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June 14, 2021 / weavingschool

Getting Back to Normal – Gradually

At long last, I was finally able to teach felting for a full week to real live people – John C. Campbell Folk School made it happen. Everyone complied with the safety procedures without complaint. We were all just happy to be there learning and interacting with live people.

The school went to great lengths to keep us safe. Pre-recorded messages took the place of group meetings using new technology that even made it easy to share pictures between studios. And at long last, I can be two places at once! I was able to show a felting video I’d made earlier on the giant screen while helping students who weren’t watching the extra project.

I can never say enough about how wonderful the students who come to the Folk School are. They take on every challenge with enthusiasm, go away with new skills and great projects to amaze their family and friends. The staff was there to answer any questions, the food delicious and plentiful, the studios and grounds immaculate.

the Magic is back

May 7, 2021 / weavingschool

Recent Odyssey

Here is the finished project that tells the rest of the story of my recent health care odyssey, despite not having anything wrong except 70+ years of wear and tear. 

I was invited to participate in an Inspiration Collage project offered by the very talented weaving artist Anastasia Azure. She guided the participants through making a collage that would be the starting place for a future project. The previously posted shifu piece was the beginning place for my collection. I only used pictures and ephemera from years of keeping things that are “too good to throw away and will be just the thing for a project one of these days”. Years as an elementary school art teacher with little or no budget for supplies and a long time use of alternate materials destined for the global scrap heap left me with no lack of materials. Pandemic house cleaning unearthed long forgotten items.

Anastasia’s collage project asked us to reflect on several aspects of our work: design elements, emotional quality, narrative subject matter among others. I’ve never worked this way, and it was definitely an eye opener. As I manipulated the things on the collage, a solution and pathway appeared as if by magic. Each piece included tells a part of the story. The boat shuttle carries the viewer through the story just as it would carry yarn across the warp. It is balancing scientific research with the resulting medicines while the Guatemala worry dolls watch and worry. Clothing price tags ask the cost of the peace of mind that should come with a healthy outcome. Antique porcelain half dolls stand as observers, patients, health care workers.  The crowded claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in the system is evident. There are many other symbols and metaphors. I ask you to find them and add your own interpretation. 

Top view showing shift woven band as a path through the maze of health care

views from all sides of the free standing collage collection commenting on the many aspects involved in diagnosis

April 30, 2021 / weavingschool

Response to a Complex Issue

I learned about Shifu, the Japanese art of paper spinning at an HGA Convergence many years ago. From time to time some paper comes along that is just too good to pass up. A recent prescription for osteoporosis drugs (trying to keep old age at bay a while longer) came four to a box each with its own LARGE paper insert. I couldn’t pass up spinning it into yarn and creating a weaving as part of a tableau I decided to create about the mysteries involved in navigating the health care system. In the weaving, all the information is still there but, decoding it would be quite a task – just like it was before I cut it up and spun it. Does anyone actually read those inserts? If they did, would they even want to risk taking a drug with that many cautions? It even comes in many languages, a tiny Rosetta Stone. 

February 27, 2021 / weavingschool

Usually I’m somewhere else

I realized why winter seems to be going on forever this year for me Covid 19 notwithstanding. I’ve been going to Thailand in Jan or Feb for the past 20 years ever since my son moved there. This year no one is going anywhere. Then Facebook keeps reminding me of my trips, fun to remember but I’m even missing that 27-hour plane flight that gets me started adapting to culture shock and the twelve-hour time change. 
I do a workshop and gallery show for the fashion design department second year students at Rangsit University every year while I’m there. It’s been a real learning curve, how to pack for a month-long visit that includes workshop supplies, a gallery show, and enough clothes for starters. Fortunately Thai winters are hot so I leave my bulky winter coat behind. I’ve been stuck without it in Knoxville a couple of times but that’s another story. These days, I am taking half of what I “needed” in the beginning. (I love the part in the movie Up in the Air where the George Clooney character makes Anna Kendrick throw out her pillow.) 
For the first several years, I just took what I’d made during the year for the gallery show in conjunction with the workshop. One year, I thought my pieces would fill the gallery, but they were overwhelmed by the huge space. Then, slowly I connected the dots realizing what a unique experience I was gifted. I started to think in terms of instillations. Now my shows require participation by the students who otherwise circle the gallery in thirty seconds, migrate to the student section and disappear. I know their teachers require them to come but still……
So for old times’ sake and to make me feel warmer, here are a few random photos of Thailand travels and shows I’ve done. Cheers and be warm.

