Thursday, July 12, 2007

DTW Newsletter, July 2007: Who we are & how we define "desert"

For this very first DTW newsletter, we called on members to submit brief articles about themselves, their tapestries, their weaving lives, and how the desert influences all of the above so we could “meet” each other. Many members also sent images of their work. Thank you to everyone who took time away from the loom to contribute. If you are among those who weren’t able to chip in for this edition to introduce yourselves or write an article, keep in mind that you may always do so in a future newsletter!

Please remember this is an interactive newsletter… you may leave comments in regards to anything you read in this edition by clicking on the “comment” link at the bottom of this post. If you are unsure of how to do this, please visit this previous post which gives instructions.

We hope everyone enjoys this marvelous first issue!

Lyn Hart & Kathy Perkins

The Desert as Muse by Katherine Perkins
The word desert elicits a visceral response in most people. For some it is the epitome of negative: hot (or cold), arid, barren. Since one of the definitions of desert is “a desolate or forbidding area” it is natural some would view desert negatively. However, for others of us the vastness, ruggedness, stark beauty, solitude, and silence that make it forbidding for some are viewed by us as positives. We find the words “desolate and forbidding” mysterious, inviting, and surreal.

Although the desert was the birthplace of major world religions, site of numerous exploratory expeditions and subject for historians and novelists, many are still repelled by the awesomeness of desert. Brought up on a curriculum based on European history, literature, ethics, and art, most modern sojourners have little knowledge of desert. Verdure became the archetype of proper art, romance writers chose Paris or Rome as the center of their writings, the nations of Europe became the historical emphasis.

So, to be a desert rat, a lover of barren tracks of land, an artist who celebrates desert, you will have found your own sources of inspiration. Perhaps it is your years of living in the desert, or the search for books and movies that inspired desert travel.

But, the question remains, what is it about desert that nourishes the soul and acts as muse to the artist in us? The light, the color, the air, the aridity, the vastness and the barrenness, the wind, the silence and the sounds, the horizon, the shapes, the smell, the geology.

Upon arriving in the desert we are instantly aware of the air. It touches our body and our mind. Our skin feels the essence of sun, shade, aridity, wind. Everything is in sharp relief and the colors are enhanced by the lack of humidity. We want, somehow, to share this feeling in our art. We try to get the feeling of the light, the colors, the space we are in. Georgia O’Keeffe comes to mind as an artist who captured the colors and light of high desert country in her paintings of the area around Abiquiu.

Because the air is dry, the land is barren and little populated, much of the desert has a vastness that can chill the soul. Paul Bowles, in his book “The Sheltering Sky,” uses his two protagonists to illustrate this power of desert. The desert vastness and its far reaching horizons serve as an inspiration and all powerful force for one character, and as a source of terror and suppression of soul for the other. Bowles shows how the endless expanse of desert can manifest itself upon the human psyche.

Sand/Stone Motif
19" x 29"
Mary Cost
Santa Fe, New Mexico

The movies “Lawrence of Arabia” (from the writings by T.E. Lawrence), and to a lesser extent “The English Patient” (from the novel by Michael Ondaatje) are masterpieces of desert photography. If you are exhilarated by wide open, arid, “lifeless” land, the incredible scenes of the vast North African deserts and the sense of man’s insignificant place among the towering sand mountains will mesmerize you. It is also clear in both movies how the desert played on the psyche of the characters. The English patient revels in the awesomeness of desert, having his favorite quotes from Herodotus read to him over and over until the day he dies. T.E. Lawrence, on the other hand, is driven mad by his years in the desert. But, there is no escaping in either movie how intense the landscape is, and how it plays on a person’s inner soul--and how much the artist in us wants to depict that which touches our senses.

The sound of desert stirs us to try to convey something far more difficult--the sound of wind, sand storm, rain, thunder, flash flood, wind moving through flapping raven wings, and myriad other minute noises that will stay with us long after our desert days have passed. If one has been in a sand storm and then sees an image of a storm can one hear the sounds? Can a viewer of a tapestry of a flying raven hear in his/her mind the sound of wings upon the wind? Can images depicting wind actually awaken that sound in the mind?

Windy Ridge
c 2006, 28" x 36"
Katherine Perkins
Santa Fe, NM

The smell of desert is even more difficult to convey, but it, nonetheless, acts as muse in subtle ways. To this day, for me the smell of sage is associated with my childhood summer vacations in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. It reminds me of traveling up Hwy. 395, but does an image of sage act in the same way? I contend that some things cannot be conveyed through art. I do not smell sage in my mind when I see an image of sage. But if I actually smell it, then I do experience an internal image of the Eastern Sierras.
I suggest that some things of desert that we hold dear cannot really be considered as muse. Some things can be depicted successfully--shapes, horizon, color, land--and can be shared, even in dramatic and soulful ways. Things you hear and smell are much more difficult to convey. The more subtle muses serve us in far more intangible ways. They help us center on place, give the feel of the surroundings, maybe even serve us in selection of subject, color, mood.

However, those very things of desert that do serve as muse are so incredibly powerful that they move us to create. Sometimes we might wish to create a tapestry of a brilliant sunset. Other times it might be the subtleness of a mariposa lily among the sand dunes, or the soft colors of a rock formation. Our deserts are so unique and picturesque that we want to invoke the very essence of the land in our tapestries.

A Desert Primer by Lyn Hart
1. dry area: an area of land, usually in very hot climates, that consists only of sand, gravel, or rock with little or no vegetation, no permanent bodies of water, and erratic rainfall

2. deprived place: a place or situation that is devoid of some desirable thing or overwhelmed by an undesirable thing

3. lifeless place: a place devoid of life

Three concepts to consider, assess, and transform.

