Saturday, May 23, 2015

In which the undyed yarn lines itself up on the stairs... and the interminable rain

Things are a little nuts around here, but in a happy, this-is-a-lot-of-fun sort of way. There is nothing better than messing around with yarn and color. Plus I'm not even tempted to take off for a hike in this continuous, incessant, the-sun-is-never-out-anymore rain. (HOW could I complain about that? Maybe the forest won't burn this year. "The rain is lovely", she sobs, hoping for sunshine soon.)

The state of my office and studio has seriously devolved into near-chaos in the last couple weeks. I have started tripping over the stacks of color books on the floor and the other day I spent 20 minutes looking for a color wheel that turned out to be neatly packed in the crate of stuff for the next conference. I'm working on both the presentation and handouts for the color theory class I'm teaching in Michigan in June while making some new samplers and putting together all the little yarn kits for the exercises for the students.
The sticky notes are what hold the whole operation together
In my spare moments I'm churning out some samples. I'll have better photos of these soon. I am reminded how much I don't like weaving tapestry on this little jack loom and wish I had one more Mirrix for these (NO MORE LOOMS!).
Macomber jack loom to the left with tapestry yarn fabric samples and the Mirrix to the right will soon have an complimentary color sample on it.
If my big Macomber in the living room weren't doing such a good job holding the drying yarn (note rain problem), I would use that.
The guest room has become the yarn staging area. (Who am I kidding. We don't have a guest room. That is yarn storage and video-shooting central.)
And the planning of exercises and lectures continues.
And, looking toward some needed dyeing, there are some car/garage questions.
Not only is my elderly car shedding paint at an alarming rate with the added pummeling from the recent relentless perpetual ceaseless rain, but I discovered when I opened the back hatch to load some groceries this morning that the gasket is leaking and the amount of water in the back end of the car is somewhat more than might be acceptable even to me. That said, the old car gets a garage space for the next week while I use the other side for a short run of dyeing.

I will be mostly dyeing the grayscale. Turns out you really can't buy a good grayscale anywhere in tapestry yarn. The colors all have undertones or are heathered. I'm dyeing as much as my biggest pots will take for all those upcoming color classes. That means many days of dyeing but only a couple pots a day. I've used the stairs to the basement to sort things and I'm afraid I'm going to slip and increase the number of scars on my face left from the last tumble down the stairs (which, to my credit, was caused by my dog, not my lack of coordination). I might get blood on the yarn. I think I better get started.
Mezoff yarn sorting area and backpacking equipment storage
Emily just threatened to get tiny goats to eat the jungle that is the back yard (due to the eternal rain I might have mentioned before).
At least the stairs are carpeted.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Nacktschnecke... plus the best yarn photos of the week

It has been raining here in northern Colorado. I grew up in the land of sunshine. I expect Colorado offer up 300+ days a year of the stuff. It has been raining for weeks. Now don't get me wrong. The water is wonderful and my worries about all the forests burning down this summer have decreased drastically, though the worry about flooding has increased proportionally. Clearly I have a long-standing habit of worrying about things I can't do anything about. We are currently simultaneously under a Flood Warning, Winter Storm Watch, and Flash Flood Warning. It is supposed to snow later, so it seems reasonable to just stay home today. The family in the SUV stuffed with camping gear towing a pop-up trailer that just drove by by is going to wish they were sitting on the couch knitting and reading books about color as well.

It is so wet that as I was drinking my tea yesterday morning staring out the slider at the rain, I noticed a little visitor on the other side of the glass.
Nacktschnecke is one of the only words I remember from the brief German tutorials we enjoyed while visiting Erfurt from my friend and colleague Conni Theimer Gardella. I remember because schnecken means something like cinnamon roll which looks like a snail which is schnecke and nacktschnecke is naked snail which is a slug. I think my learning of the German language is pretty hopeless in general, but if I applied myself in just this way, perhaps I could learn some of it. Really I just need to know all the words for my favorite foods, some pleasantries for idle conversation, and all the words for yarn and weaving.

Yarn, weaving, and textiles being the most important things in my current sphere, here are some yarn photos I shot during a brief break in the rain Wednesday.
Yarn is Harrisville Highland by Harrisville Designs
I had the blessing of a friend coming to help me skein yarn yesterday. I was unreasonably, undeniably excited about this. She saved me three hours at the skein winder and seemed to have a great time. I hope she comes back. She is also originally from Germany so maybe if I bribe her with some schnecken?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The value of it all.

