Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Using a cartoon for tapestry on a floor loom

I got a lot of responses on Facebook, in comments on the blog, and in my inbox from people about my last post Tapestry Weaving Differently. The post talked about the different ways we weave tapestry (from the front, from the back, high warp loom, low warp loom) and the discussion focused on why this is so. I think in the end there was a lot of agreement from people responding that factors such as the way you learned and the sort of weaving you are trying to accomplish make a great deal of difference.

I most appreciate and agree with the perspective that I am making art (at least that is what I am aiming for) and the way I make it is an individual choice hopefully based on what I am trying to accomplish as an artist. What works for me doesn't work for someone else and having lists of rules of what is and isn't tapestry only narrows our ability to create something that speaks to the world.

Someone asked about how I attach a cartoon to my floor loom and from there I was off on a video-making quest. I got some new software I needed to test out and I finally learned the new program well enough to post a video. So here it is. This is one way to attach a cartoon to a floor loom. The video also gives you a better idea about how I weave. It runs a little long, so if you only want to know the actual attaching part, skip in a few minutes.

And more progress on the tapestry. Feet and all. Don't look too carefully at the feet. I've never had a pedicure in my life and it is summer (sandals, dry, dirt, etc).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tapestry weaving differently

I have had a few experiences lately that have led me to believe that I weave tapestry differently than most people. This is honestly a somewhat new revelation... perhaps born of denial. I weave from the back, which in itself might be acceptable considering all the French tapestry weavers who also do this, but I also weave on a floor loom largely from side to side. By that I mean that I weave all the way across the fell line and beat with a the beater on the loom.

I can just hear the lot of you gasping in horror. Yes, what I mean is that I weave one. pick. at. a. time. All the way across.
It was a conversation I had recently with Susan Martin Maffei that sparked this particular thought jungle. Susan was in Santa Fe in June after teaching a class in Albuquerque. She gave a lecture titled Under the Influence or Is It Just Inspiration? in which we learned a lot about her process and how her work has evolved over her career. (If you don't know Susan's work, please go to her website right now and take a look. But don't forget to come back here!) I found Susan fascinating and wished her talk was hours longer than it was. She has woven on all kinds of looms in all sorts of orientations (front, back, low warp, high warp) and studied in France including at the Gobelins. She has studied many kinds of textiles including pre-Columbian, her partner is Archie Brennan whom she collaborates with frequently, she teaches and lectures frequently, and her work is quite fascinating. She currently weaves on scaffolds, moving her body up the piece so she can see the whole thing instead of rolling the tapestry in any way. And she weaves large complicated pieces without any sort of cartoon at all.

She has done a series of narrative tapestries which you can see on her website which include a piece called Morning Walk & River Tides, 12 inches tall, 19 feet long. This piece includes quipus which indicate the time of high and low tide. Susan also talked a lot about the marks of tapestry and taking into account the medium when creating. She talked some about her sett (6 to 10 epi) and how working at a coarser set forces you to work with the marks of tapestry and get in touch with tapestry as a medium instead of a way of reproducing something. I am definitely on board with this line of thinking and hope to explore it even more in my next series of work.

A few days after Susan's talk there was an opening in the studio of a local artist and I was able to go and see some of her work. Due to some unavoidable circumstances involving a job, I was quite late. Luckily for me, most of the other guests had left and I had a chance to talk to Susan. Because James Koehler was my mentor and she knew him, we talked some about him. She had mentioned in her talk that tapestry was all about building up little areas of color to make an image. James did not do this. He wove all the way across the warp one pick at a time and beat with the loom beater.

So then I went to the Pacific Northwest and spent a lot of time with weavers from that part of the country include a good studying of the Tapestry Artists of Puget Sound show (which you can see more about in THIS blog post). Most of these weavers weave on an upright loom, from the front, with bobbins, building up little shapes. I was challenged in Shelley Socolofsky's class to weave in this way (except for the bobbin part. That was asking just one bit too much.). And then I had some conversations with Mary Lane and Shelley about this. I watched Mary weave a little with her bobbins. I tried making little shapes out of my cartoon and building them up one at a time. And I realized that for this kind of image, weaving this way is much faster. There is much less picking up and putting down of tools and yarn.

Shelley talked some about the language of tapestry both in her lecture at the Small Tapestry International 3 opening and in the Traces workshop. Her class brought up again many questions for me about what can be said with traditional tapestry considering the existence of jacquard weaving. And coming from what both Susan and Shelley had said, my own questions about creating while considering the medium of tapestry and its (considerable) constraints.

I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now. Is my method of weaving really NOT tapestry? Well no. Is it traditional? Not in the medieval sense of tapestry, no. It is the tradition of the regional Hispanic weavers of New Mexico (though their techniques are different and I don't use them). I don't weave realistic images and I doubt I ever will. My work is somewhat driven by technique aimed at a certain effect and I can create that the easiest working from the back.

