Monday, June 27, 2011


I saw the advertisements recently for the new online magazine (emag) Colorways.  I was immediately skeptical as I really love my paper books and magazines.  But after seeing several advertisements and investigating the videos about it, I decided to see what it was all about.  I have to say that I am really impressed.  I suppose this is the wave of the future--online magazines.  The interface is really engaging and I loved having videos to go with the articles.  The little pop-outs and extra informational boxes that come up when you click on certain prompts are slick and seductive!  After playing with it for awhile I realized that not only are there videos, but there are slide shows so you can see many more photographs than you would in a paper magazine.  I found the whole thing engaging, easy to navigate, and a lot of fun.  Way to go Interweave!  (By the way, I don't work for them and am extremely disappointed in the death of Fiber Arts magazine.)

The content of the emag (Colorways: Artisan hues in fiber and fabric), by the way, is natural dyeing and its use all over the world.  I loved the pictures of harvesting cochineal and learning about dye techniques such as kakishibu (with video!) was great.

Here is the link, check it out!

And here is a photo I shot heading north out of Santa Fe Saturday afternoon of the Pacheco fire near SF ski basin.  Since then a much more dangerous fire has caused the evacuation of Los Alamos, NM.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center: keeping the doors open...

Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC) is an important place.  In this northern New Mexico valley, it represents a place where people can go to learn a craft, buy supplies, or teach.  They have been there for me in warp emergencies, knitting needle situations, a spinning wheel crisis, and yarn-supply predicaments.  They have offered up their reference library and evening lecture series, free spinning Saturdays and knitting get-togethers... And in this recession they are struggling to keep the doors open.  It is an organization that has served this community for many years and has managed to expand significantly in the last decade.

EVFAC has a large collection of looms and weaving equipment they use for teaching classes, or you can rent them to do your own project.  They have a wide variety of teachers including people like Jason Collingwood, Jennifer Moore, Karen Martinez, Beatrice Maestas Sandoval, Irene Smith, Robin Reider, James Koehler, Connie Enzmann-Forneris, Diane Bowman, Lisa Trujillo, Ted Hallman, and many many more.  They also have a dye studio and offer other kinds of fiber and artistic classes (see their class schedule on their website).  They support a kids fiber camp in the summer and are teaming up with Northern New Mexico College to offer traditional Rio Grande weaving classes this fall.

They have a great library for members.

And offer frequent lectures and informational events.
Cornelia Theimer Gardella talking about one of her tapestries at EVFAC, April 2011: L to R--Janet Austin, Pamela Topham, Terry Olson, Conni Gardella, Karen Chiu, Joyce Hayes
They showcase work of their members including this wall which was hung for a contemporary tapestry tour of the area in April 2011.
Contemporary tapestry work of Cindy Dworzak and Evelyn Campbell
I didn't really know how I could help the center survive until my partner suggested I teach a class there and donate the proceeds to EVFAC.  So now it is scheduled.  I'll be teaching Color Gradation for Tapestry September 16-18.  See the link with class description HERE.  All of the class fees will go to the center.  I'll also be showing some slide presentations including one about the Bauhaus project I completed with the late James Koehler and Cornelia Theimer Gardella in 2010.

They have shows of members work.  The current show is by Andrea Ortiz.
Traditional tapestry by Andrea Ortiz
There are quilts and clothing as well as felted pieces and baskets.

Here is the magnificent naturally dyed yarn of Liesel Orend (which you can buy!)

And they have a studio space in the back where you can rent space for your loom (or rent a loom too!) and have your own spot to work.

EVFAC has a great newsletter.  You can view it HERE.  In it you'll find all the scheduled events as well as equipment for sale and information about shows and other happenings.  And if you live in some other part of the country, consider a trip to beautiful New Mexico to take a fiber class.  Espanola is at the heart of a rich tradition of fiber art and within striking distance of both Taos and Santa Fe.

It is summer!  
Go and take a class (consider taking mine! September is beautiful in New Mexico)
or stop by with your knitting and sit on the couch and meet some new fiber friends
or go to one of Jen's spinning Saturdays and pick up some new tips from a master
order some yarn for a project or buy some they have in stock
check out their gallery or enter your own piece to show there
participate in their Ghost Ranch shows
above all, become a member.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A very busy bunch of dye days...

Three full days of dyeing wool is great exercise.  I'm glad I get a break for a few days though as I wait for a dye I don't have to come in.  I love experimenting with new colors and found myself warming to the task as the days went along.  I started off with some basic colors (actually they look kind of like a candy store to me) and then started pulling out old dye formulas I haven't used in years and giving those a go.  It is amazing how many colors you can make--I think the combinations might be infinite.

Candy store colors

I still have a large pile of yarn to turn into balls so it can be used in workshops. I've never seen an electric ball winder, but wish I had such a thing!

