V ä v a! V e v e! weaving cloth one thread at a time

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Being the best

I remember when I was in second grade, I loved anything about horses! I read about horses, dreamed about having a horse in my suburban back yard (But mom! Our yard is big enough!), I watched every tv show that had horses! And I drew horses! I would pull out the big encyclopedia with the 'H' section in it and drool over the color plates identifying the different breeds. I would draw horses while referencing the encyclopedia. I remember bringing my drawings in to school and showing them to my friends and everyone thought I was so good at drawing! They all said I was the best draw'er in the class and even the whole second grade! It was great to bask in the glory and soak in the admiration! Today, I realize that my second grade class was a very small portion of the world, and that there are so many, many talented and creative people everywhere! Sometimes I crave that notoriety that I had in second grade, but mostly I soak in as much of the wonderful creative energy that surrounds me as I can! As I read the many blogs of weavers and textile artists, I am amazed by their unyielding quest to find the perfect answer to their challenge, and I am inspired to find the perfect answer to my own challenges. Is it out there? Sometimes I find it, sometimes I don't. But the quest is the artistic process by which we discover more than the perfect solution. . . we find beauty, peace, joy, relief, exhilaration. . .feel free to add to the list in a comment! And no, I never got my dream horse. But I have 4 dogs!

Monday, March 23, 2009

What I did before weaving.

A little about my background: I am an Interior Designer by education, with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota, designing corporate and commercial facilities for the past 30 years. Even though I am still Certified, I have retired after owning my own design firm for about half of those 30 years.  And even though it has been years since I last practiced as an Interior Designer, I still think like one.  My career path changed rather abruptly when we found that our adopted son had Aspergers Syndrome.  He took a great deal of my attention when he was a little guy, because he was such a smarty!  Even when he was barely walking he had figured out the kid locks one puts on cabinets to keep little ones out.  So good-bye presentation boards, boardrooms, and clients; hello play-dates and the ongoing search for answers about Aspergers.

Running parallel with the numerous needs of my son were my own needs as a creative person.  I needed an outlet through which those juices could flow.  My ongoing fascination with textiles, solidly reinforced by all the extraordinary textiles I had had the privilege of working with as a designer, set my focus on weaving and fiber.

I am 4th of 4 children and humor was the way I got attention as a child. My brother, one slot up, was very sharp witted and wry, so I had to compete with his humor. Good training ground I guess. Now I'm brave enough, old enough, and confident enough to not be offended if people can't appreciate my humor.

Just so you know. . . I have a not-so-latent wish to live on a 'gentleman's farm', where all the hard work is done by others and I just get to ride my favorite horse (yes, I still love horses, just never had one to myself) before coming in for a big breakfast of pancakes, bacon and fresh scrambled eggs gathered just that morning, done up by Cook (the person that does all the cooking)! After breakfast, I go to my rebuilt barn that is now my lofty studio, which has several distinct areas set up for each of my interests of pottery, woodcarving and turning, sculpture and welding, and most of all, weaving. If I had that I know I would have died and gone to heaven!

I have always been enamored with textiles. Even in high school I had the opportunity to weave a couple of ponchos in bright red-orange and big chunky yellow wool, with a touch of spruce green, and of course long fringe. . . ponchos being all the rage in the early 70's!  Looks like I really gave Leonardo Fibonacci a real run for his money!  Anyway, I gave one to my brother for Christmas and the other I kept for myself.  I still have mine. . . an heirloom poncho. . . can you imagine??!!

So, I'm a hippie at heart, but then aren't we all when you think about it? I've been domesticated, cleaned up, and have eliminated the phrase, "Far out!" from my vocabulary (unless I'm trying to bug my teenagers)! Now I'm a middle-aged, issue-sensitive, concerned citizen. I'm okay with that!

I think my position in the Interior Design world gave me many opportunities to rub elbows with some important people to the design world. I had the good fortune to speak with Kaffe Fassett http://www.kaffefassett.com.

"Forever Diamonds"

He is an incredible fiber artist!

"Pinwheel Tablecloth"

He does breathtaking work! 

"Jewel Squares Patchwork"

My interest in him is his masterful work with color!

"Liberty Mariner's Compass"

 My focus in my studies while at the University of MN was color and how it influences us in our daily living. It is amazing how, as designers, we can psychologically influence people and even manipulate their behavior through color!  Color is able to stimulate people or help in calming people down; color can be used to create a feeling of happiness or gloom; or be used to create feelings of chaos and tension. I teach classes on color theory at the Textile Center http://www.textