Monday, December 19, 2011

this year is coming to a close. it was a very turbulent one. it started with a miscarriage and now ends in a death, and a birth. my grandmother passed away on december 18th. i am expecting our son January 19th. this is some profound closure. i wish to ring in the new year and look to brighter horizons!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

in anticipation for Art Vs Craft i am putting the weaving into as high as gear as i can at 27 weeks pregnant. at the moment i have two scarves, two baby blankets, and one shawl threaded and am weaving all at once on five different looms. one at the gallery i volunteer at, one at the school i teach at, another loom at the univesity i teach at, and two at home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

this year has been plentiful. i love these colors. we are entering a busy part of the year filled with birthdays, ArtWalk, Warped Milwaukee Exhibition, Art vs Craft, Thanksgiving, Christmas, capped off with the anticipated new addition to the Buss household in January. Wish us luck through these busy and ever changing times...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

the story of my american farm

this is not just my story its an american story, the blight of the 20th century american farm. with the passing of my aunt, i come to look at the fabric of my family cloth deteriorate. the quilt which at one time finely crafted and cared for seems to be loosing the stitching pulling away at the seams. what once held american families together on the farm, hard work, crops, livestock, profits has begun to see the fall. it started long before now.

once a profitable living, our family dariy farm started to see it's decline in the eighties. its hard not to have hard feelings for the government that most likely pressured my grandfather into using fertilizers and pesticides. its hard not to dislike the seed companies that promised a great harvest and boosting milk production. its hard to put a finger on what exactly i am sad about. but one thing remains a fact. the farm will be sold, my memories will become even more distorted with time.

our family once so closely knit and proud in our heritage deteriorated like i never would have forseen. my own absence, mostly out of need, happens to a lot of rural kids. i moved to the city to get an education, and ended up remaining there to start my family. now displaced i no longer am near my childhood farm, nor do i have the family to help raise my children as farm families once did.

the best i can paint the picture is of a bustling farm in the summertime complete with flower beds abundant with flowers, one of my grandmother's pass times.( maybe this is why my cousin now owns a flower shop with her husband.) the farm alive with activity in the dusty clouds kicked up by the unstoppable tractors, hauling endless wagons loaded with sweet smelling hay, or baked golden straw. the cool of the barn during the heat of midday, the oven like tempatures if you wandered up to the hay loft. the rolling hills of the pastures i used to run. in winter things were almost as wonderful, dare i say magical. the frigid tempatures remained outside once you were in the barn with all the cows that gave off their heat. we played in the vacant pens in forts my uncles created with bales of hay. we would return home to our mothers full of burrs in our hair. outside the snowdrifts became our castles, and our sleds our quick getaway.

all in the shadow of the hard work of my uncles and grandfather and the support or their wives. my aunt was probably the biggest, hardest, female contributor to the farm. she loved my uncle and his family, and she believed in what he did. in her death it is time to accept this legacy's close. the cows were sold a little less than ten years ago, and sent to puerto rico. they tried their hand in beef, renting out the land, renting the farmhouse. my husband even entertained the thought of trying to take the farm on, but the task is to daunting the land too tanted for the likes of our organic mindset.

gone are the days of huge family gatherings under the roof of my grandparents farmhouse or under the canopy of trees in their front yard (which took me three hours to mow on a riding mower). i worry that i am not passing wonderful cherished heritage on to my children. what i can pass on is community, the arts, my love and ability for the craft of weaving, visiting the farm as much as i can with them, teaching them as much as i can about nature life in general. i just wish my backdrop was like the rolling hills of green, and not the concrete that lies outside my doorstep, maybe that is why i plant the unruly gardens i do.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

it is nice to visit old accomplishments. this rug was my third attempt at the weaving pattern i enjoy most, rep weave. in this piece there are two rugs, you can just barely see the hem at the bottom of the photograph. this rug also taught me a lot about warp. the black in the rug (warp) broke in chunks while i was threading. when i wound the warp, measuring it it seemed strong. i learned how to add warp to over half threaded loom. what a mess. but i was persistant. i probably added about four hours of work to a normally twenty hour or more rug. the results were stunning. after this was woven i tied onto the threading with white and cream, and the cream and white became one.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

this is a piece i intended for an art show. more of a rug rather than "piece" the title is Greener Pastures and Bright Horizons. i might muster up the urge to put it in but it isn't very creative and this is when craft vs art becomes an issue. i am trained professionally as an artist. i have a degree in fine arts. i learned the craft of weaving in my art degree. however does that make this straight forward rug a work of art? does that make this well crafted rug just a rug? conflicted, i'd like the rug to have one more dimension to it and then i would consider it a work of art, but to be honest i don't know what that dimension would be...

