Tag Archives: time

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

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Pressing Matters

An iron and it’s companion ironing board do you no good when they’re tucked away in a closet.  And in that same vein, keeping your unfinished tiny tapestries confined to a shoebox do you no good as well.  I recently finished my little weaving, Kingdom of the Winter Woods, in 5 days, which is a record for me!  But it wasn’t really finished.  Sure I had cut it off the loom and finished the ends, but could I really bear to throw it in the shoebox with all of the other unfinished weavings?  How would it, or any of the other tiny tapestries, be seen and enjoyed from inside a shoebox?

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It seemed so sad, all of my lovely little weavings sitting in a dark little box.  So out came the iron and the ironing board and the old pressing cloth, and everyone got their hems pressed!

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The pressing was impressive

And now in the evenings when I have some free time, I carefully stitch down the hems, and ponder how I want to show all of these little pieces, even if their just in my own home…

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The fact that they’re all finished and ready to be displayed makes me feel like I can move forward to make more art.

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Forest Dreaming, Kingdom of the Winter Woods, and part 1 of my lotus series. I clearly love blue and weaving stars and sparkles!

Making art is a wonderful and fulfilling passion of mine, and I also believe that part of that passion is to share what I create with others and to spread more beauty and happiness and peace in the world.  But I can’t do that from inside of a shoebox.  I also can’t just weave these beautiful images and never really finish them.  So here’s to finally finishing all of these weavings, and who knows, maybe I’ll find a sense of joy and even relaxation in this seemingly mundane process!

How do you complete your projects?  One at a time? When the pile begins to feel overwhelming? An Excel spreadsheet?

Happy creating!

Claim Your Space

A few days ago, I made a new board on Pinterest.  It’s called Studio Spaces and it’s filling up quickly with images of spacious lofts with skylights, white walls lined with cupboards for organizing materials, empty work tables waiting for ideas to be spread across their surfaces, and lots and lots of beautiful fiber art equipment.  Here’s what my studio space currently looks like…

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Inspiring, am I right?

Believe it or not, I actually like nestling myself in among the moving boxes.  It’s cozy and for some odd reason allows me to focus on what is directly in front of me.  While I love seeing where the magic happens for many artists, some famous and others unknown, I’ve also realized that there are loads of other artists out there who, like me, have to make do with what they have, and are doing a fine job at it, too.  Since establishing myself as a tapestry artist just over five years ago, I’ve moved several times and I’m about to move again. When I began tapestry weaving my loom was stuffed in the corner of my little bedroom, so fingers crossed the next place has at least a few more feet of corner!

My mom, before I came along, set up her easel in what she calls a nook, and when she wanted to work on a drawing she spread out into the equally tiny upstairs bathroom. When we moved to a bigger house, she started sewing and set up her sewing machine and fabric stash under the slanted ceiling of her bedroom. I have a friend who sews in her cozy living room, and another who paints in her bedroom, and still another who shares a small, ground level book arts and printmaking studio with a fellow artist friend.  To allow enough space to use her massive floor loom in a tiny studio apartment, my friend from college slept in the little closet under the stairs.  And of course there’s Van Gogh, who worked out of very small and simple spaces when he wasn’t doing plein air painting.  In the same vein, I once worked for a brilliant artist who had one of the most glorious studios I’ve ever seen, and hardly ever used it.

I love these stories about the creative ways we artists figure out how to set up shop. However small or spacious an art-making space happens to be, what matters most is what the artist is creating within that space.  That they are present to the work that their hearts and hands are creating.  Tyarn62017hat they are showing up for, and claiming, their own individual artistic journey, and seeing where it takes them.  I know this can be a challenge for some people, especially those with children, or a tight budget, or a small living space where dedicating an area to something besides the necessities seems impossible, or even all of these things.  I have seen it done however, by people from all walks of life.  And just because one doesn’t have their dream studio now, doesn’t mean they wont be able to create that in the future.

It’s also imperative that we don’t wait for conditions to be just right before we can start on that masterpiece we feel called to create.  You could spend so much time amassing materials and waiting for things to change for the better or the right studio situation to come along, and all the while the inspiration and passion could be slipping right between your fingers.

It’s not about where you create, but what you create.

To begin setting up your space, look around for items that aren’t being used that could get you organized. Thrift stores, yard sales, and consignment shops can also supply you with vases for storing paint brushes, baskets for yarn, and a simple table and chair for working.  Also, those Michael’s coupons come in really handy! Do you have a corner that’s not being utilized?  Claim it.  Put up a cork board for pinning inspiring pictures, or just use washi tape in fun colors.  Or regular tape, it really doesn’t matter.  See if any of your furniture can do double duty.  Even if your work is confined to a basket or a tote bag that you can carry with you, you still win because now you have a portable studio. Tah-dah! Also, keep your eyes open; as time goes by, you’ll find lovely items through people and places to add to your studio space that make it feel even more inspiring.

Bring in any little objects that help inspire your creativity, like souvenirs or mementos, photographs, rocks, feathers, and tokens of good luck. My personal favorite is a strand of paper stars that I hang across the heddle bar of my loom.  It always reminds me to stay true to myself and my own artistic voice.

By claiming your space you’re also claiming your right to be an artist, even if you only have a little time here and there to work on your craft. 

My mom always says it’s a sign of a true artist when they can work with what they’ve got.  I often sit on an over turned milk crate when I weave, and all of my yarn is sorted by color into unattractive, yet practical and affordable plastic bins.  I store my knitting needles, pens, and brushes in glass jars that once held pasta saucpeony62017e.  I would LOVE to have more beautiful storage items for my supplies and materials, but by working with what I have right now, I’m saving money AND I can dedicate more time and attention to doing what I love: my art!

So let’s start now.  What can you do today to make and claim a space for yourself?  What resources do you have that can help you to work on your artistic goals?  Remember, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and often the simplest shifts produce the biggest results!

In the spirit of creativity,

Laura

 

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!