Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The skunk in the night.

There have been a few issues with this new rental house. By far the most distressing (after I realized propane was not going to cost me $40 a day but a much more reasonable amount) was this one:
(Note: I did not take this photo. Our yard is completely brown, and also, though I almost always have a camera with me, I did not have one at the moment described below when I was trying to keep my dog from getting sprayed at 11pm in my yard.) Apparently this is a common San Luis Valley problem. Emily's first night here (I was finishing up work in Cortez), she heard a horrible screeching and then smelled THE SKUNK BOMB. Apparently it was bad. So bad it probably temporarily addled her smeller because later that day she made the FedEx lady come in and sniff to see if it still smelled. "Yep, pretty bad skunkin'" was the FedEx report. We tried to get someone to come and trap the thing. Our landlord even rented a trap for a night, but we didn't catch it and he took the trap away and "plugged the hole" in this manner:
Now my landlord is a nice enough guy.  He is a laid-back New York Jew who somehow ended up in the wilds of southern Colorado. I'm not all up on my skunk etiquette, but I am pretty sure that this is not a good way to plug a skunk hole.  I could hear the skunks laughing when they saw those baking pans and other yard junk shoved in around that old electrical conduit.

About a week and a half later at the end of my parent's baby-staycation, we had another skunk visitor.  I suppose the laughter at the baking pan "plug" to his entrance should have awakened me, but no, it was the smell. First your nose burns a little bit and then you get this horrible nauseous feeling in your stomach and you wonder if you are going to throw up, and if so, will you make it down the flight of stairs and through the bedroom my parents were sleeping in to the only bathroom in the house before you lose it... or will you have to go barf in the yard with the skunk. Figuring there was absolutely nothing I could do at 2am, I pulled the covers over my head and tried to breathe through my mouth.  Amazingly the next morning all my Mom said was, I thought I smelled skunk! It was bad, but not, according to Emily, as bad as the first time (we suspect that first event was a mating/courtship sort of thing--apparently male skunks tend to spray during coitus... or perhaps it is just foreplay).

Our landlord was, by then, in Australia for an undetermined amount of time and we knew we had to take maters into our own hands. We were unable to get anyone to come and trap it and take it away. One Fish and Wildlife-type person said they could trap it for us but that the skunk would either have to be released on our property or killed. I don't need that kind of bad skunk karma and I didn't want to come that close to the little kitty. 

There was some new snow, so we smoothed it all out and waited. The first night... nothing.  The second night I didn't wake up until 3am. I put on my skunk-hunting pajamas and my coat (the valley is colder than Antarctica in July) and peeked at the hole.  There were tons of tracks.
And I didn't know what to do. If the skunk came out earlier and already went back in again, I didn't want to plug him up in the hole. And what if there were multiple skunks? What else could I do? I left the hole open, exchanged my skunk-hunting pajamas for regular pajamas, and went back to bed.

Emily gussied up the hole making the entrance nice and available with a sweet rock walkway, threw out all the yard trash from the last tenants, and smoothed more snow around the hole so we could tell when our visitors returned (or left whichever the case may be). Nothing. For days.

So we filled the hole in. With big rocks. And railroad ties. If I could have put one of the hulking rusted pieces of farm machinery from the lot out back on top of the boards, I would have.  Hopefully the wire and rock combination will deter any digging at this particular hole in the foundation.

A few nights after plugging the hole, I smelled skunk strongly in the bedroom on the east side of the house. I was sure we'd either trapped one underneath the house or he'd found another hole that I had somehow missed in my obsessive compulsive searching for ruptures in the armory. Coincidentally, at that moment Emily let Cassy my yellow lab and avowed skunk-lover out the back door. I screamed SKUNK!, Cassy shot out the door barking, and frantic pleading from both of us with promises of really good treats brought her back before she got sprayed. I did not want a repeat of the last dog skunking which lingered for literally 6 months (even after the peroxide/baking soda/dish soap bath which does work amazingly well--unfortunately I also ended up smelling like skunk and was completely drenched from the garden hose to boot).

The hole is now plugged. The skunks will need to find another entrance to visit this particularly warm spot under the heater in this house with no floor insulation.  I'm sure it was a nice spot for a skunk--except perhaps for the fact that I'm pretty sure the water from the washing machine was draining under the house. My awesome brother-in-law fixed that a few days ago as the Australia-visitin' landlord hadn't yet sent his "guys" over to fix the obviously frozen drain pipe for the washing machine, and it was unclear whether that would ever happen. It is so nice to have a relative that can fix absolutely anything. And it only took him about 10 minutes. (He is on my "beer-for-life" program... I am not taking new applications.)
Our skunk is apparently still visiting at times. These tracks were running along the dirt road at the side of the house this morning. But so far we haven't had any more under-the-house visitors.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Grief and change.

