Monday, June 30, 2008

A Day with James Koehler

I had the opportunity to take a one day workshop with James Koehler on hachures, hatching and other color gradation techniques. It was insightful.

Here is my tiny workshop piece. I had to take it off my loom since I had a different tapestry class the next day.

You will notice that it is done in wool. Yes, I popped lots of allergy pills and washed my hands everytime I wound new bobbins. And I survived weaving with wool for a day. I thought it is not often one gets the opportunity to weave with James Koehler and the hand dyed wool that he brought was beautiful.

In the photo, starting from the bottom are progressive hachures some with the turn on the upper warp and some on the lower warp, then hatching using uniform shapes with three colors and ending up with vertical hatching. Doesn't seem like a lot but quite useful.

He suggests starting a weaving with 1) waste, then 2) twining with the warp, 3) six pics of warp followed by 4) six pics of weft then 5) finishing with soumak with the bumps on the front of the weaving. He finishes his weaving in the same way - but in reverse. This allows him to machine sew the Velcro and twill tape to the weaving and just whip stitch the hem. It sounds like it will yield a much smoother and thinner hem than what I do. I will try something like that on my next weaving.

His mantra is that art is all about the image. If the technique is not perfect then the image will suffer. And a potential viewer will not become a buyer if he/she notices the technique since buyers are buying the image. I tend to believe this due to the appeal of my Behind the Scenes tapestry of a zebra butt.

He believes most weavers do not spend enough time perfecting technique nor designing the 'best' composition for their pieces. More on composition later since I also took a 90 minute seminar on composition which made the entire trip to Tampa worthwhile. I am still assimilating what he said in that short time.

It was a bit scary sitting in his workshop and realizing the amount of work I will need to do to get my technique to the level which he was describing. But doesn't everyone need a challenge. He discussed what I should do...and so...I guess it's just up to me to sit out and get to it.

Time to make a plan...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tapestry Sampler

Here is the tapestry sampler I just took off my baby Shannock. I would have done more but I need to take the loom to Tampa for two workshops.

This piece is real cool. Lots of negative space...lots of double half hitches. I think the final tapestry will come out quite intellectually and visually interesting.

Off to smell the tulips...

Monday, June 16, 2008


I think I am almost done with the basic cartoon for my Study in Black.

After several more hours of tinkering and a lot of erasing, here is my cartoon as it stands today. I worked out the cartoon in actual size, 32 inches by 72 inches.

Then when I was finally satisfied, I took a photo and played around with it on the computer. In the end, I flipped it both horizontally and vertically for the final view and saved it in a gray scale.

To get a better idea what it might look like in black, I inverted the photo in Photoshop Elements which interestingly yielded green lines and a red Uranus. I am satisfied.

Now I just need to go back and make a few small tweaks on the actual cartoon erasing a small line here and there and that's that.

Next on my to-do list:

- figure out the shadows and values for the nautilus shell
- find the 'right' yarn in the vendor hall at Convergence for the Uranus and perhaps for the orbits of its moons
- figure out whether I want to weave front to back or back to front. I've started the frame at the bottom but I still could go either way.

And, of course, I can finish up weaving the bottom of the frame and move up into space.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Composition Review

My tapestry, A Study in Black, is obviously made of black yarn. I am taking the position, a correct one I hope, that what makes a good composition good is the same regardless of whether the tapestry is all black or a multitude of colors. I have been struggling with my cartoon, since I want to be as happy with the cartoon as I would be if I was weaving it in a color.

So here is my list of things I need to consider - -

BALANCE: Is the piece dynamically balanced? Once I think it is, I need to take a photo and view it on the computer. Invert it. Rotate it. Does it still seem balanced? Still like it?

MOVEMENT: Does the design move my eyes where I want them to go? Vary shape, value, size, color, direction, line and/or texture accordingly. Is the focal point in the right place? Is the focal area large enough? Ensure there is more detail/intensity in the focal area than in others.

VISUAL INTEREST: Don't be boring & don't be lazy - elements, yarns, values, shapes and textures can be repeated but with variety. When in doubt use the golden ratio.

PERSPECTIVE: Is there a vanishing point? Is the perspective correct? Can it be a better design with a different perspective? Where is the light coming from and are the shadows in the correct spots?

VALUE IS ALWAYS KEY: What value requirements are there in this piece and how will I achieve them with my palette of black yarns with different shimmers and textures. Even with black yarn there will be values...

INTEGRITY OF PLANE: Is there integrity of plane? Are the planes each speaking in its own dialect yet still understandable by the others?

SOMETHING FOR VIEWER: Are I going for an emotional impact? Has it been achieved? Is there a little surprise somewhere for the viewer?

SANITY WHILE WEAVING: Are there any spots too difficult to weave - can I modify the design to improve the weaving process?

Now that I have my list...I can go back to tweaking my cartoon.

A Black Cartoon

I have been going back and forth on my cartoon for my Study in Black tapestry. I was perfectly happy with the small drawing I had. But when I enlarged it to size, it looked too busy. I then expanded the piece, making it less busy but it doesn't make me as happy as my small drawing. So I have been playing around with the cartoon.

To make some real progress, I re-warped the loom to improve the tension and have started to weave the basket weave frame which will encircle the piece. It is quite pleasant to weave even with black yarn and midnight blue warp. The bright white wall behind the loom helps a lot. The basket weave looks like it will make a nice frame.

The piece is 32 inches across. Initially, I had planned the piece to be about six feet long...32 by 72 had a nice ring to it. It may be bigger depending upon the final cartoon.

Now I have been wondering whether I have enough yarn.

I have been collecting black yarn for quite awhile. All sorts - cotton, silk, boucle, tensel, alpaca, chenille, rayon, mohair, ribbon, plastic, string... even a bit of wool. It looks like a lot but since I am weaving a 6 epi I will have to double and triple some of the yarns when I weave with them.

I guess I will need to weave a couple of feet to know whether there is enough.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Variations on a Maze

Done! I have my two maze tapestries framed and ready to mail.

It took awhile to figure out how best to hang them. I opted for a simple black board with a plain edges painted in chalkboard black. It's a nice black in that it doesn't shine and doesn't reflect back the lights from a flash. I attached the tapestries with wire through the hem of the tapestry and into holes made in the back board.

The first one is in Search of a Kiss completed last June and the second Anegada Memories which I finished in February of this year.