Friday, February 26, 2010

Minnesota? No, New Jersey!

I have to interrupt my weaving and knitting updates to comment on the weather.  What a lot of snow we have gotten this month!  Supposedly it is going to snow here for  three days straight.  I’m not sure that has happened in my lifetime!  It snowed heavily all day yesterday, and is snowing lightly this morning.  Will it really continue through tomorrow?

When my husband uses the snow blower, he loves to make a wall of snow.  Can you tell he is quite proud of his creation?

2. 26. 2010 snow 022

2. 26. 2010 snow 024

I’m looking forward to staying home today, nestled in to weave!2. 26. 2010 snow 011 Meanwhile, spring arrives in the house with the first of the amaryllis in bloom!

Feb. 2010 012

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tapestry Weaving

I cannot count the times I’ve heard or read a reference to tapestry that has annoyed me because it is obvious that the author of the statement has no idea what tapestry is.  Ugh.

But now I think I need to put pettiness aside and relish every reference to this ancient technique because it is not a given that it will stay in our vocabulary, which might mean the real activity might also, someday, disappear.

A couple of years ago on public radio I was listening to the program that Patricia O’Connor hosts about language. Someone called in to ask her what ‘tow head’ means.  They had been called this as a child, and the caller had always presumed it to be an insult. He wondered if it had something to do with tow trucks.

Ms. O’Connor actually didn’t know what the term meant.  I remember I was driving in my car and had to find a place to pull over so I could call in to set the record straight.  My call was taken, unfortunately after the show had ended, so the man never heard from me what the term meant.  I hope he knows by now.  Ms. O’Connor and I had a lovely conversation about phrases that go out of use. Interestingly, she noted that if an idiom is based on political or social situations it stays in use longer than if the phrase is domestic or agricultural.  Our domestic situation has changed so drastically in the last hundred years, and here in the US, very few of us have any notion of farm terms.  Idioms from these areas have passed into the forgotten. Personally, I didn’t know that ‘tow head’ was out of use.  I don’t hear it often, but I still do sometimes, as well as corn silk, to describe blonde hair.  My husband is a tow head, and I briefly had corn silk hair when I was young…

So, while the word tapestry is being misused a lot in recent times, at least it is a word that continues to pop up in descriptions and conversations.  I am thankful for that!

Here is what’s happening on the tapestry front in my studio this week:

Yesterday I had my monthly visit to Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei.  That always gets my creative juices flowing, and here is the result of my work today:

Feb. 25. 2010 tapestry 001

Slow, but steady, work on Rob:

Feb. 25. 2010 tapestry 003

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Weaving, ancient archaeology, puppy rescue and American Idol

Crazy mix of stuff, but that’s the week I’m having.  I’m stuck on my medieval spinner’s face and have walked away from it for a couple of days.  Actually, I had something I had to knit.  That happens to me every now and then.  Like a good book I just have to read cover to cover, skipping meals and sleep, sometimes I just have to knit.  I’ve churned out a lot of knitted fabric over the past week.  The second ‘Shadow Baby’ sweater has been mailed and received.  I have knitted the entire back and half of one front on the ‘Scallop Trim Jacket’ from Classic Knits for Real Women. (it’s the first of the thumb nails)

And in the midst of all this knitting and thinking about tapestry, I have been listening to the BBC’s production of “A History of the World in 100 Objects from the British Museum.”  It’s a wonderful podcast!  I’ve always felt a kinship to the ancient world through my weaving.  I can’t say why.  Maybe because I learned to weave just when I decided that I would pursue a degree in Latin (which I’d studied every year since 7th grade) along with a degree in Greek which I was just learning as I learned to weave.  Maybe it’s that language and weaving are literally connected, coming from the same IE root, text

For whatever reason, I find listening to this podcast about wondrous artifacts, that not only come from the ancient world but from the dawn of human history, to be rather an act of reverence while I am knitting or weaving.  I am participating in what human hands have been doing for countless millennia, and I am experiencing how connected we all are.

swimming reindeer Here is the carved
mammoth tusk depicting swimming reindeer, from 10,000 BCE, that I learned about today.  A beautifully delicate carving, found in France. Curiously, the narrator mentions another carved piece from another part of Europe, same time period, that depicts a mammoth and is carved on deer antler.  He also mentions that from this time period objects convey realism, abstraction, perspective, ie, many different ways of expressing oneself.  The same area might yield finds of realism and abstraction, so it is believed that each artist was expressing his sense of his surroundings, incorporating his emotions into this expression. Every episode of this series has been mesmerizing.  I will be sad when it ends.

