Friday, October 12, 2007

DTW Newsletter, October 2007: Desert Meditations, part 1

Welcome to the 2nd edition of the Desert Tapestry Weavers newsletter. We hope that this finds everyone happy, well, and getting some good loom time in!

We also hope that everyone is enjoying the shift into a new season—fall in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern parts of the globe. As all of us who love the desert know, the shift can be subtle, discernible only to those who know the land well, or perhaps not so subtle, as in the incredible burst of life that usually follows any measurable amount of precipitation or the increased plant and animal activity with the return of warmer temps, depending on the season.

What most of you will notice isn’t so subtle is the smaller size of this newsletter in comparison to our first. Thank you so much to those weavers who were able to submit articles and photos for the rest of us to enjoy. We know how hard it is to find time to do so when there are tapestries to design and weave, workshops to teach and attend, and all of the other issues that pop up in life. After much consideration as to why we didn’t receive as many articles and announcements as we had hoped for, we came to the conclusion that perhaps our goal to publish 4 times a year was a bit too lofty. As well, tapestry weaving is a slower process than other art forms, and tapestry weavers tend to be a busy bunch of people! So, taking those issues into consideration, coupled with our wish that the newsletter consist of submissions from as many members as possible in order to nurture the sharing and inspiration concept we had upon founding the group, we have made the decision to only publish twice a year at this point in time, May and November. If we see that submissions begin to become too numerous to be contained within one newsletter, we will expand the number of publications. We encourage everyone in the interim between newsletters to submit news of exhibitions your work is included in, workshops you are teaching or have heard about, or anything else that has a timeline which would be missed if it waited for the formal newsletter. We will post those types of announcements on the website in the same manner that the newsletters are now being posted.

Please enjoy this issue. It is our sincere desire that it will inspire everyone to consider participating in the online exhibit next spring!

Lyn Hart & Kathy Perkins


Desert Tapestry Weavers Internet Show
As announced in our inaugural newsletter, we will be sponsoring an Internet exhibit for members of Desert Tapestry Weavers. Although our goal is to eventually have an actual show in some fabulous desert gallery or exhibition space, our hope for this exhibit is that everyone participates.

The show’s title, Desert Meditations, was selected because it is inclusive of all things desert. Whether you interpret it as a specific thing or place, or as an abstract tapestry reflecting a mood or sense of place, it does not matter. All entries are welcomed.

~jpeg or gif format (include file name in your email, please!)
~name and size of tapestry, plus materials used
Some specifics:
~all entries will be accepted
~there is no size constraint
~the work can be current or from the past
~include a short statement (200 words or less) about the tapestry
Files are due to Lyn ( by May 1, 2008 so the show can be posted by our first anniversary, May 22, 2008.

We know everyone is busy with all the other deadlines out there, but this one is months later and, hopefully, can be viewed as an opportunity to unwind and weave a tapestry that reflects your connection to the desert.

Kathy P. & Lyn

Weavings & Wanderings

Rocks of the Colorado Plateau by Karen Page Crislip

Five of my tapestries (including my first large format piece, woven over a dozen years ago) and the very large tapestry I am currently working on are in my favorite, what I call my “Rock Striation,” series. I live part of the year in Estes Park, Colorado (the eastern gateway to the lush and fertile Rocky Mountain National Park) and part of the year in Albuquerque, New Mexico—yet it is the desert that most inspires me, not the mountains. In the beginning I thought it was because I had lived in the Rockies for 30 years, and the desert southwest contained “new” and surprising scenery for me—rock striations whose colors changed with the time of year, the time of day, the weather, my mood, etc. Then I thought that my fascination might have something to do with Willa Cather’s description of the landscape in New Mexico as being “unfinished” by its creator (in Death Comes to the Archbishop). What a challenge and ultimate high for an artist—to “finish” the desert landscape! But then I realized that my tapestries weren’t really finishing what I saw, smelled, heard, touched--even tasted. But I was expressing my own impressions of these sensory experiences—by the subject I chose to weave, the fiber I used, the size of the piece, the limitations I imposed, the artistic liberties I took, etc. We can’t always explain love—maybe it’s the emptiness we feel when who or what is loved isn’t present. I just know that I do love the desert and keep returning to it—and I love weaving rocks!

