…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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Anatomy of a design: or, the accidental birth of a scarf

Right around the end of last year I went to my favorite farm wool shop and there was a pile of one of my most-loved fibres on sale. It was deeply discounted, so I grabbed quite a few skeins.

Step 1: Find a sale

Step 1: Find a sale

I do this a lot – I get the wool, and then just kind of play with it – the color, the texture, the feelings it evokes.  There’s a lot of serendipity in it – it depends on what’s available that day, the light in the store, my mood… what’s on sale. This is, in many ways, one of my favorite parts of the creative process . It is difficult to parse the steps in this sort of decision making, but it’s good to learn to recognize that quickening one gets when one is on the right track. I do know that when I ignore my hunches in these matters, I usually end up with something that I do not find entirely pleasing.

With this particular addition to my stash, I had no real idea of what I would do with it, but I had picked up a color I don’t usually use – yellow. That bright yellow skein, through whatever alchemy of mind and memory, made me think of Hudson’s Bay blankets. So I made sure to pick up the other colors necessary for that classic design and decided to create an homage.  I say that because I’m fairly sure there’s a copyright of some sort on using the term “Hudson’s Bay”…. what I wanted to make was something that would evoke those same feelings that the iconic design would do – it’s Canadian, retro, and instantly recognizable.

Step 2: Make sure it's a GOOD sale

Step 2: Make sure it’s a GOOD sale

So, I went home and had those skeins and had an idea, and was inspired. It was glorious, and I knew JUST how it would look and feel to work with it, and wear it. I had images of a whole series of pieces using this theme. It was going to be so great.

Then I went on holiday for three weeks.

Step… on in, the water is fine!

When we arrived in Belize, the palette was completely different. The seasons and plants around me in Canada had been preparing me slowly for the inevitable winter:  greys and browns and muted colours. Indirect sun, the somewhat mixed joys of bright red parkas and new mittens. That’s where I was in my head, and that’s how “Hudson’s Bay” instead of “Sunlight” came to my head when I saw yellow wool.

Belize knocked that right out of my head. All of a sudden it was hot pink bougainvillaea and cerulean sea. Hot blues and greens, bright pinks, reds and warm browns. Coconuts, mangrove deep-greens, and the candy colors of the houses on the street. I spent a lot of time taking photos of things not only to capture the moment, but also to capture the color combinations, the moods, and the surprising mixes of texture. (look for work soon, using this palette)

So. Once back home and happy from the holiday, but a little run down from being ill while away – Belizean germs are tenacious  – I returned to my planned homage to Hudson’s Bay and in a burst of energy (some of it, perhaps, drug-induced?) I warped the loom and set to work.

And here’s the thing. You can have all the inspiration in the world, and have terrific seawool yarn (a mix of merino and sea cell) in the right colors and at the right price. You can have time and space and desire. But unless all of it “works” in that indefinable way that makes something a successful design idea, you’re in trouble.

I warped the loom quickly and with less attention, perhaps, than usual. Hey, I’ve done this a million times….this is old hat, right?

Step 3: don't waste a bunch of time overthinking it. Just get rid of it and move on.

Step 3: Know when to stop. Don’t waste a bunch of time overthinking it. Just get rid of it and move on.

I chose the wrong reed and the warp (the vertical threads) just didn’t look right.

I didn’t think it through, and started weaving – hoping it would sort itself out.

I cut off the weft I’d woven in, twice. I tried different colors, different textures. Nothing looked right, somehow.

So, a third time I unwove (is that a word?), and with very little grace or hope of success I grabbed a giant ball of acrylic (ptui!) that I’d bought at a big box store a while ago. I don’t even know why I bought it – I don’t usually work with acrylic because I am a bit fibre snob and like to use natural fibers. I make a point of looking for locally sourced fibres and get a lot of pleasure out of them. I tend to sneer a bit at acrylic.

But who can resist a sale, right? (see Steps 1 & 2)

I wound some of the acrylic, and wove some in.

Step 4: Try something different once in a while

Step 4: Try something different once in a while

And it worked! It is lightweight drapes beautifully. I made it very wide and so one needs to make sure it will fold and drape without feeling too  inhibiting. it’s warm and drapey and I love this scarf. You will love this scarf. 12″ wide x 5.75 feet long.

Turns out that acrylic ain’t all that bad, especially when you mix it with other nice things and it’s the right weight/scale/texture for the piece. It will also keep the price of the scarf at a rational level.

Huh.

Step 5: finish it, and see what you've got.

Step 5: finish it, and see what you’ve got.

Warm, but lightweight. Drapey, iconic, and attractive

Warm, but lightweight. Drapey, iconic, and attractive

Because I was suffering from a Belize-related lack of focus, this particular scarf is only good for my neck. There are irregularities in the weave, and I had to repair some bits and while I cannot deny that it looks great, you kind of have to… squint, just a little in order to make it so.

However, now I have the code cracked. I love this scarf. If you want one, you can order it here or here 🙂

Zanshi, today’s inspiration

This is what is inspiring me today.

See the tiny knots? Such texture!

See the tiny knots? Such texture!

Zanshi is a Japanese word which means “vestige,” or “leftover”. Zanshi textiles were woven from the extra threads which remained after looming fixed pattern weavings. These limited quantities of leftover zanshi threads were unable to be utilized, because there were not enough of them to make another weaving of the same pattern. Thus, these vestige threads were used to weave wonderful one-of-a-kind mixed threads Japanese Zanshi textiles.

I got all of this from some random internetting… found this particular definition and photo here: https://www.kimonoboy.com/textiles/popup_folder2/zanshi-514.html.

It  made me think of how we can make “imperfections” either a problem, or part of the beauty, of a piece. I love the idea of the thrift involved in Zanshi, the time spent collecting when there is something to be collected. I like the quiet contemplative nature of knotting it all together, of saving the thrums and leftovers and un-knitted bits and pieces.

Weaving has always been for me a type of meditative practice. There is a kind of grace in the Zanshi – the process of collecting over time, before and after other projects, and then there is the knotting, the quiet piecing together from many into one, all of this before sitting down to weave them all together.

The fact that  you then  can make something beautiful and functional out of it… that is  a gift, isn’t it?