Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Fibre Reads

In the midst of all my busyness I still find time to read.  It just so happens that lately I’ve been reading some books that have to do with fiber.

Last summer, even before I took the Woolery workshop on natural dyeing, I purchased Rita Buchanan’s A Dyer’s Garden.  I loved the pages with clear photo samples of dyed yarn and the page by page descriptions of individual plants and their cultivation.


It was fun to look at but didn’t make a lot of sense until after the dyeing workshop.  Now I am enjoying slowly reading and digesting the information in this book, one or two plants at a time. I would love to have a dyer’s garden and Rita’s book will help me make a start.  For now I’ll probably stick to a few annual plants that I can put in a container, but she gives lots of ideas and choices for that garden I see somewhere in the future.

I walked into my local library a couple of weeks ago and as usual went to the new books shelf.  The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry caught my eye immediately, and I picked it up and brought it home.


While not fabulous literature, there is a quite interesting story here that is framed by the idea that one’s future can be read in handmade lace.  There’s a surprising plot twist that had me thinking for a few days after reading the book and made me realize it was a little deeper than I had originally thought.  

There’s not a lot about lace, but you do get some small glimpses into the art of handmade bobbin lace.  I’ll be looking to see what more I can learn about Ipswich lace as a result of this book.

Be sure to watch the video on The Lace Reader website.  You will get a few short glimpses of actual bobbin lace makers and their lacemaking and learn a little about the background of the book from the author.

I’m currently reading my way across Afghanistan and Iraq with Brian Murphy in his The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet.


What a fascinating book this is.  Part travelogue, history book and book about carpets it holds a wealth of information about how carpets are made, the people who sell them, the places from which they come and the dye–madder–that is a mark of an authentic Persian carpet.

I’m seeing names and places I first visited in The Kite Runner and that I sometimes read and hear about in current world news.  It’s a fascinating book.

I like books that give me something else to research or learn about and I’ll be looking into the work of the poet Hafez as a result of this book. 

And, I can look back at Buchanan’s book to see exactly what the madder plant looks like and how to cultivate and dye with it.  Very cool.


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I know, I keep saying there is just enough time for everything we truly want and need to do, but I have to admit that at this time of year I always catch myself wondering where the time has gone.

Can it be that Advent is nearly here? It’s coming.  It’s coming.  It’s Advent, after all.

I’m also rapidly approaching my blogging one year anniversary in early December and I’m not even blogging as much as I want to.  To say nothing of not getting much fiber and textile work done.

But! I have been doing some oh, so, inspirational reading as I prepare for my first Doctor of Ministry classes. I’ve finished Van Gogh and God by Cliff Edwards.  I’ve picked this book up before and thought it looked boring.  No color pictures in a book about an artist?  But it is very interesting and has me now wanting a van Gogh to hang in my house.  Dream on… But there are some nice prints and reproductions available.

Then I read Catherine Kapikian’s Art in Service of the Sacred.  What fun it was to pop the accompanying DVD into my computer and look at some of Cathy’s amazing artwork.  The section on creative process is especially fascinating to me.  Cathy was one of my professors during my Master’s work and will be the professor for my first D.Min. class.  I’m really looking forward to working with her again.

She’s the professor who said we would all be able to draw self portraits at the end of her class, and she was right.  I should dig mine out and post it.  I think I still have it.

Now I’m reading Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch.  This book is jam packed with one liners of the type you would like to put after your e-mail signature.  The problem would be how to choose.  His elucidation of improvisation and play in the process of creativity makes me want to get together a group of people to improvise with.  He’s keeping my head popping with ideas, that I’ll probably forget before I get them down, but how exciting is that?

Tonight I went surfing looking for some artwork on the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25, which I’ll be preaching on this Sunday and ran across an old friend.  I don’t actually know Jan Richardson, but one of her books was very formative for me when I was first entering ministry.  She now has a couple of websites, and one especially on Advent.  I will be checking the archives on that one as I think visually about the upcoming season.

‘Started a new project today that cannot be shown…..’tis the season!

Oh!  And I did something new and different yesterday. I worked the election polls; something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  What fun it was watching people come to vote and helping them get checked in.  It was especially moving to see all the first-time voters.  Very gratifying, but I was definitely tired by the time we finished up and our precinct totals were recorded and reported.  