Kathy Perkins and I first met at the recent American Tapestry Alliance’s Silver Anniversary Celebration held in April. At the beginning of the day, there was a break for a “networking session” in which regional groups were given time to meet. Someone looked at my name tag that identified me as being from Tucson, Arizona and said, “Oh, the southwest doesn’t have a group, but there’s some weavers from New Mexico over there.” Certainly feeling like definition #2, I went over and introduced myself to Kathy and Elizabeth Buckley. As we talked, we quickly realized a shared aesthetic and passion for our respective deserts and their influence to be found in our tapestry designs. Kathy and I made plans to contact each other after we returned home to pursue the idea of creating a regional group for tapestry weavers who felt as we did about the desert.

Kathy and I began communicating by email and began tossing ideas around for the group’s formation. We immediately realized we would have to declare the boundaries of our region, and just as quickly decided we didn’t want to do that. Deserts didn’t recognize city, state, territory, or country boundaries so why should we? Inspired by the visionary goal to some day “go global” announced at the ATA celebration, we decided to include weavers from desert areas worldwide. As word about Desert Tapestry Weavers spread, our membership quickly sprouted like plants after the monsoons. We found ourselves reveling in the fait accompli, and I began to wonder just how many deserts are there in the world?!?

I must admit that I “skipped” taking geography in school, so I had to do a little research to answer my question. I was amazed and intrigued to learn that there are deserts on every continent on Earth! The incredible list of deserts includes the well known and not so well known, some in unbelievable locations… the largest (Antarctica’s interior), largest dry desert (Sahara, Africa), one of the most isolated (Tanami, northern Australia), largest in the Americas (Patagonian, Argentina), largest sandy desert (Taklamaken, Central Asia), greatest biological diversities (Mojave, U.S. - 1750 to 2000 plant species; Sonoran, U.S./Mexico - 60 mammal species, 350 bird species, 20 amphibian species, 100+ reptile species, 30 native fish species, and more than 2000 native plant species-- so much for definition #1!), driest place on Earth (Atacama, Chile—100 times drier than Death Valley), as well as Europe’s largest (Hálendi, Iceland). Visit the Wikipedia web page where I gathered this info to read about all 36 deserts and to view some gorgeous photos.

It is also important to note that within these arid regions Desert Tapestry Weavers has chosen to embrace exist areas known as “sky islands”, isolated mountain ranges encrusted like jewels within desert systems. Because sky islands have existed and evolved segregated from nearby mountain environments by the surrounding deserts, their ecosystems develop unique flora and fauna, similar to, but distinctly different from other mountainous regions’ ecology. Sky islands exist in North America, South America, Africa, and Asia (Wikipedia). Although many sky islands are considered alpine environments they are situated in desert geographical regions and often share ecological relationships with their surrounding deserts; Desert Tapestry Weavers embraces the inclusion of tapestry weavers living in sky island areas.

Seems it is safe to say that definition #3, along with definitions #1 and #2, have been definitely refuted. Perhaps msn’s encarta needs to come up with a new description. The quick enthusiasm demonstrated by all of you who have joined Desert Tapestry Weavers in the short time since it became a tangible entity is proof enough that deserts are places of diversity, inspiration, and life, where creative passion flows as a constant, thirst quenching river.

American Tapestry Alliance’s next edition of Tapestry Topics will include articles about regional tapestry groups; Desert Tapestry Weavers will be included!

Online exhibition for Desert Tapestry Weavers members! We would like to start making plans for the exhibition to take place next year, the exact date to be announced in the next newsletter. We will host the exhibition here on our website and it will be open (non-juried) for all members to participate in. The theme for the exhibition is Desert Meditations, and will be open to your own personal interpretations.

Did you know?...
Since becoming an "entity" as of May 22, 2007, Desert Tapestry Weavers has:
27 members
31 subscribers
been visited a total of 359 times
visits from 10 countries-- Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States

Weavings & Wanderings

Christopher Allworth, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Working in a theological school these last twenty years alerts one to life questions and raises many fascinating subjects. I have been attracted to metaphor as a means of expression. “Desert” has been viewed as a place destitute of life. After visiting both Arizona and New Mexico, I found that this popular view was no longer tenable for me; that the desert is indeed life giving or, perhaps one might say, soul giving.

An earlier exploration of the realities of metaphor was that of weave, ‘the warp (woof) and weft of life’. I decided to take on this metaphor and sought out weaving lessons. That was six years go and I have not stopped! Tapestry or picture soon became a sub-theme as I abstracted ideas in my rug making.

Soon, however, I talked turkey about tapestry and spent a week with Irish weavers in Co. Donegal where Blackface sheep far outnumbered the villagers of Malin Beg. Since then I Have learned from Anke Fox, Archie Brennan and Susan Martin-Maffei and, currently, from Thoma Ewen of Moon Rain in the Quebec Gatineau Hills.

Desert and tapestry have thus come together to find expression in the tapestries I make. Despite being a professional church musician, I seldom listen to recorded music; rather, I listen to the ambience of the loom and the world around me. I am perhaps still in the desert listening to it.

Bonnie Best, Arizona
I started weaving in 1996 when I took a fibers class at the University of Arizona taught by Ann Keuper. I have woven on free standing frame looms, floor looms, a table loom, vertical tapestry looms that have harnesses controlled by foot treadles, as well as tension adjustment systems, all while a student at the university where I ended up taking 8 semesters of fiber classes.

