Monday, November 16, 2015

Simplicity

In the past I have found myself to be attracted to complexity. The more intricate and difficult a design was to make -the more satisfying I found it to be. 
Now I am discovering - perhaps again, simplicity has its charms. 
Complexity is plentiful. Maybe I don't need to create more. 


I needed hand towels for my powder room. I wanted them to be linen. I wanted them to match the counter top. I wanted them to be timeless. I tried to buy them at a local store - but my ideal towels didn't seem to exist there. Having decided that I could weave them, I was tempted by multi harness complex broken twills. Because I can! But dead simple seemed to be the way to go. 

 Here are the finger towels right off the loom.  Plain weave - rather stiff. I loved the drape - or lack of drape at this point. I momentarily considered  making the continuous piece into a table runner.
Instead, I threw the whole thing into the washer, on very hot, with lots of agitation. The fabric came out relatively soft, with a nice drape. Still a little tooth in them.  They will become softer over time. They feel great in my hands and absorb water well. They match my counter stone perfectly.  It was the combination of the right fiber with the right structure that got me the result I wanted.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the simple pleasures.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Back in East Lansing for a minute

I am back in East Lansing for a quick little weekend. I attended the Grove Gallery holiday market opening last night. Always a good party, and so great to spend some time with my gallery buddies and art friends. I returned this morning to pick up a shawl that coordinates with the dress I plan to wear tonight. 
Grove Gallery is filled with wonderful gifts, and indulgences. I am sure that more work will continue to come on over the next month, but the selection is pretty darn amazing right now! 
325A Grove Street, East Lansing. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Extracurricular photos from Gatlinburg

I am amazed by the juxtapositions I see in Gatlinburg. Just fascinating.
The entrance to Arrowmont. For those who don't know, Arrowmont is a school of arts and crafts where people can go for workshops of very high quality. It is a serious institution in a very strange tourist town.
This is my class work. Made from trash found on the Gatlinburg strip. 
Pumpkin spice liberation army. action against mindless consumerism. The T-shirt is the problem. Carol Lung. 
Sign outside the Salt and Pepper museum. They were closed when I got there. I hope to get inside today.
face in the pavement.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Critical crafting



I am at Arrowmont, in Gatlinburg Tennessee, for the preconference intensive workshops. My worksho Is with Ann Norton. Last night we warped our frame looms. Today we will walk the streets of Gatlinburg and look for weaveable garbage, and cast off ephemera. 

I shared a shuttle yesterday with Namita Gupta Wiggers. She is the former director of the craft mueseum in Portland Oregan, founder of Critical Craft Forum, and the juror for the show Materialities, here at Arrowmont. Look her up. Her name pops right up in a Google search. I got to spend a lot of time with her yesterday. She is warm, funny, and curious. I had the privilege of walking the show with her and hearing her insights about the pieces she chose. 
In some ways this week is shaping up to be like a return to art school crossed with summer camp. I am in a three person room with a shared bath down the hall. My roommate is very nice and considerate. It is pretty quiet, even though the driveway empties out on the main strip in Gatlinburg. Last night I heard the town referee to as "hillbilly Las Vegas". One of the things I could do this week would be to watch a lumberjack competition. And drink moonshine. The moonshine store is right next to the candy shop. 
#arrowmont.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

On my way to SDA

It has been 25 years since the last time I went to Arrowmont in Gatilinburg TN. I can't wait to see what has changed and what has remained the same. Like the last time, I will be taking a tapestry workshop. This time it is with Ann Morton. It will be more conceptually based, and we will use items from around town, as we collect from merchants, and share with each other. I have been focusing more on traditional tapestry techniques lately, so I am eager to think differently.  On the other hand, I remembered with a bit of a surprise a project I did 15 years ago that might be similar to what we are about to do. I warped an entire room ( The Art Apartment) in downtown East Lansing, and invited community members to come weave with me. People came. They brought yarn, plastic bags, clothing,  bandanas and much more, I invited each person to write their story in the journals I kept with the project. I promised them all this project was a one time only deal and would never be displayed elsewhere. An article about the project was published in the September 2001 issue of Fiberarts magazine. It was an amazing experience. People shared their words and their stories, and wove with items that had personal meaning, even though they knew it would never be seen again. 

After the Morton workshop, I will be attending the Surface Design Association conference; Made/Aware. The theme of this conference will be on making a difference with fiber arts, from recycling to building community. Right up my alley! I will work with and meet several of my heroes, (Catherine Ellis, Rowland Rickets for instance) and re-connect with my old school mate Fran Dorsey. 

I hope to blog about my experience several times this week. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Process

I am a recovering and relocated artist in a deluxe setting: big well equipped studio with a view.

