Saturday, September 29, 2018

Story-Telling

I don't believe intentions/background stories appear in artworks, unless of course there exists a  (visible) line between them, as in many but not all old religious or historical paintings. Sometimes I suspect a smart teacher came up with the idea of head stuff behind artwork so we don't despair every time the work comes short of our expectations. And for good PR. In my case, they help me seeing 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 so no big losses for me. 

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 getting not so good. 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.

Mwuahahaha.

Friday, September 28, 2018

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 needle point 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.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

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 needle point. 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.