Tag Archives: reflection

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

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From the Woods to the Sea

A Tapestry Weaving Retreat with Joan Baxter

With my travel sketchbook and camera in tow, I wandered down the old dirt road to the sea.  The autumn sun was casting a soft amber light upon the trees as it made it’s journey below the horizon.  The woods suddenly parted and I found myself in a private secluded bay with little waves gently crashing upon the sand.  I climbed up onto the old crumbling jetty and sat on a rock, watching the golden sky fade to dusk.  An overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe washed over me.  I was here in this place of beauty and tranquility, where the woods meet the sea, and about to enjoy five whole days of everything tapestry weaving with one of my most favorite tapestry artists, Joan Baxter.

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From the time I met Joan, I felt as though she were a familiar friend, like perhaps maybe she was one of my beloved faculty members from college. She greeted me warmly as she laid out a dazzling spectrum of her gorgeous hand-dyed yarns.  The room we would be using was dark and cozy, surrounded by forests and near to the retreat center’s chapel.  It was in this room, with my fellow tapestry weavers, covered with yarn, books, looms, and bobbins, and fueled by Joan’s tutorials and evening talks, that my imagination sprang to life.

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How do the places and landscapes we hold dear to our hearts change with the passage of time?  This was the question Joan Baxter asked us to ponder over the months leading up to our workshop.  Compiling sketches and photos of our favorite place at different times of the day, we were asked to do some color studies.  Using our own yarn, and some of Joan’s, we played with colors of different values and hues.  We also had some of her samples to inspire us.  Joan is a magician when it comes to playing with and mixing colors…

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A sampling of Joan’s beautiful samples…

 

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And here’s mine!

During the day, she gave tutorials to small groups of us on how to create dots, flecks, and color blends. She really inspired me to become more bold with my weft colors, and to understand how to carry consistent colors from one area to another, like with a reflection on water or creating transparency.

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A tutorial on weaving dots.  Joan enjoys simple weaving equipment like wooden frame looms and pipe looms…

 

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More dots and flecks (and check out that beautiful bobbin!)

For this theme of the passage of time, I chose to visit a small lake by my parent’s house.  I visited many times over the summer, always drawn to the sparkle of sunlight across the water and the forest that surrounded it’s shore.  It wasn’t until the fall, right before the retreat, that I noticed a lone tree that stood out from the others.  It had transformed into a brilliant golden yellow, and I had an a-ha moment: This tree would be the focal point of my composition…

 

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I thought I could weave an entire tapestry in five days! I must have been crazy.  The only tapestry I ever wove in five days is the size of a small photograph! Joan encouraged us to not weave for more than four to five hours a day, so as to not strain our eyes. So we went for walks, mingled and chatted with each other about our ideas, shared books and tips, were treated to several of Joan’s inspiring slideshows, and were fed three meals a day by the retreat staff.  The food was simple and nourishing and I loved that.  I found the simplicity and humbleness of our accommodations to be the perfect backdrop to focus on my art and my time with my new weaving friends.

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The view from my bedroom window…

And I noticed my idea for my tapestry was beginning to change and be shaped by the beauty of the retreat center grounds.  I was particulary inspired by Joan to think differently about how to weave water.  I’ve always woven flat, mirror-like reflections, but Joan encouraged me to think about time transpiring and how I could create that.  I began going down to the little bay to observe how ocean waves would rise and fall.  Sometimes I’d go down to the pond and throw pebbles to watch the ripples fan out.  I realized I wanted to capture the multi-dimensional appearance of those ripples moving across the water.  This was my sample of that idea…

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This sample was meant to try the techniques of carrying one consistent color throughout the water, capturing the light and shadow of a water ripple, the lines of a labyrinth underneath, and one of my trees golden yellow leaves (which ended up looking like carpet from the 1970s)

I’ve always been drawn to labyrinths as a symbol for personal and spiritual journeys.  I was so excited to see the retreat center had a lovely and simple one created from mowed grass and some shrubby trees.  I also knew I wanted to incorporate this symbol into my final design as well, perhaps underneath the water’s surface…

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So after a few days of observing and sketching, I had a pretty solid idea for my Time inspired tapestry.  When the last day of the retreat came, I was sad and yet also eager to get back home to try some of my new ideas and techniques I had learned.  I also had a new appreciation for myself as an artist, and the endlessly inspiring life we artists can live if we just open up to it.  It was an unforgettable experience to learn from Joan, and also it was the first time meeting some of my fellow members of the tapestry group TWiNE (Tapestry Weavers in New England) who hosted this event.  While I still haven’t started the piece inspired by this workshop (I know! I know! I’m getting to it!), I’ve noticed how my design ideas have shifted and finalized in my mind.  I feel ready to at least do some sketching and get the loom warped, and I guess I need to do a few more samples, too!

