Good and Bad being Relative

Yesterday, I wasted a lot of time playing computer games, loitering in the kitchen, but I managed to wind the new tied-weave warp at the end of the day. And that got me back on the figurative loom bench, encouraging me to tidy up the basement a little, assessing my downstairs stash, (I brought down a lot of my default merino and all cashmeres so I can think ahead, and also keep busting Mom's wools and some silks in combination with them,) and generally look forward to weaving in the next little while.
Today, I wasted more time gazing at an art supply store's 20% off everything sale, even though I have enough for now and honestly had no intention of buying anything, but I managed to go downstairs to either start threading the warp, or continue weaving a brown piece I abandoned in September. 
This is the brown piece; it's on the four-shaft. In real life it's less gray, true taupe; pretty but unremarkable, more like fabric; very fine I can't see the design well; slow at 25cm/sitting; and the wool warp is sticky. It was Number-something in the series I was weaving with the intention of sending the whole lot to Ukraine, until I stumbled upon the issue of whom/where to send, and postage. But this piece broke my inertia. I didn't even want to look at it for a while. 
I tried to get back to it today because I need the four-shaft loom for a possible leaving-work-thank-you present in March; I'm about 83cm into this piece, hooping for 150-180cm, and there is another piece planned for this  short warp. I had "good" notes, so I didn't think it would be a big deal getting back, other than the slowness.
Well, sometime before or during my for-Ukraine phase, I gave the loom some TLC, and for whatever reason, possibly because it suited the project I was about to weave, I changed the tie-up. Not a great idea, when I've had the same tie-up since I got the loom in the first few years of this century. 
Strangely, I can't remember how it used to be tied, but a) I changed the plain weave treadles either from the outside treadles 1 and 6, to inside 3 and 4, or the other way around; and b) I changed what I call my twill treadles, which was always 1&2, 2&3, 3&4, 1&4 from the left, but stupidly I changed it to 1&4, 1&2, 2&3, 3&4. On top of that, in my notes I always write only my twill treadles. So with the current piece, the order is 4-3-2-3-4-1-2-3-2-1, which would be Treadles 5-4-3-4-5-2-3-4-3-2 if the plain weave sits on the outside, or 6-5-2-5-6-1-2-5-2-1 if it sits in the middle. See what I mean? Of course you don't! I was confused, too. Whereas when I was younger, I would have laughed out loud at my stupidity, in my dottage, (I've been collecting information to apply for NZ pension this week as well,) I couldn't see right away what the difficulty was.
And I couldn't remember what I had changed; I vaguely remembered switching back the plain weave to where it should have been; and instead of lifting to see where the plain weave treadles were, which would have taken 10 seconds, I kept weaving to see if the cloth looked right. After some weaving and unweaving, I wove with orange and yellow cotton in the treadling I thought was the correct one, so I can see the design better, but by then I was so frustrated I had to walk away. I want to re-tie to the way it's always been, but my body isn't telling me how it was. 

I thought I'd thread the cotton instead, and I knew the scheme for this project by heart, 1-P-2-P-3-P-4-P-5-P-4-P-3-P-2-P and repeat. Except I started looking at some old tied-weave drafts, thinking about how I wanted the diamonds to appear, and I found an anomaly there, too. This is an easier hole to climb out of because the main thing is to choose the appearance of the diamonds from the drafts I created some years ago. Oh, goodness, what is she on about now?? Well, I'll talk about this more later, but here are some pictures where I hope you see some diamond shapes. 

