Friday, January 30, 2015

The fiber art of Kristin Carlsen Rowley at The Contemporary Tapestry Gallery

If you haven't had a chance to stop by LaDonna Mayer's new tapestry gallery in Santa Fe, NM, I recommend you do so in the month of February. It is called The Contemporary Tapestry Gallery and you can find her website HERE. She has already had a list of interesting shows and the one that opens this weekend promises something unique. She is showing the work of Kristin Carlsen Rowley, a Santa Fe artist who works in tapestry technique three dimensionally.

Here are some images of the work. A press release from the gallery follows.
Kristin Carlsen Rowley, Tower
Kristin Carlsen Rowley, Tower, back
Kristin Carlsen Rowley, Palace

Kristin Carlsen Rowley, Fallen Dreams

The Contemporary Tapestry Gallery's Art News
When Kristin Carlsen Rowley removes a flat tapestry from her loom, her work has only begun. She then folds, twists, or sews the tapestry into intricate forms that cannot hang on walls but are displayed on shelves, mantels, in niches -- anywhere a small sculpture would fit. She calls the delicate work, "Woven Buildings" because most take the form of one kind of building or another -- intricately shaped and colored homes, towers, theaters, many with historic or foreign influences, adorned with windows, parapets,and staircases. Two even feature -- humorously or dramatically -- smashed outer walls that reveal toilets inside. 

The fact that almost all of the pieces, which are about 12 inches high, emerged from flat tapestries is a result of ingenuity and artistry that makes them not just unusual, but unique.

"I've never seen anything like this anywhere!" So said LaDonna Mayer, another tapestry artist, upon first seeing Rowley's work last fall. Mayer, who runs The Contemporary Tapestry Gallery in Santa Fe, quickly offered Rowley a one-person show of her work which has never been displayed in a gallery before.

Rowley's initial show, called Tapestry, Off the Wall, opens with a reception for the artist from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, February 1. It will run through February 21 at The Contemporary Tapestry Gallery, 825 W San Mateo Rd, 505-231-5904.

Rowley has an extensive background in art. A native of Iowa City, IA, she taught fiber arts at schools and universities across the United States as well as in Spain and Columbia. In Columbia she created her first woven buildings before moving to Santa Fe in 1997.

Why buildings? Because they seem to occupy a special place in her psyche. Long ago in Iowa, she and her brother Peter built dollhouses and sold them to such upscale stores as Neiman Marcus and Marshall Fields. Peter went on to become an architect. Kristin, when she is not creating original little houses in her studio, sells larger ones for Santa Fe Properties.

From Rebecca again:
I am curious what other tapestry artists and readers of my blog think about this work. I find it fascinating and hope to see it in person one day. The fact that she creates the buildings in a flat form and then uses wire and sewing to create the three dimensional finished work is fascinating. If you are able to go see the show, let me know what you think of the work in person. I wish I was in Santa Fe next month to see it myself. Don't worry, you can get home in time to watch the Super Bowl ads. Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My next tapestry in process: from Instagram to you

I have been using Instagram to take snapshots of my work each day. It has been fun and a good way to push myself a little bit to get more woven.

Tying on the warp. This was later modified as the design changed to 24 inches wide.
Here is the current piece in photos from Instagram. I weave from the back on a Harrisville Rug Loom. So the mystery will only be fully revealed when the piece comes off the loom in a few months.

There was a lot of dyeing for this project. Weeks of it. I expect my next 5 tapestries to use the same colors. Way too much fun.
So much tape. Here I am sampling various colors before doing the main bulk of the dyeing.
Drawing the cartoon onto acetate which I use at the loom.
Lots of ball winding once the dyeing was done...
Deciding on colors. Too big a gap between these depths of shade.
Part of the cartoon and some of the yarn.
Sampling for color on a Mirrix.
Reference cartoon fell off the wall. This piece is 24 x 72 inches. I had quite a time getting it back on.
It is helpful to leave yourself notes when you leave home for a few weeks. Re-entry can be rough otherwise.
Drawing on another bit of the cartoon.
Trying to manage getting a little weaving in while answering a flood of questions for the online class.
And after a long day of work... weaving under the influence.
One day I only had 70 minutes to weave. I wanted to see how much I could do in that time. 5/8ths inch isn't bad (times 24 inches wide). Unfortunately this pace is not maintainable.

Shading some circles. Also playing with adding a hot pink strand to brown tones.
Today's photo as I had to stop weaving and ply new colors for a new section.

