All Shook Up

Legend has it that Elvis wrote “All Shook Up” after shaking up a bottle of Coke.  Actually, it was Pepsi. And it was the songwriter Otis Blackwell who wrote it on a dare by one of the owners of Shalimar Music.  Although Elvis did share the songwriting credit with Blackwell.

All Shook Up

All Shook Up

This shaken up bottle of Coke is how I feel right now.  A little aimless  with bubbles bursting before anything can be enjoyed.  After 30 years of weaving and my attempts to eke out some semblance of a living as a weaver and weaving instructor, I’m facing a dilemma.  I’m getting increasingly frustrated  in selling my handwovens for  their true value and at the same time attracting  students interested in learning to weave.  It may be that I’m in the wrong place.  After all, Memphis is music, not fiber.

Case in point, I regularly donate my handwoven scarves, purses and wall hangings to local non-profit organizations with art auctions as fund raising venues.  My pieces always sell and the organizations are able to benefit from my donations.  It’s a win-win situation. This past year, I donated two rep weave wall hangings to one of these  non-profits.  Total value was for $300. No one assumed that that would be the highest bid, but it would have been nice to receive a little something with 3 digits for both pieces.  Each piece takes between 30 and 50 hours to design, prepare, weave, and finish.  Sadly, that was not the case, with one piece receiving only $25 and another only $30. And so my bubble was burst.  I just can’t compete with paintings which seem to be the most popular medium wherever I look.   There are many hobby weavers here in Memphis, but I’m one of just a couple of studio weavers, so there aren’t enough of us to educate the public and compete for their attention about our medium.  Certainly not in  the way that the  great number of painters are able to. Sad.

But I have another love, and that is in creating handbound books.  In my upcoming shows, I plan to test the local market and offer some of my book creations for sale.  These are blank books that can be used for sketching, journalling or photo albums.  Eventually I would like to explore sculptural books and create artists’ books.  I am currently taking an online class called “Creative Bookmaking” with Sue Bleiweiss of Two Creative Studios. I have been working on some fabric covered books, using either hand printed Indonesian batik fabric or dupioni silk fabric.

Blank book covered with Indonesian batik fabric.  Longstitch/Linkstitch binding on spine.

Blank book covered with Indonesian batik fabric. Longstitch/Linkstitch binding on spine.

Inside cover and end page of Thai mango paper

Inside cover and end page of Thai mango paper

The books I made have 8 signatures of a 32 lb. weight fine writing paper.  I followed instructions for the longstitch/linkstitch binding in Keith Smith’s book, Volume I: Non-Adhesive Binding, Books Without Paste or Glue. It was a little tricky as I had to drill the stitching holes in the spine between each of the signatures that made a pair rather than aligning the holes with each of the  signatures.  Stitching for each pair of signatures was done in the same holes for the long stitch part of the binding.  The link stitch looks like a chain stitch and it appears at the top and bottom of the spine.  Some more examples:

Dupioni Silk cover with Kaffe Fassett cotton fabric embellishment

Dupioni Silk cover with Kaffe Fassett cotton fabric embellishment

Inside cover and end paper of Thai mango paper

Inside cover and end paper of Thai mango paper

Dupioni silk cover with Japanese cotton print fabric embellishment

Dupioni silk cover with Japanese cotton print fabric embellishment

Inside cover and end paper of Thai mango paper

Inside cover and end paper of Thai mango paper

Detail of Longstitch/Linkstitch on spine

Detail of Longstitch/Linkstitch on spine

And so this looks like the future of book arts and me in Memphis!  I will continue to create whether at the loom or the book bench, and we shall see what the market will bring.

My fabric covered handbound books

My fabric covered handbound books

Off The Loom

The rep weave wall hanging is finished!  Off the loom it measures slightly less than what I had planned:  29″ wide and 48″ long.  Still large enough to fill up a bit of wall space.  This piece will be included in an upcoming exhibit at Circuit Playhouse, a local professional theater group in Memphis.

Three Iris Blooms woven in rep weave

Three Iris Blooms woven in rep weave

The wall hanging is woven with 100% natural cotton yarn. The ends are finished with a machine sewn hem.  It can be easily displayed with a wooden strip attached to the back of the fabric with velcro. My previous post described how the colors and design of this piece were inspired by van Gogh’s paintings of irises.