Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Tuesday Instinctive or Experiential/Learned Knowing Blues

One of the things Esther brought up last Tuesday was: there are things she knows, (in/about her making, but also in life,) which she doesn't have to think/test but can rely on. While I agreed on principle, I wasn't sure if it applied to my weaving, with the exception of a small portion about colors, and even that, I wasn't sure. 
Esther has been in ceramics for a long time, and a gallery art educator for as long or longer. While I have no doubt she has instincts, my immediate thought was she must have learned/harvested skills from her formal education in teaching and ceramics, and her years of creating class contents based on artworks and artists in a given exhibition. In other words, at least part of her instinct/knowledge must have come from and were improved by her experience, i.e. "learned". At the same time, I don't want to deny (possibly/seemingly) unlearned instincts exist, for her or for anyone, because these "where did that come from?" type surprises are some of most pleasurable experiences in our making, and produce some of the most satisfying outcomes.

It's easier to talk about me, because I know some things about what goes on inside my head, but  more because I knew next to nothing about weaving before I began. I knew names of a few natural fibers and some of their characteristics as a wearer/user, (mostly care instructions,) but looking back, so very precious little else. In my case, it's safe to say, the knowledge I have about weaving that I don't have to test every time came from studying, experimentation, and experiences, including dismally failures. 
Sett comes to mind. In early days, I sampled a lot and settled on a range of setts for each of my favorite yarns. I'm sure you have a similar mental chart of your favorites. I don't wrap them around a ruler, but start somewhere along these numbers and resley if necessary after sampling. That's my learned instinct/knowledge.

I can't think of another instinct/knowledge just now, but that maybe one characteristic, learned or not; some instincts are passive knowledge which stops us from grabbing something hot in the oven with bare hands, (I do this oh-so-often!) although we may not think about it until we open the oven. Rosie, the bookbinder, and I laughed so hard one Christmas, because we both experienced being advised by respected/adored mentors to try alternative ways, which we knew wouldn't work for us, but we tried anyway spending precious material/energy/time, only to confirm we were right in the first place. We couldn't tell why we foresaw the disaster, but nevertheless gave it a go out of respect for the mentors, and maybe even hoped to be surprised/astounded/awe-stricken. Meh.

One instinct/knowledge I put in the unlearned category is colors, although is it preference rather, and/or is there a difference? Most people have it, although in my case, the more I work with colors the less strongly I feel about my any one particular, thus my mantra, "there are no ugly colors, only ugly combinations." These days I use more of my All-my-life-until-2000-single-most-hated-color, orange, than navies, blues and grays.
I can tell you when it started: in 2000 I did a color studies course though the guild. As you can imagine, part of the requirement was to make color wheels and wrapped samples of different relationships like complementary and triadic. I had no orange paint, pen, coloring pencil, crayon, yarn, paper including origami, or cloth, so I bought a tiny tube of orange guache and the smallest, cheapest ball of yarn. The orange portion of the course felt disproportionately long and arduous, but as my mind took in complementary, simultaneous contrast, and the like, as the focus moved away from orange itself to more orange-ish and orange-in-relation-to-others, I became OK with it. Plus our living room windows face west and northwest, so if there is a sunset, we can't avoid it. (My high school colors were orange and blue; I never wore them, and it wasn't a particularly inspiring blue, so I'm good.)
After studying orange, I came to use orange in my weaving comfortably. In fact, it was almost thrilling at the start, knowing I conquered something. I also applied this with peripheral greens, (green is still not a favorite hue), and learned the usefulness of olive- and yellow-greens. Mind you, I liked yellows, so yellow-green wasn't a far stretch. I must add, even when I've studied a color, even when a color combination works, I can't necessarily elucidate why something works or why I like it. Sometimes it's merely a choice, not a necessarily preference of one over an equally good other; other times it can be out of habit. 

