Tuesday, January 26, 2016

That sign with your name on it in the airport greeting area.

You know that thing when you come up the impossibly long escalators at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport? The one where you've just told yourself thirty times not to look behind you because it is a long way down and you're not sure the 100 people behind you on the escalator are going to appreciate you toppling them all like Dominoes (but you can't hold on because of GERMS!)? That thing where someone is standing there with a sign with your name on it waiting just for you and you are so relieved because managing two carry-ons and two suitcases big enough to fit small children in is always more adventure than you want after a three hour flight? I didn't either until my last trip. It made me feel kinda great in that rather self-conscious way. I mean, who gets a greeted with a sign upon arrival? Unless of course you're returning from a tour of duty for the armed forces or you've just had a new baby or something. Those people totally deserve it.
(Thanks for the sign Molly. Next time I'm taking a picture to prove it happened!)

Today I was updating the Reviews page on my website. This is the place I put the kind words people send me about my online courses. The comments make me feel kind of like that sign at the airport. I mean, I work really very hard at making my courses the very best I can, but still... the review page is a little embarrassing. The comments are wonderful and they keep me working hard at new content and at updating the current courses as I improve my video and technical skills. There are so many comments that I now have to rotate the ones I leave up. I have enjoyed teaching these online courses every single day. And I have learned more than I will admit to so much from all of my amazing students.

If you want to see some of the great things they have said about my current two online courses, Warp and Weft: Learning the Structure of Tapestry and Color Gradation Techniques for Tapestry, you can find the good stuff here:


Thanks to everyone who has contributed and for being willing to share your work in the videos I make. The variety of work that comes out of these classes astounds me. And that is what makes me get up in the morning. Well, that and the fact that no one really probably needs more than 10 hours of sleep a night.

Once my brain clears, I have had my green smoothie and a cup of tea, and I have a little sit-down at the loom myself, I am curious to see what new marvels these students will have created and sent me photos of. They never disappoint! In fact one of them was just accepted to the American Tapestry Biennial 11. I am in no way taking credit for that one. She was always awesome. But still. Pretty cool.

Thanks to all of you!

If you're interested in either of my online courses, you can find more information here:


Look for the links at the top of that page for even more information about each class.

I just opened some new classes for 2016 and they are waiting for new ideas and energy.
I'll see you online!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

An experience of northern Georgia

I haven't spent any time at all in Georgia. I've flown through Atlanta a few times and marveled at the size of the airport. But I had never left the airport bubble until last week.

After teaching for the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild in Atlanta, Tommye Scanlin* picked me up and we had a wonderful adventure in northern Georgia.

Remember that I am from the American Southwest. I am used to adobe and sand and canyons. North Georgia is a place of big trees, rolling hills and mountains, houses with big porches and white columns, and an accent that I love to listen to.

We started our adventure with a visit to Patricia William's Communion Tapestries at Grace-Calvary Episcopal church in Clarkesville, GA. The church is a beautiful old white building tucked into this little hillside town. It is the oldest church building still in use in north Georgia, dating from 1838.
Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church, Clarkesville, GA
The tapestries are a set of five panels installed as communion kneelers. Yes, the fact that people actually kneel on them makes me gasp. But they have been in use for quite a few years now and they look fantastic. They look like they are woven at 8 epi and shaped are to fit the curve of the kneelers. They are themed for the liturgical year: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. In typical Pat Williams whimsy, they tell the stories well.
Pat Williams Communion Tapestries
Pat Williams Communion Tapestries
Here are a few details.
Pat Williams, Communion Tapestries, detail of Easter panel
Pat Williams, Communion Tapestries, Christmas panel
This detail captures the wonderful movement Pat has in her work. It is so engaging. I would recommend visiting her tapestries wherever possible (she has one in the upcoming American Tapestry Biennial 11) including a stop at this church to view this series.
Pat Williams, Communion Tapestries, detail of Pentecost panel
From Clarkesville, we visited some wonderful residency centers: Lillian Smith Center and The Hambidge Center. Inspiration winds its clever way through both of these places and I will be drawn back in the future.

We went to John C Campbell Folk School. Unfortunately the weaving class was not in session, but I was able to get a good look at the studio through the windows. What a wonderful place.
John C Campbell Folk School
John C Campbell fibers building
After a very chilly walk around the grounds (who knew I'd need my warm winter coat in Georgia?), we stopped in at this wood-fired cooking class. They didn't have samples for us, but it was very warm in there.
cooking class at John C Campbell Folk School
The stairs are steep in parts of the folk school!

This is another place to which I would like to return.

We passed the Appalachian trail a few times on the trip. I have read many books about this trail and perhaps will return one day to hike the whole thing. My favorite recent read about the AT is Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery. If Grandma Gatewood can walk 2,000+ miles on that crazy-difficult trail twice in her late 60s and continue hiking for another decade all over the US, certainly I can manage it once.

