Author Archives: lauralunastudio

About lauralunastudio

Hi there! I'm Laura, and I'm a tapestry weaver! I try to capture the beauty of nature and the endless joy of the human spirit in my work and share it with others. I have a BFA degree in Fiber Art from Oregon College of Art and Craft, and for the past several years have been researching and exploring tapestry weaving techniques. When I'm not at the loom I could be hiking, practicing yoga, playing piano, or just day dreaming...

Happiness Found

I love adding a new book to my bookshelf. It means: 1. I’ve read it. And 2. I’ve read it and loved it and want to keep it forever. Today I joyfully added Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning to my humble little library. I also began weaving the hem for my tapestry on the “big” loom. I always say “big” when referring to it because although it’s the largest loom I own, most weavers would use it for weaving small samples.

I haven’t sat at the big loom for many many months, well over a year, which is odd for me as I used to be practically glued to it. But life happened and that’s a whole other story, for another day…

As I’m sitting on my floor pillow, the window open to the unusually warm February day, I was hit with a tidal wave of nostalgia. I reminisced on how far this loom has travelled with me, all of the memories it holds, even the smell of the wooden frame that supports it. The most pronounced piece of furniture I own, it commands the attention of whoever walks into the room, and creates a sense of deep reverence and awe. It doesn’t merely keep my in-progress weavings square and under tension, it has also become a sort of altar, the place I come to when I want to lay my burdens down, clear my head, heal my heart, and hear spirit’s call to me to make something beautiful.

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Like many people, I experienced a lot of frustration, anxiety, and worry in my twenties, but I knew I could unburden my heaviness at the feet of this loom, and in that place find a light, joyful, and inspiring voice deep within me. When life as a young adult felt too tricky and confusing, I knew I could turn to my weaving and find hope.

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I mentioned Man’s Search for Meaning earlier because many of the anecdotes and stories that Frankl presents remind me of this younger me. Without really knowing it at the time, there was a guiding light underneath all of the challenges I was facing; a sense of purpose and responsibility for my happiness. Many passages from this book stand out for me, but this one in particular speaks of my own experiences…

“…it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to “be happy.” But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to “be happy.””

Happiness cannot come from outside of us.  We must create it ourselves, and let it shine from the inside out.  This is what becomes our guiding light.  Frankl continues…

“Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically. As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy… through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation.”

Life isn’t about forcing ourselves to be happy when everything just feels like crap.  Like Frankl says, happiness is an effortless byproduct of living out the reasons that bring us happiness. Maybe those reasons are cooking or volunteering or writing or dancing or hiking or listening to music.  Once we find our reason(s), we can look at life in a totally new and optimistic way, with a sense of purpose and meaning.

Today when I sit at my humble big little loom, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come, how far we’ve come. We not only moved across the country together, but we’ve been through heartache and uncertainty, exhilaration and joy. I remember the young woman weaving late into the night because she was too afraid to fall asleep, and the loom comforted her. It gave her a place to be the alchemist of her life, taking the threads of hope and grace and weaving them into shimmering, colorful, and joyful tapestries.

Thanks for reading and happy creating!

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Cathartic Destruction

Now I’m not a destructive person, but I never knew destroying an unfinished tapestry could feel so cathartic! To be clear, it’s been on the loom for a couple of years too long, and I just wasn’t loving the design. I’ve learned some new tricks since I first began this weaving, so it was time to take the sharp scissors to it and inch by inch remove the old weft…

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Single weft interlock? I don’t even use this technique for my signature anymore!

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I only cut one warp too, so I’ll take that as a big success!

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And those rare earth magnets we tapestry weavers love? Turns out if you leave them on your weaving for too long (ahem, a couple of years) they leave a permanent indentation. Who knew? I certainly didn’t…

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Maybe a little steaming and some careful fluffing with a brass-tipped bobbin or a tapestry needle would help. Someone else will have to try that out because all evidence of my mistake is cut off the loom now.

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I’m kind of in love with this colorful pile of yarn fluff…

So now the loom is upright, the broken warp replaced, waiting for that new design to grace the cotton warp. Tomorrow, my old friend…

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The Gifts of Visual Therapy

“Have you ever heard of poetry therapy?” read my text to a good friend about an ad I had just seen. My latest copy of Spirituality & Health magazine advertised a poetry therapy retreat. As I got in my car to run errands, I marveled at the many modes of therapy available to us today.  With wilderness therapy, art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, and now poetry therapy, there is a method of healing and rejuvenation for just about everyone!

