Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saturday EDGE class

Saturday’s EDGE class was a whirlwind of information. We have three sessions on the portfolio, Miriam Works presented two of them (morning and afternoon). We looked at some good and bad examples and discussed the why and what of each of them. We also went over what goes in the portfolio – great images, cover letter, artist statement, resume, optional bio, and supplemental materials. It was fun to pick apart the bad cover letter examples – and these were people who have done well in the art world – so it’s either not super, super important, or their art was so fantastic, the words didn’t matter, or these were first efforts before they figured it out.

Then we got to go through our portfolios, such as they are at this point. Considering we’re taking a class on how to figure this all out, for those that had something show, they were all ok. The biggest thing I need to fix is to get better images. One person who knows what my stuff looks like said the photos don’t do them justice. So I guess I’ll put that on the list of things to do (and pay for) along with business cards, art cards and more portfolio parts. (Along with getting more art done.)

I also need to spend time going around getting to know more artist and art people, the more people who know who you are and what you do, the better chance you have of getting a show and moving to that place we all seem to strive for.

Throughout the day there were also all kinds of tips and helpful hints, websites to look at, things to do, artist talks to hear around town – who has the time to do all of this? This Saturday we’re suppose to bring copies of our artist statements to review, I have something already that I did last spring in class, so I’m covered on that assignment, but I should probably look at it again and make some notes or updates.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I’ve started Artist Trust EDGE training through ArtsNow. I think of it as a how-to, business course for artists.

The official description: Become a successful artist entrepreneur after obtaining the important knowledge and essential skills taught in this nationally acclaimed program for visual artists. Artist Trust developed the curriculum and trained the instructors to give you 50 intensive hours in goal setting, business planning, portfolio development, marketing, funding, grant writing, and exhibiting. Program includes presentations, panel discussions, assignments, and peer to peer support and exchange with your cohorts.

We started out Friday night with the overview of the course (and passing out of huge binders). We then presented a fellow student to the class after a bit of one-on-one and learning what we each other wanted to accomplish. This was followed by each of us presenting our art to the class. I of course did terrible at that part. I don’t mind talking about my art, but hate to get up in front of a group. I can’t think straight and remember what I want to say. We also found out that we will have a group show a couple months later following the class – that will be fun! BUT it also includes a 5 minute art talk by each of us on opening night. This will be good for me, but unfortunately it is also all I will think about until it’s over. I’ll do my best, I’ll practice more than anyone, but it still won’t be half as good as the presentations by the people who love to talk.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another pick-and-pick

I did another sample because I really need the practice. Do you see the amount of draw-in on that thing? Way too much for a weaving that size. And do you see the big error? I don't know how I did not see that as I was weaving. I must have wanted to get this done. Yes, I did some stripes in the middle to use up space. I could feel my frustration level starting to rise and I think I need to move on to another technique and come back to this another time.

My buddy Carroll, the author, gives some tips.

If this is a reversible tapestry, because the methods above create ridges on the back, just forget all this and cross the side wefts around each other.

Sure sounds easier.

If there are an uneven number of warps, you’ll only have to deal with one of the selvedge methods, instead of changing at each selvedge.

That has a certain comfort to it.

The author says she tends to like the second method (when it’s down, go around) because it tends to lay flatter and not curl, but when she does pick-and-pick in the middle of a row, she likes the first method best, because she thinks it’s easier to go around a raised warp in the middle of a row.

There’s always something.

My conclusion: As I worked my second pick-and-pick sampler, I tried to change what I was doing more often. Trying to make a checkerboard type pattern was fairly challenging, figuring out how to introduce the yarn without making a blob of yarn or a hole. My sample is far from perfect. What I did like was carrying an unused weft up the side of the weaving and not having it show until I was ready to introduce it again. That was a nice way to not having to keep starting and stopping after using a color for only three rows.

