Saturday, December 17, 2011

Steady Work Is Good

This is Saturday.  My studio is Open to the Public, as it has been on Saturdays for the last month.  Signs out on the street, and at the top of the path down to my door.  This place is off the beaten path of the village of Freeland, so folks don't just automatically pass by; I have to entice them.  A few have come today, but no buyers.  Still, they're interested by the process, and attracted to the product.  They won't forget . . . .

The series of photos below shows the beginning of the "Merlot" scarves.  A deep wine 100% bamboo, shown first on the cone, then measured out as a nine-yard warp on the warping board, enough for four scarves, each with a different weft and pattern.  Related, but nowhere near identical -- the story of my weaving life.

Looking at the threaded and tensioned warp from the back of the loom -- an interesting perspective on threads and heddles, which gives a wee hint of the curvature of the threading sequence.
Contrast that with this, the backside view of the "Summer Nights" series, now nearly finished:

That's a simple 12-shaft point twill threading, on which I've been weaving quite complex advancing twill treadlings, to make long motifs that interlock both horizontally and vertically.  Hard to see on all that color and texture, but it all peeks out when the light hits it just right.

That's the second of the three scarves, as it moves along its trajectory to the cloth beam at the back of the loom,

and this is the third (and last) one, still in process, with the pattern partially visible and the high-tech measuring device at the left edge.

The Summer Nights series will be done Monday, and off the loom for washing and detailing (as I call the rest of the process of getting them ready to be sold).  The Merlot series will certainly be done before the end of the year, and probably well before at the rate it's going.  The next warps for both looms are all planned and the patterns designed, so that the empty-loom time will be minimal.  I'm on a roll these days now that all the seasonal shows are done, and life in general seems to be slowing down -- in keeping with the season -- and I'm going to ride this wave while it's still carrying me so splendidly.  Time later on for some goofing off, which will allow me to catch up on a hefty backlog of reading.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Slowing Down At Last

For the past several weeks, my pace has been faster and more relentless than I would have chosen.  Lots of good things going on -- shows, family here for Thanksgiving, the needs of an increasingly incapacitated husband, and spending time at the looms to Make Stuff.  With the exception of one more gig on the 17th -- a local (Freeland area) artists' open studio day -- my public events are over with.  And a good thing too, as I've had enough, and am tired of being ON while longing for long stretches of quiet attentive time at my work.  Lots of new ideas beginning to swarm in my mind, and several commissions to work on during the winter.

Above are some shots of work on the "Hot Stuff" series -- first, the seven yards on the warping board (three scarves worth), then the width of the warp as it came off the warp beam at the back of the loom, and finally a portion of #1 in the series in process, woven with a turquoise bamboo.  #2 was woven with a red-purple tencel, and #3 with a dusty orange tencel.  They were snapped up at the Anne X 2 studio sale on Thanksgiving weekend.

 Above is "Summer Nights" on the warping board; again seven yards, enough for three scarves.  And just below is the same warp, up close and personal so as to see the lovely bumpies in the yarn.

 Summer Nights coming off the warp beam, under tension, all threaded with tension adjusted and ready to weave up front.  Below is the first scarf as it wends its way toward the cloth beam.  The warp is a hand-dyed rayon/cotton with wonderful slubs; the weft for this first piece is a deep purple pearl cotton.
 The second scarf in the series is begun, but no photos taken yet.  That'll be tomorrow, I think, and yes I promise to share.  Right now I'm going to go play with some new patterns I've been developing in my mind, see if I can make them work in the design software.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Show's Over

This has been the most stunningly colorful Autumn we've had in many years, due to the relative dryness of October and early November, coupled with mild days and cool nights.  For example:

That's the kind of color that makes me glad to be alive.  I've always been unable to comprehend why people don't  like Autumn.  They say it's because it's the harbinger of Winter -- even my sister says that.  Hanh??!!??  Of course Autumn comes before Winter, and prepares the way.  But how could one let that "concern" over-ride awareness and appreciation of this:

Or this:

Glorious.  And our garden has been full of this kind of thing for weeks.  The big windstorm a few nights ago flung lots of the color onto the ground, but these Japanese Maples don't all follow the same schedule, so many are still heart-lifters.  And in the sometimes grey light of an overcast day, the glow of golds and blaze of burgundy and scarlet are reason enough to love this quirky season.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Starting Hot Stuff

Yesterday I delivered some new work to Raven Rocks Gallery -- two "Summer Flowers" scarves and one "Lava Flow" shawl.  With Lynne's help, we got them well displayed on my rack there, and I dutifully did the inventory paperwork.  It was a gorgeous late Autumn afternoon, so I drove home by a roundabout route, following only side roads and dawdling happily along.

