Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Throw me a life jacket!

I am in my new studio, watching all of my countertops being unloaded from a truck. Our house is not quite finished, but I am happy to be living here.

I have heard it said that moving ranks as one of the most stressful events. There is all the packing, unpacking and other logistical stuff. But maybe the most stressful part is the total lack of routine. All the old routines have been trashed and new ones must be built. Where to buy groceries, how to make my morning coffee and where to drink it. I am surprised by how attached I am to my rituals and habits. When all else is going haywire, I cling to the simple actions that mark my days. My routines create some form and structure. I rely on them to get me through tough times. The more deeply entrenched the habit - the harder it is to break. The flip side would be a new sense of freedom and possibility. New house, new neighbors, new studio. Good time to develop some new and improved routines.

Top of my list is figuring out my studio. I have lots of art and fiber related books. I have lots of yarn. My equipment is pretty darn big. Making sense of it all so that I can clear a new space to create is my current challenge.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I have heard or seen the word "re-home" more than once lately - so it is totally legit. Autocorrect hates it, and may have a point.

As I am packing up to move a couple of hundred miles, I am using this opportunity to find new homes for many things I won't be needing any more. In truth haven't needed in a very long time.

I have found new homes for:
A danish modern cabinet
A large princess bed

Books - so many books the poor librarian began to protest that they couldn't process so many. Then she glanced at the ones on top - and said; "but I guess I want them."
 It was a rich donation of hard cover novels and coffee table style art books, plus a smattering of academic art books. It broke my heart to see them go.

I am taking more books with me than I will have shelving for, so I should quit whining.

Other re-homed items:
dishes/ side dishes/pewter etc
Coins! I rolled $700 worth of coins yesterday, and gave a big bag of pennies to Woven Art. Retail stores always need the pennies.
Too much to list.

As I go through every item in my house, I evaluate on the basis or "keep or toss". So many things I am leaving behind are things I was once interested in, such as my collection of State Quarters. That's how I got to $700 in loose change.
Leaving things behind means I have given up on that interest or hobby. It means I have changed a bit over the past twenty years. That is not a bad thing, but it is a sobering thing. A little bit emotional, especially as I sift through the evidence of my children growing. Up, up and away.

Funny. I cannot seem to let go of even two inches of yarn, or any book that mentions anything to do with the fiber arts. Even the really bad ones. I guess at least one thing hasn't changed!

In the spirit of moving on I am leaving a gift at Woven Art for my former customers and Meg's current and future ones.

Two patterns! Free with Purchase! Any purchase!

Upscale Granny - A large Granny square originally crocheted from Silky Alpaca Lace. Would be lovely in any lace weight yarn.

Check Mate Cardigan
A long cardigan with an open front, knit at a DK gauge, with interesting sleeve and collar details.
Head over to Woven Art! 

My new home isn't quite ready for me yet - but I am in the process of falling in love with my new community. Elk Rapids has a lot going for it - beautiful beaches and quaint shops - and the people I have met so far are kindred spirits. I know how to find them! 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hello Goodbye!

Our new house is nearing completion. Our old (current) house has a buyer. Things are happening - fast, baby! 

I haven't started the serious packing just yet, as I don't have a solid completion date for the new house. I do have a solid "turn over the keys" date, so thats really no excuse. 

I dislike uncertain plans. Lucky for me I have plenty to distract myself with. 

Firstly, my show at Grove Gallery, "Journal Entries" is in it's last week. Please go see my show! It comes down Sunday - so get there by Saturday. Please? Leave me a note in the little black book. Did you hear that I am leaving town? Do this as a goodbye gift for me. "Journal Entries" for those of you who don't know, is a documentation in tapestry of the last two years of my life. It begins with selling Woven Art, and proceeds through building our new house, and my experiences during this pretty big transition. I am very grateful I had that project to pull me through. 
It is worth seeing. Some people have been moved to tears. Yes, I am begging. Don't make me do that. 

Next up: a three day Tapestry Workshop at Interlochen Creative College July 20-22. If you would enjoy an immersive course in the foundations of Tapestry please consider joining us. Look under the Teaching tab above for more info.

I also am involved with a developing Fiber Shed movement in northwest Michigan. One aspect of this will be a weekend event at Interlochen filled with classes and vendors relating to local and sustainable fiberarts. That weekend is September 26-28. More information about that weekend will be available soon - but do put it on your calendar now. The theme for this year will be "Upcycle, Recycle and locally sourced". If you already work in this way, with these types of materials, we would like to hear from you. Contact Interlochen, or respond in the comments. 

Last - but certainly not least, I am working with the Michigan Fiber Coalition to develop a pretty Michigan made yarn. Michigan Fiber producers have been working on this concept for years - but in a way it is still in its infancy. I get my mitts on some of this yarn next week. 

So - you see I am doing a lot of "spinning" though not much on a spindle. Just around and around in my head. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015


The words text and textile have the same origin.

