Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Talking with friends

This morning, I had breakfast and a good visit with my long-time friend Susan, a writer of some note.  We try to do this every couple of weeks except when she's away on a teaching tour or in Colorado helping her elderly parents navigate ill health and the challenges of their eighth decade of life.  Susan and I always have a lot to talk about, mull over together, and kvetch about.  She's a poet and natural-history writer, I'm a weaver, quilter and knitter.  I'm also an eclectic reader, with academic training in literary criticism and philosophy.  We make a great pair.

Today Susan was telling me about a series of short essays she's been writing; they began as a consideration of the trials of getting older and experiencing her body getting cranky.  (She's facing hip replacement surgery in a couple of weeks.)  She described the arc of the first essay as a movement from darkness into a kind of light and renewed wonder, enabled by her consideration of an Emily Dickinson poem.  We discussed how the experience of good art (however that's defined) can provide us with a glimpse or jolt of recognition of some truth or vision or insight that lifts our spirits and opens a fresh energy to continue moving forward. 

Because we have been friends for so long, and have talked so many times about her writing and my weaving, we each have a considerable understanding of the other's work process.  So when she commented that she didn't see how these individual essays she's writing could work as a book, how they could fit together coherently, I came up with a metaphor from my work that was helpful.  Think of one of my warps, I said, long enough to weave several pieces.  Each scarf or shawl is unique, with different patterns and different weft yarns in each.  In some, the warp is easily seen; in others, it's hardly visible.  Yet it's there in all of them, carrying through each the same theme of color and texture.  Her collection of essays needs to have such a theme, or central question, or philosophical core, so that -- like each item in my series of woven pieces -- the common element is perceptible.  Susan, who is also a visual artist of considerable ability, could visualize and extrapolate from that metaphor an approach to her essays that heretofore had escaped her.  It was exciting and energizing for both of us.

On Friday, I'll get together with another dear friend, who's a sculptor.  She and I also often talk about our work in a broad way, and consider elements of process and creative endeavor which fascinate and engage us.  I treasure these friends, and many others, with the knowledge that their presence in my life makes me a better artist and a wiser person

Reading Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows.  Among other things.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Begin as you mean to go on

That title is a principle that I came across years ago in something I was reading.  At this time of year, when I'm taking stock and setting my sights on the months ahead in this brand spanking new 2011, this principle is foremost in my thoughts.  I like the idea of establishing early on a practice, or a new habit, or a fresh attitude toward something.  Begin as you mean to go on . . . .

So this evening I write about my studio work, even though I've taken two days off over the holiday weekend, in preparation for being tomorrow at work and nose-down in the current projects.  I've taken some new pictures, and will try to include a couple in this post if I can figure out the new image-attaching process.  (I figured it out -- see above for finished cloth, and the warp.)  The fabric for the vest was beautiful, and the finished garment elegant.  I'm going to be getting it back temporarily from the happy new owner to do a little taking in of the side seams, as it's a bit roomy for her.  When it's back in my hands, I'll photograph it, hopefully being worn.  

Now I'm weaving off the rest of the 9.5 yard warp; this part will be two shawls, each about 7.5 feet long and 22 inches wide.  The first of the two is being woven in a fancy plaited twill pattern, with two strands of weft -- one a 10/2 pearl cotton, one an 8/2 tencel -- both black.  Very black.  The second will be woven with either a grey tencel or a deep blue hand-dyed silk.  The weaving is going along well, though I didn't spend a lot of time at it last week as I chose instead to enjoy several get-togethers with friends -- something I don't often do on work days, especially when I'm working against a deadline.  This week I have very little in the way of appointments or meetings, so I expect to made substantial progress on this pair of shawls, called the Indigo Bunting series.  In fact, I hope to finish them and have them off the loom so the next warp (which is ready to go) can be started.

I'm thinking through my 2011 work plan, and will be getting it written down later this week.  This is a practice I've been following for some years, and it continues to be invaluable.  Sometime next week, I'll get together with my friend Anne Belov (a painter, printmaker and cartoonist) who also develops a carefully thought-out work plan, and we'll review and discuss both of them.  This gives each of us an idea of the other's upcoming year and what accomplishments are envsioned, and we're able as part of our fairly regular conversations and visits to check in with each other on how particular projects or tasks are moving forward, without it ever being somehow artificial or contrived.  It's simply part of the ongoing flow of our friendship, and it's enormously helpful and supportive to be both casual and disciplined about the work and the plans.  Once I've got mine firmly in hand, I'll put at least some of it in this blog -- one more way to ensure Getting Stuff Done.

I love the beginning of another year -- it gives me the sense that everything is all fresh and new, and any failings or lapses during last year no longer are part of the picture.  Clean slate and a clear view ahead.