Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Susan Martin Maffei and Archie Brennan: Tapestry Partners and Innovators

I have been haunting the postal carrier watching for the Spring 2015 issue of Fiber Art Now for weeks now. It hasn't appeared in my mailbox, but I spotted one at Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins in Boulder last week and of course I couldn't wait for the copy I knew was on the way. I bought it.

The title of my article is Susan Martin Maffei & Archie Brennan: Tapestry Partners and Innovators. I have to admit that the title isn't mine, but I was happy to accept the assignment of writing it. I spent a couple weeks reading everything I could find about the two of them and then had a marvelous conversation over the telephone. Though they are partners in life and are both accomplished tapestry artists, at first I felt odd trying to write about them in the same feature. Their work certainly has similarities which I talk about in the article, but they also have very separate careers.

Susan and Archie are big players in the world of tapestry. Archie grew up in Scotland, trained at the Dovecot and Edinburgh College of Art and eventually was the director of the Dovecot from 1962 to 1975. Susan studied at Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins in Paris and worked for the Scheuer Tapestry Studio in New York. And did you know her first teacher was Mary Lane?!

Their ideas about tapestry converge and diverge, but they both revel in the work. Archie recently completed his 503rd tapestry. I suspect by now he is hard at work on another. Susan's most recent solo show just closed, but she and Archie will be exhibiting and teaching in Oklahoma soon.

One thing I really enjoyed hearing from them was their conception of tapestry weaving as "a journey up the warp." Partly that comes from the fact that neither of them use cartoons very often. But it also refers to the process of weaving tapestry. We have to start at the beginning and move forward until we come to the end. You can't go back and change something that is already woven unless you unweave everything on top of it. In their work and in their words, they they model a method of tapestry weaving which is full of creativity and exploration.
This issue also has a review of a show that tapestry artist Tommye Scanlin is in and photos of work by Pam Silva and Tea Okropiridze.

Friday, March 27, 2015

YEAR 1: being a self-employed artist

An anniversary of sorts came and went this past Sunday. I thought about it a little bit and celebrated by taking a solitary drive around San Juan Island, Washington... watching the ocean and imagining all the adventures one can have in a life.

Then today I decided to tell you that it had passed.

One year ago Sunday was the last day I worked as an occupational therapist. After 17 years, I was out. (You're thinking that I'm WAY too young to have been a therapist for seventeen years, right? Thanks for that.) I'm still hedging my bets, doing my continuing education, and paying for my licenses. But I haven't treated a client in a year. I do sometimes miss working with those little squirts though--pediatrics was full of laughter and sticky fingers.

Since I started this tapestry business, I have learned more things than I ever imagined I would need to know. Sure I know how to weave tapestries, but to actually make a living weaving and teaching tapestry, I have to know a few other things. All those little details I have picked up on the fly. I take classes wherever I can, I ask questions, I use Dr. Google a lot. I look at what other people have done and every day I tell myself that I CAN do it. Even when it seems impossible. Even when it seems scary.

The parts about tapestry aren't scary. I love weaving it and I am a solid teacher. Begin a therapist taught me how to teach but also gave me the skills to interact with a wide variety of people in many situations. It can be challenging to figure out how to meet each individual student where they are. Learning styles vary greatly between individuals and that has to be taken into account when designing curriculum. I thrive on this challenge and I think I'm doing a great job with it.

Nope, the stuff that is the most difficult is all the other stuff. Moving an extensive curriculum online and then running a business...

New software programs with constant updates.
Taxes in so many different jurisdictions.
Video! Equipment. Lighting. Shooting. Editing. Sound.
Social media.
Writing. It is important.
Time management (oy vey).
My email inbox. It is the one thing that could bring me down.

Self employment means:
  • dress code is yoga pants*
  • I can tell the little voice in my head that says I can do my own year-end taxes to shove it and bring the whole mess to an accountant.
  • endless cups of tea (sometimes I worry I'll turn my teeth brown. Is that a thing?)
  • remembering to brush my teeth about 11 am (it is a lot about dental hygiene it seems)
  • winding a few balls of yarn when you just can't stand one more minute on the computer
  • a loom available at any moment 
  • the ability to attend events in the middle of a weekday, and the fortitude to mostly say no because I am working
  • the opportunity to work all the time
  • the lessons that opportunity forces about creating balance in life

 *Though I do actually go to yoga classes wearing these pants, Emily reminds me that this just means I get to work in pajamas.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

San Juan Island: great place for a weekend of tapestry

I loved my trip to San Juan Island, Washington.

