Sunday, November 18, 2018

Stone Basket Weaving Class




“Roselynn appraised Shane as she would an interesting rock, saying nothing.
However, Roselynn was the sort much enamored of rocks.”
― Thomm Quackenbush, We Shadows

I, too, am enamored of rocks and always have been.  And I have a special love of smooth, round stones that fit nicely in the palm of your hand.  I also love packaging.  I still remember that I was blown away over two decades ago when I came across a book called "How to Wrap Five Eggs" .  I love when thought has gone into combining two materials to create something novel and gorgeous.  Maybe that is what drew me to take a basket-weaving class at NC State while in grad school many years ago.   Every so often I would pull out the reed and tinker with it.  I had this idea of making handmade clay beads of Mayan goddesses and working them into a basket (that half finished basket may still live somewhere in my basement!).

It had been quite a while since I thought about all of that reed crammed away in the recesses of my home.  Then about three years ago I saw the work of Deloss Webber on Pinterest and I was stunned by the beauty of his work.  I decided to pull out my old reed and give it a go on my own.  You can see a blog post about it here.  I have also experimented with wild reed from Costa Rica called "mimbre".

After finishing the blogposts I ended up pinning some of my photos on Pinterest and it has been my number one pin.  Since then I have had quite a few people email me about how to make these "basket stones".  I hadn't really intended to teach a class on it, but last month life magically sent me to Point Gratiot, NY where I was literally surrounded by perfect stones for rock wrapping.  That, along with the finishing of my new studio, felt like a sign that it was time to do it. 


So yesterday Anne and Lisa came over to the studio and we had a lovely afternoon of rock wrapping.  Anne is an incredible jeweler, fiber artist, painter, and tribal sculptor (you can see her work here).  And Lisa is an uber-talented illustrative designer, surface designer, and mobile maker (you can see her work here).  These women have talent coming out their ears!  As you can see we had fun unwinding (and winding) together.


The hardest part of stone wrapping is getting it started.  I always wish I had more fingers or hands to keep all the pieces tight.


But eventually, as you slowly work your way up the rock, the reed begins to hold itself in place and you find yourself in a weaving groove.  The squeaky sound of reed being pulled through tight spaces and pulling it snug against the rock is super satisfying.


Below you can see some of our stone weavings.  I love that both Lisa and Anne not only made beautiful pieces, but added their own touches to their work.



I learned a lot from teaching this course, as one always does.  And I hope to teach another class in the new year.  If you are interested you can visit NessyPress.com and send me a message on the contact page.

"Even stones have a love, a love that seeks the ground."Meister Eckhart

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"Intro to Weaving" with Sarah Harste



Yesterday my friend Jyoti and I took Sarah Harste's Intro to Weaving Class and it was AWESOME!!!  Jyoti called me a couple months ago asking if I wanted to take some sort of weaving class.  At first I was resistant.  Not because I didn't want to do it (because I love weaving), but the usual busy life and reluctance to commit to something far off in the future.  Jyoti sent me Sarah's website and I was amazed by all her class offerings and wanted to take them all!  We narrowed it down to her Intro to Weaving class at Baker-Hunt in October and signed up.

I had never heard of Baker-Hunt Art and Cultural Center before.  It is in Covington, Kentucky and is not even 20 minutes from my house.  They offer a variety of classes that include painting, scultpure, photography, weaving, and yoga.  If you live nearby definitely visit their website.  I was also so impressed with the beautiful old building where our class was held.  The classroom was in a ballroom with detailed parquet flooring.  Below you can see a few interior shots of the building.



When we first entered the ballroom Sarah and a lovely array of yarn greeted us.  She showed us the sample of what we were going to make and told us we could pick out a few different colors.  I was in heaven!  There is not much I enjoy more than thinking about colors and how they might look together.  Oh, the joy of it.  The class was only five minutes in and I was loving it!


Also awaiting us was an empty threaded loom at each of our seats.  Sarah had very kindly threaded the warp for us so that we would be able to finish our project in the allotted 4 hours.


Soon, under Sarah's skillful and patient instructions we were off and weaving. 




Above you can see Jyoti weaving about halfway through her project.  Below is a photo of my weaving when I had just finished the sumac weave section.


And here you can see the finished weaving before I took it off the loom.


I wish I had taken more photos of Sarah helping us.  Below you can see her demonstrating how to take our weavings off the loom.  Sarah is a gifted teacher with an incredible knack for clear instruction and setting people at ease.  She also just has a lovely presence and is someone you immediately want to be friends with. Thank you Sarah for a wonderful experience! 


I also want to thank Jyoti for pushing me to get out of my house and try something new.  I have been a bit hermitish lately and it was such a lovely way to spend a misty, fall day.   


There is something ancient and magical about a bunch of women weaving together.  Words, stories, and yarns are shared as needles go up and down, under and over.  As we slowly weave our creations into being we are strengthening friendships and building community.  We are learning of each others sorrows and joys.  I wish we could experience this more often.


"Women are spinners and weavers; we are the ones who spin the threads and weave them into meaning and pattern.  Like silkworms, we create those threads out of our own hearts and wombs.  It's time to make some new threads; time to strengthen the frayed wild edges of our own being and then weave ourselves back into the fabric of our culture.  Once we knew the patterns for weaving the world; we can piece them together again.  Women can heal the Wasteland.  We can remake the world.  This is what women do.  This is our work." - Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted 


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Chair Reupholstery Project



Three years ago I was driving with my next door neighbor when he yelled at me to "Pull Over!!!"  He had spied a treasure in someone's trash...four almost-matching wood chairs.  We threw them in the back of my truck and felt super lucky to have come upon such cool chairs. 