I can see the possibilities for using this technique, especially the checkerboard type pattern for introducing subtle color and texture in an area.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


This is the tapestry technique where you use two different colored wefts going the same direction, but in opposite sheds, so to create vertical stripes. When I did this on my first sample I just twisted the two ends, one weft over the other, and started back across the warp. This created a multi colored edge which is not correct and doesn’t make a good selvedge. So to Carol K. Russell’s, “The Tapestry Handbook” I went and read the instructions.

If both butterflies are at one selvedge, the shed has been opened for weaving the next row, and the selvedge warp is raised, then the yarn of the next butterfly to be woven should be underneath the selvedge warp, and the other butterfly should be over the selvedge warp.

(Photo to right, example of bad twisted edges)

Ok, got it, I’m ready.

Carry the active butterfly over the yard of the resting butterfly, under the selvedge warp and into the shed. Tug slightly on the yarn of the active butterfly, causing the yarn of the resting one to slip around the selvedge warp. This maneuver also steers the yarn of the active butterfly over the second warp from the selvedge, its correct position for the row. Note that the active butterfly has completely avoided the selvedge warp. Bubble and beat this row.

Huh??? It’s a good thing there were some pictures to look at. I could see what was supposed to happen and when I followed the instructions it worked! It was really pretty slick.

(Photo to right, example of better/not perfect edges)
Change sheds, and weave the second butterfly. As this butterfly is carried into the shed, it automatically makes a second trip over the selvedge warp, compensating for this warp’s being skipped by the first butterfly. Bubble and beat this row. Observe the neat progression of vertical stripes. Each warp including the selvedge warp is neatly covered by only one weft color. (The reverse side of the tapestry will have a double-width stripe of one color along the selvedge, but the right side of the tapestry will be perfect.)

Well, that was pretty cool; one yarn doing a little snake dance and hiding underneath and the other covering the warp working perfectly. I can do this.

But wait, that’s not all…

The above instructions are for if the selvedge warp is raised. It’s completely different if the warp is lowered.

If both butterflies are at one selvedge, the shed has been opened for weaving the next row, and the selvedge warp is lowered, then the yarn of the next butterfly to be woven should be over the selvedge warp, and the yarn of the other butterfly should be under the selvedge warp. In these circumstances, the next butterfly to be woven should be the one covering the selvedge warp. First in order to avoid crossing the two yarns, place the resting butterfly out of the way on the woven surface – not the unwoven warps. Wrap the active butterfly twice around the lowered selvedge warp. After the second wrap, carry it through the shed, all the way across the row. Two wraps of the selvedge warp with the first color compensate for its being skipped by the second color. Bubble and beat this row, and change sheds for the next.

Who would have thought…

The second butterfly can be woven through the shed with no special manipulation. Notice that it completely avoids the selvedge warp. Bubble and beat this row.

This all sounds fairly simple, at least once you go through it and see that the words do make sense, but I had to continually look at the directions. I finally got a rhyme going for when the warp was lowered – “when it’s down, go around” (wrap the butterfly twice around the selvedge) -- but I never did think of a rhyme for “up” or “raised.” My selvedges are far from perfect, this will take more practice before I will know what to do instinctively just by looking at the situation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tapestry diagonals

A quick update on the self taught tapestry project; I completed this little one using three yarns across, changing the one in the middle for variety -- another rug ready for a dollhouse somewhere. Doing diagonals is pretty easy and fast. As your making the row smaller (or opening larger) for the next color, you can keep going with one color until it’s time to reverse direction, instead of going all the way across the whole row doing the rightmost color and going left, picking up the middle yarn going left and then the last color going left and then starting back to the right.

I was a little disappointed with myself, because even in something this small and simple I still made mistakes that I didn’t see until I was well past. Tapestry does take a lot of concentration and practice.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We went to see the Alexander Calder exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum last night – what a treat! I had not been to an exhibit of just Calder before, only single pieces in various locations and museums. Besides his mobiles (the ones that hang from above) and stabiles (the ones that have a base) I didn’t realize he also did many of them in miniature, some as studies for larger works and others just to stay small. He also created quite a bit of jewelry using many of his same iconic swirls.

