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My tech holiday

It’s been six months since I left my job at the Bookmark. A lot has happened. I’ve been trying to find new, more sustainable rhythms in my life, but like everyone else, life happened while I was making other plans.

Last fall, I started teaching a tapestry weaving class at the OLLI program here.  It’s been very successful and a lot of fun.  We shifted to an online format in March because of the pandemic and I spent my time shifting handouts and tutorials to Thinkific and holding weekly sessions on Zoom as I also continued to work on Vibrant Vessels, which is evolving nicely, if slowly.

I came down with bronchitis around this time, the second bout in less than 12 months, so by late April, I was getting very tired and as much as I love teaching and developing courses, I knew that by the end of the semester I would need a break, so for the first two weeks of June, my computer stayed off, I stayed pretty much offline and did my best not to think about anything but my own studio work.

I say ‘pretty much’ because it was difficult not to at least keep up with the news headlines about Covid and then the protests, but I limited myself to 30 minutes of news a day, didn’t check my email for two weeks and stayed off social media—which I don’t use that much, but it all adds up. After a day or two of adjusting, I didn’t miss it at all.  And, my mind began to unclench and relax. Time began to expand. It’s not just that I had more of it because I wasn’t online and on the computer, but my organic sense of time reawakened.  And, I began dreading the 15th when I’d be getting online again.

I have been back online for two weeks now.  I don’t start up my computer until the afternoon, which leaves my mornings free for weaving and other studio work and I stay unplugged all weekend. This has reduced my anxiety a lot because I’m not checking on ‘things’ many times throughout the day. I’m still anxious of course but it feels more manageable now. I have stuck to my 30-minute limit on news each day fairly well, with a couple of relapses.  I have cleared my email inbox by unsubscribing to most of the website lists I was on and now get about 35 emails a day instead of the 150 a day I was getting.  Best of all, I have actually completed a weaving just for me!

Here it is:

desert Solitude 1a

I call it Desert Solitude.  It’s small (about 4″ x 6″) and based on a painting I did years ago (a blurry photo of a photo along with some of the yarns I used, but you get the idea)

inspiration

I think it turned out fairly well.  This was a color study for a larger, more complex weaving I have in the back of my mind.  But, that’s for another day.

What am I doing now?  I am back to Vibrant Vessels with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm.  I have another weaving on my 8 shaft Jane loom—a set of towels I started a year and a half ago to learn 8 shaft weaving.  Once they are off the loom, I will transfer a twill tapestry from my 4 shaft floor loom to the Jane.  (The floor loom became too difficult for me to use with my joint issues and my wonderful husband gave me the Jane for my 60th birthday.)  I also have a new coil piece bubbling about in my brain—so many good things ahead!

My fervent prayers and good wishes to you and your families.  Take care.

 

 

 

January 2020

It’s been a long three months since I last wrote here.  My health has been faltering for more than a year now…more like two if I’m honest.  I have asthma and arthritis–both manageable on their own, but in tandem, they make life challenging sometimes.  At 61, I’m not as resilient as I once was; it takes me a lot longer to bounce back when I get overdone and that’s been happening a lot.  I finally decided I had to quit my job at the bookstore, which I loved, but I just couldn’t keep up with it physically.  I started at 4 days a week, went down to 3 in 2018 and last May went down to 2 and I still couldn’t keep up.  Too tired, too weak, too much pain.  I should have stopped last spring, but I’m stubborn and I always think that “tomorrow will be better”.  Which is generally true if you aren’t pushing yourself to the brink daily.  The brink has been getting closer and closer lately and I was in danger of falling over, so I finally accepted something had to go.  I really miss it, but that’s the way it goes….

I have been home now for 5 weeks. I have started exercising again almost every day and I’m getting a lot more sleep.  I’m up to almost a mile a day on my exercise bike, which isn’t much, but it’s a lot for me right now.  I am constantly balancing pushing myself and staying just within the bounds so I don’t get sick.  The winter weather is always a challenge–cold, dry, windy–but I am making slow, incremental progress toward better health.