One kind of therapy that really helps me (and it’s practically free) is visual therapy, which I don’t even know if it’s a real thing. Google only gave me medical “vision therapy”  and a personal shopping and wardrobe organizing blog as my search results! To me visual therapy is the therapeutic benefit or result of seeing something of great beauty and wonder. I often feel joyous, inspired, motivated, moved, or at peace when I see something beautiful, like a colorful sunset, an exquisite piece of art, or just looking out over an expansive ocean. When I really stop and think about it, there are countless moments of this kind of splendor all throughout a single day, even at work (which naturally can feel so mundane at times).

With the small amount of research I’ve done on art therapy, I think this visual therapy differs in that one is experiencing positive feelings as a result of seeing a piece of art or a breathtaking landscape, rather than creating a piece of art with the guidance of a professional. Art therapy can bring a greater understanding of one’s own trauma, challenges, struggles, and life experiences through the art making process.  And like art therapy, visual therapy is a balm for the soul.

In no certain order, here are my top modes of visual therapy:

1. The tapestry collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston

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2. The Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

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The Portland Japanese Garden

3. My mom’s garden in summer

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4. Squam lake, especially Church Island

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5. The colorful process of making vegetable soup

6. Photos of our beautiful planet and its many inhabitants, both human and animal

7. Ancient architecture… i.e. the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, the gothic and renaissance cathedrals of Europe, Machu Picchu, Buddhist monasteries and temples, etc.

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Photo by Jake Young on Pexels.com

8. Watching a ballet or theater performance

9. Waking up to the enchantment of freshly fallen snow, especially when you don’t need to go anywhere.

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10. A library with rows and rows and rows of books

11. The stars

12. The ocean

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13. A smiling baby

14. Horses grazing in their pastures

15. The first page – and the last page – of a very good book

I think that one thing that completely gets in my way of experiencing visual therapy is simply not being in the present moment. Worry and stress, over past or future, are most certainly killjoys to the rapture right in front of us.  Any kind of overthinking or over-analyzing is also sure to distract us from noticing these simple yet glorious moments.

I hope that this is a year of inspiration as we all experience the many awe-inspiring moments of this beautiful world we live in. What would you add to this list? And if you’ve heard of a term that describes this “visual therapy”, or any books on this sort of topic, please leave me a comment below. I would love to learn more!

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In the creative spirit,

Laura

 

A Serendipitous Studio Visit

Rainy days are studio days, and today I got to hang out in the beautiful and inspiring studio of Sarah Haskell.

A mutual friend connected us when she saw my work and exclaimed, “you have to meet Sarah!” But what none of us knew is that Sarah and I had already met…

I can remember it so clearly, the days in sixth grade when we had an artist in residence. It felt really special to have an artist from outside of school come visit and create a project with us. I can still recall the piece we made as a class. It had a background of woven fabric strips, and on top we made little figures and objects to tell a story. In fact it was the story of Martin Luther King. I had made a little speech bubble for him that said “I have a dream”…

I was thinking about all of this as Sarah went into the house to fetch me a glass of water, and a certain woven fabric piece in the corner caught my eye. When I began my weaving journey, I would sometimes stop and wonder about this visiting artist who was a weaver, and clearly inspired my own weaving journey from a young age (I have another inspiring weaving story you can read about here). And yet 20 years later, I found myself closer to solving that mystery than I have ever been before…

When Sarah came back from the kitchen, I asked her about the fabric-woven piece in the corner. She had made it with a classroom as an artist in residence. When I told her about the piece I had made and what school I went to, she exclaimed “Yes, that was me!”

She went over to one of her bookcases stuffed with all sorts of inspirational art books and show catalogs and pulled out a couple of binders. She plopped them on the work table next to her neatly organized bundles of heddles and began flipping the pages.

“I remember, your class did the Civil Rights movement,” she said as years of all of the many colorful school projects she had done flashed by. We’re talking hundreds of projects! And then we found it, photographic proof from many years ago, that Sarah Haskell was my very first weaving teacher!

As far as Sarah knows, I’m her first student to become a tapestry weaver!

