Friday, December 30, 2011

Housing Humor... the trials of a traveling weaver...

We're moving to the San Luis Valley in a month and need a place to live.  I asked my sister to go and check out a property in the valley which, admittedly, was surprisingly inexpensive for a "furnished" house... and this was the result in email form after their visit:

Subject: "Call me after reading this list of rousing endorsements..."

1. It is wedged between a cemetery, a utility company storage yard, 2 trailers, and  a highway.
(at this point I am starting to suspect the viewing did not go well. The spare tire in the front yard also doesn't speak well of the property)

2. It stinks. Kinda bad.
(I once rented a small house in Sparks, NV that REEKED when I was looking at the place, and I convinced myself that the stench would go away... thus began 3 months of fighting with the landlord to replace the cat-pee saturated carpet and stop my perpetually tearing eyes. I think my co-workers were convinced I had taken up residence at the city dump... so this endorsement furthered my apprehension about the place. By the way, after a few days the cat pee stench which had also saturated the floorboards worked its way through the new carpet and I was forced to move out.)

3. The landlord said, "if any of these appliances break or are damaged, it is your responsibility to repair or replace them. They come AS-IS."  Keep in mind that the furniture is mainly things that disgruntled tenants left behind (probably b/c that was cheaper than the dump), and the appliances were state of the art in 1963.  Fortunately someone thought to clean them somewhere around 1986.
(Unfortunately our furniture is in storage in NM and I was hoping to find a furnished house, but  this isn't exactly what I was looking for in the sectional sofa department)

4.He said the electric would be around $75 a month (for lights????) The rest is propane.  The electric is metered with the adjacent trailer, so you have to kind of trust that he's making up the right amount for the electric bill.
(Never trust a landlord. I just spent three years drinking bacteria-infested water and suffering the gut-wrenching consequences... and didn't realize it until I was back on city water--I'll be paying the whole block's electricity and propane will be $500/month)

5. He said he'd take $375 per month for 3 months (to help offset the cost of the propane?) and after that, $425, which includes $25 per month for the dog.
(I am not sure exactly how my yellow lab could possibly damage this particular house)

6.The maintenance & cleanliness standards for your house in Cortez were MUCH higher than here. Though this place is perhaps slightly bigger.
(Keep in mind that when moving into the aforementioned Cortez house, we had to scrub it down, especially the kitchen. This place probably doesn't have a clean layer under sticky rings in the kitchen cabinets.)

7. It is a LOT better than living on the street (see-- I found something nice to say about it). Also it is fairly bright inside, and I'm pretty sure that no one has ever been murdered in the bathtub, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'd want to get in there naked.
(I'm not convinced she has any grounds to be so sure about the murder thing.)

