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

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.

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

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.

Where Muse?

I wish I could respond as easily as Igor in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein when he answers “There wolf!” to the question “Werewolf?” Where is my muse?  Did it leave with the traveling Broadway production of  Young Frankenstein when it left Memphis to go on to Omaha?

 

Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein at the Orpheum, Memphis

Or perhaps it disappeared during those strange events that occurred during last weekend’s Supermoon?

 

Supermoon of March 2011

Wherever it is, it’s not here with me. And I’m getting anxious because, for one I have a couple of spring shows lined up. The first of which is less than two weeks away.

 

A Celebration of Fine Craft by Memphis Association of Craft Artists

I’ve been trying to come up with some fresh and new designs, but I just can’t get away from the old ones. Maybe some photos of my previously created work will help inspire my muse to return.

 

Detail, cotton, bamboo and ribbon handwoven scarf – pink
Detail, cotton, bamboo, ribbon handwoven scarf – turquoise
Fringe detail, cotton, bamboo, metallic handwoven scarf – yellow
Isaac Hayes – handbound blank journal made from recycled 45 rpm vinyl records
Roberta Flack – handbound blank journal made from recycled 45 rpm vinyl records

Isaac Hayes and Roberta Flack, please help me find my muse!

 

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”.