Island time is something to be experienced and I am going to have to go back for a whole summer to get a handle on it. I hear that people who do that end up staying. Starting with the hour+ wait for the ferry, time slows down. I noticed as soon as I got in line for the ferry that everyone heading to Friday Harbor was having a grand time in the parking lot despite fierce wind and cold temperatures. It seems that waiting for the ferry is the place to catch up with friends and family and grab a sandwich and coffee and the coffee shop there.
I had twelve amazing women in the beginning tapestry techniques workshop. They were all good problem solvers and I suspect that is common among people who live on rural islands. They were a joy to teach.
I loved this piece in progress. Annette used a lot of pick and pick and the color choices reminded me of the muted colors of the islands. We were weaving from the back, so I am looking forward to seeing the front of this when it is finished.

The class was a two-day full-out blast through basic tapestry techniques.

I had a little time to drive around the island Sunday evening.
It is all big sky and a lot of water.
I won't forget the after-dark frog chorus, the horizon of water, islands, and mountains, and the stories of sailing and adventure. Thanks Friday Harbor!
On the way back to Seattle I stopped at the tulip fields around Mount Vernon. They are not quite in full bloom yet, but I had some moment to stand and enjoy the enormity of that many flowers in one place.
And then it started to rain.
Making the mud soup.
Laughing at my pathetic New Mexico excuse for a rain jacket.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Exciting news about online tapestry classes: Any-time access

My online classes are moving to any-time access. That means you can use the material for as long as I'm teaching online.

I teach tapestry because I love it. Both the tapestry weaving and the teaching. Almost a year ago I launched my online tapestry course, Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry. I want to thank all of my dedicated students over the past year who wove such wonderful things and who were patient with me as I learned an incredible amount about technology, shooting and editing video, and how to structure these classes. I do absolutely everything you see myself.

For a long time I was very resistant to the idea of "forever" access to my classes for various reasons. And I thought it would be better to offer a course that actually ended as an incentive for students to make some time each week to do the work. I still believe that last part, but I have warmed up to the idea of "forever" access considerably.

As it turns out, all of you have very busy lives away from your looms. Asking you to finish an intensive class in six months was a tall order and your discomfort with this time restriction was palpable.  

So all of my online classes are now open for access as long as I am teaching online. Though I can't make any concrete promises about how long I'll be on the planet, I hope to be doing this job for many decades and as long as I'm teaching, you can access your course. I will be answering questions in each class for six months but access to everything else in the class including past answers and discussion with fellow students will continue indefinitely.

I have opened registration for the next set of Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry classes which start May 11th.

These are the classes starting in May:
Part 1
Part 3

The next Part 2 starts August 3rd and registration for the current Part 2 is still open.

Self-Directed classes have moved to any-time access with any-time start dates. If you want to take the Self-Directed class which is the same material without feedback from me, you can register and start all the material today.

Why there are specific start dates for classes
I will continue offering these long courses with specific start dates (unless you take self-directed). I  value the interaction that develops among a class of students and having everyone start at about the same time is what allows this to happen. Contributing to a community of people interested in tapestry is the most important goal of my teaching and so I structure the classes in a way that will facilitate this. Ongoing discussion and sharing is also available to students through a private Facebook page.

And everyone needs a vacation now and then!
UPDATE 4/30/15: Unfortunately the backpacking trip described below has been cancelled. I will be going to the mountains this summer, but for shorter periods of time. So I will be available to answer your questions. And if I'll be on the top of a mountain for a few extra days, I'll let you know ahead of time.
 It has been several years since I took a vacation from the internet. I am an avid backpacker and so this summer I am going to go on an extended trip. I will largely unavailable for feedback for 4-5 weeks starting most likely in late June. I wrote more about this decision in yesterday's blog post.

