february was a fiber filled frenzy!

I am not sure how the shortest month of the year could have held so much fiber related activity!!! I am still recovering from it all, but in a blissful, not devastated state. I am also very behind on reading my favorite blogs, so I hope to catch up soon on what everyone has been doing! This post will be loooong, so better get at it...

The month started off with the grand opening of the Land, Art, And The Sacred: Three Perspectives exhibit that I have been eagerly anticipating. I do not want to write much about it in my blog because I am working on an article about it for The American Tapestry Alliance's Tapestry Topics newsletter, but I will say it exceeded all of my expectations (which is why I feel driven to write an article about it!)... I was also able to spend time with DY & meet her dear friend Peg while they were in town for the reception, & I got to know Claire a little better, something I've been hoping would happen since meeting her briefly last year. I had the serendipitous pleasure of visiting the exhibit many times during the month, so I was able to really absorb & enjoy it.

In preparation for the beginning tapestry workshop I taught at the end of February, I drove the 2 hours to Bisbee one day to check out their frame looms that would be used in the class... I discovered it was a wise thing to do because they were a bit dusty & in need of a good tightening. I was also able to ferret around in their fiber room to see what was available to weave with. The next day my sister, Susie, arrived for a week long visit. We spent much of the time in the studio, where I put her to work weaving a sampler to improve & expand on the weaving techniques I had taught her last year.

While Susie was here, we, along with my friend Stacey, took an overnight road trip up to northern Arizona, traveling north through the Salt River Canyon route to visit Burnham's Trading Post, where, as the snow started to flurry outside, we indulged in a flurry of yarn buying & gaping at the beautiful Navajo weavings & turquoise jewelry for sale. I found the most beautiful turquoise bracelet I had ever seen & was able to buy it for myself because the price was right, along with purchasing yarns I needed for my next tapestry... my idea of heaven! Stacey & I have quite the love affair with Burnham's since we are devoted to using it in our tapestries & I use their natural white & grey exclusively for my natural dyeing... if we are ever in the neighborhood (oh, say within a 100 miles or so), we always go out of our way to swing by. We can mail order it, but it is just SO wonderful to buy it in person. The skeins that are vegetal dyed by Navajo women come in a rainbow of beautiful, earthy colors. The first time you walk into the yarn room, it widens your eyes & takes your breath away. Thanks, Janie, for turning me on to Burnham's, I am trying to return the favor by spreading the word! In fact, if anyone reading this has thought about trying Burnham's wools for weaving, but hasn't taken the leap yet, you should know that their yarn sample cards are free & also that during the entire month of April all of their wool yarns are on sale!

After Burnham's, we headed for Flagstaff to spend the night. By the time we got there, we were in a blizzard, but we braved the foot deep drifts to walk 5 or so blocks for dinner & afterwards to check out the few stores that were open. We awoke the next morning to a magnificent sight of snow covered San Francisco Peaks outside our historic bed & breakfast window & a scrumptious home cooked gourmet breakfast. Stacey made me laugh when I noticed that, a true desert dweller, she had rolled up her pant legs to keep them out of the snow. I even had to scrape quite bit of snow & ice off the Rover before we could leave to sled off back south, taking a convenient detour through Oak Creek Canyon, which was completely & breathtakingly covered in snow, & the red rock country of Sedona.

When we hit Phoenix, we made our way to the downtown Heard Museum to see a newly installed tile mosaic representation of one of DY Begay's weavings... it was stunning, DY! We also enjoyed a very delicious lunch at the museum's Arcadia Farms Café. By the time we got back home to Tucson, we were a very weary, but very content bunch of fiber addicts! A couple days later Susie left, with new yarn stuffing her suitcase & new tapestry techniques packed into her head.

The very next weekend, I was off to Bisbee to teach my very first tapestry weaving workshop & I kept a little journal on my mini computer...

thurs, 2-28-08
How odd that the first tapestry workshop I will be teaching should fall on a leap year... but this has been an odd week, precipitated by a phone call from a lawyers' office asking if someone at my residence was related to my ex-mother-in-law & could "handle her affairs". Quite a shock to receive that call, considering that my ex & I did not part on friendly terms & I haven't seen him or any of his family in over 15 years. Receiving that call & realizing that she was no longer alive prompted me to do a little online investigation & I discovered that my ex-father-in-law had also died, but 2 years previously. Learning all of this caused the resurfacing of many, many memories of people, times, & places that I have not thought about for 20 years or more, some good & some bad. Needless to say, these reminisces occupied my mind so much for the last couple of days while I made final preparations for the workshop that I had no time to think about being nervous. I loved teaching patients & their family members when I worked as a nurse & I had hoped that perhaps I could one day teach tapestry weaving, but I never thought the opportunity would come so quickly. I met the Bisbee guild's "education recruiter", Joan Ruane, when I was in Bisbee for their fiber festival last October; when she learned I was a tapestry weaver she asked if I would consider coming to teach a workshop for them.

