week 3 - i've got the sweetest hangover

bliss [noun] -

1. complete happiness: perfect happiness

2. spiritual joy: a state of spiritual joy

cereus expectations

This is how I've been feeling since attending the artist's reception for the Queen of the Night & Sea of Cortez exhibits at Tohono Chul this past Thursday evening. And the hangover is from sheer excitement, not alcohol or illicit substances (those days are long over!). It was the first reception I have been able to attend as a participating artist-- I have 2 tapestries included, 1 in each exhibit... cereus expectations & desert island- espíritu santo.

desert island - espíritu santo

I only expected to actually know a couple people there, but many of my weaving guild "sisters in fiber" attended to show their support (thank yous to those who I know-- Barb, Mary, Lura, Adrienne, Evelyn, Marie Lynn, Barbro, and also to those whose faces I recognized, but who I don't know well yet), several very good friends, & my husband Dennis! Within the first 30 minutes of the reception's opening, already in the process of being swept away by seeing & conversing with so many I knew & wowed by the beautiful & amazing works by all of the other artists, I was shocked & delighted when desert island- espíritu santo was purchased by Mary as an "early birthday present" for herself. My very first tapestry sale!

Words are so very inadequate to express how I felt during the course of the whole evening-- the anticipation of arrival, that first glimpse of seeing my tapestries formally displayed, animated conversations, being able to talk about my tapestries with those who were curious about the process (it is a mixed media exhibit, but mine are the only tapestries in it!), meeting other artists. I was so involved in the many conversations, I didn't get to see all of the other works, & refreshments were long gone by the time I could make it to the table! So, dinner ended up being the 1 glass of wine I did manage to snag & a bowl of chocolate hazelnut gelato with Dennis & few friends after the reception closed. I will have to return so I can really see the exhibit!

What a very needed lift after an extremely full week --- in addition to the excitement of the artist's reception, a collaboration I've formed with Kathy Perkins, an accomplished New Mexico tapestry weaver I recently met at ATA's Silver Anniversary symposium, resulted in the initial kick-off to found Desert Tapestry Weavers, a regional tapestry group, and the completion of the 3rd week of my new studio construction . All of this is helping me to resolve my patience that soon the upheaval of the building process will all be over & I will have a new studio in which to weave more tapestries & continue on my weaver's journey. As I write, I hear the electricians running the wiring for the outlets & lighting in the new studio, & I am kept company by the small 4" square tapestry I have on my Mirrix, peace dove (the design came from a pin my mother & then later I wore on our student nurse uniforms), which I am weaving for the Peace Project.


week 2 - lizards scamper & construction continues

The last of of the prickly pear blooms open, white-winged doves incessantly call "Who cooks for you?", the first cicadas begin their metallic drones, & lizards skitter about as the heat of summer settles in. Now will be the rare day that temps are below 100 as the desert bakes & waits for monsoons to arrive in July.

No new progress on the studio construction this week, as the focus has shifted to preparing the slab for the new garage. I am happy & excited about the new studio, yet I feel slightly unsettled & on edge since my big loom is bare.... I cannot concentrate to prepare the next tapestry since my energies are directed at managing the construction process & resourcing necessary accoutrements for the studio. Framing of the new garage will be next, which I hope will then be followed by running the electricity & finishing the studio's interior. Soon, I keep telling myself, soon....


week 1 - the ice breaks & a studio is born

As saguaros hold their heavy bouquets at the ends of their arms & the deliciously sweet scent of honey mesquites spices the air, construction has started on my new studio space.

The ice on the Santa Cruz river also broke this week as temps hit 100.... Of course, there is no ice in the desert at this time of year & the Santa Cruz river is now a dry river that only flows during heavy monsoon rains, but "ice break" is a quirky Old Pueblo annual event when we all try to predict the first day the thermometer will hit 100 degrees.

After a week of being invaded by sweating, swearing men, this is what has been accomplished so far.........

The 9" concrete apron slab was jackhammered into rubble.

Colored concrete poured & smoothed for the new floor.

The old garage door opening framed & awaiting the new window. The original plan was to have a sliding glass door & 2 windows, but after the concrete was poured, it turned out that the height of the opening was too short for a door. Instead, it will now be 1 large window, 12' x 5', divided into 3 sections. The two 4' wide end sections will be solid glass & the middle 4' section will open with casement windows.

A new garage to replace the old one is being constructed simultaneously, & its footers & forms have been prepared for the concrete pour.

As I kept appearing to check on progress during the first couple of days, the workers were trying to bite their tongues & stem the flow of foul language. I finally let them off the hook by saying, "Look, I have 3 brothers, I worked as a bartender in a redneck bar for 3 years, and I worked as a labor & delivery nurse for 6 years. I've probably heard any horrible thing you could possibly say, in two languages. You're not going to offend me!" After that, followed by plying them with coffee, lemonade, & a radio cranking rock music at high decibels, I was just one of the guys. If good construction work & swearing profusely go hand in hand, swear away!!!!


empty looms & new forks

I arrived home from the ATA celebration to find my new weaving forks awaiting & empty looms staring at me. I cannot wait to get warped up so I can try them out!

