Category Archives: weaving

Valentine Red, color of the month

February certainly was a memorable and eventful month. Mostly memories of events I would prefer not to remember. I wrote about red a few times recently, including about weaving on this dazzling red warp. I had to abandon it for a while due to moving into my new home and various other activities (that sounds light!), culminating in a week with my family in Virginia. The last night there, I managed to fall down the stairs and break my right wrist, so I am now sporting a lovely RED cast and yesterday I took it over to the loom to see how it works.

I am so relieved to tell you that I can weave! The brocading part is a piece of cake, as my fingers are totally free and relatively nimble, if stiff & swollen. Throwing the shuttle is trickier. I can manage it but must watch how I pull my arm back — can’t twist the wrist, and don’t want to throw wrong and break threads. Fortunately, with brocading work, the motion is slow & interrupted anyway and the real facility lies in the fingers’ work, so all will proceed smoothly, albeit more slowly than usual. When I finish this piece — which is “In My Mind’s Eye I am Fine”, I have one left to do before shipping all of them out to Hibberd McGrath Gallery in Colorado, where I have a one-person show opening April 2.

burned and done

As I have written recently it has been hard to stay on task at the studio due to complications in my life. Last week, I moved out of the home my husband & I had made together, and into a beautiful little Harmonist house built in 1820. The day before I was to close & move I suddenly needed to weave, went to the loom I had tied up (See “Burning On”, January 21), and wove most of the tapestry — up through the roof of the barn — in a heat before having to leave to go home & finish packing. I realize that the passion to get it done was the reality leaving one life behind. Though I knew when I planned it what this piece is a metaphor for, I still can’t believe the direct line to the heart artmaking follows. I think it is a strong piece. I feel stronger having made it.

This afternoon I finished weaving the Burning Barn. It is now washed and pressed and waiting to be hemmed but I was excited enough to begin writing about it before I completely wrap it up. This photo shows a detail, the overall size will be roughly 32″ x 30″.

a new exhibition

I was recently invited to show a group of tapestries at the art galleries at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, as part of a group of 3 textile shows: “Quilts from the Collection of Judy and Tom Morton”, and “Stitches in Time: Samplers from Private Collections” flank my show, “Stone Tapestries”. In selecting a group of tapestries for the show, Katherine Waters and I decided to focus on my Stones series which spans two decades It is always helpful to stop and view a group of works together, and to formulate a synopsis of the ideas which one was attempting to express. Here is the statement I wrote for the show.

“I have long used a recurring motif of stones in my work. It began as a way of making an equivalent of soil in the garden tapestries I was weaving many years ago. I found I enjoyed making the many small, multicolored ovals which, at the time, I viewed as pebbles. Much of my work is grounded in recognizable imagery and I viewed – still view – the woven marks I made as an equivalent, or approximation, of something which actually existed in the world. In other words, most of my woven work is created with the intention of making a recognizable equivalent of something which I have witnessed in the real world.
One day, as I realized how much I enjoy making those colorful little oval marks, I asked myself if they could hold enough interest in and of themselves to cover a field with no other visual reference. From that day my Stones work has become a way of exploring space, color, depth of field, and surface in textiles. When I make a tapestry which is simply a field of stones, I become mesmerized by the process of laying in the colored threads. Every detail counts. I might choose a red thread for a space and decide it has totally thrown the direction I was going in, as all color relates to the colors it is surrounded by. I watch as a field of color evolves incrementally and every color choice I make is spontaneous and critical. The resulting work, I feel, has great depth, movement, texture, and an emotion which have been made thread by thread in a meditative and intimate conversation between myself and my loom.”

The Red & the Black

Very Stendhal.  I have to leave the loom every 30 minutes or so to rest my eyes!

It puts me in mind of my new Sheila’s Roses ribbon, in a very uncharacteristic red-and-black damask.  Where is all this leading?  Now I wonder if it influenced my choice of warp…

Color & Metaphor

Most of my color use in my weaving has been, admittedly, tied to a limited palette of landscape & architecture and fairly literal.  I won’t say it is not inspired or even lyrical, as I often begin in my inspiration for work with the color that comes into my line of vision.  But it is dictated by some grounding in an exterior place.

My most recent work has been tied to an inner, metaphoric landscape of emotion that is linked to reality by a figurative silhouette and animated by bees, which have always been the animators of all of my landscapes.  In this time of pain I have found my bees to be the language of engagement that works for me.  Surrounded by bees when I am safely zipped inside a bee suit, the air is alive with their language and they crawl with great energy all over me.  This would be threatening without my protective clothing, but inside the suit I can enjoy their nearness and not worry about imminent pain. My woven bees are, similarly, simultaneously benign and threatening, my protectors and my adversaries. 

