Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sewing boats

 Stitching boats with coir - a Keralan craft demonstrated in Doha: over at the new website.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Getting ready to move.....

I'm in the middle (or still near the beginning, really) of this, which I promised to talk about in detail.  And definitely, it's coming with me. Everything is being prepared, and it will be prettier and more navigable and more image-heavy than ever. I'm not moving, but the blog is.

The content of this site will remain, so it can always be searched and found once again. Some of it will come to the new place, and some will just stay here and be linked, fondly.

It's exciting, though, and you're going to like it. There will be weaving, and spinning, and textiles, and spindles.... And I finally get to tell you about this yarn, too, which is currently featured in the Autumn 2013 issue of PLY Magazine.
After just a bit more housekeeping in the new place, I'll post the link and have a welcome party.
Stay tuned....

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vincent always does this

He kills me, every time. 
He's been done to death, marketed and sold beyond all reason, and the extreme tourism of braving the museum queues is enough to put one off. But this is Van Gogh, and no matter how swarming the crowds are, or how relentless the branding,
when I get close to the brushstrokes, I'm in awe, and dead to the world.
There's something that aches and pulls, while looking up close. The pain and striving and loneliness of his search are etched into his characteristic marks.
Details are frank, uncompromising, unapologetic. The oppression of peasant life and of his own struggle are evident in a bright spot of light on the tip of a nose.
I think part of the unbearable poignancy of his work is being able to see in one painting both the bright energy that charms and attracts viewers of all types, and the evidence of the endless fight with himself: the insecurity, dissatisfaction, and conviction that it can be great if he works hard enough. In a quote on the wall, he was encouraged by a certain landscape to believe that eventually,
"I'll make things that work." 
 Going closer and closer to this painting feels like a descent into madness, exhilarating and frightening.
The colors also express both genius and suffering. The incredible combination of deep maroon, pure orange, ochre, and periwinkle blue/violet in this single pear tree trunk made me weak in the knees.
As he spends more time in the mental asylum and the end of his life nears, the agitation of mind is ever more visible in the drastic beauty of marks and colors. I don't know which is more moving, the intensity of beauty or the anguish in every stroke. 

The current exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is well-funded and nicely done - I like the idea of covering a wall with an enlarged ink drawing, one of my favorites.
And digital displays allowed the visitor to flip through entire sketchbooks, which is a breathtaking experience.
There's also a focus on conservation, which is timely and interesting for me.
But it will always be the work that brings me back. Wherever I can see work by Vincent van Gogh, I know I will be overwhelmed.
(Apologies for the blurriness of most photos - hard to get good shots in the museum. Helps if you squint.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

On the line

I'm not in Laos anymore, but I have to post one more tribute to the daily beauty of the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre in Luang Prabang. Following a topic suggested and recently posted by Jo on the OPT blog, I'm sharing my numerous shots of the work hanging on the line.  This is a constantly shifting parade of yarns and finished scarves, presenting delicious juxtapositions.

Freshly washed or dyed scarves alongside skeins of silk are a celebration of texture.
 Inspiring palettes begged capturing for future reference.
The light and shadow of the trees in the garden, and the surrounding green create a lyrical setting for the handcrafts.
Hanging yarns range from the intriguing
to the serene
And generally speaking, it was hard to resist pulling out my camera every time I walked through the garden.
Sigh.... hard to believe I left this place, but I'll surely be back someday.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Finished objects

Guess who has a finished object!
This is Euay Kiang, whose blurred hands were whipping through the discontinuous supplementary weft on this beautiful weaving in my earliest Laos photos.  Look at how complex this is:
It's an excellent example of how the vertical heddle storage is not a pre-programming of the weaving, but merely one tool that has to be used with great skill to make it all come together. She had to know when to change all those colors, and she was never looking at a picture. She may have consulted a woven sample at the beginning, but my the time I saw her, she was doing this all by heart.
That dark, snake-like design is in fact a snake, the Naga, which is one of the most important symbols in Lao weaving. It's a kind of protective deity, and they are seen in front of all the temple gates, and on the roofs of temples as well.
I was passing this temple, and saw a cloud that looked like another Naga!

