Friday, April 10, 2015

Dreaming of Green

'Dreaming of Green' is the name of my newest tapestry.  (61" x 54") (154 x 137cm)

I had been thinking a lot about the growing issue of drought in California. It used to be that  the rains came in November and finished by March. They used to be quite regular on and off over the winter; some years more and other less. As children in the 50s, my brothers and I would put on our rubber boots and go stomping in puddles, poking around with sticks looking for drowning worms or other small creatures, splashing each other and generally making a lot of dirty laundry. Besides the antics I do remember the lush green shoots that appeared after the rains in the orchards near our house as well as across the coastal hills. The green became more intense into the spring until the warmer, drier April days came and the color on the hills began to fade. By summer it was 'gold' in color (but really by most non-Californians view it was brown!).

In recent years it has been harder to find that special new green of the wild grass hillsides. My original intention was to make a tapestry about the dearth of this color but as I pulled the colors off the shelf, I choose one green yarn after another. I realised the tapestry would be about the missing color- not the missing rain. This is a case where the materials speak more loudly than my intentions. I have learned to listen.

Some of the details are made with space-dyed yarns left over from the 'Here Today' tapestry project. They give a sense of the incremental growth of the new grass. The grass part at the top was the hardest to weave since there is a very specific order determined by where the blades overlap or touch each other. All good challenges as eventually, with measured patience, you know you will finish it!

This was a big tapestry and slow to complete. I felt the length of time I worked on it related to the incrementally slow drying up of the aquifers and lakes in the area. A visit to Lake Tahoe in January was shocking because the water level is so low and without snow on the surrounding mountains guarantees that there will be no water to refill the lake this spring.

'Dreaming of Green' was juried into the National Fiber Directions 2015 Exhibit at the Wichita Center for the Arts, by Barbara Shapiro, a highly respected artist in her own right.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Off to South East Asia

Recently I was approached by the US State Department's 'Art in Embassies Program' about putting a tapestry in a new embassy in Timor Leste. They had a specific one in mind that conformed to a few of their concerns. The tapestry had to be under 30" wide (76cm) and weigh under 10 pounds. Part of this was that it would go there on a very small plane and there were strict size and weight  limitations.

Timor-LesteThis one called 'Terra: Wheat and Grass,' is a diptych with each part 27" wide so the size worked as well as the combined weight.

Timor Leste is at the eastern tip of Timor in Southeast Asia. It is a mountainous country that became independent from Indonesia in 2002. There is a very developed textile tradition there as well as the neighboring islands and Indonesia.

The tapestry on on a long term loan. I feel honored to have a piece selected to represent the current American weaving traditions. 

 Here are a few details:

Since this opportunity came up I have learned a lot about the weaving traditions in this part of the world. They are very rich with different techniques and materials, not tapestries but many other narrative forms. Who knows? One day I may try to visit the area. There would be a lot to see and learn about.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Trip to China

We also managed a wonderful trip to China planned long before the family weddings. I will add a few textile images from this spring time trip. There was a lot to absorb and in visiting many parts of China the landscape also offers very textile like patterns.  Here are just a few.

 This is a suit made from Salmon 'leather' from the NE part of China. I saw it  (detail below) in the Shanghai Museum textile collection. It's about 75- 100 years old. I have no idea how the skins are tanned nor how many skins you would need. I would love to find out more about it. It is amazing how they pieces the skins to get the patterns. I wish the light were better.

 I saw these tribal people visiting Beijing at the Forbidden City.  The men and the women dress differently. I do not know the tribe but would welcome a suggestion. They may be Burmese visitors.

We visited Yunnan in the mountainous southwest part of China. This is a rich area for textile lovers. There are many ethnic groups that live here and they still wear their traditional dress. Even teenagers wear a part of the dress and have cellphones!.  This was one of many markets we saw in a small town near Dali.
 Typical dress for a Bai woman The headdress under the straw hat has four areas representing the land, the water, the sky and the people. A better view is below.
 This Bai woman is removing the knots from a  cloth dyed in the  ikat tradition. Her mother was also busy making the knots on another cloth but when we came along she stopped. She had lots of quilts and bolts of materials to savor!
 A Yao woman weaving a piece to go on the edge of her jacket. They never cut their hair and that was pretty amazing. From the style she is a married woman. Girls wear hats to cover their hair and mature but unmarried women wear braids around their head. A small boy we saw had a shaved head but for a topknot near his brow.
This was in a silk factory in Suzhou. We are stretching the silk batting to make a duvet. The flawed cocoons that are damaged, are from double cocoons or are colored are used for this. It was surprisingly hard work to pull the silk evenly to cover the table.

There is so much to take in. I am still sorting out my images.

