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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

26 December, 2010

After Christmas

OK.  So how many of us woke up this morning wondering why we ate so much yesterday and promising ourselves that we will get back to our pre-Christmas weight in January?  And how many of us woke up wishing we hadn’t drunk quite so much Christmas tipple, promising ourselves that we won’t do that again in a hurry?  And how many of us will break both those promises to ourselves today, or at the latest on New Year’s Eve?!!

I can put my hand up to the first one, but not the second.  Family dynamics can be quite a challenge at Christmas time, so I figure that it’s best if I don’t contribute to possible upheavals as can sometimes happen when alcohol has been over-imbibed!! 

Also it leaves me with a clear head for a little bit of day-dreaming!  Instead of groaning about a headache and a muzzy head, I can sit with a cup of tea and gaze into the middle distance dreaming of what next year could bring!  I usually do that in another room, so it doesn’t make the rest of the family look at me strangely! 

I also look back on the year that’s just gone and think about what I’ve achieved.  Is it what I wanted to do?  What directions has my life suddenly gone in that weren’t on the horizon this time last year?  Is that what I want?  It’s good to pat yourself on the back for the things that you’ve achieved and reflect on things that haven’t gone quite as you planned before turning your attention on what goals you’d like to aspire to in the coming year. 

I try not to have too many major plans in mind because life has a habit of filling up anyway, but I want a few targets to aim for so that I have a direction to begin the year with. 

This coming year I am planning a little more relaxation time.  I’m a workaholic because I just adore my job – being self-employed and doing something I love is wonderful and I thank my lucky stars every day.  But being self-employed has its own problems, and you don’t earn anything unless you get out there and create a market!  So self-employment and workaholics seem to go together.  Having said that, I really do need to learn to put up stop signs so I don’t work too many 12 hour days…. 

What about you?  What kinds of goals do you make?  Are they work-related, family-oriented, friends-centric? 

Most people in my area think weaving is a kind of exotic occupation.  Interesting that such a change of view has happened in just one generation.  Up until the end of the C20, people in the next village were employed in the weaving mill down the road (now apartments!) but now weaving is seen as a rarity and quite romantic!!  Then when they see what I weave, they are taken aback.  What I weave isn’t what most people associate with weaving….  so there’s a job right there – educating people about what weaving can be, and the breadth of the subject is awe-inspiring. 

I start a masters degree in January.  My 3-year part-time course is going to take in geology, geophysics, and the philosophy of landscape translated through weave but that is a challenge I relish because it will be challenging my weave knowledge, and my understanding of the world, as well as pushing my abilities as a teacher to new heights as I seek to share the knowledge I gain. 

What could be a better way to start the new year than with something that will be so absorbing, and combining my love for nature with my curiosity for how the world works, plus learning how to think about the relationships of people and the world, then expressing that through my passion for weave?  Heaven on earth!! 

I wish you your heaven on earth for 2011!!

19 December, 2010

Flu, ice sculptures and playing for pleasure!

Filed under: Art,Education,Life,Nature — Tags: , , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

Like so many people I know, I’ve spent a large part of the last week in bed with proper flu.  It’s left a lingering chesty cough and I was a little concerned about how I would cope with playing tenor sax for the Trent River Big Band who were performing at a Golden Wedding celebration.  Firstly, would we get there with the forecast snow and ice, and secondly, would playing throw me into paroxysms of coughing or suppress the tickle? 

Happily for us, but not for other areas of the country, the snow gave us a miss, and although the roads were quite slick, slow driving got us there and back safely.  Secondly, the cough seemed to disappear whilst I was playing, returning at the breaks to catch up!  It was a lovely ‘do’ with ball-room dances like foxtrot, waltzes, and quick-steps and it was delightful watching people dancing these old dances.  At the same time, the final of Strictly Come Dancing was on TV, encouraging many more people to learn these graceful dances. 

Having the best part of a week in bed meant time to catch up with some reading.  With the start of a masters degree beginning in January, I had some geology books to peruse and a wonderful book called The Earth – An Intimate History, by Richard Fortey has been illuminating.  I’ve now got some serious text books to get my teeth into, which should keep the this part of the Brown household quiet for a while, in between decorating for Christmas and buying last minute presents and wrapping them.  We are not big purchasers for Christmas, preferring little treats, and enjoying the food and company.  I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of having a great time on a small fixed budget, and we seem to have as much fun as others who spend ridiculous amounts of cash on presents!   

The recent cold weather has been an amazing experience in terms of natural beauty.  I’m not a good photographer, but nature can make the best pictures!  Here are a few of the ice sculptures in our pond, created by the fountain….


