The art of seeing

Some days, I walk into the workroom and pause. I look around, and I see the tools that I use for weaving, the glorious fibres and colours, the objects that are both functional and beautiful, and I am grateful.

Other days, I take it all for granted – I forget that this workroom (though small and cluttered) is a haven. I forget that all of this work has stretched my abilities, that practice and time invested have made me able to create things that are beautiful, complex, comforting.

Today, I saw it all, and was glad. The studio build continues, and some days have more dump trucks and equipment in the driveway than I ever thought there’d be, but here in my little workroom is a lifetime of colour, texture, and fibre.

The sun is out today, but the sky looks threatening. It’s cold, and the wind is whistling around the house. Later today, in my snug workroom, I’ll start planning my next weave and the next after that.

It’s a good life.

Studio build update:

It’s starting to shape itself into a studio-sized form. Since we moved here in 2003, there was a garden shed, just in front of the new construction site. When it was removed, we realized just how much of a difference it made – they took down the fence, too, and all of a sudden we remembered the size and shape of the yard that was hidden behind that little shed, and bisected by picket fence.

A giant hole. Footings and foundation walls framed and poured.

I’ve begun to think about the inside of that studio too, trying to figure out where all of the stuff will go. It’s not a horrible task to have, and I’ve enjoyed having to think about my practice this way – where do I like the light while I weave? How to arrange fibre (type, colour, type and colour, size?), what makes more sense – a table or a long counter?

Arts & crafts project – a scale drawing with construction paper to-scale looms etc.

A Studio is Born

I’ve been weaving since the Fall of 2013. As with most weavers, the looms started to fill the place pretty quickly. This craft does not have a small footprint, and the tools of the trade can be fairly unwieldy.

IMG_4253I remember buying my first loom. I got it online, used, and I knew absolutely nothing about weaving or looms except that I really wanted to do it. The previous loom owner actually delivered it to my house and reassembled it for me, in my front sunroom (thank you, patient and harried loom man, for doing that!). For a month or two before I took some lessons with a lovely teacher, I would just go in there and look at it, and take in the loom-flavoured air – a mix of wood, cloth, dust, and promise.

I moved my desk into another room, and figured that I still had lots of space. Over the years, that room has been completely transformed. I took out the couch, the chair, the books. In went another loom, built-in shelves for fibre and tools, benches and boxes for fibre that wouldn’t fit on the shelves. It’s a beautiful room – about 11’x13, with two walls of windows. It also has three doors, wonky heat, and is a sun trap in the warmer months.

It’s also crowded.3D6530DD-8033-4B30-8491-A3DCB9658A7D

I have to move a loom to get to my fibre, move it back to get to the other loom. My warping reel is folded and in front of a shelf, and I have to move it to access my sewing machine. Then I have to take the machine out to the dining room to actually use it. It’s a drag, and it makes me a less efficient weaver.

So yeah, it’s hard to work in there. I know it’s already a massively privileged space, but I am lucky enough to be able to look for solutions to make it better. I have for most of my life,  fit whatever I did into the spaces I had. It wasn’t always a good fit, and there’s been a lot of making do over the years – a Harry Potter office-under-the-stairs, looms spread around 3 rooms, home offices with kids nearby, etc. A life lived with buckshee solutions is not a solution forever.

So that’s the problem.

The solution? Build a studio in the back garden. Have you ever visualized something you wanted, and then made it happen? A big ask like this seemed ridiculous, but I thought about it for years, made a Pinterest board , and dreamed. Then one day it occurred to us that we could build one and oddly, after that it was simple(ish). I think that making an imaginary future-studio a part of my headspace finally opened up the opportunity to bring it to life.

I spend a fair amount of time looking online for pictures/blogs about workspaces. I’m kind of fascinated by the areas other people use to make their art. There’s something so beguiling about dedicated spaces.  When I started this whole thing, I had a lot of ideas, a lot of misconceptions, and absolutely no idea at all what I was doing.  I looked online, and never really found what I wanted – a blog about the steps involved in making a dedicated space, from start to finish. Pictures about the things that matter to me – storage solutions, lighting, space management. Even the building process itself is mystifying to me.

So, I”ll demystify some of it, here.

We’re in the very early days – they start on Monday with the machines that will remove the current garden shed and start to dig a big hole for the foundation. That is not, however, the start. As with weaving, the process of setting up takes quite a while! We started this process in October – 4 months ago – and it has taken that long to muddle our way to this point. We ended up working with a terrific local company, Bentley Built Homes, and they have helped to shape all of my ideas into something concrete.