I used an emerald green dye I found in my dye stash and ended up with a yarn that looked like it was intentionally variegated it was so uneven.  I believe some dyes are more prone to this than others and if I use this dye again I'll have to experiment with another leveling agent.  All I used on this skein was glauber's salt.  I considered overdyeing it, but decided that it would probably look interesting in a weaving and I'd see what happened.

And I was reading Debbie Herd's blog and pondering her question about whether posting photos of tapestries online before they are exhibited is a good idea.  I do think this is a good question.  It goes along with my questioning of whether blogging is a good idea in general. I think that the internet can be a benefit to us as artists... but consideration of how we use it is always important.  I agree that going to an exhibition and seeing work that hasn't been shown anywhere is exciting.  Sometimes I follow this little rule about not posting photos on my blog or website until the show has gone up, and sometimes I don't.  It all depends.  I think if I were doing a solo show I would wait to post photos until after the opening.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Life in rural New Mexico

Here is a little photo montage of life in rural northern New Mexico.  My question as I look at the photos I take near my home and consider new possibilities in my life is how much environment shapes the art I make.  Could I do the same work that I do if I lived in, say, Australia?  What about England?  I think the work would be different, but I couldn't possibly anticipate in what ways.  I think the big sky of the southwestern United States has a big influence on my thinking and vision in terms of making art, but I have no way of testing that (besides moving to New England or to Germany or perhaps the Himalaya... just kidding on that last one--mostly anyway)...

Here is a collection of signs I see on a regular basis in my travels around northern NM and southern Colorado.

This one has survived since the last election--in Cebolla, NM.

In Espanola, as in other parts of the country, "cokes" can mean many kinds of soda...  Unfortunately I just missed getting the passing low rider in the shot.

This one is certainly a comment on the continuing land grant disagreements in this part of the state.  This sign is near Tierra Amarilla in Rio Arriba county.

This one was actually in the San Luis Valley last fall where you might not be able to get a beer, but you can certainly find a potato!

In Chama, NM-- the rental seems to be missing...

What would New Mexico be without the trail signs?  The Continental Divide Trail runs from the Mexican border to Canada through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.  This sign is between Ghost Ranch and Tierra Amarilla.

I love this sign-- and it could only have been created by a West Rim Drive resident, Carson, NM (near Taos)...  I like that the word EVOLVE has the word love in it twice when written this way.

And then there are the myriad of cultural influences in NM...
This teepee was across the street from my school housing for most of the year... and regularly used for ceremonies I can attest by the frequent drumming late into the evenings.

The typical lunch selection in small town NM...

This one is from Gallup and every time I see it I think maybe they forgot a "C"...  I guess that would be a different kind of business though!

And some special Durango culture, captured by my partner with an iPhone from the passenger seat...

And on the way home today from southern Colorado I ran into several fairly routine obstacles.
A train to wait for...

A herd of cows and their wranglers (the herding dogs were riding in the back of the four-wheeler to the left of the white horse--this is a busy highway, speed limit here was 65 mph--and we have to keep those dogs safe!)...

15 miles later, the requisite farm equipment...

And a northern NM resident doesn't think twice about a washboarded gravel road without guard rails and at least a 12% grade like this being part of a regular commute...  heck, the canyon is beautiful!

The land of enchantment.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

James Koehler's looms for sale

James Koehler's death on March 4th, 2011 still seems a little shocking three months later.  His memorial service has happened, his studio has been emptied, and his apprentices are trying to help each other with the questions we would have asked James.  This is what happens when somebody dies.

James' student looms and most of his studio contents have been sold but there are three of his personal looms left which have to be sold.

This loom is a 56 inch (weaving width) Macomber which is selling for $1800 (there is no need for me to tell a bunch of weavers what a great deal that is!).  I believe the bench (which has a slider) is separate.  This loom is in fantastic shape and if I didn't already have a Macomber (and if I had any more space for looms which I don't unless I take to sleeping under them), I would purchase it myself.  It is an 8 harness loom with a double back beam, one of them sectional.

This is a huge Shannock that James acquired recently.  I don't know the weaving width, but it is somewhere between 80 and 100 inches. James was interested in trying vertical weaving again, but had not used it yet when he died.  I don't know a price for this loom, but I suspect it would be negotiable.

And this loom caused me much angst and indecision.  I very much wanted to purchase this 100 inch (weaving width) Cranbrook, but since it is bigger than my car and my studio is about 180 square feet, eventually I had to decline.  This was James' main loom for many years.  All the tapestries I saw him weaving were on this loom.  It has 6 harnesses though James only has 4 installed.  I believe it comes with several reeds.  There is a long sliding bench which is extra.  It has locking treadles and James wove at it standing up (notice it is up on 2 by 6's). It is in beautiful shape and has the added bonus of being used by a master weaver for at least 20 years. I don't know the final price for this loom, but trust me, it is criminally low.  This particular loom is no longer made (and hasn't been for decades).

