Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Tapestry weaving is like cooking"

I had a lovely trio of visitors to my studio last weekend. They were picking up some yarn for their mother/mother-in-law/grandmother who is a student of mine in Colorado. They were the kind of studio visitor you always hope for when people call up wanting to visit. They were so cheerful and full of joy. They loved the tapestries, excused the mess I was in the middle of cleaning up, and asked some lovely questions.

And at one point I started talking to the mom of the group about creativity. And she said that what her mother-in-law does when creating with yarn is what she does with cooking. She talked about cooking being a creative outlet and said that people would tell her she doesn't have to cook when she gets home from work and is tired. But she says, and this is the thing that got me, she said that she has to. Cooking is her creative outlet and it helps her work through the things that have to be worked out.

This is true of tapestry for me. When there are long stretches of time when I don't get to the loom, I get cranky. And I think that is because I am not spending the time working through the life lessons that have to be figured out through doing meaningful things. So if your thing is cooking, make sure you do it. And if your thing is tapestry, then you have to do that. There just isn't any other choice.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tapestry Five

Friday was the opening show for a new New Mexico-based tapestry group, Tapestry Five. Their premier show opened at LaDonna Mayer's Studio 17 in Santa Fe.

The artists are:
Heather Gallegos-Rex
Nancy Lane
LaDonna Mayer
Letitia Roller
Janice Peters
Pat Dozier

The opening was busy and photographs there did not do justice to the work. So thanks to the artists, I can show you these images from the show. If you're in Santa Fe, make sure to go and see all of the work.
Heather Gallegos-Rex, After the Edge of Night, 32 x 32 inches
Pat Dozier, Shards III, 60 x 20 inches
Nancy Lane, On the Sea, 24 x 14 inches
Janice Peters, New Mexico Waits for Rain, 20.5 x 20.5 inches
LaDonna Mayer, Southern Crab Nebula, 30 x 30 inches, back-lit
This piece of LaDonna Mayer's uses an interesting technique I've never seen anywhere else in tapestry. She creates tiny little slits that you can't see in normal front light and then creates dark frames for the work and puts LED lighting behind them to create the effect of stars. These pieces are quite engaging and very different!

This show is open until April 27, 2014 and I highly recommend a visit to the gallery if you get a chance. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 12 to 4.

Studio 17
835 W. San Mateo
Santa Fe, NM  87501

Visit their website at for details.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What came in the mail today...

I came home today to find this in front of my door. I live in a condo in Santa Fe, and my patio is very small. It was completely full.

That is almost 500 pounds of Harrisville Designs yarn. Fortunately, most of it is not for me (though I will admit more than one of these boxes is mine). Also fortuitously, most of the new owners of this yarn are picking it up in the next few days. I don't know where the box and a half that belongs to me is going to go, but I suspect I had better start dyeing and weaving it soon because tapestries can be sold and yarn is just going to take up space in my dye studio (which is really just my garage but "garage" sounds way less sexy than "dye studio").

And in other exciting mail-related news, my new issue of Fiber Art Now showed up today. I did a little jig all the way from the mailbox. I love getting a new issue of this magazine. And though I have only flipped through it briefly thus far, I noted an exciting article about one of my tapestry heroes, Sarah Swett. I adore her work and her vivid imagination. Her story-telling ability is wonderful and I so wish I could just curl up with a cup of tea in the corner of her studio and watch her weave for a few days. Check out her website and definitely read the article in FAN.

Another article features a fellow Santa Fe tapestry artist and friend, LaDonna Mayer. (You should check out this blog post about her series after you read the article in FAN.) From the Fiber Art Now article (Spring 2014, Volume 3, Issue 3, page 33):

LaDonna's images serve to capture themes of America life. She likes to contrast the old with the new, the secular with the religious, the peaceful landscape with the bustle of city life. To LaDonna, the series as a whole represents America....
All I have to say is, can you imagine weaving a city from every state in the US and Washington D.C.? The series is called 51 American Cities and it is quite impressive to see the whole show at once.

At the risk of sounding a bit too gushy, this issue of Fiber Art Now is completely gorgeous. I highly recommend it!

And one last thing before I sign off for the night, being quite tired from lifting 50 pound boxes of wool. I have big news coming soon about my new online class, so if you don't get my newsletter, now would be a great time to add your name to my mailing list. You can do that by clicking HERE. Thanks so much! I promise I won't send you more than two a month unless there is a dire fiber-related emergency that just has to be announced.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kristin Sæterdal's web exhibition at Nordic Textile Art Gallery

I strongly recommend a visit to Kristin Sæterdal's web exhibition The Tale of Three Tapestries at There are many photos and three videos in this exhibition and they are all fascinating.

She begins by talking about a project she worked on while she was an artist-in-residence at the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Force Field is a large tapestry commission for a primary school in Norway which takes the form of a capsule. Her explanation of the tapestry in the first video is wonderful.

The second section of the exhibition talks about Remembrance of the Sun, another large-scale tapestry with some exhibition photos that are stunning. Imagine a large tapestry of an underground space with light bouncing off cave-like walls hung in the middle of a large gallery space painted black. I know. Go look at the photos. The video about this piece has great details of her loom and shows her cutting it off.

The third section talks about The Red Capsule, a tapestry that addresses matters of technology and choices. Kristin Sæterdal says:
The Red Capsule expresses a world without nature, everything is artificial. The panels displays many options, and it all comes down to pushing the right one.
The consequence of pushing the button is unknown.
In her depiction of alien worlds, she opens up a lot of questions for us earthlings. Don't miss this online exhibition. And you can see her piece, Scared of the Dark in the American Tapestry Alliance's tenth biennial this year. Her website is HERE.

