Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Taos in the New Mexico magazine

The New Mexico magazine has been kicking around the corners of my life for a long time. It seems there is always something about Tony Hillerman, Christmas chili (red or green?), and the little column at the back called "One of our 50 is missing" (yes, New Mexico is a US state and has been since 1912). Once in college in Wisconsin I remember buying a sweatshirt that said ALASKA on it at a department store and after looking at my drivers license, the clerk asked me what it was like going to college in another country. I refrained from asking her where she was in fifth grade geography class, though come to think of it, perhaps NM wasn't a state when she was in fifth grade.

The new house in Santa Fe isn't ready yet and I am squatting wherever I can while I start my new job. Last week I stayed at an extended stay hotel and found the March 2013 issue of the magazine stuck between the Gideon's and the HBO guide.
The feature article was "25 reasons to love Taos". I can think of many reasons to love Taos, and quite frankly if Emily and I could find jobs there, we'd be moving to Taos instead of Santa Fe. It is a great little town with some fantastic hiking, a whole lot of old hippies, some new hippies, a great bookstore, and a bunch of fiber.
Reason number 14 was "High Fiber Content" and featured Taos Fiber Arts which I have blogged about HERE before. And in THIS post which has photos of the amazing replica standing loom they have in the gallery. Ashley and Julie Cloutman, a mother-daughter team who have been around Taos for a long time, run a very high fiber content store. I love what they do. I love their enthusiasm. I love Ashley's nuno felted scarves and her youthful approach to fiber, and I love the replica loom and the beautiful textiles Julie weaves. I haven't visited in a few months, but I think they are now carrying Fred Black's rugs also--always a treat.
I was so tickled to find their feature in New Mexico magazine.

As Julie and Ashley would say, Art On!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The great house hunt of 2013...

Looking for a rental house is tough. It is hard work and can be completely depressing. After weeks of haunting Craigslist and asking friends if they know anyone with just the right rental, we did narrow it down to two properties. And from there we were stuck.  There was the beautiful adobe house which was small but in a stellar location close to downtown. It was completely remodeled with the most gorgeous kitchen I've ever seen in a rental including fabulous details like drawer pulls in the shape of spirals (yep, that was a big plus for me) and beautiful hardwood floors and a stone shower. The patio was attractive flagstone and I could imagine myself sitting out there chatting with a friend or reading a book. There were even stacked front-loader washer and dryer and a cedar-lined closet (okay, it was the only closet in the entire property and it would hardly hold our coats much less any clothes, but it was cedar lined!). When you're moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, how can you pass up the house with real adobe walls, skylights, kiva fireplace, flagstone patios, rose bushes and plum tree, privacy fences, private parking, location on Old Santa Fe Trail (FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!!)? That is what I call adventure.

There was also the condo that was farther from the center of town, but was also incredibly lovely with tile floors, skylights, two bathrooms, a backyard, and in a housing area with extensive walking trails and a dog park. These are a big deal for me--the trails and dog park. I am a walker and to be able to walk out my front door and head into relatively wild territory for being within the city limits, is priceless. Both properties were only a few miles from my new studio and the hospital where I will be working. Neither had registered sex offenders living next door (as a last ditch effort we looked up addresses of sex offenders to see if that would help tip the scales one way or the other--unfortunately this was no help at all).

The journey to that point had been somewhat tedious. We turned down a lot of what we saw. There were the apartments that were crammed together and felt like a college dorm room (I'm too old for this, right? A pool doesn't make up for the kid on the bigwheel riding around the breezeway outside my door all day either, and come to think of it, that kid probably just peed in the pool). There was the place where the workmen were ripping out the disgusting carpet to reveal hardwood floor (yeah!), but there were still kitchen counters from 1970 and multiple roach and mouse traps clearly visible. There was the guesthouse that was a block from the hospital in a beautiful neighborhood which had a huge leak in the ceiling (right over the bed) and significant damage, discovered when it was shown to us. We turned those down.

And there were all the beautiful places that were big or in stellar locations but were way above our price range. We didn't look at those. Who needs the temptation.