“Sweet Light on Sandstone” Karen Page Crislip
Wool Weft/Cotton Warp
2’ square

Bengt Erikson, AZ
I am a newcomer to the Southwest. I'm a little like the Isherwood camera, what you see is what you get!

The first tapestry completed after Bengt’s relocation to Arizona, seen here fresh off the loom, is based on his view of the Rincon Mountains from his studio.

An earlier Erikson tapestry.

My Desert Meditations by Lyn Hart

I’ve been practicing yoga about 8 years, more or less. I “discovered” it after moving here to the desert 10 years ago; in the small southern town where I lived most of my young adult life, things like “yoga” just weren’t done. Of all of the poses I’ve twisted my body into during these years, the hardest are still the meditation poses at the beginning and end of class. Try as I may, although I can attain perfect stillness of my physical body and maintain a deep relaxing breath, my mind scurries furiously from one subject to the next, like a hyped-up hamster in a very squeaky, wobbly wheel. The one place I have found that my mind can usually achieve its most still and calm state is outside in the desert.

In thinking about this, I have discovered that for me this feeling is a meditation of sorts and with further consideration I have identified that the experience is a moving meditation arranged in concentric circles, the innermost being very near my back door and the furthermost extending many miles beyond my home.

cactus wren, 4" x 6"

Most every morning, I sit outside with my coffee, while my dog, Roux, wanders about being a dog. I contemplate the environment near my back door and ramada, watching, listening to, and smelling the desert as it awakens with me. Each season brings with it its particular plethora of plants, insects, flowers, birds, animals, fragrances, and light. Morning coffee, evening wine and beer are enjoyed back here, and I do my natural dyeing in this area. Our property is large by city standards, almost 5 acres; my husband Dennis and I practice xeriscaping so that plant life (and everything associated with it) is most lush in certain areas nearest the house and then gradually transitions to pure desert, still lush because it is the Sonoran desert, but living life on its own without our assistance or interference.

Movement into the next circle occurs when Roux and I take walks around the perimeter of the area the previous owner had bladed in order to keep horses, something around the size of two acres. The path is a minimalistic labyrinth of sorts, the most complicated the walk becomes is maybe a figure 8. Over the years we have observed this area’s revegetation, measured small saguaro cactus against our own heights until they became taller than us and started putting on arms, come out to see water running in the little washes after storms, cherished every new plant that pushed its way up through the baked earth. But, while I take note of the immediate environment while Roux and I are walking, it is far and away that my eyes are drawn, to the mountains that encircle the Tucson basin. The Santa Catalinas to the east, the closest mountains at about 5 or so miles away, are usually featureless cardboard cutouts with either a sunrise or the sun itself shining from behind them in the mornings. During monsoon weather, more of their features can be seen in the morning light, but they may also be cloaked in clouds and mist. At times, they may be covered in glittery white snow. During the day they are fortresses of craggy granite. At days’ end, they may blush with the glow from the sunsets. To the southwest, Wasson Peak in the Tucson Mountains obsesses me as I continually try to capture with my digital camera its ridges and folds that stand out in such vivid, yet soft contrast in the morning light. Behind it, some 50 miles or so from where I can see it, Kitt Peak Observatory is a gleaming white dot, perched in the Quinlan Mountains of the Tohono O’Odham Nation. The other mountains aren’t as readily visible as they once were when we first moved here because trees have become taller—the Santa Ritas to the south and the Tortolitas to the north.

The outermost circle has no fixed boundary because it encompasses areas in the southwest were we’ve traveled and become enamored of, and I hope this circle becomes ever expanding. As of now, of all the places we’ve been my mind’s eye instantly thinks of the vast vistas of the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona where we have traveled through many times to make trips into the Grand Canyon, to Marble and Paria Canyons, and in the past when our other dog was still alive and they were both young, pontoon boat camping in Lake Powell. The views of the Echo Cliffs and Vermillion Cliffs sing in my soul and are able to most successfully put my chattering mind to rest. How can a person possibly think of anything else when those beautiful, eroded, magical, majestic, massive, rugged, earthen cliff faces are staring at you, shifting into myriads of shades of red, rust, orange, brown, and purple with every second of the sun’s progression across the sky or every cloud shadow, except… I want to weave that!

