Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tapestry Diary Links

DiaryCutOff2 Since so many people have been asking me  about the Tapestry Diary, here are some links from previous blog posts.

There are some other short mentions of the diary in other blog posts from 2010, but these are the ones with the most information.

Basic Plan: 14 inches wide, the finished piece is more than close to 5 feet long. I wove a small parallelogram every day, about 1 inch tall and 1.5-2inches wide. They started out abstract but soon I began including text and sometimes small images for special days. I used the diary to experiment with techniques, textures, colors and shapes. Every month had a color scheme.

If I was away made up the days when I got home, sometimes weaving an entire week as one entry.

I kept it spontaneous, and rarely thought about what I would do until I was sitting at the loom. I kept a small sketchbook next to the loom and occasionally I did a small sketch first.

January 2010 – Starting to weave the days

February 2010 – 7 weeks in

November 2010 – Nice photos of the fall months

January 2011 – The finished 2010 tapestry diary

Sept-OctoberSeptember, October, November 2010

Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 Tapestry Diary Coming Soon

I have decided to keep a tapestry diary again, starting January 1, 2012. Some of you may remember that I did this in 2010; you can read about it here. I was inspired by Tommye Scanlin’s tapestry diaries, which you can read about on her blog.

The basic idea is to weave a small section of tapestry every day. It can be a way to mark the passing of time, an opportunity to weave without the pressure or expectation of creating a masterpiece, a chance to play and experiment.

I wanted to try something different for 2011, and chose to do a sketch diary. page2detail

I posted on this blog about the first part, which was Moon Snails.

After that I worked from some photos of trees, mostly dark tree trunks against the snow….we had a LOT of snow last winter.

The sketch diary lasted about 6 months, and then all of my traveling got in the way. I know, you would think I could just  do a sketch wherever I found myself, but it didn’t work out that way. Page6TreesWebThe sketch diary had morphed into a serious study of certain objects and forms, with each sketch fitting into the ones around it. For example the page shown above contains 15 sketches.

Even though I did not continue for a full year, I feel like I got so much out of the experience.

DiarySoumakThis tapestry diary will be a bit different from the last one.

I keep looking at the last part of the 2010 tapestry diary, where I played with black and white. 

Most of my current tapestries are black and white, and I have been dreaming of adding little bits of color to them, so that will be the subject of my explorations in the 2012 tapestry diary. 

2012warp I decided to get a head start, so I have warped up the loom, and woven the heading with the year on it. I have always loved the look of a fresh warp, perhaps because it’s all possibility, like a blank canvas.

This warp looks cool because I put black poster board behind it. Otherwise, because it’s a circular warp, I would be seeing 2 sets of warp threads one behind the other, and it makes my eyes go blurry.

(This photo looks a bit crooked, so either I took it from a strange angle, or I need to adjust the spacing at the top of the loom! TIP: take a photo to see imperfections that you may not notice otherwise!)

Nevertheless I was a little peeved when my husband told me he liked the blank warp so much, perhaps I should just leave it that way….hmmmph. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Open Studio

IMG_1906The weekend before last I participated in a local Studio Tour. It was really amazing to see how much space I have in my studio, once I got it all cleaned  up! I was also amazed at how many tapestries I have…..that’s a bit depressing actually.

Dealy Morning Glories I own a large painting by Ruth Dealy, which I bought when preschoolers were pals about 25 years ago. It’s 61 x 86 inches, and the only wall in our current house that’s big enough is in my weaving room, or so I thought.

I didn’t want someone else’s art on display for the Studio Tour, so I moved it into the dining room, temporarily. Here it is between the wall and a drop leaf table. I realized then that I could hang my largest tapestry in its place.

Luckily, with my handy measuring tape, I discovered another wall that is big enough for the painting; it’s in the guest room, so I’ll have to go lie on the bed and meditate on the painting, which covers an entire wall. One thing I love about this painting is that I will never get bored with it, there is so much to look at.

Weaver's Palette I finally accepted that I will never have time to frame all the small tapestries, so I pinned a bunch of them to a  piece of painted sound board, then put it on my easel.

Visitors could see my framing process, as I had 3 tapestries in various stages of framing, including this one (“Weaver’s Palette”) pinned to its frame, with the curved upholstery needle threaded, ready to sew.

I had 2 small tapestries professionally framed, so folks could see how nice that looks.

IMG_1910 The folks at Finishing Touches are very good with framing textiles, so I kept a pile of their business cards on the piano, next to the 2 tapestries they framed. By the way, a piano makes a lovely display case!

IMG_1915 I was delighted to sell two tapestries, “Winter Forsythia,” (right) and “Cranberry Bog.” (Below). It was great to send them out into the world.

“Cranberry Bog” is the one that I wove for the Australian exhibit, “LAND.” It’s only 4 inches tall, and is based on a photo I took from my husband’s small airplane, of a Cape Cod Cranberry Bog in March.

