Tag Archives: weaving

Resolution: Make More Art

Sorry I haven’t posted in so long.  I have a whole list of reasons for my absence, but mostly it’s that I’ve been too busy.  Too busy caring about what other people will think of my work to make any work.  I’ve been paralyzed with self-doubt and fear, worse than my years in undergrad sitting through another grueling critique.

“It’s so… trite,” were the words of my art professor in regards to a felted piece I made with an owl on it.  Now I made this piece BEFORE owls came back into fashion and you could wear them on shirts, leggings, and socks and pour salt and pepper from ceramic owl shakers into an owl shaped bowl and eat your delicious whatever with owl chopsticks. You’re welcome.

Despite how crappy I felt after this particular critique, I still brought that felted owl bag with me out in public.  The first day I was out shopping I had three people ask me where I got it.  I probably should have just sold it to one of them, but I still had that lingering feeling, that word “trite” hanging over my head like an unrelenting rain cloud.  It just wasn’t good enough, even for the complete stranger who had to know where I got it. I eventually gave it away to a friend, but my love for putting animals on things has never gone away.

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I’ve often sketched out designs for tapestries or paintings that feature animals, stars, moons, and my passion for adding just a hint of sparkly gold.  But then my art school critic challenges me to consider just how trite it is.  Where is the concept?  The social/political/environmental struggle?  Where does it talk about the important topics of our times like gun violence, equal rights for women and trans people, and justice for the lives of young black people that were violently taken away?

I know what my work means to me, and what I want it to mean to the viewer.  My work is a reprieve, an exhale, the brightness of moon light on a dark, cold winter night.  My art illustrates the beauty and magic that still exists under the surface of the harsh realities of current events.  It’s not naivety, it’s not delusion or denial, and it’s not even trite.  My school had a motto: “Learn the rules to break the rules.”  I may have lacked the level of conceptual understanding my teacher wanted me to have, but I gained the technical knowledge to create what I’m here to make.

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I normally don’t create New Years resolutions because I feel like life is always a work in progress, and positive change doesn’t have to wait for the first day of the year.  And like everybody else who loses motivation for their resolutions, I hate the feeling of guilt when I fail.  However, I think this is the year I learn to stop giving a s**t what other people think of my work.  Not everyone is going to like it and that’s fine.  I can’t let it affect me personally.  There’s lots of art out there that I don’t like, Instagram accounts that I don’t follow, but those artists are still making.  My only responsibility is to make my art.  And to other artists who doubt themselves and their work, you need to make your art too, because there are people in this world who need it, whether it’s trite or not.

 

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Open Fields and Endless Skies

The last line from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day” always makes my heart skip a beat, like a wise elder asking you the quintessential question that has the power to change your whole life if you allow it.

Around the end of this past February, I knew it was time to make a change, and not just a change-my-job or change-my-haircut kind of change, but a true life-altering, get-rid-of-your-stuff, move-across-the-country kind of upheaval of everything I knew and loved.  At times I told myself ‘You must be crazy to give this all up’.  But I did it because I felt there was more out there for me, if only I could trust the guidance of my deep wellspring of intuition.

It takes a lot of courage to listen and trust the wisdom of our intuition, because it doesn’t speak in words, but in hunches and feelings.  It can also feel heartbreaking to follow your intuition as it leads you down your path, because that also means leaving people and places that you love behind just to follow a “feeling”.   I wish my intuition would send me clearly written emails saying “Hey, do this” or “move here” or “you should take that job”.  But instead I have to learn the fine art of listening to and following where my intuition wants me to go, and right now it wants me to be back home in New Hampshire.  Forget what everybody else says and does.  Forget if all the cool young people are packing up and moving out west.  The one thing I’ve learned through this whole experience is all that really matters is where I want to be and what I want to do with my life.  There may be loss and deep grievances along the way, but I believe there are also blessings and miracles to be had as well.