Sky Island Tapestry: Part 2 by Jane Hoffman
In my first article I talked about my inspiration behind the creation of my “Sky Island” tapestry. Currently six of the twelve 8 inch x 8 inch components are completed. Now I would like to share with you some of the technical aspects of this tapestry.

Back in the mid-1970s, when I first learned to weave tapestry as an art major at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, the trend was to weave highly textured pieces with loops, heavy yarn, beads and fringe. Slowly my work evolved away from texture, until in the late 1990s, I wove a landscape of all one brand of single ply yarn from Burnham Trading Post’s Wild ‘n Wooly Yarn. I dyed most of the yarn with natural dyes, which gave me the true colors of the high desert cinder cones near my home. After weaving “Cinder Cone”, I realized I really missed the qualities of texture in my work. Now, coming full circle, texture is very evident in “Sky Islands”.

Jane with Cinder Cone

As a designer of tapestry, the qualities that I am drawn to that texture provides include: more light reflection, more detail to the foreground in landscape, and surface depth with the combination of smooth and pile surface areas. As a weaver of tapestry, I enjoy handling a variety of fiber from fuzzy mohair, soft alpaca, luminous silk, smooth linen, and of course wool. For “Sky Islands”, I have superimposed predator and raptor tracks over parts of the landscape. The tracks are woven with silk, linen, and alpaca against the landscape background of wool and mohair. The depth of the mohair makes the tracks appear sunken into the landscape.

I have always used natural dyes and synthetic dyes to round out my color palette. I am not a purist when it comes to dyeing my yarn. As an artist, the priority is to have a full color palette whether the yarn is commercially dyed or dyed by me. Because I primarily weave tapestry or plant life, I do most of my dyeing with natural dyes. Natural dyes produce the colors found in my landscape – high desert to mountain mixed-conifer forests here along the Arizona/New Mexico border.

My design for “Sky Islands” began with a concept. It does not depict a real place as many of my landscapes do. Usually I begin with a photograph and then I paint a watercolor using the photograph as my guide. Starting with a concept rather than a photograph, freed me from realism and allowed me to design the tapestry with elements that represent my idea of reconnecting the fractured landscape. I began with a watercolor sketch that depicted a vista from the top of one sky island with a view across the desert floor to another sky island on the horizon. The watercolor was then enlarged to full scale and cut up into twelve separate 8 inch x 8 inch cartoons. Each cartoon was then removed from the maquette and hung behind the warp when it was its turn to be woven.

Weaving a composite tapestry such as “Sky Islands” has presented challenges. The overall design of the twelve 8 inch x 8 inch components must take into account the 1 inch separating space between each one when they are displayed on the wall. It is also very important to keep track of wefts that flow from one component to another. Each of the twelve components is numbered. I have a bin with labeled plastic bags to identify wefts and their location in the landscape. I write notes on the cartoon, my weaving time log, and in my notebook. I listen to the advice of my husband who has over 30 years of experience in managing, hiking, trail-building, and advocating for wilderness areas in the southwest. His passion for saving wild places inspired me to weave “Sky Islands”.

clockwise from upper left : Bear detail; Cougar; Racoon on loom

In a future article I will cover the challenges of mounting and hanging this tapestry composite.

I would love to hear from you!

Jane Hoffman

My websites: and

My email:

Desert Magic by Kathy Perkins
Each desert sojourner finds their own magic in the sand, rocks, and sky of arid environments. When I first met the desert I was most excited about the huge possibilities for exploration. But soon the desert started resonating in different ways and over time there came to be one thing more than any other that defined desert for me: silence. Silence from the modern world; silence from the daily chaos. I continue to long for that silence, I constantly seek it, but I rarely find it.

Eons ago when I lived in California, taught in an overcrowded Orange County high school, battled the nightmarish freeways twice a day and, basically, had no life of my own, I found refuge from this chaotic world in the desert. After a grueling work week we would escape to Anza Borrego Desert State Park or Joshua Tree National Monument (now Park). It was a total mood altering experience for me and I still recall the first hour upon arriving at our destination as the most glorious--most glorious because it was a place of silence, a place for meditation. I can still feel the stress falling away as I drank in the solitude of my favorite, hidden places.

Among the places of peace and serenity that I often sought were the boulder piles of Joshua Tree. With some agility, long since passed, I could crawl, claw and climb to a secluded alcove and listen to the sounds of nature. My favorite and the most memorable sound was the croak of raven and the wind whistling through his wing feathers.