I figured they wouldn’t have too many other cranberry bogs in the exhibit. It’s always nice to be unique.Cranberry Bog2This was my first year, but other artists say the numbers were down from last year, and that people bought less and smaller, less expensive items. That’s no surprise with these economic conditions.

It’s not just about sales.The best thing about the studio tour was talking to all the visitors, and explaining what I do.

One artist said she sold a painting to a customer who had visited the year before, fell in love with the painting and finally bought it this year. Others said this event is the best advertising, and I believe it. I made a lot of good connections, got a list of people interested in taking classes, and enjoyed demonstrating tapestry weaving.

secretmessageblog I had about 25 visitors on Saturday and 40 on Sunday. Some were friends, co-workers, fellow weavers, and neighbors. Most were strangers, but all were very interested in learning about tapestry.

I consider it my mission to educate the public about tapestry weaving, so we won’t have to read any more newspaper articles about the dead art of tapestry. (I guess they don’t know about the 500 members of the American Tapestry Alliance!)Weaving Room

The black and white tapestry that is on my vertical Glimakra loom in the above photo, had 7 inches left to weave after the studio tour. I wanted to enter it in a juried show with a deadline of Monday, October 31. Today.

I had planned to work on it the week before the tour, but it was more work than I expected, cleaning up the studio and hanging tapestries everywhere.

IMG_1933 I figured out that if I could weave one inch per day it would be finished in time. It’s only 24” wide, but I do a lot of picky stuff, like twisting my black and white blended wefts to line up every spot exactly where I want it, at exactly the right angle.That takes a lot of time.

Then I missed 2 days of weaving because life happened. I was determined to finish it, and in the end, I wove through the night, finishing at 5.30 this morning. Luckily I am a night owl, and never felt sleepy.  Yay! I did it!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Lady and the Unicorn

How did I miss seeing this for so many years? I was in Paris in 2000, but for some reason this was not on my MUST SEE list…I was in Paris in 1972, while I was an art student, and spent every day in the Louvre, but that was before I knew anything about tapestry. This time I had only one day to visit museums, and this was my top choice.

ClunyCourtyard2 Even though the guide books now tell you that The Lady and the Unicorn is in the Musée Nationale du Moyen Age, in fact, you won’t find that on a map. They still call it the Cluny.

The Cluny Abbot Hotel was built, as a residence for the abbots, at the end of the 15th century, next door to the “thermes,” Gallo-Roman Baths dating to the 1st-3rd centuries.  The building is beautiful, in that magical medieval style.

ClunyCopticBefore we found the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries we were pleasantly surprised by an exhibit of Coptic tapestry fragments from 5th and 6th century Egypt. 

ClunyCopticpiecesWWhat a treat! These tiny tapestries are so finely woven and so expressive.

I know that many tiny Coptic tapestries were either applied to, or woven into garments. They are well known for their use of eccentric wefts.  

The Copts were (and are) a population of Christians living in Egypt, and their tapestries are legendary in textile history. What a thrill to see these up close.

Finally, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. I was practically speechless (which anyone who knows me would realize is quite unusual!)

ClunyLadyandUnicornHearingDAs a tapestry weaver I am so impressed with the technical virtuosity necessary to achieve the designs (like the patterns in the Lady’s dresses, for example).  As an artist it is clear that these tapestries were designed by a master of composition.

ClunyLadyandUnicornMSD2W They are so well preserved, the colors are bright and most of the silk yarns are still there, and still lustrous (silk can often become brittle and just fall apart over time). That said, the bottom edges had rotted and been replaced at one time.

(please excuse the poor quality of the photos…the light in the gallery is very low, to protect the tapestries from further fading, and flash photography is forbidden)

As is often the case with old tapestries, there is a lot of uncertainty and controversy about their exact meaning. ClunyLadyandUnicornSmellW

Experts believe that these tapestries are about the 5 senses: Touch, Taste, Smell, Hearing and Sight, plus a sixth sense: The Heart, or perhaps, Understanding. “A Mon Seul Désir” (To My Only Desire) is inscribed on a banner in this sixth tapestry. The symbolism is far too complex for me to write about. Apart from the lady herself, the lion, the unicorn, the trees, and her lady in waiting, there is a mille fleurs background, and many animals. Nothing is insignificant.

ClunyLadyandUnicornTaste2W The designer has been established as the Master of Anne de Bretagne, but apparently there is no certainty about exactly where the tapestries were woven. It’s likely that they were designed in Paris and woven in Flanders (or perhaps Paris) around 1490-1500. They were commissioned by the Le Viste family of Lyon.

ClunyLadyandUnicornMSDdetai You can get some information, and see complete photos on Wikipedia. I love that it says it “is often considered one of the greatest works of art of the Middle Ages in Europe.”  YEAH!

