Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In which I am up to my eyeballs in technology.

You know you may be a little too busy when you find yourself reading "An Introduction to Telehealth as a Service Delivery Model Within Occupational Therapy"* on the toilet as a way to get your professional development updates in somewhere.

I am not the most tech-saavy person, though I do try hard and I get by with a little help from my friends (okay, a lot of help from my friends--yes, I had the Beatles album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band when I was a kid, but no, I'm not really that old. I was a 15 year old stuck in a 40 year old's world for awhile). Somehow this week I am getting a grand education in all things web-based.
  • A website migration (this might take awhile--I use Squarespace and they have a great new platform and I want to use it, but it takes some learning for me to get the new stuff figured out... fortunately for me, Squarespace is great at those little videos where you look at a screen and someone is talking and the little arrows click on things and you can sort of do the same thing on your screen)
  • Some new teaching products  (new websites, new concepts in creating online forums... etc)
  • Use of a real newsletter mail server in which people who want to hear from me can just sign up and I don't have to manually manage a whole lot of email address... which will keep gmail from getting too mad at me also
  • Learning iMovie for making videos for teaching (actually using the video camera itself was a bit of a challenge and I lost all the video from my sister's baby shower and that is really quite horrible as I promised to send it to many many people, but I'm better now. I haven't deleted anything important in the last few weeks and I even made a video of my niece in which she is adorable and I hope my sister will forgive me one day)... 
There is a big learning curve on a lot of these things, but with the help of some people smarter than me and a little swearing, I am going to come through it without losing my marbles.

In other technological news, my little Canon Elph camera is giving up the ghost. I am really sad about it, but she has stopped writing reliably to the SD card. I will admit that though I bought the camera  exactly 2 years ago just before going to Germany for the Bauhaus project, she has taken tens of thousands of photos and I suppose that is all you can ask for a camera that cost just north of $100. I haven't brought myself to order a new one yet, but I know it is imminent.

All this is my reason for not weaving anything at all recently (well that, a wedding, a month-long trip, and the fact that I just can't love the LeClerc Gobelin loom like I love my Harrisville Rug Loom.  I have tried, but I feel like I'm in 7th grade again when I'm trying to use the vertical loom... awkward, gangly, and full of acne.)

At least I'm getting some yarn dyed--mostly when the really really bad internet we have out here in the boonies absolutely refuses to work. I plead and dance around the modem and promise it kindness and that I won't stream anything offensive, but it frequently balks and sends me back to the dye pot. Perhaps that is a good thing.

Boot Mountain Bristlecone (great Sunday field trip!)

*In OT Practice, April 23, 2012 (I'm a few months behind). It is the issue with the superhero on the cover. I have given up on the REAL professional journals--those would be the articles in the journal without pictures with pages of references at the end of each 30 page article. I don't have that much gut trouble.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A day in Taos, NM

Yesterday I took a day trip to Taos (which really isn't so far away after all). You see, I have a sort of "temporary life" which has become somewhat permanent. But the original idea was that my things were only going to reside in the climate-controlled storage locker for a few months, half a year at best. It has been most of a year now and they may languish there a bit longer. So I have returned to that point in my life (which I experienced a decade ago when I was a traveling OT and swore I would never go back to) where I make pilgrimages to my stuff which is in a Butler building (albeit air conditioned) behind a flimsy garage-type door. Oh, the security of the storage unit is quite good and I have little doubt no one will want to rummage through my piles of book boxes and loom parts, but I do miss that stuff... especially the Harrisville Rug Loom.

Honestly, I have tried and tried to love the LeClerc Gobelin loom I have in my current studio, but it just isn't the Harrisville. The LeClerc has excellent tension and it is beautiful and it tries hard to make me happy, but I miss the vertical loom and the overhead beater and the warp tensioner on the back of the Harrisville. I may have to rent myself a truck and rescue her from lock-down, though Emily may make me sleep under the loom if I bring more stuff into this tiny house!

At any rate, the trip to Taos came off well. I managed to find the last of my stash of undyed student yarn (Harrisville Highland) so that I can get that ready for the next class. And we visited some of my favorite Taos spots...

