Monday, September 22, 2014

The time it takes

How do you reconcile the time it takes to weave a tapestry with the fast-paced consumer society we now live in? How do you switch between the slowness of the practice and the rest of your life? (Spoiler: I don't have the answer.)

Tapestry, like any art, takes space to create. I think you need a certain head space especially for designing. But the weaving can also go all wrong if you aren’t paying attention. And if you’re worrying about the next article or class or that you promised Sally Jane you’d help out with the committee to save the spotted toad but you really couldn’t give a flying fig about the little critter today, it may not go well with your tapestry.

Actually creating that mental space is the thing. I will admit that I have not been particularly successful at this in the last year. In fact, I have been an abysmal failure. I think you have to start with the mental space and then create some kind of practice where you just do it. Every day.

I am at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, NM this week. I am here to learn about time. This is a place that I have come back to repeatedly since I was a little kid. My parents brought us here every summer. I took wonderful classes once the instructors were persuaded to let a kid in. A couple summers I worked with Felipe Ortega, the Jicarilla Apache micaceous clay potter. He was the first person who told me I should be an artist. (He also told me I shouldn’t go to college and that just wasn’t going to happen in my world… but eventually I came back to the artist part. He was right about that.)

This retreat center has been run by the Presbyterian Church, USA for many decades now, but the place has layers of history which include Georgia O’Keeffe, cattle rustlers, First Peoples, and dinosaurs. When you’re someplace where you can actually see dinosaurs (coelophysis if you care)… well, that is quite a marker of how big time is.

I took a hike early this morning up to Chimney Rock. This inscription was at the top.

Our lives are a brief flash of brilliance. Chase your dreams.
I wrote this for me. But maybe you see yourself here too.

Happy dreaming,

Speaking of time…
This Mirrix Weave-Along warping is taking forever! The warp went on okay, but there are about a billion heddles. I’m thankful I threw in a couple extra spools for someone on the trip to who I’m delivering a loom. She is going to have to order her own. I need them! (Serves me right for warping at 18 epi, 10 inches wide. Should have followed Claudia’s instructions.) If my math is right, I need 270 heddles for this warp.

I tried valiantly to finish putting the heddles on this morning at the campground, but the flies drove me to the library. The campground is a little too close to the horse corral.

You can see the whole Milky Way here. When was the last time you saw the Milky Way?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Weaving along with Mirrix

There is a lot going on lately around here. More than I'd even like to think about. But one of the things I have been determined to catch up with is the Mirrix Weave-Along #14. I have never done a weave-along but Claudia caught my attention with this one. We are going to learn to use two shedding devices at once on the Mirrix to weave at two setts. Of course this is possible without using a shedding device, but being able to use two shedders at once was more than I could stand. I signed up.

I got my second shedding device for my 22 inch loom. I decided to use this loom because it is an older one with the plastic clips. I can install the new wooden clips I bought and then take the plastic ones on and off. I somehow thought getting the wooden clips on would be really difficult--thoughts of disassembling the loom, losing little parts, not being able to get it back together. Nope. You just slide out a couple of bushings. I didn't even need a pair of pliers.

Claudia recommended warping at 12 epi. But she said we could go for 14 or 18, and being the over-achiever, I dug out my 18 dent spring (never been used of course) and the skinniest warp I had and started warping. It sure takes a lot longer to warp 18 epi than 8 or 10! But determined to catch up, I soldiered on with the help of a little bit of wine. Hopefully not enough to impair my warping judgement though. I don't want to have to redo this thing.

Noteably, I have finished the glass of wine in this photo and I have just begun warping. Due to the move or perhaps my chronic disorganization, it took a little swearing hunting to find all the parts of one loom. Oh yes, I could find the springs of one, the shedder of another, the rods for a third but unless you find all the parts for the same SIZE loom, you're hosed. I finally did.

Stay tuned for the evolution of this particular adventure. Considering I'm off for some teaching and then a Joan Baxter workshop in New Mexico in a couple days, I may be hard-pressed to catch up and stay there. But I'll give it a go. At this moment, a little gremlin is muttering in my ear, "what weft do you think you're going to use at 18 epi? Huh?" The angel on my shoulder is murmuring, "you'll figure it out. This studio is full of yarn." I am not sure which one is right.

