Busy in the Studio 
This is my first entry on my blog for this year. I have been working, since my return from Hobart in early January, on a commissioned work that I am at the moment unable to publicise or advertise. However I can show you all the studio with one piece on the loom. This commission has a fairly tight time frame so I have employed Diane Ammar to work with me on this project. It is going well and we are keeping up to the required schedule. I rather overdid it in the first two or three weeks as I wasn't sure how fast we could work and a consequence of this was that my neck ended up with a touch of bursitis. However, I have now eased up on the amount I am doing each day and my neck has improved immensely.

Here is a view of the studio, taken yesterday morning, showing one piece on the loom and all the yarns surrounding us. The studio space is rather small, so we are stepping over yarns all the time. However, they look lovely and are very inspirational to our work. It looks rather chaotic but it is very easy to find the colours that we want with them tipped all over the floor like this. Diane and I are making colour choices all the time, mixing and blending the colours on the bobbins. Luckily we do not have to do hatching in the weaving, so the work is progressing faster. We are aiming to weave 1 sq ft each week and have almost kept up to that. The design is a mixture of complex and simple areas, so a good balance is kept there.

This image shows my hands at work.

And here is Diane sewing slits on her piece. She is weaving very well, as previously she has only worked on miniature tapestries. It is a huge change for her to work on a larger piece.

Here is what is going on outside the studio. The Observatory Tower in the Arts Centre was very badly damaged in the earthquake in September last year, and every aftershock increases the damage. A couple of days ago workmen started to put scaffolding up around the tower, so it looks as if work might start on trying to repair some of the damage.

The James Chu tapestry is Completed 

Here is the James Chu tapestry as it was nearing completion. His wife Julia, who commissioned the tapestry in memory of her husband James, came into the studio last Saturday and cut the tapestry from the loom.

And here we are after the tapestry was released from the loom. Julia is so happy with the tapestry and it will be given to her son one day to pass down through his family.

And here it is after all the finishings had been completed. It took me two days to tidy up the back threads and have it ready for hanging. Julia is coming into the studio this morning to pick up the tapestry and take it home.

A Day in the Studio 
Today has been rather quiet in the studio. I took Sharon to the bus depot yesterday morning so she is now doing the tourist thing down near Queenstown and visiting Milford and Doubtful Sounds, Te Anau, Wanaka and seeing the south of the South for two weeks before she heads north to Hamilton to spend a week with Nynke Piebanga in her studio under Pirongia Mountain.

I have been in the studio on my own today, as Anne is teaching spinning down at Ashfords for two days. Quite a few people came in including this family whom I photographed weaving on the small table loom which is always set up for people to try their hand at weaving. Here are Luca, Nico and Isabella with their Mum looking on.

I have been working on the commissioned tapestry and it is coming near to completion with about three more weeks work to finish it.

Sharon Left Christchurch this Morning. 
Yesterdy was the last day of Sharon's weaving tapestry in the studio and she completed her tapestry and even managed to do a small sample learning pick and pick, diagonals and half a circle. So she worked very hard during the two weeks she was here and was very happy with what she had learnt and the achievement of a completed small tapestry. she experienced two rather good earthquakes while she was here and a couple of small ones which we hardly noticed. But last night she was in the shower when we had a good 4.9 quake. Quite an experience and a shaky goodbye to Christchurch. She left on the bus for Queenstown early this morning.

My Third Student from Overseas 
This has been a very busy week for me as I have my third student Sharon who hails from near Boise in Idaho. She is spending two weeks with me, sharing my home and studio and learning to weave her first tapestry. We are having lots of fun and Sharon is thoroughly enjoying weaving the small work which features a native New Zealand flower.

Sharon has been progressing well with her first tapestry. She is picking up and understanding the underlying principles behind the techniques and that enables her to weave more quickly each day. I think she will complete the tapestry within another three days so that will give her time to learn some other techniques that do not come into this tapestry. Pick and pick, soumak,ghiorde knots and other textural techiques, some more practice with hatching etc will all be good for her to learn.

Canterbury Spinners and Weavers Area Exhibition 
Last week I attended the opening of the Canterbury Spinners and Weavers Area Exhibition. I had submitted 'Lace 2' the tapestry of my daughter in to this exhibition and I got a lovely surprise when the work was awarded a special award called The President's Award. Here is a photo of the tapestry as it was shown in the exhibition.

Here are some more photo's of the exhibition in which the quality of the work was superb.

The portrait commission is Progressing 
I am progressing well with the portrait commission. Yesterday I worked on the first eye and I think I have got it okay. I was hoping that I would not have to unweave it and do it again, and, looking at it, I don't think I will have to do that. This first photograph was taken a few days ago when I had been working on the numbers to the left of the face. These numbers relate to James' life and his wife Julia wrote them out for me. i have tried to weave them in as near to her handwriting as I can get it.

