Here are the last images from Helen's Studio Experience and workshop with me. She is now winging her way home to China. I asked her if she would write a little about her experience here in my studio and has given me permission to do with it what I want. So here is her story.
Recently, I completed a tapestry workshop with Marilyn Rea-Menzies of Christchurch, New Zealand. The experience included six hours of daily studio time and accommodation at Marilyn's home. I must say that both the instruction and the accomodations were excellent, and Marilyn a marvelous teacher and a most gracious hostess who never once groused over my many interruptions while she did correspondence with friends and family or her daily Art at the Ktchen Table series of pen drawings. Let me share with you some of the lessons I learnt from Marilyn through our many discussions at the loom and the kitchen table.
Tapestry is more than the conjunction of warp and weft. It is art. It is bilingual, for it is spoken of in the languages of weaving and art. Also, it is intellectually challenging because the weaver is constantly engaged in interpretative and adaptive decision-making. More significantly, tapestry is passion, not patience.
At every juncture of the weaver's interaction with weft and warp is a constant decision-making, from design concept to the act of weaving itself. How to convey, using weft, one's vision? How is a non-artist, like me, to proceed from my own design conception to actual design to cartoon to tapestry? Marilyn Rea-Menzies showed me a manageable soloution to this dilemma that provides a foundation for my continued growth as a tapestry artist.
The act of weaving is the act of constantly adapting. I learned that inflexibility is not a desirable attitude in tapestry weaving; instead, you adapt according to the interpretative decisions that you make. It is this constant adaptation and interpretation that makes tapestry so intellectually demanding, I think.
Interpretation is a key aspect that is played out in color, tone, shape, texture, weft and other aspects of tapestry. Since the tapestry itself is a work of art, it needn't be - or shouldn't - be a replication of another work, either by oneself or someone else. Instead, the tapestry is an interpretation of the design as one conveys it from paper to warp and weft.
I must confess that I came to Marilyn's workshop with a somewhat pedestrian perspective on tapestry' however, I've been converted to realize that it is art, in and of itself. It is passion, too.
Though some tapestry projects can be of long duration, tapestry is passion because the creative and interpretative acts that compel you forward requires that quality, and not patience. I have a somewhat limited supply of patience, but tapestry never begins to plum either its surface or depths.
These are some of the lessons instilled during my two-week workshop with Marilyn Rea-Menzies, and they have become the firm foundation of my future as a weaver. I will always remain profoundly grateful to Marilyn for the insight, the patience, humor, and the passion with which she taught me.
Great workshop; excellent teacher!
This photo shows Helen photographing her tapestry after working on it for the first week of her stay in the studio. Below is a closeup of the tapestry.
A Mini Exhibition of my Daily Sketches
A suggestion by tapestry weaver Janet Austen from America that I do an exhibition of my daily sketches resulted in a small exhbition of these works. I had the bright idea of showing them on the wall of the landing on our stairs up to the studio. This has worked well and the sketches are looking good in the space. Hopefully they will attract more people up to the studio.
Here you can see all the drawings from my first sketch book for the year. On the wall to the left is Wilson Henderson's double weave wall-hanging and to the right are Anne Field's posters for her weaving books and two wallhangings.
In January of this year I decided to try and do one sketch a day of whatever was on my kitchen table that day. I have found that that is quite difficult to do, as sometimes I have already drawn what is there on any given day. So I have taken to bringing stuff on to my table and drawing it. It is very much a discipline to do a sketch every day and some days I do not manage to do it. Best not to feel guilty about it, as Tommye Scanlon told me. Tommye is a tapestry weaver in America who has set up the blog 'Tapestry Days' for those of us who are doing a daily drawing or tapestry discipline. It is a great incentive to keep going with this work. My lace tablecloth features in many of the drawings. I have found that my sketching skills are improving with doing so much drawing. It takes me about an average of half an hour to do each drawing, sometimes using pencil, sometimes ink and sometimes ink with a watercolour wash. My confidence with watercolour is also growing.
Helen is progressing well with her tapestry. She has an innate sense of colour and is developing the skill of mixing the strands of yarn to create the colour she is visualising in all parts of the tapestry.
Riko visited the studio on Sunday afternoon with her husband Hugh and the two boys, Alex and Matthew. Here is a photograph of myself with Helen, Riko and young Alex.
My First Live-in Student has Arrived
My first live-in student, Helen Cadogan, flew into Christchurch yesterday afternoon and she will be staying with me in my home and studying tapestry in my studio for the next two weeks. She was pretty tired after travelling all the way from China to Christchurch but was happy to be in the studio for the afternoon and early to bed in the evening.