Value. I suppose we most often think of that word as referring to what something is worth. But in my world of yarn and dye pots, it mostly means how light or dark a color is. 

We talked a lot about value in the Color Gradation Techniques class I taught last week in Golden, Colorado. This flower was on the porch of the shop and one of the students pointed out what a lovely color gradation it represented. I am pretty sure I couldn't create this with the colors on my shelf, but I think dyeing them might be an upcoming challenge.

I enjoy teaching classes more and more. Either that or this group of people was just extra special. Or maybe every group is extra special. I'm not sure. We had a small class and they were really interested in exploring color gradation ideas and creating effects with the techniques. (Ha! That is probably  why I enjoyed it so much--they were listening!)

When I start seeing things like the photos below, I know we're in for a good time (or that Judy is as crazy organized as I am when it comes to color. It is all about the masking tape.)
Here are a few more photos from the workshop.
And here is a photo of a transparency that Judy did. Her idea came from Josef Albers' book, Interaction of Color. She added a purple to blue gradation on the edges. The bars in the center get lighter, but the red and the edges of the gray bars don't change even though they appear to. Also note the double color gradation in the Greek Key design: greyscale while the background is moving blue to purple.
It is mostly about the value, though being able to tell orange from green is also helpful.






From some of the lovely yarn shelves at the Recycled Lamb...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tapestry weft yarn debates and that wheeze in the freezer...

The freezer is doing that weird little barely audible rasp which sounds alternately like the ghost of a bird caught in the ice machine and your grandpa's nose whistle. The sound has become familiar over the last couple days and I have embraced it as white noise.

I'm camped out at a mid-level hotel in Golden, Colorado this week while I teach a class at The Recycled Lamb.

SIX things thrilled me today.
1. The sirachi-flavored turkey on my sandwich was not an abomination as I feared, but tasted quite zingy.
2. My students are absolutely churning out some fantastic color gradation studies. They are innovative, learn quickly, and are having fun.
3. Sweet potato pecan gluten free pancakes are fantastic and I may have to return to Blue Sky Cafe for breakfast again tomorrow.
4. The corner liquor store does carry corkscrews and a trip to a big box store was not required.
5. When you start playing with color in weaving, you learn not only about what weft yarns work in certain situations but how to mix colors to achieve various effects including transparency. By "you" I mean the students in the class. (More on this weft yarn debate thing in an upcoming post.)

And the BEST thing was reading this review of my online tapestry techniques class by the one and only Bhakti Ziek. It literally thrilled me to tears.

If you don't know, Bhakti is a celebrated fiber artist who works in many techniques but is well known for her digital jacquard weaving. Getting this kind of marvelous feedback from someone of her experience and skill is a lovely moment indeed. Just for one example, take a look at THIS commission she did for Princeton University called Stardust.

I like staying at this hotel on the edge of Golden. I love watching people learn how to move color around a surface they are creating in wool. And I love, as we all do, when I hear appreciation for something that has taken a huge amount of dedication and effort. It is a good day.


Bhakti's blog post is HERE.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

New skills falling like rain today...

It is only Sunday morning but I've already learned a lot this weekend. Yesterday I learned to mow the "lawn". That was a first. I made it into my 40s without ever having mowed grass. That is because I've largely lived places where I think it is criminal to have lawns. Nevada. New Mexico. Colorado. Not that there is anything wrong with grass. I just don't understand pouring drinking water on a plant that is meant for climates with rain.

This house/studio is a rental and the instructions from the landlords were literally, "just don't let the grass die completely--the city will cite us." So keeping grass healthy apparently involves cutting it from time to time. We hired the neighbor boy to cut it last year, but finally realized that the $17.50 we were paying him every week would quickly pay for a mower (and was more than we made in an hour which just seemed wrong as he is eleven). This pathetic little patch is under some big pine trees so it hardly grows as it gets no sun. A push mower seemed the thing, and one was found at the big orange box store.

We spent Friday evening cruising the lawn mower aisle with a lot of youngish men debating the benefits of this or that power mower. We brushed past a little clot of them surrounding a riding mower and slunk down to the end of the aisle where there were a couple forlorn push mowers. Yep. The ones without power. After about 20 minutes of asking ourselves whether we really needed the ones that make a lot of noise, we bought the best push mower, because if Fiskars makes great sewing scissors, certainly they could make blades that cut grass.

I put it together yesterday morning and 20 minutes later had a nicely shorn "lawn" and stronger biceps.

Learning is good. I learn a great deal from my students. Honestly one of the biggest reasons to teach is that you learn so much. I bet I learn more than they do most days.