Besides looking at the engineering and enjoying how they moved around, it was also a perfect visual for illustrating my “word for the year” – balance.

What’s a word for the year? It’s a way of creating change in your life. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions which never last for long, you pick a word to guide you throughout the year. A better explanation can be found on Christine Kane’s blog along with many other interesting suggestions.

So my goal with my “word” is to hopefully keep in mind all areas of my life (not counting job and sleep) and not let any one thing take over (and probably shed some things that aren’t really important). Lately I want to spend most of my time in the art area of my life - playing, exploring and making art, but I also need to get my exercise in and do my share of household chores.

Hopefully my word and I will march perfectly through 2010, see you on the other side.

The Calder art shown here were not on exhibit at SAM - no picture taking alowed at the museum.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fiber class January meeting

Our fiber class continues to meet once a month – it’s been six months now and  half the class is still getting together. Although our bond began by seeing each other every week for 30 weeks, it is definitely strengthened as we continue to get together.

This month during the social part of our meeting we found out how one member had gone through two major surgeries in only a few months. Another gal is nursing her husband back to health after a heart attack. Plus mixed in with the “I took a really cool class in metalsmithing” and “two trees fell on my house,” we found out that two out of the ten people there had been severely bitten by dogs when they were kids – the stuff you find out.

We talked about our upcoming show during the business part of the meeting – scheduled for the month of March at CafĂ© Solstice in the University District. The details are being worked out, everyone has a task, and most people know what they’re going to create. I think we’re on a roll.

Show and tell is probably the best part of the meeting – when we can show off what we’re doing. Nikki is starting a clothing business for plus size kids. Debra had a really cool leaf print/fiber/stitched piece that had wonderful color and a translucent/transparency quality. Kaylin is almost finished with her newest quilt of purple, magenta, orange fabrics in her tree motif she has been exploring. Barb is working with paper collages and trying to incorporate a grid and transparent fabrics in it. Tre showed a loom/card weaving project she finished, a double sided twill of her own design; it’s a twill on one side, but with very subtle coloring on the other. Louise is playing with leftover Christmas package ribbon – she has a lot – right now it’s stitched together into a fluffy, curly mat, she plans on adding spears to it for our equinox/solstice theme show. I showed more of my burlap landscapes, I had one that was finished, one that was well on its way and one that was just at the start (for the show). I think they liked the fact that they could see the different steps and how it evolves.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I can weave diagonals

I know this is a simplistic tapestry, but I’m LEARNING. After doing the first little weaving I decided I would do another practice piece of just diagonals, I now feel pretty good about this technique using 2 colors, I think I’ll go for three before moving on to another technique. My learning style for tapestry weaving seems to be “find ways to have small successes,” and for me finishing a 4” x 5” weaving seems to work. Someone told me I should felt them when I’m done, not a bad idea…

I’m also continuing to work on the burlap fiber pieces, they take a larger block of time than my tapestry learning. The burlap is into the 3-d building phase, this is when I attached the perpendicular pieces that will later be trimmed and coated with GAC-400 to keep them upright.

Photos: I shred the burlap, so I have some long fibers to poke through the burlap, the fibers then get tied on the back side and ta daa! They stand up on the viewing side.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stones into Schools

OK, this has nothing to do with fiber art in any way, but I just finished reading “Stones into Schools” by Greg Mortenson. It’s comforting to know something good is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than just the horrors we read in the paper. Greg Mortenson also author of “Three Cups of Tea” (read that one first) has been building schools in these countries for years – with the emphasis on education for girls, believing literacy will do more for peace than anything else. The work he is doing is astounding, but I will let the books talk for themselves as I cannot do them justice.

My favorite quotes are: an African proverb, “If you teach a boy, you educate and individual; but if you teach a girl, you educate a community.” According to the book in military parlance, girls’ education is a “force multiplier” – and in impoverished Muslim societies, the ripple effects of female literacy can be profound… Young women are the single biggest potential agents of change in a developing world. – WOW!

