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

Happy Blog Anniversary!

Four years ago today, I posted the very first entry to the MemphisWeaver blog and today there have been over 81,000 visitors to this site. I have heard from several of you the past few years  and I am happy to have so many creatives among my readers! Thank you for your support!

The WinterArts show will be coming to a close on Christmas Eve. This is the fourth holiday season for this artists’ consortium to show and sell their work in an upscale location. Our customers continue to come back and this year many have told us that this was the best show ever! Each year new artists are added, and the returning artists always bring new and fresh work in addition to the classics for which they are known.

And I continue to learn from each show. I am always inspired by my customers as to what direction to follow next. The four to five weeks of the show found me constantly at my loom or at the bookbinder’s bench to create new products to replace any sold inventory. And during this time, I was inspired to create a series of handwoven bucket bags that are part of a new series that I have dubbed “Tribal Bags”. Here are the three that are currently in WinterArts.

Handwoven tribal bucket back in goose eye pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket back in goose eye twill pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket bag woven in evenpoint twill

Handwoven tribal bucket bag woven in evenpoint twill pattern

Handwoven tribal bucket bag in goose eye twill pattern and muted colors

Handwoven tribal bucket bag in goose eye twill pattern and muted colors

The bags are 100% cotton with a cotton denim lining and a recycled jeans pocket insert. It’s soft and roomy and deep enough for lots of stuff! Come springtime I will be weaving these in brigher colors as well as pastels. And yes, there will be more shows coming this spring, and yes, I do plan to participate in them! Besides the bags I have some other projects brewing. There will be smaller pouches for your cell phones and sleeves for your tablets as well as narrower and lightweight fashion scarves for warmer weather. And I am still working on expanding that series of pendants and bracelets to give the pieces a more 3 dimensional look.

So there is lots of work ahead of me as I welcome 2013 and look forward to showing and selling new work. I wish each and everyone of you a joyous holiday season and best wishes for a healthy and creative new year in 2013!

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.




Rep Gallery

The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright has always been an inspiration to me.  And for many years I have been admiring the handwoven textiles of Kelly Marshall whose rugs and accessories for the home are a natural fit for any Prairie style or Arts and Crafts style home. Ms. Marshall who has been designing and weaving through her business, Custom Woven Interiors since 1992 has work in private residences, corporations, businesses, restaurants and galleries throughout the country. Readers of this blog would know that I lean toward the block type weaves which are prevalent in the rep weave structure which Ms. Marshall utilizes in her work.

In my last blog I described rep weave as a Swedish weave structure also called ripsmatta. It is characterized by densely threaded warp yarn on the loom. The pattern design is created through the colors and sequence of yarn ends in the warp yarn, that is the yarn threaded on the loom. Ms Marshall has just published a book for weavers based on her own creative process for her work in rep weave. The book is as beautiful as the work Ms. Marshall produces and she is extremely generous with her instructions for projects with precise details and clear photographs. I am still in the process of savoring each word and photo of this book.

Custom Woven Interiors by Kelly Marshall

I hope that my weaving will one day aspire to the many layers and complexities of Ms. Marshall’s work. My work is much simpler and certainly not as technically skillful as Ms. Marshall’s. Rep continues to be one of my favorite weaves and I will work on any challenges that will help me get to a higher level of skill. In the meantime, I will end this blog post with a short gallery of my own work in rep weave. The gallery, shall we say will be the baseline for my work so that in another year or so, we can all compare any progress that I’ve made!

Three Irises

Turkish Kilim

Nightcrawlers

Bongo Fury

Curacao Sensivel

Safe as Milk

Electricity

Moonshadow

Jacob’s Ladder

Falling Waters

 

Chagall Windows

The color palette for my handwoven scarves seems to be changing lately. My scarves this spring are not as dark and muted as my previous scarves. This year the colors are lighter, somewhat pastel, but also with a smattering of jewel tones. This change may be due to the fact that here in Memphis, we experienced  unusually warm weather in March. Our azaleas, dogwood and hyacinth appeared suddenly well before the first day of spring.