I have been doing some writing and I am working on my online classes, but the progress there is also slow.  I realized that I need to do a lot more work before the classes will be ready.  I went back to the drawing board and reworked the  concept completely a couple of weeks ago because I realized I was leaving a lot of things out–things that I have covered in person that need to be written out and imaged.  There will now be an introductory basics course with one basket for those that have never done coiled basketry and either aren’t sure they will like it or for “craft dabblers” who just want to do one basket.  For those who are interested in more fully experiencing coiled basketry, there will be two more comprehensive courses in Shaped Baskets and Open Bowls.  These will both incorporate the basics in the intro course, but will have a wider scope and will include patterns for several baskets as well as a section on design.   I am also looking into different materials for  both cordage and yarns. I have a set of go-to materials I like, but I will be doing samples of different materials so students can choose what most appeals to them.  When I have more of those samples done, I will share them here.

As for my own creative work, I am planning to get back to the lionfish and finish it.  I have a warp on my loom I want to finish–a set of towels I started in the fall of 2018 to play with a new loom my husband gave me for my 60th birthday.  I have two coiled pieces bouncing around in my head that I want to do and a tapestry that’s bouncing in there too.  In addition to working on my health, I am trying to set aside at least one day a week for my studio work, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe this week…

So, that’s where things stand right now.  I hope to get the first class up soon and I apologize for the wait.  I am always working on things in my head, but my body can only do so much.  

I hope all of you have a wonderful year and I will keep you posted here on what I’m doing.

 

New pages, New Projects

I am still working on my Lionfish–got hung up on the fins, but I think I finally have that solved.  The inaugural exhibit of Save the Reef was this month in Wyoming and we are still looking for our next venue.  If you have any ideas, please let me know! I’ll get back to work on the lionfish soon.

September and October were busy with classes.  I taught a tapestry weaving class for the OLLI program at UTEP and a mini-workshop in Reading and Writing Weaving Drafts for my weaving guild in Las Cruces.  Great fun! And, there are twelve new weavers in the world!!

Today, I added a Shop page on the site so that I can sell my work from here.  I have been using ArtizanMade for several years, but it developed some difficulties and the woman running the site has turned her attention to a brick-and-mortar store in Paducah, KY.  She has several of my pieces there and I’ve also listed them here.  

Now, I’m turning my attention to an exciting new project, an online course in my coiled basketry techniques! I’ve been thinking about this for a while and started working on it this summer. I have taught workshops in the past and have been working on a book off and on for a number of years. I have taught anthropology courses online, too. And, though I wasn’t sure about it at first, I found online teaching is a great way to work one-on-one with students. So, I decided I’d like to try teaching coiled basketry online.  I will be launching my new course, Vibrant Vessels Creative Coiled Basketry, soon.

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I think this will be a great format for teaching coiled basketry.  It’s difficult to teach as much as you want in the limited time you have in a workshop setting and  this will allow students to work at their own pace while having one-on-one feedback from me.  

I will be adding a page on this website with more details and a link to the teaching platform I’ll be using.  I’m still in the learning curve when it comes to creating videos and I’m working on samples but hope to have it together before too much longer.  So much to learn! 

If you’d like to be added to an email notification list about this course, drop me a line at LBKFiberArts@gmail.com or use the Contact page here.

Hope your holidays are merry and bright this year!

A new direction; a new focus

For quite a while, my art practice was drifting. I didn’t quite know what the next phase was going to be about and I felt like I was just repeating myself–doing the same piece over and over without moving forward.

Last year, I worked on a piece that was inspired by some photos a friend sent us of the hibiscus she grew on her patio when she was living in California.  It started as just another piece and I set it aside because, again, I felt like it was just another piece in different colors. But, I picked it up again and began playing with the shaping. And, it became this…

111718112611171811271117181127b The piece originally made me think of the happy glow I would feel thinking about the Pacific Coast, but I had to put it aside a second time during the terrible wildfires there because it was too painful to think about the destruction and devastation.  When I finished it, I realized that it had become a symbol for me of the two sides of nature–the peace and beauty side and the destructive power side.  I have named it Coastal Glow.  We can love the beauty of nature but we must never lose sight of her power.

When I returned to work on the piece, I began to see a new avenue for my work.  I have always focused my process and designs on positive energies, beauty and grace which are still very important to me in my work.  Now, I have added a new element, a new focus to the work:  I realized that it is necessary to not only balance the many negative energies in the world with art that focuses on positive energies, I need to add my voice to the work necessary to advocate for change.

