Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My favourite Student-Marge Crueger and my weekly progress Report

When I look back over my years of teaching, I think that Marge is the student that I like, enjoy and admire the most of all my students. She never gives up and always finds laughter in problems and getting old. Every week I look forward to seeing her and teaching her. I am not even sure who is teaching whom. In the last year mostly I nudge her into doing what she already knows and helping her to remember her skills that she already has.
Marge is my all time favourite student in almost 30 years of teaching tapestry. Marge has been a weaver since the the very late 30's and early 40's. Marge is slightly over 90 years old and extremely frail. She is a member of my Wednesday class that I teach at in an assisted care facility in Corvallis. She tells the most wonderful stories of living in Alaska in Sitka during World War2. She decided to take up tapestry about 10 years ago. She studied originally with such weavers as Collingwood, Nancy Hoskins, and Marta Rogoska. She was an incredible weaver, but age creeps up and things change.
We have had to make many adaptations to tools and technique so that she could continue to weave. The Hagen loom is a great loom for positioning in to place for arthritic shoulders and necks. We don't use the shedding device because of problems with reaching and the strength it takes to move the shedding device. The loom is warped with the ties on at the top for ease of adjustment and keeping the visual confusion down that often resulted when the ends were tied at the bottom. The biggest problems is she's not very strong, has shoulder pain and tires extremely easy. Some days we only weave a pass or two. A square inch is considered to be a gargantuan amount for a days weaving. Weaving with a tight warp has been impossible. The tighter warps abraded her fragile skin. Because of the loose warp we are constantly pulling the tapestry out with ties to the sides and working on slit control. On some days we work with short term memory problems and directional problems.
The penguins are for her less then 2 year old granddaughter-an Alaskan Native American who lives in Alaska. We joke about confusing the poor kid. Penguins don't live in Alaska, but she's little and won't know for a few years.
I hadn't realized how colourful penguins actually are until Marge started weaving her tapestry. Their heads and beaks have the most incredible colour- oranges and gold. We used silk and rayon in the extreme whites and white colour areas on the adult to contrast with the woolen wefts.. The babies are mostly greys with white and black colouration on the head and around the bill. The area in the back are the Northern Lights which I have never seen and Marge is doing from memory. We are using sparkly multicoloured embroidery floss for the Northern lights.

My progress report for the week
The crocheted lace is really fun to weave. I had to figure out how to make it seem to float in front of the images. I changed the ratio of the weft in the soumack bundles in relationship to the weft bundles. Usually, I like a really flat surface to my tapestries-no added texture so that the soumack texture disappears in to the base weft. I (usually) don't like the shadow that can be created when the light hits the soumack. The soumack bundle or twiners are usually about 50 percent of the size of the weft bundle. This time I doubled the size of the the soumack bundle so that it appears to lay on the surface, creating shadowing and floating on the surface of the base weft or tapestry.

What wasn't fun was discovering I had mis-measured my cartoon and it was over the 14.5 inches. I usually try and keep my tapestry under 15 square inches because several small format shows that I enjoy entering have that as a size requirement. Many have have 10 x 10 inches, so I try and do both sizes with my small format weaving. I had to redo the top of the cartoon and subtract 2 inches. Evidently I added wrong when I was using my 12 inch ruler and measured an extra 2 inches onto the cartoon I was drawing.

The mask I am weaving in the right hand corner is a masque of becoming. The masque represents the chances we take as we try and evolve and control our existence. One side is crying and the other is laughing. The Lakota, according to my grandmother, said that the way to tell if tears are from laughter or crying is that tears that fall close to the nose are crying tears. Tears that fall from the corners of the eyes are tears of laughter. I have also started the spine of the feather. The feather will be black. It lies against dark hills and trees in the background. The water under the lace is sparked with orange as the water catches the last light.

The Connections catalogue is great. Kathy Spoering and all did a great job. I am so glad that I am going to the Connections show in San Jose and the Small Expressions show in at Hartnell. I am really looking forward to seeing Maximo Laura's work up close. The bad news for me is that I am hearing rumours that they have cameliad fibers in them of which I am extremely allergic and won't be able to get as close as I would like.
One thing I was left wondering is why people who do small format often let the rib structure overwhelm the design. I am also amazed at the choices that judges make in choosing pieces for small format shows. Then again I am also amazed that Lurcat is still influencing how people think about small format tapestry or tapestry in general.(Yes, I know I left out the tail on the c. I can't figure out how to make this program add it.) I sometimes wonder why we are even concerned with what he said so many years ago. As far as I am concerned there is so much that he was so wrong about. I thing that Lurcat has probably caused more harm to the tapestry world-especially small format tapestry then any other tapestry weaver/designer. Someday I would like to write or be involved with a discussion of Lurcat and his contributions to the tapestry world.

