Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sheep as Community Builders

Grueling day at school today.  Test taking doesn't rank high among the preferred activities of many.  I usually don't mind them much, however the timing is something I usually whine about.  Tomorrow I have an art history test.  Fridays are not good test days, in my opinion.

The Art of School

After my test in photography I stepped out to have a break.  When I entered the main hallway, there was a student working on a project on the floor.  My eyes immediately went to this cheerful item:

SHEEP on bag!  Isn't that great.  I stopped to talk with her a bit and admire her other Irish sheep items.  She went to Ireland on a honeymoon (congratulations by the way) and we chatted about sheep.  Hopefully, we can get together soon and view pictures of her sheepy vacation.

I am constantly amazed at the interesting people I have met by way of sheep.

Spinning News

I am working on plying up some of the blue Shetland that I purchased at the wool festival in Bethal, MO.  I was commissioned by a client to spin up something blue.  Hopefully this might meet her needs yardage and texture wise.

Shetland is a lovely wool.  It has a heritage feel to it; soft, yet primitive and a hint at some shine.  I love the color of this wool.  The wool was carded into a batt and has a lot of texture.  Usually I prefer combed fiber, but this one had a lot of personality.  Carding results in a more wild fiber.  The individual strands are going many directions and typically the yarn is full of air.  This depends on the way it is spun as well.  Combing arranges the fibers parallel and the result is smoother yarn.

Spinning is such an intimate act.  Through handling the fiber, I really get to know it.  This is especially true when I take the yarn from the raw fleece, wash it, prep it and spin it.

Loom with a View

I have a new project on the loom.  I'm making a plain woven scarf with some self-striped commercial yarn and a silk hankie which I've separated out and pulled into roving.

The darker section is the silk hankie.  Which has similar colors as the yarn.  The black of the warp is very dramatic.  I have a scarf planned for mister as well as some for the Etsy shop (which should be launched in the very near future).

Sheep in the News

A sheep dog of a different kind...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Too Many Choices

Where did the time go?  This seems to be a common refrain that I keep hearing of late.  Fall is here and there is a chill in the air.  I love this time of year (and not just because I'm an October baby).  I love seeing the trees pull out their colorful clothes, the harvest festivals, and sweater and light coat weather.

On/Off the Needles

I have a finished project to share with you today.  I finally finished my Live Oak Shawlette.  It was knit with Dream in Color Baby yarn in the Cloud Jungle colorway.  I used a size 4 needle and my only modification was to repeat Chart A once.  I think it is pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself.

Now that I finished my one project, I'm having a little post project discernment problem.  I cast on for my Daybreak shawl with handspun and Wollmeise, but it just doesn't click for me.  I don't think the colors are right (for me).  I think the blue handspun will end up in my Etsy shop.  So what do I use?

Perhaps these two together? 

I'll probably just cast on for a cowl while I hem and haw about colors for the graphic Daybreak.  Sometime picking all the elements are just too much.  Now which cowl and what color?

Festival/Event News

I was invited to participate in my first craft show.  The fair isn't until December fourth, and I'll provide more details when I have them.

The Art of School

I have some pictures to share from photography class from the Farm Day way back in August.  These are scans from my contact sheet and are not refined in the darkroom.  A contact sheet is just a proof made from exposing photo paper to light with the negative on top.  Making a proper print involves using an enlarger, filters, paper and developing chemistry.  Still these contact sheet scans provide a good look at what the photos could look like.  While they aren't suitable for class, I find them interesting in the subject matter.

Later this week, I'll have some spinning and weaving updates. Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Test

Today's post comes to you a little bit delayed....

The Art of School

I had my first test today since returning to the land of academia.  It was in Art History B (Mannerism through Contemporary).  I think everything is in order.  Mister helped me study.  We looked at works together and I told him the title, artist, significance of the work, and time period.  It was a lot of fun and led to some interesting side conversation.  At some point, I realize that I really knew the work.  We covered three chapters for this test, and I remember most of what I needed to know.  I have/had a hard time remembering the particulars for printmaking.  I think once I take a class on printmaking it would make this more solid.  Once I understand the process, I have enough background information to make details better stick.  I studied this a bit and found a way to make it stick in my brain.

I also had a critique in my photography class.  This was part one of the process as we were unable to get through everyone.  A critique is a bit nerve racking.  We post our work, tell something about it and then listen for feedback.  Feedback is given in two parts: positive and constructive criticism.  I did not have a chance to show my photo yet (watch for it on the blog next week).

