Programmers and authors know for certain that some problems that feel intractable yield readily to being described to an interested observer. When an interested observer is unavailable, they can, and do, describe the problem to an inanimate object in their vicinity – a rubber duck, a stapler, etc. This is a known phenomenon, and many people have sympathetic ducks or other (toy) creatures on their desk for exactly this reason.
I am having what I am fairly certain is a rubber duck problem – I have finished two pieces using the same palette, and the same techniques, and I think (I think) one is kind of a hot mess, and one is a really solid piece of work. OR… it could be that one is a step towards more intricate work, and the other is too simple. OR … you get the idea. They could both be doing interesting things in different ways?
The biggest issue with my rubber duck, is that she doesn’t say much.
Those are the second 100. 135 is AWOL but I am certain it is on my table, but shuffled under something. I have not yet gotten the pin backs on 171-200, when I do they will go on the next cork board.
I’m not certain I ever talked much about why I am making these, or why I am still making these. I started the project January 22, 2020. I have, in the past, made a fabric postcard every day for a year(2007)and five years after that a circle every day for a year(2012). I was trying to do something like that for 2017, but I simply couldn’t. Too many things were wrong, with my own life and life in general.
I continued to make things, of course, because that is a huge part of how I define myself. I built a boat (! that still surprises me, and I still love it) and continued to make art, but I couldn’t muster enthusiasm for anything every single day. I know from experience, and from encouraging others to take a piece of time to make something daily, that there have to be rules, and doing it in some kind of community helps. I have been a vocal cheerleader for Daily February projects in the last several years, for exactly that reason.
This year I signed up for the Creative Project’s 100 Day challenge. It started January 22, and I began with 1. Between numbers 1 and 100, COVID-19 shut down most of the world. When 100 came, on the last day of April, it seemed that if the pandemic was not over yet, I maybe shouldn’t be either. So I kept going. My stated project; “one small embroidery, finished and framed in a 1.5″ square frame” was easy enough to keep exploring, and I have more than enough materials and time to continue. So I did. The numbering, N/100, helps me remember that I can stop at any time, because I have fulfilled my original pledge. It also continues to amuse me.
Having reached 200, exactly double the number I originally set out to do, I still feel like I am documenting something, or keeping track in some fashion. Counting up, I realized we have less than 100 more days til the US election. So my plan now it to keep going til then. That will be another 86 pieces. I’m not sure what will happen after that, although some additional counting provides the answer that Inauguration Day happens 164 days from now, and only two days short of a full year.
Our friend Alice graduated from U. Mass. this May with a degree in Geology. Alas, she was not able to have a proper graduation ceremony, so her sibling, Aerin, decided to organize a small ceremony in the backyard today at 1:00 pm. The three of us Vertses grabbed various robes, ceremonial accoutrements, and masks and drove over to Northampton. Bill brought a speech he wrote before he got up this morning.
Upon arrival, Bill dressed up in full academic regalia, RJ put on high school robes, including a mortarboard trimmed with dangling wooden mammoths, and I declared that I was an Audience, so I didn’t have to get dressed up.
Someone went upstairs and woke up Alice, the star of the show. Al and Aerin put on their academic robes and shoved some robes at Alice. Al added a speaker on his chest so that he could play “Pomp and Circumstance” as he walked.
Bill, Al, RJ, Aerin, and Alice lined up and processed around the backyard, while the Audience, Jared, and Lee applauded. Bill, as the only honest-to-gosh U. Mass. faculty member around handled the graduation speech. I include the exact speech in total (Bill read the numbers, too):
1. Thank you to Irrelevant Authorities 2. Welcoming Remarks 3. Stupid Joke (wait for laughter to die down) 4. Introduction of Other Irrelevant Authorities 5. Generic Congratulatory Remarks 6. Comment About Weather 7. Reference to Special Nature of Current Class 8. Thanking of Faculty 9. Thanking of Parents 10. Personal Amusing Anecdote 11. Obligatory Reference to Antonio’s Pizza 12. Long-winded and Boring Tale of Self-Sacrifice that Nobody is Interested in. 13. Homily about Doing Well in the World 14. Welcome to Ranks of UMass Family 15. Reference to Alumni Association and Donations 16. Will Graduates Please Stand 17. Conferring of Degree
At this point the graduate’s mother, Lee, handed Alice her degree which had been mailed to Alice. We all cheered.
18. Singing of Fight Song (nobody knows words) 19. Go UMass! 20. Under Your Seats you will Find a Pin
At this point, Bill tossed the U. Mass. pin at Alice (social distancing) and she picked it up off of the ground.
21. Please Stay in your Seats while Platform Party Exits (ignored) 22. Random Milling About
We milled around. Lee asked Alice if she felt any different after our ceremony and Alice said, “Yes, the diploma feels more real.” We sat in the shade, wearing our masks, and visited. Chris showed up fashionably late, but brought Lindor Truffles, so we forgave her. A good afternoon.
