Tag Archives: Tapestry weaving

Making time… when there is no time

I’m sure the vast majority of people, not just creative types, will agree with how difficult it can be to find the time to do what you love, especially if what you love is not how you make your living.  I consider myself fortunate as my commitments are simple.  I work full time… and that’s pretty much it.  Besides doing my errands, paying my bills, and cooking something besides a bowl of cereal, I have a lot of free time to spend as I wish.

So why do I get sucked into a youtube vortex when I get home from work?  Because there are endless hours of kitten videos to watch, that’s why!

But seriously, this is a pattern I’ve noticed with myself lately; I have quite a bit of time that, if used constructively, I could get a lot done with my art.  And not just the actual art making, but I could also be sharing photos on Facebook, posting here, sketching and painting ideas, searching for shows, etc.  When I choose to troll around aimlessly on Facebook for an hour, I am choosing to not create my work, to not bring into physical form the ideas and images I want to share with others, to not fulfill my life’s purpose: to be an artist.

I have a lot of creative friends, some of them with as much time as me to make their work, some with less.  I’ve seen the friends with less time produce incredible artworks that came from making a choice and a commitment to their art, no.  matter.  what.  I admire that, and I ask myself, “What’s my excuse?”  If I have a vision for my next piece, why am I choosing to not take the next step?

I have this book sitting on my shelf, perhaps you’ve heard of it…

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And yes, that is a little peek at my finished tapestry!

I actually have not read this book past page 37, but I think it’s time.  My resistance to making my art is not serving me and is preventing me from bringing forth the thoughts and ideas I want to share with the world.

When we deny ourselves, through fear of failure, criticism, or even success, the time to bring our artistry out into the light, we are doing ourselves a disservice.  I think of it as a form of self-sabotage, and other people lose out because they never get to experience our creations.  Our audience, our readers, our listeners will never get the chance to be inspired, to be influenced, or to be changed by the messages we wish to share as long as we continue to deny our creativity.  When we perform a disservice to our creative self, we also do a disservice to others.  It’s a lose-lose situation.

Now, I should also clarify that I’m not supporting the whole work-you-butt-off-until-all-joy-is-sucked-out-of-you kind of work ethic.  In order to be at our optimal creating capacity our minds and bodies need rest and relaxation.  Life is for enjoying, for spending time with friends and loved ones, for being inspired by others’ creativity, and for recharging.

One of my fave places to recharge, the Portland Japanese Garden

Without this time for self-care, our artistic process can lose it’s feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction, and that will surely manifest itself in the end product.

What it really comes down to is a choice.  When we have the time and energy in our busy lives to either pursue our life’s purpose or to stare blankly at the computer screen, I hope we make the first choice.  I’ve been wanting to write this post for a month now, and I guess I just needed to make the time.

How do you overcome your blocks to making your art, music, writing, dancing, or other pursuits?  If you struggle with this like I do, I encourage you to pick up a copy of “The War of Art” and read it with me.  Let me know how it inspires you to make the time for your creative work.

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A Change of Pace…

How I just want to weave through this last inch and a half as fast as possible and finally be done with this weaving!  P1040790

But I know from past experiences how disastrous this can be.  My normal weaving pace is pretty slow and meditative as it is, I certainly wouldn’t ever win a tapestry weaving race if one existed.  Now as I near the end of a piece I deliberately slow down and really notice what I’m doing, to enjoy the final stages of creating a work of art that I want others to enjoy as well.  Hurrying to finish a piece only results in my being unhappy that I didn’t give it my best and dedicated intentions.  I believe that when an artist puts their love and enjoyment for their medium into their work, it shows and the viewer can sense that.  Of course if I have a deadline I’m going to have to win that race, but I’d rather not rush something I’ve already invested so much time and passion into.

This is my first post since returning from my vacation to central Oregon last month, and what an inspiring adventure it was…

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With so much to see and do, the Hokett Loom didn’t get much use!  Maybe next time…

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I’ve lived in Oregon for 8 years now, and seeing all of this beauty surrounding me makes me so grateful I live in such a majestic place.  I wish I could spend all of my days hiking to alpine lakes and visiting stunning waterfalls, soaking in all of that gorgeousness!  But I have to go back to reality for now.  I’ve been working diligently on the weaving for the past month and it’s coming along well.  I’m slowly learning more about this medium through my own mistakes and curiosity, which maybe someday will turn into a book or something to help others who are trying to figure this tapestry weaving thing out.  I have some incredible memories and images from this trip to inspire future weavings, and believe me there’s a lot brewing in that ol’ imagination of mine.  Some serious painting is gonna happen once I finish this piece!  But I’m getting ahead of myself… I still have a couple more slow and focused inches to go.

The Weaving Hour

Almost a week has gone by since I started my newest weaving, and I can tell this is indeed an ambitious design!  My motivation has been low, it is summer after all, and the challenges this piece presents has been helping me to be a better procrastinator.  But I have a juried show I want to enter in November and while that feels like plenty of time, I also might be moving then too.  It’s been hot out lately, and my apartment turns into a little oven in the afternoon.  The last thing I want to do is sit under a hot lamp touching warm and fuzzy yarns.  So I wait until the sun sets, because I’m actually a tapestry weaving vampire.  Also… okay, enough with the excuses.