February 16th I was in Taos and made a little pilgrimage to the closed and empty gallery. It remains difficult and sad: the closing of the gallery space, the loss of a contemporary tapestry gallery of which there isn't another, the loss of income in the process, and the manner in which the gallery was closed.

I feel more grief about this than perhaps I should.  After all, it meant I got part of a body of work returned to me from which I can build a complete set of pieces to approach another gallery. There will be new opportunities, of that I am sure. I think I miss the idea of Weaving Southwest... of the vibrant idea that Rachel Brown had about art and craft in northern New Mexico and I feel all of that is gone with the closing of the last remnants of her work... and with her death.

I found out yesterday that a friend of mine from years ago in another city was diagnosed with severe breast cancer last week--so bad that she had surgery immediately upon diagnosis and is already on chemotherapy. She is in her mid-thirties and has little kids. She is an OT and a physician. She is a vibrant and amazing woman. She may die from this. Life is unpredictable and news like this reminds me again to live a life of gratitude and compassion.

The closing of a gallery is a small blip in the scheme of a life. And an empty space invites new breath and new ideas. I hope as I move forward I can remember this each day.


Keep weaving.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tera Muskrat's New Mexico paintings...

Tera Muskrat is a friend of mine from Dulce, NM.  But I think at heart she is a Taoseno (indeed she used to live there). She has a show currently at People's Bank in Taos. Her paintings focus on daily life in New Mexico. Her last series was called New Mexico Calendar Girls. Tera says, "My New Mexico Calendar Girls are celebrations of strength, and durability, power, diversity, and uniqueness of the women here. I ... derive inspiration from the works of the Mexican Calendar Girl artists from the 1930's and 40's as well as by Mexican and New Mexican folk artists."

The Imposters
La Virgen

Tera is in the back on the left.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dancing cranes and weaving progress

I have settled a little in the new house outside of Alamosa, CO. And I have cranes dancing in my front yard. The house is surrounded by center pivot fields of mostly wheat and barley (I know, ironic for someone with celiac disease) which the greater sandhill cranes love to feed on this time of year. It is time for their migration north and they stop here in the San Luis Valley for a month or so every year.

The loom fared fine during transport and the tension on the piece seems about the same as when I packed it up. That is to say, not great, but definitely workable. With a little extra futzing I am almost happy with it and am sure that when the piece comes off the loom it will be fine.

I made a trip to Taos last weekend to pick up a bed to sleep in, my tapestries from Weaving Southwest, and my LeClerc upright tapestry loom. My awesome brother-in-law loaned me his Sprinter van and I was sure I could just put the bed and the loom right into the van and be done with it. The loom was a few inches too high to fit into the van and I had a Sunday afternoon in Taos of hunting for the right drill bit in sea of hardware stores all closed for the Super Bowl. Unbelieveably, WalMart came through for me and I got the loom apart and into the van.

My father took that pile of wooden parts and somehow put them all back together the other day. He strongly suggested it not be taken apart again (or at least not in the way I took it apart to get it in the van). So as soon as this commission is finished, I am ready to start a new adventure weaving vertically. 

I am pleased to be back in the San Luis Valley. The wildlife outside my front door (I also saw flocks of Canada geese feeding with the sandhill cranes, a hawk, and a great heron this morning as well as an owl last night), the quiet of the farmland, the endless views to 14,000 foot mountains, and this sunny little studio are all great. But of course being an auntie to the most beautiful little baby in the world is the best thing.

Blanca massif in the distance

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rachel Brown's legacy

Rachel Brown died January 31, 2012 in Taos. I think, as Kathy Spoering talked about in her recent blog post, that there is a little bit of Rachel in many of us. I last saw Rachel at her retrospective show at Weaving Southwest in 2009. I remember visiting Weaving Southwest shortly after I learned what contemporary tapestry weaving was probably in the late 90s. I made frequent trips to Taos to visit Rachel's gallery over the years and was introduced to my favorite four tapestry artists, the ones who made me want to work in this medium. There have been many inspirational tapestry weavers in my life since, but the first four were Rachel Brown, James KoehlerRebecca Bluestone, and Karen Benjamin. The first two are now gone.

Rachel's story is an amazing one and I only know bits and pieces of it. You can read some of it online. And recently I picked up Three Weavers by Joan Potter Loveless again. It is the story of three friends, Joan Loveless, Kristina Wilson, and Rachel Brown who transformed the face of tapestry weaving in northern New Mexico in the last half of the 20th century. The story is a good one and I encourage anyone interested in art in New Mexico or weaving in general to read it.

Rachel Brown
Crossing Over, 58 x 58 inches

Rachel Brown, Mirage

Rachel Brown, Seven Samurai

Rachel's book, The Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Book, first published in 1978 is still available today. It is an outstanding reference.

