Books for Beer Lovers

I’ve been a recycler since my childhood days. I always saved bits of fabric, string and paper to create collages or fold them into 3 dimensional objects to create a mini city. This is a habit that extended into my life as an artist today. In weaving there is a lot of waste. Long strands of  unweavable yarn at the beginning and end of a loom woven project are inevitable. Although the strands are too short for the kinds of projects I do, I save the yarn and have used them to stuff pillows and add fringe to other projects or used them in Creative Aging MidSouth workshops  with senior citizens. This spring I used my bits of leftover yarn and scraps of fabric from the linings of the purses and bags that I weave to create earrings. With the addition of some beads and wire they turned out quite colorful because the fabrics I choose always seem to be bright.

Earrings made from recycled yarn and fabric

Earrings made from recycled yarn and fabric

The pair in the center is wrapped with fabric cut from upholstery scraps that I use for purse lining, and the other two are wrapped with strands of yarn.

Paper packaging also seems excessive to me, and I find that every week I recycle several folded boxes from food products and toiletries. Occasionally we have a few beer cartons which I salvage and use them for covers of my handbound books. And I suspect that my collection will grow because lately Memphis has become a sort of hot spot for breweries. You can read about that here. This fellow Memphis blogger is a local foodie and biking enthusiast who also knows his beer.

My latest handbound books made from beer cartons are currently for sale at Allie Cat Arts, a funky and eclectic art gallery in the Cooper Young neighborhood of midtown Memphis. Oh, and my earrings are sold there too!

Handbound books made from recycled beer cartons

Handbound books made from recycled beer cartons

And for those interested in making their own mini version of these recycled books, I will be teaching a class at Allie Cat Arts in late August. Participants need to bring only their own beer cartons and brown paper bags.

mini hand bound book made from recycled beer carton

mini hand bound book made from recycled beer carton

The mini Ghost River book above utilizes a long stitch binding that a new learner of book arts can easily sew. Below is a detail of the hand stitching that I have incorporated into the spine of the full size Ghost River book currently for sale at Allie Cat Arts.

hand bound book made from recycled beer cartons and hand stitched over an exposed spine

hand bound book made from recycled beer cartons and hand stitched over an exposed spine

I know how I’ll be staying cool as the dog days of summer are upon us here in the South.

 

Leaving the Octopus’ Garden

After a 6 month hiatus, I am finally emerging from my hideaway beneath the ocean waves. Can’t say the past six months have not been uneventful. This is what I did:

I ate well.

Strawberry Margarita Cheesecake

Strawberry Margarita Cheesecake

I drank well.

Red wine sangria

Red wine sangria

And I relaxed well.

On the beach in Curacao

On the beach in Curacao

But I have also worked hard, already having four shows behind me in 2013. And usually that is the total number of shows I participate in in any given year. I have been working on a few new products. One being earrings made from yarn leftover from my weaving projects with fabric recycled from other projects.

Earrings made from recycled fabric and yarn

Earrings made from recycled fabric and yarn

I also introduced a new line of scarves which I have called “Watercolor” scarves because the colors in the novelty yarns  in the warp seem like they blend into each other. There are eight colorways in this line:  Blue Bayou, Purple Passion, First Blush, First Encounter, Rhymes with Orange, Hydrangeas, Spring Fling and Mellow Mushroom. You can see them all here.  And here is an example of one of the scarves.

Purple Passion Watercolor Scarf

Purple Passion Watercolor Scarf

This particular colorway was purchased by a very stylish woman whom I met at  Art2Wear  Nashville. She liked it so much, she even blogged about it! Thank you, Alicia!

So as I emerge from the octopus’ garden I am preparing for new challenges in weaving, and I will be more diligent in writing about them. I promise!

Octopus Garden Sidewalk chalk drawing

Octopus Garden Sidewalk chalk drawing

Brace Yourself

Here it is the end of August, and not one post this month. My apologies. My previous posts  suggested a need to reinvent myself, or my work at any rate. And that is what has taken up most of my time – not the producing part, but everything else: reading, surfing, talking, thinking, imagining, visualizing, all just to grab a wisp of inspiration. In the end, there were two designs that inspired me to use as a jumping off point and attempt to transform a new concept into a woven form.

18K gold bracelet handwoven on a traditional loom with gold threads and black silk in a twill pattern. By Carolina Bucci.