Now I live in Santa Fe, a very high desert environment and here I am certainly surrounded by the noise of traffic and town. I find the croak of the raven daily, but silence is still hard to come by. I frequently go to the national forest, which by rainfall statistics is a desert, and it is most often quiet, but not same quiet as found in the deserts of long ago escapes. For those peaceful days in desert California I need to go to memory, for even now those very places have changed beyond recognition by the sheer numbers of people who visit. Silence, the soul of wilderness, is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

(Egypt’s Western Desert)


Sand speaks eternally of water. Wind-shaped into ripples,
it stretches far … white mimicking the ocean.

My fragile skin wrapped in yard upon yard of rainbow-
woven cloth, still the sand filters in as our little tin
oven on wheels rattles across the desert.

Bedouin acquire, young, the “desert eye” that reads
clouds, sun, the shadows on the dunes to find
survival’s landmarks:

the lone acacia, centuries old, twisted and black,
reaching deep beneath the desert floor to draw life
molecule by molecule from an invisible well.

And these dark, high-soaring desert birds?
Surely somewhere, in this infinity of dunes
they, too, find sustenance. Find solace.


Towering rocks, sand-bitten into parodies—
cobra, lion, giant mushroom—stand about,
stark and white.

Sun arrived at its blind zenith, a camel train rests
in their meager shade, five knob-kneed mountains
of dusty cloth crouched on the sand,
while a few yards off, their turbaned driver
sleeps and watches, watches and sleeps.


Dung beetle, disk of gold, this high, molten sun
is born each day, they way, of woman
and set to float in a mystical ship across the sky

from the black, basalt dunes of the East
to the blazing White Sahara. And here, at dusk,
the goddess Nut swallows it up again.

Legs, belly and rib cage stretched the whole length
of heaven, she lets its bright burning
move all night, invisible, through the core of her—

until, at dawn, the new sun emerges,
round, red and glistening,
from between her attenuated thighs.


This shell I plucked from the sand, small,
translucent, gently cupped like my fingernail—
it is a survivor, too.

And what am I in the desert? Sand grit
insinuated into every crevice
of my being, I cling to the thought
of the slender, black umbilicus,
all that joins us, mingy flea-
bitten oasis by oasis to—
far beyond our sight—almost
beyond imagining—
the lush, green belt of the Nile.


Sand erases tears and the incidents of our days.

Like years, the desert stretches before and behind,
potsherds and crumbled brick
all that remains of history’s brave outposts.

And yet, look, in a cranny scratched
out of the rock that rises close,
here, beneath earth’s crystalline skin,

a farmer and his infant son lie, spiced, wrapped
and buried for eternity, the tiny bundle placed to rest
on the breast of the large.

-- Mary Coolidge Cost,
from Goldfinch and Memory
(Steamboat Press, 2005)


to enter:

American Tapestry Biennial Seven (ATB 7)
Juror: Susan Warner Keene, Canadian artist, educator and independent writer/curator
Entry Form due November 30, 2007:
ATB7 Entry Form
University of Tampa Scarfone/Hartley Gallery in Tampa, Florida in conjunction with Convergence 2008. (June or July 2008)
Other venues to be announced.

Earth, Air, Fire, Water
Tohono Chul Park, Tucson AZ
January 17 – March 9, 2008

Tohono Chul Park, an arts and cultural center located within a 49-acre desert garden in Tucson, AZ is seeking submissions for Earth, Air, Fire, Water, an upcoming exhibit that will feature a range of styles and different approaches by Southwest artists.

Element (eľ ə-mənt)
1. A fundamental or essential part of a whole.
2. The forces that collectively constitute the weather, esp. inclement weather.
3. The physical manifestations or material substances, but also as spiritual essences

Earth (ûrth), n.
1. The planet on which human beings live, the third planet from the sun.
2. The land surface of the world; ground.
3. Soil, dirt.

Air (âr), n.
A colorless, odorless, tasteless, gaseous mixture chiefly nitrogen and oxygen.
The earth’s atmosphere; overhead space; sky; the firmament
A breeze, wind.

Fire (fīr), n.
A rapid, self-sustaining chemical reaction that gives off light and heat,
A destructive burning; conflagration.
To ignite; flame.

