Finally back on the loom...

I hate to admit it, but although my grandfather's loom came to me last January, and it has been in my studio put together for months, I have not yet woven anything on it.  I did a small piece on the Macomber (also from my grandfather) --that seemed familiar and safe-- but the Harrisville seemed like a large countermarche beast that needed taming before I could weave on it.  Turns out she is a gentle giant and so far I love her!

I could site endless excuses why my actual weaving in my own studio hasn't so much, well, happened in the last 8 months, but the truth is that life got in the way.  A shift in perspective is called for--weaving is necessary to my soul.  Making art and spending quiet time in my studio is of utmost importance.  Resistance is a creeping, insidious presence that will use any excuse to draw me away from the loom (oh, you're hungry?  Why not drive 10 miles to town to get a Sonic shake?  you have a hang nail on your pinky toe?  that might take several hours to remedy... etc.)

Back to the Harrisville Rug Loom:  For those of you who aren't familiar with this loom, it has a warp tensioning rod on the back that lowers as you weave so the back beam doesn't have to turn at all as long as your piece is less than about 8 feet long.  This feature I love.  It should make the warp tension fabulous... and so far it is!  My only complaint is the lack of locking treadles.  I know this loom was not designed for weaving tapestry, but locking treadles would sure make tapestry easier!  It is a high loom and I could probably rig it to stand and weave if it had locking treadles.

Anyway, I've started a couple quicker pieces for Weaving Southwest while thinking about a more complicated project for my shows next year.

Upcoming shows:
Speaking of which, I have two group shows scheduled in 2010.  The project is called Interwoven Traditions: New Mexico and Bauhaus.  I am working with James Koehler and Cornelia Theimer Gardella in a study of Bauhaus art theory and how we have used this theory in our work as tapestry artists both in Germany (Cornelia is a German citizen) and here in New Mexico.

The first show is in conjunction with Convergence 2010 which is in Albuquerque, NM in July. It will be at the Open Spaces Gallery in July and August 2010.
In September and October 2010 it will be at St. Michael's Church in Erfurt, Germany.  More details to come!
There is nothing so comforting as an old yellow lab sleeping in the sun next to your loom...

Fitness and the loom

I have woven standing at one sort of loom or another for the last 5 years.  I started tapestry weaving at Northern New Mexico Community College (now Northern New Mexico College) working on Rio Grande standing looms.  Then I made one and wove in my own studio.  Now I am weaving on a Glimakra which has been raised on 2 by 6’s.  The secret to weaving standing up (unless you have a walking loom) is locking treadles.  I highly recommend locking treadles on any loom wider than about 36 inches on which you are going to weave tapestry.  Of course if you are one of those “normal” tapestry weavers who uses an upright loom (where you can actually see the piece you’re working on and sit without hunching over like you’re 90 years old), then you don’t need to heed my suggestion.  Your loom already has “locking treadles” anyway.  I’m hoping I can figure out some way to put locking treadles on the Harrisville rug loom I just acquired.  If you’re a carpenter and need a project, let me know.

I like the biomechanics of standing while weaving.  It feels easier on my body, though still hard on the neck and shoulders.  As I approach the tender young age of 37, and considering the prior post about McDinner and Yoga Journal, I have been thinking more about fitness (yes, I know that as a health care provider I should have been thinking about fitness much earlier than 36… but we all think we’re immortal for much of our lives, don’t we?). 

I’ve got this bug lately to learn a little bit about rock climbing.  This may have come from a chapter I read in an adventure book by a woman who solo climbed Half Dome.  Now, I have no desire whatsoever to find myself on a multi-day climb sleeping 1000 feet off the nearest horizontal surface (or at least the one that gravity would take me to should that little piece of metal stuck in the rock upon which my weight is resting fail)… and really that might be more about the questions surrounding the guy who is hanging on his little hammock just ABOVE me on the rock.  I mean, I totally expect that he would pack out his poop—climbers do this on long climbs, right?   But what guy isn’t going to pee over the edge of that little shelf he is sitting on?  I don’t want that particular shower.

