Monday, October 31, 2011

Fissures, Fossils and Fragments - 3

Finally, the judges gave special recognition to a set of three bead-covered rocks by Joanne Bast.


Joanne says:

“The pieces of mine that were recognized this month were beaded rocks. One of the technical issues with stitching non wearable beadwork is how to present the finished creation. Most beadwork needs some kind of support but standard frames usually don't work. By stitching the beadwork over a rock, the support is encased and when the stitching is done, the presentation is done as well.

I use a stitch called right angle weave to cover the rocks because the basis of the stitch is a 4 (or multiple of 4) bead circle. This produces a fabric of beads that has no straight lines and stretches like bias in all directions, perfect for encasing irregularly shaped objects like rocks. I start with a piece of leather for the bottom, sew the first row of beads to the leather and then stitch bead to bead to enclose the rock form.

Motifs are done with a stitch called brick stitch which allows me to draw with lines of beads, shaping the lines by increasing and/or decreasing as well as changing bead sizes. Some of the pieces also have straight lines of brick stitching which I use to separate areas of color blocks done in the right angle weave. That way I can shade light to dark on one side of a line and dark to light or another color on the other.

In Sedona, AZ, I saw some petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) and thought what perfect images to bead onto rocks. I stitch the motifs first, position them on the rock temporarily with scotch tape and then bead the background up from the bottom attaching the motifs in place. The contrast of line vs. no line bead stitching also helps the motifs stand out from the background.

The result is little decorative sculptures that may be used (i.e., paperweights) or not. Not everything in life needs a purpose beyond giving pleasure to feel and look at.”

This will be my last post for the month. Next month will actually be Joanne’s turn, so I imagine you’ll learn more about beading.

I’ll be back in March to talk more about weaving and the March show.

- Larry Novak

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fissures, Fossils and Fragments - 2

The second piece to receive artist’s recognition from the jurors in this month’s show is Ann Liddle’s necklace "Brown Rocks Fragments."


Here she describes her process and also, as luck would have it, she was working in the gallery when it was sold!

“I waited until about a week before the jurying to decide to make a theme piece.  I had been making needled-felted jewelry and thought that technique would let me make something in the short time frame.  I made a few simple sketches of different shapes. I tried to make needle-felted pieces that resembled rock fragments and to string them on the bias tubing so they would sort of jumble together for a necklace.  For earlier necklaces, I had stitched the pieces to the tubing so they were stationary but I wanted this to have some movement.  I did have some trouble figuring out how to create loops in the back of the pieces but after a little trial and error, I got something that worked and looked finished. l  like the engineering aspect of making things as much as the artistic aspect.  A few days after the jurying, I was gallery sitting and a woman came in, saw the necklace and said it would be perfect with a dress she was wearing to a wedding.  She bought it and seemed happy - so I was too.”


Tomorrow will be my last post for this month and I’ll let the artist of the 3rd set of pieces the jurors recognized tell you about them. They, literally, really rock!

(Posted by Larry Novak)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fissures, Fossils and Fragments - 1

Ten times each year we take everything out of the gallery and have a day-long jury session to jury a new show into the gallery. Most months have a theme that our artists can use for inspiration. Not everything in the gallery needs to reflect the theme but many artists do make something using the theme.

This month, our theme is “Fissures, Fossils and Fragments.” At the end of the jury day, the two jurors pick three themed items for special artist’s recognition. Here is what the jurors said about this show:

“The theme, Fissures, Fossils and Fragments was interpreted in many different ways.  Some were very realistic, others were subtle and more abstract. The theme appeared in a wide variety of media: surface design, fabric, jewelry,  and woven patterns showing the most current trends in fiber art.  First place was in laminated felt combining cotton fabric with wool roving.  A needle felted necklace spoke of fragments interpreted in earthy tones with hand stitching.  Rocks took third!  The artist wove minuscule beads into fossils and fissures that literarily cover three small stones that become a statement on the theme.”

Roz Houseknecht’s laminated felt shawl, "African Landscape" is the first place item. Here it is being modeled:


And here is what Roz has to say about her process:

“  ‘African Landscape’ was my award piece for the most recent gallery jury.  I love working with the combination of hand-dyed cotton and wool to create laminated felt.  This process allows me to create a two-sided garment.  I use strips of fabric which are joined with merino wool.  The first side has a pattern in wool laid out and then all is wet with warm, soapy water.  I flip the whole work over and apply a different pattern to the second side in the spaces between the the design on side one.  At this point the fabric and wool are rolled gently in plastic bubble wrap to get the process of attaching the wool to the cloth started.  After the fibers begin to adhere to the fabric, the project is plunged into hot water and "thrown" onto the work surface to force the fibers deeper into the cloth and begin the shrinking process.  This is what created the wonderful texture of ridges, ripples and embedded shapes.  The final step is to continue to roll the project until all the fibers are firmly attached and the fibers no longer want to separate or "pill".  I find this method of cloth making very satisfying.” 

And, finally, here it is in the gallery on one of our “ladder ladies” along with a few other beautiful pieces. Wouldn’t it look nice on you?


In the next post, I’ll talk about the second item to receive artist’s recognition in this show.

(Posted by Larry Novak)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why (some of us) Use Computer-Driven Looms

In my last two posts I hope I’ve convinced you that computer-driven looms are not miraculous labor-saving devices that produce woven textiles while you sit back and enjoy a margarita. So, why do we use them?