But the color now can be informed by an interior dialogue of emotion and metaphor.  So in winding warps last week for 4 new tapestries in the series, I thought, hmmm, what color?  I looked at the yarn shelves in my studio and intuiutively chose carmine reds and sulphur yellows.  Out of these will come these stories:

The Burning Barn ( I wove the study two weeks ago)
In My mind’s Eye I am Fine
The Bees Always Swarmed When We Argued (working title)
and Breathing.

Here is the photo of the warps as threaded through the reeds.  More as it happens.

slow work

Have faith, I am still working! but slowly.  I am happy to say that I like what is creeping off my loom, and hopefully things will calm down shortly — I have been traveling a lot, and then of course there was Thanksgiving — and I will get to the Barn on Fire tapestry that is in my head.  But for now, here is the second in the set of three portraits I have made this fall of my inner state. (you may see “Beset” here)

Bemused, 2010, wool with metallic & rayon

separating paths

I am going to talk today about something more personal than I usually like to do on this blog.  My husband and I have decided, after 30 years together, that it is time to part.  Outside the obvious pain and the mundane why’s of it all, I was thinking today in more metaphoric terms to try to explain this dissolution.

I can’t quite remember what year Ben found labyrinths.  He had been writing a large & scholarly book on sacred geometry wrapped around the geometry of the pavement in Michelangelo’s Laurentian library, and in his thorough and polymathic way, Ben looked into every kind of geometry and sacred practice he could find until he walked into the idea of labyrinths.  What was meant to be a chapter wound its way around into a lifelong journey.  Ben began drawing and analyzing every imaginable kind of labyrinth, devising methods of generating them and writing extensively about the meanings inherent in the path one chooses to walk.  Each labyrinth of necessity offers a different approach to the center; one might take you spirally ever closer to the center while another might flirt back & forth, into the middle and back out, quadrant by quadrant, before delivering you home to the center.   All of it has been a profound practice of finding one’s way, metaphorically and literally.  I have watched Ben literally travel this path over the years, becoming a leader of other walkers, a kind of mesmerizing shaman. Labyrinths have become the central practice to his teaching: his favorite thing is to take a studio full of architects to the beach and draw labyrinths in the sand.  People come to our cabin to pace their paths in a simple dirt circle in the back, following Ben on his shuffle labyrinth.  It has been lovely to watch, but a practice I have remained on the outside of.

(from Ben Nicholson’s series of hundreds of labyrinth study drawings, colored pencil on vellum)

Meanwhile my own path has remained that of the shuttle: back and forth, back & forth, looping at the selvedge, traveling a known path towards the unknown of the art I was making on the loom, the path itself simple, slow, clear, but the journey equally mystical.  I understand this journey, it keeps me calm and open and is such a perfect meditation that I have needed no other.  Because of this weaving process I can completely empathize with the journey that labyrinth people speak about, but I am not on that particular journey.  This has proven to be a separating stance.  I feel slow, simple, grounded while Ben has been a gloriously whirling dervish.  Now he is whirling away.

“Beset”, 2010, wool with rayon, silk, metallic & cotton

Some couples do everything together.  Some couples, when they are both architects, practice together: they are together all day and together at night.  I don’t know how they do this, although it is remarkable and some of our friends have lives like this. I don’t want to indicate that something as large as the end of a marriage can be reduced to a simple story like I tell here.  It certainly is only tangentially to do with labyrinths.  I simply say this, we have discovered we are on separate paths, and I needed to write about it in the open.

prairie pillow is done!

This afternoon I completed sewing up the Prairie pillow.  I had to make a time equation that was really interesting. When I lived in Chicago, I would have shopped for the backing fabric & trim and easily found something that would enhance the tapestry face.  Here in southern Indiana, I realized I could easily spend a day looking for fabric, and not find it; also it takes 45 minutes each way to drive into Evansville to begin the search!   So I hand-wove the backing as well as the fabric for the welting, and came out about the same in time, with superior results.  So here you have it: wool twill brocade pillow face, wool twill backing & handmade welting.  Voila!

white on white, finished

I did finish those beautiful white-on-white pillows and the designer was kind enough to send photos of the room with the pillows plumply in place.  The high contrast here doesn’t really show off the weave, so I am including a photo from the workroom for detail.  The set was six 22″ square pillows for a very sleek, modern room which needed only subtle interest in the sofas.  Lovely work by Dirk Denison Architects of Chicago.