Pictures are from shows at Rangsit University in Bangkok and around Thailand: KoYo cotton weaving village, Chinese New Year in Nakhon Sawan, Puppet Show in Bangkok, High School parade in eastern Thailand, Duck street food in Chinatown in Bangkok, mat nee silk weaving in Chonnabot
You can check out some films on Thailand here:
http://samforkner.org/linecolor.html
http://samforkner.org/nakhonsawan.html

February 21, 2021 / weavingschool

What I’ve been doing during the pandemic

I’m one of the lucky ones who has had both vaccines for Covid 19. Yes, I feel guilty, but at least I can take care of any family who (hopefully never) becomes ill. They are all science believers so are following CDC guidelines. My children grew up in Atlanta within walking distance of the CDC and were all fortunate to have an excellent science program at their high school. 
So what have I been doing during the pandemic? Some days I’m still caught by Michelle Obama’s comments when she talked about low level pandemic depression. My productivity level still comes and goes. I’ve had to change paths like so many others. Two things have helped. Being freed from commitments has allowed me make just for the sake of learning instead of continuing to make samples for teaching.
Taking on line classes is the second thing that is keeping me going. My felting techniques dictionary has greatly expanded during this time. I’ve been able to make things I’ve been trying to figure out how to do for a number of years. Now I’m in the middle of my first formal color class for weavers. I’m learning how to be more intentional in my color choices instead of pulling things from my stash just because they “look good” together. It’s definitely harder to work this way, but in the long run it will be well worth the effort. I’m already solving puzzles and understanding why some things come out less than spectacular.
Here are a few of my favorites from the many classes:

January 25, 2021 / weavingschool

What Part Does Process Play?

I’m spending multiple hours watching Zoom talks these days: by inspiring artists, for teaching, with friends, with family, for classes. I need something to do with my hands while I’m watching.

Like lots of us with all this time on our hands, I was cleaning out a closet the other day and came across a sweater I’d spun and knitted in the 1980s when I was just learning to spin. It weighed a ton and I rarely wore it, but the fleece was all hand dyed with natural dyes and gifted to me by a dear friend. Besides I never throw anything away.

So I eventually connected the dots deciding to unravel the sweater and re-spin the yarn. Untwisting the badly spun yarn brought to mind the Native Americans who unraveled blankets to use as weft in their rugs. I feel like I am honoring this tradition in my own way. It is also a challenge both the un-spinning and the time involved. I’m using a drop spindle for the un-spinning and an antique great wheel for the re-spinning. Another link to “simpler” times. My hands are once again touching every fiber multiple times.

Young children aren’t interested in the finished product of their art work, they just like making it. As a teacher and mother of four I’ve observed this many times. Will I ever finish making a new sweater from the old? I’m not sure it even matters, somehow this busy work is all about the process.

Sleeves with yarn balls and knitting sample with new yarn
Sweater before taking apart

January 19, 2021 / weavingschool

On Grandmother Influence

Another Arrowmont Craft Conversations zoom meeting got me thinking again. The instructor presenters were asked what their ah ha moment was when teaching beginners. Whenever I’ve taught beginning weaving classes, whether it is adults or the high school kids at John Campbell Folk School’s Little/Middle Folk School , there is a point where everyone is at long last weaving and the only sound in the room is the clacking of the treadles and beaters. At that point, I just sit back and listen to the peace of the moment free to contemplate how the chain of weaving is still alive and well after thousands of years. But how we learn this skill has changed. We once learned from each other. I’ve listened to many stories of women who learned their hand skills from their grandmothers. I am one of those women as well. My grandmother would visit us every summer with a new project, knitting one year, crochet door knob covers the next. She had taken tailoring lessons and would sit in the yard on summer nights and meticulously hand sew padding stitches in the underlining pieces. While I was in college, she passed on some of her finer garment sewing skills to me. My granddaughter sat on my lap at the sewing machine first sewing on paper until her legs were long enough to reach the treadle.
I took my first weaving class at Arrowmont, so long ago that it was still called the Pi Beta Phi Craft Workshop. This weekend I watched young women present their art at the Art&&Code: Homemade conference. The world has moved on. So many jobs my granddaughter can choose from that weren’t even a twinkling in someone’s eyes when I was her age. Traditional skills combined with new technologies, whole new ways of thinking about craft and making. I can’t begin to imagine what skills these presenters will pass on to their grandchildren. I suspect they will find the grandmother chain remains unbroken.