Today the next round of new work begins.  This is "Hot Stuff" on the warping board -- seven yards of it.  It's a hand-dyed cotton/rayon I've had for years that I've been reluctant to use because it's pretty strong.  But now, with a long grey wet winter approaching, it seems like just the ticket for me and for prospective purchasers.  And here it is all nicely choke-tied and chained up, ready to put on the loom:

It doesn't look as intense on my computer screen as it does in the flesh, but I assure you that it's lively indeed.  This warp will produce three scarves, each woven with a different weft yarn (I think they'll all be tencel or bamboo) and each with a different pattern.  In thirty years of weaving, I've never done the same thing twice; every item is unique.  This practice ensures that I don't get bored with my work . . . .


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Catching up with myself

It's been a long time since I visited here.  Too long.  Summer is always busy, focusing on producing plenty of new work for my Autumn shows, and this year also to keep providing Raven Rocks Gallery with new work each month.  All of which has been complicated this year by the deterioration in health and functioning of my husband, and the consequent need on my part to do far more on the homefront as well as to orchestrate and coordinate visits to medical professionals primarily on the mainland.  And now, either I'm getting used to the complexity or things have slowed down a little.  Not sure which.  Maybe both.

 The Salt Water Taffy series of scarves
 Doing the beaded hemstitching on one of the Flame series of scarves.
Close-up of two of the Vanilla Creme series of scarves.
I'll put up some more photos in a few days, as I get into the habit of taking them regularly, and as I establish a practice of writing down things here.
Upcoming events -- The Anne X 2 studio show & sale November 25 and 26
                                  Friends of Freeland Arts & Crafts show in early December
           Further information to be found here soon.

And, of course, my work is available here in my studio, as well as at Raven Rocks Gallery at Greenbank Farm here on Whidbey Island.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Today seems like the real, honest-to-gawd First Day of Spring here on Whidbey Island -- clear and sunny with a nice breeze, temperature around 70 degrees.  Tomorrow will be much the same, they say.  I've got both windows wide open, the shades partway down so the sunlight doesn't bleach the finished items hanging near the window, and the door propped half open with a spare large flowerpot.  I'm wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt for the first time since early last Fall.  

New work has been moving forward at a good pace lately, and I took four new scarves up to Raven Rocks Gallery on Thursday, where I learned that a previous scarf -- from the Tropical Waters series -- had been sold a few days before.  Makes a weaver's heart glad.  The following pictures (well, snapshots really) show some of the most recent output.

That's Vanilla Creme Series #1, headed for the cloth beam.  Bamboo warp, slubby rayon weft.

And this one's Vanilla Creme Series #2 still in process.  Again, bamboo warp, but this time with a natural linen/cotton weft.  Both these are now done and in the gallery.

These are Flame Series #3 and #4 -- hand-dyed silk noil warp.  The weft for #3 is a fine black wool wrapped with a red metallic, so it glitters when the light hits it right.  #4's weft is a ruby-red tencel, and while the complex pattern doesn't show up really well, it does a nice job of playing peek-a-boo.  These two also are now in the gallery, and look terrific under the bright, angled gallery lighting.

I'm off to the Library to pick up some books and then home for the rest of the weekend.  My vegetable garden will get a hunk of my time tomorrow -- my special tomato plants arrived yesterday, and need to get into their big black plastic pots situated against the south wall of the house.  That's the closest I can get to having optimal conditions for them here in this (relatively) cool maritime climate.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The End

Finally!  The Flame warp is finished.  You can see from this photo that I didn't have much choice but to end it, and as it is, the last scarf is four inches shorter than my standard 72 inches woven.  I don't like having so little left behind the heddles, but since I cut the first two scarves off and tied the warp back on, I lost at least six inches of available warp.  I plan my warp lengths pretty tightly, leaving little extra, so as not to waste much of a beautiful hand-dyed yarn. 