So from the start date of my hike I will be mostly unavailable to answer your questions. You can still ask them and I will be taking a few resupply days where I will answer anything that seems urgent. And since the trail is about 500 miles long, I am pretty sure if you met me at a trailhead with a cold Pepsi and a gluten free salad, I'd answer any question you had.

So to make it up to those of you who are dying to sign up for the May classes, I will be extending that six month window where I answer questions to eight months for this registration. You'll have me answering your questions until January 11th, 2016 (except for those days I'll be walking those 500 miles). Of course the material will remain open "forever".

There is an extensive FAQ page on my website HERE which may answer further questions. Please feel free to CONTACT me for clarification.

I am working on a new online class, Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry, and will have information about a start date in a few weeks.

Registration is open for Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry. Click HERE for more information and a link to register.
And if you want to make sure to get all my updates about online classes and workshops as well as information I only share with people in email, sign up for my newsletter HERE.

Just waiting for the snow to melt for some outside weaving time...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Giving and receiving... or where I will be this summer

Are you a giver or are you better at receiving?

The flow of life works best when both things exist, don't you think? But each of us is probably better at one thing than the other.

At one point in my life I did a fair amount of yoga. In fact, I'd say that yoga set me on a path of self-exploration that has made me the happy goofball I am today... and allowed me to find success in my business and my personal life.

Then about a decade ago, I stopped.

I lived in various places in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado--all small towns, all without a yoga teacher I connected with. There were times where I tried. For a few months I drove an hour and a half to a spiritual community who had a wonderful Ashtanga teacher. But the drive was too much and I stopped. When we moved to Santa Fe, I did find a yoga studio with a couple teachers I really liked. But I let my head convince me I was too busy for the time it takes to connect with things that are real. I had a business to start.

Last month I found a small studio in Fort Collins which seemed right. The names of the classes don't contain the words hot, power, or core. The teacher is young and in training and the studio is in the basement of a public space that is noisy. But it doesn't matter. I can feel myself getting stronger again and more importantly, listening to my own intuition.

Today Krista talked about giving and receiving. I find in yoga classes that often what I am learning with my body connects immediately and strongly with my life.

I am certainly on the giving end of the spectrum.
I'd far rather make sure everyone around me was happy and taken care of than admit that I need to feed myself in important ways to be able to keep giving. This is not a healthy way to live. (At the most basic, I can't possibly please everyone.)

When I was an occupational therapist, it was all about giving. But I had a network of co-workers and family who were medical people and who could provide the support a medical professional needs to continue to help people in need. Now that I am self-employed, it is so easy to work all the time. I have to learn to create my own structure for receiving the quiet joy that allows me to give to others.

This is not easy for someone who is a little bit type-A obsessive about meeting all obligations and making everyone happy as much of the time as possible.

Perhaps you see where I'm going with this.

Tomorrow I'll be releasing my new schedule of classes with some exciting information about your access to the material once you register. Along with that comes an exception.

Update 4/27/15: Unfortunately, my hike as described below has been cancelled. We will be going backpacking, but not for this long stretch. I will be available to answer questions all summer. If I am off on a trail somewhere for a few days, I'll notify the classes and make the time up by answering questions on a weekend.

I will be taking a 4-5 week hike this summer from Denver to Durango along the Colorado Trail again. I'm excited to see a couple new routes finished since the last time I did it. I originally was not going to run any online classes this summer because I won't be available for a time to answer questions. But I had so many requests for classes, that I decided to offer another set of the beginning tapestry techniques course starting in May.

I will be out hiking for about a month. The trip will start sometime in late June depending on the what the snowpack does in Colorado in March and April. And though I won't be present for your tapestry questions for a bit, you can follow my hike here on the blog. I'm bringing a Hokett loom and a camera. And I'll be back soon undoubtedly with some good stories.

Hiking long trails is yoga. Your brain stops worrying after a few days and your body learns a whole lot about strength, pain, and not giving up. It is centering and it always teaches me to keep my head up and notice what is happening around me. If I learn the lesson well, I can bring it home to the rest of my life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The ikat tapestry of Mary Zicafoose and her solo show, Color Fields

I was able to see Mary Zicafoose's new show, Color Fields: selected works by Mary Zicafoose while in Omaha. In fact I was so excited to see it that I went a day early. The show didn't open until March 6th. I might have gotten some nose-prints on the gallery windows, but what I saw told me I had to come back.

