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Archive for November, 2008

Thanks to everyone who left me well wishes in the past week or so! I haven’t been updating because I ventured home for Thanksgiving and left all my work at school, but now I have returned and am ready (almost) to face the next few weeks. Tomorrow is registration, and I think once that is all over with I’ll be in a much better state of mind; less to worry about, and then I can look forward to next semester.

I started my pickup project last week, and boy is that slow going. It took me another three hours or so to finish threading through the heddles, and then I ran into a bunch of problems with my tension and warp threads breaking, so after I had finished threading it was another hour or so during my dinner break readjusting things…let’s just say it’s a good thing I built in so much waste for this project, because part of our grade is determined by our fulfilling the dimension requirement of 480 square inches, and I had to cut off a lot of warp. Now, I know that doesn’t sound too terribly big, but considering the three weeks we have to weave it (it’s due not this Monday but the next one) in between the rest of our finals, and the very nature of the project being a line by line construction of imagery, it’ll be quite a feat. I’m actually quite determined to get it finished tomorrow, or at least by Tuesday, so I’m going to be working extra hard. Surprisingly, a lot of people skipped out last week, probably to go home early for Thanksgiving, and they hadn’t even started to thread their looms yet, so I hope they know what they’re getting themselves into. It took me about six hours (at least) to thread my loom (I’m sure that sounds pretty slow to some of you, but I’m still a beginner!)- which equals one class session, so I wish my classmates a lot of luck.

Here are just some additional sketches until I can get up to my loom tomorrow and photograph my progress.

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College Life, Take One

Here I am, procrastinating a paper and watching House, M.D. with my darling roommate. It’s nearing the end of the semester; that means finals, high stress, and a desire only for sleeping. I haven’t had a whole lot of time for fiber work this week besides the six hours I spent in class Monday night half threading my class loom. I did start threading my (at home) loom after a dramatic few days of untangling warp and un-knotting strings, but alas, school is finally starting to take precedence.

self portraits

Woe is me, I can never do a self portrait with accurate likeness; the right figure is more convincing, and has better lighting, but the right figure is probably a better likeness. For my Life Drawing class, vine charcoal with white acrylic. This one is better:

nudestudy

Just thought I’d post some (other) work since I’m not doing a lot of fiber work right now.

I do plan on finishing the threading of both my looms this weekend, and hopefully I can start the pick-up project before the actual class on Monday. My last in-class work day is December 1st, with the final due the following week, but I want to have it done before the 3rd so I can take it to a high school observation for one of my teaching classes. We’re going to have a nice critique and experience sharing session with the students, and I thought it would be interesting for the students to see something that is less traditional coming from work in the fine arts tradition. Hopefully it will make for an interesting discussion.

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Rewinding

I’ve been sick the past few days so even as I was telling people that I would definitely get my warp straightened out and threaded by Sunday, so I would totally be weaving on my loom by Sunday afternoon, I knew it wouldn’t happen like that. My body is just so exhausted, even though I’m on the upswing of things, and I feel like every bit of weaving is such a physical act- by the way, that’s something I absolutely adore about the craft. So I decided to take these days and do something productive with myself and organize up a bit.

This year I have been amazingly neat. My room is definitely the coziest in the apartment, filled with drapery, scarves, yarn, and scraps of fabric everywhere, and I’ve been really obsessive about keeping everything clean. However…I do tend to get a little disorganized ; twine winding up in my wool box, skeins of yarn coming unwound all over my scrap muslin. I spent yesterday afternoon (not in class) winding all of my skeins into balls (by hand, mind you) because for some reason I never seem to get around to that. I moved all of my weaving yarns up to my weaving loft, and reorganized the structure of my fiber organization system as a whole. Everything is much more pleasant now, much more to my liking.

And, because I didn’t have the energy to do anything fiber related, I spent the evening before going to MICA’s (rather uninteresting) experimental fashion show working in my sketchbook with paint and watercolor, which is something I haven’t done in awhile. And now my roommate and I are going to frost the two cakes we baked and watch cheesey horror movies on a rented projector, and I swear by tomorrow I will be totally cured just in time for sewing circle. All in all, it’s a pretty good day, and I’ll get to weaving tomorrow, god willing.

Two side notes of exciting things: yesterday I got my copy of A Handweaver’s Pattern Book in the mail, and today my yarn for the doublecloth project arrived. There are some good things on the horizon.

