Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Snowy New Year's Eve

Well, here I sit, alone watching TV, drinking beer and eating chocolate and caramel coated popcorn, and blogging! What a way to spend New Year's Eve.

Usually my husband and I have a nice dinner and drink some champagne at 10pm, but this year I spent the day visiting my Mom at the nursing home in the middle of a blizzard.

They had a New Years Party at the nursing home today, with live music and party horns, at 2pm.

Mom slept through it. I feel lucky to have made it the 5 miles to her house tonight, what with the 46 mph gusts blowing the snow all around on the windy, hilly, icy road. When I arrived I had to use my little plastic car shovel to clear the pile of snow left in the driveway by the snowplow, and now my car sits at the bottom of the driveway, and I wonder how I will get it out tomorrow. More shoveling I guess.

My hopes for 2009 are pretty modest.

Of course I'm hoping to finish the three new tapestries on my looms right now, and maybe start some more.

I'm looking forward to my daughter visiting from California next week. I can't wait for President Obama to be inaugurated. I hope we can actually accomplish some positive changes with him in office.

I expect to travel to San Jose in May for ATA's Connections: Small Tapestry International opening reception at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in May. It would be a wonderful bonus if one or two of my tapestries were included, but I'll enjoy it either way.

My husband and I are planning to spend 3 months in Europe next fall when he takes a sabbatical leave; I have to control myself, because there is so much I'd love to see, but it won't all fit into 3 months. We'll have to choose. We'll be based in Interlaken, Switzerland, so we'll definitely travel to Germany, and to Alsace, Wales, Ireland, northern England and Scotland, Florence, Copenhagen, and Umea (Sweden).

Most of all I hope my Mom continues to make progress. If she could regain enough strength in her legs to move from bed to wheelchair, it would change her life.

I look forward to seeing all of your tapestry adventures in 2009! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Tapestry Holiday!

Since I moved a lot as a kid, I hate losing people. I send out about 75 holiday cards every year, trying to keep track of my old friends.

One year I wanted to make tapestry cards, but who has time to weave 75 tapestries?

Back then, at the dawn of civilization, color copies cost $1.75 each, so I didn’t want to weave one tapestry and make multiple prints of it.

So, I wove a strip of 8 small tapestries, each about 3 inches square, cut the strip in two, then laid them on a color copier and had 10 copies made. That came out to 22 cents per image.

I glued the tapestry images onto cards that I designed and had printed on cardstock, which added about 3 cents more to the cost. (Have you noticed yet that I’m somewhat frugal?)

Since there were 8 different images, I figured I could use the same images over and over, as long as I kept track of who got which image every year.

This was years before I had a digital camera, or a scanner, or knew how to use Photoshop.

Even with my rudimentary Photoshop skills, it would be pretty easy now to design cards using these images, and then have them printed on cardstock, instead of having to do all that cutting and pasting.

It was a lot of fun figuring out how to weave holiday images. Some came out better than others.

I’m particularly proud of these very simple stars, which were woven sideways with pick and pick rays of light at right angles to the striped ones. It's a uniquely tapestry solution.

Have a happy holiday season, and a new year filled with tapestry adventures.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What's on My Loom?

I had already started a new tapestry last summer, but then I bought a new (used) small Shannock loom and just couldn’t wait to try it. So now I have TWO tapestries in process.

These are both in the Chaotic Fragments series. These will be #3 and #4. The first 2 of the series have been entered in Connections, the ATA Small Tapestry International Exhibit, so I don’t want to share them here yet. If they get in, I’d rather that people see them for the first time at the exhibit. If they don’t get in, then this can be my Salon Des Refusees.

The one I started second is way farther along than the first. This has happened before, and it always ends up confusing me, because in my head I have already named them. If I finish up #4 before #3, then I'll always mix them up. I’ll wait til I start getting bored with it then switch.

I’m hoping that having foot treadles will cause less wear and tear on my upper body (arms, shoulders, neck) in the long run. I am more used to weaving on my Gobelin style looms using leashes, but I think I can get used to the treadles. One thing I love is the little tool shelf where I can leave my fork, scissors, bobbins etc.

These Chaotic Fragments are excerpts from the Chaos tapestry. There are a lot of marks that are not easy to make in tapestry, and lots of eccentric weaving (where the wefts are not horizontal but instead weave at a diagonal angle).
I discovered long ago that too much eccentric weaving makes the tapestry lumpy, so usually what I do is weave a diagonal (eccentric) line, then weave some horizontal rows before the next diagonal. That seems to keep things from buckling.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rug Hooking Tapestry Designs

It’s always hard to think of a good birthday present for a parent who has plenty of stuff already.