If you are seriously interested in purchasing one of these looms (or there is also some of his hand-dyed yarn left), you can contact me at the comments section of this blog or through my website.

I am hoping that someone who loves weaving and will appreciate the master who wove on these looms will purchase one of them and continue to love them for many years to come. And if you buy the Cranbrook, can I come and visit it? (kidding, I'm just kidding on that last bit-- mostly anyway)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weaving progress... last four days

Sometimes things move along at a very heartening pace...
Here I am after one day beginning a new piece which is 45 inches square.  (There are actually several colors here, you just can't see them in the photo.)

Day 1

Day 2
Note the quick progress here. I decided it would be smart to activate the date stamp on my camera to "prove" how fast I was progressing, though bright and skeptical family members might remind me that it can be easily changed to whatever I want it to be.

Day 3
Then things slowed down a little...
This photo was taken after a 4 mile, 3,000 foot climb.  That be some steep hiking (and we took the wussy trail).

Wheeler Peak from Lobo Peak (New Mexico Sangre de Cristos)

Cassy loves spring snow on a hot belly.
Day 4
And here is today's progress...  I think it was three sequences.

But I did work in the studio all day.  It was just that I had to figure out what I was doing once I finished the border, and it took this to do it.  
Those are various color combinations I was trying out for one aspect of the tapestry.  I just hope they work out once I put them in the actual piece or it is more sampling for me.  I often don't take the time to do a sample of something, but do realize that it really does help figure out what is going to work and what is going to be a colossal mistake.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A new tapestry teacher emerges...

I always thought I would teach tapestry "someday".  After all, I have been a teacher since I was an undergraduate, teaching piano to preschoolers, then running my own piano studio in graduate school, teaching a couple sections of 200 undergraduates medical terminology as a graduate teaching assistant, and then pretty much my entire subsequent career as an occupational therapist (teaching is teaching whether you're showing someone where middle C is or how to wipe their butt after a spinal surgery--just sayin').

Until my own teacher died three months ago today, I hadn't thought I would teach tapestry for a few more years.  But here I am and I am very excited about this new journey.  I have things to say and my own voice to say them in, so what better way to spend my time then showing people how exciting tapestry can be?  Teaching was incredibly important to James and I still feel that he would want me to teach now that he cannot do it himself anymore.  I hope I'm right about that James!

I'm starting out with a workshop at Intermountain Weaver's Conference in Durango in July.  IWC has been a great conference for me.  I love Durango and have enjoyed the atmosphere there studying on the Fort Lewis College campus.  I'll be teaching a class about color gradation for tapestry.  My work is full of this kind of color shifting as I find it fascinating, so I am looking forward to showing other weavers how to do this.  I am also looking forward to the learning that I know I will do as part of this process.  I know there will be questions that I hadn't considered.  Perhaps that is the best thing about being a teacher--the way it pushes you to learn more yourself.

Contemplative Garden, 30 x 48 inches, hand-dyed wool tapestry
Emergence II, 44 x 44 inches, hand-dyed wool tapestry
So today marks the day when I start a summer of tapestry focus.  My school year is completed (I buy groceries mostly with my paycheck as an occupational therapist working in the public schools) and I am ready to begin.  I have a multitude of projects to complete in the next 6 weeks and I'm so excited about each of them I don't know where to start today--probably that is why I'm blogging instead!  In the next week or so I'll be dyeing pounds and pounds of student yarn, beginning a big tapestry for an upcoming show, completing a sampler for one of the classes I'll be teaching this summer, working on powerpoint presentations for the classes, helping a friend put on a sectional warp, and finishing a design for a commission I hope to weave later this summer.  Okay, perhaps that is more than anyone can do in a week...

And for those of you in one of my upcoming classes on color gradation for tapestry, check out this online article by Kathe Todd-Hooker about ways to achieve optical blending with yarn.  Kathe is a brilliant woman and successful tapestry weaver who has published several books and runs her own fiber art company.  This article contains a lot of information that is similar to what we will be practicing in the class.

My best weaving buddy Cassy who is going to help me decide which project to start with today... or perhaps just snore.
And as a random post-script to this post:
I just returned from a trip to Michigan for my grandmother's funeral.  I had to check out the local yarn shop, Threadbender.  It was a great place.  There was a weaving class going on--but the shop is so full of yarn that the looms are tucked into corners.  You're looking for Mini Mochi for a hat and you round a corner to find a woman working on summer and winter on a Baby Wolf.

And this last photo is for my Grandmother Thelma who died Friday May 27th.  Thank you for living an inspired life Grandma.  We'll miss you!