About this time, I happened upon a message from Doris Florig about a five year traveling fiber art exhibition to create global awareness about the degradation and destruction of coral reefs and other ocean ecosystems.  I joined the Save the Reef  team and I am creating a lionfish for the project.20190407_11565020190416_07484120190627_15185720190627_151904

This has been the most challenging piece I have ever worked on.  The raw cordage you see sticking out along the edges will become the ribs of the fins of the lionfish.  There are still several technical issues to overcome and I am not sure how I will solve them, but I will.

I am really excited about this new direction in my work.  I know I have been radio silent for quite a while, mostly because I was in this internal struggle about the lack of direction I was feeling and I have had continued health challenges that interfere with my productivity.  I keep moving forward little by little, knowing I will eventually get there.

Many years ago, I came up with a phrase: Patience plus persistence equals perseverance.  The patience is hard to come by some days but I am persistent.  And, the work, though slow, keeps me sane and brings me joy.

I hope that your work and life bring you some joy today!

 

Summer days

It’s amazing to me how fast time moves. I don’t know if it’s me or the world, but it moves too fast most of the time.   Years ago, when I was experimenting with writing poetry–since abandoned–I wrote one short poem with a line that has stayed with me since then: Even on the longest day, nightfall comes too soon.

The main thing that keeps me grounded in this whirlwind is my studio time.  Time slows down here and my thoughts can take their natural, slow winding course, even if only for a few minutes or an hour.

I don’t usually write about things I’m reading etc, but I wanted to share a blog I’ve been following for a while.  Steven Pressfield writes about the process of creating art and he’s been sharing a series of posts the past few months about his new book, The Artist’s Journey.  If you haven’t read him, check it out.  I wanted to share today’s post particularly because he shares an important point about creativity and the journey all of us can take, if we choose.

Best wishes for a more creative life.

A belated Happy New Year!

So, as usual, I am about 2 weeks behind on emails etc and I’m just getting around to doing some New Year’s greetings.

This past year has been transformational with a new job that has allowed me to restructure my thinking and my energies. I am in the studio more–though I still need to do a better job of documenting the work in progress–and I have some exciting new ideas for the work going forward this year.  

Last year, I spent a lot of time on a major writing project that I will share later when it’s a little further along. 

And, I completed a new piece:

Staccato Flow 1 72 px
Staccato Flow 2017

Here’s a piece I completed in 2016:

Long Winding Road 2 72 pix
The Long and Winding Road 2016
Long Winding Road 4 72 pix
The Long and Winding Road 2016

Also, a  nice piece of exposure on the web on HAND/EYE!

I hope this new year will bring you and all those you love good health and happiness!

 

 

 

 

Catching up….again

This year is going by too fast!  Not a great revelation, I know, but it’s where my mind keeps going lately.  For the past week, I’ve been writing July instead of August–just can’t believe we’re in the 8th month of the year already!

I have always felt like a turtle living in a jackrabbit world.  I’m not a quick or bright thinker, everything takes time for me.  Working in a slow medium like fiber suits the way my mind works.  I like letting things simmer and percolate, letting them develop in their own time.  So, it’s probably no surprise that I am still working on a piece I started last November.  It’s nearing completion–I’m working inward on the neck and it should be done by the end of this month….but don’t hold me to that; too many things can get in the way.   

This spring, for instance, I was going strong on this piece when I put it aside to work on research and prep for a workshop/lecture I did on Puebloan weaving in the Southwest in late March.  While I was working on that, I came down with shingles.  Which isn’t so bad if you realize you have it and get to the doctor for anti-virals, but I didn’t know I had ever had chicken pox.  Took a while to get over that! 

While I was recuperating, I got a call to teach an anthropology/archaeology class during the summer session at the community college. This is my ‘day’ job, when I have a job.  I have been despairing of late about not being able to teach on a regular basis and not finding work anywhere I want to live, other than where I live.  Then, the Universe stepped in and gave me a gift.  

I have been volunteering for a couple of years at a non-profit used bookstore in town that supports several branches of our local library.  In mid-June, the person in charge of bookstore operations asked it I’d like to become a part-time co-manager of the bookstore.   I said yes.  I have been working there for a month now and I love it!  To spend my days surrounded by books while helping to support our public libraries is very rewarding.  It’s not a grand job or an ‘important’ job in the sense most people mean today, but I feel like I’m making a real contribution in my community and earning some money to help support my studio work.  