So, all in all, I made no progress today. Nada.
* * * * *

You may have seen the weather has been wreaking havoc on many parts of our North Island. They had one of those once-a-century rain and flooding, and a few earthquakes, and then came Gabrielle. There have even been death this time. Terrible! Meanwhile, we've only had some intermittent rain in Nelson when North Island was flooding, plenty of warning for 100km+ Gabrielle wind, but got a few showers, otherwise eerie quiet. 
Now let me move on to the title of this post. Hay fever started early in August this season, and aside from four or five days in August we had the rain and flooding, and an afternoon or three since, we had dry weather with more than usual wind. 
Symptoms started mild, which is why I didn't go off caffeine or dairy as I do some years. I was uneasy it started much earlier than usual, but with default meds at the ready, this was going to be an easy year. Until it wasn't. I noticed sometime in October/November the meds stopped working; again this has happened before, but usually much later in the season. The symptoms were still relatively mild, but I couldn't get rid of them regardless of the weather. And then the itchiness of the face, especially around my eyes, started to feel like a dozen paper-cuts; my usual non-descript face cream stung a little; and at times one or both inferior lacrimal puctum (lower tear duct) was/were red, hot, and kind of bulbous and a little painful to touch. That was a first in my 50-year career as a hay fever patient. 

Long story short, the wind kept blowing, the face kept itching, I kept scratching, and the areas around the left eye looked and felt horrible almost all the time. But it's hay fever, right? Sooner or later it's bound to quiet down with the season, yes? Do I really need to go see a doctor? Well, I'll go talk to the nurse next door, but she said the next step may be steroids. Ummm... No! 
I got in the habit of washing my eyeballs in the shower, like I used to as a kid after a day in the swimming pool. I hate that, it hurts, but I did. I knew it had something to do with the tear duct, so several times I chopped onions and stuck my nose right into the mound on the cutting board, but be it the eyes or the onions, nothing happened. I swallowed a huge chunk of wasabi paste, too, a trusty emergency hay fever remedy in dire cases, but that only gave me a stomachache. Meanwhile, other I think we had a relatively mild spring and a pleasant start to the summer, weeds growing everywhere and fairly robustly. 

Sometime in December, when my left eye continued to look, at times but not always, dreadful. One morning the right eye decided to match the look, which is when I told myself I needn't feel bad about the weeds, but to stay inside until this thing cleared. That was after another morning I had a hard time opening my left eye in the morning. This decision was a little disheartening but plenty freeing because as bad as our garden always looks, it's been ever so slightly better since Covid with marginally more year-round TLC dispensed. Now it's back to pre-Covid badness. I did contemplate seeing the doctor, but decided against it, again, because after all, it's just hay fever, isn't it? (If it happens again, I might reconsider, though.)

Anyway, last week, we had some rain; this is when North Island had the once-in-a-century rain, before Gabrielle. The air was moist with intermittent showers, temperatures high-ish with little wind; I noticed my left eye had been OK for a couple of days for the first time in six months. The paper-cut like feeling was gone, my face wasn't so itchy. I even worked outside for half a day, though I decided to come in before I overdid it. And it was like that for nearly a week. 
Then wind came back, blowing all the moisture away, and with it, my usual symptoms of less concentrated itches, stuffy nose, and sneezes returned. But the eye drops work again! I've never been so appreciative of run-of-the-mill hay fever symptoms, but hurrah for small wins! 
And when I chopped onions yesterday morning, at least the right eye filled with tears. 
Still, not a bad life when I find serendipitous harmony: a piece of paper I decorated in January to try to use up some paint and a ceramic bowl Esther gave us for Christmas a few years ago both prove I like blue-and-orange together.  


Further Thinking of Syrie

In early- or mid-February 2020, I hunkered down to reacquaint myself with the long-on-hold Syrie project. I imagined it would be a great 2020 project. I spent a week hunting down my notes, posts, and relics connected to the project; read; relearned; sorted loose ends to keep/discard; re-label relevant posts; and finally started a draft post.

