Friday, December 17, 2010

So much shopping, So little time.

“Oh, it is so difficult to get a taxi this time of day,” sighed Brittany, “and my feet hurt from all this shopping.” It had been a grueling work but she had found the perfect Baccarat vase at Tiffany’s for Emily and Theo’s wedding next week. The vase and the beautiful sapphire necklace she just couldn’t resist were now nestled in the oh so recognizable blue bag she was carrying. Charles will shout she thought, he always did, but she just had to have the necklace. After all it went so well with the fabulous little dress she picked out for the Saturday afternoon wedding in Central Park.

“How romantic,” she thought to be married in the gazebo overlooking the lake in the middle of Central Park, just the perfect place for a mid-summer wedding. “Oh, there goes another cab,” she huffed, “I just think it is awful how hard it is to get them to stop. “

Brittany was from Greenwich but she and Charles had found a perfect pied-a-terre on the Upper West Side when he became a partner at his investment firm. After all, they had to have a place to entertain didn’t they? They just couldn’t ask their friend to go all the way to Greenwich every time they wanted to get together. No it is best to have a New York address for those intimate evening dinners with friends. When they were in town she spent her day’s lunching with her friends or going to the spa for beauty treatments or shopping. Of course that was after an absolutely torturous hour with her private trainer Hans. He was a perfect sadist the way he made her sweat. But she had to admit her derriere never looked tighter, Charles had told her so just last night.

She put up her hand as another wave of yellow automobiles came her way. “If I don’t get a taxi soon I will be late getting home and Charles will have to make his own drinks.” He hated that. He liked her to be there when he got home from work. He said if Victoria could be there when David Beckham came home she could too. Brittany had met Victoria at a party just last spring when they were passing through on their way to LA, although why anyone would want to live out there is anyone’s guess. So gauche she thought. No, give me the Hamptons over Lake Tahoe any day. Any place west of Aspen was just not worth go to she thought.

She looked around at all the people out and about. The early summer is the perfect time to be in New York she thought. Even if you have to share the sidewalks with all these tourists, it is still the best place on earth to be.

“At last,” she said as a taxi pulled over to the curb. And in she stepped in to be whisked home. “Now I will have time for a nice bubble-bath and a glass of wine.” She sighed with relief as she gave her fashionable address to the cabbie and sat back with pleasure.

Friday, October 8, 2010

After ONLY 5 weeks …

Well, it took a lot of ripping out and needle weaving back in but the damage has been repaired. I made a few changes to Henry--took him to the hairdresser to give him a new color but I think he looks bright and cheery again.

I do have to admit that the whole experience took a bit of the wind out of my sails. Perhaps it is because I am working on another diamond and I am just bored but I don’t seem to have quite the same enthusiasm as I did this summer. I think that will change when I get to another element of the piece, I am fast coming out of the park and up onto the front stoops of the buildings. Maybe then I will be excited about it again.

In the meantime, I am starting on a new piece, a whimsical one called “You MUST sing their names… Hollyhocks.” Let me tell you a bit about how it came about.

I’ve always liked hollyhocks. Not only because they are so tall and colorful but also because the name always sounded so musical. I can never pass one by without singing their name… hOLLYhocks. It is said with a rise in the middle like riding over a hilly road on a bike.

While we were in Taos New Mexico this summer I noticed these wonderful flowers all over town. I would sing hollyhocks and Betsy Snope would respond with cellar door, a phrase she found just as musical (yea, I know, who’d ‘a guessed?). I decided I just had to create a piece with the musical flower to remind me of our trip.

As most of you know, I was in New Mexico to go to the ATA biennial and take a workshop with Lynne Curran. When I saw her fun and amusing pieces I determined that I wanted to incorporate that whimsy into my piece. Here is the cartoon, what do you think? Does it look whimsical to you?

Friday, August 27, 2010


I came home from my very enjoyable trip to Europe to find my cats had gotten under the cover I had on my tapestry and used it for a scratching post. Just look at what those little B******ds did.

Yes, they continue to exist. Luckily for them my mom was still visiting so they got off with being banished for the day. Every time Tucker came out to see if I had gotten over my inexplicable rage I sent him packing again. I know they haven’t the faintest idea of why I was angry but I just couldn’t stand to see them without going into orbit again. It was best that they stay away.