Over the next several months I’ll keep you filled in on what’s happening here with Berwick Weaving Co.’s new digs. Once it’s open, it’ll be so nice to have people drop in for a studio tour, or lessons (or even just a coffee, if you notify me first). I’m so excited about this – making a dedicated space that is quiet, peaceful, organized. Making a space that is uncluttered, airy, and light-filled.

This process has made me think about my process – what I want from my weaving practice, how I want to move forward, and why I’m doing it. The construction process will probably disrupt some of my work, but it’s also going to focus it, I think. This year, I’ve decided that I’m going to be sole instructor and student of my own impromptu weaving school – there are things I want to learn to do better, processes that I haven’t tried or that I couldn’t try because of other commitments, space constraints, a cluttered mind.

Pop back in for occasional updates. I’ll leave you with this tantalizing view of the plans.

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…a long drought

Here in Nova Scotia we are experiencing a heat wave. Just brutally hot and humid weather. It makes one feel sapped of energy and creativity. I’ve been experiencing just this sort of drought metaphorically, as well. A long time has passed since I wove with the regularity and fervour that has been the hallmark of my creative process.

It’s early August, and it’s still stinking hot, but I think I feel autumn in the air – in the cooler mornings, and the occasional cooler evening. Something about the light, the timbre of the birds, and the dark-earlier twilit nights.

September has always felt to me like a new beginning. Once a student, always a student, I guess? I’m starting feel stirrings of impulse toward weaving more, toward experimenting, and in finding the joy in quiet work amongst colour, fibre, and texture.

Recently a really terrific store opened up here in Berwick, hotbed of creative activity – Market Between the Mountains has a great selection of work from local/Atlantic Canadian artisans, and mine is included. I still do commissions, but you can also come to Berwick and poke around the store to see some Berwick Weaving Co. pieces. Once the weather starts to turn, and you begin to think longingly about lap blankets and throws, scarves, shawls and stoles, you should come out and see what’s what.

In the meantime, here’s what just came off my loom. A stupidly soft blankie with Harrisville Shetland wool and a velvety one-off wool from Mineville.

 

…And here is what’s on my little rigid heddle loom. The earthy-toned warp is a little out of the ordinary for me, but paired with my old fave tourmaline, it really speaks to me. Once complete and wet-finished, this will be a velvety wide scarf that will have a lovely hand, and will stop traffic (or, at the very least, cool wind from hitting one’s neck).

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Happy creating to you all! Get out there and make something.

A new year

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I hope you all had a wonderful holiday time, and a peaceful new year. I like to take a little time at the beginning of each year to think about how the year was, and what I want the next year to look like.

As a weaver, I want to make more things – new drafts, new colours, new fibres. I’m going to try to keep the joy right up front with whatever I’m making – it makes me happier, more creative, and I like to think that each  piece might just be infused with  a little bit of that creative passion.

I want to do some traveling, and see what others are weaving. I’d like to make my life and practice more local, more sustainable, deeper. I’d like to collaborate with other makers, maybe. I want to go places, creatively, that I can’t even imagine right now.

And that’s the fun of it, right? I hope for all of you a creative and happy new year, in which we all stretch a little bit and see what happens.

What are your plans for 2018?

Online Holiday Shopping: blankets

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Oh, how I love blankets. The wide expanse of handwoven loveliness. The interplay of colours, the beautiful function of them.

This year, I went on a bit of a spree with shetland wool. It’s got a lovely warmth to it, while still being lightweight. It’s got texture, and depth of colour – little flecks that give it dimension.

Here is my inventory, as of mid-November 2017. If you see something you like, there are a number of ways to buy: I take credit cards, Paypal, e-transfer, & cash. Just message me and I’ll be very happy to take your information and send you the piece. If you click on the highlighted price, it will take you to my paypal page, if you wish to pay that way.