There is also information on Tracy Chevalier’s website (she wrote the novel “The Lady and the Unicorn”).

I bought a book in the gift shop: The Lady and the Unicorn, by Elisabeth Delahaye, Director, Musee de Cluny, 2007. ISBN: 978 2711 850358. The photos are wonderful, and the author does a good job of explaining things in just 96 pages.

It is not available on Amazon.com. There are 2 copies at www.abebooks.com, the English one is about $30, but the French one is $668.75 (???). You might be able to order the book from the museum gift shop for 18 Euros, but I don’t know if they will ship to the USA, or how much that would cost. Make sure you order the English version, unless, of course, you prefer French.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Youthful Indiscretions…

lifestudydetailSome of you have heard the story of how one of my tapestries went missing from an exhibit. This was in about 1980, and the exhibit was in the galleries at the Durham Arts Council in Durham, NC. I also had a studio space in that building. (Looking at their website now, I see it’s the same building, but it was renovated in 1988…not a moment too soon; my studio was on the ground floor and sometimes when it rained, water came through the 2 stories above me, right through the light fixture, and filled up the empty jars holding my paintbrushes!)

LifeStudy I was really upset about the tapestry being stolen, because I had finished it just in time for the exhibit, and entered it without taking any photos.

A few weeks later I saw something strange poking out from a large potted plant, and it was my tapestry. Someone had slid it off the tacky dowel it was hanging on (this was before I had a clue about velcro and all that), folded it up, and stuck it in the pot.

At the time I assumed it was a thief who intended to steal it and then chickened out.

It was only many years later, after taking a library school course on Intellectual Freedom and Censorship, that it occurred to me, this may have been an act of censorship rather than a botched theft. For reasons that are unfathomable to me, some people are offended by images of the human body, even when highly abstracted. Lucky for them they don’t live in Florence where they would be having the heebie-jeebies daily!

 lifestudyderail2At the time that I wove this, I was weaving mostly functional items and had very little tapestry experience.  The weft is a combination of strange rayon-ish synthetic yarns, with a border of a shiny black chenille, and the warp is 12 ply cotton tobacco twine, set very coarsely, maybe 4 epi. Hey, it was what I had, and I was a poor starving student married to a poor starving student.

The title is Life Study. It’s about 30 x 18 inches. I wince at the messy fringes top and bottom and the cheesy dowel.

lifestudyinterlockThe interlocks are VERY messy, but I still like the design.  It’s a holdover from my high school days when I painted many posters of abstracted nudes, and my family would play “Find the body.”

I was not trying to be mysterious, I just thought it was fun to look at the shapes of positive and negative spaces (although I had never heard those terms used).

I ran across this tapestry in my attic recently, and decided to write about it since I have had NO time to weave anything new this summer. Hopefully that will soon change.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rag Rugs

Kitchen-New-countersVirrVarA few months ago I started weaving a series of 3 rag rugs, for that most banal of reasons: they will match my new kitchen!

It is light green, dark green and white…not so much from choice, but because the walls are vitrolite historic structural glass.

GreenragrugI used to weave rag rugs many many years ago, in fact the ones I have are at least 30 years old! They are so useful; I put them near the door in the winter, and leave my wet boots on them to dry.

I use them under the Christmas tree, or on a table that has houseplants on it. They can be machine washed and dried.

I am  very low tech, I cut the strips with scissors. CuttingFabric

I did not like how wavy the fabric got when I tried tearing it. My strips are fairly narrow, about 3/4” wide.

I fold the fabric and cut a point at the ends, so I can overlap the strips during the weaving and not have a big lump.

I discovered years ago that sometimes the ugliest fabric makes the prettiest rug. zoerugdetailW

Bright green fabric with large pink frogs was very dramatic when woven, but I felt a little cruel squishing the frogs into blips of pink!

I love the way striped fabric looks when cut across the stripes. Like a tapestry design but much much easier!

Some of these fabrics were purchased for 39c per yard, about 20 years ago.

boomboomThis crazy cartoony fabric had many printing errors but I bought about 10 yards of it, and have gotten a lot of good use from it. Besides that, it makes me laugh.

They were in the scrap bin at my favorite fabric warehouse, Lorraine Fabrics, in Pawtucket, RI. 

The Kokopelli fabric was upstairs with the $1.99 quilting fabrics. I love knowing that those tiny specks of black are little kokopellis hiding in my rug.

kokopelliWhen I first started weaving rag rugs, I cut up old wool skirts and pants that I bought at the thrift store.

They had special days when you could buy a bag full of clothes for $3. It was a pain cutting them up, but the wool did make nice rugs, heavier than my cotton ones.

redrugWLater, when I started buying fabric, a quilter friend became quite angry at me for “ruining” good quilting fabrics by cutting them up.

