That was a Very Long/Short Fortnight

I haven't done any weaving. A commission piece has to go on the big loom, and the piece needs to be in harmony with a fabric swatch that's making its way to Nelson. I thought I'd leave the loom free until I work on that piece, but, hey, it's the festive season, and I'm not sure if the client is in a hurry, so I'll wind the orange warp, maybe this afternoon. And weave it in the hellebore draft. Or something else.

I've been so eager to start the needlepoint project, but I can't decide if I want the design to be more or less the same as the previous as I intended, or something new. I did, though, panic-buy a whole bunch of yellow-to-orange threads a fortnight ago when I saw the business-for-sale sign in the window, second time in two years, of the only shop selling DMC needlepoint wool in Nelson. Not sure if I have quite enough, not sure if I need a few beiges/taupes, but I'm good with yellows for now.

It's been too hot and sunny or raining most days since I've come back. At least that's the story I'm sticking to. The few cloudy, cool days we've had, I really wanted to do something else... Like print-making. (And now I have to learn a bunch of print-making words. Lordy.)
First woodblock print in decades, using tools my parents bought me when I was around 10. I saw identical sets online last year, so they must be good enough. I couldn't decide on a theme or design, so I just made up designs as I worked using as many of the knives/chisels/thingies in the kit as I could.  
Linocut. This I know I've done several times since I left school. I tried to mix blue and black to create indigo, but it looks more like soft black. Ditto re. design.
I love cutting both wood and lino, but don't have the control I think I used to have, and hoped sharpening the blades would help. I first used the waterstone that came with the kit, then my big kitchen knife one. I learned these blades are made of soft metal, (i.e. cheap,) and if I were too vigorous the tips changed shapes easily. Oh, dear. So in addition to controlling the cutting of the medium, I need to learn to control my sharpening. (Both the wood and lino are maximum three-five years old, so it can't be that bad?)

I used inexpensive "print" ink I bought in Japan, which for all intents and purposes behaved like acrylic; printed on cheap, (110gsm?) drawing paper; spread the ink with a hard rubber brayer; and rubbed the back of the paper with a tiny baren. I don't have a piece of glass on which to spread the ink, so I taped a big plastic bag on my cutting board.

1) I can't control the depth of the carving (?) like I know I used to be able to. Ditto with curves, especially on lino. Improvement is much needed. I also need to learn better sharpening skills; Larry the woodworker sent me some links to YouTube vids.
2) I can do the leaving-slivers-in-space thing, (you know, as if I didn't cut as cleanly as I should have in bigger spaces, especially in woodcut,) but I opted for cleaner shapes/lines as much as I could. I'm fine with either, but don't like big, fat slivers.
3) I need a descent-size piece of glass. Spreading ink and applying thinly on the brayer is hard; spreading ink evenly on the wood/lino is harder. With some practice I could see how I could improve re. woodcut, (I had too much this round.) but lino is slippery and at least this ink is not at all suitable. I could use acrylic and add an medium, of which they are plenty around, but this time I switched to using an old waffle-weave dish towel. This was harder in spreading the ink evenly as parts of the towel spread while other picked up the ink, but there is also the possibility of creating unpredictable/uncontrolled background patterns.
4) I'm sure there is more to come, but for now I'm enjoying my own enthusiasm.

I want to work next on the top drawing of Ben sleeping on the bullet train in woodcut. The outline is easy enough, but I've been looking at one Renee Gouin's monotype prints to learn about color planes without outlines. And her colors are lovely, too. So much possibilities! I was also reminded, while looking up print-related stuff, that when we were in school, we used to cut cardboard in positive, to-be-inked, shapes and pasted them on another cardboard and made prints this way. I'm keen to give that a go, too.
I also started four pots of lovely-smelling geraniums this winter, but could find only very old plastic pots that were big enough for my idea. I painted the pots last week I can gift these next week. With the cats-dogs-and-monkeys rain I've almost given up the idea, but today I can apply a clear coat to try and protect the paint work, even though, as they are from sample pots, they won't last forever.


Projected Projects

I'm still in a mental coma, but that is not to say I'm not scheming... 

1) As soon as I boarded my return flight 11 days ago, I've had in mind another needlepoint project, so this piece has been sitting in the middle of the living room floor and I am looking at it all the time. I'll stick to colors around rusty yellows because I like them and I learned how to match them in pleasing and disruptive ways. Although I'd still like a bigger piece to hang inside my front door, I'll do another biggish sample to experiment more.

2) There is a new pattern emerging, and that is, the last few times I've returned from Japan, whether I sought them or not, I come home super interested in making prints; woodcut and lino in particular, because they don't require a press and suit the naive look I like. I brought back a few postcard-size wood and lino, super keen to get stuck in, but had no idea what of, so I vaguely thought perhaps repeats of shuttles, inspired by thin Japanese cotton "towels" that often use everyday motifs.

