Sunday, May 31, 2009

Arts Demonstrations at The Studio Gallery

Over this past Friday and Saturday, five members of The Studio Gallery participated in demonstrating some facets of their arts as part of the Artists Interactive program.

Amy Higgason, Pigeon Road Pottery, was working on clayboard, carving the type of designs she puts on her pottery. Each year, The Studo Gallery has a new two-sided bookmark printed with all the participating artists listed on it. This year, Amy did the graphic design work using this type of carving. Beautiful!

Wendy Powalisz, Back 40 Arts, does watercolors and makes beaded jewelry, and had set up to demonstrate watercolor painting. Last year's bookmark featured a watercolor painting by Wendy.

Kathleen Kimball, Salmagundi Arts, is a collage artist and soapmaker. On Saturday, however, she was working in The Studio Gallery. During slow times, she joined us out front in the sun and sat knitting on a sweater. I love how all these artists are known for particular areas of art, yet surprise you with what else they enjoy doing!

Louise Engelbrecht, Black Squirrel Studio, painter and weaver, had brought a table loom and sat threading the heddles. Unfortunately, she left early in the afternoon before we brought out the cameras.

I had been asked to bring my sock machine with, so I spent the two days making socks on the 1908 Gearhart Sock Knitting Machine and showing how the toes are closed by hand. People really seem to enjoy watching the process and asking questions. Most have never seen a sock machine before, but occasionally someone recalls a family member using one long, long ago.

The sun was shining both days, and though it was cool and windy both days, we all had a great time talking and laughing together. We will be demonstrating various arts again June 26-28. Artists Interacting!

Family First This Week

This post is a short departure from weaving and fibers, my usual focus for this blog. This was a week for putting family first.

Sarah, my oldest daughter, and I left one week ago today, for a four day trip to southern WI, first visiting my parents in Janesville then spending time with my brother Mark and fiance Trina who live in Madison. Mark has a very cute home, and lovely yard they have been fixing up and where they will be married in September.

A previous owner had planted a lilac tree under each bedroom window, so while sleeping there one night, I kept my window open a couple inches despite a light, occasional rain, and the fragrence of lilac was wonderful, reminding me of a lilac tree we had when I was a child.

While in Madison, Sarah registered for fall classes at MATC where she is entering the Veterinary Technician program (2 years). As MATC does not have dorms we had one day to find her a place to live, and signed a one year lease for an apartment. In a few weeks we'll start moving her down there. My oldest is leaving the nest.

On the way home we stopped by Nicolet Area Technical College, where Sarah has been a student for the past two years. The flowering crabs on the drive in are beautiful.

Taking an alternate road home we found Trillium in bloom and ferns unfurling.

We returned home to spring in the Northwoods of WI.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gallery Metamorphosis

This past Wednesday, a few of the eleven artists in The Studio Gallery (2009) gathered to clean inside, do a bit of yardwork in our fenced area, and set up/display/hang the works for this year.

This was what I found when I arrived before mid-morning, nearly bare shelves, bare walls, and a layer of winter's dust. So we set to work, windows were washed inside and out, shelves scrubbed, carpet vacuumed, small bins of "office supplies" organized, bags counted, and the little yard raked and ready for planting more herbs. Then pottery was unpacked and set out, paintings carried in and decisions made on where they would be hung, textiles set out, and by mid-afternoon we were nearly done.

Yesterday was our opening day and as Wendy is away, I spent the day at the gallery. Though it is Memorial weekend, Boulder Junction was fairly quiet yesterday. This photo shows the results of our work on Wednesday, the The Studio Gallery is looking good, and everyone will be bringing more work in throughout the summer and fall.

My basket of towels looking nice together on the shelf, but my antique towel drying rack at home is nearly empty, it's time to weave up a few more.

It's going to be a busy summer of weaving towels, runners, and rugs, cranking socks, working on the drawloom, as well as working at two galleries, the Artists Interactive demos and open studio day, along with the Northwoods Art Tour. I've been waiting a long, long time for this, and now it's time to make it all happen!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The War Within

Sometimes, I wonder how many other weavers are at war with themselves, have internal conflict, particularly those who weave or do creative work to sell.

Weaving began for me with fascination with looms and the processes of weaving, and my passion for weaving has grown over the past 28 years. However, the reasons for what I weave have changed over the years.

