Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Follow me. . .

Dearest readers,

I owe you an explanation.  For a couple years now I've been posting pretty much every week, usually on Wednesdays.  In mid-2016 I waded back into the social media waters on Facebook and Instagram . . . and I'm finding that a very rewarding (for the most part!) way to connect with other fiber artists and friends all over.  But as you all know it's also time-consuming.

So for 2017 I'm going to shift to a twice-a-month schedule for this blog, aiming for every other Wednesday.   Please stay with me!  I think my content will be stronger with less pressure to publish every week.

And please. . . (you knew it was coming) Like me on Facebook (Molly Elkind Handwovens) and follow me on Instagram, @mpelkind.  I'll try to post to these outlets every time I post to the blog.

Today, here's what I put on Facebook:

For my fellow tapestry geeks, especially all who were so helpful last week. . . Here's a progress shot showing the 2/2 twill weave in 2 strands of black Frid, forming the border at the bottom and up the left side. It's fiendishly difficult to photograph but I think you can see the texture difference between the twill and the plain weave areas in gray. By the way I'm enjoying weaving on the floor loom! Different, but fun.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Art in Charlotte

Last week a painter friend and I made an overnight trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, mainly to view the exhibit Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Mint Museum Uptown.  We were both blown away by how much great art there was to see in Charlotte's museums and galleries.  I was happy to see a variety of woven and fiber work in the Mint Museum Randolph, where decorative arts and craft and art of the ancient Americas is housed.

What a treat to see ancient Peruvian woven pieces.

Tunic panel, Wari culture, Peru, 600-800 CE
A detail shot shows the incredibly fine weaving:

And how fun is this little hat, with its tassels and cut-pile winged alpacas or llamas?

Four-cornered hat with winged camelids, Peru, Wari culture, 600-800 CE 

When I spot stuff like this I feel awe at the amazing craftsmanship and a sort of kinship across the centuries with other weavers.  Weaving can be a solitary affair and it's fun to feel like you recognize a kindred spirit. even if they've been dead a long time.

Speaking of which, get a load of this weaver's basket of tools and threads and a miniature loom, which was buried with the master weaver in the Wari culture.  The two cactus stalks on the right are wound with brightly colored thread and one is packed with sewing needles.

weaver's workbasket, Wari culture, Chile, 600-800 CE
You might be wondering, did she ever get to the Women of Abstract Expressionism show?  Yes, I did.  In the lobby back at the Mint Uptown, I first had to stop and admire this piece by the incomparable Sheila Hicks:

Sheila Hicks, Mega Footprint Near the Hutch (May I Have this Dance?) 2011
You can just barely make me out, standing at the bottom left of the piece. 
Here are a few of the highlights of the show for me:

Elaine de Kooning, Bullfight, 1959. 
Joan Mitchell, Hudson River Day Line, 1955
While it was a blast to see the work of all the artists represented, I especially enjoyed Mitchell.  Here's another that I looked at a long time:

Joan Mitchell, Cercando un Ago, 1957.
The Italian title means "looking for a needle (in a haystack)"
Here's a couple of juicy details:

detail, Joan Mitchell, Cercando un Ago, 1957
detail, Joan Mitchell, Cercando un Ago, 1957
I was surprised to find that while gazing at work with so much energy, movement, and color, I felt a paradoxical stillness and calm.  A meditative reflectiveness that I feel in front of . . .  weaving.  Of course I started wondering if there was some way to bring the energy, movement and spontaneity of this kind of painting to tapestry weaving.

But that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dear (tapestry) diary

With the new year comes the start of a new tapestry diary.  Weaving last year's diary was so much fun and taught me so much that I had lots of ideas for how to structure 2017's diary.  The hard part was choosing.

I have long admired Sheila Hicks's minimes, small format pieces she has woven on a simple frame loom that she takes with her on her travels.  They are sketches or studies, but they also stand on their own as experimental, intimate mixed media pieces.  For my diary, I decided to attempt 12 small pieces, one per month, using colors for each one that reflect the season.  When possible I will be inspired by my morning walks, incorporating the colors or patterns of the sky, the landscape, or possibly even weaving in actual found objects. (How do so many red mailbox flags end up in the street?  Maybe one will end up in the diary this year.)

First, here's a picture of the finally finished 2016 diary, woven in the colors of the church's liturgical calendar.  If you want all the gory details, you can read blog posts about it here here,  here here and here.  It's not necessarily a thing of artistic beauty, but it is a record of my year.  I suppose it is appropriate that the green leaves I wove in the season of Ordinary Time, a season of growth, literally make the sides bulge outward.

Tapestry diary of the liturgical year 2015-16, (c) Molly Elkind 
For this year, I've settled on the following rules:

  • weave each month's piece to finish 7" high x 5" wide; 
  • weave an indeterminate amount each day, responding both to the day and to what has been woven before;
  • when away from the loom, do not weave; 
  • choose a palette of colors for each month but be open to adjusting the palette as necessary. 

Settling on these initial guidelines is an important and subtle part of the game.  You want to have rules, as it were, to govern the game and to make the artistic choices you face each day limited enough to be manageable.  On the other hand, you want those rules to be spacious and generous enough to allow for spontaneous creative responses to circumstances and inspirations. . . and for those inevitable days when you just can't get to your practice.  You don't want to set such strict rules that you get bored or frustrated.

Here's what I've done so far, four days into January 2017.  Not much to look at yet, but if you look closely you can see that my colors for the month are gray (dark and light), dark green,  and a peachy gold that alludes to the color of paper birch leaves, one of my favorite elements in the winter landscape here in Georgia. I'm a little worried that I'll finish the piece before the month is out.  Stay tuned!

You can start a daily practice anytime, not just on January 1, and you don't have to commit to a whole year.  Even one month of daily practice will yield real rewards.  If you want to start your own daily practice, why not join me for a two-hour workshop at SEFAA in Atlanta on January 15?  Together we'll look at what other artists are doing--there are so many possibilities!--and do a few activities to formulate the guidelines for your own daily practice.  You will discover the practice that is uniquely yours.  Click here to register.