AZ Sunset

This is a picture of the tapestry that I wove last summer - it is 3ft by 4ft. I bought some pine lumber for the frame loom that is 4 ft by 5 1/2 ft. I have some smaller frame looms, but I wanted to weave something a little larger and I enjoyed weaving what I call the “AZ Sunset” stripes tapestry. The warp is linen and the weft is mostly wool yarn, but I did incorporate some synthetic yarn in some areas. I have this on the wall above my computer desk and I enjoy seeing the various colors everyday. I have several of my tapestries on the walls of my house.

After I make a Navajo style loom and learn how to string the warp, my next weaving project will be weaving an Indian style tapestry. I found instructions on-line on how to make a Navajo Loom and I just need to get over to Home Depot to buy the lumber/brackets/dowels/screws/etc, and put it together. I will probably wait until fall to get this started when it's a little cooler outside where I will cut the wood and assemble the loom.

I had a knee injury and knee surgery in January and I've been recovering from that. I'm doing OK now and I hope to get back to weaving on one of my frame looms soon. I have something in mind so will have to decide the size, colors, etc.

Do hope everyone has a wonderful summer.

Elizabeth J. Buckley, New Mexico
I have been weaving for nearly 40 years now. I first learned when I was 10 years old, on a small frame loom made of wooden stretchers that my mother warped up for me one summer. This was during the 7 years when she went away during the summer to work on her master’s degree in art education at the University of Colorado. I spent those hot, humid Kansas summers pretty much like any kid trying to find ways to stay cool, especially since my house had no air conditioning. I remember my mother showing me the basics of over and under, and giving me a pile of assorted yarns to play with. Over the weeks that she was away, I figured out how to make angles, hills, insert flat, dried seed pods, and anything else that occurred to me to try. I have been weaving ever since then.

Now, I have projects going on three different looms, plus ideas I am trying to get onto paper via watercolors and drawings. On my 60 inch Aubusson loom, I have a 4 x 5 foot tapestry started, exploring the idea of transparency, earth and shell shapes emerging from ocean waves, and the veil between this earthbound world and the beyond. On the Larochette sample loom, I am working on a small study for the piece for the Aubusson loom. On the 60 inch Cranbrook, I am in the process of launching a commission for a private collector who wants a tapestry of the Sandia Mountain, which borders the east edge of Albuquerque. She spent this past winter walking its foothills with her daughter, and observed the amazing light and colors cast on the mountain in snow at sunset, and wanted a tapestry of this mood.

I love the many moods of the desert, and the incredible clarity of light here. I never grow tired of the rugged terrain or the texture of the grasses, nor the colors of the sky at sunrise or sunset. There is so much sky, so much space, so much horizon.

I live in the South Valley of Albuquerque, a few miles west of the Rio Grande River. Cottonwood trees border the small irrigation ditch that runs along the east side of the acre I live on, and my studio is near these trees where a Cooper's hawk family built a nest last year. My studio is a converted 3-car garage, located maybe 50 yards from my back door. My studio is my haven, my place of contemplation and meditation, as well as a place where students come periodically. Often when I work, I listen to acoustic guitar, jazz, Andean flutes, African rhythms. Sometimes, I work in silence, so I can hear the wind rustle the cottonwood leaves, the chatter of birds, the quiet stillness that can occasionally happen in the middle of this urban environment. The writers I am reading right now, include: Pema Chödrön, Mary Oliver, books on medieval life and women troubadours.

I will have work in an upcoming group show this October, along with other tapestry weavers of the Las Arañas Spinning and Weaving Guild. It is called, "Doors, Gates, and Windows", and included in it will be a display of the small format group challenge and exchange we are doing with Canadian tapestry weavers. Those of us here in New Mexico are weaving New Mexico doors, gates and windows; while the Canadians are weaving ones of their area. We will then exchange tapestry images, and weave responses to each other's tapestries. By October, the New Mexico and Canadian "Doors, Gates and Windows" tapestries will be ready (approximately 24 pieces) and maybe some of the response tapestries in addition. By March of 2008, we anticipate having all 48 or so tapestries completed, to be displayed in the ATA Small Format Tapestry Exhibit: "Woven Gems" at Convergence 2008.
ATA artist page

Karen Crislip, Colorado & New Mexico
Hello Desert Tapestry Weavers!

My name is Karen Page Crislip ( I've been weaving tapestry for a quarter of my life although I've been creating art, working with fiber and teaching all my life (which is getting close to 60 years). I majored in art, design and education--twice!
Yellowstone Canyon

I'm been told that I'm very prolific in my production of tapestry and that my design strength lies in color. The "prolific" may be a result of trying to weave on a poorly made loom for the first 4 years, getting nowhere and then trying to catch up; and the "color" may be a result of moving to tapestry from black and white lithography.

During my 14 years of tapestry weaving I've taught, exhibited and sold internationally. I've actually met all of my original goals and now spend most of my time just weaving. I limit my teaching to two workshops per year although I continue my work with an apprentice(s). I write an occasional article and review new tapestry books for Interweave Press, and I have contributed to Tapestry Topics (ATA) over the years. My next big exhibit will be the month of September in Estes Park, Colorado, where I will show my "Antiques as Inspiration" series along with a dozen or so miniatures. This year I taught a "Beyond the Basics" class at the Estes Park Wool Market, and I will teach a beginning workshop at IWC in July (full circle for me as that is where I took my first class--from John Pierre and Yael). My latest book reviews will be in the fall issue of Handwoven.

Sweet Light Beyond

Last fall I was "Artist in Residence" at a national historic site in Iowa (where I grew up), and I am currently finishing the top hem on the 5th tapestry in my "Early Iowa Autumn" series. I have "Canyon Color" on my large (8' x 8') tapestry loom--my very colorful rendition of one of my desert lithographs, which I enlarged and am using as a cartoon. This will be another in my favorite "Rock Striation" series based on light and rocks that I find mostly in desert areas. These are images of two tapestries from this series.

