Friday, February 25, 2022

Workshopping with Ellen W. Miller, Feathers and Chinese Knots

Every once in a while I take a workshop offered by a Weaver or Fiber Arts Guild. I took one last year with David Owen Hastings, mostly to see how teaching on Zoom felt from the aspect of the student so I could take notes for teaching on Zoom myself. I learned some really cool things about sewing with paper and a new design technique that I have yet to apply to my work but I plan on using in the future. For me workshopping isn't about making a finished-something but to learn something new or a better way of creating from other creatives. (Also, I loved David Owen Hastings as an instructor, I highly recommend!)

Ellen W. Miller's workshops really got my creative juices going this month and the techniques were far beyond anything that I have touched upon in the past.  I took her classes in Feather Embellishments and Chinese Knots. 


I learned so much about feathers and how to work with them I've been thinking of all sorts of things I could use them for, particularly our wedding or just new accessories.  I suppose I had never before thought about how feathers are manipulated, snipped and curled to get certain looks. We also learned about different types of feathers, both from parts of the bird and discussed different birds. Looks like I'm going to have to raid my parents little chicken coup when they get back from Texas!


I learned what I needed from the Chinese Knot workshop to apply to something that's been in a sketchbook for a few years. I'm not sure if I'm ready to share that idea right now, it's not going to be as easy as I once thought it could be. Ellen taught us 3 knots and then expanded upon how they are used and connect to each other to provide embellishment but also as fasteners. 

Of course, even though I'm trying to get rid of books taking up space in my life, I want to buy her book to add to my fiber library. 

Clark got very excited to hear that I was on Zoom and came in 
to "help" for a little bit and hung out on my lap.




Monday, February 21, 2022

Joy: Sorting Buttons

Doodle over the past couple days between customers at work....

I get a deep sense of gratification (which definitely provides joy) when I reorganize and sort bits of my studio stash.  I did a significant amount of cleaning and moving around shelves and the warp winder in my studio a few weeks back and managed to find more jars and tins of buttons than I realized I have. 


A stack of tins on the ground (I believe these were my Grandma Helen's, possibly also Grandma Marge's), jars from working retail (ending up with buttons in my pockets when I got home), boxes and things from who the heck knows. 

Since cleaning, these disorganized buttons have been on my mind as something I can get into "when I have time."  Not that I have excess time, but I hit a point in my weaving where I need to dye some more weft so I wound some skeins and started the soaking process.  I still needed to be in the studio so the button sorting took over the sewing table.

Dye Bucket

Collecting things is a bit of a problem for me, I don't need or want more stuff, but....there's always that but... what if it's perfect for a future project or to match another button on something I'm mending? Really it's no matter, I enjoy the sorting process. Touching each button reminds me sometimes of where I was when I got that button (either in life or travels) or, more importantly, what I do have in my stash. I get to oooh and aaah over things I already have and had forgotten about. It's like when I swap or organize anything in the house "I forgot I had one of those" or "That would be really pretty for project [fill in the blank]" and, my favorite, "That's where that went!"

These old tins. They make me wonder how many decades old they are. The above particularly old rusted tin has dirt on and in it from the ages.  I'm finding some cool old logo buttons ("Lee" "Finck Detroit" "Van Wert Excelcior"), a Chicago Police one that's dented, crumbling ones that I have to pitch, a tiny doll leg, metal pieces, snaps, bullet casings. This sort of box is a treasure trove for my practice of mindfulness and consideration of each piece picked through. Save or keep? Sort elsewhere? How old is this? I wonder what that went to?

I've enjoyed the week of thinking about this blog post and it seeping into my doodling. I always want to draw more, but I'm never sure what to draw.  Posting about the joy of day to day things seems to be giving me drawing direction too. Weekly art practices have really lifted me up so far this year, I highly suggest it.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Reflections on 40, and a Weaving Update

New glasses, getting ready to go bowling

Well, I woke up this morning and everything hurt. I had to remind myself that it's not because I'm 40 but that we bowled for like 3 hours with a big group last night. I had a generally long day for my usual day off and then lots of friends out with us which was awesome getting to catch up. I forgot how much overstimulation wears me out though!  After bowling we went over to the Avenue to play some pinball and then finally wound down sometime after midnight. 

