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.

Advertisements

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.

Latkes and Loempia

There’s a woman in Memphis who gets offended when someone greets her with “Happy Holidays” instead of  “Merry Christmas”.  Imagine how offended she would be if she knew that I was Jewish when I wished her a “Happy Holiday”. It’s hard not to get caught up in the celebratory spirit of this time of year no matter what your religious belief, or whether you even celebrate anything in December. So it is a month when spirits are high and there is a collective feeling of warmth amongst us. We take the time to wish each other happiness in a personal way that is comfortable to each of us. And that’s shameful to the woman in Memphis.

Jews have always had a difficult time of it in December. The commercial bombardment on tv, the radio, print advertisements, billboards, and Christmas music seems to assail us wherever we go. It is rare that one hears the “Dreidel Song” or the story of the Maccabees anywhere other than a private home, synagogue or Jewish Community Center during this time. December is the month when we feel most invisible and often unwelcome, such as the woman in Memphis would like us to be.

Though our family is Jewish, we celebrate December holidays with a nod to our multiculturalism. In our home and community we embrace, respect and honor everyone’s religious belief and their choice of celebration. Of course we light one candle on each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah and we display a lit menorah in our window as well as hang a Hanukkah banner above our front door. We also display the many Christmas cards we receive from our Christian friends, family and colleagues. We receive red and green wrapped Christmas presents from our relatives who celebrate Christmas and share Christmas greetings with our neighbors. And on December 5 we all get our initials in chocolate to remember Sinterklaas from our family’s Dutch heritage.

If we know that someone celebrates Christmas then we wish them a Merry Christmas. If we don’t know them well enough to know their religious beliefs, then we wish them Happy Holidays. It would be presumptuous and arrogant of us to assume that everyone around us celebrates Christmas.

Food is something that unites people of many different backgrounds. And in December, it shows. Of course, we make latkes, a potato pancake fried in oil which represents the miracle of the oil that burned after the destruction of the Temple during the time of the Maccabees.

Latkes cooking in oil

But  in the spirit of embracing our diversity, we also use that oil to fry loempia, a Dutch-Indonesian eggroll. The understanding and acceptance of diversity begins at home. And what better time to teach this than during the holiday season.

Loempia with chicken and vegetable filling

So to the woman in Memphis, who cannot see beyond her own bubble of church, religion, community, listen to me. December is not only for you, it is for all of us. For all of us who choose to celebrate or not.  To celebrate Christmas or not. To celebrate Hanukkah or not. To celebrate Kwanzaa or not. To celebrate St. Nicholas Day or not. To celebrate Festivus or not. Or not to celebrate at all. December is about respect, tolerance and acceptance.

When I say “Happy Holidays” to you, relax, smile, and enjoy the season.

Anniversary of an Ear

Yes, you read right.  It was nearly 40 years ago, when my friend Loretta convinced me that I needed to have my ears pierced.  We were overwhelmed freshmen in college going through our first taste of final exams, and somehow Loretta knew that I needed a break. She and I trudged through inches of slushy snow to our school’s infirmary where a kind grandfatherly physician had a small potion of steaming liquid waiting for us. He took out a long shiny needle (it must have been 9″ long) and dipped it into the potion. Then he whisked out a cork from an old wine bottle and placed it behind my ear lobe. I caught his eye in a questioning gaze and I thought I saw  a gleam of merriment in his.  Torture indeed!  Well it was over before I knew it, and I left with two shiny gold studs decorating my ear lobes.

Fast forward to 2011. I think I have allergies to all the earrings I had worn over the years. My not wearing earrings has caused my  ear piercings from so long ago to close.  And this pains me because so many of my fellow artist friends design and create exquisite earrings that I long to have to adorn my ears. This is what I’m talking about.

Handpainted earrings on ostrich egg shells by Ansley Larsson

Ansley Larsson has an etsy shop here. And then there’s this.

Hand fused glass earrings and jewelry by elucido glass

Elucido Glass’s etsy site is here. And this.

Polymer Clay jewelry by Linda Livaudais

At this time, Linda Livaudais does not have an etsy shop. However, if you are in the Memphis area, Linda’s jewelry as well as elucido glass’ and Ansley Larsson’s jewelry can be purchased at WinterArts  Winter Arts is a consortium of elite Memphis artists and craftspeople who sell their work through a retail shop during the holiday season. Please come and visit us at 2055 West Street at Poplar Avenue in Germantown, TN. We are in the Shops of  Saddle Creek South next to Talbot’s. Oh, and did I mention that I will also be selling my handwoven clothing and accessories as well as my handbound books there?

Getting back to Loretta. She had an adventurous spirit that I couldn’t quite capture at 18. Loretta didn’t graduate after 4 years as I and most of our classmates did. Instead she chose to take her senior year off and work as a concert assistant to two of her professors. They were a musician couple that went on a classical concert tour of Europe the year that the rest of us were agonizing over boyfriend angst, graduate school dilemmas, job prospects. Loretta spent the year traveling through Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and other exotic European destinations. I believe she even performed some of the lovely piano pieces that she had become known for in college. And then yes, she did come back to graduate college a year after the rest of us. And as far as anyone knew she spent the rest of her adult life in Austria and Italy studying music and teaching. Such adventure.

