Saturday, May 14, 2011

The much-awaited tapestry retreat

Arizona, specifically the Navajo Indian reservation, is a fantastically stunning place--quiet and slow-moving, full of mesas and sandstone formations, but also full of big trucks and rutted roads (perhaps the roads help explain the quiet).  It is a huge reservation and I have only been in a few parts of it... but the places I have had the privilege of visiting are undeniably beautiful.

Searing sunshine
Sand storms that will make you weep
Huge expanses of sky
Snakes, coyotes, elk, and of course sheep and horses (the last two are domestic)
Mud and the dryest clay
The reddest rocks
A wide array of plants and flowers
Juniper and sage scent released in the rain storm
Fantastic sandstone formations in all shades of tan, red, and green

I grew up in Gallup, NM where many who live in the southeast corner of the reservation go to visit what was, when I was young, the largest Walmart in the world.  I saw the huge lumps of mud left behind in the car washes, I attended a boarding school with mostly native children, and I took the yearly trips to Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Hubbells Trading Post with my family when I was growing up.  But I never really got a chance to feel the reservation any deeper until last weekend.

I was invited to a small tapestry retreat by a group of friends who have been supporting each other's art for years now.  I am still honored to have been invited.  Thank you Lyn Hart, Jane Hoffman, and DY Begay for your welcome, your wonderful gluten-free cooking, your advice, and your laughter.

The retreat took place at DY Begay's reservation home not far from Chinle, AZ.  We brought art supplies and got a whirlwind workshop from Lyn on art journaling.  This was so much fun for me.  This mixed media pursuit was something that made me let go of my notions of how things "should" be and allowed me to play.  I felt myself letting go of all my recent stress just hours after I arrived.

Here are some photos of our retreat.  I even got my Mirrix warped.

DY shows one of her latest weavings. (My abject apologies that I cannot remember what the title is.)  The color in her work is so rich and deep.  Photos don't begin to capture her use of natural dyes and color choices in the weaving.

Lyn Hart showed us her condor project.  She was an artist-in-residence at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon last summer and as a result of that she is weaving a full sized condor to hang in the visitor's center there.  In case it escapes you, a condor's wing span can be over 9 feet.  Lyn's tapestry is 6 feet wide and 10 feet high.  The sheer magnitude of weaving this boggles my mind, but Lyn seems to have the whole process well in hand.  I can't wait to visit it when it is installed.

Initial drawing for condor piece with condor photo on transparency
Lyn Hart
It was wonderful to get to know Jane Hoffman a little better.  Her gentle spirit and vast knowledge of all things fiber were inspiring.  Here she is with her art journaling portrait.  Jane is a natural dyer and weaves wonderful tapestries.  She has also done a lot of teaching and gave me some good tips.  She made this pipe loom adding many custom touches.  I'm not sure you could find a better portable loom than a Jane Hoffman!

Here are some examples of the art journaling process we were exploring.  This WEAVE page is unfinished in this photograph, but you can see how we created a ground color then added elements.  Eventually most of this was painted over!

This spread was done in an old journal I had.  The pages were too thin so I had to glue several together.  I attached a map of the reservation and added a pocket for a piece of DY's naturally dyed yarn.

Detail of the right page.  You can see how I used pages torn from a dictionary and then painted gesso and acrylic paint over top so that the original pictures were obscured.  My morning tea fortune also made it onto this page.

This creation was done on top of a painting that was in this old Heron Dance journal.  I liked how the aspen trees made a background for my sketch of the mountains.

We all dreaded and I think finally enjoyed the portrait exercise.  I know this looks nothing like me, but it was fun to do and I'll probably do it again.

DY's niece came to the studio Sunday afternoon and made art with us.  She is only 8 years old, but clearly has a very artistic spirit.  It turns out Lyn is a good teacher of both eccentric tapestry weavers and elementary-aged children.

The group with our portrait pages.

The beauty of the Arizona desert and the calm surroundings of DY's home (as well as her spirit) left me feeling rejuvenated.  In fact I may have stopped at the art store in Taos today to get a few more supplies!

I stopped along the north rim of Canyon de Chelly on my way back east.

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