It seems Spring is scarce as hen's teeth around here. It comes and then goes just as quickly. Fortunately last Saturday we had one glorious spring day, coinciding with our rug hooking meeting in Connecticut at Ann's farmhouse. The weather and sun smiled upon us; all of us were able to attend, and we had a blast.
I have only a few pictures (since many of us have been working on the same projects for quite a long time) but they'll be worth seeing.
Well, of course--those of you who've been reading the rug hooking category of this blog will recognize Cheryl the Rug Rescuer's name and title. Yes, this is ANOTHER rug rescue by our intrepid colleague. I believe the designer's name is Denise Mitchell...see this close-up below:
Apparently Denise (if I have her name correct) was a rug hooking teacher who died recently. Before her death she designed and hooked most of this rug, but was unable to finish it. Another rug hooker who didn't feel able to tackle the job approached Cheryl, asking her to do complete it, and gave her the remaining wool for the rug. Cheryl accepted the challenge and is basically done with the hooking now. Someone else will take care of the binding, and then the rug will go to the woman who asked Cheryl to finish it. Denise, wherever she's currently existing, would be proud to see her rug completed. A better photo is below.
Elizabeth was punching away on this beauty:
And Kathleen had brought along this pattern to work on for the day (K is in the middle of two other very complicated gorgeous rugs, too large to carry around):
That's it for the rug photos, but wait until you see what is coming next. Ann, our hostess, brought out a hand-embroidered tablecloth that had us all drooling down our shirts. One of her relatives (grandmother? uh-oh, I can't remember) had begun this, and I think Ann prevailed upon an aunt to complete it. It is just stunning. I took lots of photos. Here it is:
Here are more photos of various motifs, and some close-ups. What a labor of love.
You may be wondering (but you probably aren't!!!), "Where's your rug?" My rug is so close to done that I've decided to wait until it is done to show the photo. Since I am moving at a snail's pace--too busy to work on it much--that could be another month, but I hope not. I'll try to get it done and on here sooner.
Instead, since Ann had been asking me about punchneedle, I did bring my latest punchneedle project. I finished it this morning. Still debating how to frame it. Below you can see the original tee-shirt I've had for at least ten years, if not more, with this design on the front. And next to it, my punchneedle version. The tee-shirt is fading, and I've loved this redwing blackbird image for so long that I cannot bear to lose it, so I wanted to immortalize it in punchneedle.
The one problem: I cannot find any contact information for the original artist, Rob McClellan. I believe I've traced him to Ohio, and have even found a gallery there that sells some of his work. But the most recent work they have is decades old. I wrote to the gallery to see if they could help me locate him, but they wrote back to say they have no idea how to do that. If anyone--anyone!--knows how to locate him (I suspect he may be long dead--I've found some photos of someone with that name on the internet but they too are decades old), PLEASE let me know. Clearly I did this for myself only and will not be selling or profiting in any way from the piece, but I would love to find him and thank him and credit him even more than I can by doing this.
A happy Spring to all. May it come, and stay for awhile, before the summer.
A lovely ride with new friends this morning to a rug hooking event at a church about an hour away. Very well organized, and 165 people in attendance. I only photographed a few rugs, but aren't these wonderful?
Good people, good food, good vendors. What's not to love? I even won a prize, and I never win stuff at these events. All in all a very satisfying day. We started out early in very cold weather and saw plenty of snow on the ground and gorgeous snow-laden trees. Driving home, all the snow was gone. Spring is on the way...if we can only hold out long enough!
Oh, this was fun to do. It has been a long time since I've done any punchneedle embroidery, and I enjoyed every minute of this. I've done a lot of my own designs but when I saw this pattern by Lori Brechlin of Notforgotten Farm I just couldn't resist.
I recognize this sentiment as being universal to all rug hookers and rug punchers. Here's a shot of the piece before it was framed:
After all, a hooker can never have too much wool.
I have indeed been absent from writing for a long while.
It's nothing bad, nor have I abandoned my blog. Instead, life has been overly-full with good things, including two major projects. I'll write about one of them today.
I just returned from a less-than-24 hour trip to Cornwall, VT, where I stayed overnight at the Oxford Rug Hooking School and completed the requirements to become a Certified Teacher Punch Needle Rug Hooking. (!! Hurrah !!)
And as if that weren't wonderful enough, just look at the weather and views I had while I was there (even though I hardly had time to be outside).
There was earthy eye candy everywhere.