 

Sea blue merino with multicoloured Shetland warp. This mixture of fibres makes the blanket feel much more weighty. It’s a great feeling to cozy up underneath this velvety piece.  (69”x 40”) $200

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Shetland wool, in a mysterious woodsmoke green with pretty blue-grey highland wool border trim (78” x 36”) $200

Highland lap blanket: in a tweedy mix of blue/green/chartreuse and one purple end, this is a very pretty little car- or lap-blanket. Just the thing for a night of of Netflix, when there’s a chill…. (52” x 40”) $150

~SOLD~ Highland with one border: Highland wool is slightly thicker than shetland, but just as soft and lightweight. This blanket is another that would be a great car- or lap-blanket. Excellent for a night on the couch with a movie, stored in the boat or cottage, or in the back of your camper. This one has a pretty little twill detail on one end (56” x 38”) $150

Striped Shetland (80” x 36”)  This isa second, but one of my favourites of the bunch. It is not without some slight imperfections so you get a super deal. Happy stripes of gorgeous colour make for a very pretty throw. $150

Green/blue shetland (78” x 35”)  Another second. It’s a great deal, and admit it – if you squint, you’ll never see those “flaws” again… $150

 

Online Holiday Shopping: Scarves

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the current inventory of scarves and stoles available for purchase.

If you see something you like, there are a number of ways to buy: I take credit cards, Paypal, e-transfer, & cash. Just message me and I’ll be very happy to take your information and send you the piece.  If you click on the highlighted price, it will take you to my paypal page, if you wish to pay that way. 

Click on each photo for closer detail.

~ SOLD ~ Sea and sky, a luxe silky linen and mohair stole, generously sized at 90” x 14”.

Velvety brew of witchy purples, greens and blues with an aqua cotton warp. Generously sized at 82” x 14” $80

 

Thickly textured, velvety and heavy. I almost kept this one for myself.  Made of 96% Merino, 4% Nylon, this feels sooooo luxurious, and has a weighty luxury. One of my favourite colour combinations, this gorgeous emerald green-blue buzzes against the dark beet-red crimson. 81” x 7” so you can wrap generously. $85

 

Silver thick-and-thin textured blue-faced Leicester wool mixed with sparkly acrylic/cotton blend. (82” x 12.5”) $85

 

Autumn colours that you can keep all year round: Merino and nylon (4%) red and gold/orange variegated stole, 76” x 14”. $100

 

Purples and greens: a purple merino wool weft with a colourful springtime warp of Treewool (mix of 70% merino and 30% tercel). (74” x 14.5”) $100

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Blue and Rust merino, very soft and an attractive colour combination. (84” x 8” – a great size for multiple wraps around the neck). $80

 

 

Merry Xmas Reds and greens! A velvety mix of merino and 4% nylon, thick and bouncy. Subtle and understated holiday neckwear. (76” x 9”) $85

 

Online Holiday Shopping: Shawls

As of today, there are 34 days until 25 December. Here is a gallery of available inventory here at Berwick Weaving Co. –  please browse at your leisure.

If you see something you like, there are a number of ways to buy: I take credit cards, Paypal, e-transfer, & cash. Just message me and I’ll be very happy to take your information and send you the piece.  If you click on the highlighted price, it will take you to my paypal page, if you wish to pay that way. 

Click on each photo for closer detail.

Shawls

Red/Pink homespun Shawl, $100

 

 

Sparkly green/frost shawl, cotton and acrylic (80” x 30”) $150

 

 

Sparkly purple and teal green shawl, cotton and acrylic (90 x 21) $150

 

 

Textured turquoise and blue-grey cotton and Blue Faced Leicester shawl $150

 

 

Purple and green merino wool with cotton, with twisted fringe (82” x 28”) $145

 

 

Pink kid mohair/merino/cotton bouclé shawl (80” x 29”) *seriously wonderful drape and depth of colour* $200

 

 

Rainbow shawl 1: red mohair weft, rainbow cotton warp (84” x 29”). Densely woven, could also serve as a car blanket or throw, depending on your tastes). $200

 

 

~ SOLD ~ Rainbow shawl 2: chunky thick/thin beet-coloured merino weft with a rainbow cotton warp and rainbow border at one end (87” x 28”). This, like the mohair one above, could also serve as a blanket or throw, depending on your tastes $200

 

 

Chunky Silver “Thrawl” (Throw Rug Shawl…yes, I just made that up): Arctic silver,  acrylic handwoven textile with fringe. (80” x 26”) $90

 

Smooth as silk

I’ve been spending some time lately trying to make my work processes more efficient. It’s really bearing fruit, too.

Today I warped my loom (meaning I got all the fibre on the beam and rolled up). It can be tricky sometimes – if you are, like I was today, using delicate fibre, or if you are trying to keep the tension  regular throughout and the dog is barking, something snags, the phone rings… or you all of a sudden find that you really need three hands….

