Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Weaving Workshop

I'll admit, sometimes it's really hard for me to just sit down and be creative when I finally have a chunk of time. For months I'd been feeling creatively blocked, especially in my weaving. After a few months of weaving scarves, I was feeling uninspired and didn't know where to start. It had been awhile since I wove anything with no end purpose or price point in mind, and I felt like I didn't remember how to put those considerations aside and just be creative for the sake of it.

Around this time, my friend Brittany McLaughlin launched her online course, The Weaving Workshop, through her company Rose Valley Textiles. Brittany and I were both textile design students in the 90s at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University). We both had had jobs in the textile industry after college, but like many designers in the industry, those jobs mostly shipped overseas and we found ourselves switching gears.

So when she asked if I would be interested in participating in her first ever online class, Ground, Path, Fruition, I jumped at the chance!

The online course begins with putting a warp on, and experimenting with basic 4 harness structures. I can't remember the last time I'd done anything besides plain weave, it was so fun to be setting my loom up to weave a crowfoot and a twill again. In addition to playing with structure, we were also encouraged to play with a variety materials.

The second part of the course was taking images of texture that we'd compiled on a Pinterest board earlier, and using those images as a starting point to interpret them into woven cloth. I decided to use only my own images, that I'd taken during my travels. Here are some examples of my swatch side by side with the inspiration.

This photograph was from a rocky beach in Maine. 

This image was a landscape in Monument Valley from our October 2012 trip.

You can see all my samples over on Pinterest.

The final part of the class was making a book from all the materials in the class. Personally, as someone who makes books, I loved that this project connected those skills also. Also appropriate for me since the first bookbinding workshop I ever did was part of my first handweaving class in college.

It was liberating to weave, and not be thinking about price point or who would buy this. No one even had to see it except for me. This class was the perfect antidote for feeling creatively blocked and the added surprise was how it perfectly combined many different parts of my life; my love for weaving, bookbinding and traveling.

Throughout the course, Brittany didn't focus on technical details, but more on the meditative quality of weaving, which was so refreshing.

If you're a weaver looking for some creative direction, I highly recommend checking out Brittany's class. I was so inspired by it, I promptly put on a new warp, this time threaded for 8 harnesses.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Nana Sydney

The lovely ladies over at The Lady Project blog invited me to write a post about an inspiring woman in my life for Women's History Month. I wrote about my amazing Nana Sydney, who passed away in February. 

Please head over there and read the full post. 

Here were are in 2006, on our way into New York to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, something we did every December for about 15 years. It was always a highlight of the year for both of us. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Travel 2016: Prepping for Hawaii

2015 was an incredible year for travel, and I'm hoping that 2016 will be just as exciting. We're kicking off the year with a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. I first visited Hawaii in February of 2004 and loved it (obviously). The power of the volcano, the beauty of the beaches, and one of my top 3 spa treatments I've ever had.

Me on the Big Island in 2004.

This year David and I are heading there, the first time we've visited this island together. David lived there until he was around 9 years old, and it's a special island to him.

As we dive into our guide books, and booking our tours (snorkeling with manta rays!), part of my prep is to make our travel journal.

For this journal, I decided to keep it similar in feel the ones I made for our previous Hawaiian trips to Kauai, Maui and then Oahu. First I made book cloth out of cute tiki drink fabric (confession: these had once been pajama shorts, until I ripped them and couldn't wear them any more.)

Next, for the title page I kept in the spirit of the Maui and Oahu journals and cut out a map of Hawaii from a vintage atlas, and embroidered the contour of the island by hand.

This journal has a pocket in the back where I've stored envelopes that I can glue in as needed while I'm using it, if I have some ephemera I want to save. Travel tip: always have a glue stick on hand.

As I pulled out previous journals, I was flipping through them, and love how each has a list in it near the end of things I don't need to pack, or wish I had packed. Handy info for prepping for this trip. It's mostly stuff like "you don't need nice shoes" and "you don't need make up" and "you only need one sundress."

Bottom line is, bring fewer clothes so we have more room to bring home Hawaiian snacks in our suitcases.

Want to make your own book cloth, check out this tutorial I put together a few years ago.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reflecting on 2015

Recently I was using one of my favorite travel apps, TripIt, to update details for an upcoming trip, and noticed a new feature: travel stats for 2015. According to TripIt, in 2015 I traveled on 8 trips, for over 40 days, across 16,138 miles, to 14 cities, in 3 countries. So. Cool. 

It gave me pause, and made me reflect on 2015. This time last year I remember thinking, “Bring on 2015, 2014 was nothing special, one of those transition years. I want to settle in and chill for 2015.” Little did I know that nothing would settle, in fact 2014 was just the preamble. 2015 was the real transition year and would be way more stressful. Looking back, I realize that it was actually a year of incredible extremes. The highs were soaring, and the lows were exhausting. 