Maureen posted pics of prints made by kids in her gallery, and I mentioned my predicament, to which she suggested weaving patterns. Well, I never thought of that, and I don't know where to start, but it would make a terrific abstract if nothing else. I don't know where to start but most definitely a good idea.

Just as well, too, because after two, (or was it three?) cancelled workshops, (although she kept teaching small groups in her studio,) Judith has taken on a multi-year contract to teach art on the Cook Islands! All the very best to her, but my guys will have to be put on hold.

3) I had to keep reminding myself to draw while in Japan; it's still not a natural activity to me, not in the way needlepoint is, and I run out of patience very quickly. But I had a couple of good experiences. 
On the bullet train down south, Ben sat on the window seat, me in the middle, mom on the isle seat with the best chance to see Mt Fuji. I was so close to Ben I couldn't figure out how to fit as much of him on a postcard-sized page for a long time. This was my first attempt.
This was my second, with colors added later. This makes more sense, with his big camera bag between his knees, nodding off after a very early morning, but I like the first much better.
This pic of lovely high school boys was taken on a slow, tiny local train down south. 
It was much later I thought to draw them, and though I worked quickly, all too soon they got off and in came co-ed school students, who were visually not interesting. (Sorry, very white pages, pale pencil lines; the pic was manipulated as much as I could, but...)

I also did some travel journal collages, including in my seat on the bullet train, (I am kicking myself for not photographing that,) but I have to wait to finish it as I posted it by sea mail. This one started out well, but I've gave into my compulsion to paste everything, maps, whole pamphlets and even small posters, so the journal lost the curated feel, and spaces to write/draw. I've run out of pages anyway so I've made a simple one of the same size and will combine the two at the end. I also hope to have some handwritten elements, including Best Meal, (we had so much good sashimi and sushi,) and the list of exhibitions.

I'm also doing a tiny bit of Letter Journaling again; they're the perfect vehicle to keep dipping in and out of designing, color experiments, and visual problem solving; unlike solo projects, I need to post them on, so I do get things done, pretty or otherwise.

4) Ben bought one and I bought two cotton T-shirts for me to tie-dye. I'm thrilled about the project but am not sure what kind of designs I want. 

With regards to weaving, I haven't had any compelling ideas or projects but:

1) I'd like to finish the achromatic warp, and the current three-weft project in particular. I've been working on it for too long.

2) There is that red Syrie warp, and the need to make space for the tapestry loom. There is also another double-with commission, so I must prioritize wisely. 

3) I want to do a few warps in cotton, with a focus on colors. 

4) I keep telling myself I am interested in double weave as a design tool. :-D Also, in dyeing.

5) I fancy exploring fabulous/shocking/unexpected look based on Davidson's green four-shaft book.


Hellebore Love

Hello, again. I've been home for ten days but in an existential coma. As I get older, flights gets longer, luggage gets heavier, and airplane meals hideous-er. Just as well we can't travel too often, (I have no idea how my parents did most of their travels in their 70's!) and the reason I like to stay a while once I get to wherever I get to.

In time I'm hoping to tell you about, (unless I change my mind, have more interesting news, or slack off):
  • our trip to the south of Japan;
  • exhibitions;
  • projected projects; and
  • family, if I can collect my thoughts.
But first, something I'm pretty proud of. Or at least I was until I came home. The very last week before we left, instead of weaving or finishing items on my To Do list, I went whole hog taking care of my hellebore patch. It looked kind of like this before:
But in six days/33.5 hours, (including two hours on the day we left,) it looked like this, with all the seedlings planted and marked either with sticks or shells.
 The right edge of not-purple area, weeded a little; this extends a little further left.
The left end of the not-purple area and the approach to the purple area.
The purple area I started some years ago; I've taken out not-hellebores, (except one small chrysanthemum,) and extended the patch further back.
 The left end of former old purple area, with a few more planted closer to the boundary.
The extension is almost as wide as the old purple area, but not nearly as deep. This is where most of the new seedlings went in. There is some space for extension where old branches and leaves are piled up by the boundary; I didn't have time to move them. I'll have plenty of self-seeding babies from the older plants to fill that space eventually, although we stand there while removing the ivy, too, ergo the rubbish being more convenient there. The rubbish bags are still there; again, ran out of time, but then, not high priority. :-D

Looking at the photos, I am genuinely proud, even if you can't see much. :-D It was very hard work under a scorching sun, but I was determined to get it done, and for once I did. While we were away, neighbor Barbara offered to water the pots and this patch, but she messaged me to say there was quite a lot of rain in Nelson and... well, the "before" photo above, that was actually taken today. See the rubbish bags? :->
We bought chili and parsley/coriander seedlings on the weekend, so yesterday, along with a bunch of old (some expired but not all) seed packs, I took care of them. It's been raining more than usual for this time of year, but it's warm, so great for purchased plants, just peachy for weeds, and white flies have come back with a vengeance; in other words, Kafka's Garden as usual. But I intend to keep going outside on cooler, cloudier days.