Here are some samples, a photo journey for your enjoyment:
Amy Oxford's school is a bit of heaven on earth, one of my favorite places to go and well worth the four-hour drive for me. (Although TWO four-hour drives in 24 hours just about did me in.)
And then there is Amy herself, one of the kindest and most generous people I know. A fabulous artist, teacher and businesswoman. And there is also Heidi the dye wizard, working her magic on both creative and administrative aspects of the school--and just as nice. (Heidi also can repair absolutely anything.)
It is sheer pleasure to be in residence there.
I am ready to collapse for the evening and try to take in the fact that I'm now certified...a fact which just makes me think, "But I have so much more to learn!"
My one regret is that I couldn't stay longer. Anyone who has been to the school and is reading this will know exactly what I mean.
As for the other project I'm involved in: that one is bigger, longer-term, and more disruptive, and may prevent me from writing much for a while.
It's all good. But it's also all-consuming.
To quote the old Beatles' move, Help: "I can say no more."
When I was a kid, I remember my mother complaining that I never finished what I started. She was right. I would develop some sudden enthusiasm and throw myself into whatever-it-was and then just as suddenly lose all interest and drop it. I had unfinished projects littering the house.
I remember being furious with her for pointing this out--because I knew it was true.
I made a vow to myself that I would "finish what I started" from then on. And mostly I've stuck to that vow. My mother did me a big favor.
After completing a really challenging project last week (more about that in a future post), I had finally cleared the decks of all my recent textile endeavors and was free to think about what's next. I do have one additional rug underway but can finish that as soon as the weather turns cooler and I can get back in the studio.
As soon as I asked myself, "What IS next?" I realized I had two ancient unfinished objects that I truly wanted to complete. One is a quilt I started at least 30 years ago. But that's in pieces in various boxes and will have to wait a while longer, until I can find everything. The other, though, is a punch needle embroidery face that I started at least seven years ago. Here it is.
I finished 9/10s of this back around 2009, and then I had to stop for reasons I no longer recall. Not smart.
This morning I finished the face, despite running into a soft spot in the backing that was threatening to disintegrate completely. (Eeeek! Desperation was only seconds away.)
The piece itself is actually in full color, but I used an app to switch it to black and white to study the values.
I think I could have done a better job of finishing. However: If one has abandoned a project for over seven full years, and one has been silly enough NOT to store it neatly in a bag with its appropriate colors, then "one" will have to spend most of the day guessing at what colors were used, at how many threads were being used per stitch, and at what in the world I was thinking when I put it down with so little to finish. Jeez!
After I got all that sorted out--kinda--I finished the tiny space that remained in less that half an hour. I mean, by dropping this piece to work on something else seven years ago, it just made everything so much harder when I went to pick it up again. Oy!
Perhaps I thought I'd get right back to it. I never did. And I've thought about finishing it ever since. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Next up: punching the hair, then some type of background.
I'm now thinking of a whole series of embroidered portraits. I know that when I finally finish this project and post a color version, it will be clear just how far I still have to go to improve--but that's half the fun of learning to draw/punch/paint/hook. I can only get better!
Or so I tell myself.
And much as I hate to admit it: Thanks, mom.
"Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there."
"The artist uses the talent he has, wishing he had more talent. The talent uses the artist it has, wishing it had more artist."
Or perhaps I should have titled this, "Errors in Art."
How does one know if something is ruined, or retrievable?
I spent hours punching today, and only after those hours did I suddenly look at my highly-structured, visually precise geometric pattern and realize that something was very wrong.
This is not a forgiving pattern--it depends entirely on balance. I saw I had punched the entire center of the rug (yes, the CENTER...oy) in a very unbalanced way, since I was being mindful of my delight of the process but not the slightest bit mindful about the plan of the process. When I sat back and looked at the big picture, I was shocked.
(Does this sound like something that has ramifications for life beyond a rug?)
At least 1/3 of the center would have to be ripped out.
And so I ripped and ripped and ripped.
Monks cloth, which is the foundation commonly used for punching, is very sturdy, but somehow my battered foundation is now looking fragile to me. Will it hold?
(Another life metaphor. Sorry, I can't resist.)
And then there is all that beautiful yarn I dyed. I ripped out a mound of it. Can I recycle it, or will I have to discard it all (!!!), and dye more?
I did soak, dry, and recycle yarn in an effort to save it. Since I took this photo I have put these last few bits on the drying rack to straighten out. It will be awhile before I know if this has worked or not.
But I'm not done with repairing...tomorrow I have half as much to rip out and re-do.
I cannot believe I made such a huge error.
