Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Starting Again

 After several months of babying my shoulder so it could heal from tendinitis due to overuse (tap tap tap) . . . I am back at the loom!   I am still figuring out how much studio manual labor is too much (usually I don't know till the next day) but I am learning, slowly.  I don't want my shoulder to become "globally angry" again, in the words of my physical therapist.  Take breaks every 25 minutes, weavers!

I have completed this piece.  

Molly Elkind, Golden Rain.  The piece is placed in a shadowbox with a hinged glass cover, left open here to avoid reflections on the glass.  Pardon the quick-and-dirty photo.

It's OK that I have to ration my weaving time, because I have lots of other options in the studio these days.  I am still having fun playing around with watercolors since my class at Ghost Ranch in March.  The book our instructor highly recommended, Watercolor Class by Michael Crespo, has some great exercises and inspiring examples.  I'm having a blast with Daniel Smith's watercolor sticks and this brush:

watercolor study

I don't know where any of this messing about with paint is headed yet, so it feels both thrilling and terrifying. 

I am excited because I finally sat down and made myself start to figure out gauze weave, something I've been meaning to do ever since I learned that Lenore Tawney used gauze weave in her open-weave hangings.  I am looking forward to future experiments with this; in fact I just warped my 16" Mirrix loom to do a tiny gauze weave with grasses.  These books were essential in helping me figure out how to do it:  

    Two-harness Textiles:  The Open-Work Weaves by Harriet Tidball, 1967 (out of print but you might find it online); and 

    Weaving is Creative:  The Weaver-Controlled Weaves by Jean Wilson, 1972 (ditto).

I realized last week that I am circling back around to a theme I explored about 25 years ago when I was in grad school:  birds.  My love of birds and birdsong has been reawakened lately, and I am mildly obsessed with figuring out how to render visually the joy of hearing birdsong, the mystery of birds you can hear but not see in their habitat, and the way the bird and its song is interwoven with the habitat.  I've got a few experiments with paper weaving on this theme underway, with mixed success so far (so no photos).  Looking forward to doing more. 

Here are some photos I unearthed when I looked back through work I did for my thesis show in 2002. At that time I was interested in calling attention to the "gaps in the sky", the birds that no longer exist due to habitat loss and wanton harvesting of their eggs and their feathers for hats.  These images are scans from printed snapshots, so the quality is not as good as I'd like.


Molly Elkind, Paper Birds, mixed media, 2001

Molly Elkind, Icon, mixed media, 2006 (after I graduated but still working with the bird theme)

I also discovered that some of the first assignments I did in school bear a startling resemblance in color and composition to work I've done more recently.  I do seem to have some sort of core personal visual language after all, and this is encouraging.  

Molly Elkind, Study in machine embroidery on canvas, c. 1995

Molly Elkind, Study in hand embroidery on canvas, c. 1995

Molly Elkind, SkyGrass, linen, wool, metallic.  2021

Starting over with new media is hard.  It's hard to leave what you know and try new things.  It's scary to risk "failure" by making beginner work and work that doesn't quite hit the mark.  It's hard.  If you too find yourself in this place, have courage.  I do know that some of my best work has been done when I was new with a particular medium and didn't know what I "couldn't" do.  Beginner's mind/beginner's luck can be a beautiful place to be, full of excitement and discovery.  Onward!