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And I just keep on falling more and more in love.

Yesterday we finished dressing our looms for the double cloth sample, the introduction to our next and final project. I spent a total of about eight hours on this sample including the time I worked on it outside of class. It’s a rough version, I haven’t finished everything off yet (though I did surge it)  and you can definitely see abnormalities in the warp; I had a few warp threads break, but my instructor told me to just keep going, and I decided to embrace the imperfections and now I think it’s really quite beautiful. I see it as something like a prayer cloth, with it’s many holes and pockets being comforting places for wishes and dreams.

doubleclothsample

Each colored section is woven differently. From the bottom up:

The first half of the turquoise is woven with both sides closed but is fully open between the edges. The second half of that section is open on both sides and the pocket extends below it. The green section is also open on both edges but is not connected to the tube below it. For the next two sections, the first is open on the right edge and sealed on the left, and the second operates vice versa. Next up is a hole woven in the center with sealed edges, and above that the cloth is joined in the center and open on both edges.

While that was all very exciting, and also magical, what was really fun was the pickup. Stuffed pockets, geometric shapes, and abstract imagery; now this sounds like my kind of weaving. I also had a lot of fun with this project because I had never woven something so tight and so fine before; I used bamboo in the Ikat project, which was very fine, but because I used a Sweedish Lace draft the cloth was a lot more fluid and draped more, where as this cloth is very solid and much heavier. I think I’m going to use a similiar yarn for my final project, because I plan on getting very pictoral, getting really frustrated, and pulling my hair out.

I do my best brainstorming in my sleep, or near sleep, so this morning when I was either coming out of slumber or tenatively wandering into it I started to think about how I should approach this next project.  I have a lot of things to think about for this project after our frist crit in terms of how to approach weaving so it’s seen as an art object, and not as yardage hanging on a wall. How do you transform that experience for the viewer so that they are able to see the cloth as something more than just a piece of cloth? (“I don’t want someone to think I just tacked a scarf up on the wall.”) Of course, a lot of this has to do with display- how does that change a viewer’s expectations. What is the balance between craftsmanship and the intricacy of illusion? I could go on and on, but I’ll only exhaust myself.

That being said, I began to think not in terms of a weaver, but of what inspires me as an artist. I immediately jumped to storytelling, which seems to be my theme for my life, and I started thinking about Sandra Brownlee (an incredible weaver who does pickup with sewing thread- I couldn’t find a solid website for her, but you should look her up) and historical cloths; tapestries, tribal costumes, and back to Ikat. All of these things have such history to them, whether it be of a consciousness or a culture. And all of them tell a story.

lanaandthread

These are sketches I did regarding a personal folktale I told late one night and decided to write down and illustrate. It’s called “Lana and the Spool of Thread” and it is about a little girl who can never get enough sleep, but finds comfort in the magic of a hammock woven from her hand. What better subject for pickup and my passion for storytelling is there in this world!? I plan on doing more illustrations by hand and using them as loose reference for my weaving. I know there will be little panels running up the length of the cloth, but I can’t decide in what direction I want it to be read. In any of case, I have plenty of time. Time to order more yarn!

Speaking of, some yarn arrived yesterday morning, so I just thought I’d share the additions to my small but happy stash:

newyarn

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Three members at Sewing Circle- not bad for a first meeting. I hadn’t picked up any embroidery for awhile, so I took this with me:

russianembroidery

In-progress panel inspired by Russian folk illustrations and design motifs. One in a series of probably three, so I have a lot of work to do. It’s part of my body of work based on the idea of folktales and storytelling.

And I thought I would post this just for kicks:

narnia

This is a finished piece, sorta silly, just something for me and my roommate to hang around our apartment (we have a very large soft spot for C.S. Lewis). My graphic designer boyfriend liked my typography, so I guess there’s some artistic merit to it.

My philosophy with embroidery is to make stitches until something happens, but I highly reccomend this book if you need a little inspiration. It’s definitely a keeper.

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I am relatively new to weaving. About two months new. To be truthful, I am new to fiber arts, having only declared my major last spring after really discovering the medium in the fall. There is no doubt in my mind that I need to be making fiber art right now, but I have to say it’s both frustrating and interesting being in this line of work on a student’s budget with limited space and only a random menagerie of resources with which to work.