Yesterday afternoon was spent getting to know each other and deciding just what she needed to know about weaving tapestries. We worked on the concepts for weaving a couple of small tapestries while she is here. Today we completed the cartoons and for the first time Helen wound a tapestry warp on a warping mill and warped up my Vapapu two shaft tapestry loom. We used the 12/9 warp cotton at 10 ends per inch at a width of six and a half inches.
Riko Rickard, a young Japanese girl who is just getting back into weaving after having two small children, the eldest of whom has just started school, is coming into the studio two days a week and is setting up an eight shaft table loom to weave a double weave experimental piece. In the following photograph Riko is watching Helen adjust the tension on her warp.
Irene's painting is finished and studio things
Well, it took me a while but Irene's painting of the Pohutakawa blossom is finally finished. I really enjoyed working on this painting and have decided that now I have started working with the acrylic paints again I really should continue with it.
In the studio I have also been working on another woven transparency, this time using a drawing of a cactus plant that I had done some time ago. I had the drawing printed on to acetate, cut the images up and did four weavings on a monofilament warp weaving the acetate strips as weft. I layered the four weavings into a perspex box, putting them very close together so that the whole image showed as one work. Here it is. The photographs show the work from each side so that it appears almost as two works.
My first painting for Thirty years
At home I am working on a painting commissioned by my brother Peter for his daughter Irene. Irene is now living at Maraetai Beach with her husband Shaun and children Charlie and Emily. Maraetai Beach has many pohutakawa trees growing along the beach front so this paiting is of the pohutakawa blossoms.
Here I am with the painting in progress. I haven't actually used acrylic paints for a long long time. My last painting has the date 1980 on it and for the first week of working on this one I was quite tentative and not very confident. But the more I do the more comfortable I am feeling with this medium again and I think it is going quite well. My grandaughter Jenna and her partner Brent visited for a night last weekend and Jen took this photo. Here is a closer view of the work.
Since my return from up north I have been working on 'Lace 2' again and am progressing well. I would love to have this tapestry completed this year if possible.
I have been working in this right hand corner - a lot of colour blending and doesn't the little bit of red look good.
Here is a close up view of this section. It took me the best part of four days work to do this small section on the right - probably about 16 hours work over the four days.
Before I came home from Auckland two weeks ago today, I attended the Professional Weavers Seminar which we have every year. The Professional Weavers Network of New Zealand Inc, has been going since its inception in 1991 at the International Weaving School in Picton where myself and Birgite Armstrong started the group. We have a seminar every year holding it one year in the South Island and the next year in the North Island. This year we stayed at the St Francis Monastery and Retreat Centre in Auckland, a lovely calm place to hold a weekend seminar. Our first visit on Friday the 5th March was to meet at the Auckland Museum where we were to see the Research Centre and Library and also the Textile Collection. What a surprise I got when the group I was with went to see the textiles. There, lying on the top of all the other works was one of my very early tapestries. I had not realised that this work was in the Museum collection, so it was a big buzz to see it again. It was woven in 1980, probably at the end of the year, as my very first works were textural, using rya knots and soumak, and this work was one of the first true tapestries that I wove. Inspired by the work of Alec Pearson it is an abstract landscape. Here are some of the PWN members looking at the tapestry.
And here am I, looking very pleased to see this work again after almost 30 years. Luckily we were allowed to take photographs and Wilson took this one on my camera.
Well, here I am, home again after three and a half weeks away in the North Island, visiting my kids, the four of them that live up there, visiting friends, Ross and Anna and also visiting galleries with a view to being able to show my work in Auckland. I am pleased to say that at this stage three galleries are interested in having my work so I now have to make contact with them again and put things into motion.
I took my sketchbooks with me and managed to do a drawing almost every day though I did miss a few days. There was a lot of travelling between Hamilton, Auckland, Tauranga, and Reparoa where Kellie lives. My kids were so good about taking me places and taking some time out of their busy busy lives to spend the time with me.
I took a new sketch book with me and this drawing is over two pages in the book. It features the chook house in Krista's garden. They have three chooks named Henrietta, Harriet and Ella and they are very tame and friendly, laying an egg each most days.
Last weekend I attended the Professional Weavers Seminar at the St Francis Monastery and Retreat in Auckland. We had a wonderful inspiring weekend. Both mornings I got up before breakfast and went and sat outside sketching the grounds and the view over Auckland.