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Santa Fe is blessed with a number of fabulous museums showing a wide range of art.  Somewhat belatedly, I have just visited the Museum of International Folk Art for the first time in any depth, and I was blown away.  The core of the museum's holdings is a collection of over 100,000 objects (not a typo) collected by Alexander Girard and donated to the museum.  Ten thousand (yes, 10,000) of these objects are on permanent display in one giant room, the overwhelming and wonderful "Multiple Visions:  A Common Bond" permanent exhibit.  Girard was an avid collector of folk art objects from 100 countries and six continents, and these objects are carefully arranged in dioramas and wall displays.  You could wander for a week in there discovering delightful things.  When I spotted a wall of needlework samplers I told my companions that was where they could find me at the end of the day.

This sampler of elaborate darning stitches reminded me that today's "#visiblemending" is not so new after all!
But that's not what I'm writing about today.  This is just an extended introduction to the figure of Alexander Girard, a noted mid-20th-century designer of textiles, furniture and interiors.  Mid-century modern design has been enjoying a revival for some time now, and it is pure pleasure to see lots of objects from that time in the exhibit "Alexander Girard:  A Designer's Universe."  Perhaps the bright clear colors, clean design and upbeat mood of midcentury design appeals to us today for the same reason it did in the post-WWII, Cold War era.

Some of Girard's textiles on display.  The flat display case contains working designs for the fabrics as well as some of the inspirational textiles he collected on his travels.


What really made the exhibit fun for me was the peek into Girard's design process.  The Vitra Design Museum in Germany organized the exhibit, and they included sketches, collages, and maquettes of many of Girard's projects in addition to the final products.  Girard was not only a voracious collector of folk art, he was a prolific producer of ideas and designs.  It was fun to see how he used watercolor sketches, collages, and miniature pasted-up textiles to develop designs just as we do today.


Girard's sketches for blanket designs.  

Maquettes for various interior design projects. 

The two long striped maquettes were for a "fabric mural" for a bank.

Detail, fabric mural maquette

One of my favorite glimpses into Girard's creative process was this manifesto of sorts.  How many of us write notes to ourselves about the design principles we want to follow?



I know it's hard to read the text in this photo, so I'll pull out some of my favorite quotes:

"Space is our greatest luxury.  Bulk and weight kill space.  Lightness and economy make space."

"God made nature--don't spoil it.  Nature's inspiration is honesty.  Beauty can be simple too."

Girard's faith in "the modern" may seem quaint now:  "Modern has magic--of modern science, of new discoveries, of a new world, of a better way of life."  But he was adamant that there is no point in slavishly following traditional decor and designs that have outlived their  time:  "You don't wear a hooped skirt--why sit in a Victorian chair?"

"Don't look for a 'style' in modern--look for a way of living honestly. "

"Colors are yours to use--not for fashion to dictate."

"Respect the past--they believed in themselves.  In the greatest tradition--be yourself!"

Some advice never goes out of style.

Girard's gift for whimsy is apparent in his designs for wooden dolls.  I've never been a big fan of dolls, but these are totally charming to me.

Girard's sketches for wooden dolls.  I wonder if their names--Fraidy, Smarty, Gloomy, Prissy, Snotty, Goopy and Cozy--are a sly reference to Disney's seven dwarfs?




This exhibit runs through October 27.  I just may go back a third time.
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It was a real pleasure to be invited to participate in the juried and invitational all-fiber show at galleryFRITZ in Santa Fe.  The show was part of the annual New Mexico Fiber Crawl, sponsored by Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC), the hub of all things fiber in this part of the world.  The gallery produced a beautiful catalog and hosted a lovely reception.  The exhibit will continue through May 31.



I'm thrilled to be included--even if my last name is missing its D.  


