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.

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