But perhaps a climbing wall would be an appropriate place to start learning to climb.  My legs are in fair shape considering I haven’t been inside a gym in at least 9 years—and all that standing at the loom has to help, right?  But my arms are whimpy little twigs that wouldn’t hold me up for a second.  So I was hoping that climbing might increase my upper body strength—you know, so I could look like those gals in the Athleta catalogs.  But I have disturbing flashes of myself hanging from one hand, other arm and two legs flailing for purchase, me hoping that my screams of terror aren’t disturbing the 5-year-old who is 15 feet above me on the wall, and the person belaying me yelling, “You’re only 2 feet off the ground!  Let go!”  Maybe there is a private climbing gym for those of us who don’t own anything made by Prana and who don’t think we could manage this activity with a paper bag over our heads… you know, sort of a private climbing wall for the inept.

Art and Fear

I have a dear friend who is also a weaver.  I think all of us artists who use weaving for a medium need a friend who is in the same boat.  This evening we were climbing a hill overlooking Abiquiu talking about the challenges of being a tapestry artist and I mentioned that I was reading a book called "Art and Fear".  Maybe we operate on the same wavelength, because she said she was also reading the same book.  (Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils--and rewards-- of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.)  The opening quote by Gene Fowler, "Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead" was an indication to me that this book might have something to say to me.  Sometimes I feel like that at the design table--or when I have a design that I have worked with for a long time and then am trying to figure out the colors.  I need to read this book again... and remember that all the things I'm afraid of can't possibly be worse than actually trying to make the art.  It doesn't really matter if I get into those juried shows, or if I sell any of it at all, or if I even finish the piece, as long as I start.  Starting is the thing.  The authors of this book propose that we make the very human connection that as artists we consider art equals self, and when you make flawed art, you are a flawed person (p. 7).  So that is when I come around to not starting the work.  If I can't start, I can't fail.  But the extension of that is that if I make no art at all, I am not a person... and that I can't accept.

I was telling my friend Conni how proud I was this week at getting the Harrisville loom together (see prior post).  But that the fear crept back in when I looked at the cartoon I'm working on for my first piece on the loom that is now together (a cartoon I'm certainly not certain about!) and I went back to just being glad I got the loom together.  I'm going to think about this one this week as I spend three days at the loom at my teacher's studio starting tomorrow.  Maybe the starting is what I need to focus on to start with.  Start.  Begin.  Be a Nike commercial (just do it).

Some of the fear is about TIME.  It takes so long to finish a tapestry that I'm afraid to call a design ready to begin.  If I start it and I hate it once it is on the loom, it could be a very long haul to get to the end when I can start another piece.  But honestly, I have only once cut a tapestry off the loom unfinished... 

This photo was taken today during a morning hike near my house.  The petroglyph is a deer dancer according to someone who knows a lot more about rock art than I do!  That was the hike before the one to the top of the hill overlooking Abiquiu.  I am a peripatetic fiber artist to be sure.

Now this is progress!

I am very very proud of this photo (well, not of the photo, I'm not a great photographer especially when the camera is sitting on the top of a rickety ladder... but of what it represents.) This is a Harrisville Rug Loom... you know, if you're a loomy person--the loom Peter Collingwood designed (the weaving world will miss you Peter now that you're gone!).  My grandfather used this very loom for about 15 years to weave rugs using the shaft switching device (which I painstakingly removed today--sorry grandpa).  He and my grandmother recently moved to Connecticut for health reasons...  And, drumroll please, I inherited the loom!  

