Friday, August 26, 2011

Community Threads: Day 7 part two

Linda Needles brought in a copy of the Alliston Herald, dated Augsut 16 2011. Maija Hoggett wrote up an article in the paper about our Community Threads project. She captured the essence of the activities going on. I don't know if you can read the article but a hard copy will be made available by the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners. I'll also attach an email version that will be forwarded to everyone so that they can print out their own version if they want.

I also forgot to mention that Pam Wilson stopped by to visit us yesterday and enquired about the Community Threads project. She is in charge of the catering at the Gibson Centre. Her email if you need to have an event catered is

Have I mispelled any names? If so please let me know. I do have dyslexia so words and writing is more challenging.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Community Threads: Day 7

The countdown is on. One more week before my solo exhibition Wholeness opens and since the Community Threads project is part of the exhibit and there are a lot of things to get done before. Barb Hilts popped by hoping to chat with me about those exhibition details, alas I had to stay anchored to Alice's Attic to get everything ready for next week. Barb, herself a fibre artist and Gibson Centre gallery curator, must be recognized for her important contribution to this project. She invited me to submit a proposal to the Gibson Centre for an exhibition and then it snowballed from there.
There's nothing like working in a team and today we worked really well together. I think the best kind of art is one that involves lots of other people, with all their gifts and talents that they bring to the table. Actors, singers and even musicians get to experience collaboration with others, but it doesn't often happen for craftspeople and visual artists. For me this is a revitalizing and refreshing way to work together with others to make all of this happen.
Lots of people showed up to lend a helping hand and we don't have pictures of all of those who did show up today. Here Nicolas Rodrigo volunteered to continue working on the cartoons for the tapestries, enlarging the designs into the size of the finished piece. The picture above, from left to right, Corrie Parsons, Nellie Waterson, Jean Kazmierczak and Janet Fayle and I know that Nathalia Smugden also came to help out with finishing my tapestries. Elisabeth Bishof worked on one of the smaller tapestry looms. She said that she enjoys the preparation more than the weaving, but thought she might like to try the tapestry. Dawna Beatty worked on a guild weaving project.
Our main challenge today was figuring out a way to position our cartoons on the gobelin loom so that they would remain attached while weaving. I think it took about 6 of us to devise a method, without making permanent physical adjustments to the loom that is only lent to us. Finally we found a way and we were ready to start weaving. In this photo from left to right, Jada Needles giving a massage to Sandi Nemenyi who is beside Linda Needles. We must thank Linda for taking many of the photographs that we used for the designs of the tapestries. The two people who started the first few rows of the tapestry weaving was Lucy Tavares and Sandi Nemenyi and Sharon Robinson made movies and took pictures of the events as they unfold.

Here, Nada tries her hand at tapestry weaving.

We had many special guests today. Above you saw that Jada Needles joined in on the weaving, but her brother Clark also came along and stayed with us for the day.
Here, the president of the South Simcoe Arts Council tried her hand at weaving on the tapestry and said that she could stay all day. It made her forget about everything else.

We were also very pleased that Angela Drainville, the Executive Director of the Gibson Centre, joined us with her son, Cohen.

Sandi Nemenyi sits with Chris, who was looking longingly at wanting to try her hand at the tapestry weaving. Alas, she broke her arm (or wrist) while out jogging on a trail. Not only that, she fell on it twice on the same jog! Ouch. That had to hurt!

Sandi shows the design she is translating into tapestry.