That's me--a little bit of this and some of that, along with a lot of tapestry weaving! It will be a pleasure to meet all of you!

Su Egen, Arizona
I began to weave in 1971, 36 years ago. Prior to that I was a painter. I began with tapestry and continued with it throughout through the present.

Works on display during a Tohono Chul exhibit

In 1972 I studied what we called then, “Scandinavian Art Weaving”, which included some thirty plus techniques, some quite old and rarely woven any longer. I taught weaving in my own studio for over twenty years, until women went back to work as a single income would no longer suffice. Students became irregular, and weaving began to fall out of favor, so I closed my shop, sold the student looms and worked full time in my studio ever since, sharing the studio with damask drawloom weaving and tapestry. I am currently working on studies in optical illusion, and have been so for over ten years, resulting in numerous tapestries.

One of my former students designed and built the gallery and re-designed the workshop. Outside the look is Spanish and inside, Scandinavian, a wonderful contrast. The studio is composed of four rooms; one for embroidery, drawing and design, one for office and yarn storage, one weaving workshop and a gallery, designed and built by one of my former students. Housed in the workshop are three countermarch looms, one tapestry loom, and one 55 shaft damask draw loom. Presently three looms are on the floor and two are stored on the beams in the workshop, but within reach.

Currently I am designing a complex piece for embroidery, which will involve much digitizing and computer work for the design. Should this go well, I will design a piece for the damask loom of the same theme, El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) for possible inclusion in a show this fall in Tucson. Also in the works are two tapestries, both optical in nature, from the optical series. Both are being woven on Glimåkra countermarch looms. Last week, two pieces were cut off the damask drawloom, both experimental optical damask woven hangings.

Simply said, my inspiration is the light and the openness of the land, when it hasn't been destroyed by development. When I came to Tucson in 1970 desert surrounded town. Now that very desert has the unthinkable - homes, massive and cookie cutter, perched on top of destroyed desert, on hills and climbing up our once pristine mountains, driving wildlife and nature ever further back to ultimate destruction. Nevertheless, they have not yet managed to massacre the light, though the night stars are all but obliterated by the growth, lights and subsequent pollution. On native land, one can still remember what it was that was inspirational about the desert. The other inspiration is color, the glorious colors that hail from the indigenous people of Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Arizona. It is their culture that has been most inspirational as well as the way they appreciate and protect the natural world.
Tree 1

Tree 2

One could say that all of my work has been inspired by the light and color of the Southwest. What comes to mind are two tapestries I completed and sold years ago, three sunset scenes, two imaginary and one of a pier in Mystic CT. Not a new theme, and not terribly sophisticated, but special in its own way. The first Tree tapestry was taken to a quilt show in NJ and sold immediately. The second was a commission for a similar piece with different dimensions. I am including a photo of each. The Mystic Pier (2) tapestry, is one of a series of three, taken while teaching a workshop in Mystic, CT on Finnish double weave pick up, with a small part of the workshop lecturing on figurative triple pick up.

Mystic Pier (2)

Presently I have three damask hangings at the Tucson Museum of Art, in the Arizona Biennial '07, chosen from over 2000 submissions. There are, I believe just over seventy pieces in the show from 53 of 700 applicants. I am pleased to be among 53 artists chosen and to be able to represent weaving as well as "craft", in a show, that might be said to be heavily leaning toward "art". I think of myself as artist, craftsman or artisan...all. My work can be seen at Solar Culture, Tucson AZ (two damask hangings), Tucson Museum of art Craft Gallery (three framed optical embroideries and in the Arizona Biennial ’07 (three woven damask hangings).

In the studio I presently am listening to the music of Ernest Stoneman (1928 Edison recordings), and the work of the Carter Family from 1927-1941. I am a traditional "folkie", and am currently practicing banjo, guitar and autoharp, time permitting.

I have thought about putting up a web site, as I design websites for others, mostly non profits and performing groups, but have not made it a priority.

As you can gather, I am short of one thing...time.

Lyn Hart, Arizona
I was first introduced to weaving in the form of reed basketry while living in northwest Florida, during a break from nursing school. Upon graduation and entering the workforce, however, I was too busy honing my nursing skills, not to mention recovering from long shifts, to have much time for creative endeavors. All of my artistic pursuits— basketry, drawing, painting, quilting, were put on a very distant back burner.

desert birds postcard series: verdin

My husband, Dennis, and I relocated to Arizona 10 years ago and completely fell in love with the desert. Whenever we had time off from work, we planned backpacking and travel trips to see as much of the west as we could (we’re still not done!). A few years ago, I took some courses at the University of Arizona, one of which was Southwest Lands & Society which examined the origins of man in the southwest. During the class, I was exposed to Navajo weaving for the first time and was immediately captivated. I thought I would write the required abstract on that subject, but little did I know how much information would confront me when I went to the library to research it! So I chose another topic to write on, but came home with a book containing plans for building a Navajo style loom. We built a very large one, and it took me 3 years to weave my first piece. I discovered I like weaving, but was frustrated by the Navajo technique and did not want to emulate another culture’s art form.

A couple years ago, I made the decision to leave my nursing career to pursue my art full time… I knew I wanted to weave and work with fiber, but wasn’t sure in what capacity. I started out by taking workshops to “sample” techniques so I could figure out what resonated with me. My epiphany came when I took a natural dye workshop during Intermountain Weavers Conference in ’05 taught by Jane Hoffman. Not only did I discover I loved natural dyeing, but when I visited Janie’s artist website and saw her tapestries depicting the environment surrounding her home on the Blue River, I was totally captivated and knew I had to learn to weave tapestries of the things I love here in the Sonoran desert. I initially studied with Ann Keuper at Desert Weaving Workshop here in Tucson and later with Jane on the Blue River.