A day and at least one Chipotle stop later, I returned to find the gallery all lit up, the doors open, and a welcoming student manning the desk. The show is a wonderful mix of her tapestries and monoprints.
Monoprints, ikat tapestries, and carpet by Mary Zicafoose
Mary Zicafoose is a Nebraska artist. Here is some of her artist statement from the show:
Like all artists, I have many stories to tell and I am as compelled to weave tapestries based on symbols of identity as I am to record the line where the earth meets the sky in the Nebraska landscape. The work within this exhibition represents several different series of tapestries, carpets, and prints spanning the last decade. New Dreams, Ancient Texts, Blue Prints, Sun Signs, Grasslands, and Mountain for the Buddha, are the names of specific groups and collections of pieces. These are the titles of the stories I have told in an attempt to uphold my part of an old agreement. My work strives to represent an understanding of sorts, a contract I made many years ago with a Peruvian weaver that I encountered on the edge of a high ruin in the Andes. The exact visual terms of our deal has to do with the purposeful evolution of archetypal symbols. My attempts at unraveling this concept surfaces within the magic of the dyepot, behind the endless processes of the loom, and through the layering of ink on a brayer in the print studio....
I create tapestries, each an original, signed and single edition, using this very complex Ikat surface design dye technique--stretching and collating each individual fiber, wrapping, dyeing, unwrapping, re-wrapping, and then over-dyeing to create layers of images and color. The Ikat technique is highly important in my process not just because it allows me to create very painterly and complex visual woven patterns, but also because of what it symbolizes. The term Ikat means to "bind" or "tie" in the Malaysian language, and binding is precisely what I strive to investigate: the infinite, intricate, and repetitive ways through which cultures, rituals and collective memories bind us together. I create textiles that aspire to do more than grace museums, command public spaces, and decorate homes. They are woven metaphors that strive to tie the contemporary, the symbolic, and the timeless together -- coded to become a magical and lyrical form of cloth.
Mary talks some about her ikat process on her website HERE. Ikat is a very time-intensive resist dye technique. To produce images like these, the fiber has to be carefully wrapped according to the design and repeated for each color.
Mary Zicafoose, Mountain for the Buddha, Reason, weft-faced ikat tapestry, wrapped, dyed and woven wool on linen warp, diptych, 58 x 54 inches
Mary Zicafoose, Mountain for the Buddha, Reason (detail)
One of Mary's rugs is featured in the show. Mary designs these wool and silk hand-knotted carpets which are manuafactured by InnerAsia/Khawachen.
Mary Zicafoose, Mountain for the Buddha, Caution; monoprints, various; Mountain for the Buddha, Reason
She is giving an artist's talk and a reception Wednesday March 11th. Details on her website HERE.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Kaneko: FIBER

I became interested in Kaneko because the American Tapestry Biennial 10 is hanging there right now. But two things really convinced me to drive the 500 miles from Colorado to Omaha. (1) Dr. Jessica Hemmings was giving a lecture about her new book and exhibition, Cultural Threads and (2) there were five other fiber shows there. Neither the lecture or the other shows disappointed.

I wrote about the ATB10 show at Kaneko here: Kaneko: the tapestry of ATB10

This is an astounding display of Hawaiian shirts which serves to highlight the bright designs of fabric designers. I loved just walking among these shirts. It was mesmerizing.
Florabunda exhibit, The Kaneko
Florabunda exhibit, The Kaneko
Fabric of Survival
This was a stunning exhibit about the Holocaust. It was a large gallery packed with large-scale embroideries which told the story of the creator, Esther Nisenthal Krinitz's life. It was so incredible I didn't take a single photo.