The show included eleven invited artists and 29 juried artists from the Southwest and throughout the country.  Here are a few of my favorite pieces from the invited artists:

Mary Rawcliffe Colton, Bumps in the Road,
tapestry with pulled warp, decreasing warp spacing, decreasing weft sizes,
17.5"h x 5"w, decreasing to 1.5"w
detail, Bumps in the Road by Mary Colton

Elizabeth Buckley, Molten Beneath Strata,
wool, cotton, crewel-weight wool,
84" x 28"
Donna Loraine Contractor, Burnt Orange to Purple Dimensional Window,
wool tapestry on coton warp, 58" x 10"

 
That's me with my piece Rough Draft.  photo by Cindy Dworzak.
cotton, wool, linen, paper, metallic thread, 12" x 18"

The artists below were among those juried into Fiber as Metaphor.  Space prevents me from presenting all of them, but these caught my eye:

Sandra Martinez, Semillas, hand-spun churro wool flat weave tapestry,
45" x 35"

Dain Daller, Unseen Worlds I, weaving, poly warp with linen and raffia weft,  12" x 11" 

Amanda Speer, Window, handwoven with sisal and linen, hand-dyed, double irate,
32" x 28"

detail, Amanda Speer, Window

Leah Virsik, A Beauty of their Disagreements 04, thread on cotton/linen, 11.5" x 11"

detail, Leah Virsik, A Beauty of their Disagreements 04

Al Canner, Aboriginal Night, knotted cords of cotton, jute, and polyester, 24" x 34" x 4.5" 


Carolyn Cohen, Homeless:  Lemuel (L) and Homeless:  Alexus (R), hand sewn art quilts with hand-dyed fabric,
 60" x 58" and 54" x 52"

detail, Carolyn Cohen, Homeless:  Lemuel 

Jennie Frederick, Shedding, kozo, acrylic, wax, Kibiso silk, paper, 96" x 96" x 72"
detail, Jennie Frederick, Shedding


Sean Paul Gallegos, P-3AT Weapons of Mass Consumption IV, discarded child's left sneaker,  thread, grommet,
1.5" x 5.5" x 8.75"
"Fiber as Metaphor" presents a wide-ranging overview of the diversity of work being done in fiber today. My selections here only hint at the thought-provoking, beautifully crafted, and visually delightful work found  in the exhibit.  I plan to go back for another look; if you are interested in fiber and can't make it to the show in person, consider contacting the gallery and ordering a catalog!
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The Eldorado Studio Tour is coming right up (May 18-19 in Eldorado, just outside Santa Fe, NM) and I'm weaving my little fingers off trying to get a couple more small pieces finished in time.  I think I'll make it.

Here's the third in my series of small wedge weaves inspired by the skies out here.  It's called Snowrise, and I'm trying to convey the place on winter mornings where the clouds and the snowy mountain tops merge and blend so you can't tell them apart.

detail of Snowrise, in progress.  (c) Molly Elkind 2019

The other series I've been working on is Fences, inspired by our broken-down barbed wire fences in Eldorado, and also by our national conversation about fences, walls and borders. I make that connection explicit in the first two pieces.


Gate, (c) Molly Elkind 2019

Falling, (c) Molly Elkind 2019

In the third piece, still on the loom, I'm using sky colors that look like a nasty bruise.  In fact, the piece is called Bruised.

Molly Elkind, Bruised in progress, (c) 2019

And of course it's not just about getting the weaving done.  There's finishing work--cleaning up the backs and edges of new tapestries, steaming and mounting them on linen-covered stretcher bars.  This part is tedious, but it's amazing how mounting them can really make them look finished, isn't it?


Screwing in those tiny screw eyes for the wire goes easier with a few sharp taps with a hammer.

And as with any show, there's lots of administrivia going on around the edges.  My contribution to the Tour effort is to post the artists' work on Instagram (follow @eldoradoartsandcraftsassoc or #eldoradostudiotour).  And just for my own work, there are prices to determine, labels to make, postcards and brochures to distribute, sponsors to recognize . . . you get the idea.  Plus, since three of us are showing at our house/studio, we need to start thinking about where to put all the art. . . and stow away everything that's not for sale.  Ack!

