Friday, July 22, 2016

The Penland Experience

I've spent the last two weeks at Penland School of Crafts in the mountains near Asheville, NC. It is an interesting place that I've been trying to wrap my head around the entire time I've been here.

There are parts that are lovely. Really lovely. I've not tired of watching the light change on the mountains. Watching the rain come in and out. Stunning.

Rebecca Mezoff invited me to be her studio assistant and I quickly said yes.  Our class was fantastic and really pushed themselves hard.  Many were beginners and the work they produced was amazing.  Read more about the class and see photos on Rebecca's blog.  I'm so grateful to get to work with Rebecca again and to spend more time with her.  She really is as nice in person as she is online.

There are other parts of Penland that were really hard.  The heat has been the most challenging as the buildings aren't air conditioned. It really takes it out of you! Some of the buildings don't have screens and some of the insects are amazingly large. Sometimes the noise of having open windows and a lot of people in a small location made sleep fleeting.  Sleep deprivation does add up.  

It was hard to step out of my life for two weeks and miss my anniversary for the third year in a row.  I gained a new appreciation for the life that I have at home.  I have an amazing community, work I love, school that challenges me and allows me to grow, and incredible support everywhere.

In a way Penland is like grad school condensed to two weeks, with a lot more age diversity thrown in. Folks come with such high expectations - they will make amazing work (and some do), they will change their lives/careers, work, work, work, work!  I went in with a few goals - learn new skills (James Koehler interlock), engage with the community, present my short artist talk to an alarming amount of people and let the experience unfold without wrestling for control.    

The people at Penland have been lovely. I've met people that have become instant friends.  We have shared many meals together and porch sitting kind of talks.  Penland is run on people power.  There is an amazing crew of ever changing student workers that provide everything to keep this place running.   I've tried to say thank you to them each chance that I got - they work hard, in challenging conditions with a lot of it unseen.   

On my last night, I directed many newcomers to find their housing for the night, bedding, studio locations and orienting them to how Penland works.  It is amazing how the routines and rhythms of a place sink in.  By Sunday, they will know how Penland works and will guide other students into the routines as well.  There will be other intimacies of Penland they will discover.  The best porches to sit on and watch the storms roll in.  The blazing heat of the day, and the cool breeze of night.  The mist that clings to the mountains after rain.  The large moths which populate the hallways and bathrooms.  They'll find their own special places.  

Penland spaces.  Note my simple hack to keep larger insects out of my room.  Toilet paper is useful for chinking in gaps of wooden screens.  Bath mats are useful for under the door insects.

Soon these newcomers will grow tired of the food (which is consistently good), miss their own bed and feel as tired as I do right now.  I saw it on the faces of outgoing group of assistants and work study students when I cheerfully came to Penland two weeks ago.  It is a cycle which repeats itself many times during the summer sessions.

It was the most wonderful and awful thing I've done in a long time.  

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hidden Curriculum and a New Year

Street of gold - captured on a walk
I'm enjoying a very short break before the next semester begins.  This past one was hard - perhaps the hardest one ever.  The tricky thing about grad school is the hidden curriculum.  That is the stuff that will get you.  It exists mostly in your head.  There is the crushing feeling of doubt, guilt and fear. Head Games.  Ugh!

In a related note - I found this wonderful article the other day: Learning to Deal with the Impostor Syndrome.

I learned a lot this semester and in many ways I found myself again.  I reasserted what was important.  I made space for what I found to be true.  Perhaps the most important thing is I made time for myself.  In April, I began to walk and commit to making eating changes.  I've lost 40 lbs so far and I feel great.  Everything is getting easier, I have more energy and I can climb behind looms without
scooting them around.  I lost a lot of weight about 10 years ago and found out that being thinner didn't solve all my problems (why did I think it would?).  This time I feel more prepared and I'm enjoying small victories - moving my Fitbit to smaller notches, finding my collarbone and the growing pile of clothes that are now way too big.  I had to remember this semester that I needed time to walk - the physical exercise time and the aloneness time are some key to my happiness.

My husband and I learned to make time for each other as well.  We finally committed to making time to write as well.  We picked up a book of writing prompts and are slowly working our way through short exercises.  It has been a lot of fun.  We sit down for 20-30 minutes of dedicated writing time then we trader computers and read.  Sometimes we learn something new about each other and sometimes we just have to encourage each other to keep pushing.

Distance - handmade paper (abaca)
I've also gotten back to reading a lot this year.  Audiobooks pass the time on my long drive to and from school and on my walks.  The highlights this year have been Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic and the writings and lectures of BrenĂ© Brown.

In year's past I've made a list of intentions for the coming year.  My list this time around is short -

Keep up everything I've learned this past year.

See more live music It always makes me feel better & clears head space. 
Travel - I'm longing to get back to New Mexico again.

See past commitments: 2011201220132014, 2015.

Happy New Year!  I hope this next year is an intentional one for you.  Be curious and go make something.

Rep Weave Sample - hand dyed cotton 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Taking Risks

I'm recovering from six weeks of boot camp (grad school) and a full weekend of events associated with Innovations in Textiles.  Innovations cooperative of galleries and organization to exhibit the finest in textile art occurring in our area.  Saturday was the bus tour and reception at Art St. Louis for Fiber Focus and Sunday was my birthday.  Monday is a blur and I did not get much done in the studio.

Saturday brought many unexpected surprises.  I met a new member to my statewide organization and really enjoyed chatting with her.  During the day she shared a podcast that she likes to listen to and I've been binging listening to back episode ever since.  How have I not heard of The Jealous Curator blog and podcast before? You're welcome!  It has been making my walks and drive times stimulating and entertaining.