The most amazing things I saw on this adventure, I don't have images to show you. Tommye Scanlin's tapestries are endlessly inspiring. I was able to see her workspaces and learn a little more about how she achieves the effects she does in her work. Tommye also has a piece in the upcoming American Tapestry Biennial 11 and I got to see it in person. It is a stunning piece. You won't want to miss Because of Memory.
Tommye and Rebecca out for a walk in the woods in north Georgia.
Thanks for the wonderful time Tommye!
*If you are not familiar with Tommye or her work, make sure to visit her blog. It is a rabbit hole you won't regret jumping down. Works in Progress. Tommye is the best sort of fiber person. She is gracious and giving and her skill in tapestry weaving is incredible. She was an art (and fibers) professor for over 30 years and at her "retirement" party a few years ago, when asked what she wanted to do now that she was retired, she said, "Teach!" She continues to teach workshops and I highly recommend any time you can spend with her. I know she has some wonderful workshops coming up in 2016 and 2017.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A visit to the south... tapestry weavers of Atlanta, Georgia

I had a great trip to Atlanta. I'm completely busted-up tired today. I kept struggling and struggling and finally admitted that I was not superwoman and that I perhaps needed to have a bit of a rest. So I'm ensconced on the couch with a glass of wine and my Beatrix Potter biography. As soon as I catch you all up on this part of my trip, I'm back to the fascinating land of Peter Rabbit and the Lake District of England.

Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild is a great group of weavers. I gave my Creating Without Pain: Ergonomics for Fiber Artists talk to the group and then the tapestry-dedicated among them joined me for two and a half days of intermediate tapestry techniques. Here is some of what they did.

This table of yarn explains my massive suitcases. Every single time I flirt with that scale at the baggage counter. Southwest Airlines will let me take two suitcases under 50 pounds and I push it to the limit. Even yarn is heavy in mass quantities.

The class was Intermediate Tapestry Techniques and I encouraged them to bring their design ideas to class and to think about which of the techniques I was presenting would best be used in their work. There was a wide variety of responses to that from Jean using alternative materials in eccentric weaving to Holly's work with water in different seasons.
Molly's value studies, transparency, and Jean working with raffia and eccentric weaving
Nancy's gorgeous color gradation with some pick and pick variations following
Katie's excellent value study resulting in come color gradation, eccentric weaving, and color blending.
Milissa's eccentric weaving. 
I really had a wonderful time with this great group of people. I had an opportunity to visit some of northern Georgia following the workshop. I'll tell you more about that tomorrow!

Rebecca Mezoff lecturing for the CHG workshop; photo: Terri Bryson

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A sense of place means you bring the right shoes

There are places that resonate. Places that make me want to come back and experience them again and again. Most of those places for me are in the western USA. I grew up here. They are familiar. I love them deeply.
Emily has a sense of place rooted in the Mississippi Delta. I have the feeling it is also a very deep sort of place, but it is as foreign to me as an island in the South Pacific. I don’t know the culture or have an affinity for the smells or the bugs that are still around at New Years. I am not used to the mud and the water that is everywhere, and I don’t know what shoes to bring along.

The holidays went on for a very long time this year. We visited my childhood home in northern New Mexico. This is a place where I know I will need tennis shoes for the sand and some Gore-tex boots for the few inches of snow that will fall and then melt the next morning. I know I will find myself out on the desert or high on the hogback watching the light and the long coal trains flying down Route 66. And I know what the wait staff at any restaurant means when they say, “red, green, or Christmas?”

I try to find the same thing in Mississippi. I search Google for any place where there might be a trail in the woods and I do find one about 30 miles away on a wildlife refuge. It is only .9 miles long and the 9-year-old we take along is, though he grew up here, perhaps understandably afraid of cottonmouths. From the trail we Google a picture of them and decide we would probably see them among the leaf litter before we stepped on one in this winter-bare landscape. He is brave and we do get a walk.
But it isn’t my place. I also try to be brave and pretend that it doesn’t matter that I don’t understand the food or have the right shoes or even know what all the words I hear mean.

Now on the way home, somewhere in Arkansas, I have just finished James Rebanks’ second book, The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd. His first book, The Shepherd’s Life, was probably my favorite read of 2015. And I think it was because of the sense of place. Rebanks is rooted to his land in the Lake District of England. That deep sense of attachment is something I think we all need.
Having a sense of rootedness in a particular place is what makes me feel safe in the world.

It helps that I know what shoes to bring.

What about you?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

And the winners are...

If you haven't tuned into the American Tapestry Alliance's Tapestry Unlimited Blog Tour yet, jump on board! It is six weeks of wonderful information-packed posts from some great tapestry weavers.

If you like to start at the beginning like I do, THIS post by Vancouver Yarn is the place to go.
Janna talks about how to warp a simple loom and how to get started with the actual weaving.

The second post from last week was written by me. I give you two videos which review the basic tapestry concept of meet and separate and then help you use that concept for shading and color gradation in irregular hatching.

And the winners from my week are... Mary M. and Elysse M. You'll be hearing from ATA soon!

The third post by Terry Olson went up today. Terry gives you a look at how to use slits to create vertical lines. She also gives some great examples of tapestry artists who use slits this way. Outlining or making very thin lines can be difficult in tapestry depending on the orientation of the work, so having Terry's tips in your tool box of techniques is important.

Oh, and there are prizes for following the tour. Unfortunately, ATA members are not eligible for the prizes, but those of you who are not ATA members are going to want to make sure you enter. The best prize is a free membership because ATA is a fantastic place to learn all about tapestry. You can also win a free entry to the next unjuried show, Tapestry Unlimited, which will be shown at Convergence in Milwaukee this summer. Look for directions in each post to enter.

Here are the links for the tour! I hope to see you all there.

The Blog Tour Line-Up

December 23rd: Vancouver Yarn
December 30th: Rebecca Mezoff
January 6th: Terry Olson
January 13th: Mirrix Looms
January 20th: Elizabeth Buckley
January 27th: Sarah Swett

As for me, I just got home from an extended road trip where I did a lot of this.