And now we come to the navies and blues, which are different "colors" in Japan. They have long been my favorite hues, and when in stores, fashion, ceramics/kitchen, even furniture, my eyes still spot navies first, then other blues, without my realizing. I have more navy blue yarns than any other single color. Yet I don't know if it's from confidence, conceit, or even fear, but I have never studied blues, just used them, and I've come to see my use of blues as haphazard, and results, accidental. They are not really considered, studied, and when they work it's because I happened to have/put together a nice combination. And I don't have confidence even if the result is nice. 
My brain now feels like it's on a loop. Instinct... Knowledge... and now preference... But one last point: Esther found it interesting I spend time studying colors I don't like, but not the ones I like. Touche!!! I couldn't explain it, but jested, "Japanese, female, Catholic," my shorthand for, "glutton for punishment." I spent so much time experimenting with merino, cashmere and skinny, mercerized cotton, too, so why not the color blue?
* * * * * 
On the right is the second blue warp. Although the blue hues are washed out, I like it better because it's more harmonious. It's A-B-Aa-Bb repeating in narrow stripes, A and B second right and center blues below, shown in more accurate colors, and a and b being two middle yellows in the second last pic below. (I took over 30 pics of these warps alone, but did not get anything close to real colors.)  
The colors in the first warp are closer to real life here, but the second right blue is still bleached. It's disappointing because it's one of my favorite colors among the 20/2 cottons, a cool Delft blue, so I made my "watermark" closer to it in the photo below.
I was going to make a third blue warp using only these two, in narrow stripe, taking out the yellows from today's second warp. But even in person, my favorite blue, on the left here, looks like a version of gray in the company of others, and since this is all I have left, I decided to save it for a more suitable project. 
Of course a yellow warp is always welcome, and I am looking at these now. Aren't they uplifting?
I'm not a fan of teal, and again this photo doesn't show the colors accurately, particularly the far right with more yellow in it in person, almost like a darker version of the middle. I don't like teals as colors, but I know they do a fabulous job with yellows, making the cloth shine like metal. Yes, I'm thinking about that, too. 
I hadn't visited my source's website for 18-ish months, and I was shocked to see they may be whittling down the 20/2 colors (two of the links don't work,) with half of what they do have being... green!! While options for 60/2 is more attractive, I can't see 60/2s well any more and I'm not sure if I'll continue to use them beyond what I already have, (quite a lot,) especially in the warp.
To be continued.

Thursday, January 18, 2024


Tuesday was Town Day. I had two medical appointments in the middle of the day but nothing else, so it started out at a leisurely pace.
I took a picture of this fancy rubbish bin at the back of the PO Box station; (we no longer have post offices, just counters at the back of affiliated bookshops.) It has solar panels on the top part and compacts the rubbish x5 apparently. I'm glad it's there, but look forward to see non-fossil-fuel-generated power used in public places in a more meaningful way. 
This sign stopped me in my tracks; I don't know how to interpret it. A very well-dressed woman in her 40s (??) walked past, smiling; no, I'm a retired pensioner, thanks, but do you know what this means??
Out of habit, I check bookshops and their stationary/art supply section whenever in town. Luckily, I didn't desire anything on Tuesday, but I couldn't help being attracted to these covers that could be recreated on textiles.
I think of reworking my pebbles all the time, and maybe this was a sign. 

And then I saw this cover and good thing I didn't like the inside, or else I might have concocted a weak reason to need it. Coming out of the second bookshop feeling smug about my economy, I ran into Esther on Trafalgar Street. It turned out we were both free mid-afternoon so we intrigued an Afternoon Tea.  
The first appointment was my second Singles shot, the perks (???) of being over 65. As they advised I might, I reacted badly the first time, spending two days in bed, so I had cleared my already-empty calendar for the rest of the week.

These outside the clinic, I wasn't sure if they were alstroemerias; the leaves and flowers say they are, but I don't know if I've seen bulby bits on mine.  
Nelson doesn't have a lot of World Headquarters, so I had to record this for posterity. I then had lunch at Broccoli Row, a Vegetarian institution in Nelson with the same owner and at least two staff since they opened in the mid 90s. And they still do (Green Lipped) Mussel Chowder; we were hard-pressed to find a cafe in Nelson that didn't serve chowder when we moved here in the late 90s; these days, at the top of my head, I can only think of two other. 
Then I went to my second appointment: mammogram. What worries me in retrospect is, the appointment took such a short time, and without being indelicate, the technician didn't squeeze the living daylights out of my girls as they have as long as I can remember. The machine was new, so can they get away with it? Because I'm willing to do this only once every two years.