I was struck by many things of the critique.  This is my first time experiencing the process and many more will follow.  In this class, the students have all formed a very comfortable community.  We seem to trust each other, even though we haven't had a lot of shared experience time.  I've noticed this as well when we work in the darkroom.  People are really generous with materials, offering assistance and giving feedback.

During the critique it was even more apparent.  People were very kind in their comments, very attentive and very good with suggestions.  I made a comment about the community that has formed and how much I appreciated it.  As a teacher, I've seen classes that never really have community develop.  Other times it seems instant or it may take a while.  As a student, I appreciate being able to trust my fellow students.  I feel safe in that environment and they recognize that there is me in that photo.  Perhaps we as a class responded to what we viewed in the photos that we looked at today.  We understood a bit more about the people/artist that have been sharing space with us.  The photos that we saw today were amazing!  I found them all very inspiring.  Sure there were things to work on - squaring up corners more, having a crisper line, creating more contrast in the printing process.  I left the class exhausted but wanting to go out and take more pictures.

A Loom with a View

I have a finished object to share.  What started off as a shawl, turned out to be a table runner.  put this on the table for photographs,  I discovered that I really like the way it looked against the dark wood. Finished dimensions are 16” wide by 51” long (a little more shrinkage than intended, but it still works).

Wrapping it Up

I have a rather daunting weekend ahead of me.  Saturday's class will be quickly followed by a visit to the Strange Folk Festival.  I'll be volunteering some time in the afternoon to a booth, doing some looking (perhaps a bit of shopping) and hopefully some homework for photography.  I have a drawing assignment to work on for a critique on Monday.  There is also a shearing festival at several area alpaca farms.  Now that I know that I love to spin alpaca, this makes for a lot of temptation.  I'm not sure how much energy I'll have this weekend, but I hope to have lots to report.  Have a lovely weekend.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Call of the Pipes

Art of School

I've had two drawing classes, since the last blog post.  I feel like I have been picked up and thrown into my easel - over and over again.  Full body contact art.  By the end of the day on Friday, I was was feeling puny and just barely alive.  The week had done me in, and it wasn't even over yet.

I had class on Saturday as well, but it was a brief intro session for design.  We met, got materials lists and got out.  It looks to be a good class.  Initially I was dragging my feet - class on Saturday, for FOUR hours.  Ugh.  But it fit my time and keeps me on track.  The class is a doing class, so it seems like it will move, I'll produce some things for my professional portfolio and I like the people.  Perhaps it is the fact that we are there on Saturday, but we had instant community.  I like that.  We should chat and enjoy each other.

Festival Tales

After my class, I officially began my weekend.  I headed out to a local community festival.  I was pretty determined to get there as I had my eye on a booth to visit.  The festival featured a folk life section.  Period reactors  blacksmiths, weavers, spinners and traditional crafts.  Just my cup of tea.  Many years ago, I visited the booth of a paper artist.  Scherenschnitte is a German paper cutting tradition that is just spectacular.  Figures and scenes are cut piece by piece by really sharp scissors and a strong eye for detail.  Previously, I had seen a beautiful picture of a selkie maiden.  

Selkies are a seal people; in the water they are beautiful seals.  On land they can shed their skins and walk among us.  It is said if a person find's a selkie's skin, the selkie will stay with them.  The selkie, having lost their skin, will be unable to return to the sea.  They will forever search for the skin.  I don't remember the first time that I heard the legend, but I've been hooked for years.  There have been many movies and books with the legend.  

The artist didn't have the selkie picture with her this time, but I managed to console myself with something else.
Sheep by Polly Winkler-Mitchell

I also played with some sheep, purchased some of their roving from the seller.  

 Border Leicester Sheep and Leicester Longwool Lamb (endangered breed!)

To cap off the visit, I heard the distinct sound of a piper.  Mister claims that I have spooky hearing when it comes to pipes. Despite crowd noise and other distractions, the pipes call to me and I find them.  I think this is a strong  indication that I should go to Great Britain and do some sheep and textile research.  Or maybe Mister should start learning to play the pipes.

I'll have more to share with you later this week.  For now, I'm going to go have a nap.  I'll leave you with this clip from YouTube that just makes me happy all over.  

Have a good week!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You Put Your Whole Self In

Lots going on this week.  More the next, and the week after that.  Whew!

Art of School

My drawing class began on Monday.  The first class was syllabus and materials discussion, but today we got to begin.  The class learned how to stand, move and we started with some warm up drawings.  These were just squiggly lines and experiments with thick and thin lines.  We used charcoal to draw with, which I've never used before.  It has an intense quality too it.  Charcoal is capable of soft shades of gray or harsh black.