I guess I will have to cut out the damage and needle weave it in again. It will certainly take some time to repair. I guess it will give me another chance to work on faces and make Henry’s head a bit bigger. It is also good practice on repair and conservation. I hadn’t wanted to learn these tools right now but there you are.

Anyone who might have an idea of another way to repair the damage can leave me a note. I would be eternally grateful at any thoughts on this disaster.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shawn, the Statue of Liberty, and the New York Yankees

Shawn is a huge baseball fan. So huge that he had talked his dad into taking a trip across the US to go to the very last game to be played in Yankee Stadium before it was torn down. It didn’t take too much arm twisting to get his dad, Robert to agree. They arrived and on a hot June day we were running around the city seeing the sights.

I love taking people to the city it makes me see it again through their eyes. Robert had visited the year before but this was Shawn’s first time. It was all too exciting for him and he was determined to see everything.

The trip to the shrine of baseball was to be the following day. Today we were just going to be tourists, eat New York food, and see the sights. We took the train into the city arriving at Penn station. Shawn was already agog at the amount of people in the station itself. Being a California kid he could not believe the amount of people actually walking around. They just didn’t do that in CA. they drove; sidewalks were nothing more than quaint, decorative devices that finished out the front yard there. Now here were hundreds of people walking around, bustling around, all with things to do and people to see.

Of course, we hit all the stops - the Empire State building, Times Square, St Patrick’s Cathedral and now we were at Central Park. We had decided that with their tight schedule we weren’t going to have time to do the Statue of Liberty. Shawn was disappointed but he was okay with it. Now as we walked up to the park we saw the street performer. “Oh, Shawn,” I said, “here is your chance. Go pose with that guy and I will take your picture. It will be perfect, a real New York moment.”

At first he was a bit shy but with Robert and I encouraging him he stepped up. We made a contribution to the performers fund and he posed with Shawn. I thought the peace sign and the sun-glasses were just perfect. How could you miss with a picture like that? I snapped it and got another just in case and we thanked him. Only in New York could you walk down the street and experience moments like this. It was not the highlight of his week (After all, Yankee Stadium…) but it was a fun thing to do. And it makes me smile every time I look at the picture. I could not think of doing a city street scene without this image being a part of it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Millie comes to the Big Apple

This was their first trip to the Big Apple, heck it is their first trip outside of Missouri in the last 10 years. Not since they went to Kansas City for their honeymoon had they taken a trip for the sheer fun of it Millie thought. But the kids are with my mom and dad and we are footloose and fancy-free.

We arrived yesterday so this is our first day walking around. I have never seen so many tall buildings in my life I just can’t stop gawking at everything and everyone. People walk so fast here, always in a hurry! Where are they going? And so many of them, too.

Of course Henry is taking pictures of everything he comes across. That camera is going to become a part of his face if he doesn’t stop snapping pictures. Here I am posing again right at the entrance of Central Park. Imagine such a big park right in the middle of all this concrete. It really is amazing.

Millie shook her head one more time at the way Henry dressed. I tried to get him to change his shirt but you know him… “What?” He had asked when he saw me looking at him in the hotel room. As for me, New York fashion scares the heck out of me. No way I am going to look like a rube here. The problem is I'm not quite sure what a non-rube wears here. I decided on a simple white blouse and dark pants. Can’t go too far wrong with that. I hope...

She looked around again after Henry took about the thousandth picture of her. I can see him eyeing that Statue of Liberty guy... not a chance honey. Oh, what a cute hot dog stand, so New York. I wonder if it is safe to eat something you bought right off the street. But other people are doing it and after all, it is New York. Why not? “Come on, Henry. Take a picture of me buying a hot dog at that stand. No one will believe it.”

To be continued.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Expressionism at its finest - Fritz Lang's Metropolis

I went into NYC the other day to view the newly found copy of Fritz Lang’s masterpiece Metropolis. The one released to the American Public in 1922 had been cut and, most feel, simply massacred. It seems that the distributor felt the need to deleted about one-fifth of the film because he felt the original movie would confuse the American public, so out they went. Unfortunately not only were they cut from the distributed piece but they were thrown away.