I’ve gotten quite a bit done and I took some before and after pictures to show you what an hour of weaving looks like.  I’ve always wanted to know how much I finish in an hour too, since when I’m weaving I usually get sucked into a timeless vortex and before I know it it’s 1 in the morning.

Before....

Before….

After!

After!

Of course, completing tricky details and color changes takes time away from the amount I get done, as does winding bobbins, correcting mistakes, and finding just the right song on my ipod.  Working on an elaborate piece like this has also been really enjoyable, even if I only get a millimeter done every day.   The intricacies of this design are enthralling and I love finding solutions to the various difficulties that come up.

Working on a project I’m passionate about makes it easier to defeat the Procrastination Monster.  I feel relaxed and entertained, like I’m solving a great big crossword puzzle, except I’m using yarn and none of the questions are from before the early 90s.  Having great music helps me a lot too; I can definitely feel more motivated to do the dishes, scrub the toilet, or work on my weaving when I’m listening to music I love.  I’m currently into musicians like Loreena McKennitt, Alison Krauss, and Jesse Cook.  Lots of great acoustic instruments, soothing voices, and addictive beats.  Now if you’ll excuse me, the sun has set and it’s time to weave.

A New Work in Progress and a Cheapo Weaving Bench Solution

It’s been months since I’ve had a tapestry going on my loom.  I cut the last piece off at the end of April, and spent May preparing it to enter into Oregon College of Art and Craft’s alumni show.  During June I spent all but four days house-sitting for the cutest dog and kitty in the world, which was fun but also really exhausting.  I figured all of this time away from my studio would mean I would be eager to return to my loom with a head full of genius ideas.  Instead I’ve been feeling undecided, uncommitted, and very unsure about the designs I’ve drawn out.  It almost seems like the more time I spend away from weaving, the less likely I am to pick up the bobbins and just do what I love.  I could wait for a better idea to come to me, but honestly I just want to be weaving.

In the past I’ve imagined my designs in their completed form, and I would only edit certain elements to accommodate the size of my loom.  Over the past couple of weeks I’ve done a half dozen watercolours to try to figure out just what the heck I’m doing.  They’re now scattered across the floor along with several cartoon renditions that I’ve had a hard time committing to as well.  It also doesn’t help that I’m outgrowing my loom.

Watercolours are my favorite medium to sketch out an idea

Watercolours are my favorite medium to sketch out an idea.

I’ve loved this simple image of a forest reflected in still water, with a bright light rising above the treetops.  I’ve painted this image for years, and always in blue, and now I want to try “painting” it with yarn.

The hem is woven… almost ready!

So I’m committing to this design.  If I hate how it’s coming out or think of something better I can always cut it off the loom…

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…but I don’t think I’m going to hate it, I actually think it’s going to come out better than I expected.  It usually happens that way.  Tapestry weaving has a way of developing into it’s own thing, despite all of the planning in the world.  It takes on a life of it’s own, with an energy that is alive and also sacred and ancient, an art form that has been practiced for centuries.  There’s an element of surprise in how the finished piece turns out, something I could never imagine while I was developing the design.  I don’t think I would enjoy this medium as much if results were predictable and controllable.  I enjoy the challenge of trying to create exactly what I see in my head, but I also maintain a sense of humility and acceptance for how the finished piece will look.  Hey, isn’t this, like, a metaphor for life?  I hope that even once I’m an old weaver woman I’ll still be surprised by how my tapestries turn out.

And on a side note, I found this little wooden “bench” at work that they use for merchandising.  I sat on it and realized it would make the most perfect little weaving bench for my loom!  Weaving benches usually cost around $200, give or take depending on style and the wood used.  I don’t have that kind of money for something I’m going to put my butt on, and especially to go along with a student loom that I will have to retire soon for a larger model.  So this little bench is actually a night stand from Ikea, and it cost only $17!  It also makes a great side storage table for yarns and such if you work on the floor a lot like I do.

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Stay tuned for more updates on this newest weaving.  I’m going to try to post more work in progress photos.  Promise!

 

 

 

A Juried Show at the Little School in the Woods

Five years ago I graduated from the tiny school up in the woods, leaving behind the rustic wooded landscape and cedar-shingled buildings I had come to call my home.  I went up to the school last week for the first time in years to drop off one of my latest pieces for a juried alumni show.   As soon as I walked up the hill onto the forested campus, I had an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia.  Old familiar faces were there to greet me with such a warm welcome it was like I had never left. The smell of fir trees and damp earth made me swoon.  I felt like I was coming home.

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Strolling through the fiber studios was like walking through a dream where everything feels strange and also familiar.  Little symbols of my presence were still there; signs and labels that I had made as a studio assistant continued to keep equipment and materials organized.

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The weaving studio especially conjured up old memories of sitting at the loom with stocking feet, rhythmically pressing treadles while cold winter rains fell outside.