Rachel's gallery, Weaving Southwest, closed its brick and mortar gallery space the same week Rachel passed away. Two great traditions left us on virtually the same day.

Here are a few links about Rachel and Weaving Southwest:
Weaving Southwest's gallery website:
A story about Teresa Loveless and her grandmother Rachel Brown:

Rachel's retrospective show in her old gallery space, Oct. 3, 2009

James Koehler and Rachel Brown at her retrospective show in Taos, 2009

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weaving Southwest closes its gallery

I received some news on Wednesday, Feb 1st that I would rather not have heard. It was a tough day in the tapestry world of northern New Mexico (or maybe just in my tapestry world). I found out that the only contemporary tapestry gallery in the United States is closing, or at least the gallery part is closing. Weaving Southwest's doors were already shut by the time I found out.

The loss of the only contemporary tapestry gallery in the United States is a big one. Weaving Southwest had its ups and downs over the years. Rachel Brown started it, sold it to someone else, and then got it back when they didn't make a go of it. Teresa Loveless, Rachel's granddaughter, took it over almost 4 years ago. The gallery has now closed and Teresa has rented a smaller space in Taos to continue to sell yarn and hold classes. She intends to re-evaluate her business model and we shall see what happens in the future.
May 13, 2011
March 2010
June 30, 2011
July 16, 2011
November 19, 2011

November 19, 2011
Hannah Haworth from the bonny isle of Scotland worked at Weaving Southwest for far too short a time. She is a fiber artist and while she was in NM she created these creatures. The patterns are available on Ravelry and from Hannah here. These were the prototypes that lived at Weaving Southwest for awhile. More prairie dog pictures here.

The Small Tapestry International Show was at Weaving Southwest in April of 2011.

The first piece of mine Weaving Southwest sold in 2009.
This Time I Dance II

Here are some of the old posts I wrote about Weaving Southwest:
The one where Rachel and Teresa tell me they'll take my work is HERE. August 4, 2009.
The next one where they sold my first piece, 9 days later is HERE. August 13, 2009.
The one with the photo of Rachel Brown's retrospective opening is HERE. October 4, 2009
The one about their re-opening in the new space is HERE. March 6, 2010.
Another post with photos of the gallery is HERE. November 7, 2010
Another show with my piece up high is HERE. December 19, 2010.
Some photos of the walls full of tapestries are HERE. February 13, 2011
The opening of Small Tapestry International at Weaving Southwest is HERE. April 3, 2011
Donna Loraine Contractor's solo show at Weaving Southwest is HERE. May 13, 2011
Some words about Weaving Southwest's tapestry yarn is HERE. August 5, 2011
Hannah's prairie dog pattern is HERE. October 3, 2011
The man couch BLOG. October 19, 2011
And some photos of the cleaning out of the gallery are HERE. February 7, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Weaving Southwest Visit and new directions

I was able to visit Weaving Southwest one last time on Sunday, Feb 5th.

I was comfortable with Weaving Southwest as a gallery for my tapestries. Perhaps this was not good. Perhaps it is good to look for new directions and for more challenge.  I am saddened that we have lost this important contemporary tapestry gallery, but will move forward from where I am standing now.

Today my new direction included becoming an auntie.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tales of a Traveling Weaver: Leaving Cortez or "How to pack a loom with an important tapestry on it"

My time in Cortez is at an end. I finished my job here today and am pulling out, car loaded, tomorrow morning. I remember asking my recruiter about 6 months ago, "Cortez is a scuzzy hole in the wall, can you find me housing in Durango?"  I am not sure why I thought that, perhaps because an ex of mine told me this town was "rough" when I said I had taken a job here.  Anyway, I am infinitely glad that my recruiter couldn't find me housing in Durango and that I have spent the last 16 weeks in Cortez. This is a beautiful little town. There is good food (gluten free even!), fantastic hiking, and wonderful people. I really enjoyed my time here.

My favorite things in no particular order:
1.  Pepperhead. This restaurant is great. They made me gluten free food, the staff is excellent, and I loved the atmosphere. Lets just say that one Pepperhead margarita means I can't drive, and really need someone's arm to walk home on. Tonight I went there to celebrate finishing a job which was both difficult and rewarding--and I must say I did a great job (with the work, not the celebrating)! Emily is already in Alamosa, so I had to go by myself. I brought a book--classic defense when eating in a restaurant solo. Unfortunately, the weather was a furious mix of rain and snow at about the time I wanted to eat, so I did not walk, but drove. I realized this would mean that I couldn't finish the margarita I intended to order unless I wanted to leave my car at the restaurant tonight. This is all of the margarita I could drink before I reached that "one more sip and I can't drive anywhere" point.
Yep, looks like a little more than half to me too. Lightweight. (Oh, and if you have the privilege of going to Pepperhead, DO NOT MISS the chipotle chocolate ice cream. It is so very very good.)
Pepperhead also has this new chalkboard where you can fill in the blanks. What would you write here?

