Saturday, March 17, 2012

Teaching in New Mexico in June

I will be teaching a three day class at Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC) June 15-17, 2012. Many of you have been asking when I'm teaching in New Mexico this year, and this is your chance to take a new class from me and support a great organization at the same time.

The class I am teaching is Symbols of the Southwest. Here is the class description:

The southwestern United States is a place rich in culture, landscape, and weaving traditions. Tapestry weaving here is practiced by Navajo, Hispanic, and Puebloan weavers with traditions that reach back hundreds or thousands of years. In this class we will explore questions about the influence of traditional southwestern weaving on contemporary tapestry practice and how symbols are important in Native and Hispanic weaving practice over the last centuries and today. Most importantly, we will consider how we can use symbols from our own experience to inform our design process and investigate the essential pieces of ourselves that lead us to art making. We will use symbol as a design tool, create several tapestry cartoons, and weave either a small tapestry or a study for a larger work.

More information about this class is listed on the EVFAC website under Classes: 
and on my website here:

This class is going to be a lot of fun. I believe that making art is about finding what is essential in ourselves and expressing that in some way. This class uses symbol as a place to start designing for tapestry. We will struggle with what is and isn't weaveable, what sorts of symbols traditional weavers in the American Southwest use, and how we can use symbol and visual imagery from our own lives to inform our tapestry designs. I will provide hand-dyed tapestry yarn as well as a wide range of resources from which students can experiment with different sorts of symbols. Bring your pencils, tracing paper, and your loom (or borrow one from EVFAC) and lets get weaving!

About EVFAC: Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center is a non-profit center that serves fiber enthusiasts throughout northern New Mexico. The facility has a large collection of looms that can be rented or used for classes. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and membership to the center brings great benefits. They are expanding their stash of knitting yarns (yeah!) and also carry weaving supplies. They have a dye kitchen and a members library. I recommend a visit and membership if you are in the area! Espanola is 25 miles north of Santa Fe, NM and 45 miles south of Taos.

Here is another post I wrote about EVFAC with more photos:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why skunks are not smarter than I am...

I am only supposing that skunks don't have the cognitive capacity of your average human due to the number I pass dead on the road every day. Sadly, I am not able to get close enough to one to complete a mini mental to test this theory.

Unfortunately, my particular skunk made a reappearance last night. I spent the day making pilgrimage to my storage locker. I promised Emily I would keep my phone in my pocket in case something heavy fell on top of me, but all that happened was that some guy called me twice from a "private" number and said, "Hey (deep silence)". Twice. I hope it was a wrong number.  Anyway, I did manage to find my dye sample book which was the chief reason for driving to Taos today as well as a list of other items plucked from various boxes including the reed I need to warp the LeClerc.

Cassy happy I left room for her in the car between the loom bench, boxes of yarn, and the rolls of cartoon paper and mylar
As I was relaxing last evening with a great new book about tapestry (Tapestry Weaving: Design and Technique by Joanne Soroka--and yes, my copy came from the Brits as it isn't published in the US yet and sometimes you just can't wait especially when it is free shipping from the UK), I heard some suspicious scrabbling at the wall behind the couch--the "back door" hole so to speak. And when my skunk-loving dog Cassy wanted to go out, she was way too happy about the back yard. Her insistent sniffing in the area of the "front door" hole-turned-big-pile-of-rocks (see this post) made my heart sink. I retrieved a flashlight and confirmed a new hole and very recent skunk activity judging by the excitement of one elderly labrador. Whoever said that skunks are lazy and don't like to dig too far hasn't met my high-achieving skunk. She just started digging at the edge of the rocks and busted her way in.

The "back door" hole attempt which apparently was quickly given up on as the skunk moved on to the "front door" hole.

That rock she moved is bigger than a grapefruit and probably weighs half of what the skunk does.

I wonder whether heavy construction, a wheelbarrow of cement, or a meet-and-greet should be my next approach. I do feel that I need to be prepared for the inevitable skunk-meets-dog encounter. This will involve a trip to town to get large quantities of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap. When these three things are mixed, the glop goes a long way to neutralize the noxious odor. But THIS time I am going to be prepared with a garden hose, elbow-level rubber gloves, and preferably a hazmat suit. I wonder if I can find one of those at my local feed store.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why I knit

Sometimes I just need a break from the whirlwind of trying to hold down two jobs (which, admittedly is my choice)--my "real" job as an artist and my "moonlighting" job as an OT (and honestly some days those labels are flipped)... and like most sane humans, when it gets to be too much, I knit.