This loom is sweet.  You have to understand that I've been weaving on a Rio Grande loom made basically of 2 x 4s for years (lots of swearing when the fell line wasn't even which was always and the pieces came out lopsided--amazing what you can fix with a steamer).  This loom has the tension bar on the back that you can raise to the top and run the warp over.  Then as you weave you lower the bar instead of turning the warp beam and your tension NEVER CHANGES (so they tell me, I don't believe it yet).  And it is a countermarche loom.  I've always wanted a countermarche loom... maybe just because they seem so exotic.  I climbed under the loom to tie it up tonight and realized it really isn't as exotic as I thought.  It is pretty straightforward... perhaps that is because I'm weaving tapestry and I only need two harnesses to go up and two down at a time--then switch.  Surely I can make it do that!

Before I forget, the reason I'm proud of this photo is that the loom entered my house in a bazillion pieces.  It has been laying in various corners for a few weeks now waiting for the Rio Grande to make an exit.  I put all those bazillion pieces together by myself.  The process entailed a lot of contortions, some heavy lifting (the beater weighs about 40 pounds--geez!  I found out after hefting it over my head that the weights come OFF the bottom of the beater), and more than a little bit of swearing.  But here is the part I'm really proud of--there were no trips to the ER, no 911 calls, no head injuries, and I did not end up crushing myself or my dog under the very heavy pieces of hardwood or hardware.  The loom is now together, and believe me, it isn't going anywhere!  Now I can hope for the miracle of a tapestry on the loom just as soon as I finish the dishes.

A White Christmas... in Gallup.. and other abundance

SNOW! Remember when you were a kid and snow on Christmas was icing on the cake? Well, for those of use who grew up in the southwest US anyway, getting snow on Christmas is a rare and beautiful occasion. It DID snow last night on top of the couple inches from a few days ago. It is melting fast, but the snow was appreciated as it dusted the sparkly Christmas lights and covered the dirty streets.

I am in the NM town where I grew up for Christmas with my sister and her husband who are pictured here showing off my grandmother's mangle. My grandparents have recently moved to Connecticut and they left the mangle behind as apparently ironing things like sheets was no longer a priority. We're not sure what to do with the mangle, but it was kind of fun to play with.

I am excited and overwhelmed by the gift of weaving equipment, also from my grandparents. The looms are no longer used by either of my grandparents and they left them to me, the remaining weaver in the family (after Auntie who already has a Harrisville rug loom!). The loom collection includes a Leclerc upright tapestry loom, a Macomber with 10 harnesse (castle for 16), and a Harrisville rug loom. My grandparents only bought the best looms! Now I have the privelege of using them--and trying to shoehorn them into my house and still have room to live! But I'm crazy enough to give up the couch for a loom. I will NOT be taking the mangle with me.


Does anyone know of a weaver who needs a 40 inch Gilmore 8 harness jack loom? I have an extra one lying around. No, seriously, this was my first loom and I still love it. It is made of beautiful wood, handcrafted by a guy in California. I got to pick the loom up from his workshop (I was living in Reno, NV at the time) and see the loom coming out of his cavernous woodshop. At that time (about A.D. 2000) he was largely doing the whole thing on his own. It was quite impressive--lots of sawdust and HUGE saws. Anyway, my girlfriend at the time helped me haul this loom home in her Nissan XTerra (it barely fits assembled--take note if you're thinking you want this loom and need to move it)... and it became my companion for all those years. But the loom has been neglected for the last 4 years as I have been weaving tapestry (and my family will attest to beginning to tire of moving a loom that isn't being used). I don't expect to give up tapestry at this point, and the Gilmore needs a new home.

Some of you may know of my space limitations... I need to sell this loom mostly because I don't have room for it. In a few weeks I am going to inherit my grandparents looms. I can't tell you how excited I am about this. I feel like I'm getting new members of my family and I know that the two new looms I'm getting will be well used and will serve me extremely well. I am lucky to have a grandfather who bought only the best looms, and so I will be renting the second UHaul truck in a month to haul a Harrisville Rug Loom and a 16 harness Macomber to my new straw house on the mesa (I may need to rethink buying a couch however). May my grandparents weaving spirit bless my future creations on their beautiful looms. Thank you Grandpa for this amazing gift! I love you!