I went back to Broccoli Row in less than half an hour to meet up with Esther. We had some interesting talks about making, confidence, Internet-selling, and for want of better terms, instinctive-knowing vs experiential-knowing. I'm still digesting the words/ideas. 

One thing to think about, though, is when speaking to non-weavers, I assume they don't know much about weaving. It's worked while speaking with visitors to exhibitions, folks who bought my pieces, or to artists in other fields. But some of my friends, and Ben, have heard me bleat for ages, and from time to time I am taken aback by the depth of their understanding. I can't figure out how I should modulate myself.  
Marge in her 2024 colors, near the bottom of the Cathedral Steps.
On the loo door at Ben's work. Before going home, we went to the supermarket and bought dinner ingredients so I wouldn't have to "cook" for a couple of nights.  

* * * * *

When I go into town, I try to get maximum stimulus for my making, but it's getting harder and harder as independent shops disappear and everybody carry samey merchandises. I was going to go to a couple of galleries, too, but the day turned out inadvertently social, so that'll have to wait.
I threw out my old Delivery Slip pad with half a dozen forms left just a few weeks ago, thinking my Gallery Store days were over. But with a new manager at the Suter, and another possibility I've been thinking about for half a dozen years, I got a new one. 
It was early but I started walking towards my clinic for the jab, hoping something will grab my attention for a half an hour on my way. Fate did not disappoint: I saw in the corner of my eye the top left ball of yarn in the window of a yarn shop Cruella. (We also have a cafe called De Ville in Nelson, because I know you had to know.) 

These are Shoppel Zauberball in singles; 75% Wool/25% Polymide, two on the left, and 100% wool on the right. The company also produces two-plies, and together I believe they are sold as sock wool. If you're used to merino or cashmere, even the 100% feel impossibly "tight", and I really didn't want Polymide anywhere near me, even if the label says it'll biodegrade in 5 years. And they are expensive, (I'd say "very",) at NZ$36/100g; NZ$67-ish for two plies but I forgot the weight. But it was the colorway on the left, (the two balls are of the same colorways,) that caught my eye in the first place, because they felt like relatives of my cotton warp currently on my 16-shaft, so I went back four hours later and ooohed and ahhhed some more and got them. The gentler 100% is more in the image of a spring garden.

They have many more subdued colorways, and a few monochromes. I was taken by the yellow, brick orange, and the blue monochromes, but I can do those on my own, or at least I have to try.

What will I do with them? I'll look at them and handle them for a while, unravel and feel them. And when I've done enough, I think they will become cushion covers. Though single, I wonder if they can even stand to be in the warp on a table loom, because I don't like variegated yarns making strips in the weft. Oh, if they weren't so pricey, I have a perfect chair I pinched from the back of a girlfriend's car to cover.

Knowing I can only knit tubes and rectangles, do you have other weaving/knitting suggestions? I very likely have a number of single-color yarns I can match with either. 
And speaking of doing blues on my own, I've been planning a gentler but more interesting pale blue warp, in the usual looking-at-cones-in-all-lights-over-multiple-days/weeks/months method.

That was Tuesday. Came Wednesday and, not to mention it was hot and humid, I had the same post-Shingles-jab symptoms as the last: headache, sore throat, fever, and upper body that felt like I was beaten up in the back alley by a couple of thugs not exactly yesterday, but maybe a week ago. One paracetamol takes most of it away, but four hours later the body screams out for more drugs; I made the intervals five hours because I'm not a fan of pharmaceuticals. It's now late afternoon Thursday, the day felt much cooler, and I've needed only one. I still have the fever, but the muscles aren't driving me nuts. Tomorrow, I might be able to swing my arms and make another warp.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Still (Not) Thinking about Thinking

I haven't stopped thinking about, or more accurately having different feelings about, the thinking/design issue I wrote about in the last post. One discovery is, I don't spend enough time cogitating/exploring ideas before moving onto what almost feels an automatic "design process;" one reason why my end piece/s are  same-y. Sometimes I suspect I unconsciously have ideas about the end piece/s, and work backwards towards the initial thought.

