Saturday, June 30, 2012

first pics of new house ... mainly cats ;)

Apologies for not having proper pictures ... but here are some preliminary phone pics of the new house.  Better pictures to follow when I've cleaned up a bit ;)

Firstly - kittehs!  The cats are LOVING this house - they sit on the stairs:

Oh HAI!  What are you doing?
Hey, this staircase isn't big enough for both of us:

Charlie's favourite spot in the studio ... unfortunately, this means my sofa is covered in her hair :S

A very rare moment when Frankie is quiet ... very very rare ;)

OK, one more cat pic ... an awkward moment:

Right - now the studio.  Again, excuse the light, but here a couple of pics when it was completely empty (and yes, that HUGE Ikea light was there when we moved in!):

Sunset ocean view from the studio - I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing the sea from here!

And cool shadows from the light shade on the walls (which will eventually be painted white to accentuate the cool architectural angles):

I've bought a chest of drawers for wool storage:

Did you make it this far?  PHEW!

As I said, the studio will be painted white, but will have purple painted in the window recesses.  Downstairs, the colour scheme will be white with aqua blue accents.

Friday, June 22, 2012

stephenie collin - tapestry artist q + a

For my third student interview, I have asked the amazing artist Stephenie Collin to answer some questions. 

Stephenie's visual language is very striking - I always know her work, it's very distinctive.  I love the dream-like quality to them, some with sinister undertones.  Stephenie lives in Waiuku, Auckland in the beautiful country of New Zealand.


'Self Portrait' - Stephenie Collin, tapestry 2008
What made you want to learn tapestry weaving?
For me it was a natural metamorphosis.

I first began weaving bulky, natural wool, rya/ghiords-knotted fleece and plain tabby-weave carded wool rugs and hall runners.

From this starting point I began experimenting with colour, weaving basic geometric designs, and using finer commercial carpet yarn.

These were my first attempts at kilim tapestry weaving.  I spent three years weaving floor furnishings before I was ready to move my focus from the floor onto the wall.

By the 1990s fibre art was becoming finer, more subtle and refined.  I wanted to learn tapestry technique so that I could produce work that could communicate with an audience in some way.  I wanted to experiment with the old argument of craft versus art, and what was the defining point between the two?  What made the difference between folk art and fine art?  What was the relevance of function over form, what stories do contemporary tapestries have to say?

Geometric hall runner - Stephenie Collin
How did you learn?
In 1987 the district I lived in only offered one option for full-time study in the fibre-arts.  The Takitimu Trust was a local Maori Arts training centre, and I signed on for what ended up to be a year and a half of full-time study.

It covered various Maori and European weaving techniques, however the majority of the course content focused on on-loom tabby weave combinations and various knotting techniques.  Ultimately this meant that by the time I had completed the course and turned to experimenting with tapestry, my weaving was pretty much an automatic process.  I could focus completely on a design and how to go about implementing it as a woven image.  I went back to school as an adult student for a year to study Art and Art & Fabric Design. 

Any spare time I had was spent looking at art and exhibitions.  Most of my weaving was learnt from just doing it.  It was a case of trial and error, trying to stick to the lines on the cartoons, working out how best to go about replacing an image, determining warp set and what weft materials and weight were best for the job or gave me the most satisfying visual results.

I was completely over using wool as a weft material because I had spent so much time in the past working with it.  I think that using mixed weft yarns was an important part of the learning process as far as the design and imagery in my work is concerned.

'Madonna' - Stephenie Collin, tapestry 2002
How long did it take for you to be confident with the techniques?
With the geometric design kilim style rugs it took a couple of years.  But with smaller and finer works it was a lot longer, at least 3-4 years.  Each new piece is a new challenge even now.  The more confident I am about the design, the more confident I am with how I will go about weaving it.

What is your preferred warp sett?
I pretty much work at about 10 epi all the time now.  I always work on a cotton warp.  Practically all my work is produced on upright, 2-shaft, foot operated looms.  I still warp up through the reed, even though I hardly ever use it while weaving, so the different reeds on each loom pretty much determine the exact spacing.

It depends on the size of the finished work really.  I can get a fairly satisfactory result at 6-8 epi for a piece that is say a metre or so square or more.

What is your favourite weft material?
I have always loved using rayon in my work.  It doesn't have the intense, highly reflective quality that silk has, but it is good enough for the job.  The bulk of all my pieces are made from a combination of rayon, cotton, and wool.  I find if I use too much wool on my tapestries, the finished result ends up looking too flat and uniform.  It's not so obvious with hand spun wool, but for larger works the time involved having to first spin the weft makes it impractical as an option.  I love using fine hand-spun silks for the decorative effect of fine lines and dots.