Saturday night at the opening of Fiber Focus, I was stunned to be the awarded the Weavers' Guild of St. Louis Award for Excellence in Woven Tapestry given in memory of Helen Wenzel by juror Marci Rae McDade, editor of the Surface Design Journal.  I entered two pieces with the only true intention to get my work in front of Marci.  My two pieces were accepted and to win an award just feel surreal.

Tapestry mounted on grey canvas 
Hand dyed cotton 
14" x 16"
I'm so glad that I took a risk and entered the show.  I met Jaime Sawka and Catherine Reinhart at the opening and they were both lovely to chat with and to talk about work.  The weekend of gallery hopes was exhausting, but I came away with so many ideas.  I have a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Magic in the High Desert

Museum Hill Sculpture
It started out as a joke.  A friend of mine mentioned a trip to Santa Fe and a tour to explore Pueblo Indian Art and I joked that if she wanted a chaperone to let me know.  She needed a roommate and promised to send the information along.  The next morning I found the tour information in my email and glanced at it before heading out for school.  On my long drive, the trip began to spill out into my thoughts.  I thought about it all day off an on.
Summer Monsoon Clouds

Later that day my professor took us over to the school's museum collection.  As we stood in the large warehouse I found myself looking at Pueblo pottery.  Rows and rows of pottery including the black on black designs so distinctive of the Santo Ildefonso Pueblo. It was there that I understood that I had to go.

Returning from this trip has been very hard.  Santa Fe is a beautiful place.  New Mexico flirts with the creative soul.  The food is incredible.  There were textiles, patterns and art everywhere.  I filled my camera with references to add to my sketch book

Sometimes there are places that get under your skin.  You feel instantly at home.  I felt home there.  It doesn't surprise me that I felt that way.  My mom lived in Northern Arizona and I spent a lot of my growing up years visiting and part time living there.  I love high desert.  I love the mix of cultures, food and the wide open spaces.  My post trip depression hit hard and fast.  Don't get me wrong, I love the area I live in, but I've known for a long time it isn't mine.  It is home, but not home.  

I have a few weeks remaining in summer to hit the last remaining projects that I want to finish.  As I work toward the start of a new school year and a new school experience, I'm keeping New Mexico in my heart.

Indeed it is magic.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Safe Keeping

A friend of mine called me the other day.  She had heard news from someone else that there was an estate sale nearby with a weaving loom and a lot of accessories.  I had some time so I went over to have a look.  I wasn't planning on buying a loom.  Space is at a max in my loom studio, but I am keeping my eye out for a computer dobby loom.  Still I was curious and thought I might be able to spread the word through my community.

I found a nice Gilmore loom which hasn't been used in a while.  Her owner is in poor health and living in a nursing home.  I was told that she has Alzheimer's and that her husband isn't doing well either.  She clearly loved weaving and there were several samplers present that she had woven and labeled.  Most of the items were stacked and inaccessible.  The salesman was letting the lot go for a lovely deal.  If I had the space and vehicle I would have snagged it and found the loom a home.  I did find a weaving book that I wanted and quickly made a deal with the salesman.  Like a lot of people, he was completely in the dark about weaving and I gave him the nickel tour of our rich traditions and equipment.  The salesman warned me that if they didn't sell the items they were being donated to charity.  Who knows what would happen then.

Before I left, I gather his card and sent out an email to some weavers.  Within an hour I had someone heading over to rescue the loom.  It made me ridiculously happy.  I always feel that our tools take on the life of those who have used them.  I'm glad the story will continue.

I wish there was a way to tell this weaver that her tools are safe and in the hands of her tribe.

My new book with inscription.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I decided to move my blog back to this old home, not that the new home enjoyed much activity.

I'm currently on summer break and I have a long list of things to accomplish before school begins in August.  There is the Weavers' Guild Sale to prepare, planning of the 2016 MoFA conference is in high gear, things to learn and experiment with, household chores to catch up on, doctor's appointments that have been put off with the semester grind, some travel plans and oh yes - relaxation.  Whatever that is.

This week I'm trying to clear off one of the looms which has been warped since January.  Yikes!  I had to dust it all off before resuming weaving on some placemats for my new dining table.  I have a warp all ready for it and I'd like to get it on and weaving on it since it might be a piece to enter into an exhibition in August.

I have some exciting news to share as well.

I start my MFA program in the fall!  I'll be focusing on textiles and dabbling in other areas as well.  Part of me is still in shock that I'm going back to graduate school.  A larger part of me is thrilled and I can't wait to see where my work is a year from now.

I have three pieces that have been accepted into the MoFA Speaking of Fibers! 2015 show.  The show will run at Maryville University from November 12 - December 16, 2015.

I'll post more details as it get closer to the opening.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Memories of Art

A little over a week ago I heard the news that a work of art sold for a record 300 Million. You can read the NPR story here. The work is Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by post impressionist Paul Gauguin.  My heart did a little jump when I heard this story.
It is the first work of art that I remember vividly from childhood.  My elementary school had a print framed and it hung in the long hallway near the library.  I saw it every day from third grade until sixth grade.  We would line up along the wall from our library time and I would try to be standing near it so I could look at it.  Sometimes I would stand in the hallway by myself (with a hall pass) and just look at it.
What was happening in the picture?  What was the relationship of the two girls?  Where are they?  When I finally was tall enough to read the small plate displaying the name and the artist, I began to wonder about the marriage possibilities.  I don't remember talking about the painting to anyone.  It was simply mine in my heart and the world that it let me glimpsed was secret.
What are your first memories of art?