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Right now I need to live amongst trees and birds and summer rain and wide open spaces.  A few days ago my parents and I went out hiking with one of the neighbors in Northwood Meadows.

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These are exactly the kind of views I need for my health and happiness, and ultimately for the vitality of my art.  Open fields, endless skies, wind, bird songs, the sense of limitless potential, my spirit soaring among the clouds.  I really don’t know what I’ll be doing here besides weaving and drawing and painting, and maybe even taking a dance or music class.  But I can say, it feels like the next right step, and that’s all I need to have faith in.

20150411_153935Spring will be here soon, in fact the snow that carpeted the yard is almost all melted.  And the one thing that Spring always brings is new growth, new beginnings, new adventures, new everything.  Change is constant in this life, so whether you’re like me and you shipped all of your most beloved possessions across the country, or you’re stuck in an unhappy situation waiting for that calling, listen closely for that little voice of wisdom.  It’s barely above a whisper, but if you leave your heart open and your brain chatter off, you just might hear it’s deep wisdom and simple desire to bring happiness to your life.

 

The End and the Beginning

Hey, remember how I said a while back that I was going to finish this tapestry by the end of January?  Well I did it, I just forgot to tell everyone about it!  While I was out for a walk this evening the bright full moon shining down on me reminded me of this piece, and how happy I am that it’s finished…

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Compass, 2015, 14.5″ x 22″, cotton, wool

This piece embodies my own inner journey of finding and following my inner light, my “compass”, to wherever it may lead me.  Often times the voice that keeps me small and safe overpowers the soft and steady whispers of my intuition.  Ever notice how fear and worry sound so big and loud and commanding inside your head?  “Don’t do that!  You’ll never succeed.  Stay right where you are or you might make a big mistake!  What if you fail?”

But the voice of truth and wisdom is delicate and heartfelt, like bird songs in the morning.  “Why don’t you give it a shot?  You never know until you try.  This opportunity might be just what you need,” or even, “you can do great things.”

By finding and following our own inner compass, we find what our truth is, what our goals and dreams are, what we want to bring to the world, and the courage to follow that through.  This tapestry marks the end and the beginning for me, a time to get more in touch with the art I want to create.  I realize I want to work more with the symbols and stories in my own imagination, and for my own sense of personal and creative satisfaction.  I’ve been trying to design and weave tapestries to fit the demands of competitive juried shows, and while I’ve certainly had some success, it hasn’t felt authentic.  I don’t enjoy creating something to hopefully appease the aesthetic tastes of the jurors, just for the hope of tacking another show onto my resume.  I want to make art for myself, and let it reach out to those who are meant to be touched by it.  I’m not a contemporary conceptual artist, at least not right now.  My interests lie in nature and animals, mythology and storytelling.  Once I get back to the loom, it will be to weave the stories of the world into life.

A Looming Deadline

compass_wip1Almost done!  I’ve set my own deadline to finish this tapestry by January 30th, because sometimes all it takes is a looming deadline (ha, get it?) to get me to sit on the weaving bench.  I think I’ve got about an inch left, then I’ll weave the hem, and then it’s off the loom!   I’ve been breezing through this weaving with a renewed feeling of passion and enthusiasm, and I know the boxing classes have a big part to play in this.  I’m building new muscle skills, not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and creatively as well.  I go to class feeling terrified of what insane workout I’ll push my way through today, and leave feeling so much appreciation for my coaches, my courage, and my strength.  I carry this feeling of resilience, this deep appreciation for how strong I am, courageous I am, for everything I know I can do, to my art practice and the rest of my life.  Boxing is teaching me to go deeper, to push harder, to love myself, my creativity, and my life more than I ever have before.

I’m also currently building the next online tapestry exhibit for the American Tapestry Alliance.  The curator picked some magnificent pieces and it’s been so fun to see so many incredible artworks.  I’m sorry I can’t give you any details, but I’ll post a link on here when the show goes live for those who are interested!

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!