So, this is a quick post but I wanted you to know I haven't forgotten the blog, and my faithful readers, completely.  If you're in the area, please come see us!  Click here for all the details about the Tour.  If you're not, please send good vibes our way.
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This is a sheepish post, and not just because it's about things made with wool yarn.  (yuk-yuk)

With some fanfare I announced to the world in January that I would undertake two daily practices this year:  1) a tapestry diary in which I work through the techniques in Mette Lise Rössing's book The Thread's Course in Tapestry and 2) a perpetual journal of botanical drawings, inspired by Lara Gastinger (@laragastinger and #lgperpetualjournal on Instagram).

I have done OK with the tapestry diary, but I haven't woven every day by any means.  So far I've done 39 techniques in about 100 days.  At this point, here's where it stands.  I chose to work in the wintry palette of northern New Mexico for the first quarter of the year.  I'm looking forward to updating the palette with a few yellow-greens soon.  They are starting to appear, oh so slowly, here.

Molly Elkind, tapestry diary in progress, (c) 2019
 I knew that with my teaching schedule and life intervening in general that I wouldn't weave every day, and that's fine.  Eventually I will finish.  The tapestry diary is supposed to be fun, in my book, not homework.  I had an aha moment when I realized that at the end of the year I'd like to be able to connect each technique in the book to its bit of weaving in the tapestry, so that I can use the diary and the book as references.  So I took a photo of the weaving so far, printed it out life-size, and cut out each little daily bit and glued it right into the book (gasp!).

page of Rössing's The Thread's Course in Tapestry, with my cut-and-pasted additions
I've always liked the idea of making my own textbook and this certainly makes Rössing's excellent book even more useful for me.

As for the second daily practice, the perpetual journal, I did start it with great enthusiasm, but then, it was winter.  Winter went on and on.  And on.   It was harder to get outside and find things to bring in to draw.  And meanwhile life got very very busy.  So while I've enjoyed very much seeing what other people are drawing in their perpetual journals on Instagram, mine has been stalled here.  I hope to get back to it, really I do.

bent stalk of gramma grass

It's about priorities, isn't it?  And my main focus these days is making work for the upcoming Eldorado Studio Tour May 18-19, here in Eldorado, New Mexico, near Santa Fe.  I'm hoping to have three pieces in my series of wedge weave skies, and another three pieces in the new Fences series, in addition to work from last year's show in Atlanta.

Virga, (c) Molly Elkind, 2019.  Cotton.  7.25" x 9.25" 
I had great news last week--one of the wedge weave skies, Virga, has been accepted to the Small Expressions show sponsored by Handweavers Guild of America.  So while it won't be available for the Studio Tour, it will get to travel a bit.  I guess I'd better get back to the loom. . . .
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I'd been excited for months about the prospect of teaching at the Minneapolis Textile Center for the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.  I told anyone who would listen how, as a new student in fibers in the mid-1990s, I read about the Textile Center's founding in Fiberarts Magazine and dreamed of visiting such a wondrous place.  Little did I think I would ever teach there.

The experience exceeded my expectations, despite the best efforts of an airline-that-shall-not-be-named (hint:  named for a region of the country and known for blue airplanes) to delay both my arrival and my departure from the Twin Cities, and to make rescheduling impossible without two in-person trips to the airport.  But Betsy Konop at the Textile Center and Robbie LaFleur at the Weavers Guild rolled with the punches, rescheduling my Thursday night lecture to Friday night, chauffeuring me around, making sure my tech was set up and working perfectly, and generally taking care to see I was fed and entertained.  Thank you, Betsy and Robbie!  And thanks, Robbie, for your kind blogpost about your experience in the workshop.

The students in the class worked very hard and very well.  They gamely tackled every exercise I threw at them, made wonderful collages, and began weaving samples before the weekend was over.  I was reminded of some of the stumbling blocks that can impede a new weaver's progress, and I learned a little more about how to effectively teach this subject I am so passionate about, designing  for tapestry weaving.

