Special lighting

I got this shot of a long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus) a couple of weekends ago, at my friend Dale Clark’s butterfly farm. He does an open house every fall, catching the migrating monarchs as they float through his giant yard planted with nectar and host plants. I love the way the light strikes this butterfly’s head and shoulders – it’s almost as if he had a special spotlight that followed him around. I’ve known people like that – wherever they are, they appear slightly brighter than the surrounding area. I think it’s partly an innate thing, and partly an out-pouring of energy – attitude, spirit, whatever you want to call it.

I feel like I do it sometimes. I can feel it, when the light is on me – and I feel it even more when I step wrong and I’m out of it. It’s a feeling of alignment, like you’re in the right place and you’re saying the right lines and the show’s going well. It feels like I’m harmonizing, like I’m in tune.

Lately, I’ve been out of it a lot. I’m trying; I get bits of it. Occasional moments.

I’ve been dreaming a lot, and working on exploring my dreams; this always helps me connect.

 

 

 

Class for the Board

 

Last weekend, I taught a class for the DFW Fiber Fest Board. Everybody had a loom, and I loved how they looked lined up on the table!

Getting a Sample of my Mojo Back

 

This past weekend was the DFW Fiber Fest. I’ve been on the board of this annual event for three years now; it’s a LOT of work, but it’s also a really great reminder of the fantastic fiber arts community, and the power of getting together to do creative things with string. We hire both local and national instructors, and we draw over sixty vendors from the region and across the country.

I had gotten cotton yarn a few months ago to weave a sampler, but just hadn’t ever gotten around to it. I finally sat down and warped the loom on Friday during the event, and sat and wove, and talked to people about weaving, and showed people how the weaving worked, until I finally finished it on Saturday. It was good to visit with everybody, and it was satisfying and pleasing to weave again.

I normally don’t title “pieces” of my weaving, unless there’s something going into a show that needs a title. A sampler, in particular, wouldn’t get a title – by its very nature, a sampler is a process piece, a test, a recapitulation of technique and pattern. But I decided that because of the unique situation, and the fact that it’s more of a way of brushing off my weaving skills, than a set of pattern sketches, this piece deserves a title. I’m calling it, “Fuck That B.S.” Because it’s bullshit to let somebody stomp on your joy, and it’s bullshit to doubt your worth because of petty things people say, and I just don’t need that kind of bullshit in my life any more.

Used to do

I woke up this morning with sad thoughts… thinking about when to go from “I do these cool things,” to “I used to do these cool things.” My feet hurt so I can’t dance. I haven’t woven anything in years; there has been a single project since 2013, and that one was like sleepwalking. I haven’t made soap, drawn anything noteworthy, sewn a costume, made silk. I’m wondering if I’ll raise silkworms this year, or if that will go into the pile of things I used to do. I contemplate tearing out the roses and passionflowers, and letting the yard go back to grass, or just letting it grow up like a jungle.

I know that some of this is a natural result of getting older, but I feel like I’m tottering around in two rooms of a mansion, with many rooms locked up and the once-beautiful furniture under sheets.

The embroidery project that I did last year gave me a burst of energy, and I’m hoping that I can jump-start the creative engine somehow… but it’s becoming, more and more, the creative life of somebody I used to be.

Heather and the Gaslight

For the first time in a long time, I bought cotton to warp my loom. I had some in different weights and colors (OK, I have LOTS…) but what I wanted, what I need to work through, is basic black and white. A particular set of variations… and it really needs to be 10/2, so that it looks elegant and not chunky. I’m wanting to get my loom back to working, and my hands back to making things, and I have to untangle some mess in my head. A sampler is what I need; it’s like running scales for a singer, or doing basic floor exercises for a gymnast. It centers you, helps you blow out the cobwebs, prepares your mind and your hands to tackle more serious work.

cotton-cones

 

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, back in 2013 I got knocked off kilter really badly by a couple of discussions. One of them was in person, and it put me in a bad emotional place. The second one was in an online forum, and while it wasn’t nearly as intense, it was a classic gaslighting situation – I started out feeling just insecure, and ended up questioning things that I knew, and digging through my old records trying to find evidence of how and when things happened… and not finding enough to ease my mind. It seriously made me question my sanity at some points. It definitely made me doubt my memory and my internal narrative of how I learned to do the things I do, what I learned and what I figured out.

A Mean Girl in an online forum, we’ll call her Heather, took a swipe at me which implied that one of my basic classes, which I had developed through years of work and refinement, was teaching another teacher’s whole class without giving appropriate credit. It was the kind of thing that would have been a petty jab, in a private message… but in a public forum, it undermined my authority as a teacher and my reputation as a decent person. In a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-mah-mouth kind of way, she was calling me a liar and a thief. It was like one member of the Junior League leaning across the table and loudly stage-whispering to another member where everybody can hear, “You know, you can hardly even tell her chicken salad is from Walmart.”

So I started digging, trying to find any evidence, in old handouts and former students, to show that I had come by the information I was teaching from other sources. For quite a long time, I couldn’t find it. I had been teaching this information for a lot of years, starting in the late nineties, but I couldn’t find a handout with a photo from that far back. I was digging through the “transferred from old computer” file on my computers, because the computers of the 1990’s had died and been buried and forgotten, and my records weren’t all that great. I was trying to find old email archives that have disappeared from the Web… and not even archive.org could retrieve them. I apologized to Sara, the teacher who had published the information I was accused of appropriating, and I kept digging. Did I read an article of hers somewhere, and incorporate it into my class plan without remembering it? It’s like trying to remember if you wrote a song from scratch, or if it’s built around a snatch of music you heard at a park. It made my memory seem fuzzy and untrustworthy.

