Djcnor’s Weblog

Archive for the ‘arts and politics’ Category

I’ve been viewing possible studio space over the last week in Unit 5 and STEW. The reasons I’m planning to move out of the St. Lawrence Textile Centre are (1) that I think I can get water and a toilet and a kitchen for the same amount and (2) the retail aspect is not working for me and I don’t really need it for the latest version of my business plans.

It amazes me that there is so little studio space available in a city with a university that offers degrees in several different arts that require such space. And that’s not the only school in the area offering such programs. Furthermore, Norwich has plenty of empty space, whole office buildings totally empty, lots of empty storefronts, whole strips of empty storefronts with office space over them.

After all, I have documented in this blog that regions “invaded” by numbers of artists soon develop other cultural amenities and attract other businesses. The whole neighborhood gets upgraded. Of course, by that time, the area has outpriced almost all of the artists, who then move on to another dilapidated area and upgrade that one. But still, it’s to any city’s advantage to invite the artists into such areas.

I’ve started collecting web stories of that strategy being used successfully in the UK. I’ll print these out and bring them along when I approach the correct council or tourist bureau person. If I managed that for Norwich, I would have left a considerable positive legacy.


I’m operating on a schedule. During the week and on Saturday, I spend a good part of each afternoon actually making things at the Centre. In the mornings and evenings, I work on details such as crocheting that I can do at home, and adding things to the St. Lawrence Textile Centre Facebook Page, and adding entries here, and planning, and doing the basics of keeping the home fires burning. It almost feels like when I was back in school at FIT working my tail off but loving every minute. It especially resembles that time because I’m not making any money there at the moment.

Well, there’s not that much of mine to buy yet. But I’ve got a bunch of works in progress. I’ve made my second “Tunique”. Is that too precious a name?

Anyhow, the first one was absolutely plain in “mermaid skin” and the back bottom sort of cups. I didn’t plan that, but it isn’t a problem. The piece looks OK anyhow, so I hung it and put on a price.

The second one, there is no difference between the back and the front bottom. The neckline is a bit different from the first, because I lost track of my row count at one point. I’ve done the crocheting of it in a contrasting color and am adding crocheted sleeves in that same color. I’m still working on the sleeves and am not yet entirely certain whether I like them or not. Whether I like them or not and how fast they are working up may determine how long they are.

The third one is on my own knitting maching, which is a bit  different than Anne’s that I used for the first two. I’ve done the whole tunique part aside from the final cast-off,  but then I’ll steam it, turn it on the machine, and add sleeves on the machine. Because the threads were even lighter and tried to jump off the machine when I was casting on, I started with a  tighter stitch and reduced to a tigher one as well. Therefore, I needed to do more rows of each tightness. I did twice as many. It now looks rather narrow compared to the others, but longer as well, so I’m thinking of adding godet-ed panels to the sides to make it a dress. I’ll be really curious to see how it turns out.

I’m also working on a woven scarf on the little rigid heddle loom. It’s rather a coarse piece, maybe more a table runner than a scarf, but I won’t know that until it’s been washed. It feels good to be weaving again, even plain weave. I do miss the Macomber I worked on at school and the room I had to work. I probably should more the Harrisville to the Centre as well if I really intend to use it here. But something in me hopes for a heated space by the fall that I can move it to.

OK. Here we go again.

A twill woven on a 24-harness dobby

A twill woven on a 24-harness dobby

This scarf was in Handwoven

This scarf was in Handwoven

I believe it was a rosepath weave with waffleweave at the bottom. The article was about a technique I had “invented” for dropping a bead into every waffle.

A point twill woven over a handpainted warp.

A point twill woven over a handpainted warp.

I was very proud of this one and sort of hated to see it sold.  I keep telling myself I will make more and better ones.

A doubleweave done in blocks

A doubleweave done in blocks

I don’t even need to brag about this one.

Several of a set of 20 coordinated samples for upholstery

Several of a set of 20 coordinated samples for upholstery

I did this set of samples with the kinds of ceiling tiles you see in older building in New York City in mind. I was thinking of stories I’d seen in the papers about such buildings being turned into boutique hotels.

A few days ago, I made my first machine-knitted garment since I began to get re-acquainted with the knitting machine. (Gotta thank Anne Lavene for the loan of her machine in doing that.)

It’s a very simple garment, basically a sleeveless tunic, meant to be relatively tight to the body from the arm-holes up but loosening as it falls to the hips where it’s quite floaty. It turned out pretty good, just not good enough to call the prototype the finished pattern. I want to play with the neckline and the arm scrye (to be a bit classier in my wording) and the bottom edge before I finalize it as a part of my line.

I used four thin yarns together, the yarns chosen to produce irridescence because they were opposites on the color wheel, and I’m quite happy with the resulting fabric. In fact, it’s the fabric that everyone who examines the piece comments on. (The little negative nellie person who always sits on one of my shoulders whispers that this is only an indication of how minimally attractive the actual garment is, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself when I post a picture here.)

