Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Blessings (or surviving Trader Joes on New Year's Eve)

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. I survived a run to the Santa Fe Trader Joes at 10:45 this morning. (You have no idea. People. Every. Square. Inch.) Rest assured, I got the walnuts and the green beans though I had to dodge an old lady wearing a dead animal, 52 shopping baskets whose owners were perusing the cheese, and 17 exceptionally helpful TJs employees, some of whom already needed a shower.

Today is my last studio day before some time with the family in Colorado. A baby that has not arrived yet will be here very soon. Thursday in fact. We call it "Baby Day". It is a pretty good way to start a new year I'd say... with a new niece or nephew. (No, my sister and brother-in-law do not know whether it is a boy or a girl and no amount of "but how will I choose the knitting colors" could change their minds. This kid is getting a whole bunch of blue, green, orange, and purple handknits. Really the only color I feel I have to steer clear of is pink. So I guess it is okay not knowing yet.)

My dreams for 2014 include more tapestries than I could possibly weave, many conversations with friends and colleagues online and in the real world, a lot of teaching, hiking some long trails, hanging with the little people in my life, and unknown new horizons. Thanks so much for following along with me on my fantastic ride!

In celebration of that kicky little kid my sister is going to birth soon and with big wishes for your own tapestry weaving practice, I wish you many blessings for the new year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Weavers Bazaar tapestry yarn and a new project

I have always loved getting things in the mail. I am a mail-box haunter even now when most things come through the computer. I wish people still sent birthday cards with real messages or doodled pictures at the bottom of hand-written letters. Today I was excited to receive the yarn I have been waiting for from the UK. Yippee!!!
This yarn took some sleuthing to find. I started with a suggestion by Tal Landeau who visited my studio recently that she was interested in some yarn that Joan Griffin was using. I contacted Joan who identified that particular yarn as one I was already familiar with but then told me about her favorite dream yarn which she used in a Joan Baxter workshop many years ago. She sent me some samples of this awesome yarn (clipped from the back of her sampler no less--she didn't have more! Thanks so much Joan) though she didn't know what it was... and from there I had to contact Joan Baxter myself. I had to know what the yarn was. Joan Baxter is an amazing tapestry artist from Scotland. Her piece Hallaig in ATB8 (American Tapestry Biennial 8) was my favorite piece in the show (though there were many outstanding ones). Her color mixing abilities are phenomenal. I am greatly looking forward to her 2014 US teaching tour!

So you can imagine I was pretty disappointed to find out that the yarn is no longer made. But she gave me hope. Two English tapestry weavers, Lin Squires and Matty Smith, have started selling a new bit of yarn which Joan suggested I try. Lin and Matty of Weaver's Bazaar certainly do have some great yarn. I know because this package of it arrived today. I can't wait to see how it dyes. But because I knew I wouldn't be able to wait to dye it to give it a whirl, I also ordered some already dyed yarn. Here it is!
One of my many projects for 2014 includes an exploration of the list of tapestry yarns generated by this blog post: Where to purchase tapestry yarn.  I received some great suggestions from weavers all over the world and I have collected some of them and am working on some little samples. Of course, a tapestry yarn is a pretty personal choice and what I like may well not be what you like. But judging from the pile of various yarns I have so far accumulated, they are going to be quite different and some of them quite lovely. I'll let you know what happens.

I think the Weavers Bazaar yarn just moved to the top of the pile though. Maybe it is because it came straight from England. (I know, a bunch of the other yarns came from Sweden and Australia and Norway... but they came through people in the US and I didn't get to see the postage from over the pond. I am easily pleased and have probably been watching too much Doctor Who. And then there was the suggestion from Joan Baxter herself... can't beat that.)

Here are a few more photos.
I couldn't resist.
Color cards are available!
I do love playing with yarn.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A tapestry studio Christmas

Have a very Merry Christmas!

My best wishes for a happy holiday season to all of you. And my continuing thanks for reading this blog!

I continue to enjoy folding paper cranes and this year made a Christmas decoration with them. (My big wedding crane project is HERE.)
 Amazing gluten free pecan tassies made by the love of my life.
May the end of 2013 be peaceful and may you enjoy the love and gratitude that abounds in this world. Cheers!!!  Rebecca

Monday, December 23, 2013

The blessings of children

Progress in the studio has gotten a bit derailed the last week. You see, there is a family baby on the way. This baby does not live in the same town as I do. In fact, it lives in the very coldest place in the nation and when your nose hairs are frozen and you can't breathe, you'd insist the coldest place in the world. Just watch your weather map for the next 6 weeks or so. If Alamosa, Colorado doesn't come up as the coldest place anywhere (or at least in the continental USA) at least a few times in that period, I'll eat my hat. Last winter I lived here. I was so looking forward to Christmas in Santa Fe where the weather is significantly warmer. Even if it is cold enough to be snowing, it can be 50 degrees warmer than Alamosa. But there is a baby who wants to be born sometime soon and so I am back here in my woolies waiting.
It isn't a bad time to be waiting for a miracle. I know of course that December 25th wasn't really Jesus's birthday, but that is when many people celebrate his birth. And Christmas is a magical time anyway. Hopefully it is a good time to be born.