In the end it came down to the beautiful remodeled adobe in historic downtown Santa Fe versus the large modern condo with the dog yard and walking paths. Both properties seemed to say, I am an adult and my life is something I need to be infinitely grateful for. That this was our choice is humbling.

The search did have some humorous moments.
Here was the absolute best Craigslist ad I saw. It was so good that I went to take photos of the property even though we didn't schedule a viewing (the house was about 30 feet from the busiest road in Santa Fe, and I don't have the temperament for it).
The rent was cheap (for Santa Fe) for a 1450 square foot house--$800. Here is the actual text from the ad:
Unfurnished, newly refurbished adobe cottage.... Two bedroom, one bath, large living room, full kitchen, utility room. No smoking. References and security screening required. $800 per month plus utilities. First and last month, security deposit, one year lease. 
Sounds great, right?  And then the last sentence explained the price:
"Cemetery gatekeeper requirements."

The house is on the grounds of Fairview Cemetery, Santa Fe's historic cemetery right on Cerrillos road. And you know, it turns out they didn't allow dogs. I suppose they didn't want the dog relieving itself on someone's grave. I guess I can understand that. (Though of course I don't think my dog would EVER do such a thing!)

When searching the internet for more information about the cemetery, the Wikipedia link revealed this:
In recent years Fairview Cemetery has become notorious for its prairie dog infestation, which causes human remains and coffin pieces to sometimes be visible on the grounds.
Perhaps that also explains the "no pets" policy. Dogs with a proclivity for digging would certainly go after the prairie dogs which could be unfortunate for the underground residents of the property. This whole cemetery thing doesn't really creep me out (perhaps due to long years of working in hospitals and nursing homes where the dead are something you do encounter), but I do understand that it might not be everyone's idea of the best job description.

Here is the house (to the right) from another angle:

And another:
Just remember, in life there are many adventures. And perhaps your calling is to be the gatekeeper at a historic cemetery in the oldest capital city in the United States. I suspect the job is taken by this time, but you could still ask. Since I already have two jobs, I didn't feel that adding "cemetery gatekeeper" to the list was necessary, though perhaps I shouldn't have dismissed it so readily. Wouldn't it look great on my resume?

There is a lot of waiting when you're looking for a place to live. We looked at a lot of properties through a property management agency and they schedule viewings quite strictly. During one waiting period, we went to get a car wash for Emily's Camry (which admittedly was VERY dirty due to the gravel roads we live on in Colorado). I get a lot of flack from my family and friends about all the bags of stuff I cart around, but because I had my knitting bag in the car, I had something to do in the 25 minutes it took to get the car vacuumed and washed.

Being able to stand and knit in the New Mexico sunshine on a Tuesday afternoon: Priceless.
And if you must know, we finally chose the condo. Perhaps not as imaginative, but much easier on the pocketbook.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Relocation: the final word.

Here is the news a lot of you have been waiting to hear.
Others may be mildly interested.
Some of you won't care one bit.

The long question of where Emily and I are moving has finally been answered. In a stunning series of synchronicities, we have engineered a new life to begin frighteningly soon in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

We were supposed to go to Seattle. For those of you who were (or still are) certain we were moving there, I apologize profusely. My OT license in Washington state was hung up because of a minor paperwork glitch caused by their ridiculous forms my missing a small detail in the application which had us waiting another 6 weeks for the needed license before the move. In that time, three excellent job offers were made to us (only one to me actually, but Emily deserves the bulk of them as she has waited a long time for a good job) and we settled on two of them (one each).

The best news for me is, thanks to my excellent weaving colleague Cornelia Theimer Gardella, I found an amazing studio space in the Second Street area of Santa Fe. It is a place full of artist lofts and Conni and I will be opening our studio there in April.

We will have an official studio opening in September 2013. In the meantime, I look forward to many studio visits from all of you. I'll keep the teapot ready. It is time for me to weave some big tapestries. This transitional period has been long and my big looms being in storage has been difficult. They are soon to be warped again. I already have the ideas piling up. And thanks to a relocation bonus from my new part-time job in health care, I am, for the first time in my life, going to pay someone else to move those big looms into the studio. Whoo Hoo!