'Beyond The Wall' - Stephenie Collin, tapestry 2008
Do you sew slits as you are weaving, do you finish off at the end, or do you avoid slits altogether?
I weave the slits together as I go.  When I am weaving a vertical line in the design, every few rows I cross the wefts, so my tapestries don't actually have long slits in the work.  If the vertical line is less than a centimetre long I will sometimes leave it as is.  I very rarely do any hand sewing in the work, either structurally or decoratively.  I think sewing sort of defeats the purpose.  I don't often have single wrapped vertical warps in my designs so I just find it's easier for me to weave the slits as I go, but each to their own.

What is your preferred method of finishing and presenting your work?
I always finish with a Maori taniko weaving finish.  It probably has another name, but I call it a taniko finish.  After resting and trimming the back threads, I place the tapestry with right side facing, and trim the warps to a length of about 8cm. 

Starting with the left hand warp go under, over, under, over, pull to the back of the work.  Repeat to the end of the row.

Divide the last six warps into 3, and plait a short length.  Knot the end and trim.

This finished edge is seen when the work is mounted.  I prefer this method because I like to think that it subtly explains the difference between a woven tapestry and a needlepoint tapestry.

I personally prefer this point of difference to be on show, as opposed to a hidden, folded and neatly pressed edge.

When I have finished tying off, I steam-press the wrong side of the work, making sure to iron the end strands towards the centre of the piece.  I then cut a piece of light-weight iron-on backing (practically all of these are now acid-free), and press well.

The backing holds the work together firmly and helps to stop the weaving from puffing out from whatever I am mounting it on.

Usually I sew my work onto painted, high-quality art canvas which is attached to a stretcher.  This can then be framed or not.

With smaller pieces, I prefer to frame behind glass, and so will sew the work onto acid-free foam board or mounting card, depending on the end presentation.

'K.Rd Kenny' - Stephenie Collin, tapestry 2000
Are there any aspects of tapestry that you have to pay attention to every time you weave?
My technique is not terribly complicated nor are my designs usually overly decorative, so my weaving state of mind tends to be more meditative than attentive.  Most of my attention goes into the art and design stage.  My intent is usually to express as much as I can within as minimal design as the image needs to work for me, or to get it to a point where I am happy with it as an artwork I suppose.

How did you create your own 'visual language'?
Having several friends who were artists, I think I always leaned towards wanting to communicate with my tapestries rather than simply produce pleasing pictures in my work.

I use my own sketches and paintings in most of my tapestries.  These are usually intermittent flurries of activity triggered by any one of life's possibilities.  It can be a political, social, or metaphorical fleeting thought or situation.  I tend to see mundane day to day things with a sense of the ridiculous.  The big things in life that really piss me off or have overwhelming apocalyptic overtones I tend to express with some sense of humour in their titles, or quirk of detail in the woven image.  I like to think that my tapestries have a visual connect with the present day, no matter how obscure that connection actually is.

'Daves Beyond The Wall' - Stephenie Collin, tapestry 2004
Is there any advice that you'd like to give to beginners?
*  Just keep doing it.  Keep experimenting.  Try to weave a little bit every day.  Keep a visual record of each weaving.

*  Get a visual diary going.  Sketch, write, doodle, or cut'n paste, as often as you can.  Write down your thoughts.  These are what you should be weaving.  They become a part of who you are.  As an artist, these mumblings are probably what you want to say with your work.

*  Study inspiring or great artists, their lives and their work.  Painters in particular.  Miro screams tapestry possibilities, Hundertwasser is great for learning about colour.  I went through an El Greco/Giacometti phase, no tapestry or textile book could have taught me as much about weaving vertical lines and the intrigue the elongated form can have on a viewer than these two masters.

*  Stretch and take frequent breaks from the loom when doing a marathon on a piece.

Where can we find out more about your work?


Thank you so much Stephenie!

Monday, June 11, 2012

the start of the large tapestry ...

Even though I haven't received feedback from my lecturer about my large tapestry design, I thought I'd better get started. So the loom is now warped up, and I have started the edge of the tapestry (the hem):

Just starting the leopard print - I have added a strand of purple to give a bit of depth to the black hair:

And a shot of my progress - so far so good!

I'll have to take the frame off the stand on Friday so it can be moved to the new house - the stand can go with the removalists, as it may be difficult to get up the stairs ;)

If you've read this far, congratulations ... you get to have a peek at our new house, haa!  Settlement day is Friday - that upstairs room is my studio, and faces the ocean ;)

One more pic (from the real estate website) - the downstairs living area, incorporating dining room and kitchen:

We're so excited!  I'll post pics after we move in ;)
Anita calls it 'The Yurt', Lily calls it 'The Roly Poly House', and apparently the locals call it 'The Soccer Ball House' - it's actually a dodecahedron!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

i'm loving right now:

Some random things on a sunny (but cold) Sunday afternoon ... I'm sitting here surrounded by moving boxes, since we're moving on Friday - eeek!

Kittehs - here they are pretending they're on a bus:

Charlie likes to take up as many cushions as possible:

We suspect Frankie has been getting cold lately (as she keeps getting under our covers in bed!), so Anita decided to buy her a little coat ... we got as far as putting her 2 front legs in, but she wasn't very impressed, HA!