I think there are two kinds of people, those that save everything and those that see no point in the clutter. I am of the second variety, it seems so was the American distributor. As a result we lost a great deal more than just part of the film.

In the summer of 2008 a curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a 16mm dupe negative of the movie. It included about 25 minutes of lost footage not seen since its Berlin debut. You can read more about the discovery and restoration at this website

As I watched the film on the big screen my art historical sensibilities took over. Not only was the story line fascinating (a commentary on the rise of capitalism and technology, its inherent dangers and the class struggle going on in Germany’s Weimar Republic) but I also found the imagery to be expressionistically brilliant. I just loved the way Lang differentiated the upper city and the lower city, the way he dehumanized the workers as they marched into the elevators that brought them to the heart of the city and how they became a part of the machine. Take a look and see for yourself how brilliantly he captures the melding of human and technology in this scene. ">

Today we have computers and huge programs to develop special effects. Lang had none of these tools yet he was able to give us this transformation.
Side note: These two scenes come from YouTube and do not have the original soundtrack. If you want to see the real thing these are both on the website noted above.

I often feel that we’ve lost our imagination. Yes, there are standout movies like Avatar but they reside in a morass of dreck. So little is worth watching these days, what with all the reality shows on TV and the regurgitation of TV shows made into movies. Even the titles show a lack of imagination. In the 1950s we had Father of the Bride and Father’s Little Dividend. Today we have Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride II. What happened?

Well thank goodness we have many of the older movies to remind us of what can be done if we just take the time to let our imagination take over. How exciting that we can still see true innovation and brilliant social commentary in older films such as this one.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Story of Henry and Millie - Henry

Woo-ee! New Yawk, the big city. I can’t believe we are actually here. I always dreamed of coming here ever since I saw The Big Sleep. Mom hated that I always had my nose in a pulp fiction comic book, Oh, sorry, graphic novel as a kid. “Read a real book, will ya?” she’d say. But I dreamed of being the hard-bitten detective roaming the streets of gritty New York. Maybe that’s why I became a cop, just like the idea of solving crimes.

So here we are, Millie and me. This is our first day walking around and already I think I’ve taken about 500 pictures. People on the street, Millie, all the tall buildings... and that Naked Cowboy guy, wait till the guys at the station see all the crazies, they all said I was nuts to willing go into New York City. Actually asked me if was taking my gun with me.

Millie is so excited to be here. I had to lay down the law though. No calls to the kids every 5 minutes. After all we are here to get some adult time for once. We haven’t ever taken a trip alone since our honeymoon. Our 10th anniversary seemed a good time to do it. She was so surprised.

So tonight we get to see the world famous Rockettes. Being a leg man, I know I will enjoy that. And tomorrow we are going to the Statue of Liberty. Hey, maybe I should take a picture of this one just in case I can’t get a good one of the real thing. I wonder if I can talk Millie into posing with her like that kid? That would be a laugh, wouldn’t it? But first a hot dog from an honest-to-god street vendor. I feel like I’m in the middle of a Law and Order episode.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Zen of tapestry

If you want to be a tapestry artist you need to be willing to unweave as much as you weave. That became crystal clear to me these last few weeks. I spent about 3 weeks laying the foundation of my piece, City Life. I decided to border the scene with the street and curb, putting the viewer at the corner looking along both sides of the sidewalk. I looked at photos of curbs and decided that mine would be a three-part curb with a horizontal apron, a vertical step and a horizontal element that met the sidewalk. I had put in all the elements and was starting on the sidewalk when I took a rough rendering of the scene to my study group. Immediately my mentor and another member of the group saw a glaring error. I had carefully measured the different pieces of the street and curb and wove them taking care to keep each element straight. The problem was that I forgot about perspective. Yes, shame on me, an art history teacher to forget about linear perspective, I even test my students on the concept in their midterm.