It felt like being a tiny part of making history.

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For the month of May Sharon B issued this challenge:

What do you call yourself, and why? 

This question has a very specific focus with regard to those of us who work with fibers, fabric, color, design, etc. 

The challenge color palette uses these colors:


At first I wanted to make some kind of garment, either a jacket or a clergy stole, because it would be a very visible symbol of “what I call myself”, and carries the theme in my faith tradition of “putting on” a new garment or name to fully describe oneself after a period of transformation.

However, I knew that would be pretty hard to design and complete well in one month, so I’m setting that plan aside and will work on it later.

I decided instead to make another journal using a gel print on cotton that I had made before this challenge, but seemed to fit.  I added hand embroidery and beaded sequins to this flowing ribbon design.  The ribbon design came from a series of doodles I did that came out like ribbons.


It’s one of my favorite doodle motifs, and is a motif that symbolizes much of my life:  like a flowing, shifting, floating, turning ribbon, that has a different appearance as it flows, yet is still the same ribbon.

To illustrate what I call myself, I used this ribbon, then embellished it with fibers that flow around it, adding beads and sequins for sparkle and texture.  I continued the flow of the ribbon beyond the cover bounds with an organza ribbon tie.  With the journal cover alone I think I can explain to people who ask what it means to be a fiber artist.



I have resisted for a long time calling myself an “artist”, thinking of myself more as a skilled craftsperson.  However, as I have moved more and more into the realm of creating pieces from my own designs I feel more comfortable with the term “artist”, even though I am pretty much self taught and have some trepidation based on my lack of formal knowledge of art technique and history. 

With that said, I believe artists bring together elements in ways that haven’t been brought together before, often bringing order out of chaos of element and arrangement, producing design. 

It is, I believe, the creative character of all human beings, in many different endeavors, that gives us the deepest connection to the divine.  When we create, we transcend the mundane–even when creating with mundane elements–and we sometimes, thus, are able to glimpse our true selves.  That transcendence does not come without struggle, however, if it is true creation.

I chose to make my gel printed embroidery piece into a journal cover that encloses pages for recording quotes, ideas, and goals that are bounded by signature covers of hand dyed fabrics.  On two of them I have placed triangles to symbolize the work I do with piecing and quilting of fabrics. 


The inside cover and pockets (front and back) are also hand-dyed fabrics. 


If I carry this journal with me and am asked about what I do, I can use it to tangibly show:  painting and printing on fabric, stitching with fibers and beads, hand dyeing fabrics, sewing, and quilt making.

Throughout this month’s exercise I have tried out different word descriptions of what I call myself and why:  craftsperson, quilt maker, embroiderer, artisan, textile artist, and fiber artist.

I keep coming back to fiber artist.  It’s the nomenclature I’ve most often used, and feels most comfortable rolling off my tongue, even though it means I usually must add an explanation.  In that explanation I am able to open people’s vision to a broader idea of what the word “artist” encompasses.

My palette is not just paint, but an entire array of textiles, fibers, dyes, beads, and even found objects.  Creations are usually multi-dimensional with both visual and tactile texture. 

I am also a writer in my professional career as a clergy woman, so placing my fiber art around pages for writing adds another dimension to the descriptive piece. 

In the same vein as this month’s challenge, I have begun to read sociologist Richard Sennett’s latest book, The Craftsman.  It explores what it means to do or make something well simply for the doing of it as opposed to as a means to an end.  He posits, I believe, that our post-modernist cultures have lost that value in many areas, while engaging it in other ways that are new and unexpected.

I’ve just begun the book, so I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes this theme.        

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My Bettna sweater made from Noro Silk Garden yarn came off the blocking board yesterday and I was able to wear it to Wednesday night knitting group.  It was a cool, rainy afternoon and evening, unusual for Taos, so it was the perfect thing to wear.


The colors and style are a little different for me, so it will take some getting used to, but I love the yarn.  It’s a combination of wool, silk, and mohair.

This week I began reading William DeBuys’s book, The Walk.

DeBuys’s book, River of Traps, coauthored with Alex Harris, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1991.  I’ll have to read that one, too.

The Walk is interesting to me because it is about, among other things, DeBuys’s walk through the fields and forests around his home in Las Trampas, NM.  Las Trampas is not too far from Taos, on the high road from Santa Fe, and is a singularly beautiful area.  And, I love to walk, so it’s a good read combination.  