I think that what kind of image you are weaving should dictate the technique you are using. I really enjoyed weaving the sample in Shelley's class and intend to try weaving this way again if the image I am creating dictates that decision. I am excited to broaden my capabilities in various techniques. Am I going to change how I weave the current work I am doing? No. I feel that weaving broad color gradations that are climbing up the warp using continual hatching and color changes lends itself well to this "weaving all the way across" kind of work. And I frankly don't care if the purists tell me I am not weaving tapestry.

Here is the piece I am currently working on. The "gaspers" will be happy to note that I am going to use some eccentric weft and thus am building up some curves. Yes, I will have to use a hand beater. No, I will not be using bobbins.

Happy weaving! Feel free to share your thoughts on all of this in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tapestry weaving with Shelley Socolofsky

My trip to Seattle was really because I wanted to take a class from Shelley Socolofsky. I probably would have taken any class she was teaching even if it was not tapestry, but fortunately for me, the American Tapestry Alliance arranged Traces, Layers, Narratives, and Surfaces and I got to weave with Shelley. It has been almost a week since the workshop finished and I still can't believe how great it was. I've taken quite a few workshops and have even, at times, sworn I would never take another one after a bad experience. This one was fantastic.

Shelley's work contains a great deal of layered imagery and the class focused on using Photoshop as a design tool to manipulate images and design for tapestry. I have used Photoshop (Elements) for years a decade and had no idea it would do all that we did with it. And I think we probably only scratched the surface. We made extensive use of the Layers function to manipulate imagery using different tools and effects.

Here is one of Shelley's pieces she brought for us to look at. Please see this page on her website for a better photo of this tapestry.
Shelley Socolofsky, Incantations 6' x 3.5'
 On the first day we took photos that we had brought along and learned to manipulate them in the program. There were many different versions of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements at the workshop and it was interesting to see the differences in what each would do.

I greatly enjoyed messing around with the different images I had brought. And then things got crazy as I started looking online and in the huge photo files on my computer for more images. I got so tickled by all the fun I was having that I failed to create something that I could actually weave a portion of. So when Shelley said at the end of the first day, load your image onto my computer so I can go print it in the morning, I was not ready. I had made some very cool images, but none of them was remotely weaveable in my mind. Nevertheless, I did finally settle on something.

Here is the image I was working from. The idea was that we were weaving a sample for the complete tapestry which would be a couple meters square.
I started with a background which on the right was a plume of smoke from the West Fork Fire this year and on the left was a healthy forest. After many manipulations, overlays, and a process of cutting text out of a photo, I had this image. I was thinking a lot about fire and forests and global warming and people being evacuated and what would really happen in the long haul to the southwestern US.

We then had to select a square inch portion of the image which we were going to weave. This selection needed to have an eye to transparency as that was what we were going to work on creating with yarn. Here is my inch.

You've seen the colors of my tapestries. Do you think I had the colors for this? Not a chance. Fortunately Shelley brought some Australian Tapestry Workshop yarn that I got to try.

Shelley was an inspiring teacher. Here she is on the morning of the third day talking to us about what we were doing that was working and what wasn't and why. Creating transparency and making things look like they are coming forward or falling back in a two-dimensional medium using yarn is not easy.
Besides the amazing Incantations piece pictured above, Shelley also brought along her Trade Blanket (hybrid bride) tapestry. I feel so fortunate to have been able to hear her talk about this piece. There is a good photo of the piece on her website HERE. Below is a photo of the class examining the piece.

Trade Blanket (hybrid bride) detail
By the end of the workshop, I had woven about half of my sample. I was working from the colors shown on my computer monitor instead of the printed colors which were quite different. This was fine but I had to keep my computer up for reference the whole time.

This is the incomparable Mary Lane. She was the organizational guru for this workshop and I can't thank her enough for all her hard work. She is also a great weaver! Here she is demonstrating the difference between hatching and hachure for a student (but I was watching her use bobbins to pass the yarn and beat).

This is Lyn Hart talking about her design and weaving. She has written a great blog post about her experience at this workshop which you should read here: http://www.desertsongstudio.com/2013/07/lay-it-down.html.

The workshop was at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. The campus was beautiful, the food was exceptional if you are a gluten free celiac who needs to know that people understand that, and the dorms made me think my college days were much much harder than kids who go to college these days.
Flying home from Seattle I photographed this string of volcanoes heading south from Rainer.  I scored a window seat (Southwest Airlines) because I was willing to sit next to the 8 month old lap child. He slept the whole way home. I'll fight pretty hard for a window seat on just about any flight. You never know what you might see!

Happy weaving!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

TAPS and Ceclia Blomberg

After the opening for Small Tapestry International 3: Outside the Line on Saturday (American Tapestry Alliance's small format international juried show), there was an opening a few blocks away for the Tapestry Artists of Puget Sound, TAPS, show at The Brickhouse Gallery. The gallery website has much better photos than mine, so make sure to visit it HERE. These photos are snapshots intended to give you a flavor for the show. Please visit the artists websites for better images or go visit the show yourself.

Let me just say that the TAPS members are an extremely talented group of weavers. I recommend visiting their website and browsing through the images.