I grew up in New Mexico, and for me, this is a return home. Santa Fe was the shining city that we got to visit occasionally as kids when my parents went there for conferences. In fourth grade my class made a trip to visit the capital and we slept on the gym floor of the NM School for the Deaf. Besides having to learn my times tables (which were really hard for me), it is my one memory from that school year. So I'm going back to Santa Fe to make more memories (though hopefully not sleeping on gym floors).

I am grateful for a long list of events which have gone in our favor (which starts with my parents helping me get a masters degree in a popular field), moves through a great adventure as a tapestry weaver, and lands at a beautiful home and studio in Santa Fe, NM with my amazing little family. I am truly blessed.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cat Mountain Fiber Arts

A few weeks ago I was leaving downtown Alamosa, Colorado and I saw a sign on the sidewalk for The Yarn Gallery. My slipping memory dug deep and remembered that this place was only open on Fridays and I am rarely in downtown Alamosa on Fridays. So I re-parked the car and went up. I was so delighted by what I found that I returned the next Friday to take some photos and talk to Kimberly some more.

Kimberly Perkins runs a small yarn shop and studio on the second floor of an old Masonic building on Main Street. Her main business focus is her hand-dyed yarns which she sells a great deal of at fiber festivals all over the United States. Her online store is HERE. She has some patterns on Ravelry also. Look for Cat Mountain Fiber Arts or kimberlyknitter.
She hand-dyes kits for patterns in Knit, Swirl! by Sandra McIver (as well as many other projects!). There are photos of the patterns in this book on Sandra's website at www.knitswirl.com. The knitting is done with a worsted weight yarn and a lace weight and the effect is of a transparency in the thin yarn. The patterns are knitted largely in one piece and they look like a lot of fun.

Kimberly was knitting one of them up with her beautiful yarn when I was there. It will be stunning once it is finished and blocked.

The yarns needed for these patterns are in various weights and Kimberly dyes them in one hank. The effect is rather magical.

They contain various fibers including merino wool, silk, alpaca, bamboo, and nylon (there are some colorways with metalic thread).
The yarn is dyed one part of the skein at a time. In this photo the yellow is wicking up one of the fibers. She will turn the skein and dye another portion of it another color which results in a beautiful blending where the two colors meet.

White fiber ready for dyeing.
The Yarn Gallery carries other yarn also as well as some knitting supplies so if you're heading through Alamosa on a Friday (or certainly if you live there!), go take a look. Kimberly had some enchanting yarn she spun herself that had beads in it. I am looking for the right project to add some of that to the stash begin knitting that right off!

Look for Kimberly Perkins at Taos Fiber Marketplace in April and at Taos Wool Festival in October. I know I will!

This is exactly how I feel about yarn stores... (and bookstores too if you must know)

Note: 4/20/13
Here is a photo of the finished sweater as seen at Taos Fiber Marketplace.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The great dye experiment of 2013, Part 1

I have been forced to do some experimentation with my dye procedure lately. As I related in THIS POST, I have been having difficulty getting the very light colors to dye evenly. So I was very very careful with the next batch of light colors which was a very light orange and a very light gray. The first go-around with the gray was a disaster. I've never had this much of a disaster actually. I am that kid who got straight A's in high school and when my Spanish teacher gave me an A- one quarter (and it should be noted that that was the quarter I was home sick on the couch for 3 straight months and I was doing the material on my own), I flipped out. I was not the child who got an A-. I suspect that explains a lot about me actually.