I am surprised how much worse these photos look on the computer. Instagram is definitely a platform built for the hand-held device. They look great on my phone.

If you want to follow me on Instagram, I am @rebeccamezofftapestry. On Twitter where I often push the Instagram photos, I am @RMezoff. If not, don't worry. I'll post photos here again soon. Maybe the ones I take with a real camera next time!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Playing with yarn... randomly on a Monday

Yesterday I pulled out a pack of yarn that I have been kicking around for quite a few months. Actually to be perfectly honest, I ran across it under a pile of knitting that is awaiting finishing and thought, well this would be a great way to spend a Sunday.

How fun is this? 114 colors in 10-yard skeins. 
Tapestry weavers, meet EPiC.
Though I love working with my Harrisville Designs singles yarn, I'm always testing the market for yarns to recommend to students. Finding the right colors for tapestry weaving if you're not a dyer can be difficult. This palette is really nice. I ordered directly from Mary Ann Beinecke but it looks like it is available in cones from the Yarn Barn of Kansas. I think this yarn is quite thin for beginner tapestry weavers, but if you have facility with managing a weft bundle, here is a yarn to consider. I'll be giving it a test-run on a loom soon.
The weekend was full of writing tasks and some hours digging my office out from under the piles of paper, books, and yarn that accumulate when I let it all go to long. I seem to only be able to do this after I meet a big deadline. Yesterday was it.

Monday has hit hard and I am on fire. I've put in the hours answering some excellent questions for the online classes, decided on some new directions for classes, shoveled through a bunch of bills and outstanding emails, and I made a new folder for my file cabinet labeled "Taxes 2015" into which I could put the receipts for the paid bills. Organization. If I could just move this efficiently every day, I'd have a gallery full of new tapestries soon.

Later today I hope for some of this
and some of this.
And that will be a day.
(PS That is my very first ever spinning, so don't be too hard on me!)

UPDATE 1/27/15: I just found out that Mary Ann Beinecke (MAB) died November 24th, 2014. It sounds like she was an amazing woman and I wish I had met her.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Is there a resurgence in interest in weaving and tapestry happening?

Historically, tapestry weaving has not attracted screaming hordes of people gasping to learn the age-old techniques. But certainly there is a resurgence in interest in weaving lately and many people are using simple tapestry looms to explore their fascination with yarn, image, and expression.

Maryanne Moodie is an Australian weaver who is now living in Brooklyn. To my delight, there is an article about her and her weaving in the February 2015 issue of O Magazine.

Yep, you heard me correctly.
Oprah Magazine.

When I heard there was a tapestry weaver featured in a magazine I can get in the supermarket checkout, I grabbed my wallet and walked down to the corner Walgreens to get my copy.

It was not so simple to procure a copy of the December issue of Playboy from the newsstand. I tried several times and surprisingly, failed. In that issue there was an article about the tapestry artist Erin Riley.

Here is a link to the online version of that article:

Both articles are titled Dreamweaver. I suppose many of us fiber addicts dream about having the time to weave every day... and I admit that I once decades ago had an online profile with this handle. Most likely the magazine editors just have Dreamweaver by Gary Wright playing in their heads.

I am encouraged to see so many people interested in weaving and using tapestry techniques in their work... or, like Erin, making full-fledged tapestries with contemporary subject matter. You can see more of Erin's work on her website.

You can also see more of Maryanne (maryannmoodie) and Erin's (erinmriley) tapestry weaving on Instagram.

I use Instagram to show what I am working on currently, so head over there if you are interested in my process! You can find me at rebeccamezofftapestry.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Marking time with masking tape: keeping my place in tapestry

Someone asked me this week how I keep track of my colors while weaving. The answer is tape.

My work to date has involved a lot of color gradation which includes yarns that are very close in value and hue. Sometimes they are so close it is difficult to tell them apart before they are woven, but the mistake is always visible in the tapestry should I pick up the wrong butterfly.

To keep my colors straight, I use a simple system of tags that I make with masking tape. I should probably buy stock in 3M.
I use a singles yarn and right now am using three of them in a bundle. As you can tell from the above photo, I do ply them on the spinning wheel to get maximal color blending. Each combination of colors gets recorded on a sheet of paper. One sheet of paper for each area of the tapestry where I have to keep track of colors in this way.

Below is the table on which I am organizing the formula sheets and the little balls of plied yarn for each gradation.

If I dye two colors that are close (or not), I can create two more colors in between them by mixing the strands. For example: the following formulas would create a gradation between two colors using three strands of yarn in a weft bundle.

