Weaving for a Collaborative Art Show

The local winery here on Pender Island offers their large tasting room to local artists each weekend of the summer for art shows, and this summer I was invited to add my weaving to a group of four artists- painter (and my mother!) Margaret Alpen, photographers Eve Pollard and Derek Applegarth, and glass jeweller Nancy Westall.  The room at Sea Star Vineyards is open and bright, with lots of wall space and a large, plank style table in the centre.  It was wonderful to have so much room in which to display scarves and ponchos, rather than trying to fit everything in on a market table!  I also really enjoyed seeing my designs blend with the work of the other artists.  The colours of Nancy’s jewelry really matched beautifully, and Eve had a photograph that she took of my and Rosie.  Also my mother’s west coast arbutus trees and forest paintings created a wonderful sense of place.

I was inspired to focus mainly on pieces in which I had incorporated my hand spun angora fibre from my angora rabbit, Rosie.  I have been spinning it in a blend with other fibres, mostly merino and alpaca, and the pure white result is refreshing to weave with.  Having a few display mannequins really helped to show the shape of the ponchos, which were the pieces that sold the best!  This was my first art show, and it was lovely to chat with the folks that came by, and show them my Saori loom which I brought along to set up.

Another nice touch is the Winery’s request for the artists to donate to a local non-profit organization in lieu of rent for the space.

Silver Circle Weaving on Etsy

silvercircleweavingI finally decided to test out the services of Etsy to sell my weaving online.  So far, I have been offering my creations at the local farmers’ market during the summer, and I have often received inquiries from visitors about how they can see my work online.  I have really only used this blog to post photos, but never really had a purchasing format.  I am hopeful that Etsy will help connect my hand woven creations with those around the globe seeking to support small home businesses focusing on hand made items.

Visit my shop:  Silver Circle Weaving

I also realized that I needed a name… so I did some research on spinning and weaving and the symbolic associations with Celtic mythology, which I have always been interested in.  This is what I found:

83117db14f606e3e121892b219b44076Arianrhod, Celtic Welsh Star Goddess of Reincarnation, is known as “Silver Wheel”, “Silver Circle”, “High Fruitful Mother”, “Star Goddess”, and Sky Goddess. She is considered by many to be a Moon Goddess.  She is a primal figure of feminine power, a Celestial Mother Goddess who through her role as Goddess of Reincarnation, rules fertility and childbirth.  Arianrhod also rules arts, magic, and manifestation. As the Goddess of the Silver Wheel she is associated with spinning and weaving.  With Her wheel she magically weaves the tapestry of life.

Things sacred to Arianrhod are the owl, wolf and the birch tree.  The owl has long been associated with death whereas the birch tree is the tree of new beginnings.  To the Celts, the wolf was associated with the power of the moon.  Thus, Arianrhod’s wheel circles the continuum from birth to death and to birth once again, and creating the journeys therein.

Her palace was found in the far north on the magical, rotating island of Caer Sidi, which probably means “Revolving Castle”. She lived there with her female attendants. The ancients believed that her domain and her castle, Caer Arianrhod, were in the Corona Borealis, the constellation of stars moving around the apparently motionless North Star.  Legend tells us that poets and astrologers learned the wisdom of the stars at Caer Sidi.

As “Silver Wheel”, Arianrhod was responsible for the souls of warriors who fell in battle. She gathered them aboard her ship, the Oar Wheel. and transported them to Emania, also know as Moonland.  In the Northern sky, whirling around the enduring stability of the north star, Arianrhod presided over the fates of departed souls, nurturing their journeys between lives.

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I like the simple image of a silver circle, and I hope to also create a little design to go with it.  I also hope to be offering more items with my hand spun angora fibre that I have been harvesting from my own french angora rabbits.  I am still in the process of learning the skills of blending and spinning the very soft and silky fibres so that I may integrate it within the weaving.

Angora Scarves

I have finally woven up two scarves using the skein of angora fibre that I spun from our chocolate french angora rabbit, Gustav.  I mixed it with some hand spun, hand painted merino from a Pender Island fibre artist, I Heart Ewe (iheartewe.etsy.com) that my daughter gave to me for christmas.  The two scarves are for each of us.

Truly, the softest fibre I have ever touched.  I look forwards to experimenting with more!

January Weaving

The (slightly) quieter schedule that engulfs us after the holiday swirl offers a perfect time to focus attention back at my loom.  After a recent trip to Knotty By Nature in Victoria for a new array of warp thread, including some shiny bamboo, I have been continually inspired to explore and play with many ideas and colours.