I can't even show you a photo of the first gray set. I don't think I could even bear to take one. The second go-around on the light gray was better. It is close enough that the "I'll only accept A's" girl will accept it even though her inner dye critic wouldn't give it an A. (I overdyed the first light gray batch a lovely black. Turned out perfect.) The second color I did that day was light orange. It didn't turn out so hot.
It is not going to pass my critical standards. I can just hear the students complaining now. I have to decide if I will use it in one of my own pieces for a really spotty effect or over-dye it something else lovely. The yarn to the left is the gray. The blue yarn to the right was the teal I messed up and was posted in "A Bad Dye Job" post. Spotty teal yarn becomes a lovely, even blue. I hope I can replicate it!

This is what I did the second time around. I soaked the yarn using some Synthropol to help with penetration of the water. I added the right amount of glauber salt as well as some sodium acetate, I made sure I put the acid in at the beginning so the pot wasn't too hot, and I brought the temperature up to boiling maddeningly slowly. The gray passed (but barely), the orange didn't. Same treatment.

I have never had this much trouble leveling my dye baths. This is supposed to be easy after all! What has changed is that I bought pre-scoured yarn packaged for knitting. It is the same yarn, just scoured by Harrisville and skeined in knitting quantities. I started thinking that perhaps their scouring process was somehow causing the problem. So I ran a little experiment. I do have a masters of science degree and I did take chemistry, so I feel that there is a tiny bit of validity in this study, though the reliability is likely poor partly due to the abysmally small sample size. At any rate, here it is. I may have to get a critical analysis from my number one experiment-designing professor friend, though I don't know if I can take the heat.

Now I know you're going to find the first flaw in the experimental design right away. I didn't use the same dye color I have been having trouble with and certain dyes do take up better than others. You're right. I know. But I needed blue. So blue it was.

The other experimental design dilemma I had was whether to dye them all in the same pot. This should give me a better idea of whether it is the scouring of the yarn that is doing it... theoretically. Plus it is a lot less work to put them all in one pot than to do three separate runs. So, into one pot they went. I did not use any synthropol, Abegal SET, or sodium acetate for this experiment. I only used glauber salt which is my usual procedure.

The three groups are as follows:
 (The plant is Llois. She is clearly in rehab. In fact she was named after the rehab patient of mine who gave her to me. I hope the real Llois is doing better than this Christmas cactus. Incidentally, I call her Yo-is because of the double L.)
So the groups included (B1) the same yarn made by Harrisville but bought on cones unscoured, and subsequently scoured by me; (B2) skeined yarn dyed as sent by Harrisville which is supposedly already scoured; (B3) the same Harrisville pre-scoured yarn but I scoured it again. (Scouring just means you wash the junk that keeps the dye from bonding out of it in really hot water.)

All the blue in one pot. I'm getting a little nervous partway through and here is why:

And the results are in:
The yarn is hanging left to right, two skeins each: B1, B2, B3.
B1 and B3 turned out very similarly--both even and quite pretty. Both of these groups were scoured or re-scoured by me.
B2 flunked. Uneven dyeing, will have to be fixed. Of course I can't really say that there weren't other variables that contributed, but from now on I am going to scour all the yarn regardless.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tapestry Class at Harrisville Designs

I weave my large tapestries on the Harrisville rug loom that my grandfather gave to me when he could no longer weave. And since I started working with James Koehler, I have used Harrisville yarns for my work. So getting a request to teach at Harrisville Designs this summer was quite exciting to me. I have an aunt who is also a weaver with a Harrisville rug loom (we're a looney loomy family) and she has taken a couple classes at Harrisville with great stories of lakes and old brick buildings and a studio full of sunshine. Now it is my turn to go there. I feel a little like I'm going home even though I've never been to Harrisville at all.

The class I'll be teaching is 5 days and will include the content from my popular Color Gradation for Tapestry class. We will have a couple extra days in this class to explore ways to use technique and color to achieve the visual effects each student is interested in in tapestry. We will explore uses of color on the loom as well as through slide presentations and discussion. We will weave a sampler to practice these techniques and all students will be able to weave a small tapestry or a study for a larger work. I revel in teaching to a wide variety of experience levels at once. As long as you know some very basic things about tapestry weaving, you'll get along fine in this class. And if you're on your 50th tapestry, come and weave with me also. There is always more to learn for both of us. We will use the Knitting and Weaving Center's Harrisville floor looms. Unlike a lot of tapestry weavers, I most enjoy weaving on a floor loom, so this is a chance for me to convert some of my students to this way of doing tapestry. (Grin)

Harrisville Design classes are taught in an old spinning mill which has been beautifully renovated. And of course what could be more gorgeous than New Hampshire in August?