An opposite question is, how much do I want to invest in making "nice pieces" to sell? Not having any answers or preferences or ideas of what to do next, I went downstairs to tidy the messed up tied-unit-weave warp yesterday, so I can thread it again, but didn't start because I hadn't come up with a new threading scheme. I looked at the pre-made warps, looking for something  I may be able to put on the four-shaft Jack for a quick project, but nothing stood out.

I have wanted to make a blue cotton warp for a while, probably because it's been so hot and humid. Without thinking much, (which was the whole point, bypassing the thinky bits,) and without being able to see well in the twilight, I cooked up a crude plan and stood before my warping board. It was nice engage with my tools, nice to be doing something that may produce a few scarves if all goes well, but the way I (almost didn't) plan/ed it was facile, unsatisfying, and the resultant warp, ugly. It screams out, "I didn't put my heart and soul into it." I don't want to make this about, oh, river or the sea; I'm hoping interesting weft colors will make them... interesting. I'm hoping these colors will grow on me.

Call me childish, selfish, hedonistic; I suffer from an inability to think deeply, understand profoundly or observe dispassionately, and yet I forever seek satisfaction not only from the end piece/s, (this seldom happens,) but gratification of having put my heart and soul into the making.   
For a couple of days this past week, I binged on reading and listening to the LRB articles and podcasts. I like listening to writers' interviews because I think I understand them better than artists'. Even then, I can never get rid of an acute and specific FOMO, because often authors or reviewers or even my friends speak of things in books and stories I completely miss. (Joyce was so not the guy to read for my B.A.) 
It brings me back to when I started school; it's the first week and everybody else in class could read music, while I didn't even have the slightest idea which page we were meant to be looking at, let alone sing the first song: a simple, short song about the Japanese flag, the red circle in the white field. How often have I screamed in my head, "Where on earth did you get that??" 

On LRB, Toibin is my undisputed favorite. The other day, an interviewer mentioned in passing that Toibin thought "Animal Farm" was about farm animals, not a critique on society. I just had to look it up right away. Oh, I am so on your wavelength, Mr Toibin; what a relief/joy/privilege to be in the same club!

Monday, January 8, 2024

Thoughts, Transformations, End Products

I have to jot down a few things my maker friends and I talked about just now. Like minutes ago. These may come to something, or not, but these makers have heaps more experience making, read in depth, and think about making, than I, so there's always something to be learned. 
This post is not logical/orderly/comprehensive; just notes, stream of consciousness stuff. 
I think my question came out of an academic making project being abandoned (?) because the maker thought her thinking wasn't reflected enough in the final piece/s. I asked her if it was necessary, and she said in this case, yes.

This brought me to something I kind of suspected; that I can think, (I enjoy it,) and read some, (though I struggle with high-minded art writing,) but as I think, I'm giving sideway glances to design processes I learned, so my thinking is not purely thinking about an idea, but thinking with the next step in mind. I haven't found a satisfying way to connect my thinking to what comes off the loom; as if there is a big schism/leap somewhere; as if I move on to designing too soon. Or because it's easier, I've increasingly concentrated on the technical aspect of designing that should come after much more exploration. I don't explore enough. 

And then there's the other thing. I've been listening to a sprawling Ross King book called, "The Judgement of Paris: The Revolutionary Period that Gave the World Impressionism" for the third time. It's about that time in Paris and France; the politics of Académie; Louis Napoleon/Franco-Prussian War; when painting's focus moved away from religious and historical "records" to the everyday life and regular people. The story focuses on the life and activities of Meisonnier, (yeah, who?) and Manet, but includes many, many painters and writers we know, and the one who came out as a real vanguard is Courbet. 
Needless to say, there's much explanation on what different painters tried to do on the canvas. But I can't get rid of the quasi-envy painting/sculptures, jewelry making and ceramics, even tapestry weaving and felt-making, what I call "free form" making, offer easier canvas//base/platform? to express thoughts, than the grid on the loom. Is this the limitation of our discipline, or is it merely that I haven't found a way?