I went back up to school for the show opening a few days ago, and again I was greeted by old friends and faculty.  While studying there I never had any interest in entering juried shows to try to get my art out into the world.  I simply couldn’t imagine putting myself on the line like that.  What if I got a rejection letter?  Nope, no thanks, not worth it.

I love tapestry weaving too much to let that hold me back any more.  This is the first juried show for my school that I’ve entered, and I’m honored to have my work in a very selective show alongside other talented artists.  Here’s Echo of Light in all her glory!

EchoOCACAlumni2014

 

 

 

Finding the Way Home

I’m having a hard time getting my next weaving off the ground.  Literally, the cartoon for it is lying on my living room floor, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to commit to it, to acknowledge that this is indeed my next piece.  I keep questioning myself: Isn’t it supposed to be something else?  A different design?  Less blue?  The real crux of this issue lies with my previous work, which I absolutely love and feel it is my best tapestry out of the 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5 tapestries I’ve woven.  I basically want to make more weavings exactly like it because then I know they will always be amazing, that is until I – and my viewers – get bored. 

And at the same time, I have lots of ideas I want to turn into tapestries.  I’m a very new weaver, most accomplished artists have been working in this medium for decades.  I know this because I spent the afternoon looking through every artist’s page on the American Tapestry Alliance website.  I was looking for evidence that my latest design is indeed feasible and will turn out beautifully, even better than my current weaving that I am madly in love with!  But no artist on there could prove to me that my idea will be a success, because no one has woven my design before, which is definitely a good thing.  My hesitation is also a testament to some of my other fears as a new weaver; I still don’t understand enough about the medium to predict how a design will turn out as a finished tapestry, and I am also a perfect perfectionist.  Surprisingly, tapestry weaving has been a great medium for me to learn how to let go of the annoying perfectionist tendencies and let the nature of the technique unfold. 

Mostly it’s the fear of starting again and trying to make work that is even better than the one before it that holds me back.  I keep thinking of this recent TEDtalk I watched where Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love) spoke beautifully on how to overcome the fear of failure.  This one line continues to resonate for me…

“Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself”

She overcame her fear of trying to produce another successful novel by returning home, to her writing, because that was what she loved more than success.  And when her next book bombed, she was fine.  She wrote another book. 

It’s so simple, really.  All I need to do is make my weavings for the sheer joy of creating them.  The past few years I’ve struggled with finding my place in the world, but when I’ve been actively creating I’m no longer participating in all of the internal chaos.  By placing my heart and my hands in my artwork, I don’t question where I’m “supposed” to live anymore.  I can trust in my journey as an artist, which is also the journey of my soul.

 

This Takes Time

I wanted to do a blog post like a week ago, but life happens as it always does and I just couldn’t get to it.  So here I am now, sharing last weeks news:  I am was at the halfway point on my current tapestry and so very excited about the progress I’m making and how it’s turning out!  Check it out….

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I’m weaving it sideways, by the way, so you’ll have to turn your head.

Seeing as though this was last weeks news, I’m now about an inch away from finishing, not including weaving the hem.  I’ve really learned a lot about using hachure, hatching, and color combining to get that lovely, blended look.  I can see similarities between this weaving and my paintings, which is something I’ve been trying to bring to my tapestries.  You may not be able to see it in the photo but there is a lot of depth of color and a real liveliness to the scene.  I think this piece marks a cornerstone in my subject matter.  I’ve always loved animals and storytelling, and have worked with this imagery off and on since childhood.  My thesis for my undergrad was on the interconnectedness of nature and spirituality.  I think this will always be the overall theme of my work, now I’m just fine tuning it.

Two reasons why I chose the title for this post: The first and obvious one is that tapestry weaving takes a loooooooong time.  A fellow tapestry artist posted on her blog a while back a photo of a weaving by a different artist.  I can’t find the photo or who the artist was, but trust me, it’s great!  It’s a simple tapestry that just says “This Takes Time”.  Can’t get more obvious than that.  I could have painted this weaving in a day or two, but the process of finding colors, winding bobbins, pulling warp threads, and working slowly and methodically has such a captivating quality for me.  Even though I still enjoy painting, working with fibers bring my creativity to a whole new level.  Weaving is challenging and rhythmic in it’s linear format, and you have to remain focused on the area you’re working in while keeping in mind the whole picture.  When I sit down at the loom, I set down my worries for a while and focus on what’s in front of me.  Line by line, inch by inch, my creation creeps up the warp threads and takes on a life of it’s own. 

Some big changes have been going on in my life that require patience, understanding, and time, the second reason.  My weaving allows all of this to happen, simply by being in the present moment and taking everything one day at a time.  A lot of time passes and a lot of changes occur while I’m working on the same piece.  I can look at a finished tapestry and remember working on a certain area or using a particular color during a period of uncertainty, or excitement, longing, joy.  I think this is the connection that a lot of artists have with their craft, an outlet for processing the ups and downs of life.  I know it’s true for me.  I can work things out in my head (which never works) or at the loom.  It also helps to look out the window and see this…

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I’m looking forward to sharing the finished tapestry with all of you next week.  Bye for now!