Another quote comes much later in the book when they have also started some classes for older women who lost out on the chance for an education when they were younger. “When women take charge, things start to get out of control really fast.” Talking about how whatever these women learned, whether it be how to read or use a cell phone the knowledge spread like wildfire, Greg’s men in the field couldn’t even keep track on how many women’s lives were being changed.

How lucky/spoiled we are to have been born in the U.S. of A. We can work, earn money and spend our free time making art. We can quilt and make “pretty” things to hang on walls; they don’t have to keep anyone warm.

What a luxury.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Secret places

I’m working on the computer at my day job, (actually I’m writing this) but thinking of stitching burlap. Waiting until I can steal time away during a break or lunch to work on my project. I usually go across the street to one of three buildings and sit in their lobbies, pull out my project and get to work. I try to rotate my destination so as to not always be in the same place at the same time. Technically these are private areas; I suppose I could be kicked out for loitering or not have business to accomplish in the building, so I try not to call attention to myself. They all have cafes in them, so at lunch I could have a reason for being there and hanging out in the lobby, but I’m usually not buying the food provided there. It was suggested that I should carry a glass or cup previously obtained so it looks like I just purchased…

I have one place at lunch that I particularly like, it’s quiet, a nice big space, has great light, and looks out onto a patio/open space; when I rains I can watch the drops plop into the water feature/stream right outside - perfect for stitching fabric. There's one exception, usually a security guard posted there. She doesn’t seem to mind that I’m using their space, but still, I don’t go there every day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First "tapestry"

This is my first “tapestry” as I attempt to teach myself something new. I glanced at my book, ignored the first instructions and jumped in. The bottom vertical strips were the first part to be done working with 2 “shuttles.” Basically the dark color is followed by the light color, both traveling in the same direction, when it comes to returning the other way I just did a twist of one color over the other and went on my merry way. In looking closely at my selvages I didn’t really like the way it looked and when I referred to the book, I had of course not done it the “best” way or the correct way according to the book.

Now this is exactly why I did not want to produce a “sampler” -- all the techniques in one weaving  -- while learning techniques, at this point I would be so annoyed that it doesn’t look nice that I would either unweave it and start over or procrastinate and slowly (very slowly) continue. But the way I’m doing it, I can completely start over putting the “bad” one aside; I can also do another variation to practice the technique. Maybe it’s easier for me to focus on one technique per project. Having something finished – yea! victory! And then move on to the next project. I also have “cute” little weavings suitable for a doll house or maybe coasters – never underestimate the “cute” factor on the satisfaction scale.
I did like doing the angled weaving part, I’ll do more of that for practice building up some confidence for when I get the nerve to do curves and someday a circle!

Monday, January 4, 2010

What is tapestry?

For a brief moment I wondered what the official definition of tapestry was, so to “The Tapestry Handbook” by Carol K Russell came:

Tapestry is the interweaving of discontinuous weft yarns with tensioned warp yarn through two alternate sheds, resulting in a firm, weft-surface textile constructed concurrently with the description of its design. Taken as a whole, this definition identifies tapestry’s distinctive elements.

Uh huh, ok well fine… I knew my first little sample was not tapestry, but I wanted to see what weaving on the little toy loom was like. There are a lot of disadvantages, like hard to tension evenly, no shed to open, it was more like needle weaving, but I still think I can get the techniques down, and convenience factor was high – I could carry it anywhere.

“discontinuous weft yarns” In most hand-weaving techniques, a weft yarn is passed continuously across each row of weaving. Since the direction of the weft is reversed only at a selvedge (an outside edge), weft colors are all interchanged vertically. By contrast, tapestry technique involves several wefts in each row of weaving. Because they can be entered, deleted, or reversed at any point in the row, color can be shifted horizontally.

My little stripe weaving does not meet this criteria.

“two alternate sheds” Tapestry weave is the simplest of all woven structures, universally known as “tabby” or “plain weave” – that is, each weft is woven over and under successive warps, in opposite order to the weft preceding it.

