Monday, January 9, 2023

What I did on my art retreat

I did something new (for me) the week between Christmas and New Years.  I packed up my studio stuff and checked into a country inn about 65 miles away, in Abiquiu, New Mexico for three days of uninterrupted studio time.  I wanted time and space to focus on the new direction my work is taking, time which had been in short supply over the past few months due to Life Intervening.  

the view out my window at the Abiquiu Inn, showing the magical morning light on the mountains

The living room/studio area.  The narrow table already there by the window was adequate for my needs.  
I  did bring my own floor lamp. 

I brought three looms (also the Mirrix Saffron) and used every one.  
I love my new Artisan Adjustable Tapestry Frame loom from Weavers Bazaar! 

It was not cheap but I'm here to tell you, it was worth every penny, as much as any expensive tapestry workshop I've taken.  I packed my own food for two meals a day and treated myself to one meal a day at the inn, and that controlled costs pretty well.  I got up every morning and got right to work, working through the day and after dinner.  I logged 27 hours of studio time in three days--more than I managed to do in the entire month of November (yes, I am the kind of geek who tracks her time). 

Here's some of what I was able to do.  These are samples, shot in sketchy light.  

linen warp; paper, blue grama grass and survey marker whisker* wefts, rubbed with ashes 

littered plastic being twisted into cordage

linen warp; rayon and blue grama grass weft

strips woven with wire warp and paper and assorted wefts 

folded weaving with wire selvedges and wefts, as well as linen wefts.  
This approach will need quite a bit more sampling.
  • six small sample weavings
  • twisted some plastic into cordage
  • finished one online class I'd signed up for months ago (Christine Miller's Weaving with Wire) and got halfway through another one (Rebecca Mezoff''s Fringeless with Sarah Swett--yes, definitely late to the party on that one, I know!)
  • finished reading three books
  • worked in my sketchbook
  • made pages of notes to myself about next steps
It was incredibly nice to be able to stretch out in the studio, follow ideas to their logical conclusion all in one sitting, and just give myself permission to explore and play--all things that are hard to do when you're squeezing your creative work into scraps of time in between trips to the grocery store, loads of laundry, and walking the dog.  Something about being in a slightly unfamiliar setting freed me up to be more playful and exploratory than I am in my home studio.  Now that I'm back home, I'm super-eager to explore these experiments further.  

While it was wonderful to have so much uninterrupted weaving time, my body paid the price.  I was stiff and sore and it didn't help that the weather was bad enough that I didn't even get out for my usual morning walk.  So that is something to remember for next time:  build in time for stretching and exercise!!  

Because there will be a next time.  I'm already researching real artists' residencies to apply for.  If this sounds interesting to you, check out which lists residencies searchable by state, type, and many other criteria.

*Survey marker whiskers are brightly colored tufts of plastic wire embedded in the ground here where spray paint or other utility markers won't last (on our dirt and gravel roads, for example).  They catch the eye because at first they look like improbably bright, exotic flowers.  Each color symbolizes a different type of buried pipe or cable. So far I've harvested yellow, pink and red.  

Don't worry, I only cut a few strands from each marker!