There, I said it.
And for another pic that doesn't show much, I need to spray the patio for green growth, weed the pots, rearrange them for the summer sun, and bring up all the tiny ones I filled yesterday. There are a few pots that can be emptied, (for more old seeds, ahem,) and the hinterland, (pity you can't see the lavender and carnation that went in during that same week;) most propagation have been successful but they've been obscured, too.

Today, we have thunder storm forecast, but pffffft, the sun's been in and out. Typical.


Fail, Fail, Ugh, OK

We've been trying to use up things in the kitchen and have not had Earl Gray tea leaves, among many other stuff. Good thing Kath had her own tea bags in her purse yesterday afternoon; good thing I had hot water and milk. And sugar/honey if she wanted some, but we were too busy talking I forgot to ask. Which part should we label "Fail"?

Also, I gave her the pink silk/cashmere piece from the gray warp, just because she liked it, and I did not photograph it. Dang! It was the first time I came face to face with issues arising from my habit of designing with warps, which is hard to explain without pictures. In short, I have a habit of concentrating on the movement of the warp ends in designing, even though I look at both sides while working. The merit of the habit depends on the fiber and sett, but in this case it was extremely marked and took me by surprise. Maybe I'll borrow it later to shoot it. Anyhoo, Fail for not photographing.

Her life is going really well right now, she's just returned from Europe where, among other things, she met the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and had afternoon tea at her house and ate her baking!
Mom's cowl didn't work out, either. The cashmere yarns were too soft and there is not a lot of support structures, (in my mind, more interaction of knitting and purling?) so the piece flops on the shoulder, not to mention it's much too wide for Mom. I knew the wide part while knitting, but I somehow hoped it would shrink in the wet-finishing. Fail. I might start another with the same yarns, or mixed with something else soonish; I could finish it while there? Or start there while I have Mom's head nearby.

However, I have been doing fairly OK, compared to other times, in crossing off items on my Pre-Trip To Do list. I probably won't cross out all, and the garden is endless so that's in the Kafka list, but I'll give myself a B+ if I manage to finish the black and white warp, and A- if I finish a few paper/paint stuff requiring little effort to finish, and in some cases, send away. The other two must-do's, I can do in between the above two. The reset, pfffft.


Rain at Last

It is raining this morning, and not just tentatively or symbolically. It's been so dry for weeks, a good portion of laundry hung inside dried in half an hour. And not good for the soul, at least not this one. Happy dancing coming up.

Tuesday boost: Annabelle came over and we had a go with Letter Journaling for five hours, chatting, experimenting, and sometimes in silence. We experimented, she with collage, I with deliberately making cold vs warm backgrounds, then she having to work on top of a warm background. Not her forte. I was surprised how automatically LJing came back to me even though I haven't done in recent months, how easy it was for her. Annabelle is analytical and critical I was bracing for a heck of a lot more there-there-ing but she dove right in. Afterwards I was exhausted and energized at once. 
Wednesday, as I scheduled last week lest I keep postponing, I visited a lovely embroidery/needlepoint/knitting shop in town, Broomfields. I can't remember if it was a year ago or more, but I went in browsing and ended up approaching the shop owner about handwoven scarves and she told me to bring some in. My last gray project were in colors seen in her window this winter, (the display had changed by yesterday,) but shock, horror, she remembered my initial approach. I'm not sure if I was happy or embarrassed. Anyway, I now have two outlets. It's been 12 years since I last had to approach someone about selling my stuff, and it was just as unnerving, but with old age comes dulling of emotions in my case, so it wasn't as intimidating as Red Gallery was.

I took a bunch of pictures, inside and outside the shop, for research initially, but after I started weaving I deleted them because I wasn't aiming to "replicate" her colors. Clearing of my head, so to speak. I should have kept some to show you, how she coordinates the colors inside her shop is magical, soothing, ever so therapeutic. I'll do that before my trip. Another good luck; her name is also Andrea.

I love her embroidery and needlepoint kits and charts, and there is one country rabbit I'm quite keen on, but you know I just make things up as I go, and I can't read the tiny marks in charts any more, nor can be bothered enlarging/printing/coloring in, etc. But now that I'm knitting, I might need needles and such, and I can also see my using some of her lovely knitting wools to weave.

I also had lunch with Jean, which was not as fun as usual, as a mutual friend was diagnosed with cancer with perhaps weeks left. Jean's just been to see her.

I went to Ben's work's library for about an hour until he finished work. I was astounded by how many books they'd gotten rid of from the shelves. (It's school holidays so I didn't think they were all checked out.) I didn't see the fine arts section but in the applied arts section, each shelf were one-third to half empty, and none on weaving either in the art section or the other, (craft? alongside woodwork books,) I could find. After the initial shock, as one does what one can, I delved into some of the so-called "art textile" books, (&^%$#@!!!!!), and got a few rebellious ideas. There will be more on this in future.

Kath is coming later today.

Ben has a medical appointment tomorrow.

And some friends are meeting up for dinner on Saturday.