Sadly, a few years ago, I received a notice that Loretta had passed away at 51 years of age after a long illness. She and I had not kept up over the years, but I still felt a bit of heartache as I remember that cold wintry day when we both set out for a small challenge. And for Loretta, she chose to take the road less traveled, a road that seemed to have taken many twists and turns and certainly great challenges. So in celebration of Loretta’s life and in memory of the young woman who made beautiful music and didn’t seem to be afraid of anything, this is written for you. And I will get my ears pierced again.

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.

Studio Space

When Harry Potter lived with the Dursleys, his room for a  time was  the cupboard under the stairs. I have one of those. But as far as I know, no boy wizard has ever lived there. This is what my cupboard under the stairs looks like:

Rigid heddle looms and tools stored in the cupboard under the stairs

Some of the Beka and Schacht rigid heddle looms are stored here. Rigid heddles, stick shuttles, pick up sticks, clamps, warping tools and re-usable brown paper for winding are stored here. Two big blue buckets of cotton carpet warp and Peaches and Cream cotton yarn are stored here. Everything that I take to classes are conveniently stored in this space because it is easily accessible to the garage and driveway where I load and unload all the tools and equipment I need to teach my weaving classes. My inkle looms and large rigid heddle looms do not fit in the cupboard.  They are stored in the attic. More on that later. Though it doesn’t house  a wizard, the space under the stairs is more than functional.  However, there is no room for me to weave in the cupboard.

So where do I weave? As it turns out, a few places. In my last post, I mentioned cleaning out my weaving room. A room that measures roughly 9′ X 12′. It is off of the master bedroom and its  intended function when first built has long been forgotten. Was it a sitting room as part of the master bedroom suite? A nursery? An office? A man cave? Whatever its intended use,  a weaving room was not one of them. When I weave, that is what it becomes, but it also is a room where  I create the bulk of my designs, where I prepare my warps and sometimes pay the bills, answer my e-mails, read and listen to music. Sometimes my daughter even does her homework there. It is comfortable enough for me to call it my studio.

Weaving studio in a small space

This is as tidy as it gets.  It’s difficult to keep such a small space uncluttered and organized especially when working on a complex project.

56" Macomber Loom and Schacht Baby Wolf in my weaving studio

Amazingly, this large Macomber loom and the Baby Wolf loom both fit comfortably in this 9′ X 12′ studio space.

And I also have another space where I weave. I call it my attic studio. Previous owners had finished the attic probably in the 1970’s. The attic has a larger area than my weaving room and I use the additional space to sew my handwoven fabric and create my handbound books. One corner of the attic space has a third loom which I use for quick projects. And it’s very cozy up there. It’s off the beaten path of household activity.  I can turn my iHome up as loud as I want. And there is a day bed there, so I can take naps! I’m all for those! Now that’s a real studio!

The Leclerc Loom in my attic studio

Weaving Headlines

It always irks me that weaving terms are highlighted in a negative way when used in news headlines. For instance:

DRUNK DRIVER WEAVES ACROSS THREE LANES ON INTERSTATE.

Or,

TOO MUCH TV WARPS CHILDRENS’ MINDS.

Often, “warp” becomes a misspelling of “wrap” such as this headline:

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WARP UP BUS TOUR CAMPAIGN.

And the one that seems to get the most use:

HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT RATES LOOM AHEAD.

Really, people? Can’t the media see weaving and looms as a positive, creative element in our daily lives? Here are just a few examples of what I’m talking about from our local newspaper, The Commercial Appeal.

Front page news, above the fold

Front page of the Business Section lying on top of a handwoven placemat

Front page of the Local News section, below the fold

But here is a paragraph from an article about a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The metaphor is a lovely description about a woven tapestry.

Woven tapestry images at Mammoth Cave National Park

So it isn’t all negative, but the positive references seem to be few and far between. Truth be told, weaving just doesn’t make the news. It’s not sexy, weavers for the most part aren’t criminals, and there are no politicians running on a weaving platform.  We seem to be a quiet bunch and manage to stay out of trouble. If there were a headline about me, it would be something like this:

WEAVER UNEARTHS ANCIENT RELIC

Long Lost Butterfly discovered in weaving studio

My cleaning out my weaving studio may be newsworthy, but only to me. And while cleaning I came across this lovely brass butterfly letter holder. I hadn’t seen it in awhile. It was a gift to me from my first roommate in 1973!  I sent her this photo (Yes, after all these years we are still in touch, even though we live a thousand miles apart!) And she replied that she was moved to tears at the memory of this gift as it reminded her of our youthful year together. A sweet headline indeed!

Today, my teenage daughter, who is a Pink Floyd fan, found this, a photo by Aldo Cavini Benedetti which had been altered to resembled Pink Floyd’s iconic album cover to Dark Side of the Moon.

Dark Side of the Loom

The photo is from thisiscolossal.com.  Very clever. Although the title can be a bit misleading. The warp threads seem to be going through the eye of a needle rather than heddles on a loom. But who’s complaining? Loom was mentioned sort of as a headline and in an an interesting way. For Pink Floyd fans, not in a negative way at all. Not at all.