So what have I learned: It's not only about the process. When doing a geometric, planning is 50% of what's needed. I knew that already--what made me forget? I'll never know.
Tomorrow I'll get back into it and see if I can finish the repair. When I take the rug off the frame--and not until then--I'll know if this worked, or if I have a much more serious problem to face.
Is the rug still salvageable? I won't know for at least another day.
Centering...that is what I should have done repeatedly as I worked. I didn't, and this is the result.
A lesson for life-in-general, not just an art project.
"Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors."
I have been busy today, despite excessive heat and humidity. Although it hardly seems possible that I actually needed to dye more gold yarn for my current rug (after all the excess I had at the finish of the last one), I did.
But dyeing during the heat of August is not my idea of fun. So what to do?
I woke at 5 a.m. and it was only 70 degrees outside, so I zipped into the kitchen and dyed four skeins before the heat could build. Hopefully this will be enough to finish the rug. After hanging the skeins to dry, I spent a few hours punching also and am coming close to finishing everything but the borders. on the rug Well, perhaps that's pushing it just a little bit...but I'm definitely making good progress and I think the above statement will be true after one more day of work.
Once I wound the yarn, I amused myself by making a yarn-cake mandala on my iPhone. Love these fun iPhone apps...
It's too early to show my rug design, but a took a photo of a small part of the rug and ran it through another iPhone app to make a spiral.
Wow, these apps are powerful...I love this and only wish my rug could look like this! Quite amazing. (Indeed, my rug looks nothing like this at all.)
Honestly, some days it hardly feels like it was worth it to get out of bed. Today was one of those, creatively.
All I can see at the moment is what is wrong with this rug. Not only did I get nothing done on it, but I spent part of the day ripping out what I've already done, and then allowing myself to fall into a funk.
I broke my own rule which is: Just show up and do the work. So, that's my declared intention for tomorrow. I'll get up, meditate, and then work on the rug.
I will ignore the funk, and do the work. It's the only way that art gets done.
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case.”
I could have titled this post:
What I noticed today, as I really dig in to this new piece, is the initial curiosity, restlessness, and insecurity of beginnings.
Oh sure, I liked my design on paper, where it looked so neat and tidy.
But in actually starting to produce the design in wool on monks cloth, I feel all the questions and doubts rushing forward.
Will I have enough yarn?
I don't know.
Did I choose the right colors?
I don't know.
Will the new techniques I want to use actually work?
I don't know.
Will unfamiliar yarns/fabrics/techniques add to or subtract from the effect?
I don't know.
Can I really mix those two fibers in the needle?
I don't know.
Does everyone create this level of utter chaos when working on something new?
I don't know.
Can I tolerate the mess everywhere, while I get this underway?
I don't know.
Am I doing this right?
I don't know.
...and on and on. I found myself taking frequent breaks from the work. Reading a book to distract myself. Going onto Facebook. Knitting. Running errands. Taking a nap.
Avoid, avoid, avoid.
It is very hard to tolerate this level of "I-don't-know-ness." I notice it every time I start something new.
And yet...there is something exciting about it as well. The novelty, the experimentation, the not-knowing if something is going to work, and when it doesn't work, the part where I figure out what will work.
Truth is, I don't know.
Indeed, things do happen in the dark. It's nearly midnight, and when I took the photograph below I realized that because I was punching without enough light, I am going to have to re-do this work tomorrow, when I have help from the sun.
But that's ok. I just wanted to get this rug underway, and I did!
What's wrong with it, you ask?
No worries. Easy enough to correct when I can see better. I freely admit this only reflects how desperate I was to get the piece started. There is a deadline (3.5 months away!), and though I believe <hope> the work will go quickly, I want to GET GOING.
Yesterday I drove nearly 7 hours to finish collecting materials I'll need to complete the design. Today I went into the studio and began punching on the edge. But as I suspected, the studio is so freaking hot that it is not possible to be working there during July and August. I took my frame apart and brought it home, setting it up in my air conditioned living room. Thank the Goddess for air conditioning, since the rest of the week is projected to have high heat and high humidity. Hardly an inspiration for working with wool!
Last night, when I got home after driving all those hours, I unpacked some of my swag (mixed in with my hand-dyed wool):
After breakfast with a good friend, I expect to repair what I did "in the dark" and I'm planning on making some real progress with the rug tomorrow. I'm designing as I go, in terms of colors and techniques, and I can't wait to see how it will come together!
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
I'm teaching a Beginning Zentangle® class at the Greenfield Community Center on May 29th from 1-3 pm. They do not have a website so please call them for more information.
I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.)
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society