I love my instructor.  She has a gentleness about her in her presence in class.  Don't get me wrong though, she gets it done.  She believes in full body contact art.  We didn't perch on stools at the easels.  We stood, moved, and were told to draw from our shoulders, not wrists.  After the warm ups, she had us do what essentially is yoga breathing and stretches.  It felt good and made me realize how much I miss yoga.  Note to self: get back into yoga practice.  After stretching and breathing, my body felt better and my monkey mind was ready to focus.  We had two hours of drawing.  Physical drawing.

We made a still life out of our backpacks, umbrellas, coats, and other assorted things as a class.  Then we looked, and looked and looked.  We then had many series of exercises of drawing.  Two minute drawings, one minute drawings and then back to two minute drawings.  We were assured that what we produced was good and right on target.  I've never taken a drawing class before.  My elementary and middle school art class experiences weren't good ones.  Yet, I found myself completely on board and believing that I could do everything that was asked of us.  I'm all in; that's what it's all about.

Here are two sample photos from my easel.


On the Needles

I'm still knitting projects, though I haven't talked about them in a while.  My Live Oak Shawlette is coming along nicely.  I'm doing a second repeat of the lace chart A to have a larger shawl.  It doesn't look like much right now, but I promise there are lace leaves in there.

Socks are on standby for a bit.  There just isn't enough time in the day.

A Loom with a View

Still working on weaving my shawl/scarf.  I had a minor operator and equipment error.  I pull the whole thing apart, I've started again.  I'm really enjoying the process of weaving.  It is very rhythmic.  Up shed, toss shuttle through, beat.  Down shed, toss shuttle through, beat.  Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat.

What's a shed and shuttle?  

The shed is the triangular shaped gap created when half of the warp threads (long threads) are raised, and half are lowered.  In this case the raising and lowering is done with the use of a rigid heddle (plastic comb like thing seen in the picture).  The shuttle is the stick which has the yarn supply wrapped around and is used to create weft threads (side to side yarn).  The shuttle is pictured here in the shed (solid gray yarn).

My warp was created using my grey handpsun (Winona fleece) and white commercial yarn.  My weft is more of the grey handspun.  It measures about 16" wide by about 72" long.  I still have a bit to go, but wow does weaving go quickly.

I have a lot of projects in the works that I hope to be able to share with you soon. Rumor has it there might be a contest coming soon.  Hope everyone has a great rest of the week.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Incredibly Inspired

Mister and I took in the annual St. Louis Art Fair on Friday night.  It was a lovely evening - little bit drizzly, a little bit chilly and full of lovely art.  The crowds got obnoxious often - why DO people insist on having a loud, alcohol sloshed reunion RIGHT in front of some poor artist's booth?

There were quite a few fiber artist represented and I was delight to see them.  There was one booth that featured wool felt inlaid into wood, Amy Gillespie Studio.  The colors were spectacular!  Another booth featured milliner (hat maker), Miriam Wiegand.  She was divine and working the crowd nicely.  I think my favorite booth was Sally J Bright, and her take on baskets as sculpture.  Do check out her website, again spectacular colors.

Spinning News

This past weekend, I felt very inspired.  Mister and I spent the weekend doing our thing.  Saturday was spinning day.  I felt like experimenting.

I finished spinning the silk hankie.  I tried something different with my hands and all of a sudden it got better. All I did was switch the twist control hand to my right and my left controlling the fiber supply.  I do the opposite usually when spinning wool (fiber on my right side).  I then ply with the fiber on my left side.

Later I watched a video by Judith MacKenzie that explained why I didn't dig spinning the silk so much.  In the hankie is all the different kinds of silk - good and the not so good.  The hankie just the way it is made creates lumps and bumps.  Judith further inspired me to take my two remaining hankies and use them for a upcoming weaving project.

Next I spun up a sample of Bond roving that I received as a thank you gift with my Allistar fleece.  It was lovely to spin.

Local alpaca and mohair from a friend - hand combed
Then I got a little more complicated.  I took some black alpaca fiber and mohair out of my fleece stash.  I combed each of them and then blended them together loosely.  Now I was under the impression that I didn't enjoy spinning alpaca.  I have spun a few commercial preps before and found them wanting.  The stuff that I had raw, washed and combed?  I wish we had feel-a-blog-ism.  It was heavenly to handle, spin and look at.