We spent the rest of our afternoon sharing stories about being artists, and Sarah gave me many helpful tips about being a practicing artist and where to show my work. She encouraged me to write and speak publicly about my weavings and the inspiration behind them, and how to pursue those opportunities. I loved learning that Sarah and I create in similar ways: a complete design or image pops into our heads – from a dream or meditation – and we feel consumed by it until we bring it to life…

Sarah’s studio is also filled with her gorgeous hand-dyed indigo yarn…

I’m inspired by her series of houses, particularly because of their doorways …

“The House of Fear” This piece is behind glass, hence the glare.

This piece was woven like a brocade, and many people wrote their fears on the weft used to weave the house. I love the strong dynamic lines stitched into the fabric that give the impression of how harsh and sharp fear can often feel.

Once upon a time, Sarah was a tapestry weaver…

I left Sarah’s studio with some new catalogs to add to my art library, my mind full of inspiration, and a heart bursting with gratitude and awe…

A beautiful poem in Sarah’s teaching binder

It’s incredible how life circles back around, and one finds themselves almost being lead by an invisible force to… something, some sort of mysterious destiny that is meant for them. It’s a mystery because we don’t get to know how, or when, or why the story unfolds the way it does, we just get to experience it. And when we open our hearts and minds to this unfolding, we find many serendipitous moments of a life well-lived and well-loved.

If you’d like to see more of Sarah Haskell’s work you can visit her site at www.sarahhaskell.com

Keep creating!

~Laura

Tapestries, Monet, and Escher, oh my! Part 2

This is Part 2 of 2 about my recent trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston… and to my new favorite bakery.  Is it ridiculous to go to Boston just for some pastries? 

Growing up, there was a print by M. C. Escher at the top of the stairs.  I can remember running up them as fast as I could, only to stop and stare curiously at the other-wordly image of a fish underwater.  But where were the trees?  Are those reflections or the trees’ roots? Was the fish floating in space? Was it in a shallow puddle?  Was I upside down?20180423_131240.jpg

I’m still not entirely sure, and I’m quite happy with that…

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I was surprised to learn that these are lithographs.  My whole life up until now, I thought they were pencil drawings.  The skills and patience required for lithography makes Escher’s art even more impressive…

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I enjoy Escher’s playfulness, especially in this piece.  Instead of simply drawing the mirror’s reflection in this still life (which was probably really boring) the artist chose to create a more interesting reflection.  I wonder if this is a street he had been down many times, or if he just created it in his own imagination.  I could stare at Escher’s work for hours, get completely lost in it, and come back with a whole new way of looking at the world…

 

 

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His tessellations are astounding…

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Some of my photos didn’t come out well.  The room was dim and there were lots of people to wiggle around.  I also didn’t want to stay behind my camera the whole time!

Next, we went upstairs to see the Monet paintings…

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It’s hard to see in these photos, but there are so many bits of color within color.  I wonder how this inspiration will transform my weft bundles…

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Mum wanted to show me some of her favorite rooms, like the Egyptian rooms filled with sarcophagi and hieroglyphs and amulets and mummification tools.  I felt weird taking photos of these things, it felt somewhat disrespectful.  But I took some photos along the way!

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I love this statue of Juno in the Ancient World wing.  She’s probably about 15 feet tall…

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Ganesh!

The last room Mum wanted me to see was one she called the Buddha Room.  Again, no pictures, it felt too sacred and it was incredibly dark.  We sat in silence for a few moments, looking at the various Buddhas from different parts of Asia.

Then we had a little lunch in the courtyard before zooming off to the bakery in Beacon Hill.  It’s called Tatte Bakery, by the way, and you should go like, right now.

It was a super fun and busy day, and I’m already planning on going back to the MFA and exploring more of the Art of the Ancient World exhibits!

Until next time, keep creating!

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The Museum of Fine Arts from the courtyard

 

Tapestries, Monet, and Escher, oh my! Part 1

This is part 1 of 2 on my recent adventure to Boston to see the art museums with my mom… and to indulge in the most delicious pastries I’ve ever had.  Seriously.

My mum has a favorite place to go in Boston.  She’s seen it grow and change and become increasingly popular for tourists and the city’s residents since she was just a young college student.  She has some great memories of this magical place, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and she brought me there a couple years ago to see one of her favorite rooms, which is filled with tapestries!