Linda Needes brought in the Alliston Herald dated August 16 which features a great article and pictures of the project. My scanner isn't working right now but as soon as it is I'll post it on the blog, hopefully in the next few days. Linda Needles spoke to one of the Gibson Centre board members last and they would like to visit and see our progress.Someone from the historical society also approached Linda, said they'd like to come to the Gibson Centre for one of their monthly meetings, possibly in February or so, in order to see the tapestries and hear the story of them. Now that’s community outreach!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Community Threads: Day Six

On the way into set up the Community Threads activities in Alice's Attic at the Gibson Centre, I rode up the elevator with Lynda Mitchell-Reynolds, who I believe is the Executive Director of the South Simcoe Arts Council. She has been very supportive of the Community Threads project and very accommodating. How she gets any work done with us making so much noise is a wonder as her office is very nearby!
Things often don't go as planned and so in those situations one makes adjustments and accommodations to the changing circumstances. We had hoped to continue creating the cartoons for the remaining ten tapestries, alas, the bulbs that Sandi Nemenyi ordered for the overhead projector had not arrived for today. One of the tasks we continued doing this week was matching the yarns with the colors in the paintings, and creating 'butterflies' for the various colour shapes in the design and then coding them for easy access and weaving, sort of like a paint by number idea. Nicolas Rodriogo and his mother Sharon, shown here in this photo, assisted me in this task. We talked about many things together and one of the things that Nicolas and I discussed was mastery when he commented how quickly I was getting the task done. According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book 'Outliers', where he discusses what makes individuals successful, the magic number is 10,000. This is how many hours one needs to be practicing a skill set before one has reached mastery. Then it becomes like a second nature.
Because we couldn't continue with the tracing the cartoons with the overhead projector, we focused on other tasks. I am really grateful for all the help doing the finishing work on my own tapestries, that just might be ready in time for the exhibition! I wasn't expecting it but it seems like it might be a real possibility. In tapestry studios of the past, and some current ones, many hands would be working on all stages of the tapesties. So it's a continuation of a historical practice. Helping out at this task today was Nellie Waterman, Valerie Splaine, Betty C, Nathalia Smugden, Sandi Nemenyi, Janet Dryden, Allanah Bishof and Janet Fayle....I think that was it.

The last main task that was accomplished today was getting the headers woven on the tapestry looms. First priority was the gobelin loom which will be featured in the exhibition and will remain for its duration.
Here Corrie Parsons and Lucy Tavares are doing this task. I found out from Libby that the gobelin tapestry loom was lent to us by Elaine Bresselier who hails from Penetang.

Libby Hoffman prepares a smaller tapestry loom. I believe she said it was Dutch and it has the most lovely little metal tapestry fork I've ever seen.

Gayle Wheeler, Elisabeth Bishof and Jean K were also in attendance and assisting us in various ways.

In this photo, myself and Lucy Tavares continuing to work on the headers. At the end of todays session, we are now ready to start weaving the first two tapestries. How exciting!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Community Threads: Day 5

Linda Needles, president of her guild, is one of the dynamic forces at the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners in Alliston. She sent me all kinds of links and pictures related to tapestry weaving. I'll post them at the end of the blog for you to reference and learn more about tapestry as well as about historical and contemporary tapestry practices. Of the many images she sent me, this one was included. It is taken at Stirling Castle in Scotland where they are recreating the historical Unicorn tapestries.

There were various tasks to accomplish today. The guild participants helped me in the finishing of my tapestries recently off the loom in an effort to have them ready for the exhibition opening Wholeness, September 11 between 2-5pm at the Gibson Centre for Community, Art and Culture, 63 Tupper Street West. An intensive effort as they soon discovered. This task requires hours of inserting the weft threads into the 'tunnel' that the weft thread creates as it passes over the warp threads.
In this picture, from left to right, Janet Fayle, Elisabeth Bishof, and Betty C.