The reason is because of the design flexibility they give us. There are really two parts to this.

First, it allows us to have looms with more shafts. The more shafts we have the more intricate the designs we can weave. Looms have treadles (pedals) that look like the pedals on an organ. They control the lifting of the shafts and that produces the design. On manual looms it is typical to have two more treadles than shafts. A four-shaft loom would have six treadles, and eight-shaft loom would have ten, etc. Because there is a limit to how many treadles you can reach without falling off the bench, a practical limit to manual looms is about 16 shafts and 18 treadles. To get a loom with more than 16 shafts it almost has to be computer-driven.

The second part is the really interesting feature of computer-driven looms and the main reason we get more design flexibility. This involves math but it’s not hard math and if you’re not a mathematician (I am) you can just believe my numbers. As a simple example, on a four-shaft loom there are 14 different combinations in which you can lift those four shafts:

  • There are 4 ways to lift one shaft: 1, 2, 3, or 4
  • There are 6 ways to lift two shafts: 12, 13, 14, 23, 24 or 34
  • And, there are 4 ways to lift three shafts: 123, 124, 134, or 234

I said earlier that a four-shaft loom would normally have six treadles. Each treadle can be tied-up to any one of those 14 combinations. So, we can use six of the 14 combinations but not the other eight. With a computer-driven loom we can use all 14 since there are no treadles and the computer controls which shafts get lifted each time.

Now, with an eight-shaft loom, (here comes the math) there are 254 combinations and with a manual loom we can only use ten of them. On a 16 shaft loom there are 65,534 combinations and a manual loom can only use 18 of them. With a computer driven loom you can use any of the 65,534 at any time. (Practically speaking, a typical scarf, e.g., might only have 2,000 or so weft threads, so you couldn’t actually use all 65,534 but the point is that you could use any of them at any time, not just one of the 18 that would be available on a manual loom.)

You can see that the more shafts we have, the more limiting the manual loom becomes. The numbers go up dramatically and with 24, 32, or even 40-shaft looms the combinations are astronomical.

So, that’s why we do it. It takes a while to learn how to design with all this added flexibility but once you’ve figured it out it opens up some amazing design possibilities.

Yesterday was jury day and we now have a brand new show in the gallery. This month’s theme is Fissures, Fossils and Fragments and, as usual, the gallery is again full of  wonderful pieces. In my next few posts, I’ll have photos and artists statements from the artists who received special recognition from the jurors.

(Posted by Larry Novak)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Compu-Dobby Myths

In my last post, I talked about some misconceptions that people have concerning computer-driven, or compu-dobby looms. In this post I’ll compare weaving on a manual loom with weaving on a compu-dobby loom.

First, here are the steps we need to get the loom ready to weave:

On a Manual Loom

On a Compu-Dobby Loom

1. Design the fabric 1. Design the fabric
2. Wind the warp 2. Wind the warp
3. Put the warp on the loom 3. Put the warp on the loom
4. Thread the heddles 4. Thread the heddles
5. Sley the reed 5. Sley the reed
6. Tie on to front apron 6. Tie on to front apron
7. Tie up the treadles 7. Relax, you don’t need to tie up the treadles.

So, notice the difference? One small step. When you tie up the treadles (pedals) you control which shafts get lifted when you press the treadle. You don’t have to do this with a compu-dobby loom because, once you load your design into the software, the computer controls which shafts get lifted. So, you don’t have to crawl under the loom to tie up the treadles and you’ve saved a bit of wear and tear on your knees and back.

Now, how about the weaving:

On a Manual Loom

On a Compu-Dobby Loom

1. Wind some bobbins 1. Wind some bobbins
2. Press a treadle to open a shed 2. Press a treadle to open a shed (NOTE 1)
3. Throw the shuttle 3. Throw the shuttle
4. Beat the weft 4. Beat the weft
5. Press the next treadle 5. Press the next treadle (NOTE 1)

Gee! Almost no difference here. (NOTE 1): The only difference is that on a manual loom, you look at your design draft to see which treadle to press next and on the compu-dobby loom you just press the treadle and the computer (which has your design) lifts the correct shafts.

That’s it! You don’t have to crawl under the loom and you only have one treadle to press – everything else is the same.

Next time, I’ll show some detail about what we do gain by using the compu-dobby loom – great design flexibility.

(Posted by Larry Novak)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Computers in Weaving–Revisited

In a post earlier this year, I talked a little about using computer software to design woven textiles. This month, I’d like to address some common misconceptions about using a computer-driven loom. Some people seem to think that if you use a computer-driven loom all you have to do is put a cone of yarn in front of the loom, turn on the computer and go watch TV while the loom weaves your scarf. Even weavers have a lot of misconceptions about this.

In fact, the computer does precious little. I’ll go into more detail in my next two posts, but the process of weaving on a manual loom and a computer-driven loom are almost identical except for one or two relatively minor differences. The advantage of the computer is not as a labor-saving device but that it allows you much greater flexibility in the kinds of textiles you can design. One could argue that using a computer-driven loom is more difficult than using a manual loom because of the wider range of design possibilities that it opens up for the weaver.

I heard a great analogy about this: if you wrote your Great American Novel using a word processor, would you say the computer did all the work?

So, next time, I’ll show the steps that weavers need to produce a textile and point out the small differences when using the two types of looms. The post after that I’ll show you why we have greater design potential with computer-driven looms and what that means for our designs.

(This month’s blog editor is Larry Novak)