My tapestry designs are largely inspired by the flora and fauna here on the 5 acre patch of desert where we live, but I am also very enamored with and want to weave tapestries based on the larger Arizona landscapes I have seen on some of our travels… the Painted Desert, the Echo & Vermillion Cliffs on the Navajo reservation, the Grand Canyon, the many mesas, basins, and mountain ranges. For me, tapestry weaving embodies every aspect of art I’ve ever pursued and I am completely absorbed by it.

desertsong studio

I just finished a Georgia O’Keeffe biography by Roxana Robinson, supposedly the only author that the O’Keeffe family has ever cooperated with—it was very good. I don’t read much fiction; usually it is anything I can find about the desert or southwest… I’ve listed some favorites in the Media section of the newsletter. When I weave, I usually listen to instrumental world, electronic, jazz, or new age music. Favorites right now are Lanterna- Desert Ocean; Dean Evenson- Peaceful Pond & Eagle River; amethystium- emblem. If I am doing something more active, like designing or warping, I will listen to world, Latin, or pop… some of my faves are-- Charanga Cakewalk- Lotería de la Cumbia Lounge; Putumayo compilations; Annie Lennox- Bare. If I just can’t settle down to concentrate, I always reach for Steven Halpern- Perfect Alignment.

recuerdos de georgia

Last year, I set a goal for myself to “get serious” and weave works that I could submit for exhibition. I was very fortunate and thrilled to be accepted into both national and local exhibits. I experienced my first tapestry sale at one of the local exhibits, during the artist’s reception— if I wasn’t already bitten with fiber fever, the adrenalin rush from that moment would have cinched it! Fresh off my small loom is a mixed fiber piece with a tapestry as the base, recuerdos de georgia, a work I have submitted for Tohono Chul's Día de los Muertos: The Gift of Remembrance exhibit that celebrates the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead.

Jane Hoffman, Arizona
Dear Desert Tapestry Weavers,

I am so happy to be connected to other tapestry weavers in the Southwest. I look forward to meeting other members in the future.

For the past thirty years my work has represented the beautiful area where I live on the Arizona/New Mexico border next to the Blue Range Wilderness Area. My home and studio are situated in a lush riparian area along the Blue River at 6,400 feet. Recently I have had a desire to make a stronger statement about conservation and protection of our environment here in the Southwest.

maquette for the 12 tapestries

The tapestry I am currently weaving represents the importance of protecting the Sky Islands of the Southwest. You may have not heard of Sky Islands, but if you live here or have visited the Southwest you are bound to have noticed them. The numerous mountain ranges that rise from the desert floor are called Sky Islands because the mountains, like islands in the ocean, have their own unique environment which is surrounded by the vast desert that stretches between each separate range.

Many species depend on the habitat provided by the Sky Islands. In fact larger mammals and raptors must be able to travel to and from the Sky Islands in order to sustain themselves. Unfortunately, due to a growing human population, development of the desert and other incompatible uses of the land, species are getting cut off from their habitat. Individuals and environmental groups are educating the public of the importance of these wild areas and their connecting corridors. For more information about the ecological significance of the Sky Island Region go to: and

cougar track on loom & detail

wolf track on loom

My tapestry represents the idea of reconnecting “the pieces of the puzzle” in the fractured landscape. The work actually consists of twelve 8 inch x 8 inch tapestries that depict a vista from the top of one Sky Island across the desert floor to another neighboring Sky Island. Each of the twelve tapestries are like pieces of a puzzle that when hung together will form the landscape. Superimposed over each 8 inch x 8 inch segment of the landscape is an animal track. Each track represents an animal whose very existence is threatened by developing encroachment that blocks their access to their habitat.

In a future article, I will talk about my progress on this piece and some of the technical aspects of its development. I will also talk about the variety of fibers and textures that I use.

I would love to hear from you!
My websites: and
My email:

Pam Hutley, Australia
While now living in a more 'civilized' area of Queensland, Australia, I lived the first 40+ years of my life on a cattle station battling droughts that made it feel like the desert it never was. I have the bush in my blood and it has influenced nearly all my work, even without it showing in every tapestry.

80cm high x 58cm

Nancy Jackson, California
My name is Nancy Jackson and I have worked under the name Timshel Studio for over 25 years. I live and work in Vallejo, CA, at the northeast tip of San Francisco Bay, where I also teach regularly. Most students fly or drive from far places and stay at the homes of two of my friends at about half the cost of local motels. Some have come from outside the US from as far as Panama and northeastern Canada.

I teach a full curriculum of Aubusson & Gobelin tapestry methods to students at all levels. I enjoy providing a strong foundation for beginners and a challenging opportunity for more advanced students. Some people come to study to master weaver level and hope to exhibit and take commissions, but most people want to acquire excellent skills for their personal expression. I prefer to teach no more than three or four people at a time so I can offer custom-tailored instruction for each person.

I weave tapestry commissions, speculative tapestries and sometimes contract with other tapestry artists to weave my cartoons. In more recent years, I have collaborated with students on tapestries also. Aubusson & Gobelin tapestry is my main expressive medium, but I also teach egg tempera and gilding methods and do commissions in these media also.

My valuable education came in the 1980’s where for three years I was the sole apprentice to Jean-Pierre & Yael Lurie Larochette. I thank them always for their kindness and generosity in educating me in this fascinating medium.