Moss & Arbutus- My first attempt to weave from an idea of composition that I originally drew.  Warp threads are bamboo, weft consists of merino, and baby llama/mulberry silk blend.  The white accents are hand spun angora collected from my own rabbits.  158cm long (63in.) x 27cm (10.5in.)  

Fire- woven on the same bamboo warp as Moss & Arbutus, I used green baby llama/mulberry silk blend with Noro wool featuring long colour changes.  I played with the effect of clasp weaving using two yarns of differing thickness.  130cm (51in.) x 27cm (10.5in.)  

Forest Windows was inspired by seeing small squares woven separately in a cloak somewhere online, creating little “windows” that opened on the sides.  Same bamboo warp as the above pieces, I used similar merino with the baby llama/mulberry silk blend, with moments of white alpaca.  145 cm (57in.) x 27cm (10.5in.)

Pond is a tiny little neck warmer in the same hues as Ocean.  It is only 105cm (41in.) x 13cm (5in), and was woven on the same warp as Ocean, except that I split the warp and wove two separate pieces at the same time.  

Ocean is a long expanse of blues, purples, and white with flecks of cream and deep green.  I used alpaca, merino, wool, and some locally spun and dyed merino on cotton warp.   Randomly placed spaces in the warp add some visual texture in the length.  This piece measures 195cm (78in.) x 32cm (12.5in.), and may one day become a piece of clothing.

More Saori Weaving

first market tableThe cool days of winter reflected in weaving… Here are a few photos of some of the things that have come off the loom in the last few months.  I had my first table at the Easter weekend farmers’ market- it was pretty fun to see all the colours out in the spring air and to connect with other islanders’ in sharing creations.  It was the first time I have really had a collection out in the public eye, and I was quite excited by all the supportive responses!

Here are a few scarves… lots of play with bright tones, mixing them randomly or with a preconceived design.  A few fibers in these include alpaca, merino, silk, and bamboo.  I love the saori philosophy that allows mistakes to be elements of design.  Eliminating the negative idea of a mistake opens the possibilities for unplanned creation.

I have also been experimenting with small vests, made in two ways- either cut in half and sewn up the back and sides, or a single length folded in a V in the back and sewn to the front under the arms.  The second way makes for a slightly more fitting cropped kind of vest, as seen in the yellow/blue vest.  The unfolded length of it can be seen in the photo above- I did some planning to make the yellow portion of the vest fall around the shoulders and the blue portion lie at the bottom, once it is folded.  The blue vest is made primarily with hand dyed merino and kid fiber from Fleece Artist in Nova Scotia.  It is cut in half and sewn up the back for a wider fit.

I often catch myself judging whether or not I like what I am doing.  As I work, the weaving gets rolled up to advance the warp strings, and my visual of the progress remains in the immediate ten inches or so.  It is not until I roll the whole thing off that I get a full look of what I have done, (unless I unroll it and peek, but that still has some visual limitations).  It is a chance to remember to work in the present, and trust that a complete picture of the creation will be revealed later… whether it is based on a preconceived idea I have attempted to follow, or a creation of random patterning, it is always a surprise to pull something off the loom and see it in it’s full form.

 

Weaving for Autumn

peach scarf buttonsA few more weaving projects have left my loom over the past few months and are ready to be worn in the cooler weather of autumn.  Scarves, of course, are easy to weave and require nothing more than to drape them over oneself.

I made one piece of wide weaving into a tunic as a birthday gift for a friend of mine.  After cutting the weaving in half, I sewed the two pieces together up the back.  I found 6 hand made clay buttons and sewed two on each side and two in the front, with loops through which they close.  The warp threads are silk/nylon, and the various weft yarns are angora, merino, wool, and recycled sari silk.  Happy Birthday Nia!

Other scarves that have begun to pile up vary in width, length, heaviness, fibre content, colour and pattern.  I get drawn to follow a simple design, attempting to create a certain pattern, and then I am inspired to follow nothing at all but my spontaneous reach for colour and texture.  Scarves are great for not having to be committed to an idea for very long, especially with my collection of very random fibres.

 

Weaving for Art In The Orchard

saori spring wrap

A saori spring wrap

This past weekend, I was very pleased to be involved in the annual Art In The Orchard here on Pender, an island where artists and orchards abound.  Twenty some artists working in diverse mediums displayed their work throughout one of North Penders oldest orchard and heritage farm house, Corbett House B&B, dating back to 1902.  Paintings, print making, pottery, sculpture, wood working, jewelry, photography, stained glass, and fibre arts were all beautifully tucked under apple trees and framed with zig zag fencing while goats and sheep grazed on the other side.

