Progress, and Planning.

Things are pretty exciting here these days, as far as the construction of the studio goes. The back garden is transformed, and it has made me realize just how different something can look if you change one thing (or, in this case, a progression of small things that are turning into an entirely new view).

We began with this:

The day the Big Adventure started. The old garden shed is now gone.

And today, this is the view.

Window day! As cold a day as you can imagine, and the workmen were stalwart and hardy

Quite a progression!

It’s really quite something to see a building happen. Those men are nothing short of heroic – framing in sleet, roofing in snow, installing windows in frostbite conditions! I keep thinking of the lovely warm studio I’ll be sitting in next winter, but those guys must be cursing this weaver and her stupid studio, I swear.

My big disappointment this week was that they put the windows in and then nailed plywood over the doorway. I had been planning on creeping in there after they left, to dream about the layout of shelves etc. As disappointments go, this is pretty far down on the list so I’m not going to complain.

What my impatient desire to see inside it says to me is that I have, in a way, forgotten that there’ll be plenty of time later to be inside it. It’s a funny thing, magicking a building out of nothing – you get so caught up in the planning and process that you forget the reality of it – that one day (fairly soon!) they’ll tidy up and leave, and I’ll have whole new routine – walking out there of a morning to sit in a pool of sunshine and weave away the hours.

And a new routine is needed. These past grey winter weeks I’ve been very excited about the process of planning projects, but not so great on the follow-through. Kind of like, well, my feelings about the building going up out back. The planning has been terrific, but the reality of it means work.

Linen warp, wound on the reel. One of my favorite parts of the process – out of chaos comes order and beauty

It’s easy enough to feel like you’re doing something when you’re planning – researching, reading, winding warps…. These are the recent ones; busy work because I’ve been reluctant to get my arse on the weave bench and just do it. The weather isn’t helping, and I had a touch of the flu, and I just haven’t been dedicated. The current weave room is crowded and not entirely conducive to actually spending time in it, and the human brain is capable of a multitude of excuses.

But I think that we all go through dry spells, right? Times when we spend more time thinking about what we’ll do than actually doing it? I’ve struggled with this the past few weeks and have come to realize that it’s all actually part of the process. We aren’t machines – we need to take time to dream and plan, to make mistakes (cut off warps that just don’t do it for us, to flip through one draft after another, and find none that speak to you). This is fairly fertile ground – it’s a way to refocus, to experiment, and to visualize the things we make – be they scarves or tea towels, or studios.

We can’t beat ourselves up because we aren’t producing all the time. We need downtime to figure out what we’ll produce; to think and dream and visualize. We tend not to prioritize this part of it, because we live in a culture that privileges busy over calm. We can’t fit this part of the process into the interstices – we need to allow it, and use it, and wait until we feel that spark again, right?

So maybe it’s not a dry spell, but a fertile moment. A moment when we germinate ideas and our sense of what our practice is. In the Spring (soon to come) these seeds sown now will begin to sprout and grow. Like this idea that became a hole in the ground, then became a studio, good things come from these times when we are quiet and thoughtful.

I dragged my long-suffering husband through IKEA this past week, looking for storage solutions for the studio. I don’t want to buy anything until I can stand in the space and think about it, until I have exact measurements and a plan, so all I wanted to do was to look and touch things to help with the planning. He trudged, dead-eyed, through the store, while I learned this sort of thing is best done alone, or with a like-minded girlfriend. I have narrowed it down, though, so even though it caused him some distress, I have a better idea of what I’m going to do inside.

“Billy” bookcases with these lovely cubbies, as opposed to long shelves. Perfect for sorting fibre

“Gnedby” – I assume they’re actually meant for CD storage, but will be perfect for 8/2 cottons

I’ve settled on a mixture of “Billy” bookcases with “Gnedby” sections for the smaller 8/2 cotton. The ceilings of the studio are 10 ft high, so there will be room for Billy extensions. Billy can be installed either with or without glass doors, so some of it will have doors – the sections closest to the window with southern exposure, and those in which I’ll be storing inventory.

So, as with my weaving practice, the studio build also requires some quiet moments in which to plan the final products. It’s not about producing, but about producing well after contemplation and planning.

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 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.

Woolgathering

IMG_1291I know I’m probably not the first fibre artist blogger to use the term. I know it’s a bit…obvious, but it’s also exactly what I’ve been doing.

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In the time since my last post I attended the Expo, went to Belgium, Scotland, and Ireland, redesigned my studio, had a lovely bunch of visitors,  and got a (very time-consuming) puppy. It has turned into a bit of an extended hiatus for Berwick Weaving Co., but that’s the beauty of working at your own pace, by your own rules, right?