And in other news this week, our new daughter in law was featured in local news and newspapers in southern Connecticut for her work rescuing dogs.  She and my son have a houseful of pitbull mix dogs that all live happily together, some available for adoption….but not Chili who is shown here! The next photo is Lauren with Chili and Rupert.

Chili Puppy Bowl   Lauren puppy bowl

Lastly, when I’m not listening to the podcast from the British Museum, I’ve been watching and following online my first season of American Idol!  Talk about extremes!  The son of some good friends was picked up at the Boston audition and made it through the first cut in Hollywood.  He was eliminated tonight during the group singing.  I thought he had wonderful stage presence, but the group as a whole did not perform well.  They picked a song with really challenging lyrics! The Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani.

American Idol Bryce Group

Bryce is second from the right. He is already making quite a name for himself in the NY metro area as a solo artist and with his band “Stealing Jane,” so the Idol experience should only help!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Studying the Ancients to learn how to weave a face!

Tapestry UrumqiWarrior_sm

Look at this wonderfully woven face! These lips would make any weaver proud, and I hope to benefit from studying them. This tapestry fragment was found in a burial site in the Tarim Basin, and fascinatingly, they had been fashioned into a pair of trousers and found on the body of warrior in a mass grave.


An excerpt from Kris Hirst’s archaeology blog: “The tapestry trousers of Sampul are a pair of decorated woolen trousers, likely dated to the first or second century BC. They were found on the legs of a person buried in a mass grave at the Silk Road oasis of Sampul in the Tarim Basin of far western China north of Tibet. The trousers had been fashioned from a tapestry which, scholars believe, once hung on the walls of a palace or elite residence in one of the cities in west central Asia which fell under the influence of Alexander the Great.

How this tapestry became trousers and ended up on the legs of a person who died by violence in Sampul far from the tapestry's origins, is an entertaining, if somewhat scholarly, puzzle. But it also sheds a glimmer of light into the life of nomads and the interactions of the cultures that were affected by the opening of the Silk Road. The origins of the tapestry trousers were discussed in late 2009 in a scholarly article in the journal Antiquity, by a team led by Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI).“

The warp sett on this tapestry is considerably finer than my sett for the Medieval Spinner, but my attempts at her mouth still seem quite pathetic to me.  I’m embarrassed to share photos of what I’ve done, but I shall swallow my pride and do it, mostly as a learning vehicle for myself in future tapestries.  The following shows what NOT to do!

Medieval spinner 1

Version 1: I was in NY with the Wed. Group when I wove this, and I did not bring a wide enough variety of skin tone colors.  She’s horribly pink.  I thought her mouth was not good enough, although it was better than my next two attempts!  Archie’s sage advice was to make sure that the two points of her upper lip were woven on a ‘high’ warp with a low warp in between for the dip between the points.

Medieval spinner 2 Version 2 got unwoven immediately.  I felt the lips were too pale and did not show up from a distance.  This is version 3 where I continued with the pale lip color and used a grey outline.  I think it’s only getting worse!  The outline is too ‘cartoony’ for me. However, one thing I did learn is that the upper lip point that is closer to the viewer (the right side as we face her) is slighter higher than the lip point that is away from the viewer.  This involves putting both upper lip points on a high warp with one low warp in between, but also doing an extra wrap on the closer lip point to raise it slightly.

I feel strongly that her mouth is too low and too far away from the end of her nose, but it does match the original painting so I hesitate to change that.

Today I will unweave again and do something closer to version 1.  At least I’ve given her a much better skin tone now! The face from the Tarim Basin tapestry has a wonderful highlight on the upper lip.  Also the break between his lower and upper lip is the darkest color, and that is true of my spinner’s lips so I need to go darker! …and make her upper lip redder!  I hope I get closer today!