Done!

Back in October of 2018, I was talking to my husband about the mythical weave shed that I imagined for myself. I may have been talking about it for the past several years, to the point where the myth was taking a very definite shape in my mind. In October, we both started talking about it as if it were a real thing, and it was just that simple – one of us said “we could actually do it, you know” and the plan started to take shape.

So, Berwick Weaving Company now has an actual building to itself, and I could not be happier. Have you ever made something happen, from dream-to-actuality, and at the end of it realize that you have literally made your dream come true?

I have, and it’s terrific.

The road to the studio, from when we hired someone to when it was finished, was surprisingly short. We got quotes in October/November, and they started the building process in January. Working through a wet and windy wintertime, the studio emerged in about 4 months. They were quiet, respectful, and responsive. I am happy with our builder, Bentley Built Homes. It may be the first weave studio they’ve built, but it may not be their last.

Before, and after.

It wasn’t always entirely smooth, but putting it all in perspective the process was remarkably freer of angst and stress than I had expected. The building is so quiet, and such a difference from the old weave room that looked out over a busy street! It’s warm, sturdy, and peaceful. It’s tucked in underneath my favorite old maple tree, and looks remarkably like it’s been there for ages already (though I do need to do some landscaping).

It took about a week to move everything in and organize it all – organization was always my biggest worry, because weaving comes with a lot of gear. But I’ve been in the studio, working, for about 3 or 4 days now, and I really couldn’t be happier. The efficiency one gets from knowing where everything is in a space, from everything having a place, is valuable.

The studio is not a retail space; it’s really just a more private and efficient space for me to work. I do plan on setting up a studio tour maybe, and as always if people want to visit they can message me through Berwick Weaving Co.’s facebook page or email me and set something up. I am “open by chance” – no set hours.

For those of you interested in that storage I keep talking about:

These shelves are terrific. Taking advantage of the 10 foot high ceilings, the shelf is eight feet high, and eight feet wide. Twelve inch deep shelves, so I don’t lose anything behind something else. I was shocked at the amount of fibre I actually had – in the old weave room everything was compressed, or boxed, so I had no real idea until I took it all out there and started sorting! I love it, and every time I look at it, I am inspired. I find it so useful to have it all out, and in view.

Some weavers keep their fibre stored in plastic boxes, or tubs. I just can’t do it. This will require more dusting than if I’d chosen to do that, but it’s worth it.

On the other side of the room, I chose to repurpose shelves I’d had made for my in-house weave room. I’m very happy I did – I love the look of them, and the cubbies will prove useful.

I’ve managed to fit all the looms in, save one small rigid heddle loom I decided to keep in the house. It’s a convenient size to use in front of the tv, or in the sitting room.

I found a place for my beloved mangle, and put a good sized table in as a workspace, or for (future, planned) teaching space.

I love this space, and am over the moon with it. I look forward to many happy hours in there. Thanks for taking this journey with me.

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.

January Blues (& Greens, Reds, etc.)

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It may be dreary outside, but these are not.

January is a funny time of year – it’s usually a bit dreary, and we begin to long for Spring, but we know there’s still some winter to slog through. Sometimes there are, say, world events that get us a bit down. We will look away from those things for a moment, and think about ways to cheer ourselves up, right?

To counteract the doldrums, I’ve been weaving with more colour lately, moving slightly out of my usual palette, and it’s been a brilliant move for my own mood. Just handling these lovely fibres makes me happy.

So. If your neck is cold, or you want to warm up a loved one, here’s what I’ve got in inventory. Of course, feel free to contact me if you would like me to make something different up for you to your specifications.

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**SOLD**  Sea and Sky, with some bottle green beach glass thrown in. Wide and slinky scarf, 12.5” x 80” all in a 70/30 mix of super wash merino and tencel. It’s really beautiful, $140

 

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**SOLD**One of my favourites. A large scarf of “peacock colors” – teal, purple, green. Who can resist? Chunky, nubby blue-faced leicester wool, with merino, silk, and bamboo warp. 13” x 68” $100

 

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Stole, in pink/orange/red with some chartreuse thrown in. Handspun weft with multicoloured 8/2 cotton warp. It’s lightweight and gorgeous. 26” x 70” $175

 

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There’s a special buzz that happens when you mix blue with rust/red. I love this mix – cotton and merino warp with a blue faced leicester/merino weft. 8” x 84” nice to wrap around several times. $100

 

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Ravenclaw House, anyone? Made in the Hogwarts’ Ravenclaw colors of blue and bronze, this is for those in your life who are known for their wit, learning, and wisdom. Smaller than my usual, it’s still a good size at 5.5” x 60” and made with a mix of cotton and super wash merino.  $50

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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