For myself, I never wanted kids. I know that many many people don't understand this. I still get asked (even though I'm past 40 now) when I am having kids... and then inevitably the asker tells me that it is "not too late" and their cousin-neice-friend-sister had a baby when she was 53 and I could still be a mother. I just don't want to. I think the world should be grateful for that.

Fortunately I am blessed with many children in other ways. I have the cutest niece you've ever seen. And I moonlight as an occupational therapist working with kids a few days a week. Kids have a way of pointing out the things adults tend to miss. And the joy they spread if given the chance is infectious.
The new baby could come today. Or in two weeks. We don't know. That is part of the miracle I suppose! Celebrate your blessings. I know today that I am deeply blessed.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A little bit overboard

Have you ever reached that moment when you suddenly realized you had gone completely overboard and if you didn't stop yourself you'd have lost the whole day into the black hole of perfectionism?

I reached that moment when I was packaging this tapestry for shipment to it's new owner.
Cherry Lake, 8 x 13 inches, hand-dyed wool tapestry
I had already gone to three stores for packaging material and as I was putting the tapestry between pieces of foam core I was absolutely sure I needed some binder clips to hold the whole thing together. Completely sure the tapestry couldn't be shipped without binder clips. I picked up my keys and was halfway out the door when it hit me. I had spent the last 3 hours packaging a tapestry which honestly would be fine just rolled in muslin and it was going to be fine without the binder clips. I slapped some plastic tape on the edges, liberally applied bubble wrap, and headed for FedEx (to stand in line for on two consecutive days as it turned out).
For whatever reason this tapestry ended up velcroed to foam core with wooden shims on the sides so the tapestry didn't get squished. It was some Home Depot-inspired scheme I think. The excessive choices available in that store led to a hyper-packaged tapestry. At least that is my story.
I really liked this little piece. It just came home from Small Tapestry International 3. I am glad it has found a new home.

Monday, December 16, 2013

An Annotated Tapestry Library

My grandmother loved to write in her books. This has frequently caused regret by family members as most of her books are so marked up as to be rather un-readable. Having formerly belonged to the why-did-grandma-have-to-mark-every-single-page club, I have changed my mind. Since coming into possession of many of her weaving books, I have been thankful that she was a book doodler. I have gotten a much better idea of who my grandmother was and is by reading her books than I did during yearly visits to her homes as a child.

Here is my current favorite example of the title page of one of her books. (All book photos in this post are from this book: New Design in Weaving by Donald J. Willcox.)
Marian loved to tape photos and pockets into her books. In one tapestry book I found an envelope taped in with the instructions for the Leclerc tapestry loom I now have inside (Eureka!). In the book featured in this post, here is what was taped behind the title page:

Song lyrics from an album titled "Tapestry"... and some annotated opinion about what it might mean. I think she objected to the word tapestry being used in other ways, and I can't say I blame her! (For example, a fairly recent book about Michelle Obama's ancestors titled American Tapestry... shouldn't that book be about weaving?)

In the example below, she has drawn a cartoon in response to the text.
She has drawn the weaver "jumping off the wall".

Marian often wrote notes that seemed to have nothing to do with the actual book itself. Notes to herself, things she wanted to remember. Almost every single one of the several large boxes of her books I have are inscribed on the title page, "Rare book, out of print, do not loan out" or some variation there-of. This was annoying at the time I wanted to borrow from her library, but I have to respect her love for her books at this point.

This book was published in 1970 and is full of images of off-loom weaving. Marian did plenty of this off-loom stuff herself (see example at the end of the post), but she had some commentary in this book about the results.
And one more example (note the mouse):
Marian loved little creatures and collected books about trolls and magical creatures. She loved Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and she had garden gnomes before they were fashionable. In Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her correspondence, notes, and books frequently had little pictures like the mouse on the page above.

As noted in a prior post HERE, Grandma wove the piece below for a medical clinic... my mother's pediatric practice actually. So she may have thought that some of those weavings in the book above were made for or by kindergarten children, but that was her favorite means of expression. (The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it? Not that I'm doing weavings on hula hoops, but if you've ever met me you might agree that I'm a bit of a nut myself.) And she probably did weave this in the 70s.

I bet it was a heck of a lot of fun to make too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Thread's Course in Tapestry

I recently purchased Mette Lise Rossing's new book, The Thread's Course in Tapestry. It is a wonderful reference book and I definitely recommend it. Here is a video blog segment about the book.

