Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Under the Banner of Craft

The basic skills of all of the crafts that I practice, spinning, dyeing, weaving and knitting, can be learned simply and quickly: start by following instructions from a person, a book, magazine or online resource. Then find other practitioners who pass on tips and tricks and a deeper understanding than just "how to"; the "why" of some things. Take some classes. Go to a conference, look at other people's work. Then practice, practice and practice. The practice is what takes the time. Not the learning: that comes in flashes.

The myth that the ease of learning means ease of mastery is false. Mastery takes application, understanding beyond the surface, and understanding of the physical, as well as the aesthetic forces that we are working with. Mastery means an understanding across the spectrum of the craft. There are very few master weavers; it is too broad a field. We tend to specialize.

Mastery also means application over time, and there is no shortcut. 5 years does not a master make, 20 years may not a master make if there is no studious application, no variation of application, no delving into "why", no learning from mistakes, no mistakes made, and no creative solutions to mistakes.

Repeating the same thing over and over makes one a master of that one thing. There are sock knitting masters, for instance, and lace shawl knitting masters, for instance. Many spinners-of-sock-yarns, or dyers of multi-colored tops. These practitioners are not necessarily masters of their whole craft. Yet.

And yet? From the moment we learn, we begin to pass on what we know. The most enthusiastic teachers, are often the beginners: look! at what I found out! We need this enthusiasm. We need these beginners sometimes, to remind us that what we do is fun, most of the time! We need new blood and we need new ideas, people and innovations in passing along the craft. It is such a welcome sight: all these new teachers taking up the banner.

leather and silk pile bag

I am working on a series of leather-and-textile bags that will help me perfect my skills. I have taken a few classes, I read online, I have even been to a leather show (!! there are leather shows and there are leather shows, this one was for makers!). Learning this skill means I have to invest the time. Learning this skill means that I don't have as much time for the other crafts that I do: they have been on hold, mentally and physically. When I say mentally on hold, it means that I am forgetting some things. I am not thinking about those things and the process slips back to the back of my mind. I have to dig for the information, and as a teacher that is awkward.

So I am cutting back on teaching. I need time and headspace to practice what I am learning. I will be away from my studio much less. This year, I'll be in North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in Washington State for the Whidbey Spin-in April 1st, and in Pennsylvania at MAFA in July.

That's it. No more! I hope to see some of you at one or another of these venues. The rest of the time?

I'll be here:
yurt1b

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Goals

Deb's embroidery and tapestry

Last Spring I visited a friend of mine, who is an embroiderer, spinner and dyer. Deb has been developing a new line of work, and was setting goals for herself, taking her work in a new direction. We talked at length about how one does this; the new direction is often awkward, at first. Some of our habits from creating anything will apply, such as color choices, image choices, thread choices. So some aspects of the new work are present from the old work and do not need to be learned anew.

But some things are new: new materials, new ways to use old materials, new tools.

She told me about a friend of hers, a painter, who was learning a new medium, and decided to paint 100 small paintings in the new medium, experiments, quick studies, just 100 paintings, to become comfortable with the material, and test the media out to see how to incorporate its qualities into her work.

This seemed like a grand idea on "how to train yourself". I do not know if it is an original idea (off to google: can't find it in the first few hits of "making 100 things", most were about a 100 things challenge to de clutter!) (I laugh because making 100 *new* things will only add to my clutter!). At any rate, Deb decided she would make 100 small embroideries, and I took on the challenge of making 100 leather bags.

I am not starting from scratch. I will count, but offhand I've made (or am in the process of making, some are still unfinished) 13 leather/textile bags already (If, and I do, one counts the Pink Suitcase). This is in addition to the many all-textile bags I have made, and the beaded bags, which number in the "over 50" category. Some day soon I will do a few posts about the "old" bags, those in beads and knotted pile.

So! I have about 87 leather & textile bags to go. IF! I do make 100 bags, I will have learned a great deal. My hands will be more able, I will know the materials better, know the tools, I will have refined the tools I need to do what I want to do, my mind will be able to think more clearly in this medium, and my eyes and hands will see which designs worked or did not work.

I may feel competent well before 100 bags, and get bored. This is a goal, not a life sentence. I can change it at any time, if I feel I have reached the ends I wish to achieve. I am energized by the idea of 100 bags, big and small, some will be very small, and some, like a few of those first 13 bags, will be taken apart after construction, the parts re-used, the textile re-applied to another bag, so that I waste less, and have fewer bags when all is said and done.

After all, how many bags does one need? I am using them as teaching tools, samples, and the losers will be cut up and re-used.

Deb and I worked on our dyebooks a few weeks ago, Color By Number, then we took some time to make a few things. I made three knotted pile panels for 3 separate bags:

Deb's embroidery and tapestry

I also made her finish the small embroidery above (which she does not care for, but which I love!) and she gave me the little tapestry above, which she says has hung around her studio for years.

So I have 5 (!) more bags in the queue. See how easy this is? I am anxious! to get started. I can't wait to see how these come out. I have planned and changed plans already in my head several times, it is so much fun to think about!

And that's why I do all of this to begin with: I totally love doing it. I love thinking about it, planning them, not necessarily having them, but having the joy of making them. 100? We shall see :).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pink Leather!

What does one do with pink leather?

Why make a doll case, of course!

Pink leather doll case!

And what does one put into a doll case?

why a doll, of course!

Doll, in case!

Meet Flower! Someone is six now.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bam!