The photo below shows the design concept on paper.

And this next one shows the work with the first eye woven.

Today I will start working on the second eye. It is amazing how the essence of a person comes in once the eyes have been completed. I find they are the hardest part to weave on any tapestry portrait, and it is so important to get it right. I also had to do quite a bit of unweaving when I was first working out the tonal values of the grey/blues in the face. This work comes to life when it is viewed from a distance. Close-up it looks like a whole lot of shapes and colours. The face can be seen alright then, but it really is designed to be seen at a distance.

A change around in the studio 
Since the earthquake we have had a bit of a change around in the studio, trying to make a little more room for visitors to wander about in without knocking into plinths or suchlike. I have also filled up the walls by hanging the tapestries on the back wall instead of having them hanging from the cupboards and the looms.

Here I am with my camera standing by Wilson's loom photographing my space (just imagine I'm there as you can't see me, but I am behind the camera). You can see some of his jackets and scarves to the right and the tapestries 'Lace 2' and the two 'Underfoot' pieces on the back wall. It was a bit of a mission getting them hung up there as I had to get the big ladder and prop it up against the wall to hang the pieces there. The small tapestries are on the wall to the left and we shifted Anne's blankets so that they could hang on the racks below them. The tapestry 'Gianna - Portrait of a Grandchild' hides the yarns on the shelving unit. The door to the studio opens on to the stairwell landing.

Here is another view. You can see the collaborative tapestry 'Do not Stare' hanging across the top beam of the empty loom. This tapestry was designed by Paul Johns, a Christchurch artist. This tapestry was also the most difficult one I have ever woven, two large circles for the faces and smaller circles for the eyes - very difficult to weave perfect circles in tapestry. Lots of unweaving went into this work.

Here is Wilson's spot in the studio. You can see his 8shaft Mecchia jack loom with a warp waiting to be wound on to the back beam. His rack of jackets, vests and wraps is to the left of the loom and his scarves hang on poles from the ceiling.

I am progressing quite well on this commissioned tapestry. The sett is 11epi so it is reasonably fine to weave. I really like working with these greyed down blues.

Stuff Happening in the Studio 
Yesterday was a different day in the studio because the guys were drilling the broken chimney above the studio. They were drilling 4 metres down into the stone to be able to put steel rods in to stabilize the chimney. There is no fireplace in the studio or in the basement below us but the chimney goes right down into the basement so there must have been some fireplaces in this building at some stage. The drill made a terrible noise and I felt it all in my teeth!!! Sounded like a very bad dentists drill. Ha ha!

Here is the tapestry commission that I have been working on for a wee while now. The tapestry is a memorial for the man featured in it. His wife has commissioned me to weave the tapestry which will pass on down to her son one day.

I have done about three weeks work on it now and yesterday i decided that the tonal value of the mouth was wrong, too dark, so I took it out and needle wove it back in, with a lighter value. I think it looks much better. i have actually done quite a bit of 'unweaving' in this work so far, as the tonal values are so important to get right.

Here you can see how I have lifted the woven section above the mouth and taken the weft threads out, leaving the warps bare.

It is always a bit of a pain to have to unweave a section but it is worth the effort in the end, and if it is done as soon as possible then it is not too hard. It would be really difficult to do after the weaving was completed. I learnt this the hard way many years ago when I agonized over a tapestry that I wasn't happy with and thought that it might be okay. However, I ended up undoing almost half the tapestry and reweaving it. A big lesson, and now I always say, 'If in doubt, take it out!!"

After the Earthquake 
What a shaky few days we have had after our major earthquake early on Saturday morning. Today was the first day we were allowed into our studio and I was quite surprised to find that it was mostly alright - no damage to any work or to the looms either, so all good. However my corner of the studio has quite a good crack in it and my light box table, computer and printer were covered in concrete dust, small stones, rusty nails and dust and more dust. It took me a good couple of hours to clean it up. You can see the dust sitting on top of the small tapestry 'Do not Stare' which is a collaborative work with Paul Johns.

Yarns were thrown all over the floor, but the shelves did not fall down and it did not take too long to get them back up in place again.

And here is another view of the yarns on the floor, also showing my latest commissioned tapestry on the loom. Luckily this had no damage either. I have been working for about two weeks on this tapestry and it is going along nicely.

One of the saddest sights I have seen today is the cutting down of the old gingko tree in the South Quad. I can see this tree from the window of my studio. Unfortunately it has had to come down because it is very close to the Observatory Tower, which also has to come down, little bit by little bit. I do hope that it will be able to be rebuilt, but am not sure yet whether that will be the case. Below is the view from my window showing the Observatory Tower and the gingko tree in the process of losing its life. I think it was one of the first trees to be planted in the Arts Centre, so a very sad day to lose it. I can't imagine the Arts Centre without the Observatory Tower and am just going to hate watching that come down too.

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