Great Things Come in Threes

Last night was only the third time I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert.  The time before that was thirty (ten times three) years ago in Ithaca, New York.  I was a lot younger then, obviously, and that was before a lifetime of growth and change and loss.  And yet, I’m pretty sure I enjoyed last night in Nashville more than I enjoyed my youthful night in Ithaca. Springsteen’s poetry has been a constant during these years and his words  reflected many times in my life.  I graduated high school  the same year “Greetings from Asbury Park” was released.  At the time  I also listened to The Grateful Dead, The Doors, and The Who.  Oh, I still do, but their words aren’t as compelling  as the words that included scenes from my own “growing up”. And Springsteen’s third album “Born To Run” is the one I grew up with the most. In Nashville last night, Springsteen and the E Street Band played the entire “Born To Run” album.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.

And from 1975 til today, the words from that album continue to be a part of me. It’s where I came from, where I’ve been and where I am today. About the blue collar town where I went to high school – not far from the coastal beaches of the Cape (that’s Cape Cod, if you must know) –  I felt the connection years later to a sensation very close to the lines  “Of all the boys you sent away they haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets they scream your name at night in the street your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet”.  And then of course with all my classmates wondering how far away we could get from this town, these words  later screamed at me, long after  I first heard them:  “It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.”  “Born to Run” undoubtedly is the top album for me in my lifetime, and “Thunder Road” it’s top song.  The memories were there and still are.

Hearing those soulful piano chords of  “Meeting Across the River” always brings back memories of driving an old VW beetle through a blinding snowstorm with my sweetheart at the time.  And that was when I started listening to the power of Springsteen’s poetry.  I mean really listening.  His words began to take shape in my own life. Yes, later I lived not far from Springsteen’s beloved shore towns in New Jersey, and I met the girls who “combed their hair in rear view mirrors” and the boys “who tried to look so hard”. All true.

Something that Springsteen did not play last night was “4th of July Asbury Park” (Sandy), from his second album, “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle”, which holds a special place in my heart.  It was in New Jersey on 4th of July that I first met the person who would eventually become my life partner.  And that night, as I was driving back to New York on the Jersey Turnpike, I saw fireworks in the distance, and heard these words:  “Oh love me tonight, and I promise I’ll love you forever”. And so at that moment, Springsteen’s words became permanently woven into my own life.

Springsteen did not forget where he was last night, and included a rousing tribute to Johnny Cash with his “Ring of Fire”. And all of the faithful and adoring listeners at the Sommet Center last night believed that he sang Jackie Wilson’s (Your Love Keeps Taking Me) “Higher and Higher” as a special tribute to all of us. I had to wait to almost the very end to hear another one of my favorites, Rosalita, a song that embodies despair and hope at the same time – something we can all relate to.

As to the number three.  It took 3 hours to drive from Memphis to Nashville, the concert was an amazing 3 hours long, 3 hours to drive back to Memphis, and 3 hours of sleep.  And it was worth it.  Thank you Bruce, Clarence, Steve, Nils, Max, and Garry (and also the late Danny Federici) for being in my life since 1973. You’ll always be  a magical part of who I am and I’ll always remember you.  You might remember me too.  I was the “girl” in Nashville who waved a handwoven scarf above my head!

Diary of A Mad Weaver

Like realtors whose mantra is “location, location, location”, the weavers’ mantra is “sample, sample, sample”. But as a weaver for 30 years, I’m very bad at this.  I just don’t have the patience to weave a small sample to represent a larger piece, and my attention is so short, that by the time the sample is off the loom, I’ve changed my mind completely as far as pattern, colors, yarn, textures, etc.  With my limited production of handwoven scarves and purses that I sell at fairs and shows, I like to design directly on the loom. This gives me creator’s license to make one of a kind items.  Even though my loom might be set up to weave a dozen scarves for example, each one will be unique.  When I see the weave pattern develop as I  throw the shuttle, that is the time when my creative juices flow most freely.  My stash of yarns is within my visual field while weaving, and my eye always seems to rove in that direction. I see nubby yarns, metallic yarns, blended yarns, exotic yarns, and I like the idea of “contrasts” in my weaving:  dark/light, thick/thin, smooth/nubby, dull/shiny etc.  And so I prefer designing directly on the loom rather than sampling beforehand.

