Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What's looming. . .what's loomed!

I don't know if other artists experience this, but every now and then, after I've had several projects in process for some time, suddenly the planets align and I finish two or more projects on the same day, or the same week.  I don't plan it that way, it just happens.  It's fun but kind of spooky!  Why do things line up that way?

I'm finishing a scarf commissioned for a friend's birthday:

And I'm set to finish two projects related to my membership in the American Tapestry Alliance, a terrific outfit that educates, connects and informs tapestry weavers not only here in the US but abroad as well.  ATA's member newsletter, Tapestry Topics, is published quarterly and features articles written by members on a specific theme.  The theme of the next issue is "Imagery and Weaving:  Why Tapestry?"  What a great question!  It's been a wonderful experience, reading and researching and most of all figuring out exactly Why do I choose to make imagery in this particular medium?  It's been a long time since I wrote the sort of critical paper I used to write in college and grad school; I've felt rusty and gone through about four drafts.  I'll often suggest to students who are beginning to develop an idea for a piece that they write about it, and I usually get some surprised push back:  "I'm not a writer!  I want to work with my hands, not with words!  What does writing have to do with it?"  Trust me, it helps immensely to clarify your purpose and theme.  In writing this article, I now have a clearer idea of why I weave the way I do, and how it fits into the overall scope of contemporary tapestry weaving. 

ATA is also sponsoring Tapestry Unlimited, their 11th international, unjuried small format tapestry exhibit.  The show is open to all members and work is limited to no more than 10" in any direction.  Everyone's work will be hung in an exhibit (at Convergence!) and published in a catalog--two powerful incentives to whip something out (as much as tapestry can be whipped out).  I decided to weave a small section of an image I had in mind for the next piece in my Mary series.  This one includes my mother's face in the foreground, based on her high school graduation portrait, and Mary's iconic face in the background, with an area where they overlap in the middle.  I have to say I'm pretty happy with how this turned out.  Maybe I'm finally learning how to use tapestry techniques to say what I mean.

Here are some progress photos:

At this point I decided I didn't like the Munchian look to Mary's face, how it got so narrow toward her chin, like that figure in The Scream, so I ripped it out and redid that diagonal angle on the left side. 

I also started doing the eyes, the hardest and most important part.  I think I unwove and rewove the eye on the far right about four times.  You can also see I redid Mary's eye on the far left.  Timely advice from my good friend Terri kept me from re-re-doing that eye. 

I really like the way the eye in the center worked out, seeming to share characteristics with both Mary and my mother, which was my intention.  I also like the way hatching (those horizontal stripes in the center) worked to create transparency in the overlapped area. 

And here's the finished piece:

Well, the weaving is done.  It has been cut off and rested overnight.  Today I will tackle tidying up the back and dealing with the warp ends.

If you look carefully you can see that there's another tapestry visible through the warps, behind the Mary one.  That's the sample I wove in Rebecca Mezoff's workshop in Atlanta in January.  Here it is, upside down as it's been rolled completely to the back as I advanced the warp. 

Here's a small cautionary tale for you tapestry weavers out there:  I had so much warp left on the loom after the workshop it seemed a waste to cut it off, especially when the warp was nearly wide enough for the Mother/Mary piece I had in mind.  I could easily add 8 warps to each side to make it wide enough for the new piece, right?

Well, it did work out, more or less, though I wouldn't recommend it and it wasn't pretty.  It was tricky getting those additional Texsolv heddles onto the newly added warps without disturbing the existing warps and heddles.  And then, of course, I had tension problems--hence the weighted film canisters dangling from the back, to put extra tension on loose edge warps.  And the pen stuck under a warp at the top.  There was a pencil up there under some warps too; as I said the whole setup was pretty ugly by the time I finished.  But when I cut the tapestry off, it seemed to have done the trick.  Stay tuned!

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