Desperately Seeking High End Crafts in Memphis

 

WinterArts - Affordable Gifts by Local Artists

Living in the Bible Belt guarantees that each holiday season there will be a gazillion opportunities to attend “Arts and Crafts Bazaars” at a local church on any given Saturday between Halloween and Christmas. Few of these fairs are juried by committees with discerning eyes for fine craft. So by this time in November, local folks may get pretty tired of seeing yet another onesie proclaiming that it’s wearer is “Cute as a Button” or thin socks made in China, or wreaths and jewelry assembled from kits that were assembled in China. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But for those who expect a unique and finely made craft object produced by a maker who considers himself/herself a professional artist, and who produces his/her art locally, there is relief in sight.

In recent years, the craft holiday market in Memphis has been growing to include high end craft items created by local artists who have been doing this kind of work for years.  Previously, many have found greater success in selling their work outside of the area where the market for good quality craft products command more respect and in turn a higher price. For years, the high end holiday shows in this region have been commandeered by the fine art market, which locally is very fine indeed. However, little room was left for the many glass artists, wood workers, fiber artists, metalsmiths, printmakers and clay artists who live and work in the Memphis area.

This holiday season, there will be two shows that are fairly new to Memphis (this will be the second year for both shows) that will showcase the fine crafts of local artists. And of course everything will be available for sale at very reasonable prices. And yes, my handwoven scarves and my handbound books will be at both shows.  If you are in the Memphis area or plan to visit, please stop by. WinterArts will be open daily until December 24 and the Brooks Museum Artists Market will be a one day event on December 5. The Museum will be planning many special events on that day for shoppers and museum goers including a special holiday luncheon at their renowned “Brushmark” Restaurant. I hope to meet many of you there! More information is posted below.

WinterArts – Affordable Gifts by Local Artists.  The Shops of Saddle Creek South, West Street at Poplar Avenue, Germantown, TN 38138.  Opening Reception is Friday, November 26, 2010, 5:30 – 9 PM.  Open daily from November 27 to December 24.  Works in glass, clay, wood, metal, fiber, jewelry, photography and paintings.

Brooks Museum Artists Market at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104.  Sunday, December 5, 2010 from 11 AM – 5 PM.  Holiday bazaar presented by the Brooks Museum Gift Shop and representing local artists who also sell their work year round in the gift shop. Artists who will be there work in clay, wood, metal, jewelry, paper and fiber.

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KISS of the Weaver

For five years, I had been teaching weaving to senior citizens through Creative Aging Mid-South. The students I have worked with often express their creativity through their lifelong passions and experiences. Students’ abilities have ranged from the completely independent and self learning individuals to those with dementia who require a fair amount of assistance and guidance toward the completion of their projects.

When I work with individuals demonstrating decreased levels of cognitive functioning due to dementia, disease or other illness, I need to structure the project so that the many steps of weaving are broken down into a limited number of  tasks with a repetitive element. For instance, residents of an Alzheimer’s or dementia program will more easily remember the repeated rhythmic chants of  “under, over, under, over” than trying to remember the many steps of weaving with a frame loom such as “raise the heddle, insert the shuttle, beat, lower the heddle, insert the shuttle, beat” and so on. In fact, many of the individuals with cognitive impairments will remember the under and over motion of weaving on a potholder loom, either from their own childhoods or from teaching their children.

In previous classes  offered to dementia groups, I taught weaving on a simple frame loom, or on a cardboard loom where the finished project had to be removed in order to be displayed or worn, such as a woven pendant or necklace. This meant that the students needed to finish their projects before the piece had to be removed.  More often than not, I was the one who ended up having to finish their projects and then preparing them for display or to be worn. In this way, the art work became a piece woven by me and not by the students! And so I had to remind myself to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!

For my current class with a group of residents in an assisted living facility which housed an Alzheimer’s unit, I referred to this book for inspiration.

Small Loom and Free Form Weaving by Barbara Matthiessen

The book is Small Loom and Freeform Weaving: Five Ways to Weave by Barbara Matthiessen.  It is available here at Amazon.com. And specifically, I was interested in adapting this altered book project by Ms. Matthiessen and present it to the members of the Alzheimer’s group:

Altered book weaving project idea from “Small Loom and Freeform Weaving”

The author of  Small Loom and Freeform Weaving used the discarded cover of an old book as a loom to weave a non-traditional piece with open spaces in the weaving. In my own studio, I have many sheets of mat board as well as scraps of decorative paper, and so I designed my own mat board looms for the residents of the assisted living facility.

 

Mat board looms in various stages of completion

The looms were made from rectangles of mat board with a decorative frame of scrapbooking paper around the four edges. Carpet tacks were inserted at the top and the bottom of the boards and cotton carpet warp was wound around the tacks. Students used a large wooden weaving needle and bulky novelty yarns in a variety of colors and textures to weave under and over the cotton warp threads.

 

Mat board loom with a wooden weaving needle and bulky weft yarn

For some residents, I needed to begin the first row or two so that they could have a visual image of what their weaving would look like. Once they began  a rhythm of  weaving  “under, over, under, over”, the class was well underway.

 

Selection of some of the yarns students used for weaving

Students most appeared to enjoy the various textures and weights of the yarns, and the brightest and softest yarns were the most popular choices.

 

Weaving on Mat Board Looms at Table I

Weaving on Mat Board Looms at Table II

Ten students joined me in this class and will continue to meet weekly for three more weeks. Many will be able to complete their projects by the end of this time. And the mat board loom will become part of their art creation, because their weaving will not have to be removed from it in order for their work to be displayed! Whether or not they finish weaving, all will have a frame with a woven picture that they can proudly display, and know that they wove it themselves!

October Scenes

November 1st already, and I haven’t entered a post for October.  It has been a busy month. Some of the things that I have been doing this past month include teaching a weaving class at the Lewis Senior Center in Midtown Memphis, a three day art show and sale held in a private home in Germantown, a mini-reunion with a college classmate whom I haven’t seen in over ten years, a short break for R & R to the National Shrimp Festival in Orange Beach, AL, going to the season opener of the Memphis Grizzlies, and celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.

And here are a few photos of what went on in October.

 

2010 National Shrimp Festival - Alabama Gulf Coast

View from our hotel room, Orange Beach, AL

Sea of Art and Craft Booths at the National Shrimp Festival

Some of the food offerings at the festival

Boardwalk at the National Shrimp Festival

One of the many shrimp platters we enjoyed

Surrounded by Parrot Heads

Back to work at home, weaving a bamboo scarf

Display of my handwoven scarves and purses at "Kaleidoscope" an annual art show and sale in a private home in Germantown, TN.

My college classmate, Betty visited me from the Washington, DC area and we spent a day at the Memphis Botanic Garden.

Irene, my weaving student at the Lewis Senior Center with two of her handwoven scarves woven on a rigid heddle loom.

Bertha, my weaving student at the Lewis Senior Center with her handwoven vest woven on a rigid heddle loom.

Katherine, my weaving student at the Lewis Senior Center with her handwoven scarf and purse woven on a rigid heddle loom.

10th season opener of the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum on October 27th which coincided with the 10th anniversary of our family's move to Memphis!

 

The Bar-Kays another Memphis institution performed at halftime.

And we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at Restaurant Iris in Memphis!

More weaving classes and more shows to come in the months ahead.  And also of course, more music, food, reunions, celebrations and winning games ahead as well. As the t-shirt says, “Life is Good”.