In the photo below you can see they were stained a nice color.  Normally I am all about keeping the signs of wear and tear, but at the time I thought a coat of paint would help unify them and tidy them up a bit. I decided that I would prime and paint them.  However the weather turned after I primed them and once they were back in the basement they never came back out for more painting.


They then sat in my basement for three years.  I happened to have a couple photos of them because Bubo thought they made a wonderful jungle jim.  He is quite the acrobat and likes to impress us by climbing in precarious places.


If you have been following the blog you know that we just re-finished the basement for my studio.  I had decided to make the bigger room a workspace with a large table and I ordered the Theodora table and bench from World Market.  I figured I could finally dig out the old chairs and would use them around the table.  When the table arrived at our house it sat in the box for a couple months while we waited for our renovation to finish up.  So when I finally opened it I was surprised how yellow it was.  It did not match the floor at all!  Panic!!! I knew I either had to return it or change the color.

So one day my next door neighbor brought over some steel wool and alcohol and I rubbed the table and bench down.  I tried several different stains but ended up using some paint that I had bought for the back door mixed with water.  It worked wonderfully and I was so happy how it looked with the flooring.  Unfortunately, when I dug the chairs out and looked at them I had the sinking feeling that I wanted to strip the primer off.  I tried to ignore the feeling but sometimes you just can't ignore your gut. 


One day I hooked up the orbital sander and thought I would just try it on one chair to see how it went.  George took pity on me and ended up sanding the majority off.  I then took over the sanding where the sander wouldn't reach.  I even dug out my old dremel tool which worked incredibly well in the holes of the back. Above you can see the chairs after sanding the primer off and coating with poly-urethane.  It was a CRAZY amount of work, but they looked really good with the floor.


Luckily we had a short trip after all of the sanding and sealing so when I came home I was ready to move on to the next phase of the project...sewing.


Earlier this year I had taken a trip to Guatemala.  While I was there I visited an incredible store filled with everything under the sun.  But my favorite part of the store was a GIANT bin full of used huipiles.  A huipil is a traditional shirt that often has embroidery specific to the town where it was woven.  I spent a very long time rummaging through the bin and came home with three used huipiles


You can't tell from the photo above, but one of the huipiles I bought was enormous.  I figured I could cut it apart and have enough embroidery to form a patch in the center of each chair.  The sewing part took me WAY longer than I thought it would.  Below you can see that two of the chairs contain the portion of the shirt with the neck hole.  I ended up filling it in with the extra grey from the other panels.  I also ended up buying brown twill tape to seal up the edges.


I ended up having to sand off the old foam from the wood chair bases.  It was green and crumbly and would make a mess every time I touched them.  George helped me pull out lots of old staples and fabric too.


In the end I am so pleased with how the the table and chairs look together and with the flooring and the pop of color from the seats.



One of the final steps of all my projects is to do a final photo shoot.  The weather this week was beautiful so I decided to take the chairs outside.  If anyone had seen me they would have thought I was crazy.  I photographed the chairs all over the backyard.





Afterwards I brought the chairs inside and ended up playing around with photographing the cushions just by themselves. 





Although the project essentially took three years I was so happy to bring new life to these old chairs.  Several times we came close to getting rid of them because they were in the way and I often doubted whether I would ever do anything further with them.  I also have a bad habit of buying fabric and then never using it.  So I was doubly pleased to bring new life to the old huipil.  So I guess the moral of the story is to keep hoarding all the old stuff in your basement because you never know when you might need it!  OK, maybe that is not the best message.

A better message is to find the joy in giving new life to old things.  Yes, that is what I meant to say the first time.  There is something incredibly satisfying about the process.  I intimately know these chairs. I have touched and scrubbed and painted every nook and cranny of these old chairs.  By caring for them in this way I have learned to love them.  That is not to say that we should be materialistic.  Rather we can learn to honor our possessions by giving them a full life span instead of throwing things in the trash as soon as their "newness" wears off.  I can't help but end this velvet chair post with a quote from the Velveteen Rabbit:   


“Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn't matter.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Point Gratiot, Dunkirk, NY



Last weekend we traveled to Cassadaga, NY to visit my mother-in-law.  My sister and her two boys, plus my sister-in-law, also came to meet us there.  The first night there, a friend came over and suggested we visit a place called Point Gratiot.  He said there were cliffs and that it was a pretty beach to visit along Lake Erie.  So the next day we drove twenty minutes north to find it.


"Pretty" was an understatement.  I LOVED it!  It was the highlight of the trip for me.  I not only love the beach, but I am crazy about smooth rocks.  Plus, one of my favorite things to photograph are repetitive nature textures.  I was in heaven!

Below you can see some of the various textures I came across while exploring the beach. 





The park was especially interesting from a geological standpoint because it did indeed have cliffs.  But the cliffs were no ordinary cliffs...they were composed of layer upon layer of shale.





Here is a short video of the cliffs and the sunset (sorry I went a little too fast over the water...I hope you don't get sea sick).



While looking for quotes for this post I googled "wabi-sabi" and discovered a new Japanese aesthetic concept.  I have always loved the idea of finding beauty in the aged and worn (wabi-sabi).  But I had never come across the term of "Shibui."  According to Wikipedia, "Shibui" is "an enriched, subdued appearance or experience of intrinsically fine quality with economy of form, line, and effort, producing a timeless tranquility."  The image below particularly struck me as an example of this aesthetic.


We enjoyed the beach so much we went back the next day so some of the photos are bright and sunny and some are overcast.  It was beautiful either way.




I searched and searched for a quote for the image below but finally gave up and wrote a short poem for it.  This photo shows a nice close-up of the shale cliffs.



I love it when life throws you a bone (or a stone) and you stumble upon something so amazing by chance.  Or maybe it isn't really by chance and we are all connected...pulling each other this way and that.