Category Archives: process

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!)

Divination in the Dark

One of the nicer hats I get to wear is as a freelance designer, and I work regularly with Crate and Barrel.  Generally I meet with my person there twice a year, and she is incredibly creative.  I show her ideas, and she takes what she thinks will work off for sampling. Her input results in really beautiful and imaginative ways to make those designs into some kind of textile. We work on primarily pillows, throws, and rugs.

The drawback (for me!) is that she does not have the final word on what goes into the line each season.  A group of creatives from all of the various departments must meet up and select from among the samples. They choose things which will work well together in the stores, and later in homes.  This means my person and I might absolutely adore my pillow, say, but it still won’t go in the line if it can’t be reconciled with someone else’s sofa. 

A lot of expert research and thought goes into preparing for this, and a trend report is issued to vendors like myself to get us started along their path in the right direction.

I am currently preparing my portfolio for fall/winter 2019 (and here it is, the first day of spring 2018!). But the company is working against ever tighter deadlines. I have not yet received my trend report, and I will be up in their offices a week from tomorrow presenting my portfolio full of design printouts and woven samples for FW 2019.  So yep, I am working int the dark!

Much as I love designing textiles, right at this moment I feel at a creative standstill. So I am telling you about it all rather than banging my head against the wall.  I am waiting for their Oracle to speak any moment now.  Thanks for listening!

Below, find a throw in the current line at C&B, and my samples which inspired it.

Orion Throw, designed by LFN Textiles for Crate & Barrel

handwoven samples for Orion throw, LFN Textiles

Labors of love?

I have been extremely fortunate throughout my career as an artist, to pursue whatever I want to.  That is, unless I need money!  But when it comes to the money part, I find it almost amusing to consider systems of evaluation.

When one is engaged in a craft based art, a frequent question becomes, “How long did it take you to make that?” With the idea more time spent, the more value obtained, rather like the electrician’s bill.

But here is the thing.  The craft is essential, a mark of something finely considered, made via a deep experience with methods and materials. It has value, unless you compare it with goods made in China or other competitive places and sold en masse at low cost outlets.

Your average audience is not equipped to contemplate the difference between skillfully (albeit hastily) stitched pretty things, and your MFA differentiated specialty. Your loss.

When I speak to folks about why some of my work is so relatively expensive (heck, I am not world famous like Mr Picasso), I can only offer up what my vision of art is.

Art is the magic. It is whatever helps the maker to transcend everyday vision into something so meaningful that it takes your breath, or it reiterates your dreams, or it projects you to a different dimension of being.  

Your questioner, then, can base her decision as to whether or not to purchase based on any of the following:

how long it took you to make it. This must inevitably be valued at less than her own hourly value at her profession.

or, the relative value of the materials you used (not silk? Why not?)

or, trend. (Sigh)

or, the near orgasmic experience of looking into a world which has real meaning to her (regardless of artist’s intent!)

I write this tonight as I am spending time stitching closed sachets, made of fabric digitally printed to my own design, derived from highly labor intensive tapestries, and stuffing them full of glorious dried lavender.  Deep pleasure in the making.  Hardly worthwhile to make, based on cost of materials and minimum wage.  Selling at $20 each, a huge expense, and a relative loss.  I am paying you to buy them: the scent is true glory and magic.

Sandra Brownlee, Inspired Artist

Sandra Brownlee, Weaving in progress, Pages Series #1

One of my dearest and most creative friends of all time is the Canadian artist, Sandra Brownlee.  We studied together at Cranbrook Academy of Art in the early 80’s, and I learned an enormous amount from her freshness, her curiosity, her generosity, and her openness to learning.  A born teacher, she has taught itinerantly for many years, workshops mostly but also at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University), Philadelphia College of Arts (now University of the Arts), and Nova Scotia College of Art & Design among other places.

She has been on my mind lately.  I owe her a phone call, and we are always plotting to figure out how we can get together, since Halifax, where she lives, is an expensive plane ride away.