I saw these forks for the first time when I took the Inspiration workshop-- they belonged to DY Begay & I immediately experienced a surge of "fork lust". I love my wooden weaving forks, but I usually weave at 9 - 10 epi & the wooden fork tines tend to push the warp around & distort the weaving, especially in small areas. DY generously shared her source with me, so now I must share it with all who might like to have forks like these. The tines are tapered, hardened stainless steel taken from pet combs & embedded in the hand shaped handles using epoxy resin. You may specify the tpi (tines per inch) you would like & what type of wood (from what is available). Here is the artisan's contact info:

John Jenkins
Magpie WoodWorks, LLC
316 Parkwood Drive
Grand Junction, CO 81503

The larger fork is the Begay fork (2 1/4 " across at its widest area & 8 1/2 " long including tines) & the smaller fork is the Mini (6/8" across its widest & 9" long). If these dimensions don't suit you, I think John will make them to your specifications. You must also check the pricing with John because I believe he is in the process of re-pricing.

A double-edged sword.... I cannot wait to start weaving my next tapestry, but construction to convert the garage into my new studio space starts on Monday, which will first involve using a jack hammer to chip away the 9" concrete apron in front of the old garage door. Plus, the boss of the concrete crew is as hyper as a ping pong ball in a tile bathroom, so I think he bears watching. Well, it will all pass soon & I will be left with a new studio space to show for the interrupted serenity.


ATA's Silver Anniversary bash

The ATA celebration coincided with the ATB 6 exhibit & the Gloria F. Ross Tapestry Center's annual lecture and was held in San Jose, CA, at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, Friday, April 27th - Sunday, April 29th.

Friday evening was the Gloria F. Ross tapestry lecture, which was very interesting-- it was given by Dr. Alice Zrebiec (she's the former curator of textiles at the Dept of European Sculpture & Decorative Arts at the Met Museum of Art). Her lecture & slides focused on discussing the history of American tapestry ateliers from the late 19th - early 20th centuries, with info & photos she had gathered during the 10 years of research she did for her PhD dissertation (she became so interested she is still working on this project since some of the tapestries have still not been located). The ateliers' production methods & work ethics followed the French models, but the interesting twist was that they were depicting American flora & fauna. Some of the tapestries are still installed as part of the woodwork in the homes that originally commissioned the pieces (most are in NY & the New England area). Some were even in a college (in Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, I think-- can't remember the name of the college) & the college didn't know what treasures they had.... there were vending machines pushed up in front of the tapestries when Alice visited! She also found many of the tapestries rolled up & forgotten in attics. Kind of the American version of the Unicorn tapestries being discovered in use as a covering for potatoes! It was very fascinating & some of the tapestries were so large it was mind boggling.

Saturday was the ATA symposium & ATB 6 reception. It began with informal networking with representatives of the regional tapestry groups: TWINE, TAPS, TWW, TWS, TAPIS, CTN, & weavers from the southwest (we don't really have a group, but maybe we will, soon!). Speakers & their topics during the symposium were: Jean Pierre Larochette (Weaving in the USA: A Personal Experience); Melissa Leventon (former curator of textiles at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - the tapestries in the musuem's collection were her subject); Barbara Heller (Tapestry Grows Up); ATA: Celebrating 25 Years of Contemporary Tapestry-- Jim Brown, Marti Fleischer, Joan Griffin, Christine Laffer, Mary Lane, Judy Schuster. All of the speakers had great slides to go along with their talks. This was then followed by a panel discussion of the ATA members who had spoken-- Mary Lane coordinated questions that were directed at each person; most of the questions sought to discover how each of them envisioned ATA's future. Barbara Heller had donated a tapestry which was raffled off, (a former student of hers won it) & we were surrounded by the ATB 6 installation. The space at the San Jose Museum was small, but very wonderful; many people were saying that it showed the tapestries off to their best advantage, much better than the previous venue they had been exhibited in. The wall that functioned as the "backdrop" for the slide show & panel discussion was covered with Christine Laffer's "Cloth of Construction" tapestry. All of the tapestries in the exhibit were glowing like beautiful jewels.

Sunday was the studio tour... we visited Christine Laffer, Jan Moore, Tricia Goldberg, Jean Pierre Larochette & Yael Lurie. A bus had been arranged to take us around--- Tricia was the perfect "den mother", herding us from place to place like a precious bunch of chicks. It felt like we were a Brownie troop on a field trip, with lots of chatter & laughter on the bus. Every weaver we visited was very gracious, answering many questions & allowing us to take photos. Most of them had many of their tapestries hung so we could view them. Lunch was al fresco at Tricia's & she outdid herself-- the tables all had tablecloths & vases of freshly cut flowers from her gardens. The last stop was at Jean Pierre & Yael's... quite a few people left us there to take the BART to San Francisco airport for their journey home. It was sad, like the last day of summer camp when you have to tell your new found friends goodbye. Many hugs & waves goodbye, then we journeyed back to San Jose, arriving tired, our minds fuzzy with fiber thoughts, but happy!