White

One week ago, this is what I saw when I looked out my windows ~

That’s a portion of my front garden, after moderate snowfall all night Friday and much of Saturday. The birdfeeders (which, knowing that snow was coming, I had filled the day before) were exceptionally busy all day. It snowed much of the day, and into the night. Sunday morning it continued to snow, even as the temperature began slowly rising. In the end, I got about five inches; other parts of the Island accumulated a foot or so. The garden was stunning.

By Tuesday morning, thanks to warmer temperatures and persistent rain, it was all gone, and the garden was back to the winter doldrums. After last winter’s complete lack of cold and snow, I’m glad we had this brief, heart-lifting respite from rain and gloom.

And then there was this ~

Yearlings snacking at the bird feeders. The white one was born in this neighborhood, and visits my garden quite frequently. She’s not pure white, more a soft buff with a light brown tail, the result of two parents both carrying a recessive gene for whiteness. My neighbors consider her “my” deer. Who am I to quarrel with that?

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Back in the Saddle Again

My readers must be tired of me remarking that it’s been a long time since I appeared here. Me too. It’s been such a strange time on so many levels. COVID has changed life everywhere for everyone, including on this outlying rural island, where the virus has generally spread moderately but has resulted (thankfully) in only a handful of deaths. It’s hard to conjure up enthusiasm and what my father called ambition — the internal thrust to do work and be productive. Some artists I know have hunkered down and done masses of new work; others, like myself, have been stymied and stagnant. I have wished for the former.

There’s some new work hanging in my inventory closet, completed early in the year during the “before” time, all available for purchase.

An early attempt at photographing finished work on a mannequin ~

A few things on the loom from last winter ~

And finally, a glimpse of the early signs of a new season, despite (perhaps because of) the nearly relentless rain here this winter ~

Prunus mume (Japanese Flowering Almond)

There’s a new warp on my big loom, for 10 bright towels, and a fancy new loom awaiting its final set-up. The rainy days may turn out to be conducive — at last — to moving the new work forward.

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In a Time of Plague

It’s a strange time; I doubt that anyone would disagree with that assessment.  The contrast between this drastically altered way of life with the burgeoning of Spring’s beauty all around is difficult to absorb.  Much less make sense out of.  I think it’s not something we can understand in any logical or rational fashion; we must simply move through the days in the best ways we can fashion for ourselves.

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I am fortunate.  I’m an artist.  I live and work alone, and have for some years.  This sequestration is not generally hard on me, or difficult to tolerate.  What’s disconcerting is not spending time with friends, long conversations over breakfast or lunch, warm hugs in greeting and farewell, the sense of connection as eyes meet and hold, the pleasure of shared laughter.  I miss that acutely on some days. Spending increased hours on the phone somewhat allays the desire to be together, but leaves me only partially satisfied. As a long-ago friend would say: “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye”. 20170606_103842

The garden is exceptionally lush and beautiful this year, though it’s been a relatively dry Spring.  It reminds me many times a day of the reality of the world outside these walls, standing juxtaposed beside the anguish and confusion of the world-wide situation of disease and turmoil.  It also brings my thoughts to the heartening truth of deep human care and connection in the face of terror and death, another element of the reality in this  world.

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Showing Up

I haven’t, as you may have noticed.  Not sure why, other than a lot of distraction and “noise” in the wider world. And in my own head.

Today there is snow on the ground, only a little bit outside my window, but many inches both north and south of me on the Island.  I envy the many inches folks. It’s cold too, so staying indoors (except for going out to refill bird feeders) makes me happy.  I’m definitely less hardy than I used to be.

2019 was a good garden year, and moderately productive at the loom.  Here are a few glimpses ~

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That last one is a rose, in case you’re puzzled, and the white flowers are a special variety of Philadelphus (mock orange). Intensely fragrant.

I’ll wait a few days to show you some professional photos of recent work, and a few process photos of current work on the looms.  (So that’s a promise, which requires that I follow through!)

 

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Looking in Two Directions

It’s been unconscionably long since I last wrote here, which is not a measure of how little I’ve done or how blank my thought processes have been.  Still, 2018 was a strange year, with some oddities and demands that have been out of the ordinary.  A quick glance at the high points will have to suffice.

The summer was busy, as it always is, and as I often do, I sometimes wondered why other people get to take vacations and I don’t.  But then, as one who grew up on a family dairy farm where we all had work to do year round, and by the age of eleven was working elsewhere to earn money for college, the matter of summer vacation has rarely been an element of my life.  You’d think I’d be used to it by now.  20170606_101940

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The summer ended with the annual Whidbey Working Artists Open Studio Tour, a weekend-long event that is both exhausting and exhilarating for me.  This year’s was perhaps the best ever in terms of numbers of people who came here and the level of sales and commission orders.  Most of the  people who came were new to my studio, and I had a fine time demonstrating and discussing the weaving process.

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My 75th birthday was in early September, and with the help of dear friends and family, I was able to have a real honest-to-goodness party — under a big white tent situated in the middle of the garden.  Potluck food, live music, a cake with masses of candles, and multiple simultaneous conversations around me — all made for a truly memorable celebration.

