Many years ago our family was traveling in the American South West. I had my drop spindle with me and sat in an ancient Native American ruin and began to spin. I felt like I was communicating with others who had spun in that place and wondered what they might have been thinking. So when I traveled to Machu Picchu in Peru last week, I once again decided to commune with the past. The roots of my craft are here and it is certainly thought provoking for me to relate to past generations in this way. I spin because I love the process, they spun out of necessity, but I still feel a connection to them.
Just getting back from two amazing weeks in Peru. These are the weavings I made on the trip with a couple of close ups.
We toured Machu Picchu and five weaving villages where the weavers knitters and spinners wrote the definition of labor intensive. Their colorful traditional clothing and skills will long be an inspiration for me.
I recently completed an entry for a show on Touch. The prospectus recognized that museum etiquette prohibits touching. Traditional craft forms – it goes on to say – are made to be touched, handled, used. A recent show on soft sculpture put on by a Facebook friend who has blogged pictures of the signs in the gallery requesting hands off the sculptures has rattled around in my brain. The works are precious not to be messed with.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about touch lately. Whenever or wherever I display my felt vessels people pick them up and handle them. Even my latest e-textile pieces with fiber optics and lights that are wired down inside a box are still handled. Another thing that has fascinated me over the years of doing gallery shows is how the curator interprets my work, a different twist I didn’t think of, what it is put beside. I love to observe the gallery visitors touching the pieces or attempting to peak behind. Who gave them permission, but touching and peaking are what I always want to do at shows.
Plus I’ve been at the making things for so long I’m beginning to question the value of the pieces I make. Who cares if they last another hundred years? Aren’t the fingerprints left on the work part of the story of the piece? To me, that story will make it all the more valuable. If it goes back to the earth sooner as a result of the fingerprints so much the better. Many of the gallery pieces I see these days are of temporary works remembered only by their photographs.
The piece I entered consists of five “vessels” inspired by what surrounds me at the Tennessee Aquarium. They are not attached to a base so that the viewer can make their own arrangement. Nothing is static in an Aquarium and these pieces shouldn’t be either. There is no right side up to the pieces. They are meant to be touched, felt, rearranged, and fingerprinted.
When it comes to felt, it seems that less is more. I’ve been working with more controlled samples lately, measuring the square inches and working with small measured amounts of wool – even though I want everything to be intuitive it is time to do some measuring and note taking. I wanted to try using some commercial lace and even though I was skeptical that the tiny amount of fiber I was using would even attach to the polyester lace (purists please forgive me). I found that it did, and not only that the nearly 50% shrinkage gave some amazing results witnessed by what I photographed it with in the woods on the walk from my studio to my house.
I returned from the Surface Design Conference held at Arrowmont last night full of new ideas, new connections, and renewed enthusiasm. These are some of the daily weavings I made from things I collected during the week. When I look back at these as the year’s collection grows, I’ll have fond memories of Lisa Klakulak lighting the fire under a pot of natural dyes grown in her garden. I’ll most likely forget how my feet felt after rolling felt until 11 PM. The bark I stripped off a fallen tree while hiking in the Smokies on our one free day may change color as it dries, but the beauty of the mountains will linger long. Post cards from shows, the selvages cut from those prefelts I rolled until 11, and leftover yarns collected at Little/Middle Folk School won’t be lost in the crowd of 365 days.
I’ve been spending some of these beautiful end of summer days in my studio making felt. My friend Jane Bawn from Rooks End Gallery makes amazing buttons with layers of glass and copper. They were perfect for these two pieces. Here is a sneak preview. Next up is to get pictures on a model. My current goal is to have 10 pieces first. Stay tuned.
The Peachtree Handspinners Guild, my longtime friends from Atlanta, puts on a workshop every so often called Plying the Arts. This summer it was in Athens, GA at the Lyndon House Arts Center near the University of Georgia. I taught felt beads, bookmaking, and paper making then added a few luxury felting fibers from the vendors to my stash.