There was, of course, Moby Dickens, the excellent independent book store in Taos.

This book was fascinating. I almost took it home with me, but put it on my Amazon wish list instead. (I use the Amazon wish list so that my family gets me things I actually want, but also as a marker of things I need to get in the future. Perhaps on my next trip to Moby Dickens this one will come home with me.)

I thought this pattern was particularly hilarious--the English Bull Dog. My grandparents had them when I was a small child and I remember that they weren't particularly smart or able to walk well or cuddly... but they loved them!

And this book was displayed on the New Mexico shelves. Life on the Rocks was written by my prior landlady, Katherine Wells and I highly recommend it. It is about her work with the petroglyph project she has established in northern NM. It is also a fascinating autobiography of someone who ended up in rural New Mexico. I had the privilege of living on her land among the petroglyphs for three years. Katherine is a good writer and the book is fun to read.

I had an emergency stop at The Yarn Shop. Fortunately, though they carry few knitting needles, they had the number 6 double points I needed to finish a baby hat in the car on the way home. I found myself swearing one too many times at the short needles I started the hat with on the way south. New needles had to be had. I do miss Taos Sunflower though!

 Cassy modeling the finished hat (before blocking mind you) in the car on the way home.

I stopped at the toy store, Twirl. I love this place. The kid in me can't resist touching everything. I'm sure they hate that. (And Emily would be correct to give me a squirt of hand sanitizer when leaving.)

I came home with this toy. I had Tiddlywinks as a child and with the excuse of my new niece, I can buy toys again, right? Clearly this toy is not for a 6 month old, so I must have gotten them for myself.

(We were having lunch at La Cueva. I highly recommend this place with excellent Mexican food. Most things are gluten free and they know what you're talking about when you ask about gluten.)

Here is the real reason we went to Twirl--she got her stacking cups though she might have preferred to play with the bag.

I do like Taos. I'm sure I'll be back soon... to visit the Harrisville loom if nothing else.

View of the Cumbres & Toltec train on the way down.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pacific Portals and video viewing

Here is a link to a video of the entries in the Pacific Portals small format exhibit at Convergence 2012 in Long Beach, CA. I was unable to attend Convergence this year and was glad to be able to see the exhibit in this format. I got my copy of the catalog from ATA last week, but seeing the pieces in a video format helped me better envision what they were like.

(This is the first time I've tried to actually imbed the video on the blog. If it doesn't work, use the link here:

A big thanks to Debby Thompson for making this video and posting it for us all to see. The combination of the catalog and the video made the show much more real for me. I still wish I could peer at the tapestries from a foot away, but perhaps next time.

The Pacific Portals catalog can be purchased from the American Tapestry Alliance on their catalogs page linked here.

Perhaps video will be a new way to see artwork for the times we can't travel. It certainly helps the spatial experience of something like tapestry which is not completely flat (and often not flat at all). Any thoughts on this?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Helena Hernmarck, In Our Nature

I have tended to call the work I do 'Decorative Art,' with a European understanding of that term. My feeling is that there is still room for this art form which is developed to fill a need and has some clear limitations within which the most suitable solution is found.
--Helena Hernmarck 

I had the opportunity to take a tapestry workshop from Helena Hernmarck at the American Swedish Institute in late July. To attend this workshop, we had to apply and be accepted by Helena. She let me in despite my picky-flat-tapestry-weaving ways. I think she even called what I do Gobelin tapestry! (I thought no such thing, but also have have never been to France.)

The class was given in conjunction with a large exhibition of her work, In Our Nature. The show was phenomenal. If you live anywhere near Minneapolis, please go to see it before October 14th, 2012. There are four large tapestries there borrowed from museums which we were not allowed to photograph. Seeing only those four would be worth the trip from just about anywhere in the USA or Canada. But in addition to that there are many more tapestries displayed throughout the ASI facility. The museum pieces include Poppies, 1978 and Bluebonnets, 1979.