More information is available on the Harrisville Designs website HERE.
The specific class list is HERE.
And the link to my teaching page on my website is HERE with more information about this class and some good words from past students.

The class is August 5-9, 2013.
Mark your calendars!

Yarn waiting for tapestry weavers at the Michigan League of Handweaver's Conference in August 2012

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mary Cost and Architectural Abstractions

I was able to swing by Mary Cost's new show at Downtown Subscription in Santa Fe, NM on the first day of its run, Tuesday the 5th.
I was sitting at a table, drinking an Izze soda (I had already had a chai tea latte that day at another coffee shop and couldn't go for a second round), and was delighted to watch a woman enthralled by the tapestries. She was holding her coffee (and frankly I was afraid she was going to spill it all over her shoes as she wasn't paying any attention to it), stumbling along between the tables and people looking up at the tapestries. People do find tapestry fascinating if we can just show it to them!
Morning, 55 x 33 inchesNote: This tapestry was hanging high on the wall thus the photograph makes it look narrower at the top. It is actually rectangular.
Mary also used to study with James Koehler. Her work has changed and grown significantly over just the last couple years. I think these recent architectural works are stunning and I hope she considers weaving something really large one of these days. I think it would be gorgeous.
Spring at last, 48.5 x 28.75 inches; Morning, 55 x 33 inches; Inside Looking Out, 38 x 27 inches
So Mary Cost is out there in Santa Fe making sure people see her tapestries. Lets go see them! Her work is beautiful and though the walls are not well-lit, the coffee shop is bright and you can see the work (if you can get by the people--the place was packed by the time I left!). She is represented by La Mesa of Santa Fe.
Mary recently had a piece in the international juried show of the American Tapestry Alliance, American Tapestry Biennial 9. I was able to see it at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and you can see my blog post and photos about her work HERE and in the video on THIS post.

Look for this postcard on the newspaper rack right as you come in the door. It has all the info on it.

Mary Cost
Architectural Abstractions
March 5 to March 31
Downtown Subscription
376 Garcia Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Reception: Friday March 8, 4-6pm

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Photographing tapestry

I have my piece for the Small Tapestry International 3: Outside the Line show sitting on the counter in my kitchen. I know this seems odd (after all, I am risking a ketchup malfunction by leaving it there), but I need to remember to rephotograph it and my memory has been failing me on a regular basis the last few weeks. Really I'm just taking things moment by moment at this point. The original photo I took was on the right track, but somehow I didn't get the entire piece in focus.

Cherry Lake is hung inside a larger frame and several times a day I walk by, see it out of the corner of my eye, and think, "who left that television there and what a waste of electricity?!" and then remember that (1) we have a TV but no reception, so it isn't really possible that that could be the blue glow from a TV and (2) that Emily would never have left that tapestry sitting there for a week. Since she is visiting our new niece in a land far away, I am left to fend for myself and for now, the tapestry stays in the kitchen.

I am attempting to learn more about photographing my own work. As a kid I had a Pentax K1000 single lens reflex camera. I got it for my 14th birthday and I loved it. I used it right up until that moment in Seattle in 2004 when I bought my first digital camera. I still keep the Pentax in my closet right next to my softball shoes. You never know when one of those will come in handy after excavation from the layer of dust. I wonder if the shoes still fit.

A couple years ago I bought a Canon digital SLR and have been amazed at what great photos it can take considering the hands of the person operating it. I do understand shutter and aperture and ISO (which used to be ASA in the world of film cameras, didn't it?) and depth of field. But I am no professional.

