Author Archives: Laura Foster Nicholson

Millie’s Blankets

A couple of years ago, a sweet older woman in my community died. Her name was Millie Thompson.  She left behind a house utterly full of yarn. Millie was a devoted knitter, a fiber lover, and, I guess, a hoarder. 

Her taste was for luxurious knitting yarns of many fibers, all with a degree of fuzz and puff. All implied a deep rooted longing for comfort, which spoke to me. When her son learned I am a weaver, he begged me to come to her home and take away as much as I could carry. I did so.

I chose as carefully as I could on that morning of frenetic house clearing, and came back to the studio with bins and bins of beautiful yarns. I was determined to somehow make something that might honor Millie’s love of yarn, fiber, making, and treasure.

I decided that I would make comforting throw blankets. This fall, having run the full length of the series of tapestries I had been making for 18 months, I decided it would provide a delicious creative break to dive into all of this fiber, chosen by someone with other visions and different taste, and make a pile of loving and comforting tribute to Millie. I knew her just well enough to bet she would love this project.

As I don’t need so many throws for myself, a number are listed on my Etsy page, https://www.etsy.com/shop/lfntextiles?ref=hdr_user_menu-shop&section_id=21479994.

 

Figuratively Speaking

I have woven expressive faces for 9 months now, and have received baffled, amused, indifferent, and engaged responses to them.

It is always difficult to bring a new body of work into the world that has no apparent genetic connection to all the other work one has made in the past. It causes all sorts of uproar, breaks gallery relationships, and even upsets friends.

Every time I indulge in making figurative work in textiles, I reap trouble. When I was an undergrad in Fibers at Kansas City Art Institute, circa 1974, I wove a large tapestry of a reclining, yellow nude, part of a number of figurative pieces I had produced that semester. It hung in the school cafeteria for a week with some other fiber work. I got so much derision from painting students I was mortified (“why don’t you just paint, then?”), and abandoned the human form for many years.

I wove beautiful, engaging, thoughtful series of garden and architectural themes for many years to happy acclaim and good sales. (https://lfntextiles.com/gardens-and-architecture/)

When my marriage fell apart in 2010, I embarked on a series of figurative works to try to express the personal, spiritual transformation I had to undergo to find peace. It resulted in my being asked to leave the gallery which long represented me in Santa Fe, as it simply didn’t sell like my other work.

And now, I am weaving and drawing and printing images of faces expressing bewilderment, surprise, dread, anger, pain, and all the multitude of emotions that I am going through in this tumultuous cultural and political climate in my country now.

Many people have responded with comments that these are even “fun”. Some have suggest d they would make great pillows (well, why not?). Some gallerists have indicated that this is not their “favorite” work from me. And two members of my family have demanded why I am making such painful images.

I wonder, is it me? Am I just supposed to make pleasing things?  More soon…

Working, after a pause

Have you ever found that, when removed from an investigative process by any kind of other demand, that you return refocused, and maybe differently focused?  Often, this happens to me.  I used to be able to control my creative life by daily rigor and insistence, but the older I get, the more life intrudes to change the focus.

this might be fun! I am not yet sure. But it is a fact of my artistic, as well as of my mundane, life.

I worked insistently though four months, making faces that I felt reflected my responses to daily events.  Satisfying!  But when I take a pause, my thoughts move along.  Tomorrow, after a hiatus of effectively 4 weeks, i re-enter my studio to re-assess what i have talked about. And yet, I am technically unable, at this moment, to continue to write about it…

here is a mini rant: I hate WordPress!  So I can’t continue to write what I am thinking about now.  So all I can say is, watch this little page to see what the captive can squeeze out. If I can.

hand-woven textile, 2018. 16” x 12

thoughts on weaving and drawing

I have been weaving faces for several months. I began with small works, about 8” square each. Simple sketches, gestural and to the point. The idea is to give quick studies of the kinds of feelings which occur in a time like ours. 

Dismay, Handwoven, 8” square, wool and cotton, 2018

My artmaking, when I was young, was mostly about drawing faces, and i longed to get back to the direct expressivity and engagement of personality and opinion.

Working like this now, in weaving, is about the precision of line necessary to make subtle changes in expression. It gives me a new way to interact intimately with my process and examine each thread to see what it will do.

I have envisioned a roomful of large faces like this, suspended, not necessarily nailed to walls, 36”x 30”, or so.  I am working on these now, along with a set about 12” x 18”, which, annoyingly, are proving more expressive.  What’s size got to do with it? Most likely, it is easier to control the image at that scale.

Ooooh, Handwoven, 16”x12”, wool and cotton, 2018

Ferocity, 2018. 16” x 12”, 2018

Howl, 2018. 35” x 30”, wool with cotton.

I am amazed by the difference in working between these scales.  What works as a small gesture seems, well, sometimes silly, translated to a larger scale.  How do I draw at that scale to keep it real? What is astonishing is the technical dexterity that I need for this translation.

Worry, 2018. 27” x 24”. Handwoven, acrylic and nylon.