I hope you are enjoying your festive celebrations, whatever your beliefs and creeds.  I’m off to put up the tree and decorations, and listen to some music whilst the lunch is cooking!  Happy Holidays!

12 December, 2010

Complex Weavers’ study day

It’s always fun to stay with friends.  It’s even more fun to meet up with like-minded individuals from all over the country who get together for a learning experience.   This week some of the UK Complex Weavers met up at Handweavers’ Studio for a study day with Marg Coe.  It was a full-on day of brain work, dealing with computers that didn’t want to behave (as usual!), shopping opportunities (always way too tempting), and catching up with each other.  Marg was patient, fun and very giving.  I came away with sudden flashes of inspiration of how to achieve things I’d been mulling over, and with insights of a different way of working with Photoshop. 

Earlier this autumn, you may remember I posted about a trip to Devon for Alice Schlein’s workshop.  The two workshops may well have been on the same subject – using Photoshop for designing – but the two approaches were different.  Both had lots of useful content, and it is really interesting for me to see how results can be obtained via two different directions. 

One of the great delights for us all is that it was a rare opportunity for us Complex Weavers members in the UK to get together!  We all live so widely spread, and we have such different areas of interest, that it usually just isn’t feasible to get together.  12 of us, out of 27, were able to meet up, sometimes for the first time!  People came from Scotland, Holland, the south coast, east and west of the country and of course, the middle!  All united in wanting to learn. 

In case you don’t know about Complex Weavers, let me tell you a little about the organisation.  Catering for all weavers who have a desire to delve deeper and learn more, CW is an international body, based in the US, that has over 800 members worldwide.  There are a huge variety of study groups, which members are encouraged to belong to.  Each study group has its own requirements, with maybe a minimum of an e-newsletter article from each participant per year, and some have physical fabric sample exchanges.  There are varying numbers of people in each group.  The dues vary from group to group.  You don’t have to have a multitude of shafts, although quite a few of us work with more than 8.  It varies from study group to study group.  Every quarter, each member receives a Journal which has general articles, CW news and also featuring one or more of the study groups. 

Every 2 years, Complex Weavers hosts a seminar series for its members, with the next one to be held in Washington DC in September 2012.  The seminars are limited to around 150 – 175 participants and the atmosphere is amazing!  CW is like a wonderful weaving family!  The seminars are all delivered by members, and there are usually around 5 or 6 seminars all going on at the same time!  It’s a wonderful opportunity to find out what’s really at the cutting edge!  There are social events as well, and even the business meeting AGM is fun!!  When registration opens, it’s like a feeding frenzy!!  The last time all the places were filled within 2 days!!  So keep an eagle eye open for the registration opening if you want to ensure you get a place!

Some people think that Complex Weavers isn’t for them, and for some, that’s true – it’s not for you if you prefer to follow recipes, for example.  But if you have a curiousity about weaving, or a desire to learn more about history, or how to weave tied weaves, or an interest in jacquard, or kumihimo, or old manuscripts, maybe exploring double cloth, or garment construction from your weaving, there is a group to suit you.  You don’t have to belong to a study group, but it’s one of the big benefits of the organisation.  The wealth of experience and sharing is awesome!  But no-one need feel inadequate!  Encouragement is the name of the game, and enthusiasm is the password! 

I have no hesitation in stating that Complex Weavers has been the best thing for my weaving development!  I joined in 2002 and was made to feel welcome immediately.  My first CW Seminars was in 2006, and I felt enveloped by this wonderfully warm, sharing, caring community.  I will always do my utmost to attend CW Seminars because of its amazing camaraderie, the sheer amount of knowledge, generosity of spirit, and engagement of everyone, united in a tremendous love of weaving and respect for each other’s knowledge. 

If you are interested in finding out more about Complex Weavers, do visit the website or click here for joining info. 

5 December, 2010

Snow days – an inconvenience, or an excuse?

Filed under: Life,Philosophy,Psychology,Travel — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:22 pm

Our recent snow days have given quite a few people a few moral dilemmas to work through…

I’m lucky – I don’t have far to go to get to work (and I love my work!!), only having a few steps from my house to my studio – so I don’t have the dilemma many face, but it’s been a subject of discussion in my house this week.

My husband is a music teacher, teaching in schools around a largely rural area which has been hit hard by the recent snowfall and icy conditions.  For him, there is no dilemma – if the schools are open, then he has a duty to do his utmost to get in.  Our local radio stations have an important role to play here, and they broadcast up-to-date information on school closures as they come in, so all he has to do is listen to the local radio station, see which schools are in, and ensure he gets there for his scheduled time.  His only problem is digging himself out of the drive, and negotiating icy school car parks.