2.  Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.  I love to walk. I can walk and walk and walk. Yesterday after work I took Cassy back here for one last goodbye walk of 3-4 miles. A wild snow-sleet squall had just blown through and there was water trickling over all the slickrock. I stood still and listened to it running--a sound heard seldom in the desert. Then we walked and listened to the silence and smelled the wet sage. I saw no one, was startled by a mule deer, and walked up to the car just as darkness fell. This is where I find the center place.

3.  The people I worked with at Southwest Memorial Hospital. I especially loved that the home health care staff I laughed and cried with for the last four months.  They threw me a gluten free party on Wednesday. It included this cake from Shiloh Bakery (Thanks Shelly!). I have not had a "commercial" cake with buttercream frosting since I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005. I loved it.  And I loved that my co-workers went to so much trouble to make things that were gluten free just for me. The outpouring of support and appreciation from the staff of the home care department and the inpatient nursing/planning staff was wonderful.

4.  Sleeping Ute Mountain.  I just like this land feature which is seen throughout most of the area. I spent the last 4 months doing home health and driving all over Montezuma County. I kept looking for the perfect vantage point to take a photo of this mountain, which from the right place really does look like someone lying on their back with their arms crossed. I never got a good photo, as tonight when I walked Cassy out to my chosen spot, it was snowing. You can see his toes sticking up to the left, but most of the rest of him is clouded. You'll just have to come and see it yourself.

5.  Ancient Puebloan sites. These include Mesa Verde, Canyon of the Ancients, and many many others. This area is littered with sites and in fact is thought to have been more highly populated 700 years or so ago than it is today. I especially love the walls, the rock work of the standing walls, the patterns, the fingerprints in the mortar...

6.  The proximity to Utah. Emily and I spent a weekend in Moab a few weeks ago. We had a grand time, spending most of it at Arches National Park. I hope to return soon for some weeks, months, or years in Canyonlands with my backpack.

 You could fit a football field the long way under Landscape arch. It could fall any second.
Go now.

Warning: what follows is something of a digression... but you're used to that.

Eddie McStiff's is not the sort of name for a restaurant you'd expect in Utah, a state being largely run by rather conservative religious people (yes that is a generalization for which I apologize), but Moab must be special. We walked into this restaurant, chosen because when I called and asked if they had a gluten free menu, the man said, "well yes, we have gluten free pizza and beer..." I am sure he continued talking, but I had already hung up the phone and was driving hell-bent-for-leather after that pizza. When we walked in, a somber-looking hostess approached us and asked quietly if we were there for the gathering, otherwise it was "seat yourself". Emily quickly said, "well we might be here for the gathering, is it a party?" The hostess said, "you'd know. It's a wake." When I die, I want a wake at a place called Eddie McStiff's. Seriously. With gluten free pizza. 

(thought a few of you might also enjoy a peek at the regular beer menu... 
...only in Utah does polygamy porter make sense.)

And here is the end of the travelogue and the part that relates to weaving. Congratulations if you've made it this far in the post.
I finished up my day at the hospital and came home to complete the packing. I have been avoiding packing the loom.  The commission is not finished and I hate folding the loom with a piece in progress. The tension is never the same when I set the loom up again. This little Macomber loom is great for workshops, but I don't recommend it as your everyday tapestry loom. Nor do I recommend moving a loom with a tapestry on it unless it is a little lap loom. In other words, do not try this at home.

Loom ready to be folded (except for the tapestry on it that isn't finished of course).
This is masking tape my grandmother put on the end of one of the loom treadles decades ago (masking tape from the 1960s must have been awesome) covering the end chewed by one of her English bull dog puppies... 
 Unhook those funky little treadle hooks that Macomber uses. Actually they work fairly well on this particular loom. Many people replace them with texsolv however.

Back beam folds in (I left the warp beam exactly where it was hoping that if I didn't tighten the warp around it but instead rolled it forward around the cloth beam, when I set the loom back up, the tension will remain the same. It is likely a fools wish.

Ready to fold up the front, dog in the way... she gets anxious about things getting folded up and packed. Hopefully she remembers that I go wherever the looms go, and that generally she gets to come along too. Just don't tell her she has to sit in the front seat this time.

Loom folded up and covered with plastic as the weaving has to go on the bottom of the car and there is a wicked amount of yellow lab hair in there.

The next picture on the camera was the margarita shot shown earlier.  I'll have to let you know how it goes loading the loom by myself tomorrow when the ground is frozen instead of the mud pit it is at the moment. For now, good night.