I'm dragging today but I think I was prepared for that to happen for the most part. We had a lot of fun and I'm thankful for everyone who came out, also those who texted, called, posted on my social media and private messaged me.  I'm not a huge fan of my phone blowing up and having to respond to people but at the end of the day I was very grateful and also sometimes surprised at those who remember my birthday. I'm terrible at birthdays and will have the best of intentions then completely forget or get busy/distracted.

I'm also thankful to report that at 4 decades I've finally found a doctor I like, gotten all the tests and questions and mammograms' and everything and I have a surprisingly good bill of health considering. I picked up a sweet new pair of glasses this morning with an updated prescription and I'm ready to take on the next decade being able to read road signs better at night. 

My current weaving "Is There a Thing to Which Brings Us Less Joy, Yet We Devote More Time" is plugging along.  I've approximated that on a good week where I weave a little every day I'm getting about 3 inches done. I have been making the beaded edge for this weaving in the evenings and I put it along the edge...I'm not sure I like it.  More on that issue later.

I really don't have much more to say in this 4-decade reflection, because otherwise I'd just gush on and on about how wonderful life had become (and I guess that's what my weekly Joy posts are turning into).  Someone once told me to wait until my 30s, that's when I'd have everything figured out and life gets easier (boy was that wrong).  I'm a late bloomer. My 40s are going to be great though!

Monday, February 14, 2022

Joy: Quiet

The cats are fed; I sit at my loom, the heddles tinkling together, crunching of paper, roll of the spools on my shuttles, the quiet of winter outside....

I used to listen to music all of the time, maybe it was to distract my brain so it would stop spinning out and just focus on what I wanted to work on. I don't need to do that now, I'm focused and in love with my life and my studio space. Sometimes music helps motivate me, but when I'm already motivated, particularly in the mornings, I enjoy the quiet. 

Since it's Valentine's Day I feel compelled to bring up how wonderful my fiancĂ© is, he allows me to have my space and my quiet when needed. I've always struggled with living with others, I just wanted to be left alone. After I got divorced I figured I was just unable to live with another human ever again, and then I met Bryan. He moved in after 9 months of dating and is fine that our schedules don't line up and probably glad that he also has his alone time. His presence is not demanding, but gentle, kind and quiet. 

I have so much going on in my head (that is rarely quiet), so many projects, to-do lists, dreams and what-if's. Bryan doesn't get angry when I don't hear a thing he said because he can usually tell when I'm off somewhere else.  He silently watches me bead and stitch next to him on the couch in the evenings and clearly notices what I'm doing and the various choices I make as I'm creating.  My artwork flourishes and he provides educated critiques when I'm stuck on color or design. I have to say that having a partner that understands how necessary the peace and quiet is to me is of the utmost importance. 

I also remove myself from social media and will often leave my phone outside of the studio when I am working.  Even though I have it on silent, the compulsion to pick it up and look at notifications is difficult for me to manage. Texts, emails, social media is all noise that can take over my need for quiet. My days off and free time go better, happier when I remove myself from my phone. 

I have found that having the evening shift for my department at work gives me my mornings that I need for creativity to flourish in my quiet time. Quiet=Peace

Friday, February 11, 2022

Chickadee Bangle

It all started with thinking about Joy, and then my first "Joy" blog post....sketching a chickadee on some scrap paper at work which led to the bangle idea (drafted below the bird)....


That's where inspiration can begin. Just letting it flow and this is what comes of it. Then I get obsessed. I started Googling chickadees so much that Google has started suggesting articles on them for me. (Did you know that they are a year-round bird here in Michigan but we only see them most in the winter?)

I was originally considering the the feather bangles that I had already made. The chickadee feathers alone don't have much design going on. Layered together they make some really great patterns on the bird. So I sketched out a quick idea focusing on the patterning of the bird (above, to the right corner, on the paper with the chickadee) and then I could not get it out of my head. 

I started stylizing this draft into my peyote graph paper. I first tried to copy the original sketch in with Gimp, but I decided that it was going to be easier to draft it by hand. 

I chose bead colors from what I have on-hand. Apparently I'm out of the tan I use a lot and it's on backorder so I picked something close for the back (between the wings) and tail. That color turned out a little more pink than I expected it to, which wouldn't bother me but there's something not quite right with the pink and white around the "tail" design part. I realized that I wasn't sure about the color and layout about 3/4 of the way through the bangle.  It may not bother me so much after wearing it for a while but right now I think I might make an entirely new bangle in the tan that I usually use (when it comes back in stock) and I'll play with redesigning the tail.