After 10 years of running a small business, and 18 months of planning an house and a move, it is high time I get serious about this art thing. (Those who know me, or read my blog are forgiven if they are thinking "This again" or "Still?")

But now I feel that I have all the right pieces. I might even know where most of them are, and am starting to put those pieces together.
Here is my strategy:

1) meet as many local artists as I can.

2) Become familiar with all the arts organizations in the region - meaning "northwest Michigan". Get involved with a few. This will take some time to figure out.

3) Most important! Time in the studio. Everyday. Or at least 5 days per week. Or 4. Balance is also important. My house still needs lots of work - and then there are those friends and family that deserve a bit of time.

4) Also very important! It doesn't matter what happens in the studio. I can read in there. I can stare out the window. I can plan classes. I will draw everyday. And weave some. Spin some. Play around quite a bit. Try new stuff, or very old stuff that I used to like to do.

5) No judgement. So I can try stuff without fear. It is mental exercise. As with yoga, you are also not supposed to judge your forward bend. You are just supposed to do it, and be glad you did. If at the end of the day I like something I make, I might let it go out.


I have been working with this process for a week or so. I am feeling good about it. Nothing to send off to the galleries yet, but I can feel a blossoming. If you care to share your process in the comments I would enjoy reading about it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hello Fall!

I have two classes on my schedule for this Fall. One at Woven Art in East Lansing. Two  at Interlochen this October. Please read on for details.

Hello Routine! How I have missed you!

Beginning Multi Harness Loom WeavingLearn how to warp (set up) the multiharness loom with a two color warp, and weave basic structures including plain, basket and twill. Discover how color and structure influence each other. You will have a library of patterns when you are finished. If you are a fast weaver, you will have time to plan and complete a simple project of your own choosing with instructor guidance. 
If you are an experienced weaver and would like to move to the next step - I would love to have you in class! Please go to www.mcrayweaving.blospot.com, click on the Classes I Teach tab, and read about my suggested weaving curriculum. 
Class meets Tuesdays October 13 to December 15:15 to 7:45 p.m.$120At Woven Art in East Lansing. Call 517-203-4467 to enroll



Twist and shape! Learn the ancient art of coil basketry in this workshop. 
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Class held from 9 a.m. to Noon
Registration: $65 / Supply Fee: $10
In this three-hour introductory course, you will learn about the ancient art of coil basketry by creating your own colorful basket. Fiber artist Nancy McRay will teach you how to begin the bottom coil of your basket, attach new layers, control the shape and add additional stitches for texture. Students will also learn how to incorporate color patterns and be inspired by both traditional and contemporary artists working with this technique. You will be amazed as your basket takes shape before your eyes as you wrap, coil, and stitch with basic, everyday materials. Continue your experience and learn even more technqiues by registering for the Coil Basketry Package. All supplies will be provided by the instructor. All skill levels welcome. 
Register Here for the October 18th Coil Basketry Package
Extend your experience and sign up for both the 3-Hour Introduction to Coil Basketry and 3-Hour Additional Techniques in Coil Basketry and receive a price break on your registration. Enjoy a full day of coil basketry for only $125 (supplies included). 
- See more at: http://college.interlochen.org/introcoilbasketry#sthash.1ZvbY7T4.dpuf

A continuation of the concepts and techniques covered in the 3-Hour Introduction to Coil Basketry workshop. 
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Class held from 2 to 5 p.m.
Registration: $65 / Supply Fee: $10
This course is a continuation of the concepts and techniques covered in the 3-Hour Introduction to Coil Basketry workshop and/or is a course for those students who are looking to enhance their previously developed coil basketry skills. Further guidance and additional concepts will be provided by the instructor. All supplies will be provided by the instructor.
Register Here for the Coil Basketry Package                                                       
Extend your experience and sign up for both the 3-Hour Introduction to Coil Basketry and the 3-Hour Additional Techniques in Coil Basketry and receive a price break on your registration. Enjoy a full day of coil basketry for only $125 (supplies included). 
- See more at: http://college.interlochen.org/additionalcoilbasketry#sthash.NfqHcboU.dpuf

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

No excuses

Studio is set up.
It's a rainy day.
There are no contractors here today.

It's the day I have been waiting for.

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

Re-home-ing

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:
clothing
fabric
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

Text/textile/tapestry

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

Feblahary.

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


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Art is Pointless

art is pointless
as pointless as a daisy in a field of green
backed up by a clear blue sky

as pointless as a freshly washed kitchen floor

Suffering from a prolonged bought of "what's the use", this message woke me in the middle of the night, and was there again to greet me in the morning.

pointlessness plus our inexplicable need for art and beauty is the source of power.
Creation beyond reason.