Friday, December 31, 2010

Tapestry cartoons

I (egocentrically) always assumed that everyone did tapestry cartoons like I did.  But recent discussions on the tapestry list seem to indicate that some people even weave tapestry without (gasp) a cartoon.  I aspire to this level of freedom, but doubt my somewhat controlled personality will allow me to get there any time soon.  Here are some photos of my cartoon process taken while I was working on Emergence II earlier this year.

I draw the initial design fairly small and then bring it to a photocopy place that makes blueprints to enlarge.  They can get at least one dimension any size I want (and both dimensions if I keep my initial drawing in proportion).  Then I transfer it to acetate (sometimes--sometimes I just use the paper... but have to remember to reverse the design as I weave from the back!  Acetate you can just flip over before transferring it to the warp).

Drawing the design in two colors (so I can keep track of which part of the design is which) on the acetate.

Then I transfer the lines to the warp.  This has to be done repeatedly while weaving as the warp advances.

Here the tapestry is finished by still on the loom with the cartoon hanging behind it.

And eventually you have a new tapestry!
Emergence II
Rebecca Mezoff
45 x 45 inches; hand-dyed wool tapestry

Now if I had only gotten the next cartoon ready before the day before New Year's Eve.  It seems that the two copy shops I have used to blow up cartoons are closed until Monday January 3rd.  This will inhibit my beginning a new tapestry unless I can screw up my courage and enlarge my drawing freehand. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Further uses for ironing boards...

When I moved into this rental house there were two extra ironing boards in the storage building.  I have put them to good use!  And I even sometimes use my own for actually putting one of those hot steamy things on my wrinkled clothing in a futile attempt to look more professional when I go to the paying job.

I had a prior post about uses for ironing boards (related to weaving).  Here are a couple more.

Ironing boards have very adjustable heights--good for tall people.  And the padding helps keep things like warping boards and dowels holding wet yarn from slipping.  I imagine there are thousands of other uses for them that I have not yet experienced.  Mostly one just needs the occasional portable work surface.  (Of course the people who know me might just say that I should clean the other surfaces in my studio.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Opaque transparency and sandhill cranes

Well, I tried the transparency with the actual tapestry and was disappointed in the results.  I was skeptical from the beginning as I think transparencies are best when hung so that light shows through them somehow and hanging one against a dark tapestry was perhaps not the best idea.  I was hoping the design from the Anthem tapestry would show through the open weave in the linen, but the bright colors of the bar design in the tapestry did not show up well.  I didn't end up finishing the transparency because the original tapestry was so much prettier by itself.  I will have to return to the design phase for the white pulpit hanging and perhaps figure out how to bleach wool.  But before that, the red Pentecost hanging sounds more appealing.  And before that I have a commission to weave.  When is Pentecost?  I may not have time to complete that line-up.

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Gallup, N.M.

And on the way to Gallup for Christmas we stopped at the Bosque del Apache NWR to watch the sandhill cranes.  This is something that I love to do.  Their haunting cries and beautiful flight contrasts with their goofy landing gear and social behavior on the ground.

Cranes after evening fly-in

Monday, December 20, 2010

Woven Transparencies

Several years ago I completed a couple tapestries as pulpit hangings for a Presbyterian church in Gallup, NM.  There are four liturgical colors in this tradition: purple, green, white, and red.  This piece was for the purple periods (around Christmas and Easter).
Rebecca Mezoff
17 x 28 inches; hand-dyed wool tapestry
I also wove a piece called Common Time for the green seasons.  I had planned on weaving a white overlay for this purple tapestry to be used during the white season starting at Christmas, but have not gotten to it for several years.  Last week I finished a tapestry and thought, what with Christmas right around the corner, it might be a good idea to finish that commission in time for Christmas.  I had previously planned a transparent loom-controlled weaving inspired by Doramay Keasby's book, Sheer Delight--Handwoven Transparencies.  I had the linen and silk and even had the design, I only had to weave it.  So with Doramay to guide me, I gave it a whirl fully expecting it to take the several days I had at my disposal.

It has been 6 years since I wove anything loom-controlled.  I had completely forgotten how fast it can go once you get that warp on the loom.  I had to use my little Macomber as the big one has been relegated to the shed for now and the Harrisville has a tapestry warp on it.  I wove the whole thing off in a matter of hours including experimenting with the rosepath and how much silk to use (the yellow inlay is silk).

I warped it for rosepath and used a tabby ground in linen with a rosepath design in silk.  I had to write the treadling on a scrap of paper and tape it to the loom--it has been a really long time since I wove something that wasn't just plain weave treadling.  I think the project might even work out... though of course the tapestry is in Gallup and I will have to take it there for a final fitting.  I did a twisted fringe at the end.  The linen seemed to twist well.