As soon as I saw this, I fell in love with this bracelet. This is from www.portero.com and sold for $2,200.  That would be a nice income for a handweaver, a handweaver who could easily recognize the point twill pattern in the design. I set out to warp my Baby Wolf loom with a 6 Harness point twill in a black perle cotton yarn. I used colorful novelty yarns in the weft. (Didn’t want to use the 18k gold yarn for this first effort.) These are my results.

Handwoven twill cotton and novelty yarn cuff bracelet – blue/green/purple

Handwoven twill cotton and novelty yarn  cuff bracelet – pink/yellow/orange

Not a bad first try. I am quite happy with the finished bracelets and am looking forward to playing with it some more and tweaking the pattern, the fibers and the shape.

Now my other inspiration came from Memphis artist Dawn McKay. She and her partner Shannon Cable are shoveIt designs. This is how they describe their work on their website:  “shoveIt designs transform broken skateboards into wicked wearable art.” Now I am not at all familiar with the construction of skateboards, and don’t think I’ve ever been up close and personal with one. My generation after all still used skate keys for our roller skates – the one with 4 wheels on each boot. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this deconstructed skateboard that Dawn transformed into a bracelet.

Cuff bracelet made from a broken skateboard. By Dawn McKay of shoveIt designs.

This was another example of love at first sight for me. And as you all know, I have been playing with rep weave designs on my loom lately, and saw that the pattern in this broken skateboard represented rep weave. Here is my cuff design in a rep weave pattern inspired by shoveIt designs.

Handwoven rep weave cotton cuff bracelet

Creating these bracelets was like my “Aha moment”. This was what I had been searching for all along. But it doesn’t end here! I have had my eye on a certain lovely all metal  tapestry and beading loom for a long while now. The looms are made  by Mirrix Looms  based in New Hampshire. So I took the plunge and purchased the “Big Sister” model.

16″ wide Big Sister Mirrix loom for tapestry and bead weaving

You ask, what am I going to weave on this loom? More jewelry of course! Here are a couple of handwoven tapestry pendants that I wove on my new loom.

Handwoven tapestry pendant with coins

Handwoven tapestry pendant

So here it is, the end of the summer and I am finally having fun!

Bag It, Gladys

I think I am done. I have been weaving fabric to sew into bags for a number of years now. Probably about 15 years. That’s almost half my weaving life! And I really do enjoy designing and creating bags, but every time I try to sell one I am disappointed. Customers seem to like the style, but it’s not the right color, too big, too small, too casual, not the right strap, etc. And I’m talking about all kinds of bags from tiny, what I call “pick pockets” (TM) for storing your guitar picks to” the mother of all tote bag” humongous bags. Some are for evening, some for daily use, and others are just for fun. Once, and I am grateful it only happened once, a customer was admiring my bags and expressed her approval. But the next question she asked was  “Where do you get your fabric?” Really?

I just can’t help it, it’s a fact that I love all kinds of  purses and tote bags. But the truth is, the current market can’t support the cost that is worthy of a bag made from handwoven fabric, then carefully constructed and sewn with a lining, a pocket and often a hand-twisted strap. The bags I wove these last few weeks will be my swan song.

If you recall my post Back to The Future, there was an image of  the double weave fabric I was weaving still on the loom. This is the fabric now:

Hobo bag made from handwoven double weave fabric

Lined interior of hobo bag with magnetic closure

I have also been playing with recycled fabric and cutting narrow strips from thrift store t-shirts to make my own “yarn”. Here is a tote bag made from strips cut from a neon green t-shirt. The weave is a rep weave which I seem to be fond of!

Tote bag woven in rep weave with t-shirt strips in the weft.

Lined interior of tote bag with pocket and magnetic snap closure.

And here is a photo of the tote bag’s fabric while still on the loom with the t-shirt strips on the stick shuttle. I used a metallic thread called “holo-shimmer” as the alternating fine warp on the boat shuttle to get the rep weave effect.

Tote bag fabric still on the loom.

So now I took the t-shirt idea a step further and added recycled jeans to the mix. These two bags were woven in a rep weave and both have recycled jeans pockets in the interior.

Mini-messenger bag woven in rep weave with a hand-twisted strap.

Rep Weave hobo bag woven as one long strip.

Yes, the fabric of the hobo bag was woven in one long narrow strip, approximately 7 1/2″ wide by 96″ long. I then folded it to create a strap from part of the strip and joined the other sections to make the body of the bag. Blogger Donatella who writes doni’s delis explains it here. It’s quite ingenious.

The interiors of the last two bags were lined with denim fabric and each  has an inside pocket taken from a  pair of  recycled jeans.