At first it was a good distraction from the yet-named plague, too, which I didn't think would be a big deal in New Zealand, like the others in recent times, but with a lockdown imminent in Italy and the constant reminder diabetics were in increased danger, my attention moved away from the project.
My life-long interest in the plight of the Palestinians has remained, but news, and especially still photographs of refugees everywhere, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Rohingya genocide, the Southern border of USA, and Ukraine, Türkiye/Syria earthquake, and the plight of women in Iran and Afghanistan, strengthen my resolve to work on this project, maybe more than one, while my focus/attention shifts from war to refugees to women's place in society.  
For whatever reason I revisit the project, and the draft, this time of year like clockwork. In 2021, I did a massive revision of the draft, ending up with a skeleton of what I had deposited in 2020, erasing the many segue identifying the meandering paths I had taken. To avoid  further culling of my thought-history, I'm posting what's left of the Feb 2020 draft for the record.  
* * * * *  
 "Syrie" has been on my mind, without urgency but making its presence known, hiding but also making sure I see her face in my periphery vision, or right in front of me blocking my way, sneering at the neglect it suffered, in the form of a small angry girl. I need to record how we got here in order to progress the project.

Middle East was often a topic at our dinner table due to Dad's interest in this history and politics of the Middle East, the Holocaust, Palestine, Gaza, Golan Heights. As a kid, I was aware modern turmoil was never discussed in my convent school, even as we studied biblical Levant. As a youngish adult I was for a year a translator at the Syrian Embassy in Tokyo, a month after Syria ousted Palestinians to Lebanon.

I've wanted to work on a project based on all Dad taught me, what I've subsequently learned, how history continued in that region, but I wasn't sure what to focus on, and what to make on a loom. Then came Arab Spring, when I genuinely thought we were witnessing one giant step forward, but it was instead followed by a spate of government retaliation, military coups, and civil wars. Which as you recall lead to explosive numbers of refugees in all directions, citizen groups helping as well as opposing them, but in the worst instances, the media reducing their plight to a handful of photogenic children. 
Buildings and Windows:
Early on, I was irate when image search of "Syria" yielded photos of eerily silent, almost interchangeable achromatic photos of city scape, buildings and rubble. (I should have kept screenshots, because in 2021 the situation is different.) Not that I wanted to see them, but I found so few of crying, screaming, bleeding, fleeing, and dyeing people; only the bombed out buildings.

I observed how the media covered Syria and the subsequent refugee crisis, and began contrasting what they reported vs. what they showed. I didn't record what I observed, but I grew more aware of the emotional manipulation and twisting of the coverage. 
Silent photos of the charred buildings stuck in my mind, and this is how I started developing my first idea of tall buildings with gaps where windows used to be. Rather than a monochromatic, monolithic, clean version in the news coverage, I wanted to use all the colors of flames/fire for the walls of the burning building, and gray and black for the windows for the absence of humans and noise. I also contemplated inserting shadows of humans or ghosts in the windows, or spilling out of them.  Not all the panels/buildings would stand straight up, some would be falling uncomfortably on top of the viewers, while others will have fallen and crumbled and obstruct the viewers' path. The media went with the silent photos, I was aiming for the bloody, sooty, loud, messy, smelly uncomfortable version.

This would also be an easy transition from Pillars visually and technically; the buildings could be in fancy Syria-inspired twill, (Umayyad Mosque, shell-inlay, Damascas Ware patterns, Palmyra archeology...) which would have taken some time to work out, but all structural elements, panels and the windows, would be rectangular.

Following the Middle Eastern and African refugee influx into mainly Europe, (as covered by MSM) came refugees on the Southern boarders of the US, child separation, families divided, records "lost", separate deportation, babies on trial, sicknesses and deaths, "undocumented", dreamers, aliens, (I was a legal alien for a decade,) documents, testimonies, words, how law categorizes/labels humans. How the heck does a babe in diapers testify in court in a foreign language? However you categorize, each and every human has a life story. How do we record them?  

I started to see another option for the project. I became obsessed with visualizing a two-year-old's testimony in court: how does the court stenographer type it? What does it look like printed out? I see a lot of spit, /m/ and /b/, blank terrified stares, chubby finger pointing, perhaps. I smell milk and pee and maybe even a little sick. 

