Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Shifting gears

Now that my last show of the year is over, and the remaining inventory of elegant scarves and shawls hung neatly in the back room of my studio, I've begun a process I especially love -- cleaning up the studio after a long push of steady work, and beginning my work plan for the next year. It's not that I'm an especially messy person, but there's a pattern that seems to play itself out several times each year. I work steadily for some weeks or months, and pull out the yarns I want to work with as I go along. They stay out when that particular warp is woven off. Then on to the next, and the next. And so on. In addition, my big work table collects books, notebooks, magazines, yarns, a scattering of small notes on scratch paper, scissors, knitting needles, and lord knows what else. The end result is a small, perhaps two-square-foot empty space front and center, barely enough to open a magazine in. Time for clean-up indeed. I love it when I'm done; I even love doing it, as I invariably come across interesting items and ideas as I go along -- which may or may not sidetrack me for a while.

The annual planning process is something I started a number of years ago; it serves several purposes. One is to keep me focused over the course of a longish period of time on what I really want to be doing, rather than dashing off on interesting but not necessarily productive or salable tangents. It enables me to sustain the steady discipline that promotes considerable production, keeps me pointed in the direction I want to go both aesthetically and technically, and it provides a framework within which I can best pursue the business of weaving. I like looking at the big picture of the next year, and thinking carefully (though some years not realistically!) about what's possible, what will expand my skills and challenge me, what amount of completed work I'll need to have ready for each of the shows I do.

So this is a time of transition in the studio and in my mind. I like it a lot. The very cold winter weather pattern we're situated in this week pleases me; it's the region's transition time as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Such a night!

A little while ago, I was outside on our big deck to check the temperature. Just at freezing. The Full Cold Moon (with thanks to the Farmer's Almanac) was riding in the black eastern sky, so bright that few stars were visible. It'll get easily five degrees colder by sunrise tomorrow, so I hefted my pots of tender plants into a tight group and wrapped them in a doubled old flannel sheet. Tomorrow will be sunny and cool, so I'll unwrap them and let them breathe for the day.

Decided to take the day off, so loaded up our two Australian Shepherds and husband John Holbron in my minivan and hit the road. Traveled up the Island and over the Deception Pass Bridge onto Fidalgo Island, through a big park at Mount Erie where we stopped at Heart Lake and gave the dogs a run in the chilly sunlight. The sun-glitter on the lake's surface made it nearly impossible to see the flock of ducks resting and feeding in that protected place.

On into Anacortes to my favorite yarn store -- Ana-Cross Stitch -- where I browsed happily and chatted with an acquaintance from our local bead group, eventually walking out with a new book, some specialty needles for lace knitting and two spiffy yarns for lace shawls. I've been obsessed for months with a series of small lace shawls -- much like fichus -- all designed by a German woman named Monika Eckert. I've already completed several, and am ready to start a couple more.

After some sightseeing around Anacortes, and a stop at our favorite funky nursery, we headed back south, stopping in Oak Harbor for a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant. The low afternoon sun was in our eyes much of the way home, but after weeks of grey, rainy, windy, gloomy weather squinting and lowering the visors was a fine thing to do. No complaints.

And now I'm ready -- even anxious -- to be back in my studio. I struggle always with the question of whether to take a day off, feeling that it's foolish to not do what I love doing. But on the infrequent occasions when I choose to goof off, I am rarely regretful, and I tend to return to the studio with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Not a bad trade-off.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

. . . . and so we begin . . .

For perhaps two years, thanks to the encouragement of David Walker (who designed my website), I have considered starting a blog, using it as a place to talk about my work as a textile artist. Since I still am somewhat timid about matters technological, the decision came rather slowly. But come it did. Last evening, after I set up the site, I noticed a considerable sense of excitement at taking the step, and today as I worked in my studio I found myself thinking about what to say on this first day of December, a moment that signals the start of winter months and concentrated, undistracted creative work.

My primary work is handweaving, which I've been engaged in since about 1982. I knit every day of my life, a practice established during my college years. The contemporary quilts I focused on for about seven years have taken a back seat to the resurgence of full-time weaving. My equipment is two computer-assisted looms, one of which will soon be replaced with a different one. The week's work schedule runs from Monday through Saturday midday as a standard practice, with an occasional day of goofing off. I completely love what I do.

Because much of the process of weaving is technical or mechanical and repetitive, my mind is free to wander, both into ideas for future work and into areas of thought unconnected to what my hands are engaged in. This is, in my opinion, one of the joys of solitary work. I can think. My expectation is that this blog will give me a place to crystallize and share my thoughts about my work, the world around me, and anything that for some reason catches my attention. My hope is that a few others will find it of interest.