Kevin and Nancy share feedback on their collages
Barb and Vicki respond to each other's initial collages

Veronna and Connie look at Veronna's log-cabin inspired collage

Kevin shows his weaving in progress

Robbie's collage and weaving, almost halfway done

Jan holds up her torn-shape collage next to her loom

Connie's weaving in progress
Leading up to the visit, I had seen online tantalizing glimpses of a show of Scandinavian weft-faced weavings that was on display at the Center, and I hoped I would have time to see these wonderful pieces while I was there.  As it turned out, the pieces lined the walls in my classroom!



I had plenty of time to study them as students were working.  Local collector Carol Johnson assembled many weavings from mid-20th century weavers.  Some of them were made from kits or widely marketed designs, and it was interesting to see various interpretations of the same design.  Robbie has written several posts about the collection on her site; this one is the most recent and contains links to the others.  (Sorry for the skewed perspective in these photos; looms were in the way!)






I was especially delighted to have a chance to talk at some length--though I know we only scratched the surface of the subject--with Robbie LaFleur about Norwegian tapestry.  In the Twin Cities, where so many are of Scandinavian ancestry, that weaving tradition is a focus of intense attention.  I learned that in Norwegian and other tapestry traditions, slits are not used, but rather dovetails and other types of decorative joins--dozens of types of joins!--and the backs are a perfect mirror of the front, with all weft tails needled in.  I resolved to buy my own copy of Norwegian Tapestry Weaving by Maria Brekke Koppen, in order to study those joins.  Robbie also shared this call for entries for fiber pieces in any medium inspired by the famous 11th-century Baldishol Tapestry from Norway.  While at the moment I do have ideas for tapestries lined up like planes on the runway (ahem) waiting to be woven, I am mighty tempted to do something for this as well.

I love looking at tapestries and fiber online.  Facebook, Instagram, ATA newsletters, and other weavers' blogposts are wonderfully inspiring.  But nothing beats meeting weavers in person and getting our fingers into the "space between the warps" together.  Thank you, weavers of Minneapolis!
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Weekend before last, I taught my first workshop in New Mexico, at Española Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC), a major hub of all things textile in the state.*   Six students from around the country braved wintry weather (we did get 6" of snow one night!) to learn more about how collage can be used to generate a weave-able design for tapestry.  They made collages, did yarn wraps to test color ideas, translated their collages into tapestry cartoons, and began weaving samples.

By the way, I am teaching Collage to Tapestry Cartoon at two other venues this year:  the Weaver's Guild of Minnesota in Minneapolis, March 13-17, and at the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association conference (MAFA) in Millersville, PA June 27-30.  I'd love to see you in either location!

Here are a few photos from the three-day workshop.

Marlena begins to assemble a landscape collage.

Wendy ponders two of her collages. . . . and a beautiful palette of yarn.

Patricia has several strong collages from which to choose  to work.

Wendy and Janice look at work so far.

Evelyn and Cindy give each other constructive feedback before deciding which collages to develop into cartoons.


Cindy makes yarn wraps to test colors before weaving.  Those are all her hand-dyed wools!
Patricia begins to weave a sample of the colors in her collage.

Marlena's sample in progress.  Excellent texture!

Wendy's sample, above, and collage, below.

I love how in this class each student's work is uniquely theirs.  Each student makes several collages which express their own style and tastes, and then everyone makes their own choices about how to develop their collages into tapestry.  My teacher's heart was warmed when I heard a few students confess that they are now converts to doing the "adult" thing and making samples before starting to weave their tapestries for real.  I can't wait to see what they all do next!  