Tomorrow I'll do the beaded hemstitching, then cut these last two pieces off the loom, clean off the loom and the floor around it.  I drop all snippets and schniddles onto the floor as I'm working, and pick it all up at the very end.  Seems more efficient.

The yellow cord divides the twill pattern of the overall scarf from the plain weave ending which serves as the base for the hemstitching.  As I work across (right to left), I gradually pull the cord to the left, leaving a neat space between the twill and the tabby so I can easily see where I need to place my stitches.  I don't remember if someone showed me this trick, or I figured it out long ago, but it makes the whole hemstitching-at-the-end process go smoothly.

The next warp for this loom is ready to go on, and the warping process will begin tomorrow.  It's a pale ecru 100% bamboo yarn, very smooth and lustrous, and will be the foundation for a series of four "pale neutral" scarves, appropriate for the warmer part of the year.  All four weft yarns will be just slightly lighter or darker than the warp, with complex twill patterning, so the overall effect will be tone on tone.  Very subtle.  I do a series along these lines once or twice a year, always a stretch for me, as I much prefer working with lots of color.  However, as an occasional venture, this kind of scheme is rather restful.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In the Homestretch

Today I'm finishing off Flame #3 -- the weaving is done, and while the patterning is more subtle than I had anticipated, the subtle sparkle of the metallic red component is entirely pleasing.  It'll look lots more sparkly after it's washed and firmly ironed.

The picture above shows how I finish off all  my scarves and shawls -- the beginning end is started with a band of Italian hemstitching; the finishing end gets the same but with the addition of beads worked in with the stitching.  This procedure anchors and firmly holds the warp threads so nothing pulls out or gets wonky; the beads provide a little surprise when the light hits them just right.  The whole treatment has become my signature on many of my woven pieces.  It's time-consuming and fiddly, but effective.


Saturday, May 7, 2011


The pace of production that I've wanted for a long time to achieve appears finally to be close at hand.  Turns out it depends on a number of factors meshing cooperatively and steadily; not sure why I'm feeling so surprised about that, and I'm certainly aware of a place in my mind that reminds me more than I like that it could all go to hell in a handbasket at any moment.  I try -- mostly successfully -- to pay no attention to that dismal outlook.

On Thursday I delivered to Raven Rocks Gallery at Greenbank Farm two new scarves -- the first of four in the "Flame" series.

The warp is a rough, earthy hand-dyed silk noil; the one on the left (#1) is woven with a doubled strand of very fine hand-dyed silk noil and has a crunchy substantive hand.  The weft for the righthand one (#2) is a fine tencel, so the pattern, when the light hits it just right, shimmers in and out of view.  I like that.  Last evening I went to the First Friday gallery walk at the Farm, and enjoyed seeing people's reaction to them.  Also enjoyed seeing how the colors glow under the strong, angled gallery lighting.  I took the above picture in my studio with my digital camera; I'm hoping to get Michael Stadler to shoot these and some other recent work before long.

Here's the warp and the next scarf in process -- it's already about two-thirds done.  The weft is a fine black wool wrapped with an even finer red metallic strand.  The pattern is quite subtle, and the glitter of the metallic will help to accentuate it.  I think.

Yes, it's hard to see the pattern; trust me, it's there.  One repeat stretches for eleven inches, so the 72-inch (approximately) scarf won't have many iterations.  The fourth and final one will be woven with a bright red tencel -- I'm looking forward to seeing the end of this warp.  The next one will be a break from my norm -- a creamy bamboo warp which will be woven with a tone-on-tone series of weft yarns.  

Off to the house to make a dessert for dinner with friends.  Tomorrow, if it quits raining, I'll work in  my vegetable garden and spend some time (rain or not) on the couch with a cat and a book.  Bliss indeed.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Forging ahead

A rainy breezy day, after two days of mostly sun and mild temperatures.  Got very wet this morning taking the dogs for a walk in the woods.  They got wet also, but didn't seem to  mind it.  With the temperature in the mid-40's and a warm (but not waterproof) jacket, I didn't either.  Dropped them off for their monthly bath, and went to a local nursery for some soil amendments for my vegetable garden, where I'd done substantial planting yesterday.  And more to come.  I need to find a bunch of earthworms who'd like to have a new home -- there are few in my raised beds, and the soil gets too easily compacted.  Worms would help a lot.