My Mom makes hooked rugs, and she and her pals love to tell people they are “hookers.”

Because of using a walker she had to remove her rugs from the floor recently. The top photo shows 4 of them rolled up on the guestbed.

Fortunately she also has many that hang on the wall or sit on tables, like the birds on the right.

One year for her birthday I gave Mom some of my tapestry designs.

I was curious to see what she would do with these designs from my Flora series.

Flora began with a pastel painting I found in an old portfolio. It came from the same time and place as the Tulipa series: the Duke Gardens, about 1979.

As usual, I made a color copy, then I cut out sections that I liked and wove them as Flora Fragments.
After I had woven 7 small fragments, I wove Flora, the entire image.

This was the first time I had woven from a pastel, and I figured out that if I used one strand of red and one strand of green together I could achieve that blurry effect where the 2 colors meet.

After I took pictures of Mom's versions, I thought that she had reversed the designs; I assumed it was something to do with how she transferred them to her canvas. Now I realize that in fact, both of my Flora Fragments photos are reversed. These are my own slides, converted to digital by a professional photography studio, years ago when I didn't have a digital camera. Apparently they had some of the slides backwards. I can't believe I never noticed before!

Mine were all woven in different sizes, but Mom wove them all the same size, about 3 inches square, and had them nicely framed. They look great hanging together on the wall.

I’ve always thought it would be fun to do an exhibit together, and maybe someday we will, but for now we can at least share a blog entry.

If you look over at the right side of my blog, you'll see one of my Flora Fragments tapestries, and here are two more.

Here are Mom's hooked rug versions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What a Lovely Birthday Present!

Mom’s birthday fell on Election Day this year.

Since I’m spending lots of time driving to visit Mom these days, I amused myself by figuring out that this happens every 6 years, but that every 12 years her birthday falls on a Presidential Election Day.

Good thing I’m a reference librarian, because when I consulted a Perpetual Calendar, I discovered I was wrong, COMPLETELY wrong! I hate being wrong. I think it’s the leap years that messed me up.

There is a pattern; November 4th falls on a Tuesday at these intervals: 11 years, 6 years, 5 years, 6 years, repeat. I think that makes sense but I won’t try to explain it.

So, it turns out that this is only the third time in her 83 years that her birthday has fallen on a Presidential Election Day. The first time was the year of my birth, 1952, when Eisenhower was elected. The second was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan came into office. Good thing I didn’t know this before now or I would have been even more nervous.

Why is election day on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November?

Sadly, Mom didn’t get to vote this year, because she’s been very sick for 8 weeks, and we didn’t think about getting her an absentee ballot.

Once it did cross my mind, it seemed unethical to encourage her to vote, since she's extremely confused from large quantities of pain medications.

I know who she was planning to vote for, and I am so glad she got her birthday wish.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Please get well soon!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weaving at Smith's Castle

For the second time this week, I took my show on the road. On Wednesday I gave a lecture and demonstration for the Cranberry Country Weavers Guild. It's always fun to talk about tapestry with people who already know how weaving works, and understand the difference between warp and weft.

Today I spent the afternoon demonstrating tapestry weaving at Smith's Castle, which is not a castle, but a very early colonial homestead. The land was purchased around 1637 from Canonicus, the great sachem of the Narragansetts, by Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island.

Williams was an early supporter of religous freedom ("forced worship stinks in God's nostrils"), and an advocate of fair treatment for Native Americans. He came to Rhode Island after being banished from Massachusetts for these radical ideas. Richard Smith bought the property, and died, passing it on to his son, and in 1675 it was the gathering place for an English army involved in King Philip's War.

As usual I enjoyed weaving in public, although it's hard to get good results while so distracted. One of my blades of grass seems to have taken a wrong turn. People were quite amazed to see me "weaving a picture," as I described it to the small children.

I always bring along a few small frame looms so people can try it out for themselves, and a lot of children did.

I had planned a simple image of autumn leaves, and for a change I used only 4.5 warps per inch in the hope that it would be easier for people to see what I was doing.

That's what you get on the Friendly Loom if you wrap 2 warps between each peg.

It's also what you would get if you just use the handy pegs for warping, but I've found that with the super tight tension I like, if I use the pegs, it makes the top and bottom beams tilt, and I worry that something will snap. So I just wrap it around instead, and then I can weave on both the front and the back.

I usually weave at 9 or 10 warps per inch, so this is a major adjustment. I was using a very thick bundle of weft, so the tapestry looks very wooly and textured, but with only 4.5 warps per inch, it was hard to get the resolution I like. I told one observer it's just like a digital camera, I was operating with way too few megapixels.