Botanical print tote

A new tote bag! No, I am not that fast. Yet. This was in progress, along with a few others, for a while. I am just in a finishing jag :).

This tote has a pocket-panel of a botanical print done by a local friend. I have a stack of fabrics from her, and will be using more of them as pockets like this. They are so beautiful!

I totally love this bag. It has the requisite open pocket in front, zippered pocket on the back, the handles are "just the right length for me"(tm), the leather feels good, is a good weight, even with the lining, and the stitching is good! Not perfect mind you, but "man on a running horse" good enough.

Leather takes time outs, for glue to dry, for hardware to arrive, for lining to set, whatever. So I have several projects going at a time. Which is annoying because as I learn things, I may have already passed that part of another bag, and yet? I still need to finish it. Move on. I am going back to repair, replace do-over on some of the earlier bags, but some are just...learning experiences.

But this one? Totally fine :).


Friday, July 01, 2016

Maiden Voyage

So the newest leather bag went on a trip:

Travel bag

Apparently I have a standard for "what makes a good bag". I'm guessing we all do, but here's mine: open pocket in the front (may have a magnetic closure). Zipped pocket along the back, zipped top, open pocket inside (and now I will add also a zipped pocket inside...ahem), adjustable strap, and zippers all opening the correct way for a right hander to be carrying the bag on her right shoulder (i.e. from the front, to the back, in that orientation).

This bag met all the requirements except two: I wanted another zipped pocket inside for essentials but not essentials that need quick access. Also: the very last piece sewn in was sewn in backwards... ::sigh:: ... so that the zip opens the wrong way. It opens the way a person who carries their bag on their left should would want.

In my defence? It was one of those pieces that is sewn on inside out and backwards, then turned, and, much to my chagrin, I apparently messed up on the visualization of how this would all work right side out. Darn! So, I carried it on my left side. Huh. A little odd, but doable. Easy fix!

But :)! It's a comfortable size, not too heavy, much more was learned about stitching and construction and leather and and and. I have a fully lined handstitched bag about 11" x 13" with a front pocket big enough to hold a book, my phone and glasses, an outside zip pocket for my boarding pass and ID, and a center section capacious enough for tablet, headphones, and other travel essentials.

And! I like it! The pile on the pocket is Gila National Monument (to me, not literally), so it's also a memento of a trip to the Southwest. Go Me!

What trip did I take? A short jaunt to see some munchkins:

Slide!

So we played and swam and climbed and slid!

Climbing

Climber2

Sometimes, playing in the dirt is just the best thing. Therapy for child and Grandma both :).

Monday, June 13, 2016

Park Pouch

So! I finished a small bag:

Park pouch

When I visit my grandchildren, we take a walk to one or the other of two local parks. We also just walk around the neighborhood, sometimes stopping for such diversions as back hoes, dump trucks and skip loaders. Sometimes some of us are on bikes, or scooters or in the double or single stroller, and the others of us push or carry or haul these things around in various ways.

I don't need to also haul my purse around, but I need sunglasses, hand wipes, my phone and lip balm: a few necessities. I used to stuff these things in various pockets, and they are heavy and bulge-y, so this small pouch was born:

Park pouch 2

Cross body strap, adjustable, pocket in front for phone (which doubles as a camera and must be easily accessed), inside pocket for glasses, lip balm, tissues and wipes, and ... band aids. Everything a grandma should need (save for water and snacks) for a walk around the block (or 2 or 4 blocks)with two small children.

It's full now, loaded with all the things. Ready for the next walk! later this month.

Park pouch

And the post script? The family is moving.

Maybe there will be a park near their new house?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Perfect

So, months, nay years ago now (May 2014) I took a cotton spinning class from Joan Ruane. (if you get a chance to take her class, do it!) At any rate, I spun some cotton, and wove the first bit up into a shawl:

cotton fabric 001

I like this shawl, the fabric is nice, it's soft and drapey, just what a shawl should be.

I wanted to make myself a jacket, in the standard style I make, and for that, I wanted a sturdier fabric. I began by spinning the cotton with more twist. When I had enough spun, I ran the warps and dyed them, theoretically a dark blue and red. BUT!!

I omitted the boiling part of the "before dyeing" with cotton. As in, I soaked the warps in very hot water with detergent, but did not boil them.

The result? was less than stellar:

Hs cotton thrums and discharged

What I have left of that original color is in these thrums. The theoretical dark blue was "baby blue" and the red was decidedly pink. The gold was nice, but could not save the other colors. Ick.

I set up the warp and started weaving anyway. I tried to tell myself that I would like it woven up. I could hardly weave the thing it was so annoying. I stopped weaving, I started again, I stopped and started again and again, until finally I just got over myself wove the thing off.

I did not like it.

SO! I dipped the whole fabric in discharge solution. That's it, under the thrums, in the photo above. It was acceptable, pale colors, almost neutrals, and I could stand it. I sewed up the jacket.

Turns out, I could not wear it. Or rather, I would not wear it, never chose it to put on. Being almost all white, it just did not look good on me, too pale, too white, too, I don't know: insipid?

So yesterday, I over-dyed the whole garment:

Cotton jacket dyed

It came out a great blue: easy to wear with denim and jeans, and even the stripes of former-pink look good, subtle, but evident, and ... not pink!

Now I think I will be wearing this more. If I were standing in line at the grocery store, no one would ever guess the trauma this yarn and fabric havesendured. No one would ever really guess that this is handspun, handwoven, and (hah!) hand-dyed cotton.

Perfect!