Back on Board & 2010 Newsletter

It’s sure been a looooooong time since I wrote anything here, though it’s not for lack of thinking about doing it. And as we know, thinking about something and by golly doing it are hardly the same thing with hardly the same results. It’s unclear to me why I have such a hard time just sitting down at my studio computer and banging out a bit about what I’m working on, or slapping in a few pictures (I can do that now!), or maundering about the latest scritchy behavior of one of the looms. Partly it’s because I get tangled up in the knotty idiocy of wondering if what I have to say Means Anything; partly I feel like I’m “supposed” to write something serious or insightful about what I’m doing. Mainly, I manage not to get around to it, because it seems like it’s not Real Work, like sitting at the loom and weaving, or designing a new series of patterns, or putting the next warp on the loom. Still, it’s an element of my life as a professional weaver I want incorporated into my workday, so I’ll persist in aiming at consistency.

For now, my 2010 newsletter (of sorts), as the introduction to the Tenth Anne-ual Anne X 2 Show and Sale, taking place on November 25 and 26 here on Whidbey Island ~

After slogging in 2009 through assembling a new (reconditioned) production loom and beginning to weave on it, I thought I was done with loom purchases and learning curves. That confident assumption withered away when late in the year I realized that the 24-inch-wide computer-assisted loom I’d been using for 18 months wasn’t really designed for the kind of production I normally do — warps ten or more yards long, with a series of related but never identical pieces from each warp. The solution to this dilemma was (rubbing hands together gleefully) to buy another loom, this time a 30-inch weaving width AVL Production Dobby Loom. It was another reconditioned loom, a smaller sister to my 48-inch one, also with 16 shafts, allowing for vast possibilities in patterning. Late last winter, another eight large heavy boxes arrived at my studio — the new loom, ready to assemble.

Instead of trying to slog through the process alone, I enlisted the help of my friend Janis Saunders and her husband Dave; we had the loom entirely put together and tested for anomalies in a day and a half. That was fun, so a few weeks later I went up to Coupeville and helped them put together her new (used) 30-inch production loom, a sister to mine with a serial number one digit higher.

The 24-inch loom sits in a corner of my studio waiting for someone to purchase it. It was the ideal loom for me to make the giant step from mechanical looms to computer-assisted design and weaving — anything larger would have scared me into squeaking immobility. Small enough not to be intimidating, it was complex enough to stretch my knowledge and skill to the point where bringing in the production looms was the logical next step.

So I’ve spent the year learning, working, designing and weaving; the new work is increasingly complex as I move further toward the images I have in mind for the work I wish to produce. In the Spring, I took a three-day workshop with Bonnie Inouye (one of my idols) to learn a lot more about designing complicated advancing twill patterns. In the process, I became more at ease with the design software I use, and created a sizable collection of beautiful patterns which I expect to weave over the next year or two.

Earlier this year, I applied for and received a study grant from the Whidbey Weavers Guild. I’ll use it to travel to Chico, California — the home of AVL Looms — this Winter or Spring to take a three-day workshop on all aspects of using, troubleshooting, and maintaining the production dobby looms. It’s clear by now that my lack of deep knowledge about the equipment is hampering my progress and my production speed. And I feel certain that knowing a lot more about how my tools work will quite simply make me a better (and probably happier) weaver. It’s going to be a thrill to be at the factory and to meet the people I talk with but have yet to meet.

Ten days ago, I took a number of new pieces to Michael Stadler, photographer extraordinaire, and we had an enjoyable hour and a half draping and shooting. I don’t yet have the final images, but when I do, some will appear here, and before long I’ll get my website re-done and they’ll be found there as well.

The final element of my workplan for the next period of time is beginning to develop a line of handwoven fabrics for clothing and interiors. These will be woven on the Big Loom, which will, by (I think) Spring, be operated by a weaving assistant. I have a marketing plan in mind, and will be willing to take special orders as well as sell finished yardage to interested parties. The Small Loom will for the most part be dedicated to weaving scarves and shawls, with an occasional run of kitchen towels with my signature use of color and pattern.

It’s going to be a challenging and interesting year.

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