2015 kicked off with the worst winter of all my years in Rhode Island. Spring surprised us with having to move from a place we really loved because of an asshole landlord. Summer was spent trying to feel at home in our new place (and honestly, I’m still working on that). Fall brought the realization that all my work stress needed to end and I quit my job (a relief, but also terrifying). 

On the flip side, we kicked off 2015 by visiting Portugal and the gorgeous city of Lisbon. I took way too many photos of people’s laundry hanging out to dry, and I ate more pastries in a week than I did the entire rest of the year. 

In the middle of unpacking boxes from our move, we kept our travel plans made long before we knew we’d have to move, and went to Acadia National Park. Seeing the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain was the perfect, restorative break to bring us temporarily out of the stress and back to reality.  

In the summer, I saw U2 twice, which included making eye contact with Bono while he sang Sunday Bloody Sunday ( ! ). U2 has the most tracks on my personal soundtrack, and tours are always touchstones for me. A reminder that art heals, and each of us can make the world a better place with the tools within us. 

In August, I turned 40 in Peru and saw Machu Picchu with my own eyes. I’m still coming down from that experience and often find myself speechless as to how to even begin to explain it. 

2015 was a bit of a weird ride, and I’m happy to be ringing in 2016. Looking back I realize just how much travel means to me. Letting stressful situations take over is easy to do, and for me, traveling is what puts things back in perspective. I’m so thankful I had such a great travel year, and have such a great travel partner for the journey. 

Cheers to new adventures in 2016. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Revisiting a Travel Journal

Whenever I get back from a trip, the journal that came with me gets put snuggly on a shelf in my studio, right next to the journal I carried on the trip before. Whenever I pick it up next, I am drawn to a lot of the visuals, even though I am the first to say I'm not "good at drawing." It doesn't matter whether I am or not, the quick sketches still bring me back to those places in a way that nothing else does.

Flipping through, I also notice that as the trip goes along, my writing becomes more relaxed, and sketches become more free. The voice in my head that's judging what I'm doing relaxes and shuts up. Also, I get used to my tools again, and into a different frame of mind, which takes some time. When traveling, I unplug as much as possible and don't check my phone in a spare moment I have, I open up my journal and jot something down. It takes a few days to mentally make that transition.

With that in mind, our winter trip is coming up in early 2016 and I want to give my brain a bit of a jump start. Between now and then, I'm going to carry a slim journal with me and try to do some of my journal keeping exercises daily to get the creative juices flowing. The goal is to get used to my tools again, and get that part of my brain in shape. Kind of like how I'm going to the gym so I'm ready to wear a bathing suit.

I kicked things off today by looking at some of the sketches I'd done in Peru, mostly small ones done in museums. I then reworked some of them using my pen with water soluble ink, and my water pen. I love this water pen, and for some reason I didn't use it at all in Peru, even though it's a great way to add simple shadows to a quick sketch.

Added bonus, great excuse to organize and assess my travel kit and clean things up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Experiences over things

Today on the Lady Project blog, my post with an alternative gift guide. Instead of giving stuff this year, give something more valuable: your time.

Head over and read the full piece, with ideas on what types of experiences make a great gift for someone you love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Introducing the Alden Park Collection

This week I am excited to announce a special project that I've been working on, the Alden Park Collection. A special collaboration with my dear friend, Maria Fabrizi, this is a collection of handmade textiles, inspired by our textile design roots.  

Photo by David Hansen

Maria and I met in college, where we were both studying textile design. After graduation, we both went on to work in the textile industry, designing home furnishing fabrics for American mills. When the industry fell and most American mills moved to Asia, we both changed career paths, but have always loved textiles. This year we designed and created a small collection of handmade scarves, available for purchase at Craftland.

Photo by Jonathan Crane

Each piece is made entirely by hand, either knit or woven and make great gifts for the holidays. Maria knits from her home near Binghamton, New York and I knit and weave from my studio in Providence. Despite being 5 hours apart, we share inspiration and ideas constantly and make everything ourselves. 

Check out photos of the items we've made here, or if you're local you can head to Craftland to see them in person.     

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Blog Redesign

Off of my high of being in Peru, I have been spending time on some projects at home. I finally started to update the look of my blog. It's long overdue, and will make it easier to navigate between stories and help you find stories within a certain topic, like traveling or making or living.

I've switched over the look, but haven't finished all the nitty gritty details, like connecting all the links. Thanks for your patience as I work to make this nicer to read and use.