I've got nothing planned next week; just hard slog of crossing things off my to do lists.



I finished the gray warp on Wednesday; I planned to fringe two scarves yesterday and two today and wash all, and even deliver them to outlet/s Saturday, (more on this next week). The pic is not treated, just gray-looking pieces, samy and almost boring, but elegant and suitable for a new outlet I'm trying to develop.
Came yesterday, I wanted to quickly audition small sketchbooks and watercolor half pans for the trip, but because I hadn't drawn since early June, (and I'd forgotten I'd drawn abstracts "every day" until end of May,) I had to practice first. By the time I had done one round, it was after 4PM. I'm still undecided on both counts, though the grid Moleskin, however much I love grid paper, is probably not suitable for watercolor if I want to save the drawings in relatively good conditions. But I did manage to make/attach color samples on each set.
Now I have a conundrum. I love saturated colors, for which A is best, (albeit quite a strange set because, I bought colors at random one day and stuck them in a case, and I haven't even got a purple!). On the other hand, I adore moody, watery watercolor work other people do, which I understand one can practice for decades and still not control entirely, and B is best-suited. C is not as clear as the other two and for now not my favorite, but it's in my favorite case! I could easily travel with all three.

To be honest, part of yesterday morning was spent reading about paints, coveting art supplies, and comparing prices on three Japanese and two NZ websites. 

A while ago I found I could buy good pigments online in Japan, (always felt intimidated about asking in stores, even more so just boldly buying,) and make paint by mixing with media. All I knew then was gum arabic is what turns pigments into watercolor; yesterday I learned watercolor and gouache are practically the same except the amount/proportion of pigment to gum arabic; the more g.a. the clearer the paint.  (Correct/augment, please, if you know about these things.)

That made sense because a couple of years ago when an American Letter Journal swap mate commented Japanese watercolors are in fact gouache, and thinking that didn't sound entirely correct, I went looking. Japanese websites said it's because we separate "clear" and "saturated" (my word, although I mean "not clear" without saying unclear or cloudy,) watercolor paints, and use the somewhat saturated kind in schools. Some art websites treat the two as if they are different paints, as I assume it's done in Western websites, without mentioning what every living Japanese use in school which is neither. Stuff I've bought in NZ are definitely not clear; in fact I can't tell the difference between my cheap watercolor and cheap gouache so I stuck them in one box years ago.   

Here is a list of paints I grew up with:
* Oil - stinky, smelly, slow-drying; could kill you if you eat it;
* Acrylic - synthetic-based; usually dries quicker than oil but slower than watercolor; can be applied to many surfaces; allows drawing/pasting on top of paint surface; kids' oil paint;  
* "Watercolor" - the more saturated variety, which makes sense because;
* Gouache - something unique to Western art?
* Poster color - very dense, water-soluble paint; usage similar to "watercolor" but suitable for painting large areas; colors don't mix well; cheap. One source says it's identical to gouache but with cheaper binder, reflected in the price.
* Clear watercolor - for grownups; requires a driver's license to operate, but the half pan palettes look devastatingly attractive.
* Gansai (顔彩) - paint for casual Japanese brush painting; binder vary depending on websites, could be gelatin, starch, glue, sugar and gum arabic! Always dry, never in tubes, traditionally in elegant small round ceramic dishes; colors don't mix well.
* Iwa Enogu (岩絵の具) Rock Paint - traditional Japanese brush painting paint; pigment and Japanese lacquer; not for the faint-heated; requires heavy-machinery license. I hesitate even looking at them in shops when I have rare encounters.
* (Not to mention a whole world of dyes.) 
* (As well, "ink" we use in calligraphy comes in several dark colors and are used for drawing.)

If that's not confusing enough, Set A above bears a Dutch label, (though I can't tell where it's manufactured;) the clear B is made in Japan; and C has a French label, (ditto.) It's a little like when fussy friends criticize me for not distinguishing shrimp and prawn; they are both "ebi", mate.

One angel tells me to start buying better paints, (though my half pans are no sissies,) especially because I don't use that much; the other reminds me I don't need any more for now and this trip, going south with Mom, we are traveling several tax brackets above our station. Realistically, I'm hoping to augment A and fill the gaps and stop them moving around so much, and replace those almost gone in B.  

* * * * *

Mom's cowl is growing, but I'm not sure how tall to make it. We Mitsuhashis have short necks so we don't want to drown in cashmere, but I don't want to give her a mingy neck warmer, either.

* * * * *

PS. In searching for "blind", "contour", "drawing", "portrait", I found some fascinating work which had additional drawing done after the initial contours, nor just applying colors. Even some of the ways colors are applied are fascinating on their own. It's worth a look if you are interested.