Last year I had only a small collection of woven fabric that I hung up on the clothesline.  At that time, my journey into the art of saori weaving had just begun, and my available time was limited as we had many building projects on the go at our property.  This year, I found that the pile of weaving has indeed stacked up, and shows a pathway of explored techniques as I tried out new tings and made observations about texture and fibre qualities.  I was honoured to hang up my creations among so many other amazing Pender artists.

 

Winter Weaving

saori autumn weaveThis winter, I finally got the chance to try making some warm winter wearables from a few pieces of weavings I have been producing.  Mostly I have been making scarves, but I really wanted to make a more substantial wrap or jacket.  The widest piece I can make on my Saori loom is 42cm (16.5inches), so I made a warp that was the widest possible and the longest possible from my supplies so that I would not run short.

The simplest plans for a poncho seemed to be two strips sewn side by side with an opening in the center for the neck hole.  I had lots of sturdy cotton green warp, and plenty of 100% wool in two shades of blue that came from the local second hand store.  I mixed it up with a multi-coloured merino in blues and greens and yellows, and I occasionally placed a line of light green roving for texture.  Using only these yarns, I experimented with all that can be done with three choices.  It was a new practice for me, especially with such a large piece to fill.  Usually I can’t help adding more and more variety.  Off the loom, I cut the fabric in half and sewed one half of it together down the sides.  I decided to leave the other half open, like a vest poncho.  I may add large buttons on the sides under the arms to keep it more securely closed all around, and who knows, I may decide to sew up the front, too.  I have passed it over to my mother to wear, so it is an open ended project depending on her comfort!

With the second piece, I was looking to make something more with more drape.  I picked up a single, large skein of a fine, almost lace weight merino and wool blend that had long, autumn toned colour changes.  In my buckets, I found two skeins of lace weight alpaca in two shades of green that I hoped would be enough for another wide, long warp.  Without interrupting the weft too much, I added accents and highlights whenever the bobbin and shuttle ran out and there was a slight break in the colour changes.  I had a ball of recycled silk sari yarn, two toned green alpaca, light green roving, blue roving, and some leftover bits of green and orange peace fleece wool from a knitted sweater project.  (Weaving satisfies my need to use up all the little bits of yarn from knitting.  They just can’t be used very easily otherwise!)  I was so happy with the feel and drape that I didn’t want to cut into it at all, and I wanted it to lie flat and simple as a garment  So I folded it once on an angle at the back, letting each side come down straight in the front.  I wove up another section using mostly black linen on the same warp, and added the same accents as in the rest of the piece, and used it across the back, sewing it to the sides and across the back fold of the other piece.  By adding a simple fastener at the front, it can be held together or left open.  For being so light weight, it is so warm!  Thanks to my daughter who took all the modelling photos.  A new role for both of us.

Summer Weaving

rainbow warpSummer doesn’t always seem to be the most intuitive season for weaving, but we have found that during the heat of the day and amidst all the outside energetics of exploration and adventure, weaving has provided moments of quiet and focus.  Colour choices reflect the joy of the sun and the lightness of blue skies and beaches.  Last month, Taeven was inspired to put a rainbow warp on the loom, so she helped with the math to determine the number of warp strings for each colour to get an overall width, and we used the warping frame to lay it out.   It was interesting to have the opportunity to experiment with weaving across a very specific (and bright) set of colours.  taevens rainbowTaeven chose to use mostly white, with flashes of rainbow roving tucked into the weave as she went.  Cedar decided to do the same thing but with black wool.  We made each of their weaving long enough to fold in half and stitch the sides up into a little pillow stuffed with wool.  I experimented with using other colours and patterns over the rainbow warp, which was challenging- with so much colour going on in the warp strings, the look of the simple solid colours or white was sometimes all that was needed.  Once we used up the rainbow warp, I headed straight to an all white warp!rainbow pillow

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to show a small collection of weaving in an outdoor art show called “Art In The Orchard”.  Over 30 artists from the island set up their diverse forms of art under the old apple trees of Corbett House, a  beautiful heritage house and bed and breakfast in the Corbett Valley.  From noon until five, the art show saw 250 people come through to see the art, talk to the artists, and relax in the orchard listening to music and watching the goats.  I hung my pieces over the clothes line and let the summer sun play with the colours.  Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the day, but I was happy to provide a bit of visual interest hanging in the air for those enjoying the display of abundant creativity.

The Freedom of Saori Weaving

My first creation of Saori style weaving

As a child, I used to visit my Great Aunt in Summerland with my family during the summers.  Besides having a cherry orchard and a small sandy beach on the Okanagan Lake, my Great Aunt also had a living room full of looms with walls decorated with tapestries collected from all over the world.  We would spend part of our time there in the cherry trees, fingers and lips stained from the juice, and part of our time under the willow by the lake with small looms in hands, and the rhythms of weaving in our minds.