Everything becomes exaggerated.  Lips, when small, nearly inconsequential, a mere mark , but then 6 times as large? Silly?

The small pieces seem gender neutral. The big ones seem more female. And perhaps cartoonish?  It seems I always come back to the face I know best, my own.

This is all good information to ponder, as I make. I often find that I do not know what I am actually making until after I make it. This is new territory for me.   Feedback is so helpful. Please comment, if you are so moved.

drawing from life, or death

While I was in Halifax, Sandra suggested to me that my drawings were potent and important. !!!! When one values textiles, it is hard to remember that something as “quick” as a drawing might have its own value. Sandra encouraged me to draw whatever I saw.  So, as I always am observational, I decided to begin drawing again.

yesterday on the walk from home to Studio, I found a number of dead insects which spoke to me.  This adventure culminated in the experience of going swimming at the pool and finding a glorious, dead, dragonfly floating on the water.  I carried her home from the pool to join the others, intent to draw each and every one.

Late in the evening, she suddenly moved!  The chlorine expelled from her lungs? Weak, disabled, she could not go far.  So I put her in a safe place. Periodically, when disturbed, she waves her feeble legs and shifts position.

What to do? Meanwhile, drawing the others.

 

 

 

 

Artist in Halifax: a visit with Sandra Brownlee

Last week I was in Nova Scotia, reveling in the sparkling cool weather and in the company of my dear friend, Sandra Brownlee. Sandra is well known for her finely detailed weaving, and for her inspirational workshops on Tactile Notebooks and the Written Word.

We have been creative friends since we were at Cranbrook Academy of Art together in the early 1980’s. Sandra was a strong and compassionate mentor then, and continues to teach me with her love of making.  Here, with her permission, a few photos of her magical home, a huge inspiration to me.

Everything has its place

Hand prints strung on a line

Studio wall with Sandra Brownlee weaving and notes

Sandra Brownlee’s studio

Inside the entry, front door art

Braided mats by Sarah Bude lead upstairs

Braided mats by Sarah Bude

Threads and art. Print on right by Doug Guildford

Story text printed on fine muslin, by Jan Baker

Artistic “Expression”

I have been hunting for a way of manifesting a body of work which would be rigorous, exploratory, and pleasurable in the execution. I am into the third set of small weavings of faces and face-like items. (I wrote about Sad Mango a few weeks ago)

I supposed this was sparked by my adventures in the woods at Bloedel Reserve a year and a half ago. The trees were full of eyes, watching me with a benign interest. I have been struggling ever since to determine what to do about this perceived watchfulness.

Eyes of Alder (above) becomes The Man in the Moon (below)

I finally determined, after quite a bit of waffling, that I have a great interest in faces. I want to express that interest.  The challenge in weaving is (as always), just how to manifest the subject. And why even make them?  It took my head a long time to settle down over these issues and just allow me to weave simple faces, but full of expression.  I am working on economy of marks but full expressiveness.

Here are a few recent ones, (each handwoven, wool with cotton, roughly 6″ square).

Terseness, handwoven tapestry, 2018.

Skepticism, handwoven tapestry, 2018

Pain, handwoven tapestry, 2018

Wail, 2018, handwoven by Laura Foster Nicholson

Sanguine, handwoven tapestry, 2018

What is Drawing?

Drawing! Line + shape, form, color = drawing?  What separates drawing from, say, weaving?

I tend to think of drawing as line, and color as fill. Drawing as line, shape as form.

Sad Mango

Sad Mango, 2018. Handwoven tapestry, 9” x 8”, Wool with cotton

Drawing as line, form as the total. 

Weaving is a process with its own system of mark making. But I like to draw. I like to think I can use weaving as a drawing medium.

I am scornful of those who speak of “woven paintings”. Then why do I reference drawing when I am really trying to weave?

I think I am defining drawing incorrectly.

Really, drawing seems to me to be the term for outlining a form, an idea; it is exploration.

Anyway, I am in a maelstrom of overthinking process and content lately. All I want to do is draw. All I want to do is weave. I want to weave things I have not woven before.  I have been going back to the loom, making a fuss, stepping back, for many months now.

Today I decided to narrow in on, and so continue, a decision to focus on the human face, even if it is on, say, a Mango.  I wove off five quick studies of facial expressions, and kept them as simple as possible, trying to use direct and simple means to achieve, literally, expressions.

(these are raw photos, taken while on the loom. More later!)

cats on hand

designing with cats

I usually find that my cats are fairly uninterested in my world, unless it directly overlaps with their own in terms of being fed, getting the head scratched, whatever.

The two cats at my studio have recently begun piling up directly in front of my computer, begging for attention. My attention is focused there,  hence it is their main mission to distract me from my work so I will pet them.

This morning, after the usual frantic purring and thrusting activity from the grey cat, however, she settled back to rest and purr.

Later, I noticed that she wasn’t sleeping. She was intently watching the computer screen as I made changes to a design. Who knew? I have held cats up in front of mirrors as they demurely refused to acknowledge the image of the kitty opposite, so I had assumed that they simply were not interested in two dimensional representation.  My story is now being corrected.