It’s been unconscionably long since I last wrote here, which is not a measure of how little I’ve done or how blank my thought processes have been. Still, 2018 was a strange year, with some oddities and demands that have been out of the ordinary. A quick glance at the high points will have to suffice.
The summer was busy, as it always is, and as I often do, I sometimes wondered why other people get to take vacations and I don’t. But then, as one who grew up on a family dairy farm where we all had work to do year round, and by the age of eleven was working elsewhere to earn money for college, the matter of summer vacation has rarely been an element of my life. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.
The summer ended with the annual Whidbey Working Artists Open Studio Tour, a weekend-long event that is both exhausting and exhilarating for me. This year’s was perhaps the best ever in terms of numbers of people who came here and the level of sales and commission orders. Most of the people who came were new to my studio, and I had a fine time demonstrating and discussing the weaving process.
My 75th birthday was in early September, and with the help of dear friends and family, I was able to have a real honest-to-goodness party — under a big white tent situated in the middle of the garden. Potluck food, live music, a cake with masses of candles, and multiple simultaneous conversations around me — all made for a truly memorable celebration.
The fourth annual weaving retreat which I organize took place in late September, and was a resounding success. Participants came from all over the United States, and this year from Canada as well. Kathrin Weber taught one class, I taught the other. The work that people did was varied, highly individual, a feast for the eyes and mind. (And I seem not to have available photos from that week, regrettably. If I can find them, I’ll add them later.)
I have new eyes!! In November, two weeks apart, I had cataract surgery on both eyes. It’s astonishing to me still to experience the enormous improvement in my vision, and to realize how impaired it was for several years while I was being too stubborn and timid to go forward with the procedure. I have the sense that my clear vision now is more than strictly physical.
Lastly, in early December I learned that I have been accepted into the Northwest Designer Craftsmen, a prestigious organization that covers a five-state area. (www.nwdesignercraftsmen.org) I had a difficult time completing the entire application process, as my “credentials” don’t match up with the standard art world criteria. I decided to speak in the application about the choices I made over the years to diverge from the path that many professional craftsmen and artists follow. And with the steady encouragement and support of a special friend, I completed it and sent it in on time. I’m still astonished that they accepted me, and very glad they did.
Now, at the start of a new year, I find myself (as always) both hopeful and pragmatic. A dear friend and I have begun the process of constructing a website which will be a new location where people can see and purchase my work. This should be up and running by the end of January, and will require something of a learning curve for me to become competent at maintaining it (which will include photographing the work to be shown).
Another big change this year is the addition of a studio assistant, which will enable me to be more productive overall while not being the sole worker-bee. For the academic semester, I will also be mentoring an art student from Ohio who will be studying with me and with a local painter. These two will begin to give me the long-wished-for opportunity to pass along some of what I know to others. It’s going to be a challenge to figure out how to do this effectively, so that we all benefit from it. Another learning curve.
For the fifth year, I’ll be organizing the Westcoast Blazers Retreat, for weavers who work with Kathrin Weber’s marvelous hand-dyed yarns. That will take place in October, and I’m adding a dye workshop in May, at which Kathrin will be teaching her techniques for dyeing both yarn and cloth. The results of both events will be inspiring; I love the process of organizing these events.
There’s more ahead, and surely some surprises. I’ll be writing more frequently this year, and enjoying it as always. My warm wishes to you for an interesting and satisfying year.
People often ask me what inspires me, where I get my design ideas from. Rarely am I able to give a precise or coherent answer, other than that the hand-dyed yarns I work with are themselves the starting point. And then there’s this ~
And this ~
And also this ~
As I write, it’s a lovely sunny afternoon with a pleasant breeze. I look out windows to the west and see at least five varieties of bamboo, several Japanese Maples, and tall Douglas Firs behind them. From the window to my right, I survey, past the triple trunks of a large Western Red Cedar, at least eight Japanese Maples in colors ranging from bright yellow-green to deep burgundy, with different foliage shapes on each. Past them and above is a bright blue sky and more tall Douglas Firs. The breeze is moving everything gently, and the shiny young leaves reflect the sunlight. It’s mesmerizing; this is what surrounds me indoors and out.
Is this garden my inspiration? No. It isn’t. But it’s certainly the context within which I live and do my work, so it somehow relates – intangibly and secretly — to the work itself.
The longer vistas are often what please me the most, especially at this most lush time of the year; the combinations of colors and textures in all the vegetation (much of it quite rare in local gardens) is certainly an expression of aspects of my aesthetic.
But direct inspiration? No. And yet, there’s a relationship. When I move in close, I always find some of my favorite combinations of colors, and paying attention to the play of textures and shapes is enormously satisfying ~
Dicentra spectablis ‘Gold Heart’
Acer palmatum ‘Villa Taranto’
Weigela ‘Rubidor’ and Fagus sylvatica purpurea
Trochodendron aralioides in flower
Clematis ‘Kiri Te Kanawa’ , no-name tree peony in bud, Physocarpus..
Three months since I last wrote, knowing time was drifting past me, yet reluctant to sit for long at the computer. It really is Spring at last, lush and intensely green. My garden is a glory, its best time of year. Only a couple of hints in these photos; the rest of the new ones are in the process of migrating to the cloud (wherever that is!). Proof that the wild ones like it here too ~
Every winter, I think I’m going to get heaps of new work completed; in fact, that used to be the case. But this year, like the last few, I set myself up with more complex work than usual, so in fact it goes slower than I anticipate. Images below are from the Aurora series of scarves, with two hand-dyed yarns in the warp and elaborate patterning. (In the interest of keeping this short, I’m holding back on showing photos of additional work in progress. Next time!)
Three sections of the same scarf below. Lots of color changes in the hand-dyed yarn. Hence “Aurora”.
I’ll be back soon. I promise. Lots more to show you.