Interior of hobo bag with denim lining, recycled jeans pocket and a magnet snap closure.

These bags will definitely be one of a kind, because I am not weaving them anymore.  Though I may still weave one or two just for me, or for my daughter, or for a friend… But maybe not this summer. Definitely not this summer.




Walking in Memphis

Memphis is hot right now. And I don’t mean just temperature wise. We are getting ready for Memphis in May, a month long celebration on the banks of the Mississippi River. Since 1990, Memphis has been hosting  the Beale St. Music Festival and more recently the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. And The American Queen Riverboat now docks in Memphis. You’ll be able to board in Memphis and cruise on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers with stops in Chattanooga, Louisville, Pittsburgh and New Orleans.The Memphis Grizzlies, our NBA  team are in the playoffs this season. Go Griz! So now is the time to follow Marc Cohn’s advice to go “Walking in Memphis”.

And when you are downtown, check out the storefront at 75 So. Main at the corner of Union. The Downtown Memphis Commission is sponsoring the work of local artists that will be exhibited in downtown windows on the trolley line.  Members of  the  The Memphis Association of Craft Artists are exhibiting their work in the windows at this location. So if you are headed downtown, whether it is to take part in a Memphis in May event, a basketball game, or to enjoy one of the many fine restaurants in the area, take a moment to see what local craft artists have been working on. Here is a glimpse of the work displayed in the downtown windows.

Some of the artists whose work you will see here are textile artist Marilyn League, jewelry artist Mildred Schiff of DreamCasters Originals, glass artist Lisa Butts of Elucido Glass, Cheryl Hazelton of Studio Woodworking, and MemphisWeaver’s own handwoven scarves and handbound books. Many of the other artists whose work are on exhibit in the Downtown Windows can be seen on the MACA website. Indeed, walking in Memphis will reveal the delights of a world class city.

This One is Circumcised

I just returned from a weekend retreat  at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville, Tennessee.

Appalachian Center for Craft

I attended a two day workshop presented by Bruce Baker the craft marketing guru whose columns I have read in The Crafts Report ever since my career as a professional craft artist began some time ago. I’m glad I went. Mr. Baker was informative, engaging and entertaining.  Among the pages of notes I managed to take during the workshop sessions, the one concept that stood out more than any other was that we as craft artists need to tell our customers a story about our work. This little exchange of information will make the sale more personal and the memory of it long lasting. So when the piece is admired, the buyer can repeat the story, or if the piece is a gift then the giver can retell the story to the recipient. This is what makes the piece special to the buyer.

I thought about that for awhile, and I realized that I do tell stories about my work.  I often tell my customers about the fibers woven into the scarf, the fibers’ origins and  their sustainability. When customers are interested in my handbound books, I share with them how I use the blank journals. One of my handbound books has pages of recipes that have been handed down from generations. A lovely little coptic stitched  journal has a more mundane task and acts as the keeper of  my passwords to the various online sites I visit. My customers who don’t journal or sketch need to hear these stories to know that there are many ways to fill up the pages of a blank book.

Handbound blank journal with fabric cover and coptic stitch binding.

My father in law, Lou was a great story teller and also used this technique with his customers.  He had been the owner of  several jewelry stores in Brooklyn.    Against his better judgment, he gave his 21 year old son a sales clerk job in one of his stores. This is how I came to know the story, because as it turned out I married his son. On a particularly difficult day, a woman entered the store near closing time.  She asked to look at bracelets. She tried one on, then another and yet another. A small pile of bracelets began to accumulate on the counter top.  None of them seemed to suit her.  Every one that she tried on was too big, too small, too gaudy, not her style, not the right kind of stone and so on. There didn’t seem to be one that agreed with her, but neither she nor my father in law were ready to give up. After nearly an hour of trying on bracelets, she put one on her wrist and turned it a bit and admired it from various angles.  In the meantime, Lou had become exasperated and was about to end the transaction and close the shop for the day. The woman turned to him and said, “This one seems to fit better than the others, why is that?” Without skipping a beat, Lou replied, “Why, that one is circumcised.” Upon hearing that, my  husband who was observing the entire exchange was ready to dive under the counter and become invisible. But he didn’t, because the next words he heard were “I’ll take it!”.

It doesn’t seem to matter what the content of the story is that we tell our customers. What does matter is that whatever we say should make them feel special. And that is the end of the story.

Cream City Ice Cream sign in Cookeville, Tennessee