Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shaking off the Cobwebs

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   I am shamelessly stealing my cousins words for my blog title today! She is an artist of note in Michigan, a potter, a painter, a gallery owner and one of the creative people that inspires me! When I mentioned my foray into a new discipline this fall, she mentioned that she is 'shaking off the cobwebs too' which I thought was a wonderful metaphor for what it feels like to attempt to infuse energy into one's creative process! And that is exactly what I have wanted to do for the past year. To shake off the cobwebs from a less than ideal time- a time with a creative void that needs to be plowed through!

     Despite the fact that it was an odd summer of lack-luster creativity for me, I have been knitting and weaving all year until now--just not with the passion and enthusiasm I remember! Perhaps it was the change of having so many of my kids grow up and move on to their own lives last year that prevented me from taking the big leap last fall, but now I am ready to do what I have been waiting to do --for 24 years-- to go back to taking some college courses in Art History. When I graduated from college (with two small children in tow) I considered Grad school in Art History & Film School at the American Film Institute, but it just wasn't to be, with so many responsibilities! Add two more children to the mix over the years and I no longer wonder why I waited so long to look inward to myself....

     So this fall I am getting my feet wet again with a two undergrad courses, to round out my transcript, as well as my first Calligraphy class since High School! This time I am not taking Italic, rather I have jumped into Copperplate Calligraphy, the ornate and beautiful script used to write such things as the Declaration of Independence! 

The history fanatic in me loves every minute of learning to hold the oblique pen-- the tilted desk, the mixing of ink crystals and constant dipping of the pen. The artist in me sees the challenge in every stroke and line, from hairline to rounded curve with volume. (Now I am just missing my 18th century shift, bodice and skirt-- and my pony-tailed, three-cornered- hat husband! They must be downstairs next to my spinning wheel....)
  Classes began about a month ago. We have gone from learning to use the pen to using it with a more sensitive nib (one that flows with less pressure, but in the end can be harder to control on a stressful day.)

     And I am hooked!!! I find myself fantasizing about working on my Copperplate while reading my Art History chapters or when trying to fall asleep! For example, I will be practicing the lines in my head for a letter, like miniscule (little) s.....thin line up (no pressure) above the mid line, lift pen (pressure down, curve out) thin line back, add the fruit, lift pen, thin line connector stroke...

     Then I find myself wondering what I will learn about the history of art at the time of Copperplate Calligraphy next semester, when I take the second half of Western Art History (we won't get past the Reformation this semester.)

     Combining these two disciplines,  I now have a great deal of new appreciation for Chinese Art. The Non-Western Art History course I'm taking spent a great deal of time on the use of Chinese Calligraphy within scrolls and artwork of that culture--a combination of poetry, verse and art that amazes me! Why do we not write poetry next to all of our visual arts?

     Which leads me to a sad thought, as the art of writing seems to be dying in the U.S. (and by that I mean that they are not teaching handwriting in many elementary schools anymore.) I wonder what affect this will have on the world of art in the future, if children do not learn something as basic as line and curve of the handwritten word? How many children will have trouble reading, or drawing, or painting in the future if they do not have a time in their lives where they learn to use their eyes and hands to make shapes and words? How many children will never take up a Calligraphy pen in the future because they have never learned to write letters in a beautiful way in the past? How short sighted we are in this computer age! It makes me want to create a place where beautiful handwriting is remembered always. A museum perhaps? I wonder if one exists in our country today?

     But I digress from my personal journey-- I am reconnecting with a part of my brain that hasn't been used in a while, save editing my kids High School papers. I am thinking and writing about Art in an academic way for the first time since my Film Textual Analysis classes in college. It has been invigorating and also enlightening. I am considering diving into some studio design classes in the spring-- because maybe I miss making things too much to be an academic. I am considering how to connect the dots on a very creative, yet discombobulated education, both in and out of college. 

     Today I am inspired and reminded at the potential of making things by my cousin in Michigan. I watch as she posts her latest sets of thrown bowls with beautiful sayings incised and think-- a working artist?!!! I wonder if I could find a way to do what she does? To spend my days making and taking what I see, the knowledge from Art History and all of my skills in media, fiber, Calligraphy and history, and make a creative life that fulfills.

     The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, does it not? I am grateful for the chance to sweep out the cobwebs this fall. I am excited to gain a more formal education in art and design. I can't wait to see where these first steps take me. I have to remind myself that patience produces a better result in the end-- take my time and don't rush it-- just as in Copperplate Calligraphy, make each stroke with intention and patience and beautiful results will follow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Take Joy! -- Mad about Plaid and Puppies

It is the heart of winter here in Minnesota again, which means it's the perfect time to get back to my  loom! The holidays are over, the kids are all back where they need to be, and I am busy in my studio space with all shades of purple and grey. I am making a lupine bleu plaid blanket for the couch in my studio space. What a treat to weave something for me this time!

I have been weaving plaid for a few years now. The last plaid blanket that I made on the loom was 2 years ago. It was my dad's 75th birthday present- a patriotic red, white, and blue- and it turned out beautifully (if I do say so myself....) It seemed time to tackle another large piece of doubleweave to keep my skills sharp. This blanket will be about the same finished size as the last,  5 feet by 6 feet. Big enough to wrap myself in when I am knitting or reading or planning another weaving project in the future!

 I began winding the warp way back in September--and then put it away for a while-- so it was a bit of a challenge to put the warp threads on in the correct order. A few weeks of threading heddles and a few errors threading heddles later (which I DID fix ) and the project has finally begun to fly forward at a decent speed. I am weaving!

I love the rhythm of weaving, the movements of the foot treadles, the throwing of the shuttle, the breaking of the yarn to change color, and the magic of the pattern appearing in front of me! Though weaving is the fun part, it is by far the shortest section in a handwoven project. Winding yarn, warping the loom, threading the heddles, threading the reed, tensioning the threads, and weaving in waste yarn for fringe all have to be done before one can even begin to see the pattern. And don't forget the time finishing afterward-- securing the ends, making the fringe, fulling the yarn into a large piece of fabric. But today I am weaving.....

In the heart of winter I enjoy the change of light as it hits the yarn from morning, to afternoon, to evening. The cycle of advancing the warp here and there throughout the day gives me such a sense of accomplishment and joy! I am reminded of Tasha Tudor's love of the saying to Take Joy! when I am weaving.

 And there is another reason to Take Joy! in our house at the moment-- we have a new member of the family giving us a run for our money these days-- Mr. Bingley, our new Smooth Fox Terrier puppy  (who we were lucky enough to rescue through American Fox Terrier Rescue) has made things quite exciting! He reminds us of our beloved Smoothie, Louie,  who we lost a few years ago, but he is his own special boy. And our Corgi, Cora has decided he can stay too-- though she really wonders at his incredible, puppy energy.

So I am reminded of the many reasons to enjoy this cold season, before the spring arrives in May -- and I am thrust into the garden and a crazy baseball schedule and slathering sunscreen on each morning becomes the norm. Winters aren't cold in Minnesota-- they are perfect-- perfect for Taking Joy! in weaving and yarn projects and cozy new puppies too!