Here are some pieces from the show. Folk Costume Details is owned by ASI and you can go and see it any time in their beautiful new building.
Helena Hernmarck and Bruce Karstadt, director of ASI; Folk Costume Details and sample
ASI still had the large "sample" Helena had woven for Folk Costume Details and I caught them holding it under the finished tapestry. The tapestry was reversed from the sample in the final weaving. Notice the person on the balcony above for scale in the photo below.

Folk Costume Details is monumental (woven in 2006 at Alice Lund Textilier, it is 15' 4" x 9' 7"). Note the detail of the tag below. Under that that is a photograph of the assemblage of items similar to that which she took the photograph that the tapestry was woven from. Helena works from photographs and goes to great lengths to get the photo right before translating it to a cartoon. Sometimes she uses photographs others have taken including professional photographers, sometimes she takes the shots herself.

Part of the realism of Helena's tapestries is created in the viewer's brain. This concept has always fascinated me. From a viewing distance, the face of the woman sitting on the bench is detailed. But look at the detail shot below.

On the Dock, 2009
The actual detail in the weaving is not there, but we see a woven face when we look at the tapestry from farther away.

Hoh River Valley Rain Forest, 1971. 110" x 168"
The class spent a lot of time looking at the tapestries in the show. We had the distinct advantage of being able to try the weaving technique, go upstairs to look at examples of Helena's use of the technique, and have the master herself there to answer all our questions for three whole days.

I love this piece. I think what I love the most about it is that Helena went to great lengths to weave this envelope exactly as she received it in the mail including faulty typewriter H's and dirty smudges.

Helena talking about Envelope from Sweden, 1992. 60.75" x 75"
Detail of the stamps which are beautiful and probably 24 inches high. (?)  Unfortunately I was busy admiring another piece and missed her explanation of how she did these stamps. I think there was a warp spacing change, but I am not sure.

The depth in this tulip piece is amazing. Helena is a master of making parts of her images look farther away, and one way she does this is making part of the image fuzzy or out of focus. Seven Tulips is a good example of this.
Seven Tulips, 2004. 4' 10" x 18' 6"

Helena gave us all kinds of details about the process she uses in her work. I could have talked to her forever. She is energetic, engaged, and completely fascinating.

I kept coming back to look at this piece, Poppyfield. The sense of depth was uncanny, but from up close it just looks like little blips of color. Even with a photo, if you squint you feel like you are falling into the weaving.

Poppyfield, 1974; 120" x 84"
The opportunity to study and even touch these wonderful tapestries was incredibly valuable. (Okay, the only one I actually got to touch was the sample from Folk Costume Details, but still, it was quite a rush.)

The hand of the tapestry-maker and a detail of the weaving technique on the Folk Costume Details sample.
Here are a couple details of the weaving itself. Helena's technique involves two tabby shots, some linen stabilizing shots, and a pattern shot which creates the floats and lends depth and texture to the work. She uses colored warp which does show. The colored bits give the pieces a certain spark and aliveness. Helena's signature creation of depth is created by a combination of all these elements plus her ability to translate photos into colored yarn.

Most of Helena's large format tapestries are now woven at Alice Lund Textilier in Sweden. We were fortunate that the owner of Alice Lund, Frida Lindberg gave a presentation on Saturday evening complete with photos and history of the workshop. She has a blog which she has just started publishing in English (yeah!). This post about the weekend includes a photo of my sampler, the last photo in the post. Here is a small photo of Frida (center) and to her right, Tamako Takahashi, one of the weavers who worked on Folk Costume Details and many other Hernmarck pieces.

Helena's yarn comes from Walstedts, also in Sweden. She spends time there every year getting the colors right before they dye the yarn for her pieces. Here are the color cards for one of her large pieces (may have been Folk Costume Details).

Here is Helena and I with a part of a sample she cut up to give to the class. It was great to go home with a little piece of her work and something to look at the actual technique on (besides what we wove ourselves). She is holding the photo of the tapestry that the sample was from. (Technically it wasn't a sample. She started the piece and didn't like the colors, so she cut it off and started over. It is comforting to know that even Helena Hernmarck starts over sometimes. I think the piece was Tabula Rasa.)

Helena was a wonderful teacher. She was patient and never stopped answering our continual questions.