Above is a close-up of a recent fabric I wove -- it's a mixed warp, with several different yarns randomly sleyed across the width, mostly hand-dyed rayon and cotton.  The weft is tencel, so the finished fabric is shimmery and drapes beautifully.   To the right is the vest which was made from it, with silver buttons and a black rayon lining.  The woman who commissioned it was exceedingly pleased.

Today I've been weaving on the "Flame" warp -- a run of four scarves on a hand-dyed rough silk warp, with elaborate patterning and a nice rough texture.  The first two will be cut off this week so I can wash and iron them, then take them on Thursday to Raven Rocks Gallery north of me at Greenbank Farm.  I'll bring home a few items that have been there for several months, and begin to build up an inventory here in my studio/showroom for my expected summertime tourist visitors.  Having two places where folks can find my work and try things on maximizes the possibility of sales.  And people love coming into my workspace to see how it all happens.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Back again

That's my pretty girls, giving you the eye.  Pohaku, on the left, is a seal lynx-point Balinese; Lehua, on the right, is an Oriental shorthair whose coloring is called something like "ebony silver-tipped tabby patch".  Also known as Lehua The Witch-Cat.  Ages 18 and 16, respectively, in good health and pretty agile still.  An integral part of my life.

It's been a long, wet, chilly Winter and Spring, and Spring isn't anywhere near over.  Today is sunny and clear, but started out cool.  Rain will be back on Monday.  Spring in the Maritime Northwest is a chancy thing, and every time (often several times in the same day) you think it's in full flower (as it were) it turns around and gets unpleasant again with rain and wind and raw temperatures.  The silver lining to all these clouds is that the flowering shrubs and trees, the daffodils and tulips,  stay in bloom a long time, so there's plenty of time to admire and enjoy them as they provide their welcome antidote to the cruddy weather.

My work goes well, and I've settled into a steady production mode. 

This is the African Savannah series, recently finished.  Hand-dyed rayon and cotton warp, wefts mostly tencel, though the second from left has a hand-dyed rayon/cotton slub that I dyed years ago in a long-discarded idea of becoming a Real Dyer.  Never happened, never going to happen.  These scarves are exceptionally lustrous and drapey.  Very elegant.

Some elements of catastrophe, most notably a burglary and theft in my studio, resulting in the loss of both laptop computers (which are needed to run my looms) and some cash which I'd hidden in a file drawer.  A bad blow, the most painful part of which was that I'd not backed up my files and so all the designs I'd created in the past several years were gone.  Not to be retrieved.  Some of them were really terrific -- complex, interesting, original.  

Silver lining again -- once I got new computers, I realized that I know a LOT more now than I did a couple years ago, and could get things up and running more quickly and with greater ease than I'd imagined.  Also, I've been able to generate new designs at a good pace, including ones that are quite complex.  I'm backing everything up now on Dropbox -- easy and quick, and therefore it gets done consistently.

This week I figured out that my reluctance to write here frequently seems to be generated by a concern that I have to do it "right".  Decided to ignore that silliness from now on, and just write whatever I want.  Long or short, it doesn't matter.  Coherent or not, it doesn't matter.  And it doesn't have to be about my work and nothing else, so I'm going to be throwing in bits of my life that surrounds this work and in some ways feeds it.  This quiet studio is often a respite from other things, and I need that.  It's also the essential core of my life, which is in its entirety full, rich, interesting, challenging.  It's all of a piece.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Talking with friends

This morning, I had breakfast and a good visit with my long-time friend Susan, a writer of some note.  We try to do this every couple of weeks except when she's away on a teaching tour or in Colorado helping her elderly parents navigate ill health and the challenges of their eighth decade of life.  Susan and I always have a lot to talk about, mull over together, and kvetch about.  She's a poet and natural-history writer, I'm a weaver, quilter and knitter.  I'm also an eclectic reader, with academic training in literary criticism and philosophy.  We make a great pair.