I explained that I was weaving with thick wool so the image would progress faster, otherwise it can be like watching grass grow. Then I realized that in fact, it WAS watching grass grow, since I spent most of the day weaving a few blades of grass!

If you compare the before and after photos you'll see that I did make pretty good progress.

There were 2 adorable adolescent Alpacas in the next booth, and at the end of the day I treated myself to some irresistably soft socks and a skein of gorgeous black alpaca yarn.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Unicorns Gathering in Scotland

The seven tapestries of the Hunt of the Unicorn, which are at the Cloisters in New York are being recreated in Scotland, as part of the renovation of Stirling Castle, where they will hang in the Queen's Presence Chamber. Historical sources indicate that there was a set of Unicorn tapestries in the castle in the 16th century. It’s an amazing undertaking, which will not be finished until 2013.

Three tapestries are already woven and on display in the Chapel Royal at the castle. The weaving is taking place in a temporary studio on the grounds of Stirling Castle, and also simultaneously, at West Dean Tapestry Studio in Sussex.

A few weeks ago I attended a lecture in the Textiles Department at the University of Rhode Island, by Louise Martin, the senior weaver on the project. The lecture was inspiring, and Louise is a delightful speaker who really brought the project to life for us.

The tapestries are being “reinterpreted” rather than simply copied, because the size is reduced to fit the walls in the castle, and the warp sett is coarser to save on labor. One fact I learned is that with the medieval tapestry technique that they are using there is no color blending of the wefts. Only solid colors are used. There are two different types of wool, however, which, when dyed together take the dye slightly differently, giving the weft more richness of color. Louise’s explanation of the color analysis was really impressive. After the slide talk we were able to look closely at woven samples, and yarns.

The public can watch the weavers at work, with well trained tour guides to describe what is going on and to answer questions, so that the weavers are not disturbed. I hope to visit next year.

For more details check out the Singing Weaver's blog.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Maine Again

TWiNE (Tapestry Weavers in New England) held our fall meeting at the Rivertree Center for the Arts today, and we held a gallery talk with many of the participating artists talking about their work.

It was great to learn more about the tapestries and the artists, even those I know well.

It was also a good opportunity to photograph those walls that I missed the first time around, so here are some more photos.

I'm sorry they are not labelled, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet, so you'll have to be content with the images for now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

TWiNE 2008: A Contemporary Look at Tapestry

The Tapestry Weavers in New England exhibit opened on Friday, September 5, at the Rivertree Center for the Arts in Kennebunk, Maine.

Having been a juror, it was really exciting to see that all the tapestries ended up somehow on the walls, and in wonderful groupings.

I know that Kevin from Rivertree, and the TWiNE hanging committee, Anne, Bonnie, Dolores and Mary worked very hard to get this show hung, and it turned out great!

Of course I think it looks fabulous, but I’m not exactly objective.
I’ve had some really positive comments from other people who’ve seen the show and found it inspirational.
After I finally arrived (see previous post about car), I did manage to get started weaving on the Mirrix which Bonnie had brought all warped up and ready to go, so we can demonstrate tapestry weaving.
There will be a gallery talk and tapestry demonstration on September 20, 1-3pm.
If you plan to visit, call ahead to verify
the hours: 207.967.9120. Get directions at

Friday, September 12, 2008

"This Traffic Jam is About to Get a WHOLE Lot Worse!"

I thought, as I sat in stop and go traffic on the infamous Route 128 outside Boston, 75 miles from home, and 100 miles short of my destination, in a construction zone with no breakdown lanes. I was in the far left of the 4 lanes, when my power steering failed and a light on the dash came on with a cute picture of an alternator? (I have no idea what an alternator looks like but I’ve seen this image before….)

I managed miraculously to get over to the right lane, exit the highway and pull into a gas station. It’s not that hard to drive without power steering on the highway, but making a left turn into the gas station was REALLY scary.

How did we ever survive without cell phones? Thanks to mine, I was able to not only call AAA, but my trusty Saab mechanic (nobody warned me that Saab owners are so attached to their mechanics!) to ask what could possibly be wrong, and where the nearest Saab mechanic might be.

One flat bed truck, a 10 mile drive in the front seat of said truck with the 2 drivers, about 30 minutes in the waiting room at Charles River Saab, and I was on my way in a brand new loaner car, arriving in Maine only 2 hours later than planned (still an hour before the reception).

Yes, this was my heralded trip to the TWiNE 2008 opening reception, but that story will have to wait. I just want you all to know how I suffer for my art.