December 26, 2020 / weavingschool

Daily Weavings 2005 -2020

From 1921 to 1954, Simon Rodia built the Watts Towers using reclaimed materials. It was just what he did. Legend claims that one day he said, “I’m finished” and walked away and never returned. I think about him as each year draws to an end. I’ve been making daily weavings since 2005 for no particular reason. Originally, I decided to see if I could make a 3” square weaving every day for a year, but here we are all these years later. I have entered some in shows and am surprised whenever a viewer relates to my daily living scraps. Mostly though, it is just what I do a few minutes every day.

I imagine the day will come when I’m “finished” and lately, I do feel like it is coming to an end. One thing keeping me going though is that I’ve never been able to answer the question, “what will I do instead?” The scrap materials that come into my house over the years have changed; so much is virtual these days. The search for something I’ve encountered each day has had to change. The focus has been a bit different each year. For the last couple of years, I’ve been layering either directly onto last year’s day or just a group on top of the year before. Three hundred sixty-five of anything takes up a lot of space and my house is full. When the pandemic started I began making smaller daily weavings. I’ve felt diminished by staying home, losing all my teaching jobs and trips many never to return, too much free time to be the most productive. So, for now at least, out of curiosity to see what all these months will look like, I will finish out the year and continue during the pandemic isolation time. 

2020 Daily Weavings

December 17, 2020 / weavingschool

Thoughts on Zooming in the Time of Covid

The Advantage and Limitation of Zoom Meetings

Yesterday’s Arrowmont Instructor Roundtable: Lost and Found Zoom program spoke to me in so many ways. One of the things that stood out was the use of found items as opposed to going to art stores and buying supplies. I’d started machine stitching on paper long before I left Atlanta where I was teaching elementary school art and was a longtime member of the local fiber guilds. Tired of hearing that nobody weaves anymore (not true) along with the “it’s all about placemats” mentality I’ve seen all too often, I made a small weaving using materials from each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. (footnote: I love that people can weave perfect placemats in complicated weave structures. Weaving today has so many more pathways to follow that it did when it was a necessity.)
 
I’ve been working more and more with found items since I moved to rural TN and lost supply sources and people who “spoke my language.” What could I use that came from my only supplier: Walmart? I began to look at materials in a different way. I wove a set of placemats using repurposed things playing on the idea that if it was a placemat, it sold for $12, if the same piece was hung on the wall as art it sold for 10 or 20 times that much. I was gifted with dozens of boxes containing 500 each of shirt labels from a closed sewing factory. Multiples became a material, no longer a shirt label. All at once, I could make something that nobody else in the entire world was making. I cut up and rewove and stitched on found papers on international trips on long train rides or in parks. During political times a number of years ago when the US had a “deck of death”, I sat in civic meetings crocheting around found antique pictures of long lost people. People admired my beautiful decorations and traditional craft while my actual intent was a war protest, something not allowed in my new community. It was my form of performance art.

So many questions were left unasked and unanswered in the short time of the Zoom meeting. I once had a conversation with an admired art teacher about whether it was wrong to objectify the people in an old photograph. How did the artists in the meeting feel about this when altering an image or did it occur to them? I once had pushback because I “destroyed a book” by altering the pages. How did the three artists feel when altering something by hiding its original use. Did the historical value or original intention affect their approach to using the items? I had trouble cutting up that book and still have ones I want to alter but can’t bring myself to cut apart; books nobody wants but are too good to destroy.  I didn’t take the book’s intent lightly when changing it for my use. I had serious conversations about life with the person I was working with at the time.

During the pandemic, I finished a long thought about installation piece using the 6000 tiny bottles of insects my daughter collected and identified for her PhD research. There are so many things to say in this time of living life in Zoom meetings. Maybe it is time to get back to sourcing new materials. 

Clockwise from top left: Shirt label skirt, Bug Bottles, Map Journey, Placemat, Alphabet Weavings, Who Are These People, Bible Belt
November 8, 2020 / weavingschool

Forest Floor

detail

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts annual Meet the Artist: https://airauctioneer.com/mta2020

Link to Forest Floor: https://airauctioneer.com/mta2020/forest-floor-woven-and-embellished-work-with-beaded-flowers-geri-forkner-value-300

22″ x 14″ 
Techniques: Natural and chemical dyes, woven section done during residency, various felting techniques, bead flowers, hand and machine embroidery
Materials: Wool, sari silk, vintage lace, repurposed garment, various silk cloths, glass beads, pearls; cotton, wool, and rayon yarns.

Link to the Meet The Artists web page: https://www.arrowmont.org/visit/events/meet-the-artists/