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My favorite weft blend, I love admiring it just on the bobbin…

 

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A postcard of Joan Baxter’s weavings showing her use of dots

If you get the chance I highly recommend taking a workshop or retreat.  It’s a fantastic way to meet and be inspired by other artists, form amazing connections, and learn a new thing or two!

Keep creating!

~Laura

Reflections on a Life I Love…

I took myself on an Artist’s Date today, after spending some time yesterday evening quietly reflecting on where I’m at in my life. I felt a major shift come over me in terms of the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s, why’s, and how’s of the life I’m currently living. A good and honest look at things revealed to me many answers to my questions of what is my life purpose, what are my goals, where do I find inspiration, who do I want to spend time with, etc. The questions seemed so big and yet the answers are so simple, it’s just a matter of me living them everyday, and also paying attention to how they show up. I think sometimes I can get so caught up in life and what I want to have that I forget that I already have everything I need. It’s all right in front of me. It’s the essence of who I really am, my source of inspiration and joy.

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My favorite view across the lake

This is what led me to the woods today. It’s been ages since I stopped by to marvel at the sweeping limbs of the tall pine trees, to feel the breeze against my skin as it drifts across the lake, to turn off the constant chatter in my brain and tune into the bird songs that fill the forest. It’s all about the present moment and the beauty around me. Being in nature is where I feel like my truest and most authentic self. It’s where all of the drama of everyday life completely melts away, and all that’s left is peace. I can’t believe I haven’t gone on more adventures to the mountains and the forests since I moved back home, but after today I know it’s a priority. I need many more Artist’s Dates to the source of where my inspiration and creativity begins, even if it’s just once a month. My schedule can get filled up very quickly with all of the things I’d like to do (and some I don’t want to do but need to, for instance, adulting), but taking some time away from it all is the one thing that always brings me back home.

Keep creating,

Laura

 

The Social Media Detox

It’s been a while since I was on Instagram, even longer since I took a peek at Facebook, and you know what?  I’m still here, and all is well.  In fact, my voluntary social media detox has made space for the very thing I’ve been longing for: more time for creativity.  But it’s not easy to remove oneself from a community, especially one that is filled with excellent and inspiring people. My fellow fiber artists on IG are wonderfully supportive folks from all over the world, many whom I’ve never even met, and yet we have all spun an interactive web of sharing and networking that can keep us all updated on who is weaving what and where the next great art show is.  I can see how for some, social media keeps them humming along, nose to the grindstone, posting a photo of their latest masterpiece to share with their community.  The scrolling newsfeed of inspiration can keep the imagination flowing, and everyone benefits from the participation and consistent updates of the other artists. For me, however, it ended up turning into a distraction, an excuse to not finish – let alone start – anything, and I only felt worse when I saw all of the beautiful work that others were creating and sharing and I didn’t have anything to contribute.

On top of that, I was going through a dark night of the soul, and my muse seemed to have disappeared beyond my reach.  I counted the months since I had finished my most recent artwork on the big loom; 10 months.  I’m used to doing about three larger pieces a year.  I began to create more excuses; my day job was taking up too much time, I had to make dinner, I needed to knit a new hat, and there was my long Instagram feed to scroll through.  I continued to play piano and thoroughly enjoyed that creative outlet, but I was secretly worried that it was the end of tapestry weaving for me.  My imagination was blank.

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I decided that since I wasn’t making anything, and I was checking IG way too much, I would do a detox from the app and Facebook and just see what happened.  Around the same time, I began to pack up most of my things and temporarily live with just the necessities in the upstairs guest room in my parents house until I found a new place. The abrupt change in my physical space, along with the freedom from comparing myself to others on social media, resulted in the perfect recipe for returning to my own authentic creative voice.

In an article for Mindful magazine, Hugh Delehanty shares his experiences of getting back in touch with his creativity at an artist retreat.  After several days of struggling with painting what he felt he should paint, what he would usually paint, he reached a point of awareness to what was holding him back from expressing his genuine creativity.  I’ve read this article several times, and am continually fascinated with how so many artists share the same struggles of censorship, guilt, and trying to create what the world wants to see, instead of the visions that are stirring in their imaginations.  I’m particularly in love with a quote from the retreat instructor, Barbara Kaufman…

“Everything leads us back to ourselves… Sometimes we have to go too far to see that.  But what we usually do is play it too safe and close up.  Once you start opening, you get a sense that you can stretch more, and then you begin to realize the potential that’s available to you at any given moment.  The invitation of creativity is to move beyond the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves.  To allow life to permeate those thick walls that we think are so secure.”

I can see now that I was attempting to create within a very rigid mindset.  What would get me more followers and likes online?  Instead I should be wondering, what is it my soul wants me to create?  What images inside of me do I need to bring to life?  What wants to come forward and play into my work? I got so caught up in posting content that I forgot about the process.