I tried to visualize ways I could represent great number of refugees' stories, their testimonies. A big red, (blood, but why?) scroll with text lines in charcoal/black, sometimes mixed with childish doodles. And drools. Perhaps maps. Texts/lines in different languages, sizes, orientations. Maybe many smaller "pages", perhaps even bound in a "book". Perhaps with torn/burnt, or missing parts. For exhibitions, I do like to submit whopping big pieces, as large as the venue allows.

How much research am I willing to do to learn other languages and scripts, albeit in a narrow context?  *Do I search the Internet for real stories?
*How about the bureaucratic intermediaries' influences? 
*How accurate are their recollections? Have the stories changed in the retelling? Have details been forgotten?  
*Have the stories been colored by other factors, like difference in perspectives, influence of accompanying adults, interpreters and other government workers? 
*Border/social worker/interpreter/bureaucrat may not have the cultural understanding, in part or as a whole; have they maliciously changed the stories?
*What about the untranslatables?
*What constitutes the true testimony? 
Does the languages/scripts need be real? How about acemic writing?Is it still true if only represented in acemic writing?
What about that old idea of hiding codes in the structure of weaving?

The Name:
I wrote previously I call this project "Syrie" temporarily to get away from the 1980s American "Syria/Libya=Bad" mentality. Of course, Syrie is French; France colonized the country, which brings a whole different set of baggage, but for now, it's a handy, symbolic label that covers all kinds of thoughts/ideas/feelings associated with this project, so I shall keep it until I need a different one.


Brown Serviettes/Table Napkins and Kitchen/Tea Towels

This warp took a bit longer, but I'm finished. 
I wove two tea towels, one being extra long, and 10 serviettes, warp end piece shorter than the rest. From a 10m warp, I thought I'd get heaps, which is why I started with tea towels, but it was darned close at the end. Good thing I didn't weave more towels! At another time, in another headspace, I'm thinking of making an ultra short warp, or a skinny one, to use these up the rest of cottolin and some cotton to make useful things. These yarns make wonderful pieces, but they are dusty weaving and, goodness me, winding on the pirns, I'm happy to take a break for now.
These were woven with the same Swedish cottolins, 394 ends, 21EPI, just under 47cm wide on the loom, 40.5cm after wet finish, hot regular machine cycle, double rinse. They are rather genteel-sized serviettes; "Afternoon Tea Serviettes" if folks still lead that kind of life, but too robust in texture. What can I say, I made them, so they are functional. Ben thinks they can be used as lunch mats. 
For serviettes, I like no plain weave showing on the A-side, but to add that extra length, I hemmed it like tea towels. When I was pressing the very last piece, I realize I could have added warp ends to the two selvedges to add another inch to the width. Talk about too late! :-D
It may be difficult to detect, but I managed eight different color orders. (It's hard for me to see, holding them in my hands, too.) I had two weft colors, B and C, of large spools and two, A and D, smaller. Each serviette had 16 weft "repeats" (strictly speaking, not repeats, but variations; is there such a term as treadling blocks??) Using three colors in a piece, the color used in the first block and the last were the same, so I came up with eight ways to combine them, with B or C at the start/finish, so eight pieces are similar but not identical: 
and so on. Piece #5, I thought I'd be cleaver and weave backwards, (from the bottom of treadling,) which made it just in the reverse order of weaving from the top, Piece #3. Duh!
The previous lot of towels were slightly gappy at 21EPI, and I read on FB someone was planning towels at around 5 per 10cm, 25EPI, but these being serviettes, I stayed with 21EPI for softness. 
The two tea towels. The orange is ours, pure stash-busting, and I used up two oranges; I had to use some thrums for one. The four browns: my sister has been a pottery enthusiast forever, who, like my brother and I, started her dream hobby in her 40s. Her personal favorites are natural, earthy colors. In her clothes as well. For ages, I thought I'd like to weave a piece of cloth for her to put her work on when she photographs her pieces; I vaguely imagined undyed and naturally colored wool. I was thinking about that again when she sent me a care package a fortnight ago, and, one day while weaving I looked down at the current project. She may be a more plain weave kind of a girl, with less busy colors, but now at least she has one option.