Her artist statement at the top of her website says this:
I make tapestries with motifs inspired by sci-fi scenography and computer games. I am searching to express archetypical human situations and states of mind. My works are commenting on different aspects of society today. For example: Is Technology our new religion? Can it save humanity from an environmental catastrophe?
Tapestry is anti-superficial and anti-collage. The work is consistent all the way through; the front is identical to the back. It is constructed thread after thread by hand. I find this disciplinary process fruitful for expressing essential insight.
I find this work inspiring. Don't miss this web exhibition and make sure to watch the videos.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Crazy Monkey! A new skein winder arrives.

I ordered something new for the studio in January. Crazy Monkey Creations made me this awesome skein winder. I have wanted one of these for quite awhile. I have been using a niddy noddy to skein yarn and I can tell you that it is just tendonitis waiting to happen... plus it is way too slow.
Here is how it showed up...
And once I got it all put together, the mounds of skeined yarn appear faster than I thought possible.
It has a counter so I no longer have to guess when I have reached a certain number of ounces. It counts for me. The arms are adjustable so I can make different sized skeins and it does three at a time. All beautifully hand-made in Loveland, Colorado.
Here is a little video blog that shows this baby in action.
Seriously, yarn flying around the room.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tapestry Looms: What do you use?

I get many inquiries about tapestry looms. I usually reply that I actually weave very little on "tapestry looms" and instead use a floor loom for my weaving. So I feel like I am not the person to make recommendations for large tapestry looms. So help me out! I would love to hear from all of you about which tapestry looms you use.

I have one large high warp tapestry loom that used to be my grandmothers. It is this Leclerc and it doesn't have a shedding mechanism (I learned to make leashes from the Archie Brennan-Susan Martin Maffei videos. Great videos by the way!).
I have only woven one piece on it, Cherry Lake. Since the piece is 8 x 13 inches, you might wonder why I used a 60 inch loom instead of my Mirrix. The answer is that the loom was there and warped and since the wedding tapestry became THIS, I had the warp ready to weave something else... (and I was weaving Imagine on my Mirrix.)
So the only true tapestry loom that I feel really qualified to recommend is the Mirrix.
I use them for teaching workshops and for doing the samplers I make to demonstrate while filming for my online workshops. And now I rent them to students when they come to my studio to take a workshop.

I have written before HERE about my Harrisville rug loom which is my preferred loom for weaving tapestry. If you want to know my opinion about the use of floor looms for weaving tapestry, I'm certainly up to that!

What I am really interested in knowing from all of you is, what high warp tapestry looms do you use and why?

Leave a comment below. And leave me some contact information or email me HERE. I'd love to post photos of all of your looms in a follow-up blog post. (I promise I'll email you... I just don't want to type my email address here for all the spam-bots to find. If you already have it--like if you get my newsletter--email me those photos!) Thanks tapestry lovers!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Three years passes in a flash.

And we move on. Always moving. Sometimes in circles, sometimes not so much. Before you know it, three years are gone and I am in a very different place.

I worked like a fiend for 10 hours straight in my studio in Santa Fe today. James Koehler tried for years to get me to move to Santa Fe and it wasn't until two years after he died that I did it. I don't honestly think living in Santa Fe versus anywhere else in the wide world has much to do with success or failure, at least not in the field of tapestry, but it is as good a stopping place as any for the moment.

The blog post I wrote three years ago is linked HERE. Many of the links in that post don't work any more. His website is gone along with most other internet traces... except here and there in corners of my blog. It is good to see those photos again and remember where I came from.

If you didn't know him, that isn't surprising, though if you wove tapestry, you probably did. His tapestries were amazing and he was just hitting his stride when he died. His passing left a door open for me. I think in some way I am just grateful now.

Students have told me frequently over the years to stop talking about James in my classes... that I had to teach what I knew and not what he taught me. I finally listened. I don't mean that I don't talk about his work or the fact that he was my teacher. I still do. But I also talk about what I learned in my journey after he was gone. The place I am now is different than the place I was in when he was alive. Of course it is. So I have to teach from the new place. We disagreed on many things, but much of what he taught me in terms of tapestry technique and the need for focus are part of my every day practice. And then of course there is the color.

Thanks James for getting me started.
James Koehler studio, 2009
Update 3/7/14: Here is a video I hadn't seen until I saw it linked on Robyn Spady's blog today. This is James probably in 2007 after he won the NM Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.

The video:

And Robyn's blog post about tapestry (also well worth your time!):

Monday, March 3, 2014

Missing an A.

Yesterday evening while Emily was running the blender (milkshakes!), a large plexiglass tile fell from a small skylight which is (and I never thought about this before) situated right over my computer. My laptop was open and the thing fell point-first onto the keyboard. The result was that I lost my A key. In fact, if I wasn't really cognizant of pressing the little rubber button where the key used to be, my typing would look like I ws missing  finger or t lest n importnt vowel.

But we live in a digital age, and even without the A key, I have muddled along. Turns out you can order a new laptop key quite easily. Within 5 minutes I had seen a YouTube video about how to replace keys on a Mac and found a place that could replace the broken key. I do wish the falling plexi had landed a little north or south. It is a lot easier to type without a Q or a Z. And it is amazing how quickly your body adjusts to a different configuration for one finger... or maybe that is all the years of weaving coming to the rescue.

Happy Monday! May your plexiglass remain in your skylights.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my new fiber tool!