So what to do. Well there were several suggestion. I could make it a frame but it would only be on 2 sides. I could ignore it and say I meant to do it, or (and this hurt) I could take it out and start again. Well after a bit of pouting and scheming (I even missed my exit on the way home, I was concentrating so hard on how to resolve the problem) I decided to take the hard road and take it out. But that was not before I tried to push up what I wanted to save and needle weave the offending elements back in. Of course that didn't work, I created pulls and messed up the spacing on the part I was pushing around. "Ah, hell," I thought, "just do it and get it done with. You know you won't be happy with it until you make it right." So for 2 1/2 days I unwove three weeks worth of work. It is amazing how much easier it is to take things out than it is to put it in. Luckily I had plenty of bobbins to wind with the yarn. I was the recipient of about 100 quite nice bobbins from a friend in my weavers guild and even after I took a passel to the study group for use by newbies I still had enough to keep everything in order. I guess I won't have to wind a bobbin for quite some time (there is a silver lining for every cloud).

So two weeks later I am back where I started. The curb is now two parts with the vertical element dwindling away as the sidewalk moves away from the viewer. The longer element, the part that is right now going up the side of the tapestry will reverse this trend with the top of the curb eventually disappearing as the vertical part become more visible. It is hard to see how that will look right now but I think it is a better resolution.

I guess it is all about subordinating your own ego to the image. I may have been pleased with how straight my lines were, how good my selvages were but I would not have been pleased with the effect they had on the overall scene. So instead of worrying about the time spent doing and undoing it I decided to get into the zen of weaving. I weave for enjoyment and for creativity.

When I was doing research for my master's thesis I visited an embroidery guild in London. The women I talked to told me that they were not as interested in getting the stitch right, as they were in pushing the envelope. They said that this was the difference between them and American artists. They suggested that we are too caught up in the process to be willing to take creative risks. I was impressed with this and try to live by the same creed. So now I think about what works for the overall image. I am still trying to keep my edges straight and my spacing correct but if I have to take measures to fix it that are not exactly technically correct then I am fine with that. These measures will become design elements rather than crappeaux (not sure that is the way it is spelled but I know you tapestry artists all know what I mean). Twining to help realign spacing will be incorporated into the piece where needed. I like the dimensionality it adds to the piece. A little dip here and there will be preserved as part of the perspective of the piece.

So the project continues on, sometimes forward sometimes backward. I am sure this will not the be last time I will have to take something out so I will just get into the zen of weaving and not worry about it. Ah, life is like Persephone's cloth woven and unwoven each and every day. How deep is that?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stepping up the curb on City Life

Things are going well with the new tapestry. I've been plugging away at the first few inches (sounds like a long time for such a small amount of weaving, doesn't it?). I've got the street laid in and the curb started.

I am moving up to the vertical part of the curb and heading to the top of the step. With school, trips here and there and just general living it takes some time to lay in the foundation. I am also going slow to make sure my edges are good. I am determined to beat that drawing in problem. I found that the Victorian wool I am using is less forgiving than the Paternayan wool is. That means I need to be more careful when setting the edges with the Victorian wool. It pulled in a bit more. However, now that I noticed that I can make adjustments.

In an effort to keep the entire 48" even as I work on the piece I am also doing a row of twining between the colors (I think I will only be able to do it on the long straight pieces like the street and curb) to respace the warp. It should keep me from pulling in there too. As with every piece I am learning new techniques and strategies.

I love my weekly study group but I found that I can get ideas from many different sources. This week I went into the city to see a tapestry show in Chelsea. the following week I took a felting workshop and found that there was a very interesting crossover there. One of the artists who developed a piece for the tapestry show was a very well known artist named Kara Walker. Her favorite medium is actually silhouettes but she was asked to create a design for the medium of tapestry. Here is what she created:

If you look closely you will see that the black figure is felted. Now this might not have made too much of an impression on me except that it made me think of the workshop I was to take the next weekend. I don't know if I will try it for myself but I can see doing this in future piece. I think I will just stick with minimal surface embellishments right now. At this point I am only thinking of things like a ponytail or braids protruding from the surface for a couple of the figures. Perhaps I will try the felting on a smaller piece. I don't like to admit it but sampling has its purpose (mores the pity since I hate to do it).

