Bauhaus Tapestry Project

In which I am up to my eyeballs in technology.

You know you may be a little too busy when you find yourself reading "An Introduction to Telehealth as a Service Delivery Model Within Occupational Therapy"* on the toilet as a way to get your professional development updates in somewhere.

I am not the most tech-saavy person, though I do try hard and I get by with a little help from my friends (okay, a lot of help from my friends--yes, I had the Beatles album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band when I was a kid, but no, I'm not really that old. I was a 15 year old stuck in a 40 year old's world for awhile). Somehow this week I am getting a grand education in all things web-based.
  • A website migration (this might take awhile--I use Squarespace and they have a great new platform and I want to use it, but it takes some learning for me to get the new stuff figured out... fortunately for me, Squarespace is great at those little videos where you look at a screen and someone is talking and the little arrows click on things and you can sort of do the same thing on your screen)
  • Some new teaching products  (new websites, new concepts in creating online forums... etc)
  • Use of a real newsletter mail server in which people who want to hear from me can just sign up and I don't have to manually manage a whole lot of email address... which will keep gmail from getting too mad at me also
  • Learning iMovie for making videos for teaching (actually using the video camera itself was a bit of a challenge and I lost all the video from my sister's baby shower and that is really quite horrible as I promised to send it to many many people, but I'm better now. I haven't deleted anything important in the last few weeks and I even made a video of my niece in which she is adorable and I hope my sister will forgive me one day)... 
There is a big learning curve on a lot of these things, but with the help of some people smarter than me and a little swearing, I am going to come through it without losing my marbles.

In other technological news, my little Canon Elph camera is giving up the ghost. I am really sad about it, but she has stopped writing reliably to the SD card. I will admit that though I bought the camera  exactly 2 years ago just before going to Germany for the Bauhaus project, she has taken tens of thousands of photos and I suppose that is all you can ask for a camera that cost just north of $100. I haven't brought myself to order a new one yet, but I know it is imminent.

All this is my reason for not weaving anything at all recently (well that, a wedding, a month-long trip, and the fact that I just can't love the LeClerc Gobelin loom like I love my Harrisville Rug Loom.  I have tried, but I feel like I'm in 7th grade again when I'm trying to use the vertical loom... awkward, gangly, and full of acne.)

At least I'm getting some yarn dyed--mostly when the really really bad internet we have out here in the boonies absolutely refuses to work. I plead and dance around the modem and promise it kindness and that I won't stream anything offensive, but it frequently balks and sends me back to the dye pot. Perhaps that is a good thing.

Boot Mountain Bristlecone (great Sunday field trip!)

*In OT Practice, April 23, 2012 (I'm a few months behind). It is the issue with the superhero on the cover. I have given up on the REAL professional journals--those would be the articles in the journal without pictures with pages of references at the end of each 30 page article. I don't have that much gut trouble.

James and the cranes

I woke up this morning not to my alarm clock playing the first few bars of Beethoven's Choral Fantasy in C minor but to the morning flight of greater sandhill cranes flying over the house and feeding in the barley field across the street.  (Of course the insistent whines of my dog in the corner reminding me that it was far past 6 am and she was hungry might have contributed.) The cranes have been amassing for 4 weeks now, the first arrivals coming just after I moved here the beginning of February. The experience of watching 1000 or more cranes feeding, circling, taking off, calling to each other, and dancing from my front window day after day has been magical.

I have lived in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado before. Four and five years ago I was here living first in the South San Juans in a mountain house 6 miles from my nearest winter neighbor and then on the flanks of the mighty Mt. Blanca on the other side of the valley--all off-grid, all an adventure. By the summer of 2008 I was trying to fit little bits of tapestry weaving in around the three jobs I was working as an occupational therapist. I had a sunny but much-in-need-of-repair apartment over a realty office as my studio and my Rio Grande loom was turning out some promising work, albeit slowly. But my therapy jobs were becoming difficult and my personal situation was also.

In October 2008 I took another workshop with James Koehler at the Taos Wool Festival. I watched the aspens changing colors at the Taos Ski Valley one afternoon and decided I was moving back home. The next day I asked James if he would still take me on as an apprentice (he had offered two years prior) and he agreed. So I quit my jobs, packed my Rio Grande loom (and my piano--this is a story for another day, but it is another reason my brother-in-law is on my personal beer-for-life program) and moved into a lovely straw bale house in Velarde, NM, 55 miles north of James' studio in Santa Fe. By February I was spending three days a week in his studio and there was a large tapestry in process on the smaller of his Cranbrook looms.