My weaving and sock cranking have now become a business. It's that time of year again, when I am working hard to create more weaving (and socks) that will be for sale over the next several months. I have commitments, deadlines, and yet I continue to be drawn to the areas of weaving I wish to pursue.

I do enjoy what I make to sell, the batik runners, cottolin towels and table runners, working with color, and don't think I could sit and weave endlessly things I didn't enjoy making.

But, there is also a part of me that wants to pursue the areas of weaving that I want to learn far more about, specifically, drawloom/damask, and weaving with finer threads, areas I want to pursue because that is where my personal interest lies.

Hence, the "war" within myself, and what I "want" vs. "need" to do. Right now, it's more of a balancing act, with the scale tipping away from "want" for awhile, to what I "need" to do for this time of year, and commitments made. Time is the issue.

I do enjoy weaving for the home. My rustic, log home and studio are a bit unique, cozy, and made all the better with the addition of handwoven and handcrafted items, whether weaving, quilting, stitchery, or other forms of handwork. I enjoy creating works that will enhance homes, bring a sense of warmth and quality so often missing today.

My goal is to reach a point where the two parts of my weaving life can merge, that there will be a market for the kind of weaving I love doing, and that is what I will be working toward. Yes, it will be even more time intensive, but I want to try. While I work on getting the drawlooms ready to weave on, I continue working with color, structure, design, and bringing the two sides of my weaving life closer to where I wish to go with my weaving.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rustic Twill Towel & More Socks

This is the latest towel, woven straight twill treadling 1-10, with a nubby linen/cotton blend weft which gave a very nice rustic, slightly tweedy look to this one. I'm nearing the end of my warp, enough left for one or two more towels or one runner, which is good because I am more than ready for a change.

Over the years I've purchased two or three antique towel drying racks, in anticipation of someday having open studio days and knowing I would need a way to display handwoven towels. This morning, we hung up one of the antique racks as I wanted to see the towels all hanging together.

The antique drying racks are also useful for displaying skeins of handspun yarns as well as various handwovens. I have another rack with longer "arms," so am now looking around for a safe place to hang it where people won't walk into it and poke themselves.

Last night after hemming and pressing the towel, I steamed six more pairs of CSM socks (they had already been handwashed and had dried on a wood rack near the woodstove) for The Studio Gallery, with many more to come. I believe these are new color combinations (I need to check my records), and will need to come up with new names for them.

I know the group at The Studio Gallery would like some new, colorful woven (batik fabric) table runners, like the one above, "Tigers in the Garden" (now in my mother's home), so I will likely warp up the countermarche loom for those next, as I have a lot of fabric strips cut, sewn, pressed, ready to weave.

I'm overdue for getting back to work on the drawloom, but the push is on right now for getting more weaving and socks done for The Studio Gallery, for open studio days here, as well as for the new gallery opening in mid-June. Once I'm a bit more caught up,...

We had a few little snowshowers yesterday in the northwoods, and the woodrange in the kitchen was burning all day. We're usually done with woodheat by the end of April so this is unusual even for here. We had some wood left as a start on the coming winter's wood supply, and hope we won't need to use too much more. I expect we'll be firing up the woodstove again later this evening to warm the house up for overnight colder temps.

Wildlife sightings yesterday included an eagle, a couple deer, and late in the evening, a fox crossing the road. I'm not sure, but I believe the phoebe bird has once again built her nest on the topmost log on the east side of the house. Now, if we can just keep the squirrels out of it! The mob of chickadees, goldfinches, housefinches, nuthatches, and woodpeckers are eating us out of house and home. Two chipmunks (one of the large variety, one of the small), often work their way into the garage and consider the 50 lb. bag of sunflower seeds as their own private stash. Yesterday, we managed to thwart their way in. I really must get those seeds into a metal garbage can!

Friday, May 15, 2009


I am a handweaver. For me this means, as much as possible, preparation processes and weaving are done by hand. I do not have a dobby loom, or a computer-driven loom, not even a fly shuttle, and most likely never will. I prefer weaving without all these mechanical aids, and have no interest or desire in adding them to my studio.

I want to be intimately involved in my weaving, mind, body, spirit, with as little hardware as possible coming between myself and the fabric produced. I prefer pencil and paper for keeping records of my weaving, and keeping them, along with samples, in a notebook. I like having sketchbooks that I can carry with me for keeping ideas, notes, and drawings of possible weavings. I enjoy doing research as needed to accomplish what I want to produce, or simply to learn.