Taking Stock

The aforementioned cowl: I was going to start Mom's cowl with different yarns while in Japan, so I can make one in the right size; Mom has a much smaller head than I. But I needed an evening project and had I delayed the start, she might not have gotten it this winter, so here it is. In murky-colored cashmere, some of which she might have spun, chosen because together I knew I had enough for a cowl and and the values weren't that different the piece wouldn't look too mottled. I had intended to mix a cable element in this pattern but it looked messy and ineffective, so here it is, just a simple spiral. To be weaver-washed upon completion. I hope I get halfway done before I go.
This weekend's screen print workshop doesn't look likely to go ahead due to numbers, so I cleaned the stash room, putting away print-related stuff, and look at all this floor space! Still not quite enough to bring up the wools to make room for the tapestry loom downstairs, but better than before. Still on the floor in front of the bookshelf, from right to left, are:
1) Inside the green supermarket bag, stuff to take to Japan;
2) A stack of van Gogh books needing a shelf; I put large format books in the center bottom shelf, but hadn't vacated enough space for the genre, and there is at least one more biggish paperback waiting for me at Volume, so... ;
3) A stack of old notebooks/schedule books, used up the insides, but saved for the hard/paper and pretty plastic covers for possible doodling/book projects. I have upcycled two, but am unhappy with the results, so they've lived in the not-sure-what-to-do box for ages. I might cull, might chuck them all out;  
4) Books waiting to be adopted; I'll keep the page up for a while longer and then close temporarily. Ditto with scarves.
5) Weaver's and Fiber Arts magazines I'd like to have a look before I give them up for adoption.

I want to finish the skinny gray warp, and I think this is the third, last (?) piece, started this morning. I intended to wind the Syrie warp on the big loom after this, before I go, but not sure if I can manage and I'm not sure if I want Syrie to be the first project after I return. I fully intend to finish the black and white clasped weft piece, (gulp!) and weave, on the same warp but in a simpler, regular design, a piece for my cousin's husband who is having a minor surgery next week. He's taken me to great eateries the last couple of times I wast home.

And... I'd like to tidy the garden as best I can. 



I don't believe intentions/background stories appear in artworks, unless of course there exists a  (visible) connection between them. Sometimes I suspect a smart teacher came up with the idea of head stuff behind artwork so we don't despair every our work comes short of our expectations. And for good PR. In my case, they help me see many options early in a project and to concentrate on the good ones later.

I also love reading others' head stuff most of the time. I imagine they nudge me to see artworks from somewhere near the makers' perspectives; sometimes they help me find different/multiple/even contrasting merits. Some distracts from what I might otherwise perceive as technical shortcomings. Do they in turn cloud instinctive/("uneducated"?) reactions? Perhaps, but I tend to remember artworks, (or take away impressions,) better if they come with good head stuff with a semi-visible connection.  

I think a lot, sometimes, and talk a lot and I'm long-winded. I can and do create whole scenarios in my head from hearing snippets; as an only kid I made up stories inside my head to entertain myself, although it was my sister who had an imaginary friend, not me. I was always the main character in my stories. 

Re. work, I like to package my truths in entertaining packages. There was a time I worried I'm better at stories than in weaving, and strove to shut out the voices and sit silently at the loom. Nowadays sometimes this happens automaically for no other reason than my hearing being not great. Also true that nowadays I try to distract from techniques. Although it's still about the work and not about me; I want you to handle the weaving.
I had deliberately not posted a pic of my Syrie warp, because I'm still don't know what that might look like, and I hadn't worried about it until in the last month I've shown it to and spoke about it to a few friends, folks who know art and/or weaving. I sense a latent foreboding bubbling as a result of observing live humans observing me showing and speaking about it. As opposed to the one-way announcement that is this blog. I'd like to get that warp on the loom before I go, but if that doesn't happen, I'll do it after; but this performance anxiety is best gotten rid of ASAP.

After my third false start on Mom's murky-colored cowl, I remembered a plan I had in winter to knit a really weird, really big 3D something or rather in very saturated colors. (I should never have culled all of my not-soft wools!) The pictures in my head are weird, ugly, possibly in clashing colors, and the kind of thing I would tut-tut loudly if I saw it/them in a gallery, the kind of work even the best back stories can't save.



Kaz and Dave and Ben and Meg

Kaz and Dave Madigan were in New Zealand and a fortnight ago. We first met at their place in 2014, then in Tokyo last November when I took them on a needless hike around metropolitan Tokyo, and finally in Nelson. We got a little more weaving talk, but also a bit of politics, (Kaz and me), about her kids, food, travel, etc. Not to repeat the hilarious fiascos of when Dr Cady visited Nelson, I armed myself with Nelson's winery and pottery maps, and started out with an enjoyable visit to McGlashen Gallery, (though Royce was overseas speaking,) but another favorite potter  was away, (and from the looks of it, less pots and more paintings?); one winery cafe we enjoyed with the Cadys had closed, (and they haven't rung back,) and another had just changed hands and were prepping for Sept 24 opening, (although he let us buy some,) and a reliable cafe had become a restaurant with no nibbles at 3.30PM, offering dinners only. I'm so out of touch, tourist maps are not always accurate, I'm thinking of giving up wee tours of the region completely. Especially because Kaz and I could have happily sat on a couch talking weaving, while the boys could have gone to see classic cars down the road. Or something... Although it was fun to observe two long-and-somewhat-suffering weavers' husbands.