Fiber Legends
This was the show that really engaged me. The amazing skill in Jon Eric Riis' work is something you have to see in person. These pieces all used metallic threads in a wide range of colors. When you go to see ATB10, make sure to leave a large chunk of time to study this work.
This installation conveys the different way in which fiber art conveys movement, captures and transmits culture, and functions as fine art through the works of Nick Cave, Sheila Hicks, and Jon Eric Riis.          --Fiber Legends statement
Sheila Hicks, Menhir II, 1965-1985, cotton, linen, wool; hand-wrapped, spliced. Each of 23: 152" x 2"-12" diameter.
Sheila Hicks, Menhir II, detail
Nick Cave, Untitled Soundsuit, 2008, mixed media with mannequin, 100 x 25 x 14 inches
And here is Jon Eric Riis. I have only seen a few of his pieces in person and it was mesmerizing to look at the play of the metallic threads in the light. There were 9 large-scale works in this show by Riis. All very different, all incredible.
Jon Eric Riis, Ancestor's Tapestry, handwoven silk and metallic thread, gold glass beads, 42 x 75 inches
Jon Eric Riis, Ancestor's Tapestry detail
Jon Eric Riis, Young Icarus Tapestry (diptych), handwoven silk and metallic thread, 32 x 72 inches each
Jon Eric Riis, Young Icarus Tapestry (detail)
Jon Eric Riis, Young Icarus Tapestry (detail)
Jon Eric Riis, Multicolored Tapestry Skull Coat, handwoven metallic thread, leather, freshwater pearls, black agate beads, and coral, 34 x 66 inches
Jon Eric Riis, Multicolored Tapestry Skull Coat (detail)
Jon Eric Riis, Neo Classical Male Tapestry, tapestry woven silk and metallic thread, Swarovski crystal beads, 52 x 68 inches (left), and Icarus II, Tapestry woven silk and metallic thread, crystal beads, 56 x 158 inches (right)
Jon Eric Riis, Icarus II (detail)
There was also a large exhibit called Global Threads which included the work of Yoshiko Wada, Jessica Hemmings, Mary Zicafoose and Susan Knight. The largest part of this exhibit were the kimonos of Yoshiko Wada. They were exquisite, varied, and I took no photos of them.

Dr. Jessica Hemmings was the juror for ATB10 and she also had a part in this exhibit.
Jessica Hemmings, the renowned textile scholar, explores contemporary textiles and their relationship with postcolonial culture. Hemmings’ exhibition “explores the interrelationship between craft, art, design and contemporary culture” by focusing on examples of contemporary textiles produced by designers, artists and makers that communicate postcolonial thinking.                     --Kaneko's website
Her fascinating talk, Cultural Threads: transnational textiles today, prompted me to order her new book of the same name as soon as I got back to the hotel. She talked about the relationship between language and object with many fascinating examples about objects and their meaning. She talked about the meanings attached to textiles and how they are portable objects and thus pick up meaning around the world.
curated Jessica Hemmings, Cultural Threads
As I walked into the museum, the first piece I saw was this large work by Mary Zicafoose. As you'll see in the video linked below, she had a huge part to play in getting this fiber show together. It was nice to be welcomed by this tapestry. Watch for my next blog post about her solo show also currently in Omaha.
Mary Zicafoose, Fields of Desire, weft-faced ikat tapestry, dyed, wrapped & woven wool on linen warp.
Here is a post from Omaha's local news station with a nice video about the show (Click link in blue).

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Kaneko: The tapestry of ATB10

Nebraska is almost 500 miles wide. I know because I drove from northern Colorado to see the fiber shows currently up at Kaneko in Omaha. I wanted to see American Tapestry Biennial 10 again and I decided to go when Dr. Jessica Hemmings who juried the show was giving a lecture. 
I visited this show in San Diego last May and you can see how Visions Art Museum displayed the show HERE. The show in Omaha looks very different. The huge space dwarfs the tapestries but does help you feel like they aren't hung quite as close together as they actually are. I posted many detailed photographs of some of the tapestries in the post from Visions.

Here are a few shots of the Kaneko installation and some images of tapestries I didn't show in San Diego as well as a short video. The video was done with a hand-held video camera. Please don't yell at me because it is shaky. It is only intended to give you a feel for the space.

I have enjoyed all of these pieces over the last year and a half. Because I am one of the co-chairs for ATB10, I had the great pleasure of being the first person to see them as they were submitted by the artists, and now I have seen the show twice.