So we decided to put her in a crochet cave in the bean bag instead:

I have a new winter coat!  It's a purple/magenta colour, and is SO WARM!  Sorry for the crap pic, but you get the idea ;)

My new Mirrix Loom - an action shot of me warping it up - it's so nice to have a mini-loom for trying out ideas ;)

And, since we're moving I thought I'd better finish off this little coin purse that I started a while ago - turquoise leopard print!  It's now finished, and just needs to be sewn up and the clasp glued on.

And of course I've started something else - another little purse, this time hot pink and lighter pink bats.  Bit subtle, huh?  :P

OK, if you made it this far, thanks for reading!!  :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

anton veenstra - tapestry artist q + a

Anton Veenstra has been a textile artist working in tapestry and, more recently, button mosaics since 1975.

Anton is the man who has been encouraging me to combine my tapestry, cross stitch, and goth-ness all into my work - his work and attitude are so inspirational ;)


What made you want to learn tapestry weaving?
I watched a primary school teacher demonstrate tablet weaving on a piece of cardboard at a teacher’s college summer camp. I had a go. It was fun. But I was drawn to it, I sensed this was part of my cultural DNA.

How did you learn?
As above, then I taught myself, made a lot of mistakes, learned what worked, changed my settings, started to listen to other people, started to do some workshops: Ian Arcus, Lynne Curran, Archie Brennan, Susan Maffei.

How long did it take for you to be confident with the techniques?
Years. It helps to listen well, I was stubborn. There’s a delicate balance in learning: accept what the teacher offers but don’t crush your own impulses of inspiration. DISTRUST a teacher who is authoritarian and bullying.

What is your preferred warp sett?
I now use 4 per inch on a wrap around loom, so that’s doubled. The warp size I use with that is 12/18 bung cotton. But by all means experiment.

What is your favourite weft material?
Multiple question: my weaving balances colour texture & luminosity. SO, I’ll use a polyester weft together with perhaps a linen thread, giving a “rouched”, boucle effect. But it depends on what you’re aiming for.

What is your preferred method of finishing and presenting your work?
A row of double half hitches top & bottom, then sew the warp ends onto the back of the work. I sew the tapestry onto canvas or other fabric attached to a stretcher frame.

Are there any aspects of tapestry that you have to pay attention to every time you weave?
Selvedge, the vertical edges on either side.

How did you create your own ‘visual language’?
It happens, it’s been happening all my life, I began drawing as a child, as a fetus.

Is there any advice that you’d like to give to beginners?
Trust your own impulses & dreams, but also be very self-critical. Respect even the flaws in your work, they are your signature, slowly you must learn what you want to keep, what to develop, what to discard. In my work there is a self-taught quality, that has often been criticised as not “an international style” or as “outsider art” but for me was na├»ve, now part of my visual signature. A friend who collected abstract expressionist art said: people always urge you to finish your work well, tidy, polished; I think it’s interesting to keep art rough. Of course this fitted with his viewpoint and taste. Always remember that advice comes from a person’s own taste. William Blake said the lion wasted a lot of time learning from the fox.

Of course you need supreme tact in dealing with teachers, teaching makes them co-dependant. In my Master’s my supervisor wanted to know what I was doing next; had to make it a cardinal rule we would discuss finished work only.

About joining: I started leaving gaps in my early work; only to hear Brennan say you sewed up each gap row by row; to me that was self defeatingly slow. But the gaping bits on a finished work looked yuk; my solution late in my career is the houndstooth join which gives a shimmer to edges as 2 colours are constantly made to jostle together. BUT a lecturer at ANU said the indigenous bark painters of Arnheim land talk of the shimmer as a measure of the spiritual strength of a work.

Where can we find out more about your work?
Study photos of my work, you will soon gain interesting insights, some I may never have thought of, all of them relevant to your own work.


Thank you so much, Anton!

Friday, June 1, 2012

baby loom

OK, so this came in the post for me yesterday:

It's a '16" Big Sister Loom' from Mirrix - I decided that I needed a table loom for the rest of the year's assessments (since my large tapestry will be taking up my other loom for the rest of the year), and I really hate using this basic frame (it hurts my back, and is difficult to use at a finer warp sett).

If I was handy, I would make my own miniature scaffold frame ... but I'm not ;)  So I had to make a decision about how serious I really was about this tapestry thing - and decided that this is what I really want to do with my artwork.

I've collected some old 80s goth images that will form the basis for a series of Goth/Deathrock Subculture tapestries and needlepoints in the future.  I'm still refining the large tapestry design, since I'm not very good at submitting a 'final' design and sticking to it - it will probably turn out quite differently. 

This weekend, I'm going to warp up this loom and experiment with adding other elements to the hair so it's not just a mass of plain black weaving ... maybe add in some dark grey to suggest movement?  Not sure, I'm just thinking in print - will post pics of what I come up with ;)