I learned a new computer program for presentations after the lawn thing yesterday. Watch out! My videos and classroom presentations are about to become EPIC much better. Last week I learned how to put drop shadows on my tapestry photos. Also very thrilling.

Note to self: One step at a time is how it is done. one. step. at. a. time.

Today is a day for paperwork. The Color Gradation for Tapestry presentation needs some tweaking for the class I teach starting Thursday in Golden, CO. I've wanted to fix it up for years. It was never bad, mind you... just didn't quite give them that whole picture view I want at the beginning of the class. This week is the week... hopefully the guinea pigs students will love it.

(Still spots! There are still many spots open. Come join us! The Recycled Lamb. Yep. That is desperation speaking.)

Oh, and it is actually raining! It is suppose to rain all day. You have no idea how glorious it is to get rain in the desert. My apologies to California.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weaving color gradations with tapestry... or fun with a copy machine

I'm working on some new sample tapestries for a class I'm teaching in June in Michigan. The class is called Predicting the Unpredictable: Color in Tapestry and it is a color theory for tapestry class. I think I called it that so I would have to learn to spell unpredictible. See there, I still got it wrong. One I, one A. Unpredictable. (As in my spelling is...)

Yesterday I pulled this one off the loom.
The top half is a photocopy of the weaving on the bottom. I was attempting to match the values in the grayscale with the colors and I'd say it came out pretty close. I didn't pay any attention to the hues of the colors on the bottom, only to the values (though I'm sure I don't have a yellow that would match the darkest three hues).

I am going to do this again. I am also going to dye a different gradation of blacks. This one has a large jump between depth of shades 0.26 and 1.0. See it right in the middle? I am using a dye scale by Ginny Phillips but I think for this one I might just go back to the scale James Koehler taught me which is based on a different geometric progression. I'll certainly show you how it turns out. I think the value gradation in the photocopy (top left) is better than the woven grayscale (top right)!

This is woven with Harrisville Highland which is a two-ply yarn. I will also do it with the singles yarn I use for my tapestries to illustrate the difference between just two and three plys.
I'm also getting ready for another round of Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry, April 30 - May 3 in Golden, Colorado. I'm really excited about this class. Not only do I have some new ideas to try in the area of color theory and using gradation in real weaving applications, but the class is super small and full of great people I have met various places over the last few years. We really do need a couple more people in the class, so if you have any inclination to spend four days with me in sunny Golden, let me know! Information on The Recycled Lamb where the class is being held is here: http://www.recycledlamb.com/events.php
And a little more information on my website here: http://www.rebeccamezoff.com/workshops

Here are some of the yarns for the class, all packed up now and ready to go!

Friday, April 17, 2015

My favorite tapestry technique

If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that I teach a lot of things about tapestry. There are times when I want to weave something insanely complicated. If I actually let this wish get the better of me, I might end up feeling like this.
Molly McNeece, Cousin Trapped, watercolor
When this happens, I go back to some old tried and true tricks. My favorite is regular hatching. If you've had a class from me, you've probably tried this technique. I used it in the spirals in many of my Emergence pieces and sometimes I just weave it on a sampler to calm down a little bit, dork dedicated practitioner that I am.
Rebecca Mezoff, Emergence VII, 45 x 45 inches, hand-dyed wool tapestry. All of the spiral form not in the teal bar is done with regular hatching.
There are a couple ways you can do this technique. The simplest is just to overlap two colors in full sequences in a regular manner.

Use two colors and change the points where they relay according to your cartoon or any regular pattern. The example below creates a triangle.

Depending on the two colors used and their values, you may create the illusion of a third color between the two as in this arrow pattern which seems to suggest a green tree.
An excellent example of this technique is in Ulrikka Mokdad's tapestry, Floating in Blissful Ignorance.
Ulrikka Mokdad, Floating in Blissful Ignorance, 50 x 33 inches, wool weft, linen warp, photo: Frantz Henriksen
This detail shows the regular hatching between the peach and the black in the finger.
Ulrikka Mokdad, Floating in Blissful Ignorance, Detail
This technique can also be done with a separate color used for the striped lines independent of the background color.

Rebecca Mezoff is a tapestry artist and educator who loves to scratch puppies behind their ears, eat pepperoni pizza, hike long trails, and teach people about tapestry weaving. You can find out more about her and her online classes here: http://www.rebeccamezoff.com/online-learning/

Note: This blog post first appeared on the Mirrix blog as a guest post. If you feel like you've read it before, you're not crazy (well, not that I can tell anyway), you did.