I was a bit perplexed, as I thought I was making something beautiful, but I guess it’s hard to appreciate the lovely patterns on the fabric when it’s cut up and woven.

Ioverlappingedgesn case you don’t already think I’m a bit obsessive, I lay the fabric strips into the shed very carefully to make sure the right side of the fabric is always facing up (most fabrics have a definite right side). So my rugs have a right and a wrong side. One can twist the fabric in the shed to make a pattern of light and dark, but mostly I just like the dark (printed) side up.

I also like to overlap in such a way that the new color nestles under the old color and it makes a nice kind of a pointy join. I guess we all have our little obsessions!

Yield Once upon a time, about 30 years ago, I wove a large tapestry using fabric strips. It was based on a small watercolor of a “yield” sign.

I really enjoyed playing with the colors and patterns of the fabrics.

If you look carefully, you can see those squished pink frogs.Yielddetail2

The only problem was that it was so noisy weaving it, using a beater (and you have to beat HARD for rag rugs), in the room right next door to my baby’s room.

The only time I had for weaving was when she was napping, and my weaving would waken her immediately, so I got very little done.

Hotchkiss StarsI discovered soon after that weaving a tapestry, Gobelin style (using leashes instead of harnesses and treadles) could be completely silent, and that’s part of the story of how I became a tapestry weaver.

Sara Hotchkiss weaves gorgeous rag rugs and tapestries, and exhibits them at her Old Point Comfort Gallery in Waldoboro, Maine. The annual Studio Open House is August 6th and 7th, so if you’re in the area, check it out.

If you’re not in the area, maybe you should be! Maine is a lovely spot for a summer vacation!Hotchkiss Rug

I still don’t understand how she makes her joins without messy lumps, which was a problem for me.

Sara weaves rugs in all sizes from small mats, to large room-sized rugs, and she will custom design and weave whatever you need for your house.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tapestries in Milan

 VareseGrapevine2Recently my husband had a meeting in Varese, northern Italy, not far from Milan.  It didn’t take much arm twisting to convince me to join him.

Then I remembered that I have a Tapestry List* friend who lives in Milan, so I contacted Elena Rossi by email and she very kindly offered to pick me up at my hotel so we could visit the tapestries in the Castello Sforzesco.  CastelloSforzescoEntrance

*The tapestry list is a wonderful yahoo group to discuss all things tapestry. To subscribe:  tapestry2005-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

I was quite relieved that I didn’t have to find my way to Milan alone, thanks so much Elena!

I brought her a copy of the Small Tapestry International: Connections catalog, and Elena gave me a gorgeous book on the Battle of Pavia Tapestries, which are in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples.GliArazziThese tapestries are so well preserved, the colors and the details are amazing.

CSFrescoCeiling3It was great to have a native of Milan to show me around this lovely city.

The Castello Sforzesco is in an enormous castle, which looks very much like a fortress, in the center of Milan. 


CSCarvedStoneBraidIt was built from the 14th to 16th centuries.

We saw gorgeous mosaics and frescoes, 15th century weaponry, renaissance sculpture, musical instruments, and rooms decorated by Leonardo da Vinci; but our goal was to see the Trivulzio Tapestries of the Twelve Months.

DuomoDiMilano The tapestry gallery was not open until the afternoon, so we took a break for a quick lunch, and then Elena showed me the sights.

DuomoInterior2 The Duomo is awe-inspiring; it is the 4th largest cathedral in the world, and took almost 600 years to complete! Look how tiny the people look in this photo!

As we entered the building the guard at the door informed me that my shorts were too short (they are pretty long shorts) and made me pull them down to cover my knees.

Good thing I was wearing a long t-shirt or my belly would have been hanging out! Are bellies more acceptable than knees?

GalleriaV I was also impressed with the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II, an elegant 19th century covered arcade, with high end fashion shops. Here is a youtube video about it.

There is a mosaic of a bull, and if you put your heel on his testicles, and spin around 3 times, it is supposed to bring good luck (and perhaps improve your sex life!)

I tried it just in case…

Finally it was time to return to the museum for the Trivulzio Tapestries of the Twelve Months!

These were woven for Marquis  Gian Giacomo Trivulzio (1440 or 1441 – December 5, 1518)   in 1503-1509.

DecemberDetailWEB Here are two details of December.

DecemberDetail3There is a wealth of symbolism in these tapestries, which the people of the time would have understood easily. In the 21st century, sad to say, we are pretty clueless! 

I am always impressed with the way fabrics were represented in tapestry.

By the time we had seen all 12 of these tapestries I was pretty tired, and very grateful for Elena, who took me to the train station, helped me to buy the correct ticket and helped me find the train back to Varese. CSTapestryFolds-(2)

Another wonderful tapestry adventure!