While I was working on my thesis in undergrad, smartphones had just come out and cost, like, a million dollars and I wanted nothing to do with Facebook.  I instead stayed close and honest to the images and artworks I was creating for my thesis.  I had no filter for what I thought the art world wanted to see and instead followed the inspiration and beauty that resonated most within me. My passion and dedication to this vision resulted in a moving body of work that was a hallmark of my college career.  At times, I even surprised myself with what I was creating, and I know that it was because I stopped caring what other people would think. I instead opened up to the vast expanse of my own imagination, and followed it through the whole whirlwind process of completing a large body of work.

This isn’t to say I don’t think that social media is a useful and necessary tool.  As I said earlier, it can bring like-minded folks together to share stories and ideas, and therefore add more beauty and culture to our world.  I do think, however, that there are times when a break is imperative and healing for the soul.  It allows us to get back in touch with who we really are beyond the walls and boundaries we’ve set up for ourselves, and even to dissolve the stories of who we think we are.  Am I leaving social media for good?  Probably not, but until I return I will be putting my energy into getting back in touch with that authentic creative force within me, and creating the artwork I long to make.

Stay tuned, and keep creating!

Faith in a New Dream…

I feel like nothing eventful has happened in my life for some time now.  I go to work, eat food, come home, do my art, go to bed, wake up, go to work, eat food, come home, do my art, go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I don’t like being stuck in a rut.  I also fear change.  So currently I’ve found myself in a rather odd place of limbo, scared to go in any one direction, but tired of my current stagnation.  I feel a calling for creating great change in my life, however I don’t know the who’s, what’s, where’s, or when’s about that change.  I do know that there’s got to be more than the status quo, a higher realm that thrives off the act of creation that changes lives.

I’ve been reading article after article about this Winter Solstice, trying to get some kind of insight into what my next step should be.  I keep reading that this solstice with it’s new moon twist is a great time for setting intentions, making realistic goals, and identifying how to live authentically.

So here I am, looking across an uncertain vastness towards what I can dream for myself, what feels authentic to me, and what I long to bring to the world.  It will take courage, will, hard work, perseverance, and no shortage of faith to build the bridge to get myself from my current place of Stuck to the New Dream.  The idea of faith is where I really get scared, and want to turn around and run back to something safe.  But it’s usually the safe things that keep me small and stuck, always craving the opportunity to grow and learn and evolve.  Faith to me is like believing, because what we believe in can’t be seen.

I’m having faith in what I can’t see, only what I feel deep within me to be my truth and my purpose.

I’m having faith that the teachers, tools, and knowledge will come to me to help me get there.

I’m having faith that with an open heart and mind, my dreams will turn out better than I imagine.

I’m having faith that the arts can and will create positive change in the world.

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Happy Winter Solstice!

A Few Steps Back…

Time really flies, especially when I get into the rhythm of weaving.  I fall into just the right state of calm focus and inspiration, and the colors and shapes flow from my fingers.  It can be hard to stop and take a step back, view the work, and take note of the progress, but this is one of the most important aspects of art making.  I first learned this from my painting instructor in college.  He would always remind us during class, while we were deep in the process of painting still lifes, to step back from the easel and view our work.  Up close, you could only see the tiny details, but from ten feet back, you could see the whole picture.  The sculptor, the painter, and yes, the tapestry weaver, need to get some distance between themselves and their work to see how it’s coming along.  How do the shadows, light, contrast, and colors look?  Is the composition still working?  Are any shapes or forms slightly off?  When your face is a mere 14 inches away from the canvas, it can be hard to take in the bigger picture.  Viewing our work from a distance is also how our audience will see it, and it gives us a chance to admire our hard work.

This design is an element from a larger tapestry that I will eventually make…  when I have a bigger loom.

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The cartoon and a colored pencil sketch of the design

The main design it’s taken from was partly inspired by my summer hike up to the alpine meadows of Mt. Jefferson near Bend, Oregon, and partly inspired by many late night moon viewings from my fifth floor apartment.  The moon/star symbol makes an interesting composition without the mountain and trees in the original design.

CompassWIP1So far, I’ve had to take two sections out, about four hours of work, because the areas weren’t following the cartoon (the white paper behind the weaving).  Eventually this “small” error would have thrown off most of the overall effect of the design.   Sometimes I don’t have to follow the cartoon exactly, and I enjoy the spontaneity that comes with improving, but I don’t have that freedom with this design.  Again, another great example of the importance of taking a few steps back to get some perspective!  I can’t emphasize it enough.  *If you’re an artist, take a break every now and then while you are making (not just at the beginning or end of your studio time) and get some distance between you and your art.  Soak in your progress and what you have learned, take note of what looks great and what might need to be improved.  Then pick up the paintbrush, or bobbin, or carving tool, and keep making.

*Even if you’re not an artist, this technique still applies to you; the artwork that you are looking at is your life!