Definitely fits this.

“weft surface textile” Horizontal rows of tightly woven weft completely cover he vertical warps and thus form the surface of the textile.

Ditto on this one.

“constructed concurrently with the description of its design” In most visual arts (painting, for instance), the artist adds an image to an existing surface (in this case, a canvas). In tapestry, however, the artist constructs the image and the surface at the same time. This last criterion helps differentiate tapestry from other types of textiles. Embroidery stitched onto a woven surface may be fiber art, but it cannot correctly be defined as tapestry, it does not form the essential structure of the textile.

Ok, there is not really any image, but it does form the “essential structure.”

My sample is a pretty weak attempt, but others will follow more fitting of the definition of “tapestry.”

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A weekend of stitching

What a great weekend, I got so much done! Really helps to get the New Years Eve thing over with on Thursday night so there is still 3 days (assuming you didn't over celebrate) left to get work done before going back to the job.

I spent a number of hours stitching the layers of burlap together on 2 pieces, played with my little loom for my self-imposed tapestry lessons, read a bit and still had time for a couple of naps!

Both of these art pieces have a water/river theme, in one the water is actually blue, curving and swirling around a rock, in the other the water takes on more of an acid color like some horrible toxic accident. I keep trying to limit my color pallet and not use the whole rainbow, and I was successful in the one piece, but couldn’t help myself with the other and just had to use the secondary colors together to see if they would clash – I love color and to play with it in all its glorious forms.

I’ll update the photos as the pieces move forward, they still have a long way to go.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tapestry beginnings

I have taken upon myself to learn tapestry, I think the skill will be useful for my next art exploration. This thought is coming to me with a bit of reservation. I like the idea of creating the cloth as I add the design rather than just "attaching" it to the already manufactured cloth, and I also know this will also be a way to add texture to what I create. My reservation comes from the fact that it is SLOW, it can really take a long time and I want to make things with some size to them. In the past I have dabbled in tapestry a couple of times, but did not have the skills to make it look good, so now it is time to learn. I feel you should learn the technique - the rules before you can break them and I am certain to break them. I don't have a desire to "paint" pretty pictures by doing tapestry, but I do think it may be a good way to build my abstract ideas.

I have a book called "The Tapestry Handbook" by Carol K Russell that I will follow as well as I can follow any written instructions. Books like these always want to teach techniques by having the "student" make a sampler. I have no desire to make a sampler and follow along in the book in the order prescribed. I think that will just frustrate me, plodding along making something I don't want. So I have come up with the idea of using a very small "no frills" loom. I can take each technique and create a tiny work and then cut it off and throw it away if I hate it -- with a sampler I would be stuck looking at something I hate the whole time. I can also redo a lesson or skip one at my own pace.

The loom I have chosen is a Good Wood Loom, as you can see it is more of a toy than a loom, but I think it will work for what I have in mind. I want to be able to carry it around and use it when I have bits of free time, like lunch, or breaks at work, maybe even riding the bus if I want to deal with the questions. The loom measures 5" x 7" and creates a weaving approximately 4" x 5.5".

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010

I started this blog to journal the year in the U of W Fiber Arts Program. After we had our final show, the blog came to an end, but with a new year I think it's time to start again.

The update on the class: some of us continue to meet once a month to see what we're up to and to give encouragement and advice. We are currently planning a show for the month of March at a cafe in the University district. There will be eleven of us participating. We started a "portfolio blog" that shows the final projects of the remaining 11 members and it gets updated whenever someone has a piece in a show somewhere.

I am going to continue to work on the burlap pieces until I get a "body of work" or feel I have taken the idea as far as I can. I think parts of this work will move forward into my next exploration, but how that will play out, I can only guess at this time. (at right; "Canyonlands," 30" x 32")

One of my goals for the year is to explore other related fiber techniques. It may include card weaving, inkle loom, kumihimo, finger weaving and learning tapestry trechniques. My thought behind this is that you never know what will spark an idea and I think it's important for me to have a variety of techniques to draw on.