I have to be careful how I address Saori weaving, with which I have a strained relationship. I admire the easy access to weaving, easy cloth-to-garment transformation, (especially if you're slim. :-D), its therapeutic effect, and their all out effort in helping older and/or disabled participants. At the same time I've inherited Mom's dislike of their business model and politics, and I don't consider Saori "real" weaving. I see it akin to my mixed media/prints/drawings, knitting and needlepoint: instinctive, all pleasure, no discipline. And if I had to work hard, (I didn't, if I were honest,) why should they have all the fun? Which is utterly hypocritical because I'm self-taught and I didn't go through the rigor of, and therefore lack the knowledge and skills of, "proper" weaving. Having had proper training and decades of "proper" weaving, on the other hand, may have given Kaz and Terri different perspectives: Kaz loves to teach and observe people having a go, and backed by her extensive knowledge of dressmaking, has a more macro view, while Terri, in my opinion, uses Saori in part as therapeutic/peace promoting act. And they are lovely, gentle, kind, unselfish people.

Whereas, you know me, I have wondered out loud, in front of them, (many times in case of poor Kaz,) my conviction/perspective the act of weaving alone and itself should provide the highest reward, (nothing wrong with that,) so why are they wasting their time? (very wrong.) Besides, look where I am financially, not teaching, not writing, not selling anything else by more scarves! 

What's more, and this is where my "logic" gets fuzzy, I've become a hostage to the aesthetics of and the thinking, (are there??) behind outsider/naive art in the last decade. Which is why I don't hesitate to show you my stuff here. And this is why I became interested in going to Kaz's class in the first place, in addition to wanting to meet her and have a good pow wow about weaving. This is why I'm persisting with, (albeit with long breaks,) clasped wefts, plotting to adopt a tapestry loom, and coming up with more ideas to incorporate spontaneous elements. (Yes, evil plans hatching. Muahahaha.) "Olding" and compensation for  the lack of technical skills aside, my appreciation for the genre and having done some intuitive art have alerted me to the more primordial joy I could reap by weaving differently.

So, though I engage in my outsider art for the intrinsic joy, and I learned to dive right in and engage with these as ends rather than means, I started to consider seriously only since the needlepoint project ways I might merge the two modes of making, on the loom. Which should also satisfy some who said I was wasting my time. LOL. 

* * * * *

In speaking of politics with Kaz, I noticed I haven't had the optimism to see the glass as half empty, but I don't trust the glass even exists some of the time, particularly where race is concerned. I've cocooned myself in a victimhood based on personal experiences and reading about/listening to others on the Internet, which is another reason why I stay home more. This can turn things into self-fulfilled prophecies, or remain wise precaution because I'm not as nimble as I used to be. This is a hard one.

* * * * *

See? Chipper-er than yesterday's post?

Kaz and Dave came to celebrate a significant anniversary. We have one coming up, and we think Melbourne, and meeting up again with them is the best option. So I started thinking/planning last week because we haven't got that much time. Or didn't until Ben reminded me our significant year is not next year but the one after, so we have 19 months to a plan.

Let us LOLROF in unison, and hope that I don't forget it in 2020.

Yeah, nah, so sorry no pics, I was too busy talking. But they have some and maybe it will pop up on her blog or maybe I'll ask her for some.


My Ephemeral Life

I started this post a while ago in a cryptic list, though not cryptic at the time, of course. Now I haven't got a clue about some, can't be bothered with others, but also have new thoughts.  My memory has never been good, but of late I can't hold on to thoughts, and am often left with a sensation of having had a thought.

Reminds me of how I've come to view one aspect of Mishima Yukio's "Hojo no Umi" quadrilogy: in the first novel, a daughter of the nobility in the early 1900s gets pregnant and is sent away to a temple. 1300 pages later, at the end of the saga, she reappears as Mother Superior in her 80s, and when interviewed by a young journo (?) about her indiscretion, she says there might have been incidents like that, but it's been so long she cannot remember. When I first read the novel, at around age 25, I thought she was full of baloney, and it was either because she was of the class who could get away with an answer like that, or Mishima being a man was clueless about women. And while I still believe it's impossible to forget giving birth to a child, I have grown far more sympathetic to the forgetting part. Because it's not only as if we have a list, and we forget details about the items, but gradually items drop off the list and we forget they were ever there. And in some ways, it makes life easier. 

Our cherry tree was in full bloom Sunday/Monday but lost 75% of the petals in a few hours in Tuesday's spring gust. It's both pretty and sad when it happens. We Japanese are said to love the ephemeral and know how to enjoy the moment. (Which really should lead us to care more for the environment but consumerism/convenience are hard habits to kick.) I do love cherry blossoms, I was born in early April which was the best time for them in my youth, and the start of the new school year, full of fresh faces and hope. (But also, the reason I can be bothered tending to hellebores is their flowers last and last and last.)