The link in the video for the book if you didn't go to YouTube is: www.billedvaevning.dk

This video has a transcript, so if you go to YouTube to watch it (hit the YouTube button in the player when it comes up) and then hit CC on the bottom panel of the video, you'll see closed captioning start.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Those big tapestry bobbins

In October I wrote a blog post about some tapestry bobbins that were my grandmothers. Recently things have shifted for my grandmother as my grandfather passed away soon after I wrote that post. My grandmother is still alive but she has Alzheimer's dementia and has moved to a memory unit. She no longer remembers a lot about her fiber explorations, so her sons boxed the books that my aunt didn't want up and sent them to me. I quickly realized that those two 40 pound boxes of books were a treasure trove of information about both weaving and about my grandmother. I know that there is much to learn as I pick through those books. Some of it I will share with you.

These are the bobbins which I acquired in 2008 when my grandparents moved from New Mexico out east for health reasons.

Due to a snow storm that shut down Santa Fe today (it doesn't take much snow around here, but we did get about 6 inches), I had time to dig through those boxes. One of the things I found was a pamphlet with these photos in it. Is anyone familiar with the Dryad Handicrafts leaflets? This is number 85. On the back it says DRYAD HANDICRAFTS, Northgates, Leicester. (*see below) This linked information about Dryad Handicrafts is of some interest. The company started in World War I to provide quality craft materials for occupational therapists (whoot whoot!) and for use in schools. (Just bringing it full circle grandma!)

Here is the text and drawing of the bobbin from page 4:
The photo from the cover is this one:
And here is a photo (PLATE 1 referred to in text) showing more clearly weaving with these bobbins (note the one hanging).
The bobbin pictured here looks about the same size as the ones I have. I wouldn't be surprised if my grandmother bought the pamphlet and bobbins together. Grandma Marian did weave some tapestry. Some of her portfolios and scrapbooks were included in the treasure boxes, so I hope to discover some forgotten photos of her tapestries.

Kathe Todd-Hooker, who knows quite a lot about bobbins whereas I know very little, provided some great information on my last blog post on this subject:

They are probably based on European bobbins. yes they are high warp bobbins. Most likely Gobelin bobbins. They are 2-3 inches shorter then Gobelin bobbins. BUT, what often happened is tourists or people were gifted with used bobbins without realizing that the bobbins had been cut down and shortened as the points broke or wore out over time. When bought to the US the shortened bobbins were copied in the shortened form. There's a couple arguments that can be made that when William Morris studied Gobelin weaving to bring back to England. He received or was given some of the shortened Gobelin bobbins and didn't realize they were shortened, but copied them and they became the norm for British weaving-maybe not, but after reading the things he wrote about Gobelin weaving I can see some crusty old Gobelin weaver laughing as he gave them to WM. They are very reminiscent to some bobbins I have in my collection that I have picked up over the last 35 plus years. Lucky you! I would love to have one to show students.
Thanks for the info Kathe! I'll send you a bobbin as Marian would love to know her weaving things were living on in new students.

I have learned a great deal more about my grandmother through these books and papers as she loved to draw and write her thoughts in them. I will have more to share about my explorations both technically and my grandmother's art in future posts.

*Rug Weaving, Dryad Leaflet No. 85, Dryad Handicrafts, Northgates, Leichester. Printed in England by the Blackfriars Press Ltd, Leicester.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A bit of a mish-mash

Well, the blog has been exceptionally quiet lately. All I can say is that I am focusing on a very large project. I'll tell you more about it when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel a little more clearly. And today was the first day in a long time there weren't any students or visitors in the studio and I could buckle down and work without interruptions.

So here are a few highlights from the last couple weeks.
We had some snow. This is noteworthy for Santa Fe, though I realize a great number of you don't care one bit.

I paid a visit to El Rito where I first started learning tapestry. The visit was in the service of the big project mentioned above. I was thrilled that my teacher Karen Martinez was in the fiber art building at Northern NM College (on a Saturday!) and I got to take a couple photos inside. That wide standing loom near the back left of the room? That was mine.

And believe it or not, my first studio was in this building. You can see a photo of me weaving inside on my website HERE. The walls of that building are 5 feet thick adobe. No kidding. That adobe held stubbornly to the cold all winter and the little woodstove seemed to do little to keep my extremities warm. It was cool in the summer though.

I stopped by the church that commissioned some pulpit hangings years ago and found the advent piece ready for the season. This piece is called Anthem.
And I had the great good fortune to learn a thing or two from this teacher:

I hope those of you who are from the United States had a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving... and that you didn't end up in the ER with indigestion you thought was gallstones. Just saying.