The fourth annual weaving retreat which I organize took place in late September, and was a resounding success.  Participants came from all over the United States, and this year from Canada as well.  Kathrin Weber taught one class, I taught the other.  The work that people did was varied, highly individual, a feast for the eyes and mind.  (And I seem not to have available photos from that week, regrettably.  If I can find them, I’ll add them later.)

I have new eyes!!  In November, two weeks apart, I had cataract surgery on both eyes.  It’s astonishing to me still to experience the enormous improvement in my vision, and to realize how impaired it was for several years while I was being too stubborn and timid to go forward with the procedure.  I have the sense that my clear vision now is more than strictly physical.

Lastly, in early December I learned that I have been accepted into the Northwest Designer Craftsmen, a prestigious organization that covers a five-state area.  (www.nwdesignercraftsmen.org)  I had a difficult time completing the entire application process, as my “credentials” don’t match up with the standard art world criteria.  I decided to speak in the application about the choices I made over the years to diverge from the path that many professional craftsmen and artists follow.  And with the steady encouragement and support of a special friend, I completed it and sent it in on time.  I’m still astonished that they accepted me, and very glad they did.

Now, at the start of a new year, I find myself (as always) both hopeful and pragmatic. A dear friend and I have begun the process of constructing a website which will be a new location where people can see and purchase my work.  This should be up and running by the end of January, and will require something of a learning curve for me to become competent at maintaining it (which will include photographing the work to be shown).

Another big change this year is the addition of a studio assistant, which will enable me to be more productive overall while not being the sole worker-bee.  For the academic semester, I will also be mentoring an art student from Ohio who will be studying with me and with a local painter.  These two will begin to give me the long-wished-for opportunity to pass along some of what I know to others.  It’s going  to be a challenge to figure out how to do this effectively, so that we all benefit from it.  Another learning curve.

For the fifth year, I’ll be organizing the Westcoast Blazers Retreat, for weavers who work with Kathrin Weber’s marvelous hand-dyed yarns.  That will take place in October, and I’m adding a dye workshop in May, at which Kathrin will be teaching her techniques for dyeing both yarn and cloth.  The results of both events will be inspiring;  I love the process of organizing these events.

There’s more ahead, and surely some surprises.  I’ll be writing  more frequently this year, and enjoying it as always.  My warm wishes to you for an interesting and satisfying year.

 

 

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Surrounded, Permeated

People often ask me what inspires me, where I get my design ideas from.  Rarely am I able to give a precise or coherent answer, other than that the hand-dyed yarns I work with are themselves the starting point.  And then there’s this ~

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And this ~

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And also this ~

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As I write, it’s a lovely sunny afternoon with a pleasant breeze.  I look out windows to the west and see at least five varieties of bamboo, several Japanese Maples, and tall Douglas Firs behind them.  From the window to my right, I survey, past the triple trunks of a large Western Red Cedar, at least eight Japanese Maples in colors ranging from bright yellow-green to deep burgundy, with different foliage shapes on each.  Past them and above is a bright blue sky and more tall Douglas  Firs.  The breeze is moving everything gently, and the shiny young leaves reflect the sunlight.  It’s mesmerizing; this is what surrounds me indoors and out.

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Is this garden my inspiration?  No.  It isn’t.  But it’s certainly the context within which I live and do my work, so it somehow relates – intangibly and secretly — to the work itself.

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The longer vistas are often what please me the most, especially at this most lush time of the year; the combinations of colors and textures in all the vegetation (much of it quite rare in local gardens) is certainly an expression of aspects of my aesthetic.

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But direct inspiration? No.  And yet, there’s a relationship.  When I move in close, I always find some of my favorite combinations of colors, and paying attention to the play of textures and shapes is enormously satisfying ~

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Dicentra spectablis ‘Gold Heart’

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Acer palmatum ‘Villa Taranto’

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Weigela ‘Rubidor’ and Fagus sylvatica purpurea

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Trochodendron aralioides in flower

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Clematis ‘Kiri Te Kanawa’ , no-name tree peony in bud, Physocarpus ‘Diabolo’

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Acer ginnala ‘Flame’ flowering

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Iris confusa ‘Chengdu’ (Bamboo Iris)

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Acer griseum

These vignettes, a select few from this large garden, always speak to me, and rest in my visual memory.  Surely they nurture and inform the work I do at my looms in some subterranean way. Even more surely the entire garden enriches my sense of color, texture and pattern as they play out in the natural world.

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At Last

Three months since I last wrote, knowing time was drifting past me, yet reluctant to sit for long at the computer.  It really is Spring at last, lush and intensely green.  My garden is a glory, its best time of year.  Only a couple of hints in these photos; the rest of the new ones are in the process of migrating to the cloud (wherever that is!).  Proof that the wild ones like it here too ~

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Every winter, I think I’m going to get heaps of new work completed; in fact, that used to be the case.  But this year, like the last few, I set myself up with more complex work than usual, so in fact it goes slower than I anticipate.  Images below are from the Aurora series of scarves, with two hand-dyed yarns in the warp and elaborate patterning.  (In the interest of keeping this short, I’m holding back on showing photos of additional work in progress.  Next time!)

