woodshed

the things we make with our hands…

strung

Vera Frenkel’s String Games: Improvisations for Inner-City Video (1974)

in this lovely little number, Frenkel had artists play one of my favorite string games, cat’s cradle, across Canada via video feed!
Frenkel is known for investigating art’s potential to communicate…
here she is, in 1974, already intuiting and playing with social medias that foreshadow how we are all sharing art today…
you know, like the tin can telephones that let us stay up past bedtime and tell secrets to the neighbors.


furthermore, this piece is not only creating a link from Toronto to Montreal it is also using a language that is cross-culturally relevant and understood.
cat’s cradle and string games are played all across the world, a simple ritual that unknowing knits us all.
(the Smithsonian cites that anthropologist Louis Leakey used the game as a proverbial “in” with the natives of Sub-Saharan Africa who were suspicious of European anthropologists…
but once Leakey busted out his cat’s cradle skills…well…
the rest is history…)

Ainu children playin'

i can remember really feeling like a master with my rainbow cat’s cradle string…and when my official c.c. implement was lost, i’d confidently use my own shoelace.
my favorite was witch’s broom…

a Sierra Miwok woman playin' circa 1903

 

 

mm…p.s.

johnny cash playin'

 

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where warmth is stored in winter


i’m thinking about turning inwards
as brooklyn takes it’s tiny dive into winter.
the winter, to me, is a beautifully solitary and barren time.
after the final crisp flurry of fall, i get a chance to embrace something dark and quiet.
stick season.

and i’m thinking about the title of this little correspondence

W O O D S H E D.

and i want to spend a second explaining what the idea of Woodshed(ing) means to me…
i was introduced to the woodshed by one, Milford Graves, a truly innovative modern sage.

Woodshed, it’s a wholesome noun’y verb.
to woodshed is to take an idea, or a craft,
take it and work with it, chew it up, taste it.
learn it, learn from it, teach yourself new names for it.
find the true name of it.
the true task of it.
take it to the woodshed, and work.
to woodshed can take a long time.
it’s a slow world in the woodshed.
a world of roots and twine, tiny buds, all the seasons, birds molting one day and flying south the next.
it’s ephemeral in the woodshed.
the beauty is you don’t know what to expect from the task at hand.
when one takes the time to woodshed, there is a union that is formed.
full of surprise. and set backs. unknowns.
it’s a re-education.

it’s a way of learning that really really works for me.
and i feel so blessed that i get to do that with my loom.
a ‘loom’ of one’s own.
(man, virginia woolf sure knew how to woodshed).
this winter will be more of a turning in than i am used to.
relying on my craft while little things beautifully crumble, drop their leaves, and hibernate around me.
i am thankful.

 

little engine

 

another lovely loom out there is the Structo Artcraft Loom.
they are tiny and charm charm charming!
i am particularly endeared to the metal ones…

they are table looms, which i’m normally not interested in.
(meaning, instead of pedals, you manually lift the shafts with levers)
and the levers on these babycakes are just so enticing!

i think of my loom at home as a ship or a sailboat, old and wooden, clacking it’s way across the ocean
and these little structos are TRAINS, steam engines!, clamoring their way down the railroad….thru Kansas and Missouri…
they are little indestructible novelties!
and they made it in mint green too….what a dream!

Structo started manufacturing looms in 1912.
they were mostly used for teaching, which makes sense- they’re small and durable…but what on earth would one weave on them
(unless you have a love affair with the hanky…ahem)
Structo was goin’ strong up thru the ’40s, when WWII sent them reeling…like so many industries at the time…
they sold themselves to Dick Blick- you know, Blick art supplies?
anways, then they were history….
and sold on ebay.



i don’t mean to neglect the wood models- which are so sturdy and elegant!
(i’m just a little distracted by loom meets erector set!)