* (Check out the New Mexico Fiber Crawl May 17-19, 2019 with fiber events at studios, galleries, farms and shops around Northern New Mexico.)
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I'm just back from a wonderful retreat with Rebecca Mezoff and a crew of talented and lovely humans who share a passion for tapestry.  We were at the historic Mabel Dodge Luhan house in Taos, New Mexico.  Taos is justly famous for its artistic culture and history, and Mabel Dodge Luhan and her circle in the early 20th century were one big reason.  It was a blast to stay in this old New Mexican house, in rooms named for Mabel's illustrious guests.  (And the food was fantastic.)  The MDL is booked much of the year for workshops and conferences, but B&B rooms are sometimes open--if your travels take you to Taos, it doesn't hurt to check for availability.  You won't be sorry.

Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos
Each plate of flourless chocolate cake was decorated differently!
Fabulous desserts aside, for a tapestry weaver the main draw was the chance for total immersion in the mysteries of color in tapestry, with an accomplished artist whose work is powered by gorgeous color.   Rebecca familiarized us with the basics of color theory--RGB and CMYK, color in light vs. color in pigment or dye, color harmonies, Itten's seven types of contrast, and the crucial role of value.  We examined specific tapestries to better understand how weavers have used color to create certain effects.  And we did lots of hands-on work:  exercises on paper, yarn wraps, and sample weaving.  Rebecca's famous tables stocked with yarn as far as the eye can see were there, available for sampling and practicing various ways to blend and contrast color.

One exercise was to arrange colored squares in value sequence from light to dark.  
This black and white photo allowed me to check my work. 

The classroom at Rebecca Mezoff's Color Use in the Land of Enchantment Retreat

Two of the three Tables o' Yarn we could choose from to sample with
For me, the chance to experiment with yarns I hadn't yet woven with was really helpful.  I developed a better sense for how the size, twist, fiber and method of dyeing yarn really determine the look of the woven surface and thus the image being woven.  In my sampling, I fell in love with the blending possibilities that weaving with Weavers Bazaar Fine (18/2) yarn presents.  I discovered that if you lay the strands in more or less parallel to each other, you get more of a linear, streaky effect (at top in sample below), versus the speckled effect that results when you twist the plies.  (If you're not careful, you also get draw-in, as my sample demonstrates).  This exploration helped me begin to design my next wedge weave sky tapestry.



I also explored the color red at some length, playing around with shifting the basic hue of a given red yarn by blending it with other colors, both in the weft bundle and, near the top of the sample, using tapestry techniques such as hatching and pick-and-pick.  I had a particular piece in mind that I plan to start soon, and I believe I'm better equipped to choose the red for that piece now.



So. . . huge thanks to Rebecca Mezoff for planning and teaching a really wonderful retreat.  Yes, we learned a lot about color in tapestry weaving.  But the most important weaving we did was weaving community.  It is easy to see why so many students (many of them repeat students) traveled from across the country in January to study with Rebecca.  It was privilege to meet and weave alongside you all.   I hope to see you all again soon.

Fireplace in the dining room 

Weavers gather in a sitting area 

New Mexico in January
Sunset on the retreat's last night 

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It's my guess that it being a new year and all, a few of you may have made a resolution to learn to weave tapestry.  It's been about 10 years since I first got serious about weaving tapestry, and as I prepare to teach upcoming classes this year I thought I would share some of the things I wish I had learned--or perhaps more accurately, paid attention to!--from the very beginning.  I've had great teachers right from the start, and no doubt they told me all this at some point, but for whatever reason I did a fair amount of mucking around on my own and had to learn more than a few things the hard way.

These tips fall into two categories, those relating to technical issues--how to warp and weave--and those relating to inspiration and creativity.  Let's start with technique since that was for me the steepest learning curve.