Anyway, influences and ideas float around us every day if we look for them. So I plan to keep my eyes open to see what I can find. I am off to Philly this week and have plans in place for the new Picasso exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of art in a few weeks. I am sure I will pick up an idea or two from that. I'll let you know soon.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Interesting People

Donald at the Slash ShowI was in the city the other day with a couple of fiber friends to see the Slash show at the Museum of Arts and Design. While we were getting organized to go in I noticed a woman fiddling with some wool so I asked her if she was knitting or Crocheting. She said she was knitting. We struck up a conversation about textiles and as we were taking a man walked up in the most outrageous outfits I've seen in quite some time. He ended up being her husband so she introduced us. I was so taken by his outfit that I had to ask him if I could take a picture. Of course he agreed (who wouldn't when they take that much time to choose their outfit) and posed as if he was used to the request. As you can see he was quite the Beau Brummel in his chenille blazer and pieced shirt. We had quite a wonderful conversation about fibers, fashion and piecework. New York City, you never know what you will see.

The show itself was all about using paper as the media of choice. There were paintings, collages, sculpture and videos all relating to paper. The video was quite amusing. It was a stop action piece relating modernist architecture to Gothic buildings. The artist started with a modern building and turned it into a Gothic masterpiece by "covering" the walls with paper cutouts of crenelation, stained glass windows and towers. As the pieces went into place you heard the sound of heavy objects moving into place as if the paper was, in fact, stone, brick and steel. The juxtaposition of paper and sound gave the piece an ironic edge that was priceless.

We were also lucky to see work by artists like Judy Pfaff and Kara Walker. There were paper topographical maps, cut outs on the windows and walls that made great use of both positive and negative space and some fascinating sculpture like the nude male figure with its magazine cut out body parts. All in all a very fun show.

Later in the day we stopped at the MoMA bookstore (we were too late for the show) an browsed for quite some time. Again I had to take my camera out to capture another wonderful fashion statement, this time a great hat. I don't know about you but I would definitely wear this hat.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Back Again - News From The Missing

I know I know, where have I been? So it has been way too long since I last posted. I changed to a MacBook (boy do I love it) and had to work out how to post since I was using Microsoft Write for my posts in the past. But I am back now.

I have been working on smaller pieces these last few months. Not only was it hard to get enough time to warp my big loom but I was working on refining my idea for this next project. As you recall I want to do a piece called City Life. I had the concept in my mind but I had done a sample of one of the figures (the Statue of Liberty street performer) and got very frustrated with it. I had to put it aside for a while to get my enthusiasm back again.

But over the winter break I got time enough to warp the loom and I worked out how to do the people and I feel much better now. I decided that the figures were too small, that the buildings were going to dwarf the real scene. So I tripled the size of the figures and brought them forward in the picture plane and I think it will work now. I guess I will find out once I get to them.

So I did a continuous warp at 9 epi for a piece that will be 48" X 60". I anticipate it will take about a year to finish this piece. I took the individual pieces of the scene and instead of trying to manipulate them on the computer (I still haven't learned PhotoShop well enough to use it) I simply went to Kinko's blew up the various images and then cut them out. I then drew in the background and pasted the figures and objects where they belonged. The butcher paper is now sandwiched inbetween the warp and I plan to only ink the more complex parts of the scene. The street, curbs, buildings and trees will be pretty straightforward so they don't need to be drawn on. The cartoon will stay in place throughout and I now have the color pictures pinned to the walls around the loom so I can refer to them as I work them out. I am pretty excited and have about 2" of street in place as I write this.

I am taking Betsy's advice and using quite a few more bobbins on this piece than ever before. I am determined to keep my warp correctly spaced and my edges aligned with my guide string. For the 48" I have 10 bobbins going. That is about 4.5' per bobbin. That is what Archie and Susan suggest is the maximum space per bobbin. I guess they should know, they've been doing this for much longer than I have. We shall see.

So what have I been doing in the meantime? Well I made a piece for the upcoming ATA Biennial non-juried show. I chose a non-juried show, no pressure to compete which I am not ready for yet. It was a shack I found at Peter's Valley when I was there for a James Kohler workshop a couple of summers ago. The theme is Enchanted Pathways. I chose to put the shack at nightfall when the fireflies are just beginning to show their magical evening light show. I am quite pleased with it and look forward to seeing it on the wall. Betsy, Rita, Diane and I are all planning to be at the Biennial so I will have lots of company in the show. Betsy's piece is wonderful, so clever and interesting. I won't say what it is but I certainly will be a hit at the show.

So off I go on a new adventure and I plan to be much more forthcoming in my posts in the future. I look forward to sharing my work in the weeks and months ahead. I am glad to be back.