When I was primarily painter, it was easy to spend a few hundred dollars over a short period of time; new brushes, stretcher bars, rolls of canvas- it all adds up, and quickly. I remember my drawing teacher last year showing us her $75 or $100 dollar brushes for her watercolor work, and while those kinds of tools are great if you have the money to spare, a $20 brush, or even a well made $10 brush goes a long way. Hell, I use the brushes that come in a $5 multi-pack for my acrylic and watercolor work and I do just fine for myself (though I may spend some unnecessary time picking hairs off of masonite board).

But let’s talk about fiber equipment. Here, not only do we look at spending hundreds- or thousands- of dollars on equipment and machinery, but it’s not a gradual buildup of material inventory; it’s a whole lotta money all at once. When I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival, I figured that the prices were inflated for the festival going crowd and that I would be able to find much better deals on the internet. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I’ve found that this isn’t so. I find it interesting that a craft that has such a beautiful history for women, for cultures, that used to be so common place and so expected, has become relatively inaccessible for the everyday person. I look at other artists and crafters and I marvel at the tools they have to work with, but I’m a firm believer that it isn’t the tools or materials that make an artist great, it’s what they do with what they have.

That being said, I am in college, and while I can’t afford my own equipment ($75 for a pair of hand carders- are they serious?) I do have access to an excellent fiber department (ahem- one of the best in the country I do believe) with almost everything I could ever need. However, I know I’m not going to have that forever, and I know that once I get out of college there is no way I’m going to be able to access those kinds of things on my budget. I’ll have to do things the creative way so I might as well start now.

I spent a good portion of last night cutting apart and de-tangling my heddles, bumping my head on my concrete ceiling, and doing calculations for how to make the dent reed, which is fixed on the loom, work for my super fine perle cotton warp.

Then I was really, really itching to get my warp started, but not having a warping mill, pegs, or board I had to consider my options. There was the old turn a chair upside down trick that I used to make sekins for my Ikat project, but I reasoned that it would be a headache trying to keep the tension seeing as I would need several chairs lined up to make the process most efficient, thereby not being efficient in the least. Then I remembered I had some left over plywood from my infamous box project (the only project I completed in Intro to Sculpture before I dropped out after seeing all the sparks fly at the plasma cutter- seriously, how does one NOT catch on fire?!) and I dug some nails out of my supply drawer…et…voila!

warpboard

Homemade peg board, I can add or remove nails whenever I want, and it’s a great portable size and stores nicely away against a wall for whenever I’m feeling that dorm room claustrophobia and need more space. Not only that, but it cost me nothing to make and totally gets the job done.

The green you see is the warp for my first project on my first loom, which I’m starting today. Just some basic dishtowels; getting a head start on Christmas presents for everyone. I have a sewing circle meeting today, so perhaps I’ll post some embroidery later in the afternoon.

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Right now I’m in an in-between stage. The Ikat project is finished, and the double cloth project will start next week; first a sample, then the final for the class. Truthfully, I don’t have a lot of work going on in most of my classes, mostly essays and reading, and since I am impossibly quick when it comes to getting homework done I have plenty of free time to get caught up on all of those other projects I have looming in the distance. No pun intended.

Actually, most of the projects I’m currently working on are off-loom; finally finish spinning the sumptuous green merino wool I bought at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last Spring (which will take me forever, because I am a terrible spinner [I blame it on the drop spindle] and I get easily frustrated and quit early), a knitting project that I have in mind for an installation, and some embroidery work that I need to finish and begin (finish for work I plan on submitting to competitive scholarships next semester, begin work with Jacqueline McNally for a show we plan to submit in the Spring).  It’s hard to work on everything all at once, but it’s even harder to not let the inactive projects slip too far in to the back of my mind.

I’m most excited about my collaboration with Jacqueline because I’ve never really done collaborative work before, and our work is so different; she’s an illustator and I’m a fiber artist, but we have a lot of common ground when it comes to our interests, and we work together so well as people. I don’t see how we can fail.

It’s rather gloomy and unexciting outside today, so I’m going to hop on home, curl into bed with one of the aforementioned tasks (embroidery sounds good tonight) and watch Mirrormask, which is sure to be some kind of inspiration.

Weaving updates to follow this week- I can’t keep my hands off the loom!

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