Then I took the silk, bond and alpaca and plied them together to create this lovely yarn (right).  I still need to wash and count yardage.  I am planning on knitting fingerless mitts out of this yarn for working outside when it gets colder.

Wool in the News

The Daily Telegraph published an article on the new uses for wool.  Wallpaper, bed linens, lampshades...
I knew I liked that stuff, wool that is.

My Favorite Thing

I am doing a lot of outside the textbook reading and cross referencing for my art history studies.  I ran across this site SmART History.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.  Contained is information about artist, art and videos on some of the pieces.  It is hosted by a team and they are fantastic at providing context and insight into the art.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Anything Ewe can do...

This post is looking to be very fibery, but with some marble goodness too.

Ever hear people say sheep are stupid?

Of course this is all in the training.  Any animal can be trained - even goldfish.  Want to learn more, find out here.  Interesting side note, the sheep in this video is a Soay, a rare breed.

Spinning News

I have started spinning up some of the silk that I purchased this summer.  I have to say that I'm not in love with it.  Silk is a very strong fiber and I'm having to use a lot of strength to draft the long fibers into what I want.  There are also crunchy bits from something (cocoon or caterpillar - ?).  I'm trying NOT to think too much about that.  Still it is an experience.  I was thinking about plying it with the small same of Bond sheep roving that I received as a sample.

Speaking of Bond.  I've begun washing up my Allistar fleece.  This fleece just makes me happy.  I love to look at it, touch it, smell it, and think about it.  The color reminds me of lovely creamy hot chocolate.  I have still most of the fleece to wash, but I photographed some of the washed locks to share.

I have some yarn to share - the Turquoise Davy Jones is now taking a bath.  I managed to snap a picture first.  The photo just doesn't capture the color.

Art of School

The other day in art history we learned about Baroque art and I fell in love.  The drama, the power, the marble - holy crap!  I was smitten with these two sculptures.

ArtistGianlorenzo Bernini
TypeMarble Sculpture
Dimensions170 cm (67 in)[1]
LocationGalleria BorgheseRome
Bernini's David is spectacular and the phrase that comes to mind is potential energy.  Can you see his muscles coiled and ready for action.  Look at his remarkable face - wow!  Baroque are is all about engagement of the viewer.  During this time, artist and architects were given a directive from the Catholic Church to create work to bring people back to the fold (counter-reformation).  Gone was the stated, planned works by the Renaissance artists - Baroque art was all about over the top emotion.  Compare this David, with Michelangelo's David.  Quite a difference, eh?

Saint Teresa of Avila in Ecstasy

ArtistGiovanni Lorenzo Bernini
Dimensions150 cm (59 in)
LocationSanta Maria della VittoriaRome
This work is very complex - do yourself a favor and Google it so you can see the work in the church setting.  What really knocked my socks off (other than the mystic subject matter and the look of ecstasy on the lady's face) is the rendering of the clothing.  Compare St. Teresa's heavy wool garment (she was a nun) to the diaphanous covering of the angel.  This is stone folks - marble!  

It shouldn't surprise anyone after reading my school reports, that I've officially declared an art history minor. I'm so in love with what I'm learning.  It is such a great feeling to be knocked flat by works of art.  I want more!

In other news, I hope to soon have pictures from my photography class to share in the coming weeks.  My drawing and design class begin next week.  This means I'll have a bit more schedule juggling to do, but I'm very much looking forward to getting started.

My Favorite Thing

I new heading because I must share this find.  The other day I wasn't feeling well and sat down to watch some TV.  Mister and I have a Boxee Box hooked up to stream Netflix and other online content.  I did a search for sheep and up popped this clip from YouTube.  Do yourself a favor and watch it, I'll wait.

Mist: Sheepdog Tales

Apparently, there is a show in Britain that has been running for sometime.  Why haven't I heard about it?  I went to our library's site and requested the four videos they have and I'm in love.  Sheep, the British landscape and border collies - yes, please!  Some of the scenery just stabs at my heart and makes me long to go.  It is aimed a children, but I find it compelling to watch.  The animals are voiced by actors, but beyond that it is fascinating to see the sheep and the dogs working them.  It is also a good illustration of why border collies do not make good pets.  There isn't a way to keep them busy enough.  Having worked border collies in the past, I'm constantly in awe of their ability, energy and willingness to make humans look useless.  The show has a website and the farm also has a website.

I began the show with Mist: The Tale of a Sheepdog Puppy, which introduces the dogs and the workings of the farm.  It made for some great knitting time and also proved to make me cry (but no spoilers).