I exchanged a series of emotional emails with Sara. She started using a this set of patterns in 2004. I finally found a handout of mine from 2000, using the same pattern, and I eventually located and conversed by email with Robert Schweitzer, from whom I had gotten many of my formative tablet weaving ideas back in the 1990’s, back when the TWIST email list was the TWINE forum, on a Majordomo server where you had to communicate with the computer running it using text commands. I sorted out my timeline on teaching, and finally got to a point where I feel secure about what happened when, and whose work informed my teaching style. I feel like I’ve got my history straight, the genealogy of my craft is clarified, and I know that what I am teaching, I came by honestly. Sara and I are cool. Robert and I are cool. Heather and I aren’t friends – I mostly try to stay out of her way and do my best to believe that she acted out of some kind of misplaced good intention, instead of just being a bitch. I honestly think that it’s mostly just convergent evolution in action – multiple people using similar progressions because they’re logical and make sense for skill-building and progressive understanding.

basic-class-samplerThis is the sampler from my basics class – the one that started all the noise. I’m really proud of it, and I think that it teaches the basics in a way that engages students and builds skill upon skill. And I’m grateful for all the people whose teaching helped to shape my own, and I’m secure in my own skill and knowledge.

Keming

This is from a few years back. In 2011, our nonprofit organization had philanthropists Kern and Marnie Wildenthal on our Legacy Advisory Board.

 

I sent the printers a .doc file; they are supposed to pull the names out of it as text, and set them into the letterhead. This is from the version I sent:

 

kern

 

and this is what the printers sent back. kem

Actually seeing the name “Kern” mis-kerned made my geeky little heart skip a beat.

 

What made me think of this, and go back to dig it up, was finding a BoingBoing post about this site that glorifies the accidental joys of Keming.

 

A Piece of Work

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I have an article in the current issue of Piecework, about the process of making silk thread for embroidery.  I’m excited! It may seem kind of odd to pop this in, right after the post about digging out from the depression/not making anything cycle – but I started drafting that article back in February, just hadn’t ever gotten it finished. So, this is the First Good Thing, a milepost on the way back to doing creative work.

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Along with the article, I published a project, a stargazer lily stitched from flat silk.

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The process was a lot like drawing – some parts were regimented, some parts were free-form and organic. It felt really good. I’m pleased with how it came out. I made this with Japanese Embroidery Center‘s flat silk, so that the project would be repeatable. Don’t tell anybody, but all the white silk in the picture is silk I reeled – I think the JEC folks could probably differentiate it from theirs, but I think they’re probably the only ones.

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The finished embroidery, and my original photo.

 

It has been delivered to subscribers, and should be on newsstands now – or there’s a digital download at their website.

Rescued

Chris is, on a fairly regular basis, my hero. He rides in to save me when things are sad, or frustrating, or overwhelming.

While I was at a DFW Fiber Fest meeting yesterday afternoon, he started clearing out the junk from my studio room upstairs. It doesn’t make everything magically better – but having that space clear is helping a LOT. I can see my desk. I actually sat down at it this morning and pretended like I was OK, imagined sitting in the chair and weaving or stitching or writing an article. It felt good. I feel like I can see OK from here.

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I’m going through and making piles for discarding and donating. I’m going to have to find someone who wants to take all the stuff I’m clearing out, but not throwing away – more on that in a separate post.

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Right now, our bedroom is totally socked in with stacks of boxes, and I’m clearing through them as fast as I can. Some of them go in big bursts – boxes where I know that they’re “all good,” or things that I use for classes and demos, etc., I can just wipe down and move back. But there are a LOT of boxes with old stuff, things I found at garage sales and never got around to making that cool project with, stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time. This is the stuff that has been sitting on top of my “good” stuff, and helping to keep me down. I’m getting rid of it with vigor and enthusiasm. It feels really good, very therapeutic. I want to reduce the total volume by about 70%, which I think should get me to a point where the boxes are mostly storing stuff that I will access and use on a regular basis. I’m certainly not getting rid of all my supplies – I’m just trying to go from “Sweetie, you realize this is a problem” to “Gosh, you’ve got a lot of neat stuff.”

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And in one of those little synchronicity moments – I have caterpillars hatching. I did not expect these until March, and so I hadn’t cleaned the eggs out of the cage, which was piled in with the rest of the mess. But now, I have tiny caterpillars, and thanks to Chris, they are getting to eat leaves on a clean table in a spacious clean room. Life coming out of the emotional compost. I sat last night and transferred them to fresh oak leaves with a paint brush. Thank you, Punkin, for always saving me.

 

 

A Day at the Butterfly Farm

My friend Dale Clark owns a butterfly farm called Butterflies Unlimited. Once a year, he has an open house during the monarch migration, and this year I signed up to volunteer and help answer visitor questions about plants and butterflies.

 

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This is one I didn’t know – and honestly, I had to look for a bit to feel convinced it was a moth – but this is a Yellow Collared Scape Moth. 

 

 

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Common Buckeye on Gregg’s Mistflower. These blue flowers are butterfly magnets when they bloom in the fall.

 

 

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In addition to the outdoor butterflies, Dale has a large flight house; this is a Zebra Longwing in the flight cage, resting on some Eupatorium odoratum (fragrant mistflower).

 

 

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I didn’t know that queen butterflies migrate like monarchs. They don’t go to a centralized location, but they travel annual from north to south in the fall. Again, on Eupatorium odoratum (fragrant mistflower).

 

 

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I think this queen butterfly may be signalling for a mate?

NoH8

The NoH8 campaign came to Dallas, and Chris signed up a bunch of the Chorale guys for a group shot. We also took a couple shot – and I am so happy with how it came out!  noh8-chris-and-michael