In Our Nature also included work by Team Hernmarck, a group of students she has been teaching in Sweden. This group included two Americans (Joan and Winnie) which was how she was persuaded to teach in the USA. Four of the members of Team Hernmarck were assistants for our class. I can't thank them enough!
Annika Soderstrom, Jean Haglund, Helena Hernmarck, Winnie Johnson, Lis Korsgren--our talented teachers
I enjoyed talking to Lis a great deal. This piece was beautiful and really had a great sense of depth. I also loved her technique of creating a border that was comprised of a toned version of the central image. All of the Team Hernmarck weavers (there were at least 16 of them) had pieces in the show.
Forest with beech trees, Lis Korsgren
We had three days to learn Helena's technique. We wove in black and white so that we could focus on how to do the technique and get the most contrast for the creation of depth. I came to the workshop armed with the requested linen, wool, and cotton yarn in a greyscale. You can see my post about dyeing some of the yarn for this class earlier in the summer HERE. It was the Vevgarn I used though there isn't a photo of the greyscale. I also purchased pearl cotton in 10/2 and 16/2 linen also in greyscales. I was glad I had. The yarn was beautiful and fun to work with. I hadn't realized we weren't going to be able to work with color, so first chance I have, I will be weaving in this technique in color to see what happens. All that red, after all...

My sample on the loom.

Cut off the loom and showing the gradation and the tulip detail sampler we did.

Here was a grooping of yarn arranged in a gradation which Lis and Helena were using to demonstrate a piece of an older tapestry Helena had done.

I learned a great deal at this workshop. It was a great privilege to be able to work and learn from Helena Hernmarck. If I am very very lucky I will get to do so again one day before too long.

My interest lies in capturing the image of a fleeting moment in the sustained and time-honored process of tapestry weaving.
--Helena Hernmarck

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Michigan League of Handweavers Conference 2012

I had the great pleasure of teaching at the Michigan League of Handweavers conference in Holland, Michigan this past weekend. The conference was extremely well run, the people were all super-friendly Michiganders, and my students were brilliant. They were shiny and happy and cooperative and they made beautiful things. I loved them all immediately....

You may notice a theme here. Michigan is very welcoming. Millie brought me a wonderful gift and was a charming and gracious student. She is a talented tapestry weaver and I wish I was related to her. Thanks Millie!

The class I was teaching was Color Gradation for Tapestry. When you start seeing this on the student's tables, you know they are getting into the material:

This is the yarn palette I brought for this conference. I am still somewhat new to this workshop teaching circuit (and being surrounded by teachers who have been doing this for decades was both intimidating and exhilarating--they were awesome and I got some wonderful advice from a fellow weaver and veteran teacher), and as a newbie I have to continually tweak what I am doing (not tweet, tweak) until it feels like the right thing. The yarn is an evolving experiment. I started with a basic jewel-tone sort of palette and have slowly added colors that I think the students will enjoy more. Every conference or workshop I teach I ask the students what color they would most have liked to have during the workshop that they didn't and I dye that color pick a color I like from all the responses and dye it. This week they said they were missing brown. I think I can add that one though I suspect it will have a hint of purple in it.

The color experiment of the summer was red. I did dye a cherry red, and though it is still not exactly what I am looking for, it is much much closer to what I had before. I was trying to match this paint swatch labeled "Red Geranium". The colors in the photo are not quite right and it is interesting that the light reflects differently off the wool and the paint chip (this is a good lesson for fiber artists! Yarn is different than paint.) The colors of the ball to the left of the paint chip and the chip are actually almost identical.

The whole palette before the workshop began. These students surprised me and just about completely cleaned me out of yarn at the end of the workshop. I will not have to ship a box of yarn home. Thank you Michigan weavers... although now I have to go home and do more dyeing.

This is a wonderful bit of tapestry from Sharon. Her fingers were very familiar with a tapestry warp. In fact, looking at the sample now it reminds me of my time on Prince Edward Island in July and the red rocks and sand against the ocean.

Here is another student's work. Sue really got into the color gradation. This was what I was hoping to see and she really nailed it. She was creative and thoughtful and made a beautiful bit of weaving.