Monday, September 5, 2011

No Ewe Turn

 Happy Labor Day!

Fiber Fair Report

Mister and I had a great visit to Bethal, Missouri.  Bethal is about forty-five miles west of Hannibal, Missouri.  We had about a three hour drive and enjoyed each mile.  There is something about road trips and country roads with us.  Bethal is a charming, historic hamlet of a town.  It was a German religious community back in the beginning.  Now Bethal's claim to fame is the sheep.  We drove into town, made the first left and were greeted by this sign (right).  Sheep jokes are fantastic.  Mister groaned loud and long.  Some people.  Luckily, this wasn't the end to the sheep jokes.

Mister   all the pictures from the day that I'm sharing are thanks to him.  I concentrated on using my film camera for me homework (it was a hardship to do this homework).

The fiber fair was a good size.  There were two tents for vendors with everything from wheels, spindles, yarn, wool (in various stages of beginning to end) and sheep related goods.  I didn't do too much shopping.  I purchased two bumps of lovely blue Shetland fiber for a yarn commission and I snagged an event t-shirt.  Most of what we did was look.  There was a lot to see.

 Sheep to be sheared

Border collies waiting

Unfortunately, the breeds were not labeled.  A large portion of the exhibit were crossbred animals which made identification even more interesting.

Future flock guardians (notice the feet by the wheel)

There were mysterious sheep (groomed and ready for the show ring)

Sheep in leotards

Grand sheep too.

And yes, as promised more sheep jokes.
Working dog demos

And the sights and sounds of the show ring.  
These kids did a phenomenal job.  What isn't shown in this brief clip is some of the animals not walking pleasantly along with their kid.  Some of the sheep gave these kids a bit of a time, but they all handled it beautifully.  

Spinning News

My Daybreak yarn selection seems to have been finalized.  I still need to count yardage on my Davy Jones Blue mix yarn.  I was going to pair it with the turquoise companion yarn (below).  I finished plying that yarn today and I just don't like the colors together - too similar.  Then I held the blue yarn up to a skein of Wollmeise that I purchased a few weeks ago.  What do you think?  

The blue and the turquoise yarn have a matching ply from the Davy Jones colorway.  I love them both and I'm very pleased with the result.  I also have a bit of a brag - I started and finished this ply in one day!  That is a record.  Plying takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R!  Tomorrow I'll skein it up and wash it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What's in a Picture?

Mister and I had an adventure on Sunday.  We took part in the annual Washington County Home Grown Farm Tour.  The tour was composed of nine different sites which featured some aspect of agriculture or local food.  Mister and I visited five places  of the route.  I wish I could show you the pictures, but in effort to complete homework the pictures are locked in a roll of black and white film.  For my photography class, I need to take black and white shots.  In class we develop and print the film, so until we learn to do this, my photos are held at bay.  I grew up during the rein of film,  I remember having to take the roll to the photo shop for pictures.  I can't remember however the last time I used a roll of film.  I did take my digital with me, and got a sample of what I hope I have on the roll.

Most of these were taken at Indian Springs Farm known nationally for their Angora Goats.  The donkey was one of the ultimate highlights.  While getting a tour of the farm, he walked with us and mugged Mister and I for hugs and ear scratches.  He was a stray and the farm has accepted that he is now their donkey (after an exhaustive search).

The bison pictured above belong to a bison ranch which produces meat for market.  This is a very poor picture.  I really hope that the many that I shot with film will be better.  I will say the bison burgers we had were fantastic.

Spinning News

I have a finished skein to show.  Remember the Davy Jones color that I was experimenting with?  Well, I plied it with a nearly solid blue and this is what I achieved:

I still need to count yardage, but I'm extremely happy with it.  I also need to finish plying the other part of this and combine it with a turquoise color.

Finally, I'll show what I received in the mail the other day.  I ordered a sampler package from The Spinning Loft.  They had put together a sample pack of fiber from Deb Robson's must spin list that Knitty published on their blog.  The result is a spinners' emporium of delights.  Inside is a dizzying array of wool - long,  medium, & fine.  As well as exotic fiber from the musk ox (Qiviut).  Much of the wool is classified as coming from rare and endangered breeds.  I'm excited to get my hands on them and sample.  I'll be sure to share when I do.  First I'll have to do some washing.

Mister and I are going to a sheep and fiber festival this weekend.  I hope to have lots to share next week.  Happy September everyone.  It sure came in like a blast furnace here - back up to heat warnings.