In any case, I’m perfectly willing not to sell this version until I get a better one done early this week. In the meanwhile, it will serve as a swatch for the fabric. I now have three fabrics in my swatch collection with more to come rapidly. Got to get busy fast with the camera.

It was very easy to name the fabric used for the tunic. I merely draped it over one knee and thought “Mermaid Skin”. Perfect. Now I’ll bet you can’t wait to see the pictures. Soon… very soon.

My aim is to make unique fabrics, using either the knitting machine, my loom, or painting plain fabric. I may do some screen printing later on as well. I will also make garments of these fabrics as I develop the fabrics themselves, to show how they perform in garments, and to sell. But I want the making and selling of bespoke fabrics to be my main business.

And all this will be done out of my space at St. Lawrence Textile Centre.

And I will post pictures and chronicle the progress I make as I have time in this space. Are you interested? Let me know.

I just finished spending a good deal of my time at the Centre for the last three days, and though I did not sell a thing (much to my disappointment, since someone had wanted to buy one or more of my handpainted shopping bags on Wednesday, but I stupidly did not have them priced yet) but I got some work done, and as usual, came away with more ideas and more inspiration than I can possibly carry out with my present level of energy and stamina. Luckily, with any luck, that energy and stamina will build, if only to keep from feeling like I’m operating in a different time frame from the younger members of the group.

Lorna finished the project she was working on for Anne Lavene and, on Saturday, was working on a sewing project, a dress a friend wanted to wear that evening. I’ve got this idea of interviewing the members on their projects and the ideas they are having, but since I once again failed to fulfill that part of my objectives, I’m working on my own perceptions of their ongoing projects, so anything I say could be entirely wrong. You are warned. I believe Lorna’s project was mostly restyling, attaching a recycled white textured (brocade?) bodice to fluffy tulle-supported skirt at hip level.

Jung-a had quite an effective meeting with Anne Francis of BizFizz, which I horned in on to a certain extent via an introduction by Anne Lavene. Facing my long-term-unemployed meeting with the Job Centre on Monday, I’d like to have as much to say and be as self-directed as possible, but I have to admit that I’ve become rather wary of most UK government sponsored projects to help folks start businesses. They tend to be very generous with classes and advice that you don’t have the resources to carry through on (when what you really need is the moeny for rent and food and practical material goods like, in Jung-a’s case, mannequins or dress-making dummies, and in all our cases, a large table to lay out things on, in my case, a table it won’t break my back to work over. (I’ve been spending far too much time hunched over work in my lap and my back is complaining loudly this morning.) Then, to top it off, they require a ton of paperwork (doing which requires abandoning the kind of work you want to be doing). Anyhow, BizFizz seems to be differently oriented, a sort of spider’s nest with a wide-flung net to catch things and move them on to folks who need them to get their dreams off the ground.

Kim was nowhere to be seen, though she sold a set of knitted gauntlets (having gone to the trouble of pricing them, bless her). But it turned out she had an excellent excuse, her van having broken down.

I also didn’t see Kira, myself, though I know she must have been there when I wasn’t because she laid exclusive (and rightful) claim to her working chair (which has had a tendency to wander off here and there, being the only chair not draped with someone’s creations). I did see, too, that she had acquired a second garment to handpaint. A big part of her absense may have been due to the success of her musical enterprises. I seem to remember that she had a big gig scheduled for this weekend. (Note to self: Is there a stage name of some sort folks should be on the lookout for?)

Tatiana fluttered about acting as a muse and aid to all and sundry, seeing that we all had something in the display area outside, modeling a restyled butterfly cutaway jacket of Jung-a’s, and drawing a collection of creative friends and acquaintances (including one beginning jeweler showing considerable talent whose name I should have gotten), and sewing a bit, I’m not sure on what.

Ossie was about too, wearing an extraordinary leather jacket and presenting an impromptu concert of Celtic song, just one more example of the fact that no two visits to the Centre are ever the same. She’ll be setting up a menswear section in the Centre when she manages to fit it in with all the other things she does.

Anne Lavene had a small crowd of visitors spread just thinly enough over the three days for each of them to receive more personal attention and care than they might have expected, here explaining the six ways a particular garment could be worn, or how it could be satisfactorily translated to another size, there teaching an introductory machine knitting lesson, passing on maintenance hints, or coaching Lorna on her machine knitting project, along with seventeen other things. She also managed to sell quite a bit in the process. 

I would include Mickey, who has a healing centre in the front corner, but I don’t know enough about his work so far.

As for me, I did some pricing, painted the Virginia creeping ivy on my third bag, and began the other flint wall side as well. I crocheted some as well, and met quite a few interesting visitors to the center, including a local French teacher who, I believe, has done some embroidery she is quite proud of. My French is limited, as was her English, but we did manage to communcate pretty well, and I hope she comes again to show me her work.

She was only one of the visitors for whom the Centre seemed to draw out, to revive, the creative urge. In my opinion, this is one of the best things that could come from the Centre. I know I will be feeling withdrawal symptoms before I get back to the Centre this week.