The first sip of coffee. The first swig of a cold Steel Rail Pale Ale. The first dip of toes in the ocean at the beach on the first day it is not quite warm enough to get really wet (this varies wildly for the people I know). There is a sort of shock of delight at the beginnings of things. The first spring peepers. The first frost in fall. It seems to be combined pleasure and relief, that the thing you’ve been feeling wistful for lives up to the moment you remembered.
I’d like to add to those; the first cut you make with a new X-acto blade. That precision, and ease – it doesn’t happen past the third or fourth cut, and replacing blades for every single cut feels unconscionably wasteful, but that first slice? Just delightful.
I mentioned a while back I had been working on making a jointed bear. the plan was to use the laser cutter to cut parts, and then hold them together using some kind of pins or tiny nuts and bolts so the legs and head would move in realistic ways. I was inspired to do this while looking at Laura Mathews Instagram feed – she makes extraordinary articulated animals, and they look like such excellent toys, both to build and to play with.
I started the process with a drawing, and some reference photos, and worked out a first draft, but it wasn’t quite right, and I wasn’t sure why.
I am embarrassed at how long it took me to think to look at actual bear anatomy, especially bone structure and musculature.
I did not look for bear anatomy, because I thought I understood quadruped anatomy, because I have drawn horses for my entire life. Any quadruped I see, I can map it roughly onto a horse, and sketch out something that looks perfectly reasonable. But it is not, in fact, reasonable.
To be technical, a horse is an ungulate. They walk about on their tippy-toes, and hide their (vestigial) thumbs up their legs somewhere. (Alice weirded out another visitor at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology by crooning to a skeleton “ah my little ungulate, and where do you hide your thumbs…?”). Bears (and I realize this is a shock) are not ungulates. The scales have fallen from my eyes, and my bear models are hugely improved:
Also I am looking at all other mammals (squirrel, rabbit, chipmunk, cat), and also many non-mammal vertebrates (BIRDS!!! SO WEIRD!!!!), and thinking “whoa, that is not an ungulate either, I wonder what their bones look like???”
tl;dr Bears are not ungulates, and once you understand their skeleton better the models of them work SO MUCH BETTER. Also I think it hilarious that I was last month years old when I figured this out. There is always room for new knowledge. What have you learned recently?
I think this is now a blog of ways I am distracting myself – herein, more weaving.
Having done some more weaving now, I think I need to think more carefully about what to use for warping. I have used the Lion cotton yarn and it is fat, and some linen string I have lying around and that is skinny and fierce – there has to be some intermediate string that warps up nicely and can hold some tension. The franken-loom is surprisingly useful. The sett (the number of warp threads per inch) is close to 8, which means I can also warp it at twice that, 16 ends (warp threads) per inch.
I think I need to take the teeth-combs off the inside faces of the blocks they are mounted on, and mount them parallel to the strings and facing out – so that tensioning the loom pulls threads more firmly onto the teeth rather than letting strings slip or get bumped off the top.
There are all kinds of recommended choices for warp and weft and I have access to those recommendations courtesy of the Little Loom class I signed up for, but I also have a budget of basically zero and a lot of things on hand already, so found and repurposed has to be the majority of the weaving right now.
I have started a new thing, as one does, particularly in times of uncertainty. If you would like to see a small artwork, or something else small and interesting, mostly daily, sign up using the form in the link. You can always unsubscribe if I talk too much, or you don’t like the pictures, or you have too many things in your inbox already. I sympathize. Nothing personal.
The first one is written, and I’m working on the next one!
Last year I signed up for Rebecca Mezoff’s class on weaving tapestry on little looms. She is a delightful teacher, and I enjoyed the class a lot. I was working on a loom I had cut from thin plywood using the laser cutter at Smith College – the first loom I made was too flimsy, and the next several attempts were respectively not cut all the way through, excessively burnt and off center. I decided I had enough things to work on in the fall and stopped weaving for a while.
With the pandemic and resulting directions to stay home, I have revisited the idea of tapestries, particularly weaving small, four selvedge pieces. After a good deal of thrashing about in the shop yesterday, I produced a prototype small loom with adjustable tension.
The “comb” parts came from one of the heavier failed laser cut looms. The rest is scraps and a large bolt scrounged from various bins. While I am pleased with myself for accomplishing this object, it turns out to be less than completely functional. The teeth are too fat to make a selvedge (a woven edge that does not need finishing) and the not quite deep enough to hold multiple loops of string for a string supported warp. I found these things through trial and error, and a series of false starts.
On the left, from top to bottom, my first, second and third attempts at weaving, along with another picture of the loom. Not shown, the various warp experiments that failed to stay in place long enough to weave anything. On the right, my first four selvedge piece, with a penny for scale. The side selvedges are spectacularly wobbly, but the basic idea is there, and I am pleased.
And I have ordered a Mirrix Saffron loom, because while I could indeed continue to work on this one, it will be so much easier to get going on a loom that is designed to do what I want from the ground up. And having had a lot of fun weaving, and a good deal of aggravation getting set up, I’m all about decreasing aggravation, and increasing the fun quotient.
I should likely talk about the Daily 100, and the creative project next time!