Technical tips:
  1. Build or buy a loom that allows you to adjust warp tension, ie, to make the warp tighter or looser on the loom.  There are great plans for a copper pipe loom with adjustable tension on Archie Brennan's website.  You can buy the materials in any hardware store and do this yourself without needing to solder (kudos to those who can, though!).  There are also plans for galvanized metal looms out there; look HERE and HERE and HERE.   You can treat yourself and buy fabulous copper pipe looms with springs for a variety of setts and shedding devices, in many sizes, from Mirrix.  
L to R:  Glimakra Freja loom, homemade copper pipe loom from Brennan's plans, Mirrix  loom
  1. Yes, you can weave tapestry on a picture-frame (stretcher bar) loom (and I've done it more than once), but it's hard to warp it with enough tension to weave well, and you end up fighting the tension the whole time.  Be kind to yourself, just don't, at first.  
  2. For your first pieces, use cotton seine twine for warp.  You can find it at many suppliers including Yarn Barn of Kansas, Lunatic Fringe, The Woolery,  and Halcyon Yarn.  Later you can branch out into wool or linen warps.  
  3. Probably the most important tip of all:  Use the least stretchy yarn you can find for weft.  ***Do not use yarn marketed for knitting or crochet.***  I did this at first because I was so eager to start weaving and I didn't know yet where to order tapestry yarn.  My results were. . . okaaaayyy, and I did get to practice basic tapestry weaving, but now I cringe when I see those pieces!  Knitting yarn is luscious, but is too soft and squishy and will take forever to weave any distance at all.  So, sorry, the yarn at your local yarn shop is mostly out of bounds.  But there are many mail-order suppliers who sell suitable yarn out there.  Some good ones to start with are Norsk Fjord Fibers' Vevgarn, Appleton (made in the UK but available through a number of embroidery yarn suppliers in the US; order the "crewel", not the "tapestry" yarn), and Weavers Bazaar.  Weavers' Bazaar is also based in the UK but they ship quickly and offer a large array of colors in various weights, perfect for blended wefts.  There are many more excellent yarns out there but these are good foundational yarns.  

5.  As long as we're talking about tools and supplies, buy the best tools and yarn you can afford.  If you learn with awkward tools or shoddy yarn, you will be needlessly frustrated and have to learn again when you step up to better materials.  It is a pleasure to weave with beautifully made bobbins, weaving forks and awls.   

6.  Get clear on the vocabulary of weaving, if you're entirely new to the field.  I'm always learning new words for techniques that are new to me, but there are basic terms such as shed, pick, pass, bubbling, and draw-in, and essential techniques such as meet and separate, twining, and half-hitch that you should understand to make all your other learning easier.  Ask me if you're unclear!  There are no dumb questions.  

I was looking at some notes I wrote to myself back when I first started weaving tapestry, in fact, when I wasn't at all sure I would continue.  I was frustrated by the slowness of the weaving, by the technical problems of staying in the right shed, by the simple samplers every book or beginner's class involved, and by shoulder pain.  It all just seemed too hard.  

But I also came across this note about what I loved about tapestry, enough to stick with it:

"the rich color, melding of painting and fiber, the abstraction, the flat yet subtly textured surface, the idea that it is painstakingly woven, the solidly-worked surface."

I was just really entranced with the woven surface, with images that could be both flat and look three-dimensional.  You might be entranced with different things about tapestry, but it helps to know what exactly it is you love about it, to stay motivated through the hard parts.

That leads me to the second set of tips, about learning and inspiration.  

7.  Look at other weavers' work, in books, in galleries, and of course online.  When you see work you love, stop and ask yourself what exactly you love about it.  Try to put it into specific words.  Can you figure out how that amazing thing was achieved, and strive for that same quality in your own weaving?  

8.  One way to find out how other weavers work their magic is to find good teachers.  Ask your local weaving guild if they ever bring tapestry artists in to teach.  Pester them to bring a teacher you want to see.  For a list of tapestry teachers, see HERE.  Find some good books to walk you through the basics.  Here's an extensive list of books.

