Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tapestry at Acadia Art Gallery

Last night we went to the opening at the Acadia Art Gallery in Wolfville. The title of the show is 'Large/small - experiments with scale.
Since sometime before Christmas 2008 I had had a thought in my head that I wanted to weave a tapestry to submit to this show. There really was no excuses, I have a tapestry loom of a good size and I have access to all the raw materials I can ever desire (on the fleece/wool front at least =-)
So this is where it started when the tapestry really began to take form, shape and shade of colour.
Item #1 the tapestry loom was warped and ready to go.
Item #2 in on this list was 1 black sheep

Well, perhaps the fleece for the back ground was from this ewe, perhaps from one of the many other black young sheep I have or have had on my farm. This is what it looks like when the sheep has been sheared and the fleece has been washed, part of the process I take the fibres through before I can spin it all up.

Then of course there is carding the fleece and hours of spinning on one of my spinning wheels, a very enjoyable and immensely gratifying part of the process. In the end I have beautiful skeins of wool, which I can use for weaving the final expression of my thoughts.

Sometimes I make a small sampler so I can better decide where I want to go with this next piece

Although making a sampler does not mean that the finished piece will look exactly like my first attempt, it is more about the idea and the feeling for the shapes and then .... one never really knows where this will go - I always try very hard to make good decisions from the start, but the weaving and the colours and the shapes always choose their own way as the piece gets going.

When weaving a tapestry, it is almost like playing with Lego - if you want to build a wall for a house or a bridge or anything you have to work steadily from the bottom up, exactly the way it is with tapestry weaving.

Start at the bottom and go up, up, up - 'building' the back ground, the image, the shapes, in the end it all comes off the loom and is most usually a happy surprise.

For a while I had thought a lot about acorns, their shape, size and colour and I decided that the Large/small - experiments with scale was a perfect place to give it a go. Also as I was visualizing acorns I thought about the story about Chicken Little who had an acorn fall on her head and she thought the sky was falling and the world was coming to an end. Her world didn't collapse, and probably ours won't either just now, but how many acorns would it take for us to wake up and at least pay a little attention to what is going on around us, human to human, human to environment, environment into food ..... the list goes on - however, my stash of words have been used up for today so thank you for reading this - and I hope you enjoy the photos and the story of the process of a tapestry coming into being.

Morning sounds

It is a special treat to wake up these days.
The sun shines through the curtains and cracks of same and makes inspiring patterns on the wall by our bed.
And as the eyes wake up to beauty so do the ears. The ears don't always know what it is they are hearing but - once the brain is engaged often the right answer comes along.
For instance I woke up the other morning wondering what the incessant twitter and multi-layered sound/song was which was playing on my eardrums. Engage brain and a big smile spread on my face - the barn swallows were back! We have a telephone and electrical connection line going from close to our bedroom window to the post at the road and what I was hearing was the balancing swallows in their morning praise of the new day. 'oh yeah' says hubby - 'I think they are working on a nest in the horse barn!'
Information like that puts a great big grin on my face - it is a treat and a privilege to be able to share our 'homestead' with creatures of all kinds.
Listening to the sounds right outside my living room window the other night as I was watching ...... well, probably CSI or something - felt a little creepy - what was that scratching and chewing and humming - well, I didn't think about it, for it is still May, but when my partner in crime came back from frog counting with his student and I told him to listen, he laughed and said 'June Bugs' and then the recognition was instant and the 'spooky' part evaporated at once.
Walking last night we smiled at the trills of the American toads by the neighbour's pond - this toad has the most beautiful insistent long line of trills - in the medium sound scape, not too shrill like the spring peepers (who are delightfully noisy by my friend Marilyn's house) and not like the deep drum of the bull frogs when they start their love song. American toad song is just right, right now.
These are sounds of spring and summer being right outside our doorsteps and they give me an extra little spring in my steps.
Then there are all the domesticated creatures, the alarmingly talkative guinea hens - who have opinions all day long, the rooster who has to tell people no matter what time of day that this is his territory - last night, the good old grunting Bucephalus the horse busy scratching his belly, laying down on the rest of the large hay bale, legs curled up a bit, rocking back and forth to reach that particular part of the breastbone which is not so easy to reach when you are a horse - the lambs talking to ewes - the ewes talking to me, assuring me that they have not had enough of anything yet, and could I please move their fence again, to greener pastures!
Last but not least the other neighbour finishing up mowing his lawn this morning - it is big, and we saw him driving up and down when we listened to the singing toad last night and heard him first thing at 6.05am - doing the finishing laps - it was early, but I appreciate his eagerness to finish up since today is going to be one warm, bright and intense early summer day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sh(e)aring sheep and learning experiences

When it is spring the sheep get shorn - every year, sometimes earlier on (April) sometimes later on (June). This year the shearer made it to my house in the second week of May and it happened to also coincide with a day of learning about fibre which had been organized for four nine year-old boys from a local school.
They arrived ready to roll at 8.30 in the morning - fresh out of bed and off the bus eager to see what this day would bring of excitement.
I showed them the drum carder - they picked carefully at the washed brown fleece from last year which I had dug out of the piles for the occasion. I don't think they had ever felt fleece before - but the eyes were big as they turned the crank and saw the transformation from locks to carded bat - all the fibres lined up and much softer and fluffier in the bat than in the locks.

Just after 9am the shearer arrived. He set up his clipper, and I sat the boys on their bottoms on chairs and a bench just outside the shearing area. One by one (I have five ewes) the sheep were brought to the shearer, he flipped each one to sit on her tail and proceed to shear down over the belly, around the udder, hind legs, out onto the sides and then from top of head down towards the sides again and finally the last clip along the length of the back - then each boy helped me pick up a fleece, wrap it in a sheet and they got to take a handfull of deliciously greasy, damp and warm fleece. Their eyes were big - a ewe squeezed herself through their chairs and went grazing on the lawn rather than going back in to her babies in the pasture. One boy looked seriously at me and said that he was going to take better care not to let another one sneak through and he moved his chair very close to the fence to make sure the 'hole' was no longer there.

As the last ewe was loosing her fleece to the clippers the shearer stopped and offered that if anyone wanted to try, they could come up and hold on to the shearers and try what it felt like. I must admit my heart almost stopped those shearers are darn sharp and my precious ewes have tender skin - but, he knew what he was doing, that shearer of mine and he showed the two boys who wanted to try very carefully how to slide the instrument through the fleece and --- it went smoothly, no nicks or cuts and I could breathe smoothly again.
After shearing everyone had a while to play with a drop spindle and some fleece and each boy managed to spin enough that we could fold the single back on itself and they had quite an impressive length of yarn to keep as a treasure in their pockets.
Then it was time for juice and washroom break in my house and my little stone/copper fountain from the Coppermeadow was a great hit, nothing like running water in your living room to keep kids of many ages entertained. It didn't hurt that the two budgies, Blue and Green were very happy to have company they participated enthusiastically in all the chatter.

Before the boys and their two teachers went home again they had a go on my table loom, - well, one of them was so saturated with impressions that he just went to sit in the car by himself, two others exclaimed as they were weaving - oh, I could do this all day! And it made my heart and my face smile, for they really were enjoying it and even boy #3 had a great big grin on his face as he changed the shed and sent the shuttle from one side to the other - it is kind of magic to see a piece of fabric growing right in front of your very eyes.
I had a fun morning too, teaching kids, being at the forefront when you see the lights go on in their eyes with happiness and eagerness for learning more is a precious and very gratifying experience.