The Brickhouse Gallery, 1123 Fawcett Ave, Tacoma, WA

One of my favorite pieces in this show was Cecilia Blomberg's Birch Rolls. I love the concept and they were very fun to examine. She also had a rolled up version in the Small Tapestry International 3 show which was equally engaging in a very different way.
Birch Roll #2, 3M is pictured here at Small Tapestry International 3 next to Message by Borjana Maevszka-Koncz. (Notice Audrey Moore through the plexiglass. I've wanted to meet her for quite awhile and I got to on Saturday! She runs Damascus Fiber Arts School in Damascus, OR with Terry Olson who was the coordinator for this show.)

I also love Ellen Ramsey's Awakening 2012. I am an Ellen Ramsey fan. I love another big tapestry she did called Rift which is pictured below. The movement in the black mark in Awakening 2012 is wonderful and I love the movement it gives on top of the static white images. This is a gorgeous tapestry. (And another big thanks to Ellen for ferrying me from Seattle to Tacoma so I could attend these events!)

Rift detail

The Pacific Rim tapestry The Labryinth was on display. I have never seen this tapestry in person and it was wonderful to be able to study it. It was woven by Cecilia Blomberg, Margo MacDonald, and Mary Lane. They have collaborated on many tapestries, some of which are in this TAPS show.

The Labyrinth detail
Here are some more shots from the show.

Ellen Ramsey, Rift detail
Inge Norgaard, Nesting #3
Margo MacDonald, Skokomish at Staircase and Ellen Ramsey, Rift
Julie Rapinoe, River Canyon
I wish I had a better photo of this small piece by Mary Lane. I loved it.
Mary Lane, Untitled #140
Did you ever play that game, Button Button, Who's Got the Button when you were a kid? I will give you only one guess as to who wove this last photo.
Joanne Sanburg, Button Button

A Trip to Cecilia Blomberg's studio

I took a class from Shelley Socolofsky after the openings (more to come about that) and we all were invited to Cecilia Blomberg's studio on Sunday night to see a huge commission she is weaving for the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs, CO. I found Cecilia to be generous and excited about her work and it was inspiring to hear her talk about her process and her many years of weaving.
Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, Colorado Springs

I don't think I can show you photos of the commission in process (unfortunately because it was mighty cool!), but I can tell you that the work was stunning. Cecilia works with a lot of realism and her work seems to be in a very mural-like style. She has done many public commissions (I didn't ask her how many, but she talked about 3 or 4 in the recent past). It was interesting to see her cartoons and hear about the process she goes through to propose a project and carry it through to the end. The Air Force Chapel project involves multiple (I think 8 or 9) tapestries 9 feet long that will hang on pillars in the chapel. The tapestries are of saints and Cecilia is clearly very skilled at researching her subject matter and incorporating it into the work.

She also showed us many finished tapestries and shared her process with weaving many of them.

Here is a video of Cecilia working on another large commission which gives you some idea about her process and her working environment.

If you want to see it bigger, either click the YouTube icon at the bottom of the video window which will send you to YouTube to watch or click the square to the right of the YouTube button for full screen.

I am very glad I made this trip... and I haven't even told you about the amazing workshop yet! Seeing the two shows and visiting Cecilia's studio were wonderful.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A little trip to the Pacific Northwest... Small Tapestry International 3: Outside the Line

I really do like Seattle a lot. The jury is still out on Tacoma. I flew to Seattle on Friday and was scooped up in the pick-up lane at SeaTac by an old friend of mine. I was able to spend a day with her and her amazing children.
Gelato. Monopoly. 7 month old labrador puppy. House on Lake Washington. Cafe Juanita. It was great.
This is Zeus. He is 7 months old and only does this after he gets a couple hours of swimming and ball-chasing. He may be getting a Jesus complex because when called, often it comes out, "Hey Zeus!"

I am pretty sure this little guy has fiber artist potential. He sewed this lion when he was 5. He had some help for the quilting, but the hand stitching was all him.

I was able to go to the Small Tapestry International 3: Outside the Line opening on Saturday afternoon including a talk by Shelley Socolofsky. Shelley is a fascinating speaker. Her talk was titled Reformatting Identity: Shape shifting and tapestry in the 21st century... which had all kinds of potential. Shelley did not disappointment me and I walked away with a head full of things to think about including what the language of tapestry really is considering the history of the medium.

Here are some overview shots of the show. I highly recommend buying a catalog of this one to study the pieces. The catalog is beautiful. It was put together by Sandy Kennard and is well worth purchasing. The photos are large (sometimes the same size as the actual piece) and clear.

A few of the pieces were especially surprising to me. The pieces that were very small were actually reproduced larger than life and it was difficult to reconcile them in my brain when I first saw them. There was some gorgeous work. Buy the catalog or visit the show in Tacoma or Ohio.

Stay tuned for more about the TAPS show and a special studio visit... as well as a bit about the class I am currently taking from Shelley Socolofsky.
Me and my piece Cherry Lake