Better go the day is getting shorter and I still need to weave for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Doesn't look like much was done, but it's taken hours of tearing out and re-figuring to create the crochet pattern in tapestry. Now that I have figured out the math and soumack density it should weave more quickly. It's a crazy think I could crochet this edging faster then the time it is taking me to weave and figure out the pattern.

This afternoon I weave with Jen and Sara. Hopefully while I am teaching them I can finish or at least come close to finishing the nautilus on one of the three shaped tapestry purses I am weaving for use and samples.

Lilliana Crespi ( sent me her website so that I could look at some of her newer work. Lillian is a friend-I rarely see- who allowed me to reproduce one of her tapestries in my Shaped Tapestry book. I really liked her tapestries with the exposed warps. There are two pieces that I think are so cool. She has a bustier with eyes all over the bodice. All I could think of was turn abouts fair play! I also really liked her crocheted spider webs. For weeks I have been trying to figure out how to portray Ikotomi's web. The crocheted webs she did sent me into a whole other direction of thinking about the webs. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beginnings-The intensity of getting started-again
I think that keeping a blog is a little like weaving tapestry. If you don’t adhere to a schedule it doesn’t get done and/or updated. The ancestors take over and you just never get back to it, OR, only back to it with great difficulty and only if one is really trying to be disciplined and only if one can control the multiplying distractions that can happen in a studio. Yes-I know that was a very long run on sentence, but sometimes a run on sentence is a needful necessity. I have been busy doing other “needful” things like teaching and getting lectures set into PowerPoint-one of those things that actually does –eventually-make life easier. If one can stay on task long enough to sort through 30-40 years of slides and enter them into the computer by scanning, resizing and labeling. So many excuses so little time.

And now the tapestries-I am working on two new tapestries’ at the same time-Finally.

I have just finished reading a book on Optical blending-Ellen Marx's book, Optical Color and Simultaneity which is leading me into reading a second book Color and Meaning by John Gage. I have decided to see if the concept of simultaneity really exists in the true since of Einstein’s theories in relationship to weaving two diametrically opposed tapestries side by side. This is what happens when one spends a whole weekend updating ones research on optical colour blending for a class on colour that I am teaching at IWC this summer. It wasn’t until the end of the day when my eyes were so blurred out from playing with simultaneous contrasts that I realized the play on words/ideas that were happening with the words simultaneous and simultaneity and how it relates to my weaving several pieces at one time.

Anyway-The two pieces are a colour study of a Kona sunset that was taken from my son’s balcony on two different evenings with the vog in play-really 2 pieces one on top of the other. Vog is a combination of fog and vapors from the erupting/venting volcanoes near Kona. The first evening the sunset is as red, orange and as violent as one can possibly see. The next evening as lavender and pink, soft and visually brilliant as one could wish for. The two colour studies are 5x 7 inches and the other is 10 inches by 14.5 inches.

And finally-the "serious piece"-a piece called So Many Chances. It has many different elements all having to do with chance and what if’s. One of its most interesting elements is a border taken from a scan of a piece of my Grandmother Schoolcraft-Todd’s filigree crocheted lace. There are elements from both Grandmothers with a lot of Ikotomi thrown in for good measure (for an explanation of Ikotomi-see-SPIDERS ARE MYSTERIOUS”: THE SPIRIT OF THE SPIDER IN LAKOTA ART AND LORE by Ron McCoy-Drawing on surviving ethnographic records, this article offers some observations about the use of spider symbolism in Lakota belief and art. Volume 34 Number 2 spring 2009)
I have always wondered about the elements of chance that have to do with determining ones fate. Life has so many small and large variables that can affect everything just like the butterfly sneezing in China. It seems that life and the quality of life often hinges on chance elements that aren’t terribly controllable. How do you stop a butterfly in China from sneezing in China and changing the outcome of the weather a thousand miles away? So Many Chances are about those elements and what happens. All these elements layer over an intense landscape of water and sunrise and/or sunset-life or death. Both can become either are often dependant on the chances and choices one makes by chance.