A recent Interview for ZoneOneArt

Recently I was asked by Deborah Blakeley to do a interview on her very interesting  and globally focused site called ZoneOneArt.
 Here is the link:

I am not a big writer as you can see by the frequency that I post. I do find that when I have to be articulate, writing is a great way to make me think about issues and form conclusions.

My next big tapestry will be complete soon and I promise to be better about posting.
Our family had two summer weddings, one in June and the next six weeks later. That kept me happily distracted.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Here Today

'Here Today' is my new tapestry inspired by a rock formation at the end of the Tennessee Valley Trail in Marin County, California. With a little research I found out that this sedimentary formation is called 'Ribbon Chert,' formed millions of years ago under the sea. It contains billions of microscopic fossils. The fossils are skeletons of single-celled plankton, called radiolaria. These plankton are most common in nutrient-rich ocean waters. Like quartz, radiolarian skeletons are made of silica.

When radiolaria die, their tiny skeletons fall to the ocean floor, forming an ooze. This
ooze eventually hardens into rock. The chert forms horizontal layers about 5 –15 cm
thick. It took about 1,000 years for a 1mm thickness of chert to form! When the flat
layers of rock are carried on a tectonic plate, they may collide with the edge of a
continent. This slow collision will bend and fold the layers.
It was these rhythmic layers that caught my attention.

Here is another close up.

                                                  yes, it is right way round...

 I took a lot of photographs and began sketching out an idea. I liked the 'ribbonness' and the scale of the project.

A concern was how to make the ribbon area more interesting. I wanted shading and movement without a lot of time consuming weaving. I settled on space dying the yarn to create a dark / light rhythm and supplement it with additional colors.

 Here are a few preparation processes.

The loom was warped and ready to go. Cartoon drawn out on butcher paper and the table laden with my yarn palette.

The tapestry grew slowly but I was pleased with the start of it. Because this one is large at 72" (182 cm)  in height,  it is always hard to keep track of the color shifts because you cannot see the whole tapestry all at once (because the woven area is rolled up on the cloth beam). I had to devise a way to keep track of the different blendings I made and be sure that the values shifted where and when I wanted them to.

It was called 'Tennessee Valley' as a working title. (There was a ship that sank off this bay called the Tennessee) At the end I decided to call it 'Here Today' because the rocks are always changing. Last year a large arch near this area collapsed sending tons of rock and debris down onto the beach and into ocean.

Here is the final Tapestry  and a detail on the stripes made by the space dying.

                                         Here Today

I look forward to doing more with this idea as it has given me a lot of inspirations. I welcome your comments and questions.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fevered Flow

In looking at ways to continue to bring out the dimensional aspects of tapestry, I wove this little piece called 'Fevered Flow.'  When it is stretched out on the loom the edges are straight and even but once cut off they move responding to the tension under which they are woven.

 In the detail you will see what happens. The only anchor is the orange thread that runs throughout and holds them to the border area. The Flow areas undulate with spirit!

 I put on a long warp so I expect to do a few more of these small pieces and further explore the possibilites of tension and dimension. This one is 9.5" x 10" (24 x 25cm)

Wave Re/Action

     The long open slits in the 'Terra' diptych inspired me to make a piece with even longer slits to see what would happen. I liked how the Terra piece had so much surface interest with open slits and overlaps.

      I wanted to keep the narrow areas free to move as they wanted some with twists and some just loose and falling in front of one another.  This is not what traditional tapestry is supposed to do but I am interested in this as a textile as well as a tapestry. By weaving the slitted area on an angle there would be tension built into those areas to start them moving out of the 2D plane. They will be free to overlap each other. The history of tapestry has long been about telling a story in a narrative form but tapestry for me is more about the construction and the ALL the artistic possibilities. I like to play with the dimensions that are possible when it is no longer linked to the 'flatness' of traditional tapestry.
     It was important to finish the back areas cleanly so that the little tails of the yarn ends would not peek thru. To give stability to the whole piece it was necessary to have a pretty solid upper and lower area.  I do like including geometric areas with more organic areas for contrast.

     When it was finished I felt it lacked a spark. It was too blue for my taste so I decided to add a surface design in the form of added threads and textile beads.
    I have had this HABU Yarn for a long time and liked the texture it gives with the short ends. When it is woven the ends are trapped in the warp so they will not show. By keeping them free and on the surface the special quality can be seen so this was a good opportunity to use it.
I also had found some small woven seedlike elements from a visit to the International Market in Santa Fe. They are djellaba beads that come from Morocco. I have added many of them to the surface as well.

Here is a view of the finished piece.  It went into a show as soon as I completed it but I may still add some more when it returns.  It is called Wave Re/Action and is 51" H x 36" W ( 130 x 92cm ).
I welcome any comments as this is a new area for me.