 

sea storm


i started knitting a sweater towards the end of my adventure out west….

and the other day, I Finished It!

the day i finished my sweater, was a sea storm of a day.
and she’s a sea storm of a sweater. the blue is a little more saturated in this photo than it is when you’re looking at it in the wooly flesh…it’s a grey ocean sweater.

ooooh, she’s a beaut’

anyways, i used Rowan’s Kid Classic yarn, it’s delicious! and pretty hefty, i knit on size 7 needles, which meant that things moved pretty fast….

and i was able to finish just in time for this perfecto super late fall weather!
also…this was my first sweater of my own patterning!
there’s definitely some little funny bits, but i like how most of them turned out….like the bottom of the sweater coming down at that little angle below the last button.

oooh, and the buttons! vintage flakey cream shell buttons, gifted to this sweater by my dreamy roommate…(thanks tess!)

i try to knit a sweater every winter, and rarely do i finish…
but this winter, i think i have time to start another one!!
i want a red red sweater, because somehow, between spring summer and fall, my tride and true red red one got lost in the shuffle….

tedium. thankful.

i’ve spent every single one of my days off for the past week (and a half) attempting to thread my loom…
for some fanny pack projects!

unfortunately…i decided to work with a wool that is spun just about as fine as my hair…
i’m really only barely exaggerating!

but it’s just so beautiful! rich indigo. delicate and earthy sturdy.
and i’m thankful that i thrive in the tedium…al-most of the time.
although this has lead me to decide that i’ll be looking for an intern in the spring.

this little threading has also been a pain in the ass, because in lieu of lease sticks, i macgyvered two knitting needles together with duct tape…wowee…it would have been much more efficient to just buy two yard sticks at the local hardware shop…
(before settling on knitting needles, i also tried wooden spoons, which then sat on the top of my loom…only to spontaneously fall when i was about halfway thru threading, and hadn’t secured many of my ends…adventure…luckily, this wilely wool so enjoys the company of itself, it was tangled enough so that not a heddle found itself rendered threadless! translation: everything was fine)

duct tape- hale hale luia...?

i’d also like to mention, that i’m pushing back the real opening of A Little Weather…till the spring…
i have a lot of very exciting commissions to keep me busy this winter, and i really want to focus on them…

on the greyish rainbow dishtowels

on the linen/ horse hair placemats

on the spider woman vest

on the holiday hankie extravoganza!

please feel free to contact me if you have holiday needs and ideas that may require a little weather at a little loom…
tinytiny.magic at gmail dot com

counts

Robin Johnston.
i met her while i was at Penland this past summer.
when i stepped into her studio, i was embarrassingly overcome and all i could do was cry.
her work is unbelievably moving to me.

Interruptions

her work is a poetry of systems.

the piece above, Interruptions, came from her charting every time she was woken up by her baby during her pregnancy.
she would write down the time, and developed a way of weaving those times together.
what a beautiful way to chronicle the ethereal connection between mother and gestating child.
what a relic of remembrance, for that child to have an artifact from it’s precognitive self. from the child before the child.

Calling all, this is our last cry before our eternal silence

Robin also often uses morse code, such a direct and secret language staring at you through her fabric.

Calling all, this is our last cry before our eternal silence, is the last morse code message sent by the French Navy in 1997 as they abandoned the language for the now standard Global Maritime Distress Safety System.
In my small experience with her and her work, I see her chronical the fleeting and the almost over, her systems commemorate what is barely palpable…
the last morse code message.
her nine months of carrying around a wakefulness.
peoples heartbeats (Heart Rate Series).
the sunrise and sunset, laid next to the rising tides outside her window (Two Weeks in July, Point Bonita- below).

Two Weeks in July, Point Bonita

what i love most about Robin’s work, is i actually get a message, an understanding, before i know the system she’s working with or the language she’s speaking.
and the work itself doesn’t come with an explanation- it exists of it’s own accord.
it a lesson in trust for me.
trusting the steadfast assurity of a message.

oh, i could go on and on.
the final thing i want to share:
the weaving techniques she employs are so beautifully simple.
mostly tabbys and twills, there’s not a lot of frills.
neutral color pallets.
it really is like poetry.
so sparse, and so deeply considered, that her stories sing of themselves.

