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”.

And the Beat Goes On

Rosh Hashannah is behind us and the year 5771 has begun. The air is a bit cooler here even in Memphis, which means that there are plenty of  holiday shows to prepare for. But first I want to share photographs of the finished tallitot taken by my friend and professional photographer, Guillermo Umbria.

The project, commissioned by a large synagogue,  began a year ago in October 2009. First there were meetings with the rabbi, then a design committee was assembled and we discussed colors, designs, and various interpretations. For several months I wove small samples of possible designs and in December presented a formal presentation with photographs, sketches and woven samples and yarn samples. The project was approved, and in January 2010 I met again with the design committee, this time with samples of yarn and we held the skeins up to the walls, rugs, stained glass windows, furniture, and Torah covers (mantles) to find the best combination of colors. Once that was decided, the yarn was ordered and all arrived by February including some hand dyed yarn that was as close to a true match to the colors in the Sanctuary as possible.

There was a problem, though!  I had several Spring shows scheduled for March, April and May, so that the actual weaving process couldn’t begin straight away.  I was able to prepare the warps and thread them on the looms by the end of April. And it was at that time that I slowly started weaving the prayer shawls. The weaving picked up during the summer months and the final pieces were delivered the last day in August. Which wasn’t bad, as I had promised them to be finished by the last week in August. Whew! That was close, but I made it. And it was a beautiful sight to see the three rabbis and the cantor wearing the tallitot over their white robes for the first of several services during these High Holiday Days, or 10 Days of Awe.

"Ner Tamid", Eternal Light. High Holy Day Tallit for a Rabbi

Atarah, neck band for "Ner Tamid"

"Sha'arei Torah", Gates of Torah. Shabbat and daily use tallit for a rabbi

Atarah, neck band for "Sha'arei Torah"

As the song says, “And the Beat Goes On”, because I am once again back at my looms, swinging the beater forward, now weaving scarves and fabric for purses. This time to prepare for several holiday shows and classes over the next several months.  I’ll post these as the dates get closer.  Meanwhile, here’s a look at what will be in store as far as handweaving goes for the Memphis market during the holiday season.

Handwoven scarves by MemphisWeaver

A Cheater’s Lace

The song says “A Cheater’s Love Will Set You Free”.  Don’t really know if it’s true, but I was thinking of those words when feeling the pressure to produce appropriate gifts for this Mother’s Day show:

The Spring Show

Much of my scarf inventory was diminished with the recent show less than a month ago. And with the weather warming up, tightly woven scarves were out of the question.  So I decided to weave some lacey scarves which really hadn’t been in my repertoire that much.  After much research and deliberating, I settled on a weave pattern based on a modified Atwater-Bronson lace.  The end product was a lightweight airy fabric that draped beautifully and was perfect for cool summer evenings, a rare occurrence here in Memphis.  So this shawl really had to be pleasing to the eyes.

The warp is a 10/2 perle cotton which was sett loosely at 20 ends per inch (epi).  These three colors were used in the warp.

10/2 perle cotton in natural, bleached white, and pale pink

I threaded a simplified variation of the more traditional 6 thread unit of the original Atwater-Bronson lace pattern. I used a 4 thread unit instead which utilized only 3 harnesses on my 8 harness loom. Sweet! Threading was easy.  In a 10 dent reed, I threaded 2 ends per dent and in the heddles, threaded in this order:  shaft 1, shaft 3, shaft 1 and shaft 2.  This 1-3-1-2 threading was repeated for the entire 15″ width of the shawl. Treadling and tie up were even easier.  I used only 4 treadles:  treadle 1 raised shaft 1, treadle 2 raised shaft 2, treadle 3 raised shaft 1 and treadle 4 raised shafts 2 and 3 together.  And so treadling was an easy to remember 1-2-3-4 !

Cotton/bamboo lace shawl on the loom

The weft was 100% bamboo yarn, Bambu 7 from Silk City Fibers. Here is the detail of the lace weave with the Bambu 7 weft of  “Rice”.

Detail Atwater-Bronson Lace weave with Bambu 7 "Rice"

And here is a detail of the lace weave with a weft of the Bambu 7 yarn in the color “Tide Blue”.

Detail Atwater-Bronson Lace weave with weft of Bambu 7 "Tide Blue"

The finished lace shawl on my faithful model Velma who accompanies me to every show:

Handwoven cotton/bamboo lace shawl

So, was this simplified version of Atwater-Bronson lace weave a cheater’s lace?  Definitely yes!  And did it set me free? Absolutely yes! And Velma looked pretty good in the finished shawl.

Brand New Day

After finishing that little shabby chic scarf (see previous post), my next project seems to be the opposite extreme.  The characteristics of the scarf that is currently on my loom are  traditional and conservative.  The fiber in the warp is Zephyr, a silk and wool blend made by Jaggerspun. The weft is a wool heathered yarn also by Jaggerspun.  I happen to have a few cones of it in my stash.

Blue heathered wool by Jaggerspun

The yarn was left over from a cooperative project that I participated in with some other weavers.  All of us wove a 20″ X 20″  square of an overshot design of our choosing and we exchanged the squares with each other.  Supposedly to make a friendship coverlet — however some members of this group never quite finished, so I am left with a partial coverlet.

The overshot design I chose was called “Four Leaf Clover”.  Here is a detail of my woven square.

Detail of handwoven square - "Four Leaf Clover" pattern

I’m still wondering what to do with the handful of coverlet squares I do have.  All of them are beautiful, but just not enough to sew into a coverlet.  I may frame them…

Back to the current project. I decided to weave a pattern called “Shaded Twill” which is described in Marguerite Davison’s A Handweaver’s Pattern Book. This is what it looks like on my loom at this moment.

Shaded Twill Weave Scarf on Loom

Very unusual for my handwoven scarves – not my style at all. In my weaving, I tend to favor lightweight fibers like cotton, bamboo and tencel.  My colors generally lean toward the lights and brights, sometimes even neon. And my patterns favor texture often with floats to break up the monotony of a repetitive weave pattern. But I had to use up that wool yarn and I already had a warp chain wound of the natural silk and wool blend yarn. And this is the result.  Pretty pattern with a suggestion of quiet elegance,  and the wool is  soft and comforting as well.  I will weave the one scarf, then I’ll be back to my old funky self – color and texture – the two characteristics that drew me into the weaving process to begin with. But change is good sometimes, and this shows that even unplanned change in a new direction can have its merits.