8. The BOUG1  asks me to remind you that it kinda stinks.
(pregnant ladies being especially susceptible to stench)

9. Then my sister called her realtor and emphasized that we're professionals, and that translates into certain standards... I hope that is true. My track record isn't very good actually, so perhaps Emily should pick the next house. Besides the cat pee house in Sparks, NV and the water-disaster house in Velarde, NM, there were these housing adventures: 
  • the house in LaGrande, OR that had a bedroom I took one look in and vowed not to use it for anything except storing my car topper (and I checked it for varmits before I put it back on the car). That was the same house that had oil heat which my traveling company didn't know needed to be filled and I spent an entire eastern OR winter weekend huddled in front of a small space heater in the bathroom.
  • the trailer in Chama, NM which took an entire bottle of Lysol in the kitchen before I would even put a carton of orange juice in the refrigerator... and I kept ALL my food in the refrigerator. The rest of the cupboards had copious evidence of recent mice visitation.
  • the house north of Reno that was infested with packrats--they chewed my boyfriend's ultralight airplane to shreds in what seemed like days and weren't too nice to my car either... actually, in retrospect perhaps that was the real cause of all the problems I had with my Ford Tempo... 
  • the trailer in Dulce, NM where the pipes froze repeatedly in the -20 degree weather which the school (who owned it) refused to fix thus making me live in a casino hotel for the next 6 months surrounded by cigarette smoke and cursed with unuseably slow internet... but at least the casino had beds to sleep in.
  • the basement apartment in Fort Collins, CO where I thought my piano would fit down the outside stairs, but turns out it couldn't make the corner so the piano guys had to take it down (and eventually up) the steepest, narrowest set of stairs I've ever seen... oh, and there weren't any windows either.
  • the lovely adobe apartment in El Rito, NM that was so small, my brother-in-law had to come and put my bed 4 feet in the air so I could store all my yarn underneath it. I got used to eating dinner either at the loom or standing at the kitchen sink.
  • the cabin on the side of Mt. Blanca in CO without heat or running water where I had to pee in a bucket because the composting toilet was too small for all that liquid (probably from too much beer drinking to survive the -20 degree winters)
  • the house I shared with the vet student and her herpetologist boyfriend where I lived in the basement... also the home of assorted tortoises, turtles, snakes, iguanas, a pair of alligators, a cat named Louise, revolving rescued kittens at least three of which died in the year I was there,  three dogs, and half of the live crickets that got out of the various tanks and ended up on my pillow (I slept on the floor in graduate school)... I loved the vet student and the dogs, but the rest of the crew, especially Louise and the boyfriend, I could really have done without.
  • the off-the-grid luxury log cabin 12 miles up a mountain near Monte Vista, CO which I had to buy a 4x4 Toyota truck to access in the winter (mongo snow drifts) and which had absolutely no heat in the bathroom--and no shower... so I rigged up a bucket shower in the sunroom which was actually a pleasant 75 degrees on a sunny winter afternoon.  Please don't tell my landlady...
Whew. Maybe I should just give up now. I have a horrible track record when it comes to rentals. Emily, it is your game from here on out because I definitely don't want to add this particular house to the list.

1. Baby of Unknown Gender

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tales of a Traveling Weaver, Chapter 4: Reindeer and such

There are many ways for Santa to get around...

If you live in Dolores it looks like the reindeer pull the Galloping Goose.  I'm not sure how they get to places without tracks, but perhaps they have a way. (This Galloping Goose #5 carried mail, freight, and passengers in the San Juans from 1933 to 1949. It was easier to maintain than a steam engine... though clearly now it needs reindeer help for mobility.)

In Cortez apparently they have substituted reindeer with Toyotas:

A wee tiny elf left his stocking at my house. I hope his toes aren't cold.

Regardless of how Santa gets around in your town, I hope that you have a wonderful holiday weekend with your loved ones.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tales of a Traveling Weaver, Chapter 3: Signs of the times

This is where I am headed to finish off my Christmas shopping:

The relative price of things...

We use words about weaving and tapestry all the time.  The Methodists in Cortez even put it on their sign:

It doesn't take too much to control Cassy these days...

The liquor stores here are quite creative!
Say the name fast and run the words together...

This one is in Dove Creek which is just a few miles from the Utah border...

And this is my friendly corner liquor store...

And as always:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tales of a Traveling Weaver, Chapter 2: Ancestral Puebloan Weaving

I woke up this morning, still in Cortez, CO (at the start of week number 10 of at least 16). I asked Emily what I could do for her today and she said, "I want you to get medieval on that tapestry." This is not only a testament to her dedication to me having weaving time, but a statement of how much more media-saavy she is than me.  Apparently that is a reference to the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film with John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman blockbuster Pulp Fiction--which of course, being a bit media-challenged, I never saw. It is also a reference to the medieval tapestry tradition. I may have to add this phrase to my lexicon, though perhaps I should watch Pulp Fiction first.

One thing I have greatly enjoyed about Cortez is that it is right in the middle of a huge archeological area.  It is estimated that this area around Cortez probably had a higher population in the ancestral puebloan times than it does today. There are literally archeological sites everywhere. The Canyon of the Ancients National Monument is a place with sites scattered all over this area, but they do have a visitor's center near the newly-created (at least relative to 1200 AD) McPhee Reservoir.

In the visitors center they talk a little bit about weaving and they have this practice loom set up with fairly good instructions on how to weave plain weave.