You might know the word "Ukiyoe (浮世絵)" usually relating to 1800s Japanese influence on European art and craft; woodblock prints depicting everyday scenes of everyday people often in series. "E" in this context means pictures. "Ukiyo" is one of those handy (for us), untranslatable (to non-Japanese) words which cover a gamut of nuances/sentiments/values. To me, ephemerality of life/society/existence comes to mind first, the illusive/multitudinous state of flux of everything, the lack of permanence/solidity, different viewpoints somehow creating a semblance of consensus (with blurred edges) which loosely forms the "norm", the ambiguity, the not articulating. It tends to focus on the sad/lamented/lost/unobtainable/harsh reality, though is it real or just perception? At times it's the "mainstream" seen from the outside. The word has Buddhists origins and ties in well with reincarnation, and the insignificance of the individual, (not just people but of any part of a whole, physically, temporally, anything-else-ally,) or of significance itself.

Dad's been gone five and a half years; he would have been 91 tomorrow. He was a strong and unforgettable character, but we are getting used to him not being around. Mom keeps forgetting, not in a "senile" sense but memories dropping out so she can concentrate on the task on hand, making her almost 88 years of life smaller and less vivid. I feel myself growing less attached and sometimes passion/enthusiasm is something I remember having in the past, like everything shiny belongs in my past, almost the way they should. This ought to feel like a paradigm shift, but I've been shrugging off as a natural progression.

* * * * *

For some years I've been looking for a good book on, for want of a better description, key/"symbols" in Ukiyoe prints. The scenes/items/costumes were so ordinary to the people back then but have since lost the cultural meaning/background to us. I'm looking for a book to help me "read" the pictures better.

* * * * * 

I heard my friend's father passed away. Very sad for her, but also somewhat relieved for her mom who, like mine, cared for him at home in her advanced age, not that it makes the passing bearable. She also told me dear Gavin passed away a month ago. The last time I saw him he mused it's time he had a small cashmere scarf, and I had been designing something in my head, but I didn't make it in time. Along with the loss of the lovely man, I lament the missed opportunity. 

* * * * *

Volume was selected the NZ Bookseller of the Year 2018 mere 20 months after it opened. I make light of this because Volume fans know how seriously good Stella and Thomas are, but it's quite an accomplishment. Stella said it was nice to be recognized by peers. I waited a couple of weeks before going in to congratulate them, giving everybody else a chance to get their congrats out of the way, but folks just kept pouring in. Goodness, what have they done to my temple for contemplation?

* * * * *
About a week before the needlepoint project, I finished the tube scarf, and Rosie likes it so it should keep her warm next winter. I've been trying to finish a few project before we go to Japan, and testing my will power not to start another but these are fun to make. Next piece, I might do a row or two of knit-purl-knit-purl so the ends don't open up like elephant trunks. Or not.
This time I didn't wet-finish quite the way I did the sample swatch.

OK, this week, I started Mom's cowl in murky natural colors.

* * * * *

The Suter is hosting a fabulous show of paintings, carvings and audio. I've been five times and it's intriguing how different paintings grabs my attention every time. Wednesday, it was the one in the linked article, (not the banner,) which I hardly noticed the first four times, but maybe this is my favorite. I also stalked a school group of 8/9 year olds in one of Esther's classes; so informative, not only what Esther said but what the kids said/asked. I've always planned to learn Maori after I get the hang of this weaving thing, meaning I haven't started, but if not learning the language properly, I would like to delve into their myths and visual symbols. 

* * * * *

I saw two documentaries, "McQueen" and "McKellen: Playing the Part", in one afternoon. (I can't find a good link for the latter.)  I didn't know much about McKellen's gay rights activism, but I was overwhelmed by the common thread of the hardship of growing up gay; how it might have been in KcKellen's time sure, but McQueen was much younger than me. And things don't seem to be getting better for today's youths. The gender issue is becoming difficult to discuss as I find I am not upu with the latest, and the fear to offend is great because, goodness me, they've been though enough without me adding to it. At the same time I'm glad I grew up outside the strictly Christian/Western values because I think Japanese can afford to be more ambiguous and therefore tolerant about gender, sex and other people's private business. I also grew up in the more hopeful 1970's.

I also had an interesting thought about making and one's vocation, which bounced in my head like a loose tooth all afternoon, which I kept touching with my head-tongue, but can't remember what it was. Ukiyo, eh.

* * * * *
The weaver has been weaving. This is the second piece on the gray merino warp, and I have a problem with the floating selvedge. I use both warp and weft yarns for it, depending on which suits better. This one I decided on the darker weft to avoid a flecked look on the sides. But the draft has floats and the draw-in is considerable on some rows. So...

I put extra weight on the selvedge, as usual, and sleyed it to the dent next to the last "proper" warp ends, as usual, but nothing worked, so I'm ignoring the problem in the interest of getting this warp woven quickly.