So here I am in Bisbee, on the eve of my first beginning tapestry workshop. It will start tomorrow & run for 3 days. I came a day early to prepare the space & pull yarn out of the guild's fiber room. Bisbee is a tiny, quirky little historic mining town, converted in modern times to an art town/tourist destination perched on & in the nooks & crannies between the Mule Mountains & the Naco Hills at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet. The Bisbee Fiber Guild is fortunate enough to have their own permanent studio space in the basement of the historic YWCA building where they have looms set up full time for members to weave on, a fiber room, a library, several storage rooms, & giant steel utility sinks for dyeing. It is a 2 hour drive from where I live in Tucson, through mountains & across high desert grasslands. It was an especially wonderful drive today-- the sunlight warm, clear & sharp; the sky very blue; the landscape a color study of duns, ochres, & greys... the high desert grasses gleaming wheaten gold & rusty red, the mountains looking dry & craggy with their canyons & drainages shadowed in sharp relief, and the creosote flats glowing with the chartreuse of tender new leaves. You can see across the basins for 50 or so miles & your eyes are constantly straying to take in the view, so much so that you have to remind yourself to be more careful to watch the road.

I have the pleasure of staying in a guild member's guest cottage while I am here, only a few miles from the guild's studio, but in the hills without a neighbor in sight. It is a spacious one room with a bathroom & "closet kitchen", surrounded by alligator junipers, Mexican oaks, manzanita, rolling hills, & bird song. This afternoon & evening I set up the student workspace in the guild's studio, set tapestry looms out, & selected yarns from the fiber room, arranging them by color family on a table. My efforts were awarded when a guild member who came in to do a little weaving on one of the floor looms was immediately drawn to my "yarn table" & began exclaiming over the display. Most of the guild's fiber has been received through donations & I was very happy to discover a nice selection of wools suitable for tapestry weaving. The frame looms the students will use also belong to the guild. They are simple frame looms made of hard wood with a nice tensioning beam on top & cylinders with grooves routed into them affixed to top & bottom beams for warping. The workshop begins tomorrow at 9 am, but I will arrive early to have a pot of coffee ready for those who need it & to put out class notes, spools of cotton seine, & bobbin kits. Let the weaving begin!

fri, 2-29-08
I arrived at the guild studio an hour before the start of class, set out all of the class materials, got my ipod set up with its portable speaker system, & started a pot of coffee for anyone who would be in need of caffeine when they arrived. One by one my 7 students trickled in, with the last two arriving just a little late. Today they were able to get warped, weave a header, & learn the first technique on the agenda, pick & pick. I feel very pleased that all of them are so very eager to learn & that my teaching seems so far to be effective. Everyone appeared to be intently enjoying the learning process & I felt I was able to give each person the attention they needed during the day. We worked from 9 to 4, taking frequent breaks & a lunch break. I cannot wait to see how it all goes tomorrow... with the difficult process of warping & getting the sampler started now accomplished, I hope to make good progress working through the other planned techniques so that they will be able to do a bit of weaving on their own, & cut off & finish their samplers on the last day of class.

sat, 3-1-08
This morning all of the students arrived with big smiles on their faces & eager to get back into the weaving so I must be doing something right! Good progress was made today & I noticed that everyone's dexterity handling warp & weft was improving as the day progressed. We managed to cover all of the techniques I had planned except for eccentric weft, so we will start with that in the morning. Then they will have the rest of the day to weave on their own & hopefully we will be able to cut off & finish the samplers as well.

After all of the students left at the end of class & I had packed things up, I headed out to walk around town & grab a bite to eat at a little café I had noticed driving back to the cottage yesterday. Across the street from the café I had also been noticing a building with a big hand painted sign advertising a musical comedy play, Annie Get Your Gun, being presented by the local actor’s troupe. I had been thinking it would be fun to go see it & in the café I saw a flyer that gave the time it would run. Dennis & I have driven up to a small town north of Tucson to see plays put on by the actor's troupe there, so I knew how good & fun a small town production could be. After finishing my meal at the café, I walked around, found a place to get a small espresso so I wouldn't be too tired, & headed back to get tickets & a good seat. The play was good & funny. It was so enjoyable to watch it on my own, just sitting quietly & absorbing it all without having to talk to anyone after having been talking all day during class!