I am most interested in how human beings alter the desert and then how that alteration sometimes creates beauty. I am also interested in how the desert, how Earth in general, rejuvenates itself after human beings have altered its native shape. In “City/Country II,” 1996, I have enjoyed the human structuring for food production (wheat farming) of the high desert prairie of Montana where I lived in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. I noticed how quickly the land recovered from this human invasion and was relieved to see that healing occurred so quickly.

City/Country II

Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, IA, will show “Saint Olav King of Norway,” in the National Exhibition of Folk-Art in the Norwegian Tradition July. See , for details.

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is exhibiting “Consanguine” and “Incarnation,” the two side panels from the “Incarnation Triptych” through July 7, 2007, as part of American Tapestry Biennial 6. See

Music: Ali Farke Toure, an African blues guitarist
Zap Mama, an African women’s vocal group
Native American music (not synthesized)
10th-14th century European music (Medieval)
Fairuz, female Lebanese vocalist

Audio Lectures: Ancient Near Eastern Mythology

Kathy Perkins, New Mexico
I have been weaving since 1993, tapestry since 1995. I just cut off two pieces that I will trash since they were color and design compromised. (How is that for saying I hate them?) I am trying to get past those two to start something new. I have made numerous designs in the past two weeks, but can't settle on anything that moves me. I love the silence of the desert. That is my fondest memory of the numerous camping trips to Anza Borrego State Park, Joshua Tree National Monument (now National Park), Canyonlands, and all of the other wondrous places in the Colorado Plateau. I also love the starkness, colors, and especially the flora and fauna.

Sky Island

I wove a piece I called Sky Island, because they are such an oasis in the vast deserts of the Southwest. It is of an opuntia cactus that appears to be flying on a cradle of land, which is much my feeling when up high on a sky island looking out to the vast desert beyond.

I prefer to listen to nothing but the birds while weaving. However, since our quiet oasis on a dirt road has been turned into a paved freeway I will listen to music to drown out the hideous sound of the traffic. It is always classical. I do not listen to books on tape, because what I do is so intense that I can't concentrate on French tapestry and a book. Currently, I am reading the book "Mrs. Mike," about the far Northwest Territory in Canada--to get in the mood for my Canada trip.
No website; ATA artist page.

Stacey Redmond, Arizona
Currently, I have a tapestry of stripes in progress. My inspirations come from characteristics of Sonoran desert flora and fauna, including color and shape. When I’m weaving, I listen to a mix of music from folk and country to instrumental and Latin.

Janine Skov, California
I don't have my cd player on, I prefer nature sounds when I'm doing artwork. Some singing birds right now, with orchestration provided by crickets. (Unfortunately there is the occasional percussion section of lawnmowers, leaf-blowers, etc. that has to be tuned out).My reading list?!?! All 100 books?? Seriously, I have a very large backlog. Science, science-fiction, art, even a book on weaving! (Rachel Brown's Weaving, Spinning, Dyeing -- excellent descriptions of different types of looms, they're all so fascinating!)

Kathy Spoering, Colorado
Desert ‘Travel Sketch’ Tapestries
Although many people may not realize it, the American desert region is filled with beautiful and breathtaking spots, many of them designated as National Parks or Monuments. A number of them are in Utah, a state of great landscape variety. Like my neighboring home state of Colorado, Utah has high mountains peaks, high mountain plains, and vast areas of desert filling the spaces in between. Because the city where I live is only about 20 miles from Utah, it is one of our favorite short-trip destinations. When I travel, I always have a sketchbook and watercolors with me, as well as my digital camera. Several years ago, I decided to turn sketches from my favorite Utah Parks into small tapestries. I did one from Zion National Park, of the White Throne peak; one of Bryce Canyon National Park, of the amazing rock ‘hoodoos’ dusted with winter snow; and one of the Arches National monument, of the Window Arch. All of these rock formations rise up from the sandy desert floor, created by erosion of the soft red sandstone. They are constantly evolving. Each of the tapestries is 8”x10”. They were loosely inspired by travel posters and postcards, so each has the name of the park woven in at the bottom. After weaving the three Utah pieces, I decided to mount them each on a watercolor sketchbook page, with images I had sketched on location during our trips to the parks. The three ‘sketchbooks’ were then mounted side-by-side on a foam-core base covered with a fabric
‘map’. They were then framed together. I called the framed piece “Utah Sketchbook Triptych.” It sold in a multi-media exhibition.

Utah Sketchbook Tryptich

(If you know of other exhibits not listed here, please send the info to us so we may add them to the list!)

to enter
American Tapestry Biennial 7
entry deadline November 30, 2007
The American Tapestry Alliance is a not-for-profit, member-supported organization seeking to exhibit the best of contemporary tapestry. Since 1986 ATA has sponsored a biennial, juried exhibition. ATA invites submissions from all tapestry artists for ATB 7. Entry to ATB 7 is open to all tapestry artists who design and weave their own tapestries (defined as "hand-woven, weft-faced fabric with discontinuous wefts") either individually or collaboratively (all assistants shall be named). Entries must be one-of-a-kind and have been completed after January 2004. Artists may submit two entries for consideration.
American Tapestry Alliance
ATB7 Entry Form

ARTapestry 2: European Tapestry Forum
entry deadline December 31, 2007
Open to artists living or working in Europe.