Our son has a job in a nearby city (around 12 miles away).  He works shifts in a shop.  He has a work ethic and feels responsible for getting in whenever it is physically possible, and he’s not missed any of his shifts through the bad weather, but that is also because he wasn’t down for shifts when the weather was at its worst. 

We had a big family discussion about people taking snow days, and we came to the conclusion that it’s a fine balance.  On the one hand, if you have the attitude that you must get in no matter what (as my father always did), you could get stuck for hours in freezing temperatures and block up the roads for the emergency services and for people in the emergency services who do need to get to work.  Teachers have a care of duty to students to try to get in to school so that students can have somewhere to go so that not only they, but their parents, can do whatever is (or seems) best for them. 

However, if your journey isn’t totally necessary (and what is necessary varies from person to person), then you shouldn’t put yourself and others at risk by going out.  Some older people feel that a hair appointment is totally necessary and of vital importance to them and you can’t get them to see otherwise, and they risk falling and breaking bones, or crashing cars that they can’t control in bad conditions.  But who’s to say that a shopping trip to collect milk and break isn’t essential?   

And there’s always the person who hates their job and is delighted for any excuse to miss a day…..

I was supposed to attend a symposium on Anni Albers this weekend, with a friend, and was really looking forward to it.  My friend had to cancel coming up because of the weather conditions at her end, and it was pretty bad here.  The roads were clear but the forecast wasn’t terribly clever.  On the morning itself, the roads were clear of snow, but freezing fog and black ice had me on edge and I wasn’t sure if the conditions would extend all the way to the venue which was a good 1 1/2 hour journey away on a good day.  So in the end I had to give up and cancel.  You can imagine my disappointment when the lady on the end of the phone said that everything was clear at her end, but I also had a committment to get back in good time to play in a big band concert in the evening, which I had to be there for.  In the end, I knew I had done the right thing – especially when we travelled to the concert through freezing fog again! 

So, whilst there is no clear right or wrong decision about snow days, it certainly depends on conditions in your specific area (which can vary so much in just 1 mile!), and on the importance in your own mind of your journey.  And of course, your own moral fibre!

1 December, 2010

Snow and Steam

This morning we awoke to the most snow anyone in this area can remember for around 20 years!  It is sooo beautiful!  I am so lucky that I work from a studio next to the house, so I only had a short passage to clear to the workshop door, and the woodburning stove had stayed alight all night so the room was already warm!  Bliss!! 

The first job today is to get steaming.  No, it’s not the Christmas pud – it’s my Christmas cards!!  Well – not the cards themselves, but the woven contents…  I have woven them with polyester weft so that, once steamed, they will not flatten out or take on another shape once I cut them all apart. 

One thing I learned from my shibori samples for the monograph (Woven Shibori for Textural Effects) was that I need to line my stove-top steamer with a muslin cloth or something similar, to prevent the fabric contents getting scorched.  Actually, one of my husband’s cotton hankies is just the right size and thickness for the job!  So far so good.  It’s going to take roughly 3 hours with each group of 3 strips taking 2 x 10 minute sessions, and 9 motifs per strip.  So in the meantime, I can do other little tasks that have been silently screaming for attention over the past few days – like cleaning (groan!!) and tidying. 

There is an amazing diffused light in my workshop today because of the snow, and you realise when something in your usual environment changes, that the way you see things changes too!  Now in my studio, I can see things that need doing that normally I don’t even notice! 

The fields looked so different in their topography today when I was walking Charlie.  Hillocks that I wasn’t really aware of before are suddenly visible, and a hidden dip that I have never seen before in the fields was so obvious today… 

The school children are out making angels in the snow, although one little one almost disappeared beneath the 10″ or so of snow!!  They are having a wonderful time, pulling each other on sledges that must have been gathering cobwebs for quite a few years, and throwing snowballs at each other and anything that moves… 

A couple of teenaged girls were walking around with their cameras, mouths agape, in awe and wonder at the beauty of the scenery of familiar landscapes made unfamiliar.  We got chatting and they have never seen as much snow in our village in their lives.  They were so excited at seeing how the snow has landed and sculpted on various trees, shrubs and marsh grasses. 

It is so invigorating to see how such experiences mould people, and these youngsters will remember this time right into their older years!  The magic of such days stays with us forever, and become treasured memories.  It’s a lovely feeling to feel that our shared experience will live on past the end of my life because of their memories….