These are some books I found (and find) really useful, more or less in order from most basic to most detailed:

Kirsten Glasbrook, Tapestry Weaving

9.  Connect with fellow tapestry weavers.  Ask around where you live to find other tapestry weavers to share and learn with.  ***Join the American Tapestry Alliance!*** It will unlock a wealth of information about teachers, exhibits, supplies and techniques, and online interaction on Facebook, Instagram, and via an email discussion list.  They also have a mentoring program.  There are lots of tapestry artists on social media; follow them and you will be inspired and educated every day.  

10.  As an ancient sage said, Art is long and life is short.  Weave a little bit every day if you want to get better. I find a tapestry diary is a good way to make sure I do a few minutes each day. 

10.   That said, if you are lucky enough to have lots of time to weave, be kind to your body.  Don't weave for more than half an hour at a time without taking a break to stand up and stretch.  Rebecca Mezoff shares a wonderful set of stretching exercises with her classes that I run through when the timer goes off and it's time to take a break.  In this interview Rebecca shares a number of tips for a healthy weaving practice.  Even something as simple as standing up and walking across the room while you wind a new bobbin is a good break.  Especially when I was first learning to weave, or even now when I'm weaving under a deadline, I hold a lot of tension in my body and it can make for very sore shoulder and back muscles.  Do what you can (yoga and massages are great) to keep your body limber and functioning, and you'll be able to weave for years. 

I'm sure other weavers out there have their own top ten list of tips, and I'd love to hear what they are--and what your questions or issues are that I may have overlooked.  


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Happy New Year, dear readers!  May 2019 bring you joy, laughter, friendship, beauty and meaningful work, wherever you are and whatever you do!  And when the bad stuff happens (as it always does), may you find strength, peace and the support you need, in yourself and in those around you.

Many of you are aware I've been keeping a daily tapestry diary for three years now.  It's been a piece that varies in shape, theme and purpose each year, but the constant is that I try to weave a little bit every day that somehow reflects my life and the world around me.  My hope is to continually refine my weaving skills and to weave every day, even if only for ten minutes.  You can see images of past diaries HERE and HERE and HERE.

Cutting off the 2018 Tapestry Diary 
I've been debating with myself whether and how to continue the practice in 2019, and many of you were kind enough to weigh in on my public musings on social media last month (see Dec. 10 posts @mollyelkind on Instagram and on Facebook as Molly Elkind and Molly Elkind Handwovens).  Since the beginning of this new year is very busy for me,  I chose a structure for the 2019 diary that I hope will refine my technical skills while not requiring a lot of creative thought each day.  I will be working my way through Mette Lise Rossing's book The Thread's Course in Tapestry.  This fantastic book is a wonderful primer of tapestry technique AND includes a tantalizing section on tapestry techniques as expressed in various cultures.  I'm excited that I will learn many techniques new to me (and practicing familiar ones as well), such as various kinds of joins, soumaks, twining, and finishes.  A huge thank-you to Mavis Adam (@mdadam on Instagram) for inspiring me with her own spectacular diary based on The Thread's Course.  I love Mavis's choice of colors and how beautifully she wove the title of the book.

Mavis Adam, 2016 tapestry diary based on The Thread's Course in Tapestry
(c) Mavis Adam, used with permission
Here's two days' worth of my new tapestry diary.  The white band is the first technique in the book, simple plain weave, an appropriate foundation for all the techniques to follow.  The blue and white section illustrates the second technique, a diagonal line made when you turn on 2 low warps and 1 high warp.  I filled in the angle with solid blue so I could start tomorrow's shape with a straight edge.




I don't expect it to take me the entire year to work through The Thread's Course, so the plan is that when I finish (and my calendar has opened up a bit), I will use my newfound skills to undertake some small studies based on historic tapestries from around the world, Coptic and Peruvian and Norwegian and medieval French and so on up into the 20th and 21st centuries.  It might be that these studies will take me well into 2020, God willing and the creek don't rise!  This project really excites the art history geek in me, and I can't wait to start planning the first piece.