Off the loom and pressed, it looks kind of like this.

I want to shape the fringe at the bottom into a point, but need the original tapestry to judge it by.  The top will have to be finished so that it can attach to the pulpit and hang over the Anthem tapestry.  I'm entirely unsure whether or not this experiment will work out.  But if it doesn't, I learned something anyway!  I did like working with the linen (Newport linen 16/2 from Halcyon) and will probably try something like this again.  In the meantime, the Macomber is going back into storage and I'm off to warp my Mirrix for a little holiday tapestry work at my parents house.
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Woven Stories

I ran up to Taos this morning to see my pieces hanging at Weaving Southwest.  You can see them here hanging near the ceiling.  The leftmost panel of Inscription should be hanging several inches higher, but otherwise I was glad to see them on the wall since I was almost two weeks late getting them to the gallery due to the idiosyncrasies of customs.

Left to right: Inscription, Halcyon Days II, Emergence II
The fourth piece that I brought back from Germany is currently at the Taos Inn in a display advertising Weaving Southwest.  I went to the Inn to see the Andean textile exhibit (with great photos) by Andrea Heckman who write a fascinating book called Woven Stories.  I was amazed to see a textile woven in the 10th century hanging on the wall of the Adobe Bar.  So surreal.

Contemplative Garden
Rebecca Mezoff
30 x 48 inches, hand-dyed wool tapestry

And we had snow in New Mexico this week.  I have enjoyed the white landscape a great deal.

New Mexico holiday fire

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Small tapestry and random Thanksgiving

I finished this little tapestry this month.  It was inspired by a barn I saw in the Austrian alps.

Barn Burned Down (now I can see the moon)
5 3/4 x 16 3/4 inches, hand-dyed wool

And here is the random part...
On the way back from Nebraska we stopped at this great yarn shop in Buena Vista, CO.  I was disappointed that my usual interest and innate yarn-drive did not kick in.  I think Germany's more reasonable yarn prices ruined me for yarn in the United States.  So I went home to my yarn stash to find my next project...  the stash is fairly large, it was still hard to decide.
Yarn shop in Buena Vista, CO

And this is what happens in the San Luis Valley during potato harvest.  Small town living.
Sign on bar in Alamosa, CO

Friday, November 19, 2010

Michaeliskirche revisited

Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus came down the end of October.  I am waiting for FedEx to return my tapestries to me.  They were picked up in Erfurt on November 6th and have been stuck in the vortex of customs both in Frankfurt and Memphis for quite awhile.  Finally it appears they are on a truck and should be in my driveway any time now.  With the return of my work, I am reviewing the Bauhaus project again as I write some articles about it...  and fortunately, I received photos from photographers much better than I and I thought I would share some of them here.
Emmy and I hanging Contemplative Garden
photo: Cornelia Theimer Gardella

photo: Cornelia Theimer Gardella

Left to right: Inscription and Emergence II (Rebecca Mezoff) and Wheelmaker I and II (James Koehler)
photo: Cornelia Theimer Gardella
Left to right: Contemplative Garden (Rebecca Mezoff), Topography, Abiquiu Lines, and Passages (Cornelia Theimer Gardella), Halcyon Days II and Inscription (Rebecca Mezoff)
photo: Cornelia Theimer Gardella
James Koehler Harmonic Oscillation XLVIII-LIII
Crowd listening to the organ concert at the opening
photo: Wolfgang Theimer
Frau Hecker pronouncing the show officially "open"
photo: Hamish John Appleby

James Koehler talking about his work at the opening
photo: Hamish John Appleby
Cornelia Theimer Gardella talking about her work at the opening
photo: Hamish John Appleby
The crowd in the courtyard
photo: Hamish John Appleby

photo: Hamish John Appleby
James Koehler, Rebecca Mezoff, Cornelia Theimer Gardella
photo: Hamish John Appleby
The Bauhaus project was a wonderful, challenging, educational experience.  I would do it again in a second...

International Quilt Study Center and Museum

This one's for you Aunt Mary Lou!!!

After going to the ATB8 show in Lincoln, Nebraska last weekend, we stopped at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum which was recommended to me by Jan Austin. Quilting is another fiber art with a long history and I was interested in the fact that there was a museum about quilting. The place was more fantastic than I expected... and I don't even quilt anymore.

The museum was beautiful. They have a collection of about 3500 quilts, a large gallery space that has innovative exhibits (we saw one about doll quilts—the newest exhibit, "Marseille: White Corded Quilting" was opening a few hours after we were there so we didn't get to see it), a large restoration room, a gift shop with books, a reading room, and a virtual room with a life-sized screen that showed the quilts of their collection. There were multiple interactive computer displays and two audio rooms where people could tell their quilt stories or listen to other people’s. I was intrigued by the study focus of the museum. The restoration room had huge tables for quilts to be spread out and a viewing window for the public to watch. The computer exhibits in the virtual room were just wonderful as was the ability to look at the entire collection of quilts projected life-sized.

