Category Archives: New Harmony

A Needle Case

I am participating in the Print Invitational Exhibition at the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art this month (through November 15th). The show is an ingenious fundraiser for the gallery: each artist donates an edition of 20 prints, which are sold for $20 each.

It was fun to be included as I don’t consider myself even remotely to be a printmaker, but in fact I realized I have been making digital editions — both woven and printed — for some time now. I had particularly been looking for a more serious application for the digital fabrics I have been investigating, so I jumped at the chance to participate.

My edition consists of 20 hand sewn needle books. The interior page is a digital print of a pseudo antique textile sample book, and there are wool felt pages sewn in to realize the sample swatch image and, practically, to fill with pins & needles for a traveling pincushion. I invented my own sample page when I was inspired by seeing the old sample books of wool fabrics manufactured by the Harmonists, here in New Harmony, circa 1815. The fabric names I used in my pages come from old names for woolen fabrics such as that which were produced here: as we might speak of worsted or gabardine, the old names were things like “Bombazine” and “Druggett”. The names took my fancy (thanks to the book Textiles in America: 1650-1870, by Florence M. Montgomery)

Here is the book, interior & exterior.
Also shown is the original Harmonist sample book (from Old Economy PA, where the Harmonists settled after leaving New Harmony)
My prints are available for sale ($20 each) at New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, 812-682-3156.

Labyrinth Society of America

It it exciting to report that the Labyrinth Society of America (TLS) has decided to hold its 2010 Annual Gathering here in New Harmony, Indiana. It wasn’t a hard sell — New Harmony has 2 labyrinths which attract thousands of visitors, and my husband, Ben Nicholson, is a well-known labyrinth expert, and also an expert persuader. He just returned from the 2009 TLS annual Gathering in Portland, OR, full of ideas and anticipation for next year.

We have already hatched plans for making equine labyrinths, guided by Ben’s sister Cordelia Rose, of Whitewater Mesa labyrinths in Glenwood NM. Cordelia has built several labyrinths out on her land and trains horses to walk them, something which both increases the animal’s agility and calms him. She came out here in August and worked with a number of horse owners to convince them to participate with their horses in the TLS gathering next year.

Ben is excited about making new, temporary labyrinths all over town, including the dirt “shuffle labyrinth” he keeps cleared at the back of our land.


I love living in New Harmony: there is a magical sense of serendipity often at play. Because of our fascinating heritage we have lots of visitors — tourists of the intellectual who come to find out about history or the spiritual nature of the place. So I often meet really interesting folks and sometimes bump into someone I actually know, or who is at least known to me by reputation.

Yesterday afternoon my studio doorbell rang, and at the base of the stairs stood an elegant man who asked if I were the person who made the marvelous textiles he had seen around town. He introduced himself as Glen Kaufman, and I nearly fell over.

Glen Kaufman, of course, is a pre-eminent fiber artist who for many years ran the textile department at the Univerisity of Georgia, training many textile designers and artists whose work we see everywhere. In addition, he had both studied and taught at Cranbrook, where I later took my own MFA. In addition to that, he had taught Pat Campbell, who was my studio teacher when I earned my BFA at Kansas City Art Institute. Pat was fresh out of Georgia when she came to KCAI. I often heard about Glen Kaufman from her and later in my time at Cranbrook, and here he was, coming up the stairs into my studio! In an academic sense he is a grandfather to me.

We spent an hour getting acquainted, and then I invited him to join me & Ben for dinner at our cabin where the stories continued into the evening. We had a lovely time. Only in a tiny town like New Harmony could a chance encounter like this take place. Glen was passing through on a long road trip through the midwest: his recent host had insisted that he must visit New Harmony. He saw my ribbons in the shops, he sought me out, and we met. So much simpler to accomplish than in a big city!

Here is one of Glen Kaufman’s weavings which I have borrowed from the Brown Grotta Gallery website. When looking at my recent Indiana barn tapestries, he remarked that we share a love of place, which he called Topophilia.

silk damask, silver leaf; screenprint, impressed metal leaf
48” x 24” x 1”, 1990

ps: going digital

I am probably not the first person to complain about the transition from slides to digital. On the one hand, fantastic! No more slide duplicating! No more boxes & drawers full of the slippery things that I always mis-filed and had to flip through to find the ones to send out to every person requesting information. Come to think of that, talk about freedom of information! Now you can send images free over the internet — remember sending out slide sheets valued at approx. $20 apiece into the world, unsolicited, destined for trashbins? This is less painful.