Anyway, in yesterday’s reading DeBuys was talking about bark peels on the massive orange and black Ponderosa pines in the forest bordering his property.  It seems that the Jicarilla Apache would make a peel of bark a little less than a foot wide and about four feet long and extract the inner cambium for a food source.  These peels would not harm the trees and provided either regular or starvation food for the Apache people.  He noted how he had never even noticed the old peels on the trees around him until a retired forester friend pointed them out.

I thought this was interesting enough, but he also told how legend says the tanager taught this method to the Apache.  I wasn’t exactly sure what a tanager was, but I thought it was some kind of bird.

Lo and behold, this morning I was looking out my back door and on the wall between our yard and our neighbor’s was a most amazing bird.  It was bright yellow with a brilliant orange-red head and dark black wings.  I had never seen anything like it before, and it was colored so brilliantly it looked almost like a child’s toy sitting there.  But then it flew down between the houses.


So I had to find out what it was.  I looked it up in one of my bird books–interest in birds is another thing I get from my family–and, you guessed it, it was a Western Tanager.  Wow!  This picture is from Birdnote.org.

‘Turns out this is a species of bird that winters in Central America and Mexico in the shade forests where coffee is grown, then migrates to western North America for breeding. 

You can hear the call of the Western Tanager and learn a little about the connection between the western tanager and coffee by clicking this link.  Yes, that’s the beautiful bird call I’ve been hearing the last couple of mornings.  

I think it’s pretty amazing that yesterday I was just reading about this bird and wondering about it, and today I see one in my own backyard.  I think I may try to lean more about the lore of the tanager.

I wonder what this little bird has to teach me. 

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Well, after doing all the dyeing work on the weekend, I ended up with  extremely sore and stiff neck and shoulder muscles that had me pretty much immobile yesterday.  I’m assuming it was from all of the washing, rinsing, and squeezing, as well as tensed muscles during careful measuring.  But it could have been from something else.  Who knows?

Anyway, that meant that about all I did yesterday was read.  Which actually was a nice change of pace, since I’ve been doing so much project work lately.  I’m reading a book I found at our local Taos Public Library by one of my favorite authors, Linda Hogan.  She is a Chickasaw poet, novelist, and essayist and writes very beautifully and movingly about the experience of First Nation peoples in this country. 

Many years ago I read her book Solar Storms, and fell in love with her style of writing and story telling, but hadn’t seen any of her books since then.  Until I thought to look at the library and found her first novel, Mean Spirit, which I am reading now.  It is about how the Osage Indians were driven from their land in Oklahoma–which they had been previously driven to from someplace else–because of the discovery of oil.  It is a fascinating, but heartbreaking story.

Today I have nothing very interesting to post, since all of my work is “in progress” at not very interesting stages.  But I do have two things in shades of gray to show, perhaps as a follow-on to my shades of gray dyeing project.DSCN1611

Here’s the start of my first gel plate for gel printing in my monoprinting class.  I’m a bit behind because I didn’t have a suitable container to make the gel plate in, and just got one today. 

Now I have to wait until tomorrow for it to set up properly to use.  The little orange thing on the side is a level.  I have just discovered that my kitchen counters are not completely level, but it was too late to try to move the pan filled with hot, liquid gelatin.  So I stuck a knife under the pan and set the level on the edge.  Getting all the bubbles out was quite an interesting and tedious process, but now that it’s beginning to harden it looks like I got them all out except one teeny, tiny one.  Not too bad.

And here are some pages from my continuing symmetry studies in preparation for designing tessellations for my March TIF project.DSCN1612  

My life is not ALL shades of gray right now.  I AM working on some projects with color.  There’s just not anything new to show.  I’m knitting on my blues/browns Optic Wave Shawl, and stitching black outlines on my wildly colorful floral monoprint. 

I’ll be back with more color tomorrow with my gel print. 

And I may even get to the next monoprinting project with shaving cream.  That looks interesting, and messy.  I just happen to have several cans of shaving cream left over from Vacation Bible School projects I did a couple years ago.  With pre-schoolers we made paintings with shaving cream mixed with dry tempera paint that was lots of fun.  Printing with paint on shaving cream looks like even more fun! 

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