One day not so long ago, I suggested a field trip to Buena Vista, a town 110 miles north of here which just happens to have a fantastic yarn store. When you live in a very rural area and you depend on fiber like I do, it doesn't seem crazy to drive 110 miles on a whim to visit a yarn store when you already have a closet full of yarn (as Emily tried hard not to point out too strongly). It didn't take much bribing beyond mentioning Amicas, the favored pizza place in Salida (they have GF crusts!) to get not only Emily, but my sister, brother-in-law, and 12 day old baby to agree to the outing.

I found some beautiful yarn, and felt a whole lot better after an hour of feeling and sniffing the wool.

She got milk, I got pizza. (Her hat was another knitting project of mine. It says, "Got Milk?" Pattern by Smoothfox and available on Ravelry HERE)

Sheep mural at Amicas... which is also a microbrewery though unfortunately the beer is not gluten free.

So if you ever see a crazed look in my eye and my hands feverishly gripping a pair of knitting needles, take a step back and please remember this:
bumper sticker soon to be added to my car's collection...
It works too.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tales of a Traveling Weaver, Alamosa

... the next adventure...

Here I am living between Alamosa and Monte Vista Colorado. Again.
I didn't think I'd come back to the SLV (San Luis Valley), not because it isn't a beautiful place with great people, but because I really expected my trails to lead me other places.  But the way was clear for 6 months living near my sister, brother-in-law, and new niece. I moved here two days before she was born and already everything is changing before my eyes. Kids grow fast. And it seems my life does lately too.

I live in the midst of center pivot farms. There are cranes and skunks and sheep here. The neighbors behind me have a herd of some kind of big sheep which occasionally wanders toward my back yard. And the sheep dog made friends with my labrador Cassy the other day...

I'm moved into the new house. I started a new job "moonlighting" as an occupational therapist. I'm working hard on the weaving. I finished the commission this week, "finished" being a relative term as I just mean it came off the loom and all the tapestry weavers out there know how much more work is needed to get the piece to the new owner. 

I pulled out the LeClerc tapestry loom that was my grandmothers and stared at it puzzled for quite awhile as I realized I had never warped a large vertical loom like this one and I didn't know how to do it! Oh, I had some ideas, but none of them seemed quite right. I was looking for a way to put on a continuous warp like I do on the smaller vertical tapestry looms, but couldn't come up with something that would work well for a long warp. I unrolled the old linen warp my grandmother had on the loom and found that the top beam had gotten wet at some point when she had the loom as the warp was molded to the apron. This was minor damage and will be remedied fairly easily.  As for the warping, Tommye Scanlin came to my rescue and I think I now have a warping plan. All I have to do is dig a long enough reed out from under piles of book boxes in my storage locker 90 miles from here. If you don't hear from me soon, look under the books and loom parts.

Thanks to my father for putting the LeClerc back together when I was busy with other things, to my Uncle Carl for good suggestions of how to get the rust off the rods where they got wet, and to Tommye for warping suggestions. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Shannock loom of James Koehler

James Koehler passed away unexpectedly March 4, 2011. He left behind a studio full of looms . Two large looms remain and are now for sale. The 100 inch Cranbrook loom was described in the last post HERE. The other loom is a 100 inch Shannock tapestry loom. James bought this loom in the last year of his life. He was considering a move to using a vertical tapestry loom. He had a machinist make a special rack for a reed to replace the larger-spaced raddle that the Shannock came with and was ready to warp the loom when he died.

There is a detailed PDF on my website HERE with specifications and many more photos of this beautiful loom. I wish I had room in my studio for it myself! Please feel free to contact me using the information on the PDF or through my website with more questions or if you want a higher resolution copy of the PDF for printing or posting. The loom is currently in James' old studio in Eldorado near Santa Fe, NM. Pickup is recommended. This loom is very heavy even disassembled. Pricing and other details available at the link below. Asking $6000 or best offer.

Link to the page on my website with information about both of these looms:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Cranbrook loom of James Koehler

When James Koehler died March 4th, 2011, he left a beautiful studio full of looms. The smaller looms all sold quickly, but the biggest two looms remain.

This loom was the workhorse of James' studio and he created many of his tapestries on it over the 20+ years he owned it. It is in exquisite condition and now it needs a new home.

A detailed PDF is downloadable from my website at this link: The specifications of the loom are available there as well as my contact information. If you need more details or a copy of the PDF that can be printed and posted, please contact me. This loom is still in James' old Eldorado studio near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pickup is recommended. Asking $8500 or best offer.

A commission James was weaving for a hotel in South Lake Tahoe, 2009

The other loom of James' that is for sale is a 100 inch Shannock. Details of this loom will follow this week.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What I promised yesterday for today is for tomorrow...

In yesterday's post I noted that I was going to post the information about James Koehler's looms today. Unfortunately I am not quite finished with that posting because I got caught up in finishing this today...