I stayed overnight in Maine, then picked up my car on Saturday, after a nice hairdresser pointed me toward Watertown when I was hopelessly lost, almost out of gas, my cell phone battery running low, and on the verge of hysteria. Oh right, and after I paid an arm and a leg for the repairs.

Want to buy a 9 year old Saab? It’s running fine now!

Well, Ok, the Check Engine light came on today, but it’s probably nothing, I’m sure the car just felt lonely and wanted to visit its special mechanic again. I bought a Saab because I needed a station wagon and during the SUVmania years they all disappeared. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this car, but I think hate may be pulling ahead.

Things to be thankful for: Getting off the highway safely, Cell phones, Helpful mechanics, Charles River Motors (the oldest Saab dealer in the USA), Credit Cards, helpful hairdressers.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chaos in Maine

TWiNE 2008: A Contemporary Look at Tapestry will be at the Rivertree Center for the Arts in Kennebunk, from September 5-October 4, 2008.

Opening reception: Friday, September 5, 5-7 pm.
Tapestry Demonstration and Gallery Talks: Saturday, September 20, 1-3pm.

Rivertree Center for the Arts, 35 Western Ave, Kennebunk, ME.
Information: 207-967-9120

Tapestry Weavers in New England (TWiNE) was formed in 1991, to support contemporary tapestry artists, and to preserve and promote the ancient art of hand woven tapestry. This exhibit includes 40 tapestries by 21 artists.

My tapestry, "Chaos," was mailed last week, and although I finished it last November, this is its first time out of the studio. It was really difficult to weave, and involved a lot of "Penelopeing," tapestry weavers' jargon for unweaving.

The text was woven and unwoven at least 3 times before I was happy with it.

I used a mixture of white, black, gray and variegated yarns, in wool, silk and linen, and I spent hours turning and twisting the weft to get the black or white spots exactly in the place and at the angle that I wanted.

Here's a detail of it, so you can see the spots and specks.

"Chaos" comes from a 27 year-old oil painting of my messy studio table.

After the usual copying and dismembering, I traced a piece of it with black colored pencil, and suddenly the fallen cone of yarn started to look like a black hole in the universe.

I’ve been looking for Chaos in my work for years, and now that I’ve found it I hope it will hang around for a while.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Home Again

It's good to be home again, even though home is where the chores are! The garden is a mess, and I'm making "To Do " lists again, but I am managing to find some time every day to work in the studio.

I finally finished the grid tapestry that I started on vacation. This is the one I designed while on hold with the Dell tech support guy in India.

Since I still have some warp left, I decided to use the same composition with different colors, and I was in the mood for yellow.

I don't know how long that mood will's VERY yellow isn't it?
It's hard for me to limit myself to just a few colors, but it's a useful exercise, and I like the way this one is turning out so far.

If you look very carefully you'll see a little piece of purplish blue wool that I'm thinking of adding for some tiny spots that just were not working out in any of the other colors.

I am trying to finish it so I can start another project I have in mind for this loom. I want to warp it up with some very fat warp.

I've been making it on my spinning wheel, by plying together 4 strands of an off white wool, with some very thin gray.

Meanwhile I have another Chaotic Fragments tapestry in the very beginning stages on another loom.

For my birthday, my husband assembled my new, used 24" Shannock loom, and I can't wait to try it out.

So as usual, I have too many irons in the fire, and too many UFO's in the studio.

Don't worry, nothing dangerous, they are just Un-Finished Objects. I need to spend a few weeks framing all of the small tapestries I have woven on various frame looms over the years. It's much more fun to start weaving something new, so I procrastinate.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Time to Go Home

It's the end of my vacation and the 16 days of hot sunny weather. So far today it's been sunny, windy, thunder in the distance, then a little rain. I don't know if I'll be able to get in one last swim at high tide (about 5.30), but I'll certainly try.

I've been playing with some watercolors and having a very good time with them; I discovered a new kind of mark I can make with the sharp edge of my square brush, after the paint has dried.

I've also been weaving my latest grid tapestry. Here's a photo from a few days ago. I'm now halfway through the 6th row, so I only have two more to go. I had hoped to finish this piece and start another, looser, wilder one before I go home.

I always come home from vacation with lots of new ideas, and new projects, and I always believe that somehow I will find time for all of them. In the back of my head, I know that as soon as I get home, LIFE will grab me, and I will be spending way too much time doing things I don't enjoy, and that some of my new projects will fall by the wayside.

The challenge is to arrange my everyday life to make room for the things I really care about.