I studied with James as his apprentice until his death March 4, 2011, a year ago today. In the year since he left us, many things have changed in my tapestry world.  I started my own business in earnest, I sold some large pieces, one to the permanent collection of a college, got some commissions, and started teaching workshops. James had a large influence both on my art and on the course of my life.

James finished his autobiography less than a year before he died. In Woven Color: The Tapestry Art of James Koehler he talks about how he came to be the tapestry artist he was. As far as I know, it is only sold by Blurb Publications at this time.

And then there was the Bauhaus project. This undertaking consumed much of three years. I have written about the Bauhaus project a lot on this blog, but I have to mention it again here because it influenced my time with James. Cornelia Theimer Gardella is a good friend of mine and the project was her baby. The idea was to look at the influences of the Bauhaus, the early 20th century German art school, on our contemporary tapestry creation in New Mexico in the early 21st century. James signed on and the three of us read a lot of Paul Klee's notebooks as well as other Bauhaus material and eventually put together two shows entitled Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus. The first show was in Albuquerque, NM in the summer of 2010. The second was in Erfurt, Germany at Michaeliskirche in September and October of 2010. The trip and the project in general were monumental for me and pushed my thinking about who I was as an artist in the broader world.

I have sold the pieces I created for that show in 2010 and it is time to move on to new projects. There have been many times in the last year that I have wanted to ask James a question about a technique, a design, a teaching quandary, or even a legal issue. I have to rely on my knowledge of him and mix that with my own experiences, because the answer James might give me if he were here today might not be the path I would take. James taught me a lot of specifics, but he also taught me to look for what is important in myself and to follow that above anything else. His words from those years I was working in his studio still echo around in my head sometimes and they have definitely influenced the direction of my art and my life in one way or another.

Cornelia Theimer Gardella, James Koehler, Rebecca Mezoff
Michaeliskirche, September 2010
photo: Hamish John Appleby
photo: Hamish John Appleby

James Koehler, Michaeliskirche opening, September 2010
photo: Hamish John Appleby
Tomorrow I will post some information about his two remaining looms, a 100 inch Cranbrook and a 100 inch Shannock. They were the center of James' tapestry studio and they are in exquisite condition as they were loved by a master for many years. They are in need of new homes.

James Koehler, September 2010
photo: Hamish John Appleby
The sandhill cranes in my front yard are both a blessing and a call to awareness. Life can be much shorter than we expect it to be. We are always on a journey and I, for one, want to pay attention to where I am in this moment, eat all the barley I can while the sun is out, and prepare for the next flight north. 


This is my statement from the show Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus in Albuquerque (minus the Germany translation which you'll have to ask Cornelia for if you want it) at Open Space Gallery. A few people have asked me to post it so they could see it again.


i can't tell you who I was yesterday
everything i made this morning changed who yesterday was
today i made a tapestry while wondering about change and seeing
tomorrow's explorations may have different endings... or beginnings

a learning about collaboration
a movement through fear
a gleeful laugh of discovery
lifting a marvelous new color out of the dye pot
holding my breath as i pull a tapestry off the cloth beam at it's cutting off ceremony

i like putting individual threads together to make a crafted object that is also art
But mostly I revel in the journey.

The Bauhaus Project has been part of a creative three years for me. I have worked closely with other artists and learned about finding new paths together and apart. From the Bauhaus study I have learned about the importance of making things, of starting at the beginning, and of getting your hands dirty in the craft of the thing.

The Bauhaus was a school that challenged the way art was conceived and created. It was a place of people like Walter Gropius, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Gunta Stolzl, Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, and Anni Albers. They were giants, and they were just people. They are still challenging me today.

Home from the party...

Convergence ended yesterday afternoon. As the funny-man from Texas who volunteered to watch the entrance to the vendor hall much of the weekend kept telling me, "at 4:01 you won't be a newbie any more!" I had a first-timer sticker on my badge and he called me "newbie" every time I walked through the door. I warmed to the appellation after awhile. It is good to approach the world with fresh eyes.

There is much to say about the past week and I am not sure it is at all possible to get it down in any sort of coherent order. So here are some highlights for those of you who couldn't attend, and for those of you who did and perhaps had different experiences than I did.

I met many wonderful people this week. Many of them I had gotten to know a little bit online and it was a great deal of fun to attach a face to a blogger or body of art I had seen on the internet. I was also able to reconnect with some weavers I had met at Intermountain Weavers Conference and chat with old friends and teachers such as Northern NM College Rio Grande weaving instructor, Karen Martinez.