(Yep, Joan Baxter is in the USA right now. Some of us are lucky enough to be in one of her workshops. I. Can't. Wait.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The city of angels and some great new friends

I have never been to Los Angeles before. This was the weekend. LA might be in a drought, but the air off the ocean is cool and damp for a gal from New Mexico and there are flowers everywhere. Also, food. I had some amazing food. (Grateful and repeated thanks to my amazing hostess and the Seaside Weaver's guild for feeding me so well.)

I had the pleasure of giving a lecture and workshop for the Southern California Handweavers Guild and I must say I had a blast. There were at least 60 people there which was definitely a record for lecture attendance for me. But then LA is a very large place.
First of all, it is warm here. My hostess lives in Venice Beach and the breeze off the ocean is marvelous (considering it was in the high 90s in the rest of LA and it was snowing in Colorado when I left on Friday).

I did the shortest version of my Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry class ever--a day and a half. I felt like I was on speed or something... I know I talked too fast and tried to cram too much in. My brain gets all muddled when my tongue goes too fast. But they were nice about it. And the thing is, they made some great things.
The guild had a bit of a location crisis just before I arrived. They had to leave their old location and they found a fantastic community center in Glendale that had space for them. It was full of Armenian guys playing some version of backgammon with great gusto. However, the classroom was made for about 8 weavers and we had 16 plus me. We crammed everyone in and had to keep lowering the temperature to get the AC to kick on... as you might imagine.
I have started counting how many Mirrix looms show up in my tapestry classes.
Here is the tally so far.
Convergence 2014: 16 out of 25 students were weaving on Mirrix looms
SCHG: 9 out of 16 students were using them (NOT counting me)
I find this amazing. There are so many different kinds of looms out there. That more than half of the looms are made by one company is quite a testament to their useability.

(For those of you who care, the other looms were: copper pipe-3, rigid heddle-1, Glimakra-1,  wooden picture frame loom-1, Hokett loom-1).

Venice has unheard of things like walk streets. No cars. The street is a sidewalk. The neighbors talk to each other. The cars go in the alleys. Wild and cool. And flowers. They have flowers.

The new Handwoven is out. Class starts tomorrow!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Yes, we do need to tell people that what we do is worthwhile. All of us.

This past week I had the most excellent opportunity to hear Stephanie Pearl-McPhee speak. I have been something of a stalker groupie for a very long time. I expected to laugh, and I did laugh harder than I have in many months. In fact, all you have to do is say, "baking powder" and I'll be rolling on the floor again. It was that funny.

But I especially appreciated Stephanie's case for sticking up for ourselves as fiber artists. She is a knitter, but I do believe this applies to all fiber pursuits.

From time to time we as tapestry weavers cycle through the same discussion about changing the art world's perception of us from "weaver, craft-maker, hobbyist" to "artist". There are various discussions about how to do this and many of them are grounded in truth and are extremely valid arguments.

But here is where it starts.
We have to believe in ourselves.

If you have the courage to show someone your work, when they say they love your use of color or the way you made those curves flow into each other or the way you made that particular window placement question the rest of the composition and you reply,
"Yeah, but I really screwed up the selvages and did you see the weft float over here? and I can't believe I wasn't able to make that circle round,"
you are doing all fiberists a disservice. I don't mean to be harsh about it, but if you work hard on something and you show it to someone and they say nice things about it, there is only one thing you should say in response.

Thank you.

Do not point out the flaws that you see in it. Other people don't see those.
Celebrate the joy you just inspired in someone else. Look at your work through their eyes for a moment. Do not make self-deprecating comments.

I'm not saying this is easy to do by any means. I think it is especially difficult for females. We are trained not to value what we do.

This is bullshit.

You are beautiful. Your work has value. You have value.
Life is excruciatingly short. Celebrate every accomplishment. Love the amazing things you make with your hands. Accept compliments. Say thank you. Just try it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The things you have to do to run a life... Sheesh!

