Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I finished the light teal fabric on the merino/mohair warp; I got 130cm. I certainly had plenty of warp to weave another proper, long piece. Instead of using up another green possum/merino/silk for a small piece of fabric and cutting off the warp, I decided to use an unknown, unsampled wool from Mom's stash.
That's what she wrote; doesn't mean much to me. It's skinny and very airy, but under tension, almost non-existent so the finger feels the stringiness of the mohair in the warp. The merino portion of the warp will full, but this could be the thinnest wool fabric I've ever woven.
And the motif is squashed a little. One ball wove 40cm and there are three more of approximately the same size. I may manage to use it all up. And that's the yellow-green I had wound already.

This was supposed to be a warp producing three longer-than-usual pieces with different sheen;  imagine it turning into a user-upper of odds and sods.

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Yesterday was all about how I'd like "Syrie" to look. Within reason. I wasn't going to wish for, oh, 1m-wide, 5m-long strips, five to seven making up one leek, and/or many leeks as a set, for example. That could better depict the destruction of a community, but realistically, I don't know how I could wet-finish and more crucially dry wide or very long piece. I'm also entertaining the option to have most of the strips about the same length, for a more cohesive/tidy piece, as an alternative to... crumbling carnage and destruction.

I finally started looking into weave structures, as I neared the end of the black warp. I started taking notes focusing on how to create those windows.

I haven't watched much coverage of Syria; it's getting so hopeless, as Palestine has been forever. I feel ambivalent about pursuing this project while not keeping updated, not paying attention.

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Rereading RAW's blurbs, I confirmed their aim for this exhibition was as simple and straightforward as I had remembered.
The only other stipulation is the artists reside in New Zealand. Although... how one measures/avoids "cultural and artistic influence" from probably the very start of life is beyond me; no sarcasm, I understand they used a narrower definition of culture in the context, and yet that's a chalk line on a sandy beach about to welcome high tide, no? (Did you know, unless deaf or with other difficulties, a baby knows the sounds of his/her native language by the time he/she is born, and certainly recognizes the mother's voice? That's background for you.)    

I grew up in a house devoid of fine art, save the nice calendars Japanese companies used to distribute. My parents love/d natural landscapes, and Mom loves calendars all over the house, so they took up prime positions, but I remember distinctly the first time I saw a woman in a red or orange dress standing behind a table with possibly a bowl of fruits. I assumed it a Cezanne, or possibly Renoir, or even a Monet, but I can't find it. You know, the well-known one with a young, slender woman, possibly blonde, or with a hat? That was the first and for a long time the only painting I had stared at over and over. That was it for "art". 

Mom is a jock and a super keen practitioner of anything textiles. Dad read Chemistry stuff for work, edited professional journals for extra income, and studied newspapers every morning then revised in the evenings, so in his spare time he read little. We had very few books other than what my parents bought me, and it wasn't until I was 10 or 12 when I started buying books by the school-bags-full that a tiny library emerged. I don't remember my siblings dipping into my books, they being seven and 13 years my junior, but at least they grew up with books aplenty.

In junior high, between 13 and 15, I sensed if I wanted to be a well-rounded person, (you may burst out laughing,) I had to educate myself about visual/fine art and started visiting art exhibitions. In a way it wasn't a stretch as my parents took me, the budding archeologist, to plenty of history/ethnographic museums, but whereas it's easy to understand what a gate or a plate does, despite long time ago and far, far away, art was... different. Art didn't have utility, and for a family of pragmatists, super practical folks, art was decorative, and beyond that, perplexing, something, "we don't do." 

My very first art exhibition visit was of horrible Bruegel prints in the now-defunct prefectural art gallery in Kamakua. I loved the building, which now has heritage protection but must await an expensive/extensive quake-strengthening. But the works, yikes; a bunch of chubby, horrible, drunk people falling everywhere. I could hear and even smell the commotion depicted in the prints inside that serene space. I'm surprised it didn't turn me off exhibitions for life.

For that I have Japanese department stores to thank; many are right next to major train stations. Exhibitions were sometimes crowded but inexpensive, and back in the 70's and 80's, they usually showed poplar and approachable art. I remember distinctly a dreamy Mucha exhibition that mesmerized me, and a Wyeth exhibition more crowded than the morning trains, nobody moving or breathing.

But I grew up in Japan; craft was everywhere. Some were so high-end there were rooms in many homes we kids weren't allowed without adult supervision, especially the "guests rooms". A room usually close to the front door, often away from the "living" area, where we had the best sofa sets with arms and even backs covered in white lace or embroidered protectors. At Grandfather's one never knew which casually-placed item was worth several months' salary of any grownup telling us to walk quietly. Mom let us handle anything in our house, from Grandfather's hand-me-downs to Trade Aide style naive but oh, so, inviting, pieces. She may not "do art" but she has encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese regional crafts, (which I knew but began to really appreciate in 2012,) and she has visited gazillion textile places in Asia, Europe, and Guatemala. I had exposure to craft, and curiosity and passion came naturally.

Then came reading about art. This was a long and frustrating struggle until I finally picked up some vocabulary, and learned how to think and talk about art by picking the brains of people who knew/taught this stuff. And talking to people who make stuff and getting their stories from the source. And learning there are folks who write/critique without knowing the artists or their processes, that there is such an industry as art writing. And not finishing reading articles I don't like it; not feeling obliged to like the artist even if I like the work, or vice versa. And finally, enjoying looking at art with some knowledge but unburdened by them.

Rosie once replied to my request for an alternative to "ugly", in a more measured manner I don't mind being overheard; she taught me, "challenging". Kate once advised me, when someone compliments, "just smile and say, 'Thank you'." Weavers are good at sharing; folks like Rose Pelvin and Pat Spitz, and many strangers online can't help themselves but be kind to us middlings stranded on a loom.

Otherwise, I've had my head down and bum up to learn to weave; shedding anything else in my life that got in the way; making warp after warp of lukewarm stuff, or worse; occasionally finding small victories but otherwise trying to keep my head above the water. I'm still learning, I'm still making questionable decisions and cloth, and somehow I'm still loving it all.

That about sums up my art training, my culture. 

* * * * *

I didn't finish the MOMA course writing. I got what I wanted out of the course, and I hadn't signed up for certification, so no regrets. My only worry is if they will let me sign up for another without having finished the first if I find something else interesting. But then there are so many others online, so...  


  1. I should wish there were such exhibition opportunities for people without art training here! Here it's all about formal education at a masters level from the university (I have purely vocational training as a weaver).

    1. "Vocational training as a weaver" in this case will probably be considered "traditional art training" in this case, so you're out! But what is unique with RAW is that it removes the properly-art-trained, while for many publicly called exhibitions in NZ, training is not an issue. :-D


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