Color A x 3
Color A x 2 + Color B x 1
Color A x 1 + Color B x 2
Color B x 3

As you can imagine, it takes a lot of tape to keep track of all those combinations.

Below are the balls of singles yarn with the dye formulas tagged. From these balls I mix the weft bundles that go in the tapestry.
And here are some of the wefts going into the tapestry, tags on the free ends of the butterflies.

Friday, January 16, 2015

I couldn't put it off any longer: a date with Maggie Casey and company

I have owned a Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel since that day in 2010 when Jim from Yarn Barn Of Kansas helped me choose it at the Albuquerque Convergence. I use it frequently to ply my Harrisville singles yarn together when I want the colors quite well mixed. But I realized recently when I had some glitches with the wheel drawing and was futzing with whorl sizes that I barely know what the parts of a spinning wheel are called much less how to use it properly. If I hadn't done a crash review of part names before I went to visit the Schacht Spindle Company last month, I would have looked at Denise with a little bit of trepidation when she asked about my mother-of-all.

During that fateful visit, Denise mentioned that Maggie Casey, co-owner of Boulder's Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins was teaching a beginning spinning class soon. It was further impressed upon me what an unmissable opportunity this was and that the classes filled up right away. I signed up. Even though it takes 75 minutes to drive to Boulder. Even though the classes go until 9:30 at night. Even though it is winter and a snowstorm could jeopardize any of the 6 classes. Even though my proverbial plate is full to overflowing with tasks. I want to spin and it couldn't wait.

Last night was the first class. Maggie brought this Corriedale fleece for the 8 of us to split. I never knew fleece looked like this right off the sheep.
 I was hooked even after hearing the word carder uttered. Somehow it hadn't occurred to me that there were steps between sheering the sheep and spinning. Carding seems to be a big one of those steps.
Maggie is a great story-teller and I left with a drop-spindle partly filled with inexpertly spun wool and a head full of sheep stories. I'm washing the fleece right now and can't wait for it to dry so I can practice with the drop spindle some more.

While listening to Maggie tell us how she scours her fleece and that she uses laundry baskets with holes all around--impossible to find any more, I searched my mental house for something I could use. Then I remembered this. The first stainless steel dye pot I bought many years ago was intended to fry turkeys. I never understood why anyone would dunk a turkey in boiling oil to cook it, but apparently many people do because Cabella's sells a lot of equipment for this pursuit. I never had a use for the inner bucket with holes... until now. I give you my new fleece-scouring apparatus, used these many years as a studio trash can.
 Now if that fleece would only dry so I can practice with the carders and drop spindle! Maggie wants us to start on the wheel next week and I'm hopelessly unprepared.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Which weft yarn to use for tapestry: guest post with Cheryl Riniker

Choosing weft yarns for tapestry can be challenging. I have posted various things over the years about the yarns I like on this blog. Cheryl Riniker has just completed a fun exercise trying out various tapestry weft options and she is allowing me share it with you. Thanks Cheryl!

Which Weft to Use? – Cheryl Riniker
As much as I admire the dyers I know, I want the ease of buying my weft yarns from a vendor. I tend to use yellow, red, and yellow green hue in my designs, so I already knew it was important that I liked the color on the color chart for these hues. Reds are not always the right shade of red for me. I prefer blue-reds, and I don’t want them too dark.  I also wanted there to be several values in the same hue family. To help me select which yarn I wanted to use, I decided to make a sampler of some potential yarns.
I warped my loom with 3 inches at 8 epi using 12/6 cotton seine warp. I planned to weave the name of each yarn so I can remember which material I used, and tried Appleton, Paternayan, Ymmy, Waverly, Colony Wool, and Harrisville yarns.
I started with Appleton yarn. I used 3 strands for the APPLE and 2 strands around for the TON just to compare whether I’d want to use 2 or 3 strands. I used  2 strands of Paternayan, Ymmy, and Waverly. I used 1 strand of both Colony Wool and Harrisville yarns.
This was a great project, and I discovered several things. Taking a 3 strand yarn, like Paternayan and Waverly, and splitting out a strand is a bit much for my OCD side. I did not like having to deal with leftover pieces. I like the yarn to feel a bit coarser and not too soft. This gives the tapestry a firmer hand that pleases me more.  I have worked with other yarns that are not in the sampler. Quebecois was one of my first weft materials. I recently used some Anahera as well. I have not experimented with everything, but my favorites were Appleton and Ymmy, so I can see more experiments with these weft materials.