Today Susan was telling me about a series of short essays she's been writing; they began as a consideration of the trials of getting older and experiencing her body getting cranky.  (She's facing hip replacement surgery in a couple of weeks.)  She described the arc of the first essay as a movement from darkness into a kind of light and renewed wonder, enabled by her consideration of an Emily Dickinson poem.  We discussed how the experience of good art (however that's defined) can provide us with a glimpse or jolt of recognition of some truth or vision or insight that lifts our spirits and opens a fresh energy to continue moving forward. 

Because we have been friends for so long, and have talked so many times about her writing and my weaving, we each have a considerable understanding of the other's work process.  So when she commented that she didn't see how these individual essays she's writing could work as a book, how they could fit together coherently, I came up with a metaphor from my work that was helpful.  Think of one of my warps, I said, long enough to weave several pieces.  Each scarf or shawl is unique, with different patterns and different weft yarns in each.  In some, the warp is easily seen; in others, it's hardly visible.  Yet it's there in all of them, carrying through each the same theme of color and texture.  Her collection of essays needs to have such a theme, or central question, or philosophical core, so that -- like each item in my series of woven pieces -- the common element is perceptible.  Susan, who is also a visual artist of considerable ability, could visualize and extrapolate from that metaphor an approach to her essays that heretofore had escaped her.  It was exciting and energizing for both of us.

On Friday, I'll get together with another dear friend, who's a sculptor.  She and I also often talk about our work in a broad way, and consider elements of process and creative endeavor which fascinate and engage us.  I treasure these friends, and many others, with the knowledge that their presence in my life makes me a better artist and a wiser person

Reading Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows.  Among other things.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Begin as you mean to go on

That title is a principle that I came across years ago in something I was reading.  At this time of year, when I'm taking stock and setting my sights on the months ahead in this brand spanking new 2011, this principle is foremost in my thoughts.  I like the idea of establishing early on a practice, or a new habit, or a fresh attitude toward something.  Begin as you mean to go on . . . .

So this evening I write about my studio work, even though I've taken two days off over the holiday weekend, in preparation for being tomorrow at work and nose-down in the current projects.  I've taken some new pictures, and will try to include a couple in this post if I can figure out the new image-attaching process.  (I figured it out -- see above for finished cloth, and the warp.)  The fabric for the vest was beautiful, and the finished garment elegant.  I'm going to be getting it back temporarily from the happy new owner to do a little taking in of the side seams, as it's a bit roomy for her.  When it's back in my hands, I'll photograph it, hopefully being worn.  

Now I'm weaving off the rest of the 9.5 yard warp; this part will be two shawls, each about 7.5 feet long and 22 inches wide.  The first of the two is being woven in a fancy plaited twill pattern, with two strands of weft -- one a 10/2 pearl cotton, one an 8/2 tencel -- both black.  Very black.  The second will be woven with either a grey tencel or a deep blue hand-dyed silk.  The weaving is going along well, though I didn't spend a lot of time at it last week as I chose instead to enjoy several get-togethers with friends -- something I don't often do on work days, especially when I'm working against a deadline.  This week I have very little in the way of appointments or meetings, so I expect to made substantial progress on this pair of shawls, called the Indigo Bunting series.  In fact, I hope to finish them and have them off the loom so the next warp (which is ready to go) can be started.

I'm thinking through my 2011 work plan, and will be getting it written down later this week.  This is a practice I've been following for some years, and it continues to be invaluable.  Sometime next week, I'll get together with my friend Anne Belov (a painter, printmaker and cartoonist) who also develops a carefully thought-out work plan, and we'll review and discuss both of them.  This gives each of us an idea of the other's upcoming year and what accomplishments are envsioned, and we're able as part of our fairly regular conversations and visits to check in with each other on how particular projects or tasks are moving forward, without it ever being somehow artificial or contrived.  It's simply part of the ongoing flow of our friendship, and it's enormously helpful and supportive to be both casual and disciplined about the work and the plans.  Once I've got mine firmly in hand, I'll put at least some of it in this blog -- one more way to ensure Getting Stuff Done.

I love the beginning of another year -- it gives me the sense that everything is all fresh and new, and any failings or lapses during last year no longer are part of the picture.  Clean slate and a clear view ahead.