Fast forward twenty years or so, and my father and I are traveling again to Summerland with my 2 year old daughter to bring home one of those enormous floor looms that used to sit in the living room by the lake.  My Great Aunt by then had experienced a few strokes and was now living in the small cottage on the property, with a small loom to keep her hands busy when she was able.  Her daughter wanted to see the big loom, made by her father, go to someone in the family who would actually use it.  I had been feeling drawn towards weaving since my discovery of knitting, spinning, and felting, and so my anticipation of the floor loom from my Great Aunt was deeply embracing and supported by those memories from childhood.

Space was an issue, and I have to be completely honest in saying that now, 7 years later, it is still bundled up in storage waiting to be explored.  Building an art studio into our house was integral into getting the loom into use.  However, now that the art studio and the house (first half) is done, the floor loom is still too big while part of the studio is being used as a temporary bedroom until we get the second half of the house completed.  So my father found a small folding loom with the name Saori printed on it, and passed it along with the thought that it might be a good way to get started.

A fashion show of saori woven clothing

I discovered that Saori is not only a maker of looms and weaving accessories, but is a whole philosophy of weaving.  ‘SA’ of SAORI has the same meaning as the first syllable of the word ‘SAI’ which is found in Zen vocabulary, meaning everything has its own individual dignity.  And the “ORI” means weaving. In Japan in the late 1960s, Misao Jo, then in her mid 50s, decided she wanted to weave a sash (obi) for her kimono by hand. Her husband and sons built her a hand loom, and her 84-year-old mother taught her how to weave.  Later, an obi that she had woven was rejected from a weaving shop because of a “flaw”, but she liked the flaw, and decided to weave with more irregularities that reflected her unique individual expression.  This type of weaving was embraced by friends and finally by a high end shop, which requested more of her pieces of weaving.  She moved into teaching, beginning with just 5 students, and has now spread to countless studios, schools, and organizations all dedicated to encouraging the unique creativity and accessibility of weaving to people everywhere.

The SAORI Slogans

  1. Consider the differences between machines and people.
  2. Let’s adventure beyond our imagination.
  3. Let’s look out through eyes that shine.
  4. Let’s learn from everyone in the group

Misao Jo’s teachings were based on the idea that there is no wrong, that mistakes are the essence of design, and that beauty arises out of this freedom.  Often called free-style weaving, or freedom weaving, it holds a traditionally admired element of understanding beauty with lack of intention.  
 Japanese people have traditionally admired “the beauty with lack of intentions” in nature and adopted it into art forms such as gardening, ceramics and painting. They admire the beauty of nature leaving everything as it is, finding the beauty in the wild flowers, grass or trees in Japanese-style gardens built with as little artificial taste as possible.  In ceramics, for example, Japanese artists often make a cup in an irregular shape leaving a finger print and some designs accidentally marked while it is fired.  In SAORI,  the beauty of the cloth is admired in the same way.  It is the traditional view point of Japanese people who admire the “beauty with lack of intentions” in nature and art, that has developed the unique philosophy of SAORI.
 

“Waterfall” by Terri Bibby

I took a day long class with Terri Bibby, a weaver from Salt Spring Island, and fell into it like it was breathing.  Terri is a long time weaver who discovered the Saori style not so very long ago, and has happily settled into passing on it’s philosophies.  She helped me learn how to warp my loom, and then she beautifully allowed my own sense of exploring colours and textures lead me on my own path of learning.  She has sewn many of her weavings into simple and flowing clothes, which also appeals to my sense of usefulness in my creative pursuits.  Here is her site, offering workshops and retreats….. www.saltspringweaving.com.

Now I have the shuttle of my Great Aunt Mary to pass back and forth through my loom.  I am so grateful for such an accessable way to get started.  The idea of tackling the big floor loom was definitely a slightly daunting venture, and I am glad that it will be a few years yet before we are able to set it up in the studio.  By then I think I will be ready for the challenge of more, of bigger, of new possibilities for extending the saori philosophies.  I have already implemented them into many other places of my life, and I realize that this approach is intuitive and natural.  It fits with natural building, (so long as everything works!  We must remember that mistake making is limited, and what we are making still has to function properly).  It applies to a much larger picture of ourselves, and of our place within our community, locally and globally.  I have always felt a truth in the metaphor of the weaver at the loom, of the threads of life that cross and form patterns, that we are woven and we are the weavers of the world.  We weave and learn together in search of our true, hidden selves.

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