the end, (top right,) I had ran out of darker blues, and experimented with jigsaw-puzzle-like shapes, which made the whole thing more interesting. Funny how the top looks a little like the top of the South Island around Nelson; that was completely unintentional. I don't have a concrete plan for the next project yet.

I liked having a needlepoint project; I worked little bits at a time while watching the telly in the evenings. Ditto knitting, spinning, and embroidery; I love the portability and, what's the word, instant accessibility (?). Perhaps if I worked on a small frame loom, it would be the weaving equivalent. More than that, I wished I were less circumspect about drawing.

This afternoon, we went outside for the first time this "gardening" week. We only tidied the pots on the patio, and saw how much work needs doing, (a lot!) but it was one half day more than nothing. And I'm about an hour and a bit away from finishing threading the baby blanket. We have been eating a lot of yummy healthy food this week, though. Ben smoked some chicken and pork and we got delicious loaves from the good bakery, so lots of beautiful open sandwiches. It's definitely getting warmer.



Hello there. Has it been a fortnight already? A week ago, I was going to tell you I can't remember what I'd been doing and had to check my record: "Blah day," "Not good," "BLAH BLAH BLAH DAY." (By the way the first pages of the diary/calendar became unstuck and it did acknowledge van Gogh's "Branch on an Almond Tree in Blossom". When I went to the same shop a week later, there were many more covers but this one appeared sold out.)

But things haven't been so bad; I've only a quarter of the way to thread of the white blanket warp; hay fever hasn't been too bad although I do stay inside, (so, nor garden time,) and it's been raining some days so there are the odd flowers opening. Ben's been sick, and we think it still has something to do with his myriad of dental problems, but he told me on Friday he had taken this week off to "help me with in the garden" so there will be dental appointments. Or so I thought, until we found out the guy's taking another week off. Curse Ben's "extraordinary tolerance for pain"; I swear it's the same problem for which we ran into a dentist office at 8AM (?) in Elgin, Scotland, in 2003, after having had it checked by our then-regular dentist in preparation for the trip.
After a break, I resumed needlepoint; I lost the plot on the oblong/oval shapes and started to run out of the darker blues from the first project, so am mixing the lighter blues from the second. The focus is more on practicing the one-horizontal-two-vertical stitch, which has become slightly easier but I still get confused when bordering a different color and the yarn splits easily. Or should I say, I stick the needle not always besides the previous stitch but nick the sides. I prefer the irregular, less angular shapes.
I've cut life-size cartoon sheets for smaller scarves in preparation for the Searles technique. I'm going to start with super simple lines/shapes in two-faced twill, but I needed to see real size pictures. I also realized I can't do this on my four-shaft which has only six treadles, since four shafts in two faces needs eight, (for options to lift shafts 1, 2, 3, 4, 123, 234, 134, and 124,) so I have to vacate one of my table looms, both of which have "can't be bothered finishing" warps.
Something like these are likely to be my practice designs.

EDIT: Of course, with six treadles I could mix some kind of a twill with plain or basket weave, but in this case I probably would like to pay more attention to colors to make the two areas appear more in contrast to each other.  I'm a little afraid of using plain weave in case the texture/fulling come out unevenly, or selvedges scalloping. An easier solution would be a 3-end twill.


Part 3 of 3 of 2016

It's been at the pace of an old-snail-with-joint-problems but I have some progress. (Rain today; all the pictures posted today have a pink tinge that doesn't exist in real life, but you get the gist.)

I don't have the final drafts for the baby blankets, but I've settled on a simple threading and got to work. There are roughly 12 repeats, (with irregularities at the selvedges,) and the first repeat took 90 minutes, then a half a repeat about half an hour, so I'm hoping the rest will take ten hours or so, or three sittings. It's a lovely yarn with the merino portion that smells like sheep when it rains.

The drafts will be in my usual kind of twills.
I finished the second side of the bag; I think it will be a bag. The white and pale blue stripes in the middle were far too wide and unappealing but the thumbnail of this picture didn't look so bad.
That's the surprise of projects without plans. I find the lines/shapes in the first side more unified and pleasing close up, but this may change from time to time.
This is the first side.
I started a practice piece with leftovers. (I have in mind a larger piece in ivories, camels and taupes; the yarns I picked aren't strictly monochrome as some have hints of yellow, but harmonious overall.) I started out practicing oval/feather/pear shapes in different stitches but it's not working all that well. I've only ever used the one-horizontal-one-vertical stitch, but one-horizontal-two-vertical stitch, (and presumably the two-horizontal-one-vertical,) is thick, soft and lovely; it's easy to split the yarn and stitch through it, however, or to miss spots adjacent to adjacent patches. Mixing the different stitches would give depth, but I'm not sure if I have the patience counting and picking, and I find myself leaning towards one texture/flat outcome and placing interest in the colors and shapes, like my weaving. One option when working on a larger piece is to draw the approximate shapes/plan on a piece of paper and check my progress against it as I work. I love the saturated navy blues and the comparatively monochromatic look of the sample.

I got through the twill and Summer and Winter parts of Searles book immediately, (I'll have to learn the other structures before continuing reading,) and have been dying to experiment. I've had a longish for-samples warp on my 16-shaft Klick for ages so it's a cinch threading, but for now I'm holding off until I finish threading the baby blankets lest I get too absorbed by the experiment. This is going to be so much fun, I tell you.

I weeded and planted some wallflowers; it's a tiny patch and still I did it over two days, (spring wind started blowing on cue on Sept 1,) but I did it nevertheless. I'm not sure if the new medications/supplements are working, if I'm being super lazy, or now it's the hay fever slowing me down, but I haven't been as productive as I like. If this is the new normal, so be it; I'm sick of regretting what I haven't done.

I had a Bowen Technique massage on Wednesday, which I think worked well but I have picked up many bad habits over the years, mostly when I sit, so there'll be a few more appointments forthcoming. I had to write a check for Kathleen, (had to think what to write on which line!) and I was startled it was Aug 31. Where has the year gone?!
On my way home, I bought a 16-month diary for 2017 starting Sept 1 and began writing a few lines of what I did each day. This way I hope to reduce the missing weeks and months in the coming year. The cover looks like van Gogh's "Almond Blossoms" but with glittery bits; there is no mention of it anywhere in the book so I don't know what the deal is, but it cheers me up.

I woke up this morning at 5.30AM panicked I forgot to set the alarm, so I set it and tried to go back to sleep. When the radio came on, it wasn't the regular news program so I was sure I had the wrong station, (which is hard since the radios in our house have been tuned into one station for >21 years,) but it was the usual station, running a weekend program. Frantic, I checked three places on my laptop to discover it was Sunday! Instead of feeling lucky for an "extra" day, I was exhausted and fell asleep. What was that all about??

Today is the last day of temporary Suter; the renovated (??) old Suter opens in a month. I swear I posted a picture of the temporary Suter around Feb 2015, but I can't find it, so here is Ben's on NDP. (It wasn't just the cafe and store, but had exhibition space, to be sure.)