All of the students worked hard and I was so proud of their efforts. Tapestry is a very slow process and they worked diligently on the exercises presented.

This is the talented Jenny Schu. She made her own loom (that tells you something, doesn't it?). She is an amazing bead artist. You should check out her website and blog... and then order some jewelry from her or visit her gallery in East Lansing, MI. Young people in fiber arts? They are out there. We need them. And we need them involved. Jenny is all that (and she is good at tapestry!).

This was the beginning of the end for the yarn table. It was great to see people fired up about color.

I may have to adopt Jeanne and Barb's new name for flat-bottomed hachure: Soggy Bottom Boys. It sounds so much better than some stuffy French tapestry term. We did learn a lot about color gradation including use of hachures. I am not convinced that hachure is a technique I should be teaching however. Does anyone use them anymore? Is there really a point? I started teaching how to make them because other people teach how to make them, but it isn't really me. And perhaps I need to take that to heart and realize that what I teach should be what I am excited about. Soggy Bottom Boys are good mind-bending technique-learning things, so perhaps that is their value. It taught the students about making smooth angles and which way to wrap the up or down warp threads. Beyond that we need to go to France.

I had to give a talk about my work Friday evening to the whole group in an auditorium with a powerpoint and a microphone and it was great. I had some nice photos, but I have to tell you that you really don't want to see yourself 12 feet tall on an auditorium screen. The other teachers at this conference are all very experienced and also all very funny. Chad Alice Hagen had me laughing for 20 straight minutes and I'm not even a felter. Juliane Anderson (owner of Threadbender yarn shop which I detailed HERE), Mary Sue Fenner, and Wynne Mattila all make beautiful things out of bits of fiber this and that--magicians really is what they are. (Wynne was in the Helena Hernmarck class with me a couple weeks ago and we've met again already! ... yes, I know, that blog post is coming. It was a special time and it is hard to put it all together! Have patience.) Donna Kallner is an amazing woman and I wish I had three more days to pick her brain about just about everything including goats, Wisconsin, fabric printing, and looping. She was teaching a class about designing fabric using the computer. Silly string and photoshop make a great combination it turns out. And I was lucky enough to be teaching next door to one of the dearest people I know, Jennifer Moore. She is from my home state, and just being near her made me feel calmer (there is something about being from Michigan and/or the midwest that I don't understand. It isn't personal, it is cultural--I think anyway). Jennifer is a brilliant double weave artist. I highly recommend her book, videos, and most of all a workshop with her. Her art is gorgeous.

And this is my special, Hope College-prayerful, word of thanks to the wonderful cook in Phelps Hall who made these Oreo-like gluten free cookies, keeps them hidden in the freezer so the high school football jocks won't eat them all, and gave me free access to them. You are a goddess of the gluten free baking. These cookies were amazing. We only ate at Phelps hall on Friday and when we transferred to Cook Hall dining room for the rest of the weekend, I was mighty disappointed to find that the weekend cooks there had no idea what I was talking about... "What gluten free secret box of cookies in the freezer? You are crazy, lady. We ain't got no stinkin' Oreos!" ... or that is what I heard anyway.

And as a traveling story aside, I had great connections in Minneapolis... but on the way over I hadn't had anything to eat that day, had been up since 3:45 am, it was nearing noon and I only had about 5 minutes to find something before the next plane boarded and THIS was the only restaurant close to my gate.

With some choice words and a large sigh, I crossed the terminal to a bookstore and grabbed this for lunch instead.
I don't suppose Chick-fil-A is going to care one bit, but I wasn't going to give them any of my money. Plus the sugar rush from the Snickers and the caffeine from the Diet Pepsi held me nicely until I got to Grand Rapids, was picked up by a fantastic woman who used to go to college with my mother and who drove me straight to Arnies for lunch. (Where I had a SALAD! ... but only because it is the only thing at Arnies I could eat. And I had to walk by banquet to get into the place. If you don't know what banquet is, you aren't from Michigan.)

It was great, Michigan! Ask me back sometime soon.