With the beginning of August, though,  work will soon begin again. I feel a strong urge to get my hands in the wool again, to design and work with colors, to have those stretches of real peace when working with the rhythm of the loom. There’s a quickening, when I think of the work I’m going to really get my hands into this Fall.

All of that reverie, that woolgathering, is where creativity comes from. Without it, I’d be a machine just cranking out woven goods.

Here then, is a gallery of those things that have provoked my dreamy imaginings for the past few months.  Everywhere, there’s a feeling or a colour, something to translate into woven work.

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New Additions

Berwick Weaving Co. hasn’t been idle of late. Here is some of the work that has come out of the workroom. I’m still in love with plainweave – that most simple of over-under weaving patterns there is. The fibre is allowed to speak, the colors and textures and “hand” all give me such pleasure.  I’ve been working with a new loom – a 32″ rigid heddle from Ashford; a happy loom that is quick to dress, and is portable enough to move around my workroom.

This one, I kept for myself (sometimes you just have to).
This is a stole, 28″x 40″. Bamboo and merino warp, “Slubby mix” (BFL/merino).

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Next there is “The Memento” stole. The colors are moody and mysterious, like the elegantly written book that inspired it. Christy Ann Conlin‘s new book isn’t out until April, but you can pre-order it now. For the moment, you can look at the gorgeous cover art  painted by  Marie Cameron. The book is a haunting Atlantic gothic tale – honest and elegiac, mysterious, funny, and true.  It’s an astonishing work of art.

The book has inspired me (I got to read an advance copy) to explore more of the simple and not-so-simple “art” that goes hand in hand with “craft”.  It has also shown me – anew – the gorgeous and sometimes tough beauty of my chosen home. The Bay of Fundy ain’t for sissies, but it’s rich with history and there is a deep legacy of art, history, loss, and memory attached to it. Go order that book.

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Further, I was tasked with making a blanket for wee Renaud. This is his little  wooden stool:

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And this was my interpretation of said stool:

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And then, during some of the bleakest dull days of January… a request for Spring: this is a shawl, with lots of drape – mulberry silk and cotton.  It was a distinct pleasure to weave this particular piece.  This is a sister shawl to the “Patricia” a red and black number I wove late last year, a sparkly detail of which you can see below.

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As January draws to a close, I have other commissions that I’m working on, and then will be on a bit of a hiatus until mid-March.

 

Lady Weavers

I read an article the other day, about 14 “women artists” (is that like “lady doctor”?) who changed the way we look at design. Regardless of the title, you should read it. Besides being an  great starting point for further research, I just love the portraits of these women in their studios and workrooms, creating.

Like this one, of Lenore Tawney in her NY studio, 1958:o-TRAWNEY-900

I also have a bit of a crush on the work of Dorothy Liebes.

weaver-dorothy-liebes-working-on-a-loom-in-her-studio-charles-e-steinheimer-1947

Much of her work is simple and colourful, but the more you look at it you see just how  surprising it is.  She’s synonymous with mid-century modern  and industrial design, and worked with many of the greats of that era (most notably Frank Lloyd Wright).

Go forth and research – the history of women artists and textiles is long, and full of ingenuity, beauty, and skill.

"Color and personality are closely related, as I see it. I find myself subconsciously thinking of one person as “blue,” another “green,” etc.” -- Dorothy Liebes

“Color and personality are closely related, as I see it. I find myself subconsciously thinking of one person as “blue,” another “green,” etc.” — Dorothy Liebes

 

How does your garden grow?

“Color is the place where our

brain and the universe meet” 

from: ‘What he told me – The motif’, ín “Cézanne, – a Memoir with Conversations” (1897 – 1906) by Joachim Gasquet, Thames and Hudson, London 1991 p. 153

Someone told me a while ago that there are two types of weavers – those who are drawn to the color/texture/fibre and those who are intrigued by the process. I know, absolutely, that while I love the process, it’s the color and texture that speak to me. It all comes out of that. If I could eat these colors, savour them like wine, or crack them between my teeth like a delicious hard candy, I would. They’re like flowers, a profusion of color and unintentional pairings that make new colors. Like anyone who works with fibre, I have a lot of it. There are jokes amongst weavers and knitters about their “stash” (it’s a nice way of saying “hoard”). I go through phases where certain colors appeal to me, or textures.

stash!

stash!