I was unable to get a good shot of Clare Coyle's piece in San Diego. Here is a little bit better photo of this marvelous piece plus a detail.

Clare Coyle, The Land Gives Us.... 4.25 x 22.25 x 0.5 inches, cotton, silk, linen, wool
Clare Coyle, The Land Gives Us.... (detail)
Deborah Corsini, Disconnect; Connie Lippert, Wakulla (red line series); Rebecca Mezoff, Emergence VII; Clare Coyle, The Land Gives Us....; Mary Lane, Untitled #140

Kaneko displayed Cecilia Blomberg's Birch Rolls piece differently than Visions did.
Cecilia Blomberg, Birch Rolls, Each of 10: 118 x 5.5 inches, cotton warp, cotton fabric strips
Ann Booth's piece was much easier to appreciate in this show as it was hung in a spot I could look at it from both sides easily. This piece plays with you a little bit. This photo shows it from the right side and straight on. I believe she made this happen with soumak.
Ann Booth, Tahirih (two views), 32 x 21 inches, wool weft, cotton warp
Ann Booth, Tahirih (detail)
Sarah Warren, October Rain, 23.5 X 12.5 inches, hand-dyed wool weft on cotton warp
Barbara Brophy, Inspired by Rothko, 19 x 20.25 inches, wool weft, cotton warp
Kristin Saeterdal, Scared of the dark; Linda Giesen, White Sand; Anna Byrd Mays, BigPair
Dorthe Herup, Gundrun Elise and Burmann the ram II; Susan Iverson, Slow Passage
Susan Iverson, Slow Passage (detail)
Verona Szabo, Moment 1. 2. 3., Three panels each 23.6 x 19.7 inches, wool, silk
Joanne Sanburg, Home Sweet Home, 35 x 23 x 2 inches, wool, silk, cotton, and synthetic fiber on cotton warp, embellished with Japanese vintage bees, jewelry, crochet flowers, an old fly swatter, painted weft and woven (hat) straw
Joanne Sanburg, Home Sweet Home (detail)
Cornelia Theimer Gardella, Untitled #2 (Red, Blue), 26.5 x 40 inches, hand-dyed wool weft, cotton warp
Cheri White, R.I.P, 9.75 x 4 x 3/8 inches, cotton weft, cotton polyester warp
Don Burns, Autumn, 67 x 38 x 1 inch, wool, linen, silk, cotton
Sanda Bucur, Magic Carpet 2, 25.59 x 64.96 inches, wool, cotton
I took some photos of the show in the morning, sunlight streaming in through the clerestory and the glass brick walls. Then I went back after dark for Dr. Jessica Hemmings' lecture and I was take aback by how the yellow yarn in Lialia Kuchma's piece BlueRose looked like it was glowing neon. You can see it to some extent in the two photos below. In person the glow was striking.
Lialia Kuchma, BluRose, 64 x 71 inches, wool weft, cotton warp, Photographed in the morning with daylight in gallery.
Lialia Kuchma, BluRose, 64 x 71 inches, wool weft, cotton warp, Photographed after dark with entirely artificial light.

There was one piece that was accepted to the show but was damaged in international transport. Unfortunately it was not able to be returned to the USA in time for the show at the Kaneko. Here is that image.
Misako Wakamatsu, Complications, 112 x 52 x 2 inches, silk cloth & linen yarn

Please review my prior post about ATB10 for more photographs of the tapestries. American Tapestry Biennial 10, San Diego. Some of my favorites are shown there. The catalog for ATB10 is available through the American Tapestry Alliance HERE. Cornelia Theimer Gardella put the catalog together and she did a marvelous job.

Here is a very short video of the show.

I drove out to the college where Mary Zicafoose's solo show was... many miles and a Chipotle stop from downtown Omaha. The gallery was locked up, lights off. A kind office manager helped me realize that the postcard I was clutching hopefully in my hand which advertised the show did indeed state that it opens March 6th. Today is, after all, March 5th. It looked great through the windows though. I'll stop back tomorrow on my way out of town when hopefully it really will be March 6th.

Stay tuned for some images from the other fiber shows at Kaneko right now. Jon Eric Riis's work was the most inspiring--all nine large-scale tapestries.