I spent the better part of today taking a Sales Tax Law class. I found out about it late yesterday. I got out of bed at the crack of dawn and drove to Denver in the rain and traffic. I have the name tag and little pen with Colorado Department of Revenue on it to prove it.

It turns out that
(1) you actually do have to pay taxes if you want to run your own business. I was pretty sure about this, but was hoping there was a loophole I was missing.
And (2) Colorado tax law is the most complicated tax law in the entire country.
I just moved here from a state where the gross receipts tax form has ONE line you have to fill out with a total of 5 boxes. Seriously. This might be the source of my disillusionment.

I hung in there really well. I followed the presentation, I made notes on the Powerpoint handout on the little lines next to the little boxes. I squinted at the text that was too small for 42-year-old eyes to make out in the dim light of the projector, and I put my hand up unashamedly and asked a lot of questions that might have been stupid. But I am pretty sure no one else had any idea either that in the state of Colorado you are supposed to voluntarily pay what is called a Consumer Use Tax. That means when you buy something from out of state but you are going to use it in your home state of Colorado, you have to report that you bought it and pay the 2.9% sales tax that rightfully belongs to the State of Colorado because you are USING it here. I really really wanted to raise my hand with fingers wiggling and ask if ANYONE does this. I just bought a book for my niece on Amazon. Yep. Subject to Consumer Use Tax. I didn't ask. I was afraid I'd get audited immediately.

I have a hugely inflated respect for my sister today. She has successfully run a small business in Colorado for many years now and she figured this all out on her own. She rocks. Maybe if I bring her wine and cheese and free babysitting she'll decode some of it for me. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out all of this in New Mexico. I had NO idea what kind of abuse Colorado could deliver. New Mexico is child's play compared to the Colorado tax code.

The main presenter today was a bad-ass woman named Ruth. She knew her stuff and what is more, she knew how to teach adults. She was a shining example of how to help people understand difficult things. It fell apart about halfway through when the rules just seemed too ridiculous to possibly be true. (Or perhaps my first class American University Graduate-Level Education was not good enough to comprehend the taxy-vocabularium that is the tax code--your call.) She brought in a tax examiner for the last hour of the day.

Here is a small sample of my experience with him:
Student Frank* who is starting a business selling wool children's clothing mostly online: So if I am selling a product to someone in Denver from my store in Bayfield, all I have to worry about is the state sales tax? I don't have to pay county or city tax?

Tax Examiner: That depends. [He said this in answer to every question.] There are the jurisdictions to consider: state, county, city, and special districts. Do you have the current DR1002? Make sure you check the scientific districts for Denver, both RTD and RTA and which county exactly are you sending the item to because it might not be Denver county and other counties have different laws. CDOR doesn't deal with the taxes due to Denver county, so you'll have to contact them about that. Also Denver is a Home Rule city and that makes a difference. Do you know if Bayfield is Home Rule also? Make sure you fill out a HD987-6372 C and file that BEFORE you get to your DR1002 and don't forget the consumer use tax which is also necessary in this case. Is it an event, because you'll need a special event license before selling there. And what it all comes down to is what are your involved jurisdictions. Remember, it is your fiduciary and statutory responsibility to pay your state taxes.

Student Ed who currently runs a service-based business doing commercial glass etching but wants to start selling products: [Sighs, looks at his hands, shifts in his seat, whimpers]

Student Ed: [Clears throat and raises his hand] Is there anyone who, um, could help us do this if, um, we aren't quite understanding how it all works right this moment? You know, just until we get up to speed?

Tax Examiner: That would be an accountant.

No one else asked any more questions. We were too flummoxed.
Without any more research I think I can safely say that being an accountant in Colorado is a lucrative profession.

I hope that I can make it through a tax cycle eventually without crying. Perhaps the one right after I find a good accountant.
*The names of the students have been changed to protect the confused tax-payer who may well not get all of this right for his first 300 filings. I'm sure 301 will be perfect. I know mine will.