The advantage of such a task when undertaken with others, is that it is one of those jobs that you can engage in conversation easily. So lots of chatting went on. From left to right, Nellie, our new OHS president Sandi Nemenyi, and Janet .
As I listen to them talking among each other I clearly see that these women make valuable contirubtions to their community. Sharon Robinson Rodrigo summed it up beautifully when she said that these kinds of cultural activities are community building activities. It builds morale, lifts the spirits of not only those who make the contributions but also those who will benefit from their contributions. People like Linda Needles who works to fundraise for a digital mammography machine, Sandi Nemenyi who puts in countless hours voluntarily and unpaid for the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners, Janet Fayle, whose good sense of order and organization keeps the Nottawasaga Guild running smoothly, Sharon Robinson Rodrigo who puts in volunteer hours for her church, and their youth camp as well as their endeavours to send aid to Haiti. All of you that have come out to participate in the Community Threads project ....I can only say it is such a generous gesture to participate in a project of this scope. I'm sure there are many more of you that contribute in other ways that I have not heard of and you deserve a great round of applause. These community and volunteer efforts contribute to our 'wholeness', to the 'wholeness' of one's community and various organizations , which makes this entire endeavour so compatible with my upcoming exhibit entitled Wholeness.
In this picture Sharon Robinson Rodrigo and Linda Needles prepare the paper that will be layered between the warp threads on the gobelin loom.

We learned today that the Gibson Centre has a TV monitor in the reception area where they post pictures of the activities that take place there. I'll be submitting pictures to the Gibson Centre for that head's up, your picture might be there! The South Simcoe Arts Council friended us on 'Facebook' and is very supportive of our undertaking. They have made a contribution to the Community Threads project.

Libby Hoffman and Nathalia Smugden finished setting up the warps on the smaller tapestry looms we'll be using. Nathalia mentioned that she took Ukrainian weaving for several years at the Banff School of Art and recalls the luxury of having a swim morning and night, and weaving all day in between. We talked about how wonderful it is to be able to dedicate time to an activity we feel passionate about and love doing. Time out from the usual mundande domestic chores. Time to just focus on what matters to us. Time to not take care of anyone else but ourselves. We all need to do that once in awhile, to feel whole, to feel renewed!

The final preparations of the warp on the gobelin loom overseen by Gayle Wheeler on the right. Valerie Splaine and Elisabeth Bishof undertake the task. Gayle has studied tapestry with Marcel Marois and Archie Brennan ( and also studied with me!). You should ask Gayle what is was like to work with Marcel and Archie. I'm sure it would be intriguing and very interesting!

I spent the day on the floor preparing the colour combinations and butterflies for the one of the twelve tapestries. Everything had to be coded for the days when I won't be available to help.

Below the promised links to other tapestry information, historical and contemporary forwarded by Linda Needles.
This link makes reference to an artist who commissioned the Victorian Tapestry Workshop to create his designs for tapestries that are still hanging in Saskatchewan. See page 12 of the transcripts of this talk given.
This link is to the Stirling Castle tapestries

Canongate Kirk - "kirk," that's what they call churches in Scotland - is at
the lower end of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, near Holyrood Palace.

Built in 1690, its plain, light-blue interior, without embellishments such
as stained-glass windows, reflects the country's conversion to Protestantism
in the 16th century, under fire-and-brimstone-breathing Scottish preacher
John Knox.

But in 2000, some truly lovely and moving elaborations were made to the
otherwise Spartan church in the form of embroidered seat cushions for the
stalls in the apse.

Commissioned by the Fife, Lothians and Borders branch of the Normandy
Veterans Assn., they commemorate the soldiers who died, fighting to liberate
Europe during World War II, on D-day.

Fine three-stranded wool thread dyed in a rainbow of colors was used by
textile artists from all over the world, in patterns well-known to crewel
workers, including Scottish and Gobelin stitchery. The result is radiant,
though it's doubtful that Knox would agree.
Susan Spano, Los Angeles Times staff writer

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Community Threads: Day 4

On the day I know I'm coming to the Gibson Centre for Community, Art and Culture in Alliston to work with the members of the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners I'm always really excited. Today was no exception. I can't believe my good fortune at being able to collaborate with weavers on creating a set of woven wallhangings....more specifically 12 tapestries. I've been given the very fancy title of 'Artistic Director'. I imagine a conductor of an orchestra must feel the way I'm feeling, but in my case, I conduct a symphony of colours, shapes, textures, and human activity to make it all come together as a great 'arrangement'. What is a conductor though without each instrument and a person behind the instrument. Wouldn't be an orchestra at all! And so, today, it was estimated that 16 guild members showed up to contribute in some way, shape or form for various amounts of times and for various activites.