But on that trip, the room was closed for ceiling repairs!  I was able to enjoy some of the other tapestries in the stairwells and hallways, and so I left feeling like the trip was still a success.  And I knew I would come back to see just how magical these other mysterious tapestries are.

So a couple of weeks ago, we went back down to Boston, and I made sure I called the museum a few days before just to check that all of the tapestries were hanging!  The Gardner is bustling at opening time these days.  School trips, tourists, and residents are drawn to the serene oasis that is this beautiful Italian style villa just off the subway line.  Mum can remember walking through the central courtyard (these days it’s closed off) and seldom seeing another soul as she meandered through the many rooms filled with treasures.  Today we wiggle past the other visitors and make a bee line for the second floor.  Not only are we in Boston to see the tapestries, we’re also planning on heading over to the Museum of Fine Arts for the M. C. Escher exhibit and to a little bakery up in Beacon Hill, all before catching the 5:15 bus back to New Hampshire.

Going to the tapestry rooms on the second floor was a great idea, as the other early birds are still mingling in the courtyard and lower galleries.  The first tapestry room is large and lavish, and filled with various arrangements of seating (which fyi, you’re not allowed to put your bum on).  The tapestries here, which I remarkably forgot to photograph 😦 depict various garden scenes.  The colors have faded to mostly warm blues, greens, and pale yellows, which coordinated perfectly with the upholstered furniture.

The second room was even grander than the first, and the tapestries even more remarkable. Thankfully I photographed these tapestries!  The room reminded me of the old taverns you see in movies, with its dark wood and post-and-beam ceilings, and a fireplace the size of a Chevy van.  It has the feeling of grandeur, an excited expectancy of visitors and entertainment, and also a quiet comfort.  Mum remembers coming to this room for musical performances in the evenings, sitting in the warm ethereal glow of the medieval candelabras as the music enchanted a mesmerized audience.  The museum still puts on these performances, and I hope to experience one someday!

And I’m so glad I returned just to see these tapestries, for they are gigantic, full of exquisite details, and a true feast for the eyes!  My photography skills can’t do them justice, so hopefully you can see them for yourself someday.  I did get a few great detail shots and I also tried to capture the scale of these large pieces.  I didn’t take notes on names or workshops, but I do know they were made in Belgium… or is it Brussels?  Or is Brussels in Belgium?  Well, guess I need to go back!

Again, apologies for my terrible note taking!  I mostly regret it because now I have nothing to go off of but my own photos…

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with chairs for scale…

Obviously there will be more trips back in my future…

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So much detail and beautiful, long hachure lines…

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Detail of women’s dress from above.  I can’t even imagine weaving this.  First there is the pattern of the brocade fabric to produce, and second is trying to capture the sheen of the fabric with hachure! This would be quite the test of patience… and eye sight!

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I love this scene, especially the castle just barely visible in the upper right.  And just look at those elegant gowns and hairdos! It’s easy to forget these are tapestries…

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The large borders of irises and lily of the valley unify the weavings in this series…

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The hunting scene…

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My mom noted how uneven the eyes are in this weaving, and how difficult it must be to create symmetry like what we see in a face.  She encouraged me to photograph this to remind myself that even master weavers had difficulties with capturing symmetry…

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This gorgeous tapestry, woven at a very fine sett, hangs above the doorway, and is really hard to photograph! But even from this view you can get an idea of all of the tiny details…

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My mum, looking out over the courtyard…

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You have to look everywhere around here. Some of the neatest things are above your head! And pretty much everything, from the floor tiles to the windows to the paint colors were purchased by Isabella and brought over from Europe.

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Isabella’s collection even includes this lovely Botticelli…

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overlooking the courtyard…

That’s all for part 1. Stay tuned for part 2 where I’ll show you some of the Monets’, Eschers’, and random statues we viewed at the Museum of Fine Arts.  Until then, keep creating!

Shadow Play

I recently took on a very, shall we say, intriguing challenge.  As someone who loves colors and how they play and interact together and blending on the bobbin, I decided to join my local tapestry weaving group in a collaborative weaving.  The challenging part? We could only use shades of gray and just one. other. color.

With the arrival of the ATA’s unjuried small format show, one of our members broached the topic of a collaborative weaving project at the Joan Baxter workshop in October.  Since we all live across New England, how would we unify our pieces for the ATA’s unjuried small format show?  She asked Joan for some creative suggestions, and Joan brought up the idea of using mostly shades of gray to be the unifying theme.  The introduction of one other color – a personal and individual choice, along with composition – would give us plenty of creative freedom while keeping to the requirements of the group’s challenge.