American Tapestry Alliance Woven Gems Small Format Tapestry
entry deadline January 15, 2008
The exhibit is open to all artists working with small format handwoven tapestry. Tapestry is defined as handwoven, weft-faced fabric with discontinuous wefts. The size of the tapestry may not exceed 10” x 10” x 1” deep (25cm x 25cm x 2.5cm). Artists may submit one piece. Group challenges and mentoring projects are encouraged.
Work must be original, executed by the entrant, of recent completion and not shown in a prior ATA or HGA show.
The tapestry must be available for the duration of the exhibit.
Woven Gems Entry Form

Small Expressions 2008: Handweavers Guild of America Annual Exhibit of Small Scale Works deadlines- international entries: January 11, 2008; U.S. entries: January 18, 2008
Small Expressions is an annual international, juried exhibit featuring high quality, contemporary small-scale works. Small Expressions is sponsored by the Handweavers Guild of America, Inc. to showcase fiber art of a small scale not to exceed 15 inches (38 cm) in any direction.
Handweavers Guild of America Convergence Conference 2008

to visit
Arizona Biennial ‘07
May 19 – August 19, 2007
Tucson Museum of Art
Tucson, AZ

Sea of Cortez: A Desert Sea
May 24 – August 19, 2007
Tohono Chul Park Exhibit Hall
Tucson, AZ

Fiber Celebrated 2007
Intermountain Weavers Conference
July 10 – July 31, 2007
Durango Art Center
Durango, CO

In the Making: Contemporary Canadian Tapestry
July 14 - September 11, 2007
Reception September 9, 2007 2 pm
Publication in PDF
Burlington Art Centre
AIC Gallery
Burlington, Ontario, L7S 1A9 905.632.7796

National Exhibition of Folk-Art in the Norwegian Tradition
Rosemaling, Weaving, Woodworking, Knifemaking

A competition and sale of works by contemporary artists in the Norwegian tradition.
July 21 – July 28, 2007
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
Hauge Gallery, Westby-Torgerson Education Center
Decorah, IA

Small Expressions 2007
Handweavers Guild of America
July 27 – September 2, 2007
Indianapolis Art Center
Indianapolis, IN

Antiques as Inspiration
September 1 - 30, 2007
will feature more than a dozen of Karen Crislip’s new tapestries
Artist Talk and Reception September 6th, 2:00 to 4:00pm, Hondius Room of the library
Estes Park Public Library
Upstairs Gallery
Estes Park, CO

Tapestry: People and Places
*this exhibit will feature works by tapestry weavers from our sister tapestry group, Tapestry Weavers South
Invitational Exhibition
September 27 - November 8, 2007
Opening Reception
September 29, 2-4pm
Artisans Center of Virginia
Waynesboro, VA540.946.3294

Las Arañas Tapestry Group
September 28 – October 22, 2007
Arts Alliance Gallery
Albuquerque, NM

Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor
October 17, 2007–January 6, 2008
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Special Exhibition Galleries
New York, NY

to see online
Barbara Heller: Work Over Time
Tapestry On Edge
American Tapestry Alliance Web Gallery

May 15 – July 15, 2007

(If you know of other workshops not listed here, please send the info to us so we may add them to the list!)

Archie Brennan and Susan Maffei Workshop: July 28th - August 1st, 2007
Archie & Susan will give an intensive five day session at the Damascus Fiber School near Portland. $450.00 includes all yarns and a loan of a loom. Lunches are included as well as a host home if needed and transportation from Portland. Damascus School is a wonderful dreamy experience. It is an old school house with a great atmosphere. Last years session was said to be a life changing event for several of the participants! They are returning! A $100.00 deposit is needed to hold a place. The session is limited to 18. To find out more please contact
Pam Patrie
4314 NE 22nd Ave
Portland, OR 97211

Mathematical Design: Symmetries, Tessellations and the Golden Proportion - Jennifer Moore: August 10-12, 2007
A class for any artisan (not just for weavers). Have you ever wanted to work with these wonderful tools forvisual design but been scared off by a lack of drawing or math skills? We will take a visual approach to working with symmetry movements, tiling patterns, and harmonious proportions, including the Fibonacci series. Through a series of fun exercises using drawing, rubber stamps and paper cutouts, you will create a toolbox of skills to use in creating your own designs. Jennifer has an MFA in Fiber, specializing in mathematical patterns and structures of music in weaving.
Española Valley Arts Center
Española, NM

Pictorial Tapestry - Robin Reider: September 8 – 11, 2007
Explore tapestry techniques and color grading. Using a photograph or picture of a landscape, the student will make a cartoon and create their own pictorial or abstract woven image. Participants will use prior tapestry knowledge to learn to follow curved lines as they grade and combine colors chosen from the instructor’s hand-dyed collection of wool. Both vertical and horizontal grading techniques will be taught. Robin shows and sells her tapestries and has wonnumerous awards.
Española Valley Arts Center
Española, NM

Weaving as Art, Weaving as Metaphor – Gerry Myers and special guest James Koehler: October 6, 2007
In this seminar, we will use slides and short readings to explore some important concepts about art as it pertains to weaving. We will address the translation of art (paintings, poetry, etc.) into weavings. Participants can bring their favorite examples. We will also make inquiry into weaving as metaphor. Gerald Myers taught aesthetic philosophy at St John’s College, was director of the Community Seminar Program, and holds a PhD in biophysics. He now weaves in retirement.
Española Valley Arts Center
Española, NM

Connecting Image To Process/Process To Image - Susan Martin Maffei: October 16, 17, 18, 2007
Andean tapestry exhibits a stylized form of image, or mark making, that relates directly to the underlying structural grid of the weave and the techniques of woven tapestry. In this workshop we will explore these medium specific characteristics through hands on sampling of techniques, e.g. slits, interlocking, simple shape making and four-selvedge construction. Slide presentations will enrich our understanding of how the imagery in tapestries produced by different cultures is influenced by technical and structural constraints. Visits to museums, conservation labs and/or galleries will allow the examination of actual textiles. The knowledge gained in this exploration will be used to explore how these relationships might influence contemporary work. The workshop will be geared both towards those who are conversant with Andean textiles, but are not necessarily tapestry weavers, and to tapestry weavers whose familiarity with Andean textiles is limited. Participants are limited to twelve.For information and registration visit, or contact
Mary Lane at

The workshop is timed to coincide with the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor. Tapestry in the Baroque which opens October 17th. On October 20th and 21st the Met is hosting a two-day symposium in connection with the exhibition.

