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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thoughts on James Koehler

The last 6 months has really been  extremely sad in some ways and extremely thought provoking in others.

People I have known some I deeply respected-James Koehler, and some I have loved deeply-Marge Cruger have died and some I had just met Sonja Wendt, but knew of.

A week ago was the 25th anniversary of the suicide of a women- Karen Zimmerman- who was my best friend and the Gramma, Aunt of my family. She never understood the hole in our life’s that she would leave when she died. She didn’t hear us when we tried to tell her how important she was to us. Marge who died in August  understood what her death would mean, because we had the chance to tell her how much she meant to us and for her to tell us how much we meant to her. I wonder if and what James knew about how we all felt about him and his life's work. Sonia was at the end of her life when I met her, but I enjoyed having her in my class even as I realized it would probably be the last class and the last tapestry she would weave.

I had only a very brief passing relationship with James.

James Koehler was a man I deeply respected and often enjoyed when I would serendipitously run into at  him at conferences and talked to him at conferences died. I didn't know him well-barely at all. I wish I had known him better.

He was generous in allowing us (FFP) to use his work in the book that Pat edited and I wrote. The first time I ever really spoke to him was when Pat and I were writing Lines in Tapestry in 2004-5.  I had seen his work many times in various shows and exhibits I had been in, but had never met him  or talked to him. The first time we talked ended up laughing so hard over a silly mix-up it has stayed with me for years, which often times is so rare. The conversation began when called James to ask if we could use a picture of one of his tapestries in the book that Pat(Spark)and I were writing and publishing.  At the time I had never met him and had put the call off for what seemed forever, mostly,  because I am in so shy about talking to people that I don't know. We had a really bad phone connection. He asked me what the book was about and I told him lines in tapestry. He said, “But I have never woven a lion”. I said,” but you weave Lines in your work all the time.” He asked if I was sure that I had seen his work. Perhaps,  he could suggest another weaver who had woven a large cat. We eventually straightened out the confusion and published a photo of one of his pieces- Oaxaca Stone VII woven in 1999 in Line and Tapestry.  But, what a treasured memory. He was still teasing me about writing a book on weaving animals last time I talked to him at CNCH where we were both teaching next door to each other. I wish I had  more chances to know him better.

James was 58 years old when he died.

When we discussed the book that I want to write/finish called Colour Movement in Tapestry a year or so ago, he generously offered me the use of photos of his work.  He encouraged me by saying that someone needed to write a technical book of techniques relating to colour usage in tapestry. He encouraged me by telling me it should be me and to stop worrying about whether...well, so many things and just do it. I didn't really know James, but I valued his opinion, kindness, his words, thought of him as an extremely capable teacher and his work.I never took a class from JAmes, but I have taught people who have studied with him and been amazed by the knowledge he had imparted to his students.

 James was a master technician in using hachures and hatches and combing them with chene’s and mĂ©langes to produce unique optical blends of colour. He was a great teacher because he seems to have always made his students feel they had a voice and could use it in tapestry.

 I have been reading what seems like dozens of memorials and anecdote's about the life he lived. He was well loved, liked, extremely intellectual, a sharer and a giver of knowledge. He’s a great loss to the tapestry world and the world in general.

There is a certain rituals that happens when people die we all participate in these rituals. We create remembrances and  memorials  and try to remember all of the great things the person did for us in his life. Great and important rituals for the living left behind, But, I always wonder if we remembered to tell him/them how special he/they were to us while he was alive and if he believed it. So in honouring James go out and tell some weaver or weaving instructor how they have influenced you and perhaps helped you. Don’t wait for them to die. Celebrate life, because I am sure James did from the little bit that I knew of him!

1 comment:

lyn said...

Thank you, Kathe, this post about James is very moving. Good advice for all of us to follow.