I love the quietness of my Swedish looms, soft clacking of wood, silence of Texsolv or string heddles, the whisper of a shuttle passing through the shed. In winter, quiet music playing; in summer, open windows, birdsong and the wind in the pines.

My Glimakra countermarche loom is ten shaft, twelve treadle, and I work within those limits. The single unit drawloom has ten ground shafts and ten treadles, but with the drawcords will allow me to weave nearly anything within the limits of the width of the loom and the number of drawcords available. They are enough to keep me weaving for the rest of my life, and with the great pleasure of being handweaving.

I have memories of looms and textiles seen long ago in Scandinavia; memories of looms and spinning wheels in museums in New England, as well as memories of antique looms and coverlets that were at The Looms in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, where I learned to weave. Simple equipment used to accomplish beautiful weaving, taking the time it takes. I am working now, weaving what I see in my mind's eye, and creating new memories.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Marketing ~ Bio & Brochure

Last year, the artists at The Studio Gallery were to create a "bio" page to be framed and hung on the outside wall of the gallery, to the right of the door. I was so busy making socks all last summer and fall I never did get one made.

This morning I realized I needed a bio page in two weeks and went to the computer with no clue how to go about it. I opened Microsoft Picture It! Photo 7.0, found where I could create a flyer, and went to work, figuring out how to add, re-size, and move text and photos, and so on. I decided on simplicity, keeping photos and text of a reasonable size (not everyone's eyes are young!), and by 11 AM had a draft that would just need a bit of tweaking. Thankfully, that job is almost done.

Since I had what I considered to be a reasonable success this AM, I decided this afternoon to start on a brochure for Shuttle Works Studio, something I need finished and printed in about three weeks. Using the same program, I again added text, photos, re-sized, tweaked, and have a decent draft of a brochure. It will be a tri-fold, printed double-sided.

When printed, the text size was larger than it appeared on the screen, which is why I couldn't get the text and photos as I had originally envisioned. Tonight I am considering readability vs. volume of content, and will likely do another version with smaller print and additional photos, print the second version out, then decide which will work better.

Marketing is not my favorite task, but it was fun working something up for both projects, I think mostly because I was able to figure out the basics of accomplishing this task without the help of my two teens who were not home at the time. However, it was also much needed time away from the loom and sock machine. I may be up late tonight.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gallery Season

The Studio Gallery artists, left to right: Wendy Powalisz ~Back 40 Arts, Shirley Surges, Debra Ketchum-Jircik ~Circle of Life Studio, Amy Higgason ~ Pigeon Road Pottery, Carol Miller (front), Janice Zindel ~ Shuttle Works Studio (back), Kathleen Kimball ~ Salmagundi Arts, Toni Bergeon, and Nancy Shoop. Not pictured: Jane O'Brien and Louise Engelbrecht.

For several years now I have been a part of The Studio Gallery, located behind The Outdoorsman Restaurant in Boulder Junction. Soon, this group of eleven artists will be getting together for a day to clean, paint, and plant, then hang and display our work. The gallery is open Memorial Day weekend and running through the first week of October; this year Wednesday through Saturday, 9 AM to 4 PM. Art at the gallery includes watercolors, acrylics, collage, pottery, fiber arts, quilting, bookarts, and photography. We are looking forward to another year together.

Last fall, there was a movement to begin a new arts group, "Land O' Lakes Artisans" (LOLA), and meetings were held with many area artists/artisans attending. One of their goals was to have a gallery in which to exhibit and sell art work. This past Tuesday a group of working artists met, and after long discussion, knowing there were 20+ artists committed and supportive of this project, it was decided to open a gallery.

The new gallery will be located in a nice, bright, good-size room inside a building owned by Kathy Schuh of Forget-Me-Not Floral, downtown Land O' Lakes. On June 1st we will be there cleaning and painting, art work is to arrive June 3rd, and between June 3rd and June 14th, everything will be hung and displayed. On June 15th, Artistree Gallery will open.

The Artistree Gallery will be a venue for the work of artists and artisans within a 100 mile radius of Land O' Lakes, either full-time or seasonal residents; artwork will be juried in. The artists are also very interested in giving back to the community, including having demonstrations, classes, and other forms of sharing the arts.

So often, people sit back and wait for something to be a success before becoming involved. It is exciting to see so many artists willing to commit to this venture in these economic times. May the new Artistree Gallery be a success this summer and for many years to come.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More Towels ~ Variations on a Theme

These are the latest two twill towels off the loom. The blue border towel turned out very nicely, I feel, with a much wider border and smaller solid twill center. I was getting low on that particular tube of natural cottolin (same as warp) and needed to stretch it so it wouldn't run out before the towel was done. Now I'll simply switch to natural in another brand of cottolin.

