a retreat, a studio gathering, an exhibit, & getting my head on straight

It has been a long time since I last posted, but life has been overflowing the rim...

Back in the beginning of May, I & several of the women who were students in the beginning tapestry class I taught in Bisbee early this year, Darquise, Shirley, & Lynn, made plans to go to Janie Hoffman's Blue River Retreat for a tapestry retreat. We were there for 3 days and it was a wonderful & relaxed experience for everyone. Morning walks in the woods & birdwatching for those who wanted to go, gathering informally by mid-morning to weave the rest of the day with breaks for lunch. I didn't actually do a whole lot of weaving because I don't focus well in a group, but I helped them when they had questions or needed to learn a technique that hadn't been covered in the workshop. Janie also gave assistance at times which I appreciated since I think learning from more than one teacher can be so enriching & she was also one of my first teachers. On some days we invaded Janie's studio, exploring her space & admiring her work. This was the first time any of them had visited an actual tapestry artist's studio & it was a great experience for them to see some of Janie's finished tapestries, her work in progress, her cartoons & watercolors, her yarns, & her library. Some of these encounters led to in depth discussions about many things related to tapestry, inspiring for everyone! In the evenings, Janie & Don invited us into their home to gather at their dinner table to share our communally prepared meals. I was absolutely astonished by how well they were all weaving; their tapestries in progress were the first they had attempted since taking my workshop! We all decided it was an experience worth repeating next year, so when the time comes around I will post an announcement on my blog for anyone who might care to join us! I had so many wonderful photos, I created a slide show so I could include more--

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

After returning from the retreat, I hosted an informal studio gathering in my studio for friends & fellow weavers... unfortunately, I was so excited when everyone started arriving & had such a great time, I forgot to take pictures! Thank you to everyone who came, you all brought great energy into my space.

A week later was the artists' reception for Artful Insects & Inspired Arachnids at Tohono Chul Park's museum. My tapestry, pinacate shuffle, was included in the exhibit, but the highlight for me was seeing the drawing, Butterfly Magic, done by my husband, Dennis, his first exhibit. He was so low key about it all, I took it upon myself to secretly invite his father & "step-mom", so it was a very big surprise for Dennis when they appeared. And, luckily, they persuaded him to allow them to take a photo of him with his work, because he had forbidden me to do so!

During all of this, I was steeling myself for a visit to where my parents are living... they both have been having major health issues the last 8 months or so. I had recently seen my mother at the beginning of this year when she came to visit one of her sisters who lives nearby, but I hadn't seen my father, who is the most ill, for a little over a year. I wasn't sure how he would look, and let's just say my nursing experience was making me think the worst. As fate would have it, our hot water heater sprung a leak just prior to my visit... I had been storing practically the whole mother lode of our family's photos in the same space for my parents when they were traveling in an RV after my father's retirement, so I had to go through ALL of them to make sure none had gotten wet. Luckily, none were damaged, but I went down a very, very long walk on memory lane. Some of the photos were so old of my parents when they were children, & then there were all of those of myself & my 5 siblings as we each were born & grew up. I laughed, I cried, I felt so very nostalgic. Now they are all stored in a plastic bin instead of cardboard boxes! When I called my mother to tell her what had happened it proved to be good timing since my father, who is quite depressed over his condition, had been asking about specific photos he wanted to see again. So, I selected a few albums to send & used my scanner to scan in, blow up, & print a few photos from those albums. The box arrived in the middle of my visit there & one evening I persuaded my parents to look through one especially old album. It generated many good memories for them, & I heard many stories, some I'd heard before, & others new & surprising. It was, for the most part, a good visit. My father's condition is not ideal, but he did not look as bad as I had imagined. I cooked dinner for them most nights I was there, pulled weeds in the garden for them, did a temporary fix on a leaky AC pipe & got them to call for repair; we had a serious discussion about considering assisted living & I am going to research it for them. Although I am still worried about them, I feel a weight has been lifted because I have a more accurate image of how they are living & how they look.

My mother, 1st on left, the captain of her high school cheerleading squad.

My father playing his bass in a high school jazz band (I have this very same bass displayed in a prominent place in our house).

The only weaving I have done since the tapestry retreat was to weave an alpaca lap blanket for my father (I was there during Father's Day). In amongst all of the above, I was working on my volunteer job editing the ATA's Tapestry Topics newsletter for the online digest, putting together the final Desert Tapestry Weavers newsletter, & writing several articles for the next ATA newsletter. With all of that, along with the worry about my parents, I had no desire to weave or be creative... I was experiencing a complete creative block-- mentally, physically, & spiritually.

Now, I feel the block starting to crumble... Dennis & I are planning our first trip to our mountain property this year next week. We'll spend close to a week there; it will be the first trip for Roger & Moka. I am bringing my Mirrix with the painted hills study in progress that I had started during the tapestry retreat, also my watercolor pencils, crayons, & paper. Our camping is primitive, but I make sure to bring good food, and we both love spending our days outside in the mountain air & out of the desert heat. I always feel renewed after a trip there, so I am looking forward to bringing that feeling home to the studio.

In sorting through all of those old photos, I came across one of a place we used to live on a river in rural New York from the time I was about 8 until I was 12. It was a tiny old cottage perched on a steep river bank; my parents moved our trailer home next to it & built a connecting hallway into the cottage. It was the only place we lived where I had my own room, & my room was in the cottage. A bed of lily of the valley bloomed outside my window in summers & I could smell it all night. The old German couple who sold it to us had planted many interesting plants on the property & there was a patio landing over the river where we went fishing. A study room surrounded in plate glass windows overlooked the river & the cow pasture on the other side. If the river froze solidly enough in winter, we could skate on it. I always loved that place & cried when my parents decided to sell it after my father rejoined the military. In finding this photo that I had not seen before, I realized it embodied the essence of how I felt about the cottage. It was where I learned to love nature, to see it, to smell it, to listen to it, to taste it, to experience it. I now have a copy of that old photo, enlarged & hanging on my board next to my desk so I can see it every day.