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Three sections of the same scarf below. Lots of color changes in the hand-dyed yarn.  Hence “Aurora”.

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I’ll be back soon.  I promise. Lots more to show you.

 

 

 

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Playing Catch-Up

It’s a beautiful sunny day at the end of the month, after days of rain and murk.  A joy indeed.  A couple of months ago, I took some  of my best recent work to Stadler Studio in Langley to have Michael shoot good photos (instead of my process photos taken on the loom).  The results give a good sense of the character of the cloth, the drape, texture and shimmer, in addition to the colors and patterns.  Enjoy the eye candy!

“Kiku” series ~

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“Tis The Season” series ~

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“Summer’s End” series ~

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“Caramel Apple” series ~

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“Willow Pond” throw ~

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“Elijah’s Blanket” series throw ~

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That’s it for today.  I’m working my way back into more frequent posting, and with sustained work at the looms lately, there is plenty to show and write about.  Here’s to February!

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Winding Down

It’s been an unconscionably long time since I last wrote here.  I can only explain the lapse by saying that it’s been a year fraught with distractions, to which I have been uncommonly (for me) susceptible.  Still, there remains at this tag-end of the year the sense that I’ve done good work, embarked on some new directions, and widened my influence in the world of weaving.  I am not dissatisfied..

Writing at this late moment of the year gives me the perfect platform also to declare my intention to go back to writing here regularly, and to broaden the range of what I write about.  The sub-head of this blog is “an ongoing  discussion of one weaver’s life”; my tendency in the past has been to keep the focus on my weaving, with only rare forays into the garden or onto a road trip.  I’m going to expand that scope to include more aspects of my life, without being at all sure at this juncture what that will look like.  I reckon we’ll all be surprised.

Following is a slim selection of photographs from the past several months, each group headed with a brief explanatory note.  If you want to know more about any of these items, drop me a note in the comments section below, and I’ll respond promptly.

Weaving ~

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There are plenty more pieces in each series, especially in that last one, if you want to see additional photos.

The Garden ~

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That last one  may be a bit startling.  We had, for the first time in many years, a white Christmas.  I took plenty of pictures, but you’ll have to wait till later in the week to see them.  I took hundreds of photos in the last few months with my phone, and only this evening realized that I hadn’t thrown them into Dropbox.  They’re uploading even now (it seems to be an interminable process), so are not yet available to me there.  Frustrating.  Much of what I had intended to show you now will appear in a retrospective soon.

The fireworks have begun in the neighborhood, even though it’s still two and a half hours till midnight.  But it’s well past the turning of the year on the East Coast of the U.S.A., and in most of the rest of the world, so I’ll wish you a richly satisfying and interesting year ahead and take myself off to bed.  Till soon……

 

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Distracted

It’s been uncommonly dry here on Whidbey Island, with no appreciable rain since (I think) before June.  Very different from the norm, when we have reliable rain till after Independence Day.  By then, the browning of fields and lawns was well underway, and my garden has been thirsty for easily two months.  You can imagine how much hose-hauling and pot-watering I’ve been engaged in.  I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to our rainy season, which probably won’t start till well into October.

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Still, I’ve managed to eke out some weaving.  Proof follows, with minimal narrative.  The Whidbey Working Artists Summer Open Studio Tour (www.whidbeyworkingartists.com) takes place August 26 and 27, so I’m down to the wire on finishing up new work and loading up the looms with fresh warps for visitors to see.

Phoenix Rising scarves ~

The warp for these is a very fine cotton, the wefts fine tencel or bamboo.

#1 ~

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#2 ~

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#3 ~

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And an inside look at the orderliness of the loom and threads, because I love it so ~

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Elijah’s Blanket ~ My second great-nephew was born in March, and a promised blanket for him took far longer than I’d anticipated.  The process is something called double width double weave, where two layers are woven simultaneously, open on one side and closed on the other.  When it comes off the loom, it’s twice as wide as it was on the loom.  (Think of a sheet of paper folded in half, then opened up to full width.)  The trick is not to have the two layers joined anywhere except at the fold, and not to have a visible line of crowded threads at the center of the opened-out fabric.

At the back of the loom ~

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There are five yarns in this warp, all cotton, two hand-dyed and three commercial pearl cottons in different weights.  The weft is a fine cotton.  There is enough warp still on the loom for three throws, each one of which will be different.

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At the center of the finished blanket ~

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A poor photo, but it shows the overall flow of color and pattern ~

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And Elijah finds it to be …….. delicious!

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Kiku scarves ~

This is a fine hand-dyed tencel warp, the first on my new AVL V-series loom. The wefts are either fine bamboo or fine pearl cotton.

#1 ~

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#2 ~

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#3 ~

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With the exception of Elijah’s blanket, these and much more will be available for purchase at the Open Studio Tour, where you’ll also be able to see the computer-assisted looms in action and tour the garden.  The deer aren’t likely to be present.

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