Water (wô΄tər), n.
A clear, colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid that is essential for most plant and animal life and is of various forms of water, as rain.
A body of water, as an ocean, lake, river, or stream.

Through artists’ eyes, the exhibit takes a closer look at the four elements and the powerful forces that impact the planet, and specifically the Southwest region. Artworks may be inspired by the elements in action: the ripples in sand dunes, dust devils, brooding clouds and monsoon sheets of rain, reflections in a quiet pool, etched rocks from erosion, a fiery sunset, lightning bolts, wildfires. Or work may be more abstract: interpreting elemental symbols, sculptures made with earth, sand, pebbles, twigs, and other media that reflects the theme. Paintings, photographs, works in clay, fiber, metals, mixed media, and other media approaches are encouraged as submissions.

Submissions accepted: through Dec 1, 2007
To submit work for consideration, please provide full contact info (name, address, phone, email), object info (title, media, & size of work) along with visual materials and a brief statement about the work as it relates to the theme.

Slides, photos or CDs of completed work may be submitted by mail to: (Please include SASE)
Vicki Donkersley, Curator of Exhibitions
Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, Tucson, AZ 85704
Or digital images may be submitted by email to:

Tohono Chul Park, where nature, art and culture connect, is a not-for-profit organization located in a residential setting in northwest Tucson. The Park is a 49-acre desert garden with a charming 75 year-old restored adobe building providing space for changing art exhibits. It has an active cultural program and a family-oriented audience. Gallery hours are 9:00 am-5:00 pm daily. Our website is

Questions: Call Vicki Donkersley, 520-742-6455 x 218 or email at above address.

Vicki Donkersley
Curator of Exhibitions
Tohono Chul Park
7366 N. Paseo del Norte
Tucson, AZ 85704

Woven Gems
American Tapestry Alliance - Small Format Exhibitions

• 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.
For more information and entry form, download the .pdf file, print it on your printer and follow the directions.
Entry Form due January 15, 2008:
Woven Gems Entry Form (color) .pdf
Venue and Exhibition Dates:
TECO Plaza Art Gallery, 702 No. Franklin St., Tampa, Florida
June 1 to July 31, 2008

to visit:

Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead: The Gift of Remembrance
August 23 – November 4, 2007
Tohono Chul Park
Tucson, AZ
DTW members represented – Su Egen, Lyn Hart

to see online:

GRAND IDEAS 2006 - Small Format Tapestry
American Tapestry Alliance
June 18 - July 24, 2006 (was installed during this time, but it is still posted for view on ATA's website)


Channeling your Muse: Experimentation, Research, Innovation, Design
Educational Events at Convergence 2008: ATA Sponsored Programs
ATA's 2008 Educational Retreat
Tuck your muse in a beach bag and set sail for Tampa Bay to join talented tapestry artists Joan Baxter ( and Mary Zicafoose (! Dive into ATA's educational retreat and stuff your treasure chest of creativity with tools that will make your tapestries shine. Like hunting for buried gems, you will discover: strategies to identify, develop, and personalize design concepts and resources; skills and motivation to move beyond the initial design phase; formal tactics for concept expansion; image manipulation; dynamic use of color; and methods to catch and ride your wave of creativity.
Whether new, novice, or seasoned, all weavers will uncover pearls of wisdom during this tropical retreat! ATA's retreat will follow Convergence 2008 in Tampa Bay, from June 29 through July 1, 2008. Registration materials will be available by December 2008. Mark your calendars!



Tapestry Handbook: The Next Generation
Carol Russell
ISBN: 9780764327568
The newly released updated edition; it is a little different than the original Tapestry Handbook in layout and appearance. It has been expanded and includes much content the first did not, but the most apparent change is the updated tapestry artist representation. Congrats to fellow DTW artists, Elizabeth J. Buckley and Nancy Jackson! Each had two beautiful tapestries included in this publication. For those of you who are also ATA members, the many other familiar names and tapestries you will find within reads like a list of old friends!

Next Issue

The next issue will host and present the Desert Tapestry Weavers online exhibit, Desert Meditations. Please feel free to also submit other articles & news— it will be posted as “regular newsletter” content following the exhibited tapestries.
Deadline for submissions: May 1, 2008.


Katie Schroeter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie Schroeter said...

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