Monday, June 20, 2011

my latest creation is what i call my "red square rug" it was constructed with prepared corduroy weft sewn on the bias, and the cotton warp is in natural with muted primary colors. it is a simple weave, only challenging in the warping. to thread the loom it took at least six hours, at least, longer because children have the ability to interrupt a groove you might have. i have two new rugs planned and after that i think i am going to start working on placemats, runners, and scarves for easy selling items.

Friday, May 27, 2011

my recent creation for commission was a rug designed after a swedish pattern, the colors were changed and the borders slightly different. i had to increase the rug from around 24 inches to 30 inches but the pattern didn't allow it, so the weaving increased to around 39 inches. also the original rug commission was to be 30 inches by 60 inches. upon weaving the repeats only allowed the rug to finish around 52 inches. this is the problem with handmade items, and fiber work in general. sometimes the material has a mind of its own. the end result was a beautifully woven piece that laid flat and was perfect in repeats. however the size was an issue for the recipients.
after much discussion over what could be done, they decided that they could not part with the piece even if it was not the dimensions they originally ordered. they decided to make the piece a wall hanging. i was actually happier with the decision, better to adorn the wall than an entranceway. However, this brought me to an interesting situation to consider and have a plan for in the future. if my customers are not happy with the size or color is it better to ask to return the item to me and then weave something more suitable to their liking? and the answer i have come up with YES. customers can be the one and only marketer for the item i created, if they have only good things to say i would be more likely to get more commissions. now i worry that when speaking about this rug to visitors to their home the owners just might say,"it was supposed to be a rug but..." and that concerns me. i am proud of this rug, it was by far my most challenging to this point given the unforgiving form of hand weaving.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

so upon working in our attic, we found a bin of girls clothes, what i had whittled thousands down to.
my first instinct was to get rid of it as soon as possible.
so i called the friend who had a newbornish baby girl.
the response "giving up?" my heart twisted. i embrace her honesty.
but it made my heart a mean knot. why do i feel so angry about the children i wasn't able to carry.
i just wish i knew.
since then i found out i was pregnant, yet again. this makes seven pregnancies since 2004. as much as i want all my babies to have lived, i think how crazy life already is. as bob and i sit waiting for his procedure, many thoughts hit both of us, him related to his recent job loss, and the surgery he is about to undergo. me pregnancy, and whether or not i will carry this baby to term. there are many stresses we have to deal with at this moment and never has life been this precarious. but surprisingly i am not as stressed as someone might think one could get having three children one on the way, a dog, car payments, mortgage, and no "stable" what ever that might mean these days, job. life goes on. i weave like mad lately it is the only thing i can control. best to get it woven when i have the chance, life does go on.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

this is my current rug weaving at the weaving studio

In the spring of 2011 I was given the opportunity to work with K4 and K5 students at Clara Barton Elementary School through Artists Working in Education, a non-profit organization with whom I have worked for seven years. During my residency from January to April, students were taught weaving and explored other fiber art elements like sewing, beading, and fabric construction. In eight weekly classes, we explored five different projects and wove on looms. We read the story “Charlie needs a Cloak” by Tomie dePaola. In this story a shepherd has a flock of sheep and takes readers through the process of preparing the wool, spinning, dyeing, weaving, and sewing a cloak. This book covered a lot of the things we were going to approach in this weaving and fiber art residency. At the end of the project, a panel was constructed using student-generated elements, making a “woven tapestry” which illustrated the adage, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

The first project completed was a Danish woven heart basket out of paper. The paper was cut into the shapes, handles were cut, and slots were cut beforehand. Children learned the basics of the over/under concept and AB, AB, AB pattern. We worked through the project by using the descriptive words and easy labels like “the red leg goes over the white leg” or “the red leg goes inside of the white leg”. The end result was a checkerboard pattern which demonstrated the AB, AB pattern. Once completed and woven a handle was attached to the basket with a stapler. Students took the baskets home.

