Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Convergence 2010 Albuquerque: Day one - July 20

I was up at 6:00 a.m. and went for breakfast in the hotel. As I arrived in the dining room and was about to be seated, another conference participant, Bobbie (Roberta) Goering, asked me to join her table for breakfast. She had already asked 2 other women who were attending the conference on their own, Cynthia Miller and Jean Weems. We talked animatedly, our eagerness to be there apparent and vital. We quickly became ‘a group’ hanging out together at various times over the week that the conference took place.

left to right: Jean Weems, Cynthia Miller, Ann Bergeron and Bobbie Goering

At 7:30 a.m. we all checked into the conference and the tour we had signed up to take that morning. While I was there, I overheard a woman introduce herself as Nancy Harvey to the check-in personnel for the conference. It was the Nancy Harvey who wrote the tapestry book. I asked her if she’d take her picture with me for us folks here in Canada! She willingly obliged.

The Santa Fe Opera House was utterly divine. It was lodged in an outdoor space, with a panoramic view. Though it had a remarkable arched wood ceiling the sides were open to the elements. On one side of the stage area are wind and rain baffles. We were given a tour of the costume shop, where not only are the costumes themselves often made, but at times, also the shoes, wigs and hats. There are 65 people employed in this section during the summer months. Out of 900 applicants for technical apprenticeships, 78 are selected. The costumes have a great amount of technical detail. There is an ample storage area, where costumes are stored not only from the current operas, but from past operas. The frequently rent out costumes for productions of other operas around the country. Costumes are created with large seam allowances and no lining to allow them to be taken in or enlarged depending on the performer. We were shown the understage area and props. We were served a delicious lunch where we invited Ann Bergeron to join a new friends group and then it was off to visit 3 studios of local area fiber artists.

The first studio we stopped was Rebecca Bluestone. This gave us an introduction to the kind of architecture that is dominant in New Mexico, the adobe style house. They are very charming, cool in the summer, and warm in the cooler months. She does warped faced hand dyed silk wallhangings on a Cranbook Loom with a sectional warp beam and an epi of 8 using a 12/6 swedish cotton for the warp. She likes to weave with a temple because silk is rigid and does not have the give and amplitude of wool, thus its rigidity causes draw-in. Her wallhangings are quite large and to maintain such a straight edge is definitely technically challenging.

James Koehler’s studio was next, shown above. James creates handwoven tapestries with his hand dyed wool yarn. He mounts his tapestries with Velcro on frames so that they appear more like canvases than wallhangings. He has a number of apprentices and in exchange for work done for him, he trades them hours of instruction. He also uses a Cranbrook loom and works in the ‘bas lisse’ manner. He did say that he was looking into getting a gobelin style loom for he was beginning to find that always working on the Cranbrook loom was more challenging physically. A gobelin style would give him the option of also working upright and perhaps more comfortably. One thing that James did differently in setting up tapestries on looms is, instead of using lease sticks at the back to maintain threads in a more orderly way, he opted for using another reed at the back of the loom between the heddles and back beam. James also sells hand dyed yarns for tapestry. He has a new book available about his work and life available through mail order.

Jennifer Moore’s studio was our last stop for the day. The picture are at the top of the page. She creates double weave wall hangings, scarves and shawls. Jennifer’s book on double weave has just come out, and she also sells dvd’s on the technique. I acquired a copy of the book and asked her to sign it! Jennifer’s studio may be small, but she also is incredibly prolific.

I regrouped with my new friends after the tour. Bobbie was fading because she had come directly to Albuquerque from a trip to France, so she didn’t join us for dinner. Jean, Cynthia and I took the bus to Old Town Albuquerque, where shops and restaurants were organized around a very European looking square. We had dinner at one of the restaurants (Mexican). We faded quickly after that.
Attendance at this conference made possible by the support of the Ontario Arts Council.