I reiterate: I haven't found a way to express my thought on the grid on the loom the way I believe my thoughts in my head should be expressed, and I don't know how "graphically" the transfer should be, how digested and regurgitated and morphed the final aesthetics should be. Now I'm only blurting out words that seem to fit the mood. 

I'm getting lost in a maze, but I'll keep going. One of the problems I have is that some of the "textile/fiber arts" I've seen are facile; that they have been easy/graphic transfers of the artists' thoughts using textiles. Others have been superb technical achievements without much discernible non-technical ideas, and though there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these works, sometimes unsatisfying. In the second case, it's entirely possible I'm too dense to see, or I'm not meant to see. My friends tonight said the final product should show "the grammar" of my thinking rather than "the words". Of course I'll have to be the judge of when my words end and my grammar begins; I'd imagine it depends on the project, and it depends on the mood of the day, but I am the arbiter, (after all I can't control others' perception,) and I have to be satisfied... with the degree of transformation?
I didn't realize I have been thinking in the back of my mind about what sort of things to make for the Suter Shop; silly-time-consuming stuff that's thrilling and rewarding to make but for which I can't even conceive adequate monetary value, or "nice" stuff, "merchandise", "bread and butter" "products"? The flip  side is I could focus solely on quality and craftspersonship; I can strive to make pieces that are parallel and perpendicular and luxurious and joyous and excellent, as these are of such importance to craft. 

Tonight it feels like a battle between making excellent craft, (being about the end product,) vs my garnering maximum joy/thrill/satisfaction in the process of making, (being about the maker.)
Fallen Alstroemeria petals in the sink; sometimes they just fall into places. And with that, I bid you good night.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

It's not Often I'm Lost for Words But

Hello, friends. I hope your year got off to a colorful start. I was going to post pretty pics on Jan 1, but as you can imagine, my year so far has been surreal, because nobody we know have been directly affected beyond the first jolt, and there've been no disaster-specific communications with them. Media coverage from Japan is more available to us cf. 2011, but mixed with much idiocy on X, while there've been bugger all in NZ except the picture of the burning plane.
As of now, 9AM Japan time, here are things that stick to my mind:
*The quake was equal to the size of 1995 Hanshin/Awaji (Osaka/Kobe) Quake, but the Sea of Japan side is not as densely populated, which is probably why NZ media only covered the removal of the Tsunami warning, but not the quake. It was much shallower and oh-so-much longer than the usual big quakes.  
* As of this morning Jan 3, bullet trains are running on schedule. This is partly due to their rail often being physically elevated or otherwise far from everyday traffic, especially outside large cities, so it's easier to inspect. From Dec-30-ish to Jan-3-ish has traditionally been when many travel to be with family, and now that Haneda is in turmoil, this was doubly needed. Whether folks can go home from their respective train station is another issue, re. road closure, petrol shortage, etc. Some flights resumed to/from the region, also.
* Speaking of flights, the plane which was hit by the JAL passenger plane belonged to Japan Coast Guard, about to deliver supplies/equipment to their division/s in the quake-hit regions. You may have heard everybody on JAL escaped, but five of six on the Coast Guard plane perished, with the captain in critical condition. 
* Any time is bad for disasters, but it's really bad now, because for about a year anti-mask/anti-vax folks have been loud, and the latest is that the earthquake was man-made. As with many other disasters, a variety of anti-[group/nation/ethnicity/individual] posts are exploding. Also, since former PM's assassination, dubious political contributions have come more to the fore, with public hearing held last month, (I'm not 100% sure about this,) so trust in the government and media is lower than low.
* It's raining in the quake-hit region today, with warnings for the wider region over the next few days. And it's the colder part of Japan, getting colder until Marchish. And it's still shaking; usually shakes as strong as the original can happen for a week. I have no words.
* I have to add this, though. Taiwan is also super quick and generous every time we face disaster. Some of their people were there, from memory, on Jan 2 already. So very appreciated.