But the downside is accessing images older than your digital history. I am an old person now — really. Got my MFA (high slide era) in 1982 for heaven’s sake. So when I want to put up a picture of a piece I no longer own, which I took a slide of in 1985 (like in the previous post) it’s a bit dodgy. I took a bunch of slides into Gamma, a big Chicago photo place, a number of years ago, and paid something like $1-$2 each to digitally scan them. Ouch. I have made, let’s say, a real LOT of work over the years, and it was hard enough to pay the photographer the first time around to document them.

And then I move to a small town of 850 people, and still don’t have a photographer (but at least I finally found a good doctor — today.) Hard to stay current. Which is the long way around of explaining the questionable qualtiy of the images you find here. But the Dr. seems to think I will live, so that is a start.

(you always want a picture. So here is a picture that started out the usual way, in a film camera, and may have found its way into my computer as a scan from a magazine article. The image is a detail of the Thousand Foot Garden: Harvest 1992, a set of 68 6″ square tapestry panels depicting some of the plants growing in Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden at Monticello, restored, in 1992)

more on inspiration

I usually hesitate to speak about what I am ruminating about, in terms of new art projects. I feel that the first articulation needs to be visual before the discussion (others’ input?) and expectations freeze the idea into a less malleable form. Nonetheless, I will tell you that last week was pretty exciting for my husband Ben, and also for me, when we together cut the first honeycombs out of frames from his four hives.

Ben is new-ish beekeeper, and it is not so easy to learn. He is learning from a local beekeeper, Dennis Hermann, who has an established family of hives and sells honey & beeswax candles at our local farmer’s market. They have brought a couple of swarms over here, introduced first to hives on loan and then to hives Ben bought. Tragically the first few swarms died — it is horrible to watch the bees struggling out, half dead! Finally last summer, with new hives, the bees stayed and have seemed to prosper. A few weeks ago we both suited up and went over to inspect the hives, and were able to harvest a few frames of honey (now we find it might have been too early in the season! Oh no!) and last week we cut them up.

Lexie Holeman designed the labels, I contributed the ribbon (and yes, as the ribbon was an afterthought we will re-calibrate the labels so the ribbon doesn’t cover the labyrinth) and we proudly took the first 10 boxes over to the New Harmony Coffee House where Ben sells honey from around the world.

Those of you who know my tapestries will remember that bees have populated my work since the early 1980s, so you can imagine what resonance all this has for me. Add to it the dimensions of harvest, cooking, and nurturing that all of this implies and you might understand the satisfactions of having one’s own bees. But, bee architecture….!

It is raining this morning and so I took this picture from the cabin porch, but here are Ben’s hives, set against the edge of our property. The neighboring field is in spring flood (the Wabash river is on the other side of the field). I have been weaving large moths lately but will switch insects in a few weeks and move into hive housing on the loom, I do believe. There, I have said it! let’s hope it is not a jinx.

(the photo of the beekeepers in suits is from this weekend: Ben, our son Will, and Christine)

where I work

I was writing to someone today describing the wonderful place where I live & work and I thought, I should post this on the blog. So here is my beautiful studio building in New Harmony. I am smack dab in the middle of Main Street, and my studio comprises the second floor of what is actually two buildings. I painted the building last summer (when I say “I” I mean the wonderful Rodney Wade) in a striking chartreuse green which I somehow got past the historic committee.

The building on the left houses the gallery shop of the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art. I sold ribbon here long before I moved to New Harmony: I was bemused by the number of people, who when seeing my ribbons, would comment “you know, I bought some of these ribbons in a small town in Indiana …”

The building on the right ensconces the venerable Main Cafe, which has been noted in a column by Jane & Michael Stern (who write about good regional food on the road). They are open from 5:30 am to 1:00 pm: how’s that for a working day? I smell bacon & eggs all day upstairs. Conversation drifts up between the floorboards into my weaving studio, which is above the dining room.