I’m rather up in the air at the moment about this blog. I do not want to shut it down, because I have a new purpose I want it to serve. But since I have to make that purpose pay, and writing a blog does not pay, I may decide not to write as often, and my posts may take totally different forms than they have up till now. Perhaps I will be writing on my other blog instead, as it is more relevant to my other subject.

I have spend a good part of today working on a crochet design for a vest or waistcoat in rayon chenille. I wanted it to be a non-traditional shape and row arrangement, something that was in the spirit, more or less, of the kinds of designs Ann Lavene does. I began at what I though of as a middle front point, as I know that is one of her favorite design elements because it disguises any stomach pouch. So I widened from the point, varying my stitches, searching for ones I fill the most space with in the smallest amount of time while not leaving too big holes in the “cloth” I’m forming. When it got wide enough for the front of a garment, perhaps a little more, I started working the rows even alternating two stitches. The edge of the piece began to look rather like a curvy parenthesis, or a face profile. I wasn’t at all impressed until I turned it on it’s side, when it became a cutaway side of a front with a middle front point where the closure would be placed. Now it made sense. I began to shape the armhole and “grow” it towards the center back with the idea that the second half would be its mirror, the two laced together in the back, with a strap coming up either side of the back to meet the curvy parenthesis top.

I stopped, drew a picture in my sketchbook of what I had in mind, and wrote down my notes for the first prototype of the design. I intend it to have the possibility of fitting  a wide range of sizes. We’ll see.

In any case, I’m proud of myself for the concept.

I already have some critiques, though. Anne’s designs are, in general, much more drapey, much looser on the body than this one. I’ll have to give some thought to that.

It’s a pity I don’t have any of my fabric paints at home. I have some idea for other items that I think will fit right in as well, but no way to play and try out my ideas this week. I HAVE to find out when it is OK to go to the centre and work on ideas.

When I began this blog, I had already tried blogging before but never managed to consistently write regularly and often. I had read that in order to build readership a blog had to have a focus, but I decided just to write each day about whatever interested me and see if a theme developed.

For a long time now, I have been a fan of the movement toward interdisciplinary activities of all kinds. Only rather recently have academics been divided into subjects and sub-subjects. Science, chemistry under science, biochemistry under chemistry, molecular biochemistry under biochemistry, and so on seemingly to infinity with each tiny segment developing its own jargon, its own points of reference, its own celebrities.

I know there’s more information out there than any one person can ever manage to stuff into one brain, more than any one person can become well acquainted with, but why force the choices among a preset branching path? Especially when the most world-shaking ideas often come from crossing paths on different branches.

One example, and a fascinating one to read about, was the deciphering of the Maya written language. The story of how it happened is entertainingly chronicled in Breaking the Maya Code by Michael Coe. The problem was that studiers of the Maya culture tended to specialize in one particular area. There were dirt archaeologists excavating and interpreting the material culture left behind, linguist studying the language current spoken by Mayan ethnic groups, art historians studying Mayan art, and so on and so on. No one held enough pieces of the puzzle, until the kid.

The kid was the child of two people involved in different aspects of the Maya story. The family spent a lot of summers at digs. There wasn’t a whole lot for a kid to do at the digs, aside from plague the assortment of adults studying various other aspects of the story. The result? The kid was the one who collected and connected all the different pieces and began to put them together to make sense of the Mayan hieroglyphics. He did it so well that at 18 he won one of those  MacArthur Genius Awards.

My point is the world is not split into neatly catagorized discipline. In truth, every single one of us invents his or her own discipline, and if you look hard enough but not in a particularly organized manner, you might eventually be able to come up with a good description of it.

Readers of this blog will soon figure out that I am interested in politics. But it is not the practice of politics that interests me. I’m only interested in practical politics. I look at every political issue in terms of the effects of particular policies on individual lives. And I look at those lives holistically, refusing to narrow it down to any particular area of those lives.

I’m also interested in arts, particularly fine craft arts, well practised, no shortcuts, and particularly textiles. Textiles because of structure, and because textiles are so intricately woven into our lives, woven into them in such a way as to minimize human discomfort, and doing that at the expense of the textiles themselves. Of all arts, textiles are made to give way and be worn down, to show the history of  human interaction with them.  One fine example is the shroud of Turin.

There’s another excellent book on the history of textile arts. It’s Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. It’s about women,  cloth, and society in ancient times, and every word of it interested me.

I could write much more, but mostly what I want to say is that I believe I’ve found the focus of this blog, as much as it has one. I want it to sit at the intersection of arts, politics, and life.

Djcnor’s Weblog

  • @KathrynGoldman Saw your blog post on famous people in fiction. Have character who is supposed to be dead, turns out not to be. OK? 1 year ago
  • I'm back! I haven't posted in a long time, but since Joanie Freeman and I won Charlottesville SOUP, I feel the need to return. 5 years ago
  • Haven't been here on my new iPad. Page looks totally different. Where is the option to reply? And where are the RT's? 6 years ago
  • @The_Puck Same to you. You denial is damaging to yourself and all you care about, assuming there must be some of those. 6 years ago