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Homespun Living in a New England

Experiments in New Skill Acquisition: Enameling

Friday, July 28, 2017

I have a process, by now, for moving to a new place - step 1: Move, unpack, decorate, etc. Step 2: Find the nearest craft school and sign on up for something. So, when I chose to come to Worcester, Massachusetts for grad school (a fine decision, as it has luckily turned out), I wasted little time in booking myself for an enameling class at the Worcester Center for Crafts. For me, this kind of thing has never not been a good decision. In fact, I'll be starting a new course this Fall on stone carving/lapidary - so stay tuned for my first attempts at that. 

I've played around with enameling a bit in the past (at the Folkschool and at Haywood). It's a fun and engaging process, somewhere at the intersection of glass and metalwork. In the most basic version, you are typically applying fine glass powder to metal (usually copper), then using a kiln to melt and fuse those materials together. The results can be varied and gorgeous, and I really only scratched the surface of what can be done. Metalwork doesn't always lend itself easily to vibrant color, so enameling is a great solution for that! 


Above, some of the materials needed for the process: sifters, enamel powder and Klyr-fire (used to hold powder in place until the kiln).


Some samples/test pieces. I used stencils for both of these on copper pieces that I sawed out in advance. They are now both serving ably as magnets on my fridge. 


Some lightswitch covers! I got really into making these, which came at a great time - what with that new apartment to decorate. 



The switch plate here is over-fired, so that it begins to separate and burn off a bit. The effect is lovely and highly textured. 



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The Lowell Mill Museum

Thursday, July 27, 2017
Here are some pictures from my recent visit to the Boots Cotton Mill Museum, in Lowell MA. It's operated by the National Parks Service, and it's a great option to explore if you're in the area and interested in textile history. Some of the machines are still set to operate, and the sound of a single loom really drives home what the Lowell Mill Girls experienced everyday - it was a skilled, difficult job. If you have an interest in feminism, the history of women working in the United States and labor rights, so much the better - there's a lot to go deep about in the way these men and women organized, and in the ways in which their fates and those of their industry were so tightly entwined.

For me, of course, it's always fascinating to see the spinning and weaving that I enjoy at the smallest and most intimate scale done at a massive and industrial one. The processes are not so different, but the effect is intensely so. For more places like this I can vouch for as a textile tourist, check out the Pendleton Mill in Pendleton, Oregon or the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, at the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem OR.










Brimfield Flea Market - As seen on TV




Have you ever watched the show Flea Market Flip? It's a fine way to indulge a DIY competition show urge - basically, two teams go to New England flea markets, pick out older items, and (along with a very capable looking team) repurpose their finds in some way or another and try to sell them in New York. The team with the highest profit wins. Anyway, so - I enjoy this show, though sometimes of course I find myself wishing they'd leave a patina on, put the spray paint down and walk away. 

But! Imagine my excitement on finding out that one of their most frequent flea market stops (which I'd long yearned to visit) is only about half an hour away from me here in Worcester. Brimfield Flea Market is immense, exciting, overwhelming and happens twice a year. Yes, please. I went alone and wandered, and I was indeed in a happy place. I actually didn't buy much (some costume jewelry and vintage textiles) but the pictures came out pretty well, if I do say so myself. Next time around, I'm bringing back-up to carry anything gorgeous and heavy that I might need to acquire. 













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Some recent handspun, offered without comment







A satisfying project - soy candles, essential oils and thrifted ceramics







Technicolor Fleece Wall Hanging

Friday, November 07, 2014

I used a peg loom and a mix of natural and dyed shetland and lincoln fleece locks to create this fine fluffy object. There's something about this particular piece that makes me smile…just so cartoony, somehow? Either way, another version in pink and oranges in already in the works. This version is mounted on copper, which adds a certain something.

Also, now seems as good a time as any to a quick weaving process pic. I'm planning on talking a lot more about the wonders of peg loom weaving soon, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's a piece made with a variety of wool, handspun and recycled yarns, and some vintage floral ribbon. Pardon the mess, but also please feel free to admire my desk, which makes me feel very official as I work from home (probably because it weighs a gazillion pounds and looks like it belongs to in a 1960s elementary school classroom; head of the class!).


Life in the Country…An Estate Sale Outside of Eugene Oregon

Tuesday, October 07, 2014











Goodbye to the old...

Tuesday, September 02, 2014



We left Portland!

Peter and I are settling in to a new life in lovely Eugene, Oregon. I have to say, it's a positive move in nearly every regard. The major exception is that I need to set my studio back up from scratch, which is a pain…plus, man I really loved that space.

Well, I have a new office space and garage workshop here. About a week in, there remains much to do in getting everything set up. Baby steps. But I assure you and myself that it will eventually be awesome.

More weaving with handspun, raw fleece, and some other odds and ends

Friday, July 18, 2014

As promised, I am here to share some more weaving projects from my very obsessive past few days. Weaving in such a simple format like this is so satisfying; compared to using a massive floor loom, this process is so much more experimental and free form. I totally understand now how craftspeople in the 1960s and  70s fiber arts explosion got so caught up in this kind of work! The possibilities for color, pattern and texture are much more open than you would think, even given the limitations built into the process. It's elemental - plain weave is the basis, but from there materials take center stage. 

Wall hanging by Romeo Reyna; 1960s, California. Source
And so, here are the three weavings I've completed in the last week! The first one is fairly small, about 14 by 20 for the frame. There is BFL roving, Lincoln fleece, raw flax fiber and, of course, some of my handspun. The hot pink is nylon twine.


This one is the same size, and uses similar materials. The primary difference is that I added in some bright red nylon pom poms. I quite like how those came out.


And here's the largest piece, about the size of small entryway rug. I like the look of these weavings still in the frames/looms. It sets them off nicely. This piece features fleece and handspun, in a wide variety of color and material. 


And now, some close ups of texture!