The second project we undertook was woven fabric people. The preparation for this project included ironing interfacing on to the back of the fabric and cutting figures from the cloth. Strips of fabric with interfacing were cut longer than the width of the figure and slots were cut into the figure. Again, students were encouraged to learn the concept of over/ under, and opposites, the weaving created a checkerboard pattern and again created an AB, AB pattern. The woven people were saved for use in the final project.

The third project created was a woven paper sculpture, attached to a cardboard base, which was thn painted. In preparation, strips of paper and cardboard squares and rectangles were cut. We used construction paper and to strengthen and make it more pliable, the paper needed to crumpled. First, two strips were stapled to the base. Secondly, three more strips were added by weaving them over and under the strips stapled to the cardboard. The children were encouraged to “decorate” their sculpture by painting with washable paints. The sculpture was allowed to dry and student took them home.

One of my favorite projects in this residency was making a fabric picture. We had an apeirilla for an example a South American way of creating a picture story. Molas also were used in an example-- cut fabric pictures from Guatemala. The students were first asked to think about what they might like to make a picture about, we wrote this on a strip of paper near them so both teachers knew how to help them and keep them on track. We encouraged them to draw, cut, or construct figures, objects from fabric scraps and yarn. Using the size of a felt rectangle approximately 8”x11” this was their “canvas”. We affixed the picture pieces with fabric glue and school glue. I allowed the pictures to dry and took them home to attach them to construction paper matting. The fabric pictures will be used in the closing ceremony and then sent home with the students.

The last project we did was the result of ongoing work throughout the residency, where each child’s time in the last half of each class was spent weaving on five pre-warped looms. With a great deal of preparation time, I measured strings and threaded those strings onto the looms. I allowed student who were understanding this process to step up to another level of weaving, successfully implementing differentiated instruction: some looms had only two harnesses, which made an easy AB, AB pattern, while others had four and eight harnesses in which I labeled the treadles with A,B,A,B stickers and students were able to follow complex pattern of weaving with success. All the A’s had to be down to weave “A” and all the B’s had to be up; the opposite was required when weaving the B’s. At the start of each day, the children got to choose the yarn color for weaving from a selection of pre-wrapped shuttles. It did not take the students long to understand the weaving concepts, and by the third time we saw the same group, most of the children could weave independently, with a few minor tangles and missed pattern changes. The weavings totaled fifteen warped yards and became the pieces we used to create houses in our woven tapestry’s village, along with the fabric people described previously. Remaining pieces were used for the final take home project.

Finally, the leftovers of the weaving were sewn by machine with a zigzag to make each child a fabric bookmark. This secured the small pieces of the weaving in order for the students to work on them. The same process was used to create the shapes for the tapestry panel. Considering the fabric picture project, students were encouraged to think about shapes or images they would use to embellish their bookmark with. After we glued the pictures or shapes to the bookmark, children were taught basic sewing with plastic needles and thick yarn. Once the children did a few whip stiches, we moved onto more embellishment with beads. We taught them a very simple way to attach the beads. Some students learned how to sew a button on their bookmark, and others used glitter glue to make more pictures or write their names. The creative process being completely handed over to the students, they truly enjoyed and grew tremendously through this culminating activity.

The final panel consists of quilt and woven pieces appliqued to fabric. At the request of the school, it was to illustrate a village, as in the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” A four by six foot fabric rectangle was quilted, the woven and sewn shapes appliqued creating houses, windows, and doors from student created rectangle, square and triangle pieces, and student-generated people figures were applied to breathe life into the village. I am happy to have shared my love for weaving, the importance of learning the basics of sewing, manipulating cloth, and making something wonderful to be appreciated by others.