So, my life took another unexpected turn; this time it was a very good one.  I have a work schedule that isn’t too grueling, and a 3 mile commute.  I have time and the mental energy to focus on my studio work when I’m free. And, I’m living closer to my ‘dream’ life than I ever have…a bit scary, but it’s great!

That’s where things are now.  I hope things are well with you.   And, I hope each of you are finding ways to live your dream life, even if it’s only a little bit.  

The Success of Failure

It’s hard to look at a piece you’ve worked many hours on and conclude it is a failure.  Not necessarily a complete failure, but it has missed the mark you set for it by a significant margin.  This is true of the piece I created last year titled, Nascence.

This piece began as a potential commission.  I talked back and forth with the representative for a potential client about what would work for the space and what the client was looking for.  And, I started making compromises.

This first one was about materials.  Now, I have been doing coiled basketry for more than thirty years.  I know my materials, what they can do and what they can’t. And I’ve developed techniques which work well with the materials I choose to use, the most important of which is that I always use two strands of core material side-by-side to give my vessels stability and to facilitate the positioning of each row to create the shape of vessel I want.  Using one strand of core will not do that.

But, the client wanted something that was large and less than 2 inches deep and they wanted it soon.  Starry-eyed about this possible commission for three large pieces in a public space, I compromised and said I could use larger core material and only one strand so that the vessel wouldn’t be too thick.  Using my standard quarter-inch core material creates a thickness of one-half inch.  Using a thicker core—I had decided on three-eighths of an inch—would have created a core of three-quarters of an inch, almost half the depth of the proposed vessels which have meant a very shallow curve to the vessel.  So, I compromised to speed up the work.  Working slowly is one reason I work in fiber—it’s an essential part of the process for me and so speeding up worked against not only my artistic mindset, but compromised my creative process.  I couldn’t make good decisions about this piece because I was hurrying.

Then there was my second mistake.  When I design a new piece, there is some sort of inspirational moment, whether it’s a yarn I like, a color, a phrase of music—there’s always something that excites me and makes me want to create a new piece.  Here, the inspiration was an external request for a specific style of piece, in a specific colorway, and a specific size.  I compromised my design process to fit the client’s wishes.  Or at least, I tried to.

In the end, they decided to use someone else’s work.  Just as well.  I couldn’t have produced one piece, let alone three, in the time allotted.

But, I pressed on with the pieces anyway.  That was my third mistake.

I had an upcoming exhibition deadline and, again, ego got in my way.  I decided I would do this larger piece, larger than I’d ever attempted and I would do it using the new, thicker core material I’d never used before.  But, instead of listening to my inner voice and using two strands as I should have, I pressed on using just one.  And, I decided to use the sketches I had made for the potential commission—just as they were, without critique or rework.  Just Make It!

The result was useful but painful.

Is it a good piece?  I’d give it a B minus at best.

Am I happy with it?  No.  Oh, there are some areas in the piece that turned out well but overall  the design is awkward and weak and the color gradations aren’t as good as I’d like—some places they’re good, others not so much.

Was it worthwhile?  Yes.  Even after more than 30 years, you can still relearn things.  Like: stick with what you’re good at.  Pay attention to your materials.  Most importantly: Listen when you inner voice says, Stop! And rethink what you’re doing here.

Commissions aren’t bad.  You just have to approach them with a strong sense of what your work is about and make sure they want what you do.  Remaking yourself and your work into something that isn’t yours is never a good idea.

Experimentation is essential to growth as an artist.  It is very important as an artist to stretch yourself, try new materials, and try new ideas.  Failure isn’t all bad.  There is success in failure.  Because, you always learn something that you can apply to your next piece, or the piece after that.

But, it is also important to do this as part of your studio practice with no thought about the outcome and especially without planning to use the piece for an exhibition or a commission.  If it turns out well, OK. Show it in public.  If not, you’ve learned what you wanted to know and some things you weren’t expecting, but it was within your studio.  No expectations; No demands.  Just the work.

So, I’m not sorry I made Nascence.  I learned three important things:

1-A thicker core material can help with larger pieces but using two strands is always necessary.  Also, I used sisal cording which was firmer than the jute I am used to.  I thought that would help with stability but it was much harder to work with and much heavier.  So, I will try using thicker jute at some point and see how that works.