But  (and there’s always one of those) I also weave commissions for the religious community here in the Memphis area.  And because I often work with a committee representing the church, synagogue, or clergy I have to create samples to show before getting a final design approval.  And when I do, I usually go overboard, creating many more samples than necessary!  Currently I am working on a commission to weave two sets of 4 tallitot, prayer shawls with a neckband used in Jewish worship, for a large synagogue.  After a brief presentation with the senior rabbi, I decided to use bamboo and tencel for the warp and weft of the prayer shawls.  My decision was largely based on  the clergy members’ requests that they won’t get hot from wearing the tallitot. So my usual materials of a silk and wool blend yarn was out of the question.  I had previously woven a tallit for a girl’s Bat Mitzvah ceremony with a bamboo warp and weft.

bamboo tallit

Handwoven Tallit (prayer shawl) woven with bamboo yarn

This prayer shawl was woven in a diamond twill pattern.  The twill weave structure really lent itself to the light weight of the bamboo and this combination created an elegant drape – something that would be appropriate and attractive for a tallit.

And so I set out to order samples of both bamboo and tencel yarns in varying weights.

yarn samples 2

bamboo and tencel yarn samples

Sample yarns and color cards began to pour in from a number of suppliers and manufacturers.  There were yarns of several different weights:  16/2, 10/2, 8/2 and 5/2.  There were solid colors, variegated, mill dyed, hand dyed.  It was time to get organized!  No more designing on the loom – I had to create samples and decide on some successful patterns that could be presented to the design committee. All the sample cards were given their own sleeve protector which were all filed in my new loose leaf binder from Office Depot.

I threaded my looms six times to get an elegant twill weave that would also create a natural drape.  Most of my samples proved to be useless – the pattern was too small, or too detailed, or did not match any of my visual preconceptions of a final design.  So sampling turned out to be a good thing!

weaving samples 1

Handwoven samples in twill and overshot weave structures

With the materials I was using- a 10/2 tencel yarn in the warp and Bambu 7 in the weft, a variety of twill weaves packed down too much and became a dense fabric.  Not at all what I was looking for.  With much procrastination I rethreaded my looms once again with a few overshot patterns, not my favorite weave.  But it turned out that I really liked the way the fabric draped and the look of the overall designs.

Here are some of the overshot patterns that I am considering to present to the design committee for a decision on the final tallitot designs.

weaving samples 6

Honeysuckle Twill Overshot Pattern #1

weaving samples 7

Honeysuckle Twill Overshot Pattern #2

weaving samples 2

Double Diamond Pattern

My instructions from the design committee were to make these prayer shawls “colorful” and “grandiose” in a design that would represent this synagogue for the twenty years that they expect these tallitot to last.  Not too much pressure there, right? So as I continue this journey, I will try to post more about this project and possibly dear reader, you will watch me descend into madness…..

Pictures at an Exhibition

I had forgotten about Emerson,  Lake and Palmer’s Pictures at an Exhibition until I walked into the lobby of the Circuit Playhouse in Memphis, Tennessee.  Though the theater is located on Poplar, one of Memphis’ busiest main streets, walking through the front entrance takes you into another world.  The lobby is a small enclosed space with dark burgundy walls, and there seems to be an other-world presence once you enter the building.  The theater’s manager did confirm that there is a resident ghost.  We were there around the time of Halloween but not for ghost hunting.  Several artists with Memphis Association of Craft Artists (MACA) were hanging an exhibit of their work in the lobby area to be viewed by theater goers until the end of December 2009. But while we were busily at work, hanging and positioning items, all that I heard was Keith Emerson playing “Pictures at an Exhibition” on the Hammond organ.  The environment was perfect for it.

circuit playhouse exhibit 2

Clay, wood and fiber pieces

circuit playhouse exhibit 1

Woven tapestry, Metal and Clay Sculptures

circuit playhouse exhibit 3

Fiber, metal and clay pieces

circuit playhouse exhibit 4

Art quilt and handwoven tapestry

circuit playouse exhibit 5

Silver and dichroic glass jewelry, small clay sculptures

These artists are represented in this exhibit:

Barbara Olive, pottery     

Jennifer Hyatt, metal sculpture

June Kramer, tapestry weaving

Agnes Stark, pottery

Michele Price, woven clay

Rick Cannon, wooden bowls

Marilyn League, art quilts

Deirdre Daw, clay sculpture

Mildred Schiff, precious metal clay and dichroic glass jewelry

Katie Dann, clay sculpture

Felicitas Sloves, handwoven scarves and shawls

During the time of the exhibit, Circuit Playhouse will be performing “The Toymaker’s Apprentice” and “The Seafarer”.  The artists represented in the MACA exhibit will provide the perfect background music to these shows.  As will Keith Emerson on the Hammond organ!

…..Lead me from tortured dreams,  Childhood themes of nights alone, Wipe away endless years, childhood tears as dry as stone.