The red border towel is the one I wrote about the other day when red dye bled into the adjoining white/natural. After two washes in hot water and Retayne, then one wash in hot water and Synthrapol, you would have to look very closely to find any red except where it IS supposed to be. Nevertheless, I will be adding the dye magnet sheets, recommended by four weavers, to my laundry room supplies.

There appears to be enough warp left for another one or two towels so it's time to seriously start deciding on the stripe layout for the next warp and do the math. I'll be at the warping mill before too long.

This is one of the latest pairs of sock machine (CSM) socks made, and also turned out nicely. The violet color is one I didn't have before, and combined it with eggshell and moss for a nice "Springy" pair of socks.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Love Blue, but I'm Seeing Red Where I Shouldn't!

Tonight I'm working on another twill towel, and have gone back to a Swedish Berga cottolin in another shade of blue and treadling it differently as I have for each towel, so though they are all coming off the same warp, each towel is one-of-a-kind.

As I wrote awhile back, this is a 10 shaft twill. This time treadling is 1-5, 10-6, varying the repeats so I can change sides I begin and end colors on.

The other day I was working on another twill towel, this time with Borgs red cottolin for the accent/border color. However, when I washed the towel, the red had run, in spots, into the white along the edge of the border. It looked okay when it came out of the washer, but when removed from the dryer, there were definite pink spots. This red was definitely not colorfast.

Tonight, the red border towel became an experiment. It went into the washer with Retayne and hot water. When the cycle was done, I looked and though there was still a bit of pink it did look better. After a second wash with Retayne, it again looked a bit better. With the third wash I added Synthrapol, again with hot water. Soon I will check it again and hopefully toss it into the dryer. I'll let you know how it comes out.

As the labels on the Synthrapol and Retayne bottles suggest possible cancer issues, I had not wanted to use it on a towel that might be used in a kitchen. When it became an experiment to see if the towel could be saved, I set those concerns aside. This particular towel will not be sold because of what was used on it. The Borgs red cottolin? It's in the trash. I do have some Berga red cottolin and will try that on the next towel and will report on that, too.

Passing It Forward

A few weeks back an email from a complex weaver and fellow member of the CW Double Harness Study Group arrived in my Inbox, announcing to the group she would be retiring from weaving, and would be selling her looms and weaving library. I was torn between feelings of sadness for her, and my interest in what weaving books she might have. I finally decided to write and ask her about them, and a few days later a list of books arrived in my (snail) mailbox.

Oh My! I've been aware of and following weaving books for 28 years, but this list had titles of books I had heard of but never seen before as well as books I had never heard of. I made the decision to purchase the majority of titles on her list, along with cones of 10/2, 16/2, and 20/2 threads for use on the drawloom, and a couple shuttles.

Today, four of seven boxes arrived in the mail, and opening them was such a treat! Several Swedish weaving books I had never seen before, a couple complex weaving books I'd been hoping to find, and dozens of reproductions (or copies) of early weaving books, along with 14 mailing envelopes full of Complex Weavers Early Weaving Books and Manuscripts study group newsletters and sample sheets, complete with drafts, threads used, source of draft, etc., 1993 - 2008 (samples below).

The samples are incredible!!! I've only paged through five of the envelopes so far, and tomorrow will spend more time with them. Joining that study group has long been a wish, but as I only had three or so reproductions of this type of book, I hadn't pursued it. Needless to say, I wrote the study group leader this evening about joining. I am looking forward to begin learning another new (to me) area of weaving.

All through this, Nastche Milan and I have been exchanging wonderful emails, and she is now enjoying two pairs of my wool socks, as a thank you gift. Happily, she is keeping a table loom as she would like to continue doing some weaving.

In the past, I have occasionally looked ahead to the day when I will have to give up my looms, spinning wheels, and weaving/fibers library, and I hope and pray it is a long time off. The older I get, the faster time seems to go by and lately I feel very aware of how limited my time for weaving might be and how much I want to do and learn yet.

So tonight, I am feeling so very thankful this opportunity crossed my path. I will be putting these incredible resources to good use, both in learning, and weaving, and someday they will be passed forward to another weaver. Thank you, Nastche, you are a treasure!