Friday, April 1, 2011

Craig Gallery Tapestry Weaving Project 2011, part #2

Balls of yarn, the beginning is near. One might think that having a hand cranked ball winder rather than a nostepind makes everything happen in a second or two. However, when there are about 43 skeins of yarn one can actually watch several episodes of whatever series one favours at the moment or listen to several podcasts of one's choosing whilst turning the crank and getting all the balls lined up and ready for commencement.

First row of bricks is in. Well first I have a couple of inches woven which will be taken out when the piece comes off the loom, it steadies up the bottom line of the piece and is the removable foundation for the whole tapestry.

 Weaving the first row was exciting, choosing the balls of yarn which looked like they were the ones strong enough to carry the whole piece necessitated a thorough thought-process, but once it felt right it was all pretty straight forward, wind the butterflies for each brick and also for the mortar between the bricks - the glue in the whole piece. 
Then it was time to put in guide threads for the next row of bricks, which had to be contemplated for a little while before they could start their meandering around the warp threads.

I am not the precisest of persons except when I start certain pieces of tapestry, then suddenly I am in full need of guide threads and repetitious counting of warp threads, over and over again, making sure that I am at the precise intersection where I want to be. 

No room for ...... seeing what will happen next ..... right at this moment the next step has to be 'just so'.

Third row of bricks is almost done, still need to put mortar along the top edge so they won't keel over in a windstorm. After that it is time to start the fourth row, but that is close to being one fluid motion now, from one row into the other, my hands and eyes have agreed on how it needs to be done so the many moments of thoughtful deliberation  and hesitation have dwindled quite considerably. Which also bodes well for the 'speed' with which the tapestry can progress from now on. Not that it is a race, but when spending between 6-8 hours on each row of bricks time is still a factor which needs to be part of the equation.
Several layers later it is time to put in the arches - had I chosen to use finer yarns I could have made the arches and the bricks along the top of the arches much more carefully rounded, but..... my hand-spun yarns do have a mind of their own so I have to smile and greet each brick as it takes its own shape and shows me its own special profile and place in the weaving. At one point I thought I had to take it out again, but fortunately a break and a walk brought me back to my senses and my eyes again agreed that it was fine and just the way it ought to turn out. No big adjustments needed at this point in time after all. 
After about each foot of weaving I have to move to the back of tapestry, for it is time to tuck in ends and clean up the not often seen surface. Some weavers leave all the ends, lots of them, I like to tuck them in, and cut them off so they are not in the way and don't interfere with the surface of the piece when it hangs on the wall. It is a nice time and an impatient time, for most usually I am anxious to get on with the next bit of the weaving, and yet, I know that tucking in ends is what must happen. If it is done after the piece comes off the loom it can leave undesirable marks in the weaving and.... I don't want that. So tuck I do with a big darning needle, with a small pair of scissors near by and scrunched up on a little stool between the wall and the loom.
'Artistic freedom' also plays in at this point. I had made the cartoon fairly true to the original photo I had taken of the wall, but when I got to the top part, where there was one row of 'diamonds' only and then a row or ordinary bricks it just didn't feel so right and I had to walk away again. The solution to calming down the voice that was protesting was to allow myself the joy of weaving more than one row of diamonds, I had the pleasure of adding 5 of them + the two half ones at the bottom and the top of this part and then.... all was well, my brain and my fingers could calm down. I did have a discussion (with me) about how many rows of ordinary bricks were needed at the top, one side was three rows for sure and the other kept shaking her head saying, ha, I don't think so. As the one row had been laid, we all had to agree, that ... one was enough. (and please take into account that I was born in the sign of the Gemini so...... we, myself and I have many good discussions always, on many topics!)

Finally Bispebue - Wall is on the living room wall. It got to hang here for a little while before moving to the gallery space at the Craig Gallery, Alderney Landing in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia along with all the other beautiful pieces of artwork from SEVEN, the group I exhibited with in Denmark, August 2010. 

This exhibit Udveksling is up for a month and the opening took place two days ago on March 30, a beautiful spring day and night for the drive to the city (approx 120km away from here for many of the guest who came to celebrate with us)

I love weaving and seeing the colours and feeling the textures and most of all the surprise when the finished tapestries come off the loom, for ...... most often there are expressions in them which I hadn't imagined they just came forth and took shape. 

Happy snowy spring day everyone!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Craig Gallery Tapestry Weaving Project 2011, part #1

Initial spark - this has been smoldering behind a screen somewhere in the grey matter between my ears for years. I first saw this when I visited with my husband's cousin about 10 years ago. It is a piece of wall from a church dated back to the 11th century. It was found in 1905 under an old house  being demolished and instead of just pulling it all down and loosing the story it could tell it was gently taken apart and then re-erected at the town museum in the town of Randers, where it was found.
I love the textures, the shapes, the flow of the bricks and the overall impression of this piece of wall.

