Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Joy of Finishing

Awhile back I griped in this space about having too many projects underway at once.  I'm happy to report that finally, finally I have got some projects finished, others well underway, and a couple empty looms sitting around, at least for a little while.

I finished the scarf for my sister-in-law, plus three extra for our upcoming show.  Please check my Facebook page for details about that event if you're in the Atlanta area, Nov. 11-13.

tencel and silk-alpaca infinity scarves (c) Molly Elkind

tencel infinity scarves (c) Molly Elkind

I selected several of the collages I've done this year and, thanks to the patient instruction of my dear husband Sam, learned how to cut mats for them.  What an incredible difference it makes to put a mat around something!  These affordable pieces will also be in our show.

collage of painted words and torn paper in sketchbook

dictionary page for "annunciation" and pasted paper collage

L to R:  "Huh?", Red (T)his, Annunciation,  matted and cropped collages (c) Molly Elkind 2016
L to R: Column and Spiral, Weeping for Istanbul, Manuscript/Portal, collages (c) Molly Elkind 2016

I was very happy to finish a set of four 4" x 6.5" small tapestries that I've been thinking of as small contemporary illuminated manuscripts, because they contain or allude to text.  Three of them were inspired by the collages in the top group photo above.  I'm happy overall with how they turned out, but boy, were they fiddly, in both the weaving (12 epi) and the finishing!  I did and re-did the edge finishes, first thinking I would hide the warp fringe (with a half-damascus that would turn the warps to the back) and then deciding to expose it.  I never could get the corners to be as neat as I wanted.  I like that the fringe is visible.  These will also be in our holiday show/sale Nov. 11-13.

Clockwise from upper left:  Huh?, Red (T)his, WTF, and Annunciation, handwoven tapestries  (c) Molly Elkind 2016

I'm still working on the large Mary tapestry, and I expect it to take several more months at the rate I'm going.  I'm discovering just how hard it is to weave a self-portrait.  Just call me Penelope. 

M3 (working title) in progress
Meanwhile I'm designing the next Mary piece, a smaller tapestry on the theme of Mater Dolorosa, the sorrowing or weeping mother.  Goodness knows, if Mary is paying attention at all, she must be weeping over our world.  I'm thinking of incorporating somehow tiny shards of obsidian I've collected in New Mexico, known as Apache tears.  Wonder if I can drill through them so I can thread the yarn through?  Let me know if you have any intel on this.  Would a bead-reaming tool work?

study for Mater Dolorosa, with Apache tears 
So, that's the way things stand here.  Don't ask about the quilt.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

curating the newsfeed

Some of you know that I recently re-activated my Facebook account (Molly Elkind Handwovens).  I've been posting occasionally on Instagram as well, @mpelkind.  I am enjoying these new ways of joining the conversation about art and tapestry making, and I'm learning (as people had been telling me for years I would) of shows, artists, and other opportunities I would not have discovered otherwise. I'm making new connections and strengthening old ones.  So that's all good.

Here's my problem, and it's hardly unique to me.  I am drowning in information.  I know, Welcome to your world, right?  I am something of a news and information junkie anyway.  I subscribe to two newspapers and eighteen blogs, belong to six art organizations that each produce newsletters, get four fiber art journals, and listen to public radio.  Also I'm a sucker for books.  (I call it "research.")  And then of course there's email.  Sigh.  I know none of this makes me unique, and clearly some of it is self-inflicted.

(I know, I know, my own blog contributes to the flood of information.  Thank you for choosing to read it when you have so many other stories demanding your attention!

But it's Facebook that has pushed me over the edge.  So many stories, links, images!  So much to learn!  Too much!  My head is full and my mental energy is heading off in a thousand directions, away from the creative work I'm supposed to be all about.

Being the overly analytical type, I spent a good hour this morning trying to figure out how to weed out curate my information flow, both inbound and outbound.  What should I keep, what should I limit, what should I exploit, what should I unsubscribe from?  Which sources of information are most valuable for which purposes?

This is as boring to look at as it was to do:

So far I've decided that for information about art, fiber art, and tapestry, Instagram, Facebook, blogs, and newsletters from membership org's are my most timely and valuable sources of news and information. I will try to free myself from reading cover to cover every fiber magazine or book that crosses my path.  For administering my business, timely reading and response to email is key--but I can try to check it and respond only a few times a day.  Blogs, newsletters and discussion lists also improve my business, so I have to keep up with them.  I will give up on reading the actual newspaper (except for weekend art and books coverage) and get my news from the radio.  I will limit to two or three the number of times each day I check Facebook and Instagram.  And I am ruthlessly unsubscribing from the email ads, newsletters and Facebook feeds that don't improve my practice, my understanding, my social circle or my mood!