I talked to Mom yesterday at an hour earlier than the usual time. I wasn't sure if she knew it was New Year's Day. She now speaks unclearly and I'm hard of hearing, so it was hardly a conversation, same as the last several months. I'm glad I changed the time, because the quake hit half an hour after we hung up. I wonder if I should call again soon, or leave her in peace, as she many not even know about the last few days. 

OK, enough.
* * * * * 
While reading about Gaza, and sometimes vaguely wondering how that's going to affect my Syrie project, I also try to keep up Ukraine. It's been excruciating keeping updated every day on both fronts, and I now avoid photos/vids, but I try to pick up at least the big stuff.

Since New Year's Eve I dropped a handful of comments trying to be sympathetic/encouraging. On one, I said something to the extent, "I hope and pray the madness will end soon, and Ukraine can start rebuilding in peace," and was taken aback when I got around 40 likes from folks with names in Cyrillic in a few minutes. Then of course a non-Ukrainian person jumped on the opportunity saying hoping and praying is worthless without action; I agreed, but "I don't disclose my minuscule contribution 'public'". Then this nUp edited his response so my response looked silly, then a nUpII jumped in about how many $ their government has contributed, etc., etc. etc. You get the picture. For a while I left them, (neither were bots,) to themselves, but it was so the wrong place and nUpII started to get ugly, so I deleted my comment. 
Then a friend posted about the cost of living in NZ, and his friend jumped on my comment, so I thought maybe it is/was me, and deleted that comment, too. I can see how this mine could have been misunderstood in this case, but golly, I couldn't be bothered, because he was challenging my "basic values and eagerness for consumption". Mate, you don't know how cheap I've been the last 20 odd years. I'll stop commenting altogether for a while. 

Re. donations, though, as I said in my last post, small amounts repeated do add up. For Ukraine I buy PDFs on Etsy, because I got started shortly after Feb 2021 when there weren't active solicitations from Ukraine yet, (remember when folks outside Ukraine started promoting Ukraine-based AirBnB and Etsy?); it's easy; and even though I know it's needed, I can't bring myself to donate towards weapons; and I'd already established something of a relationship with one vendor in particular. My $ has gone to Yuliia in the main. We've used half a dozen of her recipes, and they've all been easy to follow, delicious, and for this iffy baker, successful, not to mention her stunning photography. I can do more if NZ$ is stronger against US$, but, again, "Thank you, Pension." 
As of January 1, 2024: 
US$10 = NZ$15.82 =381.41 UAH (Ukrainian Hryvni)
And here are some examples of prices in Ukraine as of last month, although we can imagine there are vast differences between regions, and most importantly, availability.

* * * * *

Now this one is guaranteed uplifting. 
I have an online Australian-in-the-Philippines boat designer friend named Michael. (What am I saying! He's an Aussie; of course his close friends call him Mick!) He has different POVs and passions from mine, which are ever so intriguing and valuable, even when I don't fully understand, because boat folks use as much jargon as we do.

On Jan 1, he posted a 15 second clip from a video which intrigued me, so I watched the whole 1:05:19. And boy, was it worth it! Let the space/math/science bits wash over you if you prefer, but listen to the gist of the message, and enjoy the unapologetically upbeat host. I think I can use it in the way I weave this year.

* * * * *

Today is Day 11/22 of Ben's summer holiday, and unlike other years we've done zero house projects so far, sleeping in, reading, screening, eating carbohydrate instead. (It's been too hot to cook/eat proper meals, so I hate to check our blood sugar levels.) Today we start slowly, and try to get a few things off the decades-old To Do list.

I hope I didn't bring you down too much. Think of colors! Think of textures! Think of evenly-tensioned warps!! But also, let's keep in mind so many around the world who are having a terrible time.