 My backyard on the first day of Spring

And so in March I have been weaving lightweight scarves that can be worn year round as I prepare for the Spring Show.

Post Card for the Spring Show

Once again our collective of local artists and craftsmen will be exhibiting and selling our work at the Shops of Saddle Creek in Germantown, TN – a location that has worked well for us the past two years. Beside my handwoven scarves, I plan to sell more of my handbound books including  blank books made from 45 rpm vinyl records. And this year, there will be some Elvis sightings. But I digress. Here is the color palette that I have been working on with this most recent series of scarves.

Handwoven scarves for the Spring Show

I’ve seen these colors somewhere before. And I am reminded of a trip I took recently to the Art Institute of Chicago. One of the “must sees” that I had planned on this visit were the series of 3 “America Windows” that Marc Chagall created for the American Bicentennial.

I will need to weave more  blue scarves.

Confetti Landscapes

During the holiday show season, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kacky Walton on Memphis’ NPR affiliate, WKNO-FM. As a listener of her radio program, I always found her to be one of the most upbeat radio personalities that I ever heard. And sure enough, upon meeting her, she proved me right! This was my radio debut and her warmth and friendliness put me right at home.

During the interview, I wore a scarf that I had woven about 10 years earlier. Kacky remarked that the scarf looked like someone had merrily thrown bits of colorful confetti on it. It was a new description of a scarf I hadn’t woven in a long time. But her observations propelled me into re-examining this scarf design and weaving a collection for 2012.

When photographing the scarves in their various stages of production, the colors and textures reminded me of urban landscapes of tall buildings with mirrored windows and banners blowing in the wind.

Hand dyed tencel scarf with novelty yarn on the loom

The warp is a hand dyed 5/2 tencel yarn from Yarns Plus in Mississuaga, Ontario Canada. The novelty yarn is Cancun by Stacey Charles.

Dark confetti scarf of tencel and novelty yarn on the loom

The original 10 year old handwoven scarf that inspired the confetti landscapes

And the wound warp chain that will be the next set of scarves to go on the loom looks more like a high desert landscape.

I am looking forward to seeing the customers’ reactions to these colorful, textured and playful scarves.

Winter Arts 2011

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? There’s a good reason for that! In addition to my teaching responsibilities and a couple of small shows where I have been selling my work, I have also been developing a couple of new products.  In my work with handbound books, I have designed a series that I call “Geometrie”. They are soft cover books with designer fabric sewn to stiff interfacing and a triangular flap that slides under a sewn on fabric strip. The stitching on the spine is a triple chain link stitch which Keith Smith describes in his book “1-2-& 3 Section Sewings”

Soft cover books handbound with triple chain link stitch

And here is a detail of the front triangular flap and closure.

Soft cover handbound book with front flap closure

And my looms have all been seeing a lot of action these past few months. I have been working on handwoven vests and tops as well as more scarves. Most of my work will be included in WinterArts, a six week show that showcases regional artists and their one of a kind work. 2011 will be the third holiday season that this show has been offered to the community and it is now considered one of the most prestigious holiday shows in the Memphis Area.

Poster for WinterArts 2011

The show opens this Friday night, November 25 with a wine and cheese reception. All the 25 plus artists will be present to meet visitors and discuss their art. My space at WinterArts looks like this:

Display of handbound books, WinterArts 2011

Display of handwoven vests and tops, WinterArts 2011

Display of Handwoven Scarves, WinterArts 2011

Again, I apologize to my readers for not posting more regularly lately. And to all, I extend my thanks for your patience and loyalty in following MemphisWeaver’s blog. Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and may this be the beginning of a beautiful holiday season. Peace.

Fruit Fabric

Whenever I  sell my handwoven accessories at a show or craft fair, invariably someone will admire my work and then turn to me and ask “Where do you get the fabric”? They ask, despite the large sign that describes my work as “Handwoven” They ask, despite the hang tags that say “handwoven”. They ask, despite my business cards that describe me as a “handweaver”. It is a puzzle to me that adults do not know where fabric comes from. Do they think that it starts as some concoction that is ground up and stirred in a giant stainless steel vat under great amounts of pressure? Then poured onto a slab to eventually pass through huge rollers and pressed  into a smooth paste? With an end result looking something like . . . . . . . . . . fruit roll ups? Not any kind of fabric I would want to wear.