2-I advanced my understanding of color blending techniques.

3-I wanted to create a spiral which worked against the natural spiral of the coiled vessel.  This worked in one area but not the other.  I am still interested in exploring this tension but need to do a better job of understanding how to create a spiral against the grain.  More work to do in this area.

Here are some images of Nascence.  What do you think?

Nascence 72 pxNascence 5x7Nascence detail 72 px

New Articles about my work

Hello all,

There is an interview about me and my work on the Arts Business Institute website published today. Also, the upcoming issue of the NBO’s Quarterly Review will have an article about my journey as a basketry artist.

I’m very excited to have my work go out into the world in this way.  Many thanks to Carolyn at ArtsyShark for the ABI interview, and to the editors of the Quarterly Review and the National Basketry Organization.  Support from organizations like these is vital to working artists today!

Spinning plates and Spring’s horizon

We all have so much going on in our lives and it’s hard to keep track/keep up with everything.  I have a spreadsheet with the different projects I’m working on, broken down into manageable steps to help me keep everything straight.  But, it seems every week a new challenge, project, or task arises and I need to rethink my strategies for handling it all.  A lot of the time, I feel like I am managing spinning plates.

When I was growing up, I saw a juggling act on TV where they would spin several plates on thin poles.  It was exciting and scary and that image pops up every once in a while when I feel overwhelmed. (There are a few videos of this on YouTube as well as images and cartoons online—Google ‘spinning plates video’).  What seems most appropriate to me about this image is that the plates are breakable.  Most of us talk about juggling tasks in our lives, but thinking about juggling balls doesn’t really illustrate what we’re feeling; balls don’t break if they’re dropped, but plates do.  In our anxiety, every task seems fragile and breakable and keeping them all spinning seems perilous at times.  And sometimes it is.  If we take a moment to step back from the panic, we can look at all we are trying to do and, hopefully, think more clearly about what is a precious porcelain task and what is a paper plate.  Most of our tasks fall somewhere in between, but you get the idea.

Getting back to my spreadsheet, I learned when I was in graduate school that the only way I would make it is if I quite obsessing about how much I had to do, how many books I had to read and annotate, how many project notes I had to write up.  If I looked at what I had to do TODAY and only today, to map out what I had to do THIS WEEK, I could function.  Not only did my anxiety level go down, but I actually accomplished more.  Multitasking actually works best when you do several things a day, but only one thing at a time.

I don’t have the heavy deadlines and outside expectations I had then, but I do have self-imposed deadlines and long term projects I’m trying to work on.  I have nine anthropological research projects going right now in addition to my coiled and loom studio projects as well as a reading list that will take me another 150 years to complete. I also teach anthropology at the community college when they need me, teach weaving and basketry in the community and volunteer at a non-profit bookstore that supports our local libraries.  Lots of spinning plates.  The spreadsheet really helps!

Spring’s Horizon

Another thing that helps is taking time each day to smell the roses.  An old cliché, but an apt one.  I do this by following the turn of the seasons.  Being an odd duck, I don’t subscribe to the seasons the way most people do; spring does not start for me on March the 21st.  Thinking of the movement of the earth around the sun works a lot better for me.  I think of the calendar and the seasons as a circular round we travel.  March the 21st is the spring equinox, a point on the circle but between the spring equinox and the winter solstice is a midpoint that I think of as spring’s horizon, a point we pass around the 6th of February.  In this round, as in the orbit of our planet, the equinoxes and solstices happen at different points and their horizons are equidistant between them: Feb 6, May 6, Aug 6, and Nov 6.   This probably works better for me in the desert of West Texas than it would for those of you living further north, but I have noticed in the many years I’ve lived here that nature starts waking up around this date.  Over this past week, the birds have begun their mating dances and have started gathering materials for their nests.  The sun’s angle has begun bringing more and stronger sunlight into my northern windows.  When does nature wake up where you are?   When does the sun come in more strongly in your windows?  Take a moment each day to note where the sun is in relation to your home, where you work etc.  Begin to track its yearly round. 

I hope that each of you has developed some way to help you cope with your spinning plates.  Decide what each of your plates is made of. Find a few plates that don’t need to be spinning right now, but make a note of when you need to spin them up again.  And, most importantly, find a way to take a deep, calming breath each day and watch the seasons in their round. 

Peace be with you.