Heart Rate Series, Light

thanks michael.

mmm…
i read moby dick this summer, after years of putting it off- because i wanted to read it with other people
it felt like a book that needed to be shared.
anyways, no one would ever really hop on the band wagon with me, so i decided to just go it alone.
it is an overwhelmingly beautiful and astute book.

but of course, now that i’m freshly finished with mr. melville…
i am being haunted by moby dick being read by about 40% of the people i know.
that book is everywhere…it actually feels almost mythic just how often i’m encountering it
on bedside tables coast to coast.

anyways. i am enjoying getting to hop back into that world now and then…
whether it be semi drunkenly trying to read it aloud in San Francisco (a real classic (and pretty embarrassing) move of mine)
(and the alliteration in it is SO satisfying to have in your mouth)
or having the most beautiful passage on weaving be gently read aloud to me in Brooklyn.

i just want to share this little treasure, i’d highly recommend finding a reason to read it out loud…
(thanks michael.)

It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging about the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-colored waters. Queequeg and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a sword-mat, for an additional lashing to our boat. So still and subdued and yet somehow preluding was all the scene, and such an incantation of revelry lurked in the air, that each silent sailor seemed resolved into his own invisible self.

I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and unthinkingly drove home every yarn; I say so strange a dreaminess did there then reign all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime, Queequeg’s impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage’s sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance—aye, chance, free will, and necessity—wise incompatible—all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course—its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events.

Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a sound so strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that the ball of free will dropped from my hand, and I stood gazing up at the clouds whence that voice dropped like a wing.

i feel such a kinship with this description of weaving…weaving as the fates do with the ball of free will…there’s something strikingly alchemical that happens when one sits down at a loom.

stay gold ponyboy

my mama eloped!
she got married in an ancient teak temple in burma!
and she, like, really eloped- nobody knew.
even after she came back, she waited a while to tell us…
it’s all very romantic and exciting!

and, thankyou cosmic timing!, when she came back from getting hitched- monastic style
there was a tiny golden hanky waiting for her.

prolly my favorite project yet…

possibly maybe

bjork and i have a somewhat semiannual love affair.
and it’s hitting hard this year.

so many threads to unravel and slowly, so slowly, dress onto my loom.

there is a woman who lives in the sky

i’ve been shying away from indigenous weaving…
not because i don’t i find it unbelievably touching or inspiring.
maybe it’s because i’ve been trying to stay focused on a few inspirations
and it’s also probably because i’m very reactionary these days when it comes to appropriating cultures that aren’t mine…
it’s alot easier for me to connect to european traditions from the 20th century, as a modern american- than it is for me to connect to ancient traditions from other cultures.

hopi weaver

bauhaus weaving: pattern designed by Hans-Joachim (Hajo) Rose in 1932 on a typewriter

but a craft is a craft. and there are so many similarities no matter how you slice it.

anyways……!!
i’ve been feeling very inspired and excited by the southwest…feeling a little homesick for my yurt in the high mountain desert country of the new mexico/colorado boarder lands…
and, i had the most wonderful cab ride recently with a man from Trinidad and Tobago- who whole heartedly encouraged me to seek out indigenous weavers…even before he knew of my current endeavors with A Little Weather!
definitely seemed like a sign.

so i want to share the navajo story of the spider woman:
Spider Woman instructed the Navajo women how to weave on a loom which Spider Man told them how to make.
The crosspoles were made of sky and earth cords,
The warp sticks of sun rays,
The heddles of rock crystals and sheet lightning.
The batten was a sun halo,
White shell made the comb.
There were four spindles:
One a stick of zigzag lightning with a whorl of cannel coal;
One a stick of flash lightning with a whorl of turquoise;
A third had a stick of sheet lightning with a whorl of abalone;
A rain streamer formed the stick of the forth, and its whorl was white shell.

Man journeys into the sky and meets Spider Woman.
It is she who makes human arteries,
And is thus considered to be a medicine woman.
Her spiritual power, as seen in her silken web,
Joins the realms of Earth and Sky.

Navajo Legend as told by Gladys A. Reichard

and a secret: if you click on the woman behind the web, you can read a really lovely article about grandmother weavers…