Fruit Fabric?

And so here is where my role as a teacher comes in. I feel compelled to remind everyone who comments that weaving is “a modern art”, that the oldest known handwoven fabric is cotton cloth that wrapped Egyptian mummies. And that in colonial America, weavers were bachelor men who traveled the countryside with their barn looms strapped to their wagons. And when a family commissioned him to weave their linens, rugs and fabrics for clothing, this gentlemen would become that family’s guest and boarder for the duration of the weaving. And that the earliest computer can probably be attributed to a mechanical Jacquard loom with its punched hole cards to control its sequence of operations in early 19th century France.

I tell my students that there are indeed many steps to weaving, but each step by itself is not a difficult one.  And as their instructor, I guide them through the sequence of steps so that they can weave fabric. And no stainless steel vats, slabs or rollers are involved. Not even electricity nor a computer.

When a project’s  color scheme, design and fiber content are decided upon, each strand of yarn or “end” is measured and wound in a group called a warp. Each individual warp end is the length of the weaving project plus enough for sampling and  waste. Students are often surprised at how much math energy is required to calculate the yarn needed for a project or to know the length for each end.  We are all thankful for the calculators on our phones.

Here are a few photos that show a fabric I recently wove in various stages on my loom.

Partially Woven Fabric on the Loom

Individual strands of yarn or "ends" threaded through the reed which separates and evenly spaces the yarn

Individual strands of yarn threaded through the "heddles", large needles with eyes that determine the weave pattern

Warp of yarn wound around the back beam of the loom

Detail of Handwoven Fabric

Completed Vest Sewn from Handwoven Fabric

The yarn used for the fabric is bamboo – Bambu 7 in several colors including gold, yellow and persimmon.  Randomly inserted in the warp is a nubby novelty yarn by Stacy Charles that carries similar colors to the bamboo yarn. Because of the predominance of the persimmon color, I call this vest “Persimmon Vest”. And persimmon is a fruit, right?

Graduation and Plastics

Does anyone remember the scene in the movie, “The Graduate” where a  party guest says to Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), “I have just one word for you – plastics”? Apparently new college grads awaited a promising future in the field of plastics in the 1960’s. My month long absence from this blog has been due to both graduation and plastics. My son recently graduated from college, and I have been spending a bit of time with him in Baltimore. But more on that later.

My loom has been busy with projects that are woven with strips cut from plastic grocery bags. Students in my weaving workshops love these projects because the material is cheap, easily procured, quick to weave, and the finished projects are often lovely. My handwoven plastic “fabrics” are usually sewn into tote bags and purses.

Handwoven tote bag, woven with strips cut from plastic grocery bags

The project was inspired by a free “Bag of the Month” project from Handwoven Magazine The bag was woven in a plain weave with doubled cotton carpet warp in the warp and single strands of cotton carpet warp in alternating picks in the weft. The plastic bags were cut in 1″ wide strips. They are from The Fresh Market, and the green logo on the bag shows up in random green stripes in the weft. I lined the bag with some cotton paisley fabric I had on hand. It turned out to be an attractive functional bag, and one cannot easily see that it is made from plastic!

My high school age daughter then challenged me to make fabric out of plastic strips that would be suitable for a small purse worn with a shoulder strap. I had only seen plastic strips woven in plain weave, so I wondered, “What if…..?” I threaded my loom in a 4 harness goose eye twill with cotton carpet warp, cut up some plastic bags in red and white, and this is what I came up with.

On the loom: goose eye twill fabric woven with strips cut from plastic bags

The weight of these plastic bags were a bit heavier than the first project, and the look and feel of the plastic material is more apparent here than in the finished tote bag. Next time, I will need to cut the heavier bags narrower than the 1″ strips that I had been cutting. Eventually this will be sewn into a small purse.

And yes, the graduation ceremony was lovely and we are all happy that my son is off of our payroll. He has a job, and it’s not in plastics.

Stop Sign in Baltimore

Park bench in Baltimore