The building was beautiful with a long stairway along the glass exterior wall.

Childhood Treasures: Doll Quilts from the Ghormley Collection

I left with dreams of a similar space to celebrate, catalog, restore, and showcase tapestry. What better place than New Mexico since there is a long history of Hispanic, Native American, and European tapestry weaving here…

This visit brought up many questions for me (again) about fiber art, art vs. craft, professionalism, and funding for a project like this. This museum started with a large gift of quilts from a private donor and a promise from the University of Nebraska to maintain them. But Santa Fe is full of museums to all sorts of things, and perhaps a place like this devoted to furthering the art of tapestry could be successful in this state...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

America Tapestry Alliance Bienniel 8: A road trip to Nebraska

This week I went to Lincoln, Nebraska to see the American Tapestry Alliance's ATB8 show at the Elder Gallery at Nebraska Wesleyan University. I am glad that I went (despite the 1700 mile total drive!). The show was inspiring and I was grateful to have the opportunity to study the tapestries first hand. There were many surprises as the tapestries are quite unlike the reproductions in the catalog. Don't get me wrong, the catalog is lovely, but the photographs don't capture the real feeling of many of the pieces--and how could they? You must experience tapestry in person.

The piece that I kept returning to for study was Hallaig by Joan Baxter from Scotland (link to the poem that inspired the piece is here). This piece made amazing use of color which merited close study. I wish I had a few more days to look at this tapestry. After looking at this piece as well as Maximo Laura's Dos Peces Payaso largely with a look to color use, my own piece (Emergence) looked flat to me.
Dos Peces Payaso (Maximo Laura) on left and Hallaig (Joan Baxter) on right.

So I wandered around the gallery some more asking myself which pieces had that flat look and which seemed to draw me in by the use of color. I found that the pieces that had blocks of color and unmixed color bundles did indeed look flatter than the pieces where there were clearly many colors in each bundle of weft. (I think by "flat" I mean that my eye easily interpreted the color in a certain part of the tapestry and moved on looking for more interesting things to look at. While looking at Hallaig and Dos Peces Payaso, that never happened even after several hours of looking.) My piece definitely had color mixing throughout, but the colors mixed were fairly similar in hue and value. But what happens when you throw purple in with brown or green? Magic. I also found myself fascinated with Sarah Swett's Pizzicato and Jane Freear-Wyld's Raindrops and their use of color.

Hallaig detail

Dos Peces Payaso detail

Pizzicato detail


I had other favorite tapestries for other reasons than color use. I enjoyed Sarah Swett's Hang Up and Draw I think for her use of gesture. I was looking forward to seeing this piece in person as I couldn't figure out how she created such smooth beautiful lines with tapestry from the photo. I was surprised to see that many sections of the weaving that I had interpreted as being actual lines of color in the photograph were just slits that were not sewn. The gestural nature of this piece fascinated me, as did the questions it was asking. Nesting #1 and #2 by Inge Norgaard were also pieces that seemed largely gestural and lived large in my imagination. I loved the movement in these two pieces.

Hang Up and Draw detail

Nesting #1 and Nesting #2

Another question I had before seeing the show was about sett. What warp sett do other tapestry weavers use? I always assumed that Sarah Swett, for example, used a sett that was much closer than mine to get the fantastic detail in her tapestries. I was surprised to see that most of the setts in this show were between 4 and 8 e.p.i. with many being around 6. I have been fascinated for years with how the brain interprets what the eyes see and I think this is what is happening in this case. Apparently weaving at very fine setts is not necessary if you look to color use... and also use the brain's tendency to fill in "missing" information. I currently weave at 10 e.p.i., but after seeing this show will consider other setts depending on what I want to communicate.

There were a few pieces with a fantastic sense of humor, and as I believe we need more humor as humans in most areas of life, these were favorites also... Lany Eila's Any Time Now: One Family's Soft-book Primer of Anticipated Catastrophes and of course, Peggy by Joanne Sanburg. Peggy's face graced one of the announcement postcards for this show.

Any Time Now: One Family's Soft-book Primer of Anticipated Catastrophes


Seeing this show was a fantastic learning experience for me. I suddenly felt like there was so much exploration to be done--tapestry worlds opening up right at my feet. I couldn't wait to get home to the loom to play with my own use of color and see what jumped out at me.

Here are some shots of the gallery:

The show at the Elder Gallery closes tomorrow. It will open again January 20th at American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA. The opening is January 20th from 5:30-7:30. The show runs through May 1, 2011.