In order to properly visualize the tapestry I had to make an initial cartoon. Due to the twists and turns of the brick work in the wall, I needed to clarify for myself where I wanted to go, disregarding colour, only looking at how the pattern and composition would flow, contemplating techniques and methods of weaving to facilitate how to make the piece emerge and develop on the loom.
Working on a cartoon like this does not mean that I stick to it all the way, it merely allows for an insight before the piece is begun of approximately where I would like to go.
The hurdle in tapestry weaving is that it takes a long time to weave a piece bit by bit, and since we go from bottom to top, one has to be pretty sure that the bottom part is right before getting to the top, because once there ...... the only way to make a correction further down is to take all the work out again, which is not very advisable or exciting.

Then I started spinning up a storm, visualizing yarns that would hopefully yield the texture and surface which floated around somewhere in my grey mass. I tried a few different techniques of spinning. I dyed several different wools in the same dye-bath. Since each sheep has a different fleece, just like we have different heads of hair, the different fleeces will take up colour in the same bath slightly differently. When spinning little tufts of this fleece or that, one can then make a slightly variegated yarn - this turned out to be a little too time consuming since I couldn't stop contemplating which red tuft to choose next.
So instead I spun the fleece au natural - washed but not dyed fleece and as I then proceeded to the dyebath, the overdyed yarns emerged with each their special tone and hue.
In order to save a bit of time I also made use of some wonderful tightly spun cones of wool I acquired some years ago. They are a natural white and plying two ends of these commercial singles with one end of my multi-coloured natural hand-spun yarn turned out to give a very round and beautiful yarn, just right for a good tapestry surface. 

Counting on the fact that the multi-coloured skeins would each have their own face of makeup to show off when they got out of the dye bath and were woven into the tapestry was a little bit of a leap of faith, one never really knows.

The skeins folded up to be able to fit in a box before I started the ball winding. The compacted surface of each one more easily interpreted when they were tighter and not so 'stringy' so to behold.

Hay in February!

Captive audience, the dog loves the barn!
It is snowing again and we were running out of hay which would mean very hungry lean ladies in the barn unless we could find a solution. And..... the man in my life did, see, he likes to talk to farmers, ask questions, exchange opinions, points of view, is genuinely interested in how other people sort out their relationship to food productions, nature etc.
Thus, when he was at the feed store a week ago he asked around and someone in there knew someone who had second cut hay for sale. Second cut is the better leafier hay for sheep, their absolute favorite, whereas horses are apt to eat a much more varied mix of grass straw and leaves.
Delicious texture and green smell!
So this past Saturday the cap came off the truck and we set out on the icy roads, with a bit of snow on the wind shield. Not too much fortunately but still, it was not a clear day.
We went a little further down the valley and met with a farmer. He is no longer keeping animals but cuts hay every year on his pastures and we were benefiting from his enjoyment of tractor driving.
Unloading at home!

As it was we loaded 50 bales of hay on the truck in 4 or 5 layers, very artistically and well balanced, it was all strapped down and then we headed home again, past the little pond where the fishermen have their little icefishing huts and past the fields where the cattle were gathering around the round hay bales seeking nourishment and energy for producing warmth in the not so friendly weather.

Fortunately it was only about a 20 minute drive to get back to the house and so the wet snow flakes were not able to make all the dry hay soggy before we managed to get it into our own barn at home.
And why am I talking about hay, well, this is the first  part of the fibre and texture adventure I live every day.
Queen of the Castle, left as soon as the flash went off!

These days I am working on a tapestry which is part of our next SEVEN show. Opening day is March 30th in Dartmouth. Some of the wool used in this tapestry is wool from my own ladies in the barn or their off spring from last year and so letting the yarns and textures slide through my hands as I am working also brings me around to visualizing myself swinging many bales of hay down from the hayloft to my husband on the back of the truck, watching him arrange them safely for transportation home.

The circles in our lives are interconnected into colourful strings of fun, tiresome, inspiring beads of happiness, sweat and enjoyment. Everything depends on something else, whether we remember it every minute of every day or not. But such it is, and it is lovely to acknowledge and embrace this fact of life.

This piece was written a while back and today is actually the day of the opening of the show Udveksling/Exchange at the Craig Gallery in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. It will be fun! And by the way, the sheep are full and contend, enjoying every bale of hay we give them!