I looked her up online today with an idea to finding out her teaching schedule, and I found that she has won another prestigious award, this month.  There is a Youtube video of Sandra musing as she works.  Watching it made me fall in love with her all over again.  Her philosophy is a simple one, in fact it is the same one I have for working:  “Make a mark.  See where it goes.”

Here is the transcript from the video (taken from the Youtube site):

Published on Mar 4, 2014
2014 winner, Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts

Directed by Tim Wilson
Presentation of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Independent Media Arts Alliance

For more information, visit: ggavma.canadacouncil.ca
—————————————-­————————————–
Sandra Brownlee — Transcript

You have to begin. You have to make one row, one row of weaving. That’s all you have to do. And then, you look at that row and you take the very first thought you have in your mind: “Oh, I am going to make the next row this way… then the next row this way.” And it just starts to grow.
The way I basically proceed is: What I feel like doing, I do. I don’t question it so much, I just do it. I often start my day in the studio with some kind of repetitive drawing exercise. So, here’s another circle. This is made of soil from my vegetable garden, and I rubbed it with my hand into the paper.
I’m very tactile oriented and through touch and all my senses is how I access ideas and feelings… and knowledge, really. I’ve found a way of working that really suits me, which is this improvisational weaving. Very low tech. It’s like I work with a limited palette of black and white usually, and a few tools. It’s sort of like drawing and handwriting.
Almost the moment I sat down at the loom I felt at home. First of all, you have a piece of equipment that you’re sitting at. You have a place to be. You have all these procedures. And it was just exactly what I needed as someone who gets quite distracted. It was just very calming for me, and it made me feel secure and all settled so that somehow, I was able to go deeper within myself. And at the same time, going beyond… using it as a way of somehow witnessing to life… my life.
Make a mark. See where it goes.

  • Category

  • License

    Standard YouTube License
Gotta go: time to call Sandra.

Rowland Ricketts III Talking about Indigo

Today I had the great pleasure of going into nearby Evansville and hearing Rowland Ricketts III speak about his life in indigo.

It is always a treat to see Rowland.  Here is a man who is so wholly devoted to one substance, one central process, that his entire conceptual being is wrapped up in a single integrity which is hard to match in today’s world.

I have known Rowland for about 8 years now, watched him move from a man with a vision to a man with an intense reality.  He grows his own indigo, processes it, ferments it, adds his home made lye (made of wood ash from his woodburning stove) and dyes his heart and everything else deep, calm blue.

Immanent Blue, Installation at New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2009.
gradated shades of dyed indigo panels; dried indigo plants

One of my favorite tangible things about him is his always-blue hands.  In the plants, in the dye, every day. An additional beauty is that this dye is non-toxic and he CAN stick his hands into it with impunity (a question on his Facebook Page, Indigrowing Blue: Can I use our kitchen blender? I don’t think there’s anything harmful in the Poligonum tinctorium leaves. ”  His answer: “ I use just water and leaves. As much leaf and as little water as possible. You can use your kitchen blender.”) 

I am Ai, We are Ai. Installation of fabrics individually dyed by master dyers of Japan.  Tokushima, Japan, 2013

Today’s talk underlined his deep commitment to process as content.  The integrity of the process, the deep craft, becomes his purpose and give meaning to every step.  This is the way it is done.  This is the way it has always been done, because this is the only, best way. From growing the plants, drying, pulverizing, sorting, composting and storing the final blue dye powder, to developing and fermenting the mysterious, alive and potent, indigo vat, Rowland’s world is deep, deep, deep.

Dried and crushed indigo leaves, ready for composting (from www.rickettsindigo.com)

dip-dyeing paste-resisted fabric panels in an indigo vat  (from www.rickettsindigo,com)
Ramie panles printed with indigo dyes.  Shown at Melvin Peterson Gallery, University of Evansviille

For information on the processes of growing indigo, processing the leaves into dye, and preparing the dye bath, there is a very helpful website that Rowland (consummate teacher that he is) has prepared about his Indigrowing Blue venture at Indiana University, where he is assistant professor of textiles.  The site covers the process from saving seeds and planting them through harvest and drying the plants.

Rickett’s indigo vat at Indiana Univesrsity, fermenting away.  Photo from www.rickettsindigo.com