I have also decided to undertake a drawing practice, as close to daily as I can make it.  I have fallen in love with Lara Gastinger's perpetual journal work on Instagram (@laragastinger; #lgperpetualjournal).  Earlier this year I made time to draw some broken-down barbed-wire fences in our neighborhood, for 15 or 30 minutes almost every day for a few weeks.  It gave me so much joy!  I loved both the process and the way it slows me down (I guess tapestry doesn't slow me down enough!).  I find that drawing forces me to be more observant, and I notice over and over again that I do improve a little bit when I practice regularly.  Duh.  A perpetual journal of ink and maybe watercolor botanical sketches seems like a perfect way to both improve my drawing skills (which need improvement) and to get better acquainted with the plant life in my corner of New Mexico.



I'd love to hear if any of you have adopted a new daily creative practice this year, or are planning to continue old ones.  My best wishes to you all in all your creative endeavors, whether specifically "artistic" or not!  We are all the artists of our lives every day, right?
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Yarn ball Christmas tree with moomintrolls who might be up to mischief.  Thanks to Rebecca Mezoff (and Emily) for letting me steal their idea for the tree.  Moomintrolls are characters from Finnish folklore.
At this time of year, if we are lucky, we celebrate the winter holidays with family and friends.  We celebrate friendship and love and laughter, and we are grateful not to be alone in the darkest part of the year.  We look back over the past year, recalling the good times and the bad (and the weird and the downright ugly).  With luck we might estimate that the good outweighed the hard.

I was thinking this morning about how fortunate I have been to be part of a sustaining artistic community every part of the way in 2018.  In the Atlanta area, I found my tribe at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA), which hosted my show of tapestries in February and March.  I was honored to have friends not just from my neighborhood but weavers from Florida and North Carolina, come to see the show and give me their considered feedback.  You know who you are, and I am grateful!

Opening reception for ICONIC show at SEFAA.  Photo:  Nancy Langham
When we moved to New Mexico, I left one community and was humbled and so happy to be welcomed into another one.  The Las Tejedoras,  High Desert Tapestry and Las Aranas guilds have become my local fiber tribe.  It is thrilling to be among so many dedicated weavers.  I am looking forward to teaching Collage to Tapestry Cartoon at Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC) in February and deepening my connection with several weavers there.*

One of the best things to happen to me in 2018 was the Handweavers Guild of America's Convergence conference and the subsequent American Tapestry Alliance meeting and retreat.  It was fantastic to meet, teach and weave alongside gifted artists from across the country.  The workshop with Rowen Schussheim-Anderson has changed my approach to tapestry in exciting ways.

Next year will afford me the chance to teach in four locations around the country, and I am deeply grateful to those weaving friends (again, you know who you are) who have helped me make those connections.

Finally, I continue to be grateful for the online community I have found on Instagram and Facebook.  I am as dismayed as anyone at the ongoing revelations about Facebook's cavalier attitude toward users' privacy (to put it generously), but I continue to feel that what I learn there from fellow artists and weavers far outweighs the negative.  Instagram has introduced me to fiber artists worldwide whose work inspires and teaches me something almost every day.

Last week I was touched to get thoughtful and valuable feedback on both social media when I publicly asked for help figuring out how (or if) to handle next year's tapestry diary.  (If you're wondering, I've reached a decision but I'm saving it for the next blog post!)  Weaving is a solitary pursuit, but sharing our work in progress, our questions, doubts and occasional triumphs makes it all easier.

I suppose it's not surprising that weavers are good at coming together, constructing a sturdy fabric in which each thread is a small but indispensable part of a larger, beautiful whole.  As I look back at 2018 and forward to 2019 I hope to continue to be one of those interlaced threads.

Santa Fe Plaza 
I wish for you, my friends and colleagues near and far, all the blessings of community wherever you are and whatever you do.  The online community is wonderful, but let's remember to get out of the studio and make connections in real life too!  Keep an eye out for those solitary threads who might be snagged or unraveling, and bring them into the web.  We're all in this together.


* There are still openings in the class at EVFAC.  Click HERE to register.
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