Friday, December 21, 2018

Weaving community: a whole lot of gratitude

Yarn ball Christmas tree with moomintrolls who might be up to mischief.  Thanks to Rebecca Mezoff (and Emily) for letting me steal their idea for the tree.  Moomintrolls are characters from Finnish folklore.
At this time of year, if we are lucky, we celebrate the winter holidays with family and friends.  We celebrate friendship and love and laughter, and we are grateful not to be alone in the darkest part of the year.  We look back over the past year, recalling the good times and the bad (and the weird and the downright ugly).  With luck we might estimate that the good outweighed the hard.

I was thinking this morning about how fortunate I have been to be part of a sustaining artistic community every part of the way in 2018.  In the Atlanta area, I found my tribe at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA), which hosted my show of tapestries in February and March.  I was honored to have friends not just from my neighborhood but weavers from Florida and North Carolina, come to see the show and give me their considered feedback.  You know who you are, and I am grateful!

Opening reception for ICONIC show at SEFAA.  Photo:  Nancy Langham
When we moved to New Mexico, I left one community and was humbled and so happy to be welcomed into another one.  The Las Tejedoras,  High Desert Tapestry and Las Aranas guilds have become my local fiber tribe.  It is thrilling to be among so many dedicated weavers.  I am looking forward to teaching Collage to Tapestry Cartoon at Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC) in February and deepening my connection with several weavers there.*

One of the best things to happen to me in 2018 was the Handweavers Guild of America's Convergence conference and the subsequent American Tapestry Alliance meeting and retreat.  It was fantastic to meet, teach and weave alongside gifted artists from across the country.  The workshop with Rowen Schussheim-Anderson has changed my approach to tapestry in exciting ways.

Next year will afford me the chance to teach in four locations around the country, and I am deeply grateful to those weaving friends (again, you know who you are) who have helped me make those connections.

Finally, I continue to be grateful for the online community I have found on Instagram and Facebook.  I am as dismayed as anyone at the ongoing revelations about Facebook's cavalier attitude toward users' privacy (to put it generously), but I continue to feel that what I learn there from fellow artists and weavers far outweighs the negative.  Instagram has introduced me to fiber artists worldwide whose work inspires and teaches me something almost every day.

Last week I was touched to get thoughtful and valuable feedback on both social media when I publicly asked for help figuring out how (or if) to handle next year's tapestry diary.  (If you're wondering, I've reached a decision but I'm saving it for the next blog post!)  Weaving is a solitary pursuit, but sharing our work in progress, our questions, doubts and occasional triumphs makes it all easier.

I suppose it's not surprising that weavers are good at coming together, constructing a sturdy fabric in which each thread is a small but indispensable part of a larger, beautiful whole.  As I look back at 2018 and forward to 2019 I hope to continue to be one of those interlaced threads.

Santa Fe Plaza 
I wish for you, my friends and colleagues near and far, all the blessings of community wherever you are and whatever you do.  The online community is wonderful, but let's remember to get out of the studio and make connections in real life too!  Keep an eye out for those solitary threads who might be snagged or unraveling, and bring them into the web.  We're all in this together.

* There are still openings in the class at EVFAC.  Click HERE to register.

Monday, December 10, 2018

About that Tapestry Diary. . .

I have to confess, lately I've been kinda bored with my tapestry diary.  I deliberately set up a simple plan that would be workable in a very busy year.  The idea was to weave a horizontal stripe each day with the color of that day's sky.  On days I couldn't weave, I'd do a half-pass of orange.  The abbreviation for each month would be woven at the end of the month.  I would turn the piece 90 degrees for display, so it would be a long scroll.

Molly Elkind, Tapestry Diary 2018 (in progress)

And so I've stuck with that. When we moved to New Mexico in April I made the weaving wider, for the bigger sky out here.  I've learned to weave the letters on the fly, without a cartoon, sometimes more successfully than others.  My letters are still pretty awkward.  But I rarely fix mistakes on my diary.

Molly Elkind, Tapestry Diary 2018 (detail; in progress)

And lately I've been wondering, what will I do next year?  I did have a great idea that was pretty exciting:  to select tapestries from the past and present that have inspired me and weave a small detail study based on one historical tapestry each month.  I'd honor my tapestry ancestors and hopefully learn something about how they worked their magic.  I made a list of possible tapestries to study and got pretty excited about the art history research I'd get to do.  I could start with a Coptic study, move on to a pieces inspired by early Southwestern Native weaving and Peruvian weaving, move through medieval unicorn and millefleur pieces, William Morris and Bauhaus and on up to the giants of the twentieth century:  Lurcat, Brennan and so many others.  There's more than enough to choose from!  It made my geeky heart happy to think of.

And then I looked at next year's calendar.  Whoa.  Lots of travel and teaching and shows I need to make work for.  Do I have time for such an involved project?  Maybe not.  Sigh.

So I decided that, just as I don't write in my journal every day, but only when I need to, maybe I would just weave small occasional pieces here and there.  I've long admired Sheila Hicks' minimes (from French for "minimal"), made on the simplest possible frame loom she took with her everywhere.  They are the record of a weaver thinking out loud, little thought experiments.

Sheila Hicks, Emerging with Grace, 2016

Over Thanksgiving I took a small loom and some scrap yarn with me and wove on it as I sat and chatted with the family.  I played around with color and pick-and-pick.  It looks like a coaster, but it was a way for me to get my fingers in some yarn every day, to weave as play.

Molly Elkind, Minime Nov. 2018 (in progress)
And this morning I realized, as I wove on the 2018 diary, that for me the diary has become a great warm-up to my studio work every morning.  If I don't have that, what will I do to warm up, to respond to the morning?  I know myself well enough to know that if I leave the commitment and the rules of the game vague enough (ie, just weaving a minime when I feel like it), I will find ways to weasel out of them.  And what do you know, in just the last few days I've been playing around with pick-and-pick and eccentric weft some more on the 2018 diary and that's been fun.  If you stay with something long enough, you can be surprised by new ideas even if you think you've run dry.

Molly Elkind, Tapestry Diary 2018, December (in progress)
What do you think, my dear tapestry (and artist) friends?  Should I do the minimes, on a loose schedule as time permits, or plunge into a big juicy challenging project that I may not have time for?  Or maybe I can do the historical studies on an as-time-permits basis.  Hmmm . . .