In November of 2016 I was the artist in residence at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona for a month. For that month, nothing was expected of me except that I give two public programs at the vistor's center and that I go about the business of making art. I didn't have to produce anything during the month and I had pretty much full access to the park as long as I asked permission. I was given a casita right in the park to stay in--the only person staying behind the gates after dark. And I was able to experience the wonder of the painted desert alone at sunrise and sunset.
I wanted to do a sort of tapestry diary while I was there. I thought I would try to weave a 2 x 2 inch tapestry every day though at the beginning I wasn't sure I would stick with it as it took about 3 hours a night to do the weaving. But a few days in, I loved the process and I ended up weaving 27 tapestries, one for each day I was in the park.
I found that the process of doing that project in that place was very helpful to my creativity. Having a lot of time with no expectations except that I make steps toward making art was very freeing and that setting myself a task of weaving a small piece every day was both educational and a lot of fun. I had no pre-conceived notions or rules about what I would weave and I had no expectation that I would show them to anyone beyond some Instagram posts. My only rules were that I do one every day, that the idea came from something I had seen or thought that day, that they be 2 x 2 inches square, and that the finishing was completed before I went to bed. All the ends had to be woven in before I slept.
I spent most of every day hiking. It was in the 70s and sunny when I arrived and snowing when I left. I carried around a small sketch pad and a camera and I spent some time journaling and drawing in a larger sketchbook back at the casita every evening and morning. The luxury of this kind of time is unknown to some of us and by far this is the value of artist residencies, whether you find a formal one or create your own.
In this culture we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I find that weavers especially tend to be people who like rules and structure. So for us, letting go of the expectation that everything we make is going to be fantastic is really hard. We may not even realize we have this expectation of ourselves.
The Petrified Forest tapestries taught me something about letting go. This was one of the first times that I've been able to just sit down with a loom every day and mess around without worrying what the result would be. I did end up sharing these explorations with my followers (that's you!) but I have done so because it was so powerful for me and I want to encourage you to do something like this for yourself.
The Petrified Forest Tapestries book
A group of tapestry artists who have been exhibiting their tapestry diaries together for awhile invited me to add my work to their show Time Warp... and Weft: Woven Works at Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens, GA this summer. I was happy to have my piece exhibited with Tommye Scanlin, Janet Austin, Janette Meetze, and Geri Forkner's collections of tapestry diaries and Kathy Spoering's calendar tapestries. I felt that my pieces were best understood when seen with their inspiration, so I made a small paperback book to go to the show with the art. This book proved quite popular so I have made it available for anyone who would like to purchase a copy. I made a second version of it which is larger with easier-to-read text, but you can decide for yourself which one you prefer. You can see all of each book at the links below. This is a self-published book and making books this way, printed on demand, is a little pricey. I am not making a profit on them, I just want to make them available to anyone who might be inspired by the images and the story.
You can find the 7 x 7 inch paperback version HERE. (Click the PREVIEW text under the image and you can look at the entire book.)
The 10 x 8 inch hardback version is HERE along with a PDF viewable on any device.
There are a few images of the books along with these links on the SHOP page of my website.
And if you'd like to see my blog post about the Time Warp show along with links to other artist's posts and photos of the exhibit, go HERE.
Time Warp... and Weft: Woven Works is up until July 29th, so if you're in the Atlanta area, you can still see it. You'll find hours and address to Lyndon House Arts Center HERE.
Let go of the pressure... go forth and weave! (or find yourself a nice glass of wine or a long walk in the woods to tire your judging mind and then... go forth and weave!)
Have you had any similar experiences with letting go of your own expectations and just creating something? In the end were you pleased by the process if not the final product? Comment below!