Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Weaving the New Year In

Happy New Year!

I am weaving the new year in with lots of plans and projects!

The black-eyed peas are on the stove, to be accompanied by cole slaw and cornbread later. It is a chilly day here in Oklahoma as expected in January and we have actually had some rain! All good omens for the new year. Funny how rain, which was a daily occurance while growing up in southern Florida has become an event.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what I want to achieve in the new year and have made some decisions which are of course open to revision but do offer that very important place to start.

My first goal for the new year is to make real progress on the Mango Hunters. I have been working on this tapestry for several years now and it has survived a tremendous number of life changing circumstances. I am usually pretty good at letting go of projects that just don't work, or for one reason or another  aren't valid any more but I have held onto this one for various reasons. It is a design that I put a great deal of thought into. Originally it was to be a painting but just never seemed to work in that form. When I started it as a tapestry I began to see the effect I was after. It is a combination of landscape, still life, fantasy and is a very personal narrative journey.

This piece is on my Mirrix Joni Loom and an easel stand and set up with the Mirrix treadle. One of the challenges of weaving it, is that I am working from side to side in the design. Although this is not uncommon for tapestry weavers I am finding it challenging for this piece and often stop to take photos so that I can look at the weaving from the correct direction.

 My hope is to see this coming to conclusion by the end of the year. Okay, I have put that in writing.  If I have relearned anything from doing the tapestry diary this past year it is that progress is not about spurts of creative energy (although they have their place) but more about steady progress. This could be especially true in the medium of tapestry weaving but whatever you do, getting into the studio and doing it everyday whether you feel like it or not creates momentum and progress. I hope to be sharing more about this project as progress happens.

I have also given thought to my tapestry diary project for the new year.  I started the tapestry diary during a class with Tommye Scanlin at Arrowmont school in Gatlinburg, Tennessee last summer. I didn't really have a plan when I started so I used some sketches that I had done around the grounds at Arrowmont for inspiration. If you would like to know more about Tommye Scanlin and her amazing tapestry work or Arrowmont school there are links to the right on the blog.

Now that I can look at the last six months or so of tapestry diary I can see that I was very interested in making it personal, taking events from my daily life and finding a way to weave them.  This approach needed quite a bit of thought, and sometimes involved making sketches of my ideas before weaving; in short the project has consumed my tapestry time since it started . Everyday does come around every day though and I can remember remarking to a friend that some days were hummingbird days and others were little dot days!  I needed to find a way to continue my daily practice and also put more energy into some other projects so I have come up with a different approach for this year. Fortunately, a daily practice like this is all about having it your way with no rules except your own and even those can be changed as needed.

Since this will be my first opportunity to weave a full year I decided it would be fun to have the diary all in one piece. Above is a picture of my Le Clerc Gobelin tapestry loom with my warp for the new year and a bit of weaving in progress. Using this loom is giving me the opportunity to have the whole year all in one piece and to become more confident with using leashes for tapestry. If you are curious about warping this loom Rebecca Mezoff has a very informative post about it on her blog which is listed on the right of this blog. Second, I thought it would be great to really explore my palette of Ymmyarns and so I am going to concentrate on the wool palette although I may end up using some silk as well.  Third,  I have planned a design based upon a simple repeating motif that will give each day about 1 inch by 2 inch space but should offer plenty of room for variety and last but most important I am thinking of the project this year more in terms of a daily practice than a diary. My plan is not to have much in the way of pictorial content but more work with color transitions and pattern. It remains to be seen how long I can stick to the plan, but I am hoping that this approach will lead to a smooth transition from the daily practice piece to the larger tapestry. I am going to think of these two projects as a team.

Here is the first day of January, 2013.  The base weaving was put in ahead and the little rectangle is the first day. It will take a pass across the width and back to do a week and about two weeks for the entire repeating pattern to surface.

Of course I will still be fitting in some woven jewelry and the Sheep Breed Sampler tapestry will be my only portable tapestry for a while so I will be catching up with that soon.    It is about one half finished and I still need to spin about twelve different breeds for it so there is some spinning in my future as well. I am pretty excited about getting to work for the new year !

Now I am going to concentrate on lining up some classes and shows for the year and more preparation for the Tapestry Study Group that meets for the first time next week. This will be after the regular Tulsa Handweavers Guild meeting and if you would like more information just use the Tulsa Handweavers link to the right.

 I'm wishing y'all steady progress towards your aspirations for the new year!


  1. It makes me happy to see you at your loom in front of The Mango Hunters! Somehow I feel this is the year for that lovely artwork to come to fruition. I wish all the best. Thanks for your deep reflection on approaches to the tapestry diary. This gives me courage to begin my own!

    1. Thank you Margaret, it makes me happy too! I did my little piece of diary today and moved right on to MH .

  2. Janette,
    I started the new year similarly, getting my loom warped and ready for a tapestry diary. It always takes longer than I think it will but oh well. It's still easier and faster by far than warping a shaft loom. I do have one question about basic technique, though. I have followed your suggestion of using a piece of mat board to build the foundation at the beginning of a tapestry. When I do this, I experience the problem that there is nothing to beat against because my Mirrix is not equipped with a bottom coil, so the board slips and is hard to keep level. Any suggestions?

  3. Good point Margaret, the presence of the bottom bar helps support my mat board even if there is no coil in it. If the mat board is tall enough to clear the bottom bar try pushing it down in front of the bar and then I usually do a row of twining before I begin. There is nothing wrong with using the three thread method start but i find the mat board method is easier on my hands, stays very straight and makes spacing of the threads easier too!

  4. Hi Janette,
    Mango Hunters is so impressive! I know what you mean when a piece just won't let you go. I have one like that too, that means too much, I decided it will be woven off this year.
    I also hear your voice resonate with the Tapestry Diary, that it's showing up to do the work that gets it done. I'm still working on mine pretty intensely, but I'm choosing to do that because it's my way to study Tapestry right now. But as you say the rules can change anytime. I do find although I'm putting in the hours on the TD, I'm moving to the other projects more readily. Once you start moving , I guess!
    Enjoyed your blog, you are a thoughtful writer as well as a awesome tapestry artist!

    1. Hi Cathie,
      Thanks so much for stopping by, it means a lot to hear that what I'm writing may resonate with someone else. Here is hoping we both get our hard to let go of projects woven this year! It will be interesting to compare notes about our TD work too.