Tapestry is created from the most simple structure of textile - plain weave. Weaving tapestry is by nature a slow and contemplative process.

Because it takes so long, and the materials are precious, most of the time a tapestry is well planned out by the artist before any weaving takes place. Traditionally, a tapestry has been guided by a close cartoon to a painting. In many cases the weaver and the artist (creator of the image) were different people. In contemporary practice, it is now more common for the artist and weaver to be one and the same. And it is also more likely than it used to be for the image to be born rather than planned.

I am very pleased to present a series of tapestries documenting the last 18 months of my life, as I experienced many concurrent transitions. The use of tapestry suits me as the slowness allows for unexpected images to come forth. My intent was to let my fingers and the wool do all the talking.
That worked well for me - allowing me to process visually things I didn't even know were on my mind. My one rule - don't think too much.

Now that I have completed that exercise, I am considering moving toward larger, more intentional tapestries. That thought alone causes me to block up a little bit! For inspiration I have been looking at the work of Erin M. Riley, whose works can be seen at americantapestryalliance.org.
 Erin's work is also a series, and is often referred to as tapestry selfies. I love the juxtaposition of old and new technology and slow art vs instant gratification. I also find her work to be both brave and challenging.

My voice is different from Erin's. I feel I am still finding it. The improvisational series has helped me to find it and refine it. The next challenge will be to warp again - quickly, and not lose momentum.

Please join me if you can at Grove Gallery in downtown East Lansing for a reception on Sunday May 3. But if you can't make it - the show will be there until June 20.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


It can be a little harder to stay motivated in February. It is in fact one of my favorite months - containing several birthdays to celebrate, Valentines Day and at least one long weekend.

There is so much to look forward to - I find it hard to push ahead with the tasks at hand. I am currently working on my solo show at Grove Gallery.

The show will be called Journal Entries. It will consist of a tapestry series documenting a year plus one half of transition.
The opening reception will be on Sunday May 3, and there will be a talk back session on Wednesday May 6 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. You can come ask me questions about my process, technique or the series. 

At the same time I am working on an order for The Little  Gallery on Mackinaw Island.  I am making as many large shawls and coil baskets as I can. This pushes me to work, every day, on schedule. I find that this helps feed my creativity. It certainly stimulates production. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Fiber in East Lansing

Yes Sir, There are three Fiber Shows in East Lansing, and all three are a must-see.

Scene Metro Space is hosting "Beyond Material". This traveling exhibit is a conceptual look at the history of fiber art and textiles in terms of art and craft. In other words, the pieces use traditional techniques, in a new and sometimes twisted way to comment of the field of fiber arts. Kind of loopy!

I really enjoyed my first visit to this show. As a fiber artist, it was like seeing old pals - sewing, weaving, knotting and embroidery are all there - and taken to an artful level. I will return another day to take it in and enjoy.

Grove Gallery  - Thread songs by Sharan Egan and Candy Farmer, a wonderful treat for a very snowy day. The opening reception is TODAY. I know it is Super Bowl Sunday.  I know we are in the middle of an overblown blizzard. Go early. You will be so happy to be surrounded by vibrant color, expert construction and thought enhancing art work. It will make your day. If you go today you can talk to the artists about their techniques and their inspirations. And you can enjoy a tasty treat, and a bit of beverage.

Then, you should head next door  Woven Art to see Jessy Gregg's wall quilts. Jessy's wall quilts are very large, and multidimensional. And very beautiful. Jessy takes a different approach to the concept of layering.

Since you are already out - head up to Old Town to Barb Hranilovich's "Red Dress" show at Katalyst Gallery. I haven't seen this exhibit yet - but hope to today. This has been Barb's focus for the last few months - and is based on the concept of a Woman's interaction with her red dress - a statement on how we see and how we present ourselves to the world.

Take my advice. Go see art today. You will be so glad you braved the snow and the snack seekers on their last minute trip to the grocery store. Your soul will be fed, and your balance restored, making you ready for that half time show, and all the commercials.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Creative Coiling

I like to think the ability to wrap flexible materials around less flexible materials - such as long grasses around young tree branches- presented an early turning point in the civilization of human kind. The ability to make baskets led to the ability to carry food. The ability to carry food to those other people could have been the beginning of early community. All you anthropologists out there are welcome to jump in.

The act of wrapping waxed linen around a stable core is deeply satisfying, and I believe it harks back to deeply embedded memory.
I am teaching two coiling workshops at Grove Gallery. The first one is January 14, and will introduce techniques on beginning a round coil basket. The second workshop is January 21. This one will take a look at more advanced techniques, including added color and texture. You are not required to take the first class in order to take the second - but you might get more out of the second class if you have some experience with beginning a coil.

Materials are included in the price. If you are interested you can sign up at
www.grovegalleryandstudios.com Look under the tab "workshops"

If you have any questions about this workshop please e-mail me: nmcray@mac.com