* * * * *

Japan trip is approaching, and my poor mother has had enough of me. We are now Skyping every 10-14 days, which has been good for a psyche. I told Pat I'm going travel with plenty of projects so I  don't pick on her. I find the situation difficult because I thought I was doing a daughterly duty and entertaining her, but I can only do this on my terms, while she feels both amused and put upon. I remembered last week that as a child I could do no right, so I'm wrong in thinking anything has changed. And I say it with absolutely no bitterness. It's just life. Ukiyo.

* * * * *

I'm not depressed, just olding. ("Aging" doesn't sound right.) But next post is more chipper.


The Needlepoint Project Process Pics

I love process pics when others post them, but I get too excited about the work and usually don't want to interrupt to take pictures. With the needlepoint project, though, because I looked at it so much and worked so slowly, I managed to take pictures fairly regularly. You'll notice the orientation vary; it's because as with when I work on paper, I kept turning the canvas around and looked at it from all directions.
After Day (or Evening) 1, and I already had stitches in two different directions.
Saturday morning, after three sitting from memory, late June.
Sunday morning
Monday morning
 Tuesday morning
 Tuesday afternoon
Thursday morning; I wished I had another pic before this as I worked quite a bit each night this week.
Friday morning
Monday morning
Thursday morning
Saturday morning
A few Tuesdays and one sitting later. I've grown super eager to finish this quickly and wash, wash, wash. Late July.
Wednesday afternoon. I see two distinct styles, the multi-layers in my mixed-media/screen print mode vs. the curvy but flat areas in my weaving mode.
Saturday morning, August 4
Thursday morning; it's starting to look "messy" as a whole, with some earlier focal points disappearing, (more so in person,) while I can't stop adding saturated, "fussy" areas to create interest, which makes the whole messier. I blame this on working more and quickly, and looking less.  When I look, I'm seeing, deciding, and confirming, without realizing I do these. And I've learned about each color so much, how they look during day/night, how they react to each other.
Friday afternoon, from memory. The distortion of the overall fabric, caused by stitching in different directions, is more evident. I can't wait to wash this; I wonder if it will improve the shape.
Monday morning. Larger color patches offset the overly fussy patches. I like the way they look even though they are boring to work. Oh, but how I've completely drowned out the simplicity I aimed for in the early days.
Wednesday morning; I think it's safe to say I've done more than half, maybe closer to two-thirds. For the first time I took out a whole patch, too, because the simultaneous contrast is so different between day and artificial lights.
Friday morning.
A few Mondays later.
Tuesday morning. I feel as though I'm now filling in the gaps rather than connecting areas of interest or even trying to create focus/background areas. This is where an overall plan would work better to create an attractive piece as a whole. Funny how it looks more finished in real life; I'm already thinking of a plan for the next project.
A couple of Mondays later, almost mid-September. There are many places where the two different directions meet, which makes some corners not clean/sharp and parts of the canvas warped. Also, colors are selected to avoid adjacent patches being the same, rather than for their own merit or better combination.
The next Tuesday morning. Interesting how, in picture, some areas look bigger than in real life.
Wednesday morning. The top left quadrant in this photo is very warped because of the two directions. I wonder if it will wash out.
Thursday morning. Two more evenings to go?
Tuesday morning, and more like three or four evenings to go.
Sunday afternoon. Stitching was done on Wednesday, and I eagerly weaver-finished it. The problem was, the glue on the masking tape spread all over the surface and back in that finishing, so I solicited help on Facebook and consulted the dry cleaners and the pharmacy. Though giving it to the dry cleaner would have been the easiest, because much weft in the canvas came out, I resorted to soaking it in white spirits, (dry cleaning fluid,) in a plastic bag. Because it had "spirits" in the name, I thought it was alcohol so I hosed it down. (it didn't; these are oily spirits,) and now it sits in the shade drying.
After hanging to dry overnight, on Monday morning, the fabric felt dry enough, no portion sticky to the touch, not as stiff as I imagined, and not smelly, so I put it through a gentle vinegar bath one last time. I saw one spot where a little bit of what looked like glue appeared in a small clump on A-side, none on B, so I gently wiped it off with a paper towel. After the vinegar bath, it smelled like dry cleaning inside a plastic bag and vinegar, but hanging outside it's not too bad. There is virtually no margin on the horizontal sides as wefts keep coming unravelling. 
Tuesday. Steam pressed one last time. It has a slight smell of dry cleaning, (like dust?), slight whiff of vinegar at times; the texture is not as stiff as I imagined but limp compared to regular needlepoint. The starch in the canvas be completely washed out by now. There is so little "margin" my option for  use is limited. And it's very warped in every direction. Most definitely not the last project, but in future I shall work with greater margin and just cut off the darned masking tape.

It's been an interesting and unpredictable three months plus, not always fun but usually exhilarating, and an experiment in heck of a lot of looking and so much less working.

The end.