Okay, and I have an FO as well. Ta-da:
It's more than a little humbling, to display this next to Kiang's FO, but I do owe it to her that it's finished, so there's a connection.  I showed this to her, and she was enthusiastic for me to work on it, so I tied up to her loom and sat there weaving, demonstrating Andean pick-up for the Lao weavers.
When you show a bunch of professional weavers a thing like this, and they ask how long it will take to finish, and you admit that it would probably take about two hours, maximum - there's really no choice but to finish it that day.  So I have the Ock Pop Tok weavers to thank for the completion of this stage of my Andean weaving study. And I'm proud of it, even if it's kindergarten.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lao supplementary weft weaving

Chok – discontinuous supplementary weft
Kit – continuous supplementary weft
(The Lao terms are so much more concise!)
The top weaving shows both types of supplementary weft, 
the middle ones are discontinuous (chok) and the bottom continuous (kit).

Traditional Lao weaving incorporates complicated and highly symbolic patterns in supplementary weft. This means that in addition to the warp and weft yarns that create the woven structure, an additional set of yarns is worked in as weft to make the pattern. Because these weft yarns are not integral to the structure, the technique is called supplementary weft.
The supplementary weft may be continuous or discontinuous. Continuous weft yarn goes all the way across the width of the cloth: this is the method when only one color is needed within a row. If many colors are used, the method is discontinuous supplementary weft, and these weft yarns are wrapped by hand under the warp yarns, or passed with a shuttle part of the way across the warp, if the blocks of color are larger. The weaver works with the back side of the fabric facing up.
In the bottom photo, she has a wide section of discontinuous supplementary weft,
so she passes the shuttle through this section of the warp.

The patterns for supplementary weft are created ahead of time, and are stored on the loom in the form of a vertical heddle system.  This is a set of nylon yarns that are ‘woven’ in the same pattern that will appear in the textile. 
The ‘warps’ of this system are actually heddles, each one holding one of the actual warp yarns of the piece on the loom. The nylon ‘wefts’ are loops, which are attached in place above or below the working warp. The loops are hung on a frame with nails above, and slipped onto posts below.
In this manner, each of the nylon weft loops holds the place of  a pattern row, with respect to the heddles. The weaver uses the loop to separate the vertical heddles back and front, bringing the necessary heddles for the current row forward. These forward heddles are grasped and raised by hand, and the sword is inserted under them, establishing that pattern row. The supplementary weft is passed, or wrapped by hand, with the sword holding the pattern heddles up. Then the sword is laid flat and the plainweave heddle, operated by foot pedals, is opened and the plain weft is passed.
In the case of continuous supplementary weft, the weft is passed twice for each pattern row, alternating with a pass of the plain weft. Discontinuous weft is only inserted once per pattern row, but more strands of weft yarn are used.

The sequence of weaving is thus (with images from my half-day weaving class, as well as the weaving workshop):
-       select the next loop of pattern storage from the vertical system above the working warp

 -       use this loop to separate the vertical heddles, back and front
-       remove the loop and replace it between these heddles, below the working warp (my teacher, Euay Jan, helps keep the vertical heddles separated for me.)
-       lift the heddles that have been brought forward and insert the sword under them 
-       open the shed with the sword and pass the supplementary weft
-       close the sword shed without removing the sword, open the plainweave shed and pass the plain weft shuttle
-       if this is continuous supplementary weft, open the sword shed again and pass the supplementary weft once more, then the plain weft once more
When the weaving pattern reaches a mirroring point, the pattern loops are taken from below the working warp and moved above, to create the reverse sequence of pattern sheds. So at any given point, you may see a weaver taking from above and storing below, or vice versa. Understanding how to use the vertical heddles in the right sequence is another aspect of the weavers’ expertise: the system is not a complete ‘pre-programming’ of the pattern.
This is the reversal or mirroring point of my weaving in my class. After this, I worked my way backward through the stored pattern heddles.
Hoping this sheds some light on the process. It's fascinating to watch, especially the hand-wrapping of the discontinuous weft. The weavers working this way have bundles of color hanging next to them, from which they choose the necessary colors (an excuse for two more pretty photos.)