Intermediate Tapestry with Ann Keuper: November 2, 9, 16, 30 & December 7, 2007
This class is an exploration of non-traditional and texture techniques in tapestry. During this six week session, students will dive into more adventurous tapestry techniques. Continuing to use the frame loom, students will weave another sampler using eccentric weaving techniques and texture techniques while also exploring the use of an assortment of weft materials. Students can be as adventurous or traditional as they would like. Designing intuitively is uncomfortable for many weavers. We will look at the weaving process and design an intuitive tapestry based on materials as time allows.
$135.00. Includes use of a frame loom, warp and weft materials, and handouts. $50 deposit required to hold your place, with the balance due upon the first day of class.
Desert Weaving Workshop
512 S. 6th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85701

Hachure and Color Blending with James Koehler: Feb 23-27, 2008
Participants will weave a sampler to learn various color gradation techniques and their uses in tapestry. Techniques taught in the workshop will include: hachure, hatching, the use of demi-duites, horizontal and vertical color gradation, and color mixing in weft bundles. A small scale tapestry will be woven incorporating the various techniques.
Participants should have a basic knowledge of tapestry techniques.
$400. Register before Jan 1, 2008 and save $25.
A $25 materials fee will provide for warp and weft and a folder of handouts.
Desert Weaving Workshop
512 S. 6th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85701

Arizona Federation of Weavers & Spinners - Fibers Through Time 2008
Natural Dye Workshop with Jane Hoffman: April 3-6, 2008
Discover nature's sources of color. Trained artists know that muted, natural colors are the workhorses of their palette. A good color palette consists of harmonious hues and a range of value and intensity that frame and offset intense pure hues. Yarn shops offer limited choices of colors; however you can fill in the blanks by learning to dye. This comprehensive workshop shows you how to create beautiful, lightfast and washfast color from natural dyes. The emphasis in the workshop will be to create a range of value and intensity of colors. Jane will bring natural dye plants from her own dye garden, and native and imported dye material. You will learn to prepare the dyes, to mordant, to dye protein fiber, and to experiment with color by using postmordant baths, afterbaths, and exhaust baths. Handling dyes safely will be covered.
*workshop will be held at Desert Weaving Workshop
512 S. 6th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85701

(Know of any other fantastic reads or resources? Share them!)

the Crafts Report
A monthly business magazine for the crafts professional.

Contemporary textile art and craft.

A textile publication directed towards an international, discerning audience, Selvedge covers fine textiles in every context: fine art, interiors, fashion, travel and shopping.

Textile Fibre Forum
The aims of the magazine are eclectic, assuming the reader has a passion for textiles in many forms - the historical along with the contemporary - some curiosity about Australia and New Zealand in particular - empathy with the struggles of others (plus their successes and failures) in the textile journey - and a wish to be informed and entertained.

Art & Fear: Observations on The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking – David Bayles & Ted Orland

Almost an Island: Travels in Baja California – Bruce Berger

The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky – Ellen Meloy

Barren, Wild, and Worthless: Living in the Chihuahuan Desert – Susan J. Tweit

Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest – Mary Sojourner

Desert Passages: Encounters with the American Deserts – Patricia Nelson Limerick

The Desert Smells Like Rain: A Naturalist in O’Odham Country – Gary Paul Nabhan

Fear Falls Away & Other Essays from Hard and Rocky Places – Janice Emily Bowers

A Full Life in a Small Place and other essays from a desert garden - Janice Emily Bowers

Getting Over the Color Green: Contemporary Environmental Literature of the Southwest- Scott Slovic

The Mountains Next Door - Janice Emily Bowers

Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert – Terry Tempest Williams

Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles: Take Great Digital Photos for Portfolios, Documentation, or Selling on the Web - Steve Melzter

Next Issue
Our current intent is to publish quarterly in January, April, July, and October.

The deadline for the next newsletter is September 30th.

October's newsletter theme will be Desert Meditations, with the focus being centered on planning our online exhibit.

Please submit:
Any articles and images you would like to write surrounding that theme.
Any other topics pertaining to tapestry that you may feel inspired to write.
Info about where your work is currently showing.
Info about exhibits, workshops, or if you are teaching a class/workshop.
If you don't feel comfortable writing an article, send a few lines to introduce yourself if you haven't already done so, or to share with us what is current in your weaving world.
Remember, one of our group goals is to share and inspire each other!


lyn said...

I am so moved and inspired by the beautiful tapestries and thoughts we have shared in this newsletter!

How wonderful to know there are so many of us from so many different places that feel this way about the desert and have chosen to express it in our art.

I cannot wait to finish moving into my studio and get warped up to start my next project-- a macro view of a yellow opuntia bloom (to enter for ATB7!). I know I will revisit the newsletter all summer, just to get inspired all over again!


Stacey R. said...

I do not have as much time as I would like to dedicate to my weaving as I try to fulfill my role as a single-parent, a fulltime researcher and a student. Often, I feel so drained; it becomes difficult to stay inspired. I really enjoyed reading this newsletter. The personal experiences shared and beautiful and creative tapestries rekindled my love for weaving and reconfirmed my desire to devote time to myself to do something I love and to which I feel a deep connection. Weaving makes me feel close to my heritage and close to those I love very much, my best friend and my family. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this newsletter together and sharing it with us.

Debbie Herd said...

Congratulations on getting this project up and running. It is a real pleasure to read each post.Debbie.