I’ve been dressing my looms for years now, but it’s still tricky to me, every time. Sometimes my husband helps, sometimes I just do it myself and muddle through. Weavers are a clever bunch – we use weights, water bottles, hang weights from strings. We use trapezes, friends, dowels, etc. We’re always looking for an easier way to wind on.

Today, though?

I used this lovely tool made by my talented friend Lee Yorke, who made it after  seeing  other tensioning devices online. It’s custom fit to my loom, and even has a spot for me to hang a roll of paper that will magically roll between the layers of warp. It’s quite something.

Here it is, in action. It seriously hastened the process, and was a pleasure to use. I just had to share because I didn’t swear once during the entire process. A miracle!  (Please note, the noise is from traffic outside my window, not the tensioner.)

This warp, by the way, will be jewel-toned mohair shawls, eventually.

Shopping? I’ve got that covered.

There are some small but vital changes coming to Berwick Weaving Co.

I like social media.  I like to curate Berwick Weaving Co’s Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. I like blogging, here on this page. I don’t always remember to update them all, and it seems that this page has started to become a little orphaned. I don’t always remember to update it with day-to-day things like I do the Facebook page, but I tend instead to think of it as the long form version of the others, where I can muse about what I do, or give you a better view of the big picture of what I do.

I do not really want to have an IRL store – I have prioritized making things over running a brick-and-mortar business, which would allow me less time to actually do what I love.   I do an occasional show, and while I really enjoy every minute of it, I am always glad to be back in my little studio.

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I have recently made a tiny step toward putting up an option on the Berwick Weaving Co.  Facebook page that will allow you all to see what is available for sale in real-time, and to buy it from me, online.  When I have a moment this week, I’ll also make this site a spot from which you can see my inventory and purchase it using PayPal, email transfer, or credit cards.

And while I don’t have a storefront, as always I am available here at my studio if you want to come and see what I’ve got, and have a chat. Just email or message me first, and we can set up a time. I love visitors and am happy to oblige but need advance warning.

So. Gearing up into Fall, you should start to think about shopping for the holidays. Christmas is only 117 days away.

HO-HO-HO!

 

Flying!

A few months ago we were in Ireland, and made a point to revisit a lovely old town with a mill of the same name: Avoca. About 4 years ago we’d first happened upon it, and it was maybe the first time I’d ever really seen a loom in action. Much of what they do now is automated, but they still have a few old looms on the factory floor. The weaver was a lovely man who told me he’d been working there for over 30 years and wasn’t tired of it yet.

Watching the weaver on that loom was, somehow, life-changing for me. On the spot I realized I wanted to do that. Not only wanted, but needed to try it. I don’t know why, and I’m not going to worry about it over much – I think that if you feel that sort of urge, you should go with it.

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Later in that first trip, that weaver was still in the back of my head; the snick-snick of the shuttle, the clatter of the harnesses, the gorgeous textiles…. We then happened upon Swallow Studios in Annyalla, and lo! More weaving. This time, Liz Christy’s studio with all of her gorgeous colors and textures. It was such a pleasure to see her work (and to buy a shawl to take home), and to realize that it wasn’t only “factories” like Avoca that had looms.

4 years later, almost to the day, I’m sitting in my home weaving studio. The past four years have been a treasure. It has been, essentially, a dedicated self-directed journey into the art and mechanics of weaving. There isn’t much I don’t like about it, and I continue to fine-tune my practice and techniques. It’ll take me the rest of my days to learn all there is to know and that’s just fine with me. I’m putting in my ten thousand hours, and ten thousand more.

This month I treated myself to a flying shuttle beater.  A very interesting contraption that offers the opportunity to weave more quickly, over wider areas. It revolutionized handweaving back in the industrial revolution, and although I’ve only used it to make one blanket so far, it is having the same effect on my weaving.  Faster, and smoother, but still handweaving nonetheless. I’m keeping my other, sans-flying-beater, loom as well, at least for the moment.

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Yesterday I’d finally cleared the decks enough to try out the flying shuttle, and as I stood there, pulling the cord and listening to the snick-snick of the shuttle and the clatter of the harnesses, I realized that I was doing exactly what I’d seen that weaver  doing 4 years ago in Avoca.

There’s something to be said for listening to that little voice that says “I want to do that”.  Go out and do whatever it is that is whispering to you. Weave, write, make toys…. whatever it is, make the time.