That is the end of the commission still on the loom. I know it isn't much to see all wrapped up like that, but I am glad to have come to the end at long last. I did have not cut it off yet. Sometimes I am just not ready to see the finished piece for a day or so.  Often I'll cut the piece off and leave it rolled up for a few days before I'm ready to look at it. A little distance is often good for a relationship. I'll let you know how it looks later this week along with a few insights about weaving tapestries on small workshop looms.  Whew.  I have certainly missed my Harrisville rug loom.

As for the info on James Koehler's looms, look for that tomorrow!

And here is what I have been watching from my loom while I weave to a chorus of sandhill crane music.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

James and the cranes

I woke up this morning not to my alarm clock playing the first few bars of Beethoven's Choral Fantasy in C minor but to the morning flight of greater sandhill cranes flying over the house and feeding in the barley field across the street.  (Of course the insistent whines of my dog in the corner reminding me that it was far past 6 am and she was hungry might have contributed.) The cranes have been amassing for 4 weeks now, the first arrivals coming just after I moved here the beginning of February. The experience of watching 1000 or more cranes feeding, circling, taking off, calling to each other, and dancing from my front window day after day has been magical.

I have lived in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado before. Four and five years ago I was here living first in the South San Juans in a mountain house 6 miles from my nearest winter neighbor and then on the flanks of the mighty Mt. Blanca on the other side of the valley--all off-grid, all an adventure. By the summer of 2008 I was trying to fit little bits of tapestry weaving in around the three jobs I was working as an occupational therapist. I had a sunny but much-in-need-of-repair apartment over a realty office as my studio and my Rio Grande loom was turning out some promising work, albeit slowly. But my therapy jobs were becoming difficult and my personal situation was also.

In October 2008 I took another workshop with James Koehler at the Taos Wool Festival. I watched the aspens changing colors at the Taos Ski Valley one afternoon and decided I was moving back home. The next day I asked James if he would still take me on as an apprentice (he had offered two years prior) and he agreed. So I quit my jobs, packed my Rio Grande loom (and my piano--this is a story for another day, but it is another reason my brother-in-law is on my personal beer-for-life program) and moved into a lovely straw bale house in Velarde, NM, 55 miles north of James' studio in Santa Fe. By February I was spending three days a week in his studio and there was a large tapestry in process on the smaller of his Cranbrook looms.

I studied with James as his apprentice until his death March 4, 2011, a year ago today. In the year since he left us, many things have changed in my tapestry world.  I started my own business in earnest, I sold some large pieces, one to the permanent collection of a college, got some commissions, and started teaching workshops. James had a large influence both on my art and on the course of my life.

James finished his autobiography less than a year before he died. In Woven Color: The Tapestry Art of James Koehler he talks about how he came to be the tapestry artist he was. As far as I know, it is only sold by Blurb Publications at this time.

And then there was the Bauhaus project. This undertaking consumed much of three years. I have written about the Bauhaus project a lot on this blog, but I have to mention it again here because it influenced my time with James. Cornelia Theimer Gardella is a good friend of mine and the project was her baby. The idea was to look at the influences of the Bauhaus, the early 20th century German art school, on our contemporary tapestry creation in New Mexico in the early 21st century. James signed on and the three of us read a lot of Paul Klee's notebooks as well as other Bauhaus material and eventually put together two shows entitled Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus. The first show was in Albuquerque, NM in the summer of 2010. The second was in Erfurt, Germany at Michaeliskirche in September and October of 2010. The trip and the project in general were monumental for me and pushed my thinking about who I was as an artist in the broader world.

I have sold the pieces I created for that show in 2010 and it is time to move on to new projects. There have been many times in the last year that I have wanted to ask James a question about a technique, a design, a teaching quandary, or even a legal issue. I have to rely on my knowledge of him and mix that with my own experiences, because the answer James might give me if he were here today might not be the path I would take. James taught me a lot of specifics, but he also taught me to look for what is important in myself and to follow that above anything else. His words from those years I was working in his studio still echo around in my head sometimes and they have definitely influenced the direction of my art and my life in one way or another.

Cornelia Theimer Gardella, James Koehler, Rebecca Mezoff
Michaeliskirche, September 2010
photo: Hamish John Appleby
photo: Hamish John Appleby

James Koehler, Michaeliskirche opening, September 2010
photo: Hamish John Appleby
Tomorrow I will post some information about his two remaining looms, a 100 inch Cranbrook and a 100 inch Shannock. They were the center of James' tapestry studio and they are in exquisite condition as they were loved by a master for many years. They are in need of new homes.

James Koehler, September 2010
photo: Hamish John Appleby
The sandhill cranes in my front yard are both a blessing and a call to awareness. Life can be much shorter than we expect it to be. We are always on a journey and I, for one, want to pay attention to where I am in this moment, eat all the barley I can while the sun is out, and prepare for the next flight north.