We had other visitors too. Linda Needles happens to be on the Committee for the Digital Mammography Campaign and they are preparing a float that will be in the parade for the Potatoe Festival the August 6 and 7 weekend. Carolyn Maxwell, Marg Barber, and Marilyn Holmstrom who were also working on the float, came by to have a look at the Community Threads project and activities. Goes to show that you never know who you'll meet while on this project!

One of the main tasks today was to create the enlarged version of the tapestry designs (some shown above this picture). We did this using an overhead projector - yes there are still some around!), markers and large sheets of paper. Valerie, Allanah and Chris took responsibility for this activity. We managed to get 2 done today and there are 10 to go. We may have them done at the printer's because at the very end of today's activities, the bulb broke and they are expensive to replace.

The other major activity was dressing the looms. Here Betty and Nathalia are working on this Penelope, a smaller portable loom that the guild members will be taking around to have different groups of people weave on.

Mattie is pre-sleying the reed for the gobelin loom while Flo is supervising! Flo sorted more yarn for us and put them into their correct colour box.

I joked with Gayle that all the pictures I had with her, we could only see her head. Her response was that that was because she was working so hard! And its true....she was! She did a lot of pre sleying the reed and then they had to do it over again because we didn't get the placement of the warps figured out right the first time.

I'm always touched that people want to share their stories. Today, Janet Fayle explained to me that in 1947 her parents bought a farm in this area. Janet and her husband used to come only on the weekends but now live on the property for the last decade or more. I believe it is also a bed and breakfast. You'll have to give me the name of it Janet! Janet and her husband were or are building 'archeologists' and into the heritage of buildings. Janet also has a daughter that is an 'intuitive counselor' that lives in the Gatineau area, Eiza Fayle. Eliza likes to help woman adjust to the ageing process in a way that honours who they are. The main message I picked up from our conversation is how we can continually re-invent ourselves, and that is very clear as she talks about two of her now adult children.

I guess the other message is be careful what you tell me because it might end up here!

From left to right, Sandi Nemenyi, now the President of the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners, Nellie, and Libby. They dressed this portable loom, which belongs to Libby who is lending it to the guild until the project is completed. We've never seen this kind of loom before and have no idea what kind it is, but it's pretty neat! Sandi also brought in a catalogue published about the Leeds wallhangings, the project that inspired Sandi to undertake this endeavour.

Above, Elisabeth Bishoff wound more skeins into balls and helped anyone else who needed helping.
I'm enjoying working with weavers and how fortunate I feel to assist them in this project. I'm used to working slowly, methodically on my own creative endeavours. I'm used to the solitariness of my weaving activities, but how much more one can accomplish as a group, and how much more fun it is to be with others and a part of a large creative undertaking. For what is life really but our being present to the moment and to each other, our interactions igniting our enthusiasm and weaving us together into a conhesive whole. However, it is also significant because it makes reference to how tapestries were woven centuries ago, and in some places, still, for instance Australia, France, Scotland and England. Often there are many weavers that weave on one tapestry. At some points in tapestry history, weavers created the designs. Then it became fashionable to have artists create the designs for the tapestries. Today, both practices are still usual.

I love being able to help people who think they are not artistic to tap into their creativity. I love to help people empower their inner artist. It can only happen though if they are willing to open themselves to the experience. I love to get people and especially weavers and spinners excited about weaving, and help them to discovere more and more possibilities. With a little encouragement, a little willingness, a little guidance, and the right environment, you can do almost anything! See you next week!

This project is generously funded by the