I usually buy fibre with no particular project in mind. The color appeals, or it feels good. Sometimes it smells good (silk).  Sometimes I buy it because it’s on sale, or as a souvenir of a place I’ve visited. Sometimes I buy it for a specific commission, but I almost always have trouble with that…. I’ve found that projects almost always come out of the color/fibre I have, not the other way around. When I try to reverse-engineer it and say, produce a “blue blanket” for someone, I will have a bit of Weaver’s Block until I find a blue that works for me. There’s a mysterious alchemy;  a serendipitous confluence of color/emotion/meaning that happens eventually. It might sound weird, but as I continue to explore how ideas happen I find myself more often than not using language like that. It is a beautiful Mystery, creation. I bought this a while ago, with – as usual – no real purpose in mind. It’s from Mineville Wool Project; I’ve written before about how much I love them and their beautiful one-off unlabelled fibres (the two little balls are some local homespun I bought at the North Mountain Farmer’s Market, and some koigu sock yarn). I often think of my internal palette/palate as being predominantly green-blue-yellow, but this red-orange-pink keeps popping up. ann dakin yarn Then I forgot about it. I haven’t even wound it into a ball yet. I’ve been concentrating on a project with purples and greens (oh! purple and green, how I love them), and then I left my loom for a bit – got involved in planning and filling the new front garden, and had a little anniversary trip with my husband to the adorable funky town of Parrsboro. They had some gorgeous roses in the Inn’s garden, and I reminded myself to look them up when I got home. If you have time, you should visit that town – you will be seduced.

front garden

My front garden

While looking for lavender for my side garden, I went to a local nursery that I love, the Briar Patch, and  – along with the lavender, some Dianthus, etc., I bought a “Mystery Rose” – one whose label had fallen off somehow. It has turned out to be quite lovely, and the lovely people at the Briar Patch tell me it might be a Carefree Celebration rose, which the internet tells me looks like this:

http://www.landscape-design-advice.com/easy-to-grow-roses.html#.VbIsWHisZHg

Carefree Celebration roses (taken from the internet)

Mine bloomed shortly thereafter and this came up – that silky hard-to-pin down coral pink/orange combo. Just to die for, no?

Carefree Celebration, from my garden

Carefree Celebration roses, from my garden

I cannot seem to get enough of this color combination all of a sudden. The corals and pink and orange. The softness of a pink that’s somehow so much more when you add the acid warmth of orange to it. The brashness of orange, tempered with the pinks. The surprising shades in between… it’s lovely. Once I remembered to look up those gorgeous  flowers that I saw at our Inn I found that they were Charles de Mills roses. A Gallica rose – lush, potent, crimson/burgundy and hot.  They date back to the 1790’s; I cannot resist those old double blooms.  In my search for Charles de Mills, I was side-tracked by this other beautiful specimen:  the Anne Dakin rose. Who can resist that? They are on my wish list, along with the Alchymist rose.  It’s the changeable colors, I think – that hot burgundy crimson that feathers out to pink; the peachy coral orange yellow pink that can’t be captured entirely. Cézanne also said “I was very pleased with myself when I discovered that sunlight could not be reproduced; it had to be represented by something else… …by colour.” Maybe that’s what I’m working with here;  it’s also the memory of the day I smelled the rose, the way the sun came out later that afternoon, the way I held my husband’s hand as we walked by the garden bed. Again, a beautiful Mystery.

https://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/showrose.asp?showr=3109

Anne Dakin climbing roses

Charles de Mills

Charles de Mills

The love child of Charles de Mills and Anne Dakin

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet. 

Random moments, captured. 

Today I realized just how happy I am here in the BWCo. weavery.

These are tiny moments from the past 24 hours – I’m counting my blessings.

Quiet moments

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Hugo’s Wall of Troy


Shiny moments

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Sylvia’s Peacock Beads

Glowing moments

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Last night’s  sunset, viewed from the weavery. 

Sometimes it starts with the wool…

Jewel-toned, Soft, and Cozy.

jewel-toned merino with chunky fringe

jewel-toned merino with chunky fringe

A new scarf, hot off the loom. I made it from a gorgeous merino that was a one-off from a Nova Scotian company called Mineville Wool Project. It was some of my favorite fibre to work with, and the colors just glowed.   I have some left in a few colors – I confess that I bought a lot of the stuff; whenever I went to my local yarn store I just couldn’t resist.

Good thing, too, because I don’t have a pile of it left. Just enough for a few definitely-one-of-a-kind handwoven scarves. The stuff finishes up like velvet, and keeps you warm and stylish all at the same time.

If you see something you like, or have wool that you’d like me to work with, it’s as easy as asking.

hot pink/cherry

hot pink/cherry

what's left of this stash...

what’s left of this stash…

“Belize Collection”

Here are some cheery things to get you out of the winter blues! Inspired by colours from the tropics – hot pink, turquoise, orange, teal, blues and green.

BZ1: Made from a fun mix of llama, alpaca, merino wool and acrylic. 72″ x 6″ it’s a soft, generous scarf sure to keep you warm. $85

BZ2: cooler blues and reds, with rustic knots randomly spaced throughout, like flowers growing down a sun-dappled wall. Cotton warp, merino weft. $90

BZ3: Soft and silky. 72 x 6, with just a bit of tasteful beading in 5 inch fringe.
Wool, silk, cotton, llama. $90

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