I'm curious to hear how you cope with this dilemma.  I'm sure you have some great ideas I haven't thought of.  Please share your own strategy below.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Step away from the loom

Every so often you have to put down the shuttle and the bobbins and get outside.

Last weekend I was fortunate to see a part of the world I have long been curious about--the North Shore of Minnesota and a bit of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  We visited friends in the Twin Cities and then spent a few days in a condo on the shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais.

sunset view from Grand Marais condo on shore of Lake Superior
Along the breakwater in Grand Marais
Artist's Point, Grand Marais
We even hiked to the high point of Minnesota, Eagle Mountain, an 8-mile round trip. Though the weather was . . . changeable (rainy, windy, sunny, even a few flakes-of-snowy) we got out there and enjoyed the gorgeous fall landscape.

Lake on walk to top of Eagle Mountain

Tiny cairns 

view from near top of Eagle Mountain

lacy fall leaves

selfeet, on the trail

birches on Eagle Mountain
birch-inspired handmade mugs, our souvenir of this place

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Innovation is dead.

Or so says British artist Grayson Perry, in the Reith series of lectures aired on BBC Radio 4 in 2013.

The exact words that made me drop my tapestry bobbins and scramble for pencil and paper were:
Perhaps the most shocking tactic left to artists today is sincerity
Let me back up.  Last month many of my posts focused on what I saw as innovative artwork I'd recently seen in Milwaukee and in Atlanta at the High Museum.  I  used the word "innovation" a lot in these posts.  It was a delight for me to see artists do new things with familiar materials, with thread, beads, and scraps of paper.  I saw things afresh, and that is perhaps the cardinal expectation we have of modern and contemporary art.  For over a century, the First Commandment for artists has been to Make It New, and if possible, Shock the Bourgeoisie while you're at it.

Grayson Perry, a Turner Prize-winning potter who has also worked in sculpture, drawing and tapestry (yes!) has many provocative things to say about the contemporary art world, as you might expect from a guy whose public persona looks like this:

Grayson Perry
He acknowledges that these days, the ruling ism in art is pluralism.  There is no ruling style; anything goes.  Art is defined not by particular materials, techniques, subjects or qualities, but by context--where it is seen, who has made it or is paying attention to it, why it exists.  Primarily it is defined by those who are credentialed in the art world.  If you are looking for a witty, clever, dead-on insider's skewering of the contemporary art world, you will enjoy this series of four lectures, available on You-Tube and as podcasts on iTunes.  They are thoughtful, challenging, and very funny.

I have listened to three of the four lectures twice now.  Listening to Perry is a little like looking through a kaleidoscope.  Just when you think all the glittering pieces are resolving into an image, everything shifts and suddenly you're looking at a new idea or perspective.  There are layers of wit, irony and long experience as an artist to unpack.

And yet.  Underneath it all, Perry has rather old-fashioned notions about what constitutes a truly meaningful artistic experience.  And make no mistake, for Perry "art's most important role is meaning-making."  The artist is a "pilgrim on the road to meaning."  Despite his eyes-wide-open, cynical view of the contemporary art world, when he goes to a gallery or museum he wants to be moved emotionally. He even dares to look for beauty.  And he argues quite convincingly that the commandment to Make it New, to Shock the Bourgeoisie, has reached a dead end.  "Anything can be art but not everything is art."  At this point in history, all the boundaries have been transgressed.  It is no longer possible to be beyond the pale.  "Innovation is mere tweaking."

Well.  Where does that leave us then?

If the First Commandment was to innovate, perhaps the Second was that artists had to display a certain amount of self-consciousness and irony, to show that they were aware of what has gone before and that their own contribution somehow comments on or subverts other artwork.  Perry argues that this ironic self-consciousness is so commonplace now that it has itself become a cliche'.   Indeed, for an artist too much self-consciousness can inhibit the free flow of play.   This is where Perry remarks that perhaps sincerity, rather than irony, is now what is truly fresh.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some to do some weaving about the Virgin Mary.