Before the Ancestral Puebloans had cotton, they wove sandals and bags out of yucca.

Fragments of woven cotton have been found--they were growing cotton.
Cotton woven fiber fragment

They also have a fascinating replica of a pit house which depicts dwellings from one of the Basketmaker eras.

In further recent ancestral puebloan weaving explorations, you can see holes from looms in the tufa caves at Bandalier (see holes on floor and beams from ceiling)...

And over Thanksgiving I took a trip to Hubbell Trading Post National Monument in Ganadao, Arizona and Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, AZ. Hubbell's has a visitor's center which employs Navajo weavers and you can go there and watch them weaving intricate rugs. It is also still an operating trading post. You can pick up a coke, some feed for your chickens, a skein or two of local churro yarn, or in their rug room, a beautiful Navajo rug.

We also stopped for the traditional Thanksgiving tour of Canyon de Chelly. This is a rather poor photo of Spider Rock. My understanding of the Navajo creation stories is shaky at best, but one rendition is that Spider Woman made her home on top of Spider Rock. Spider Woman taught the Dine ancestors to weave on a loom. There are references to either Spider Woman or her husband Spider Man weaving the universe on a large loom.  I love this image--the world starting with a weaving... or the act of weaving.

And finally, I just got the latest Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center newsletter and want to note that a Tiwa/Piro Pueblo weaver, Louie Garcia is going to be teaching some classes there. Our Southwestern weaving traditions are well saturated with Navajo and Hispanic weaving, but rarely do I see anyone talking about puebloan weaving. Here is a YouTube video where Louie is talking about his work. He talks about breath and spirit in every weaving and the spiritual aspect of pueblo culture.  It looks like he is teaching two classes at EVFAC in January and February.

(Also note that my colleague Cornelia Theimer Gardella is teaching some classes at EVFAC in the spring and I highly recommend her! She is teaching a color theory class with dyeing--so those students of mine who are asking about learning to dye and about color, consider taking this class. Check the EVFAC website for details or Cornelia's website as she is also teaching at Ghost Ranch.)

Maybe this is why I keep going back to these ancient sites:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tales of a Traveling Tapestry Weaver, Chapter 1

So I am currently in roaming mode.  I miss my big loom and my shelves full of yarn, but it is interesting to experience a new place for 3-4 months. I am in Cortez, Colorado at the moment which near Four Corners--southwestern Colorado on the Great Sage Plain. Between hours of working at the hospital here and weaving on a commission, I have been doing a little exploring.

A trip to Sand Canyon Pueblo which is part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, revealed a beautiful canyon full of snow on the north-facing slopes and dry and warm on the south-facing slopes. The pueblo was built into the end of a side-canyon with full southern exposure.

This pueblo has been partially excavated, but then filled back in to preserve the site. You have to use your imagination to see where the multitude of kivas and walls were.

Hiking down the north slope of a beautiful canyon.

View south from the Sand Canyon Trail to McElmo Canyon and Sleeping Ute Mountain.
These new and wonderful places have become my inspiration. Walking lets me think and imagine and settle into the land.

Below photo: sun setting behind the mesa at Sand Canyon Pueblo. The magic of these places is indescribable. Go out and walk, look around you, and listen for the older voices.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Who Does She Think She Is?

The elephant in the room is a big one. Women artists. We still are severely under-represented, underpaid, undersold.

Tapestry and fiber art in general is regarded by our culture as "women's work" (whatever that means!), and "women's work" is still, in 2011, not valued. How, in this climate, can tapestry be understood as a valuable, researched, academically supported, and economically viable art form if it is considered "women's work"?

These questions come from a film I watched recently called Who does she think she is? It is a documentary about successful women artists and their struggle to have their art recognized in the midst of the rest of their lives which include children and family and a lot of "women's work".  If you are a woman artist, please watch this movie (and thanks to Lyn Hart, tapestry artist extraordinaire, for telling me about it). It was released in 2009 by Mystic Artists Film Productions. Go to the website at to see a trailer.