I am looking forward to tomorrow... I can't wait to see what everyone chooses to weave when they are turned loose to weave on their own!

mon, 3-3-08
Too tired to write last night! Luckily I had already anticipated how I would feel & had planned to spend last night in Bisbee. Everyone arrived yesterday for the last day of class tired, but still smiling. We quickly covered the last technique, eccentric weft, & they all got down to the business of weaving. It was very apparent that everyone was intently enjoying finally being able to weave on their own & I was so very proud that they did so with minimal assistance from me. I walked around & observed, giving out reminders & prompts when necessary. Everyone also had a chance to at least quickly review the books I had brought so they could think about which one appealed to them most if they ended up acquiring one for themselves. Throughout the workshop they were also requesting that I come back soon & teach them more, expressing much interest in learning to design on their own, learning how to prepare a continuous warp, & learning to use a cartoon. I encouraged them to get together, decide what they would like in a next class as far as length & content, & to approach their education coordinator with a proposal. I would love to come back to teach them more!

As the day neared the end of the workshop time, several of the students decided for themselves they were ready to stop weaving & finish their samplers off so they could make the drive home to the nearby towns where they lived. Everyone was able to weave as much as they wanted & to cut off & finish their samplers which made me extremely happy. Several who actually live in Bisbee were already making plans to meet today at the guild's studio to help each other warp the looms for their next piece... wow! My encouragements to continue weaving & practice their newly learned techniques must have made quite an impression!

After all of the samplers were finished, the wool returned to its place in the fiber room, & the looms put away, 3 of the students & I went out for a drink & dinner. For most of the time we continued talking about tapestry, & I discovered they were quite passionate about soaking up more experiences... we ended the workshop & the evening as new cherished friends with a great idea to plan a trip to Alpine to have a "tapestry retreat" at
Janie Hoffman's place on the Blue River.




Shirley, Lynn, Darquise, Joy

Since the workshop, two of the students, Shirley & Lynn, came over to Tucson to do a little shopping at the Desert Weaving Workshop; I met them there & we went for lunch together & then to the Land, Art, & Sacred exhibit. During that time, we decided we would definitely try to plan a tapestry retreat at Janie's... since they are both "snowbirds" who come to Bisbee for the winter months-- Shirley from Alaska & Lynn from Seattle, they both had to see about adjusting their travel schedules. Now the date is set for early May, and Darquise has also decided to come along. Janie & I had started contemplating the idea last year of having an informal retreat at her place but until now we hadn't found anyone who wanted to make concrete plans. I am so thrilled that it is finally going to happen!

The two exhibits I recently had work in at Tohono Chul have come down...my earth & sky tapestry was sold so it went home with someone else. I felt a startling bittersweet pang when I learned of the sale. I was surprised it had sold; I had begun to feel it was my favorite that I have woven so far, & in the original photo I had used, the image included Dennis & Roux because I took the photo when we were hiking, & it is one of the last tapestries I wove while Roux was still alive. But, the feeling has passed, mostly because I think the person who purchased it must have been very moved by it & will treasure having it in their home. I am beginning to learn just how closely a tapestry can be connected to the weaver's life, a wonderful, if a bit unsettling, discovery.

During all of this wonderful madness, our new dog Roger has settled in nicely, no longer has separation anxiety attacks when I leave, enjoys hanging out in the studio all day (with an occasional cookie to break the routine), & loves our daily 3 mile walks which have helped shrink both of our waistlines! Dennis & Roger walk on weekends when Dennis is home from work, those "guy walks" being a bit more hard core & good for them both!

Now I have my small Shannock loom warped up & a tapestry under way for another Tohono Chul exhibit, Artful Insects. It will depict a pinacate beetle crossing the sand, leaving a wake of footprints-- as soon as I chose the image I christened it pinacate shuffle. So far I've gotten the header woven & when I've completed more I'll post again with photos. The deadline is early April, but I have incentive to finish it much sooner because in early April is also the Arizona Federation of Weavers & Spinners biannual conference, Fibers Through Time. I will need the Shannock for a workshop I'm taking to learn the Helena Hernmarck technique of weaving being taught with her permission by Diane Wolf, a weaver who has studied extensively with Helena & has been her assistant during workshops at HGA's Convergence. After the workshop, the Shannock will be put to work again... I've been invited to create a piece for an upcoming Tohono Chul exhibit, Please Touch Again !, being held specifically for the visually impaired so that they may feel & touch the items on display.

March is well underway... fiddlenecks, mallows, & desert marigolds are beginning to bloom, our windows are thrown open to warming temps & birdsong, the light is taking on the rarefied & luminous quality inherent to desert spring & fall. I've been sharing my tapestry passion not only through my blog, but in real life. Life is feeling very good again.