2023 Resolution

When I was a kid, we had to announce our resolution/s to the parents in the morning of New Year's Day before we received New Year Money. Our resolutions weren't critiqued, nor was progress monitored, but not being able to announce one, or two, or five, was met with scorn. Well into my adulthood, I thought seriously about what I hoped to achieve in the coming year, starting around December 1. From memory, (though mine is super dodgy,) 2022 was the first time I had none and I didn't even fret about it. So, I was a little surprised when I woke up on New Year's Day this year and thought, "Yes, in 2023, I will get rid of stuff."

It came not from some abstract notion of decluttering but pragmatism, because I was having a hard time cleaning this house. Getting rid of stuff doesn't just mean discard; it means use up; use and don't replace, or replace with one rather than three; plus give away/donate/recycle. And I'm serious because, other than the kitchen and my closet, we have not cleaned our abode thoroughly, completely to my hearts content since probably the start of the pandemic lockdown. (We did a cracking job of the garage a year ago, but never got to Ben's tools because he just didn't feel like it. That quadrant is plagued with old cobwebs as a reminder.)

As such, I was pleased I got to work right away, starting small but rather consistently, discarding things we kept because they could be made into something interesting, but which for whatever reason had not been put away. And ceramic dishes and cups I broke but didn't have the heart to throw away just yet. At the same time, although tiny, I used up a few watercolor and acrylic paint tubes and mediums. (On another crusade, I'm trying to wean myself off of acrylic paint/mediums, and fancy pens, except perhaps a few gel pens.)

Then came that fateful last Monday. Ben and I had a moment. We admired, held our breaths, flittered hither and thither, whispered, stepped back, sighed, caressed, and had to make sure our feet were still on the ground. It lasted 80 minutes. 

See, we were going to drop off some lemons at Esther's, then go to the supermarket, and rush home so I can weave. Except she was in the front room, saw us and came out, in a handsome olive green mask, and lamented we were still in a self-imposed semi-lockdown, else we could have had a look at her pottery. I don't remember what I said, but half a nanosecond later, we were in her shed. I can't even remember if I asked Ben what he wanted to do. It was so easy to break our own rules. (Also, we hadn't seen her in person probably since late 2021.) We made ourselves terribly comfortable examining her work, opining, comparing, and ogling, and long story short, we came away with beautiful plates, bowls and cups. 

It's not that I didn't think about where we would store them. I was aware I was un-ridding stuff. I felt an acute shame how much I loved these "material things". And yet, and yet, her work is captivating. I could not suppress stories arising from somewhere inside me about the pieces. I was definitely on some kind of a high, but also appreciated the pieces dispassionately. 
And, oh, what joy they have brought to our home. Dinner these days start with Ben and I selecting which dishes we want to use. Together or alone, we take them out of the cupboard to admire them. And we smile. I used to be a staunch "sets" person, but Nelson being a pottery town, it's not rare to be invited to a table set with an eclectic mix of local ware. We, too, have collected these last 25 years; it suits my broad taste well. We liked what we collected so far, but I'm convinced her pieces upped the quality of our collection a few notches.
Plus, she's a darn good vegetarian/vegan cook and a superb baker, so we can't help hoping our cooking skills will improve by osmosis.

I've come to the conclusion objects that bring so much joy, make us think and discuss, (quite late into the night,) beauty and utility and colors and weight and texture, cannot be bad; that longing for such objects cannot possibly be anything but good. And if you think I'm hyperbolic, have a look at Ben; maybe it's hard to tell from his laid back demeanor, but something has changed in the way he looks at things, the way he talks about objects. And, oh, what a gift that is. 
This matte black plate with skinny stripes immediately evoked how I feel ab out my fussy twill; I had never felt a direct connection between something, anything, and my weaving before.

As for the resolution, well, thank goodness there are 11 more months to this year.

EDIT: Esther's Instagram, (which hardly does her breadth justice, but a taste.)  She also sells a small number of work at The Suter Store.