The "head" and "wings" area of this bangle I absolutely love though.  I have some idea on what I should on a redesign but I'm not going to dig back into it until I've let it be for a while. Sometimes we are our own hardest critics. 

Monday, February 7, 2022

Joy: Glitter

In high school I had a "Happy List" that was on a sheet of dark pink lined Lisa Frank paper that I kept in my wallet. I knew at a pretty young age that I wasn't as happy as other people and some days were a struggle to get out of my sadness so I would pull out my happy list and look over or add to it.

Glitter was the first thing on that list. I can't remember a whole lot of the other things but man do I love glitter to this day, particularly glittery sparkly things. I can avoid to loose stuff people use in craft projects (sometimes) but not when it comes to beads, yarn and some clothing/accessories.

Glitter yarn is much more common these days but when I was younger, I'd scoop up everything I ran into to add to my stash. Many of my Theo Moorman inlay weavings have some sort of glittery yarn in them. I also like to add it to tapestry when I play with that weaving style.

Beads are a glitter-given. I needed more faceted extra-sparkly seed beads in my life at the end of last year and I made a fairly large bead purchase from Fire Mountain Gems and Northland Visions in November and December. I don't need any more beads but adding to the sparkle-stash is necessary to get excited about new projects sometimes.

My new Dark Pink Glittery Converse!! I'd been pining over these Custom Converse for a while and when we decided we were going to the We Are the Union NYE show (which never happened, thanks COVID), we decided to put outfits together to dress up for the show and these shoes were ideal. I'm not that big into pink but this particular shade was nice and robust, like I like in my colors. I ended up not putting the time in to making a skirt so I pulled out the silver sequin pencil skirt from my collection. I like to go with all things glittery on New Years. 


I could go on and on about the joys of glitter, but these weekly Joy posts I want to keep short.  Finding joy is so easy lately, it's everywhere if you're open to it. 


Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Leaf Me Alone (Final!)

It's finished! This is the first sister-piece to She Can't See the Forest through the Trees and probably not the last.  December 30, 2019 is when I warped Delilah for this large Leaf Me Alone piece.  I have had lots of projects going on at the same time as I do with any large weaving (as you can see by all of my blog posts in the past 2 years!). I really need the extended time and mental space to get something like this piece finished properly. I finally got that with the second week we were in quarantine with COVID and then some solid full days-off that I set aside with goals to finish so that I could go skiing without stressing out about getting this done. 


dyed the warp and weft in 2014, I wound the warp in 2017...I have finally come to the realization that dying and creating warps en masse doesn't work for me. I need to do one piece at a time.  I'm quite tired of looking at blue and green at this point! I'm really excited to be able to get back to the piece with the really long name, particularly because it's grey and black.

When I get to a point on a big piece like this where I can see an end in sight, it's important for me to have an exhibit in mind to submit to so that I will spend all my extra time finishing it. The driving exhibit for Leaf Me Alone is with the Handweavers Guild of America's Convergence Conference, I submitted this to the Mixed Media exhibit, we'll see if the juror likes it enough to invite it to Knoxville this summer. It looks like I might be able to squeak it into some other submissions this year too (Michigan League of Handweavers Biennial Exhibit). 

I feel like I've typed at length about this piece. How it represents my need for creative quiet space and less busying myself with socializing or even leaving the house. I'm so much happier, more productive and at peace at home with my little nest of kitties and Bryan. 2 days ago I read the following from my "Meditations for Women Who do Too Much" book and it describes some of the feeling that this piece can allude to for me:

Exerpt from "Mediations for Women Who Do Too Much" 
by Anne Wilson Schaef, Revised and Updated Edition 

It's taken me nearly 40 years but "alla my stuff" that I cherish most is my personal time and taking care of my emotional mental space. I spent years of my life with "Leaf me alone" running, yelling in my head which turned into anger, sadness and resentment.  Now I make sure to take a lot of time for all the crazy that's in my head!! Luckily it comes out of my heart and finger tips as these new pieces of artwork.

Leaf panel for Leaf Me Alone

Regardless of the emotion I feel behind my word pieces, I always hope that different viewers pull from their own personal experiences to relate to my works like these. We are all human experiencing things with very different stories or the same stories and we all have a huge range of emotions that need to bubble up and out.

All my Leaf Me Alone workings thus far....if you want to look into more ramblings. 

Retro Fade Earrings and Bracelet, 2 versions

I picked up a new dress for Brian and Rion's 20th anniversary party so, as usual, I decided to make something to go with it. I was plann...