Saturday, January 28, 2006

Waaaay Too Philosophical

I need to get more proficient with a camera....I have three projects in final stages or finished and I'm too lazy or busy to photograph them and post them here! Okay, too busy. I have a Gallery turn-around starting on Monday that will take me six days, and I have four days to do it in. I just signed a contract with Keyano Theatre to make draperies for their upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast, which they need done by last week. And I'm supposed to be going to a spinning retreat on Vancouver Island in February and can't get a flight out of godforsaken Fort McMurray unless I am willing to be out of town for 8 days. And the usual kids, household, husband distractions. I am not the first to express this, but I think it's time to be cloned.

Okay, so the projects: a wool, llama and silk scarf came off the rigid heddle loom this week. It was sort of a stash clean-up thing that worked out fairly well. Still needs to be washed and blocked, but it's there. I also used up most of the very woollen yarn that I spun from a blend 3 left-over batches of dyed Romney locks in a pair of mittens. These need to be lightly felted, then some embroidery to pretty them up. I have spun two sample yarns for my Master Spinners in-depth study (more on that in another post) and a I have two-thirds of a watchcap for Steve on the needles. That's just this week--and I complain that I have no time for fibre in my life!

A really interesting concept came my way last night as I was socializing with some of the Theatre folk. The Artistic Director is a stage combat expert, and he was comparing fight moves to weaving and spinning. We got going with the concept and came up the the idea of the Weaving Warrior--from his perspective, using textile techniques to illustrate the careful layering and interplay of actors in combat; from my perspective, using combat techniques to illustrate the importance of body mechanics and movement in textile creation. Very high-concept, not likely to happen, but I was intrigued by the easy inter-relation between such seemingly diverse arts.

It seems that there is a lot of debate over what constitutes art and what is craft, and whether either is important in modern times. But when you are with people who actually work in the field, that debate becomes moot. Sitting with an actor, a director, a designer and the technical staff of a small theatre company, I was just a fellow artist. My boss at the Art Gallery is an art historian for the most part, yet she accepts that I consider what I do to be both art and craft--or as she calls it "fine craft", which is her compromise between "real art" that hangs on walls and beautiful objects made using ancient techniques once necessary for survival but now redundant. One of the artists currently exhibiting in the gallery spent some time discussing the narrowness of the labels placed on the work that we do. Her current work as a painter is based upon the structure and design elements of Middle Eastern and Indian rugs. There are no labels or boundaries or boxes; we all embrace the urge to create.

Elbert Hubbard, an American publisher from around the turn of the 20th Century gives me the best definition ever of art:

"Art is not a thing, it is a way."

I think I'll have that tattooed on my butt. There's room.

Friday, January 20, 2006

In Praise of Natural Fibres

It's cold where I live. We are quite used to having two or three weeks of -45 Celsius around this time of year, though this year, we have been spoiled by a warm winter. Until today. I woke up to -30 Celcius and ice fog. A bit of a shock after -5 or 10, but not entirely unexpected for Fort McMurray.

So, in order to walk the two blocks to physio this morning, I layered up in: thermaply long johns, cotton socks, handknit wool socks, jeans, a cotton tee shirt, a handknit alpaca sweater, a wool coat, a handspun and handknit angora and merino blend hooded scarf, wool-lined leather gloves and handspun and handknit cashmere half-gloves. I did not feel cold at all, though my eyelashed and bangs frosted up something fierce.

And as I was walking, I realized that only my longjohns were not made of natural fibres. I'm not really sure what "thermaply" is--I've had these longjohns for about 10 years now, so the packaging is long gone, but that what the tag in the back says they are made of.

I am a fibre snob--make no mistake. I love my merino, my cashmere, my camelid fibres. But this morning, I am especially grateful that I have access to, and the skill to use, these marvelous gifts from our furry friends. I am proud that I was able to create a warm cocoon to protect myself from the elements. My snobbery has been vindicated.

About a year ago, I was advised by a salesperson in a fairly high-end ladies' fashion store that the wool pants that I was purchasing were on sale because "no one wants wool anymore--it's so hard to look after". Rubbish. I throw my wool in the washing machine (cold wash, gentle cycle!). I have pieces that I knitted 20 years ago that still look new and keep me warmer than all those scratchy, pilly acrylic things that have come and gone over those 20 years. I love my warm woollies! I want wool. And alpaca. And cashmere (especially cashmere!). And lowly, humble cotton to protect my tender skin from the itchier woolly bits.

Do yourself a favor and wear wool. And cotton. And cashmere (especially cashmere!).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Creeping Into Cyberspace

Well, this is it. I am creeping onto the information highway.

I'm not really opposed to technology, but I have always sort of suspected that the internet is a place for people with too much time on their hands. And that blogs were the territory of the angst-ridden or those prone to bizarre rants. Recent experience has shown me otherwise--I have also discovered the blogs of thoughtful and insightful individuals, filled with useful fibre information, ideas and inspiration. We shall see if I fall into the angst and rant category, or the thoughtful....only time will tell.

A little framework for this thing: I am a fibre artist who works primarily as a handspinner and custom knitting designer. I also dabble in weaving, felting, beading and soft sculptural techniques. These activities have defined my life for the past 20 years, and in recent years have become an actual career. I also work as the Art Gallery Coordinator for the Visual Arts department of the local college.

Then in September of 2005, I fractured my wrist and dislocated my knee in a bizarre acting accident. I was immobilized for about 2 weeks, and had my left arm and hand in a cast for 2 months. I also developed a wee post-traumatic stress problem--my office is about 20 feet from where I was injured and I could not go to work without having panic attacks-- and was referred for counselling by the nurse at the college.

So, off I go to counselling. I have had to do some pretty drastic things to get over the fear that I will be injured if I walk out my door, but I can put in a day's work without bursting into tears or suffering chest pain. I'm still not so happy in crowds, but then I never did like line-ups and large clusters of humanity. So therapy is working. However, my therapist pointed out that I seem rather apologetic about what I do with my time and suggested that I start to speak openly about my work to people outside of my small community of spinners and fibre fanatics. This is step one.

It was very traumatic to lose the use of one hand when so much of my life had revolved around working with my hands for so long. I have a new perspective on what fibre and textile work means to me, and I have promised myself that fibre will not be shoved to the back burner when "more important" things come along. Yes, I do have a steady paying gig at the art gallery, but it is only 20 hours a week. That leaves 148 hours every week. Take out time for sleep and food, and that still leaves a lot of time that could be spent on fibre. And now that I know how crazy I get when I can't work with my hands, I have to cherish every second that I can spend doing it.

I've taken enough time away from fibre already--back to the real whorl.