So today my task is to get a better photo of Cherry Lake. I have left it too late to take it to my professional photographer, so I am screwing up my patience and setting up the light stands and hoping that I can get this one done well myself. Here is the old photo (which was cropped for submission). I'll let you look for the new photo, which I am sure I am going to nail, in the STI3 catalog.

Monday, March 4, 2013

James Koehler, 2 years gone

It has been two years now since I got a phone call on my way to Chaco Canyon that James Koehler had passed away. It seems like a lifetime ago, and like yesterday.

Harmonic Oscillation HOLXIII, James Koehler

I have been thinking about James and my time studying with him over the last few days. I learned many things from James, both positive and negative. I am sorry he is gone as there are still questions I would ask him. Here is the original post from shortly after his death: http://rebeccamezoff.blogspot.com/2011/03/james.html

The art of tapestry needed people like James.
Stay safe.
Take care of yourselves.
Keep weaving.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A moment of silence.

Honestly, I have been half crazed for the last few months. I have been working at the nursing home much more than I would really like and I have been trying to finish a monumental stack of projects... and sometimes a glass of wine just doesn't take away the tired from all that.

This week I finished that job at the nursing home. I have worked there for one year and fourteen days. It is a place where I have learned a lot about myself as a therapist and, as stressful situations are wont to do, I have located some communication issues in relationships with other people. It would probably be wise for me to blame them on my boss consider the source of those issues before starting another job.

The people who live there are stellar in so many ways. When I am twice the age I am now, I know I am going to be like Nancy. She broke her hip a few months ago. She lived alone in a little house that used to be a potters studio so her kitchen sink is 3 feet deep and her furniture is all 12 inches off the floor. She is a hippy-dippy lady who only eats organic food, does a lot of meditation, is still really strong, and looks a lot like Diane Keaton (so I fancy I am resembling her already). She is funny and socially appropriate and she is completely losing her memory. In fact, she really isn't safe to go home alone anymore. The little things are what get her. How to dial the phone. One minute she remembers, the next she can't do it and it COMPLETELY freaks her out. Then wait, oh yeah, she got it again. Whether the director of nursing who she just remembers as the "lady with the big ears" is mad at her because she didn't say hello when she passed her in the hall just now. Whether she ruined her surgery and has popped her new hip out of the socket because it sort of hurts more today than yesterday. And the anxiety circles and mounts and then she decompensates in to a little pile of Nancy-ness in the pink chair in the corner of her room. That is going to be me.

I know because I have these moments of anxiety and I'm only half her age. What if the vague but unrelenting stomach pain of the last week is really pancreatic cancer and I only have 3 months to live (if that turns out to be true I'm heading straight to Alaska for a bit of a vacation; but really it couldn't possibly be the stress of the job and the imminent changes; nope, must be cancer). What if the little yellow spots on the dishes ARE really mouse pee and not just some random water spray? What if that limp in the dog's right front leg means she won't wake up tomorrow morning and I'll have to figure out whether anyone can dig a hole to bury her when it is still this cold outside? See what I mean?

This was my last week of work there. I feel the anxiety of the work draining away as I sit at my ball winder preparing the balls and balls of yarn for my summer workshops and watching the sandhill cranes feeding in the barley fields across the street. The San Luis Valley is a place with huge skies, 14,000 foot peaks, and lots of wildlife. Some days I go outside to the honking of geese and cranes, see owls and hawks and bald eagles on my drive to work, smell the skunks outside (NOT inside!) my house, clean the carcasses out of the mousetraps (we gave up the live traps--sorry to the mice-lovers out there. It was just too much.), hear the coyotes howling at night around the sheep pens, and I think "lordy, I'm living in Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." The bald openness of the place gives me pause and makes me stop and stand still. I need that. To stop the anxiety in its tracks by watching a flock of cranes fly spirals overhead in the updrafts. I will miss this place.

Fortunately I can come back and visit often. This little one will definitely make sure that I do.

There are some big changes coming in March and March is upon us. When they are all firmed up and I'm sure I won't be doing another U-turn, I'll let you know what they are! In the meantime, watch for those mouse-pee spots on your dishes just in case.