Many of us bought the Granite Collection of wool weft yarns from Weavers Bazaar, including myself, but I was stumped as to what my other color would be.  Since I was already changing up my palette with grays, I didn’t want to just go with one of my old favorites for the other color.  I wanted to challenge myself to think outside of the box, to stretch beyond my usual comfort zone of blues and purples. At the same time, I was pondering over some design ideas.  I thought of mountains rising out of the mists, a little river winding through a valley, or even my mom’s gray cat, Cole…

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Awwww!

They were nice designs, but then I came across a short article about Carl Jung’s theory of the “Golden Shadow”, and I became intrigued.

On her blog Expressive Art Inspirations, Shelley Klammer writes how the golden shadow can be one of our greatest teachers.  Anytime we feel deep admiration for another person’s creativity or passion or success, it is really a reflection of our own power and potential.  Yet many of us have tamped down our most creative and powerful versions of self, sometimes because we’re trying to fit in with the mainstream, and other times because of roots going all the way back to childhood.  Whatever the source happens to be, the golden shadow is a beautiful invitation for us to open up and learn from our hidden, and often times most lovable, aspects of the soul. Klammer writes…

“The Golden Shadow is the soul part of ourselves that offers a particular strength of love to heal the areas where we have experienced the most hurt and lack.”

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I’ve always felt a bit intimidated by the idea of shadow work, feeling like I’d rather not face the horrible monsters hidden in my subconscious.  In the past few months, however, I began to feel more curious and unafraid of the shadow, especially after reading about the benefits of working with the golden version!  I wanted to see what I could learn from it, and as a friend and I discussed my gray scale weaving challenge, she mentioned opportunities being like open doors, and that was when I saw my final composition. I actually drew it on my antiquated smart phone first…

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All artists should be well-practiced in the area of Stick Figure drawing!

If any of you lovely readers are curious about the golden shadow, there seems to be quite a bit of info out there on the web, not to mention some books I saw on Amazon.  I plan on diving deeper into this subject as well; the act of weaving this little piece has certainly peaked my curiosity!

And if you’re craving more weaver nerd stuff (like technical notes and learning experiences from this piece) then please read on…

This weaving was done on a Hokett loom, which has easily become one of my most beloved weaving tools.  The sett is 12 epi with a cotton seine twine.  As I mentioned earlier, I bought the Granite Collection of fine weight wool yarn from Weavers Bazaar, and this is what I worked with almost exclusively.  I’m actually not very familiar with this yarn, and when I have used it in the past, I’ve mixed it in with a wool weft yarn from Norway that I purchase from Between & etc. I love this long-staple Norwegian yarn; it’s soft, vibrant, and plays well with the warp.  I recently discovered that with this yarn, my weft bundle of 3 strands for 10 epi was too small, and the “bead” of the surface of the tapestry was subtle.  The Weavers Bazaar yarn is even finer, tightly spun and requires a bit more bubbling than what I’m used to.  At 4 strands for 12 epi, I had some tension troubles in the beginning, but I soon got my sett back to normal…

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Bubble those wefts, weavers!

I soon found that 4 weft strands in each bundle was a pretty good size.  With enough bubbling, the yarn creates a crisp fabric with minimal fuzziness, due to it’s tight spin.  I of course, didn’t bother to sample, and that would have been especially helpful as this was a new weft yarn (and the only weft yarn) I was using. Another challenge with this piece that I realized very quickly was how difficult it was for my eyes to tell the shades of gray apart, especially when they were just one shade different.  So I numbered each tube and then kept very accurate notes on my sketch.  Believe me, my sanity (and my eyes) depended on it!

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A little rainbow blip came along to help me keep my faith amongst all of these numbers.

So in the end, my passion for both tapestry weaving and understanding my golden shadow came together to produce this…

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“The Meeting of Shadows”, 4.5″ x 8″, 2018, cotton warp, wool weft, metallic thread

In the end, I’m really glad I decided to give myself a challenge by working with a different palette of colors, for trying out new materials, and broadening my creative design ideas.  It’s easy to stay in our comfort zones, away from the shadows, but when we step into the light of our own creative potential, we may find that the shadows are filled with glorious possibilities!

Keep creating!

~Laura