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SAORI weaving

I had a perfectly delightful time last weekend weaving on a SAORI loom. This is a Japanese loom and style of weaving, designed about 50 years ago by Misao Jo. From the handout that was placed on each loom, “‘SA’ of SAORI has the same meaning as the first syllable of the word ‘SAI’ which is found in Zen vocabulary. It means everything has its own individual dignity. And the ‘ORI’ means weaving. All flowers are beautiful, even though each individual flower is different in form and color. Because of this difference, “all are good.” Because everything has the same life, life cannot be measured by a yardstick. It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful and the uniqueness of each thread that creates the tapestry of life.”

Taught by Chiaki O’Brien, hosted at a local public library, and funded by by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, this was a wonderful experience. Chiaki came with all these warped looms (those of you have warped a loom know this is significant; she told us it takes her about two hours to warp each loom). The loom at right front was brand new and came warped with black, otherwise, all the looms had multiple colors of warp thread.

These are simple, elegant looms. There are two harnesses – these are not looms designed to weave patterns, but to become immersed in the flow of weaving and work intuitively. In reading further, I believe there are two sizes of SAORI looms. This is the larger, which comes in this wood frame with folding metal legs or folding wood legs, and a non-folding version.

Chiaki was artist-in-residence at a local school recently, and teaches children frequently (She told us to pretend we were five years old when we started – so I started with yarn with sparkles in it.). She also teaches disabled adults. There is a wheelchair modification possible for these looms.

There was an English side and a Japanese side of the informational sheet about SAORI weaving.

My first yarn was a brown and “sparkle” ply. You see the boat shuttle that we used, and the plastic straw bobbin that we filled. I filled bobbins with colors that appealed to me, without much thought of cohesive design. I used colors that I liked with this happy, bright warp. There are three colors and two different weights of warp threads, and Chiaki sometimes put multiple warp threads in the same path, and occasionally skipped a warp, which you can see below.

More colors, wound on the bobbin as needed.

On the top of the loom is a wheel and mount for the bobbin for winding.

You can wind two colors together and treat them as one when weaving.

You can weave with two colors as I did below.

I was going with the flow – no straight lines.

A closeup that shows the extra warps. You can make a tighter weave, but I like this more open look.

In less than three hours, this is what I made!

Look how compact these looms fold!

I highly recommend SAORI weaving. I love the “beauty with lack of intention” that is encouraged. I hope to do it again sometime, and would dearly love to own one of these looms.

Strung Together at the University of Oregon

Strung Together: Beads, People, and History” is open now at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene, Oregon. It encompasses thousands of years and six continents of beads, including 50 items from the museum’s permanent collection, alongside the work of contemporary bead artists including Suzanne Golden. There are also interactive activities. The exhibit is open at until February 5, 2017.

State of the Art: Discovering America Now

I spent a quiet hour wandering “State of the Art” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art recently.

From the website, “Featuring a diverse range of working artists from across America, “State of the Art” offers a snapshot of contemporary art that examines the ways in which people innovate with materials old and new to engage deeply with issues relevant to our times. Drawing from every region of the United States, this one-of-a-kind exhibition brings together more than 130 artworks ranging from works on canvas and paper, to photography and video, to installation art, and more.”

Following are a few of the works that particularly caught my eye. (Click on the smaller photos to see at full size.)

Joel S. Allen, Hooked on Svelte, was in the first room.

Joel S. Allen, Hooked on Svelte
Joel S. Allen, Hooked on Svelte

Laurel Roth Hope, Biodiversity Suits for Urban Pigeons. I like the description on the accompanying didactic text, that Hope considers herself “an artist who wishes she was a scientist,” and that her work bridges these two things.

Nathalie Miebach’s work is fascinating – each of these is derived from technical data collected during a specific weather event or period of time. Different types and colors of reeds represent different data: wind speed, temperature, tide level, etc. Read more about her work in American Craft.

Gina Phillips starts these works with a painting, and adds fabric and textiles in layers.

Pam Longobardi sources some of her materials from the plastic garbage patches in our ocean, prompting awareness of the destructive environmental effects of mass consumption.

Pam Longobardi, Ghosts of Consumption (for Piet M.)
Pam Longobardi, Ghosts of Consumption (for Piet M.)

Watie White uses traditional printmaking to create urban landscapes.

I have enjoyed Sonya Clark’s work for years, most recently at an exhibition at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and a lecture at Mia. This piece is Albers Interaction, referring to Josef Albers and his Homage to the Square series, with materials that reference black hair. Composed of thread-wrapped combs.

Elizabeth Alexander makes these of hand-cut bone china.

This is cut paper by David Adey, made from a three-dimensional scan of his body.

A lovely visit to a lovely museum.

French pumpkin herringbone trio

French-pumpkin-trio-sample

This is the trio of ropes I’m working on to highlight this pumpkin bead color dear to my heart. I had originally thought I would have more 4-around solid color non-pumpkin ropes to intersperse, but I like these three together. I will likely string the ropes on a stringing medium to get the arch of each closer to the same, since the different diameters have different flexibility. I still don’t know how I want to do the clasp, or how long I want the finished necklace.

This is a good traveling project for me – and I’m mostly beading at home lately – so this is going very slowly. I’m trying to plan a little time here and there to work on this. Maybe by the end of the summer?

Bead shopping at the thrift store

plastic-blue-green-bracelet

This was strung on elastic, these wonderful blue and green beads. I had a clasp from a bracelet I took apart (I don’t trust elastic), and now I have this understatement of a bracelet.

Material Mythologies at the Minnesota Museum of American Art

Recently closed in the Minnesota Museum of American Art’s Project Space is “Material Mythologies.” From the Museum’s description: “Material Mythologies brings together textiles, beading, metal, ceramic, and glass by five artists from around the country, all of whom are working at the edge of contemporary craft and sculpture…With their innovative use of functional and non-functional forms, some of which include thousands and thousands of intricately assembled pieces, these artists and their works decode some of the entrenched assumptions about craft as they relate to gender, labor, history, and what is considered fine art.”

Following are galleries of the artists included. First, Teri Greeves:

Next, Sonya Clark, who also recently gave a talk at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Mary Giles, whose work I’ve written about before, and who recently gave a talk to fellow American Craft Council staffers and volunteers:

Helen Lee:

Jae Won Lee:

A wonderful exhibit. I can’t wait until the MMAA is fully open!

Made of Thunder, Made of Glass II: Continuing Traditions in Northeastern Indian Beadwork

The Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University recently opened “Made of Thunder, Made of Glass II” on its campus north of Niagara Falls, New York. The exhibit “explores the intricate details and intimate meanings of Haudenosaunee, Wabanaki, and Chippewa beadwork through exquisite historic works and elaborate contemporary creations.”

There are more than 200 historic pieces, as well as beaded portraiture by contemporary artist Gerry Biron, and other contemporary artists. To see more of the work, there is an active Facebook page for the exhibition. I was in the area last summer. Shoot!