I enjoyed the ATA forum on Sunday. Lynne Curran and James Koehler gave lectures about their work. Mary Lane also did a digi slam with work of about a dozen tapestry weavers. I have some new perspectives on international tapestry weavers (okay, artists who are not American--I KNOW this is a long time coming, but sometimes it takes a lilting and lovely voice like Lynne Curran's to jolt my brain into recognition of a new perspective) which I will post more about after unpacking the dirty clothes and giving my new spinning wheel a whirl.

I took some fun classes which I talked about briefly in a prior post. Gregory Case's photo classes were extremely useful and I regret that I couldn't hear the last hour of the class Saturday afternoon. I did have an opening to get to.

Here are some photos from the Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus opening Saturday night. The gallery was keeping track of people coming in for the first couple hours and then the volunteer staff left and we don't know how many people came after that. At last count which was about 6pm I think, there had been 150 people to see the show. As the opening lasted another 2 hours, I think it likely we had over 200 people in one evening. I find that amazing considering how busy Convergence was and how far from the convention center the venue was. I was also so pleased to have people from other parts of my life attend. To those of you who came from places as far flung as Ojo Caliente and Gallup, thank you for coming! It meant a great deal to me to see your smiling faces and hear your words of support.

The following 4 photos of the show were taken by Chris Barber for the gallery. He graciously shared them with me since my camera stopped working about 5 minutes into the opening (yes, the new Nikon). His photos are likely better than any I would have taken anyway and it was a relief not to try to take any photos while at my own opening.
Thank you so much Chris for sharing these shots.

Copyright The CTB and SHR Trust, used by permission

Sunday evening we stopped at the Enchanted Pathways opening at William and Joseph gallery in Santa Fe.
This is Megan Swartzfager. She did the cartoon for the Mystic Moon tapestry (she also named it)
of the unicorn we had in this show. She was the artist. I wove the piece. I am happy to report that Megan has begun learning tapestry weaving herself and I hope that she may have a piece that she designed and wove herself in the next small format show. She is a young lady of many interests and talents, so it remains to be seen which ones get her time and attention.

I am sure that I will have much more to say about Convergence at least in my own head over the next week or two. Whether any of that makes it to this blog remains to be seen. The most important things are hard to capture in words or photos and my heart is full of gratitude for all the people who shared bits of themselves with me this week.

Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus Opening Saturday 7/24

So Convergence is upon us. It snuck up on me... but I am excited to meet many weavers and reconnect with ones I haven't seen in years. I hope to see some of the members of the Reno Fiber Guild who helped start me on my weaving way about a decade ago.

Here is the beautiful rack card Cornelia designed for our show. The photo is hers and the weaving detail is James Koehler's Rhythms of Nature. The show is at Open Space Gallery at the Open Space Visitors Center at 6500 Coors Blvd in Albuquerque. More information and the phone number of the gallery is available on their website here.

The opening is Saturday the 24th of July from 4-8 pm.

Further information about our project is available at the project website here. The show will go to Germany in September and October with the opening in Erfurt on September 5th at St. Michael's church at 5 pm.

Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus

Today Cornelia Theimer Gardella and I hung Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus. Honestly, we had a great time. This was unexpected as I thought it might be difficult to get everything up and looking good. True, it took most of the day, but the results were excellent if I do say so myself.

The show is at the Open Space Gallery on 6500 Coors (between Montano and Paseo del Norte) in Albuquerque. The visitors center is an interesting place in it's own right. I recommend a visit (of course while the show is hanging).

Artwork (photo and design; weaving by James Koehler) below by Cornelia Theimer Gardella.

An empty gallery at 10 am...

And the helpers... These are Cornelia's friends from Germany. Paul and Stefan (probably spelled that wrong, sorry!) kept us laughing and provided some excellent technical skills (turns out Stefan is a stickler for getting things lined up--a real help when I'm tired and just want to get home--especially when associated hilarity is included). The T-shirts were special made for their American adventure. I loved "Bratwurst Abroad", but "Achtung Autobahn Kaputt" was also excellent. As I was wearily driving the two+ hours home, they zipped past me in their rented convertible waving and laughing.

Some peeks at the show... I have not included any photos of Conni's work as I didn't want to give away the best part of the show! Her Tomorrow II piece is worth the trip out to the gallery.
Go see it! The opening will be July 24th from 4-8.

Bauhaus Show Preparation...

It has been a while since I actually hung my own show. I forgot how much preparation time it takes to get a show ready, and I only have 4 pieces in this one!

Here they are ready to go to Albuquerque tomorrow morning to hang in the Open Space Gallery. It is good to finally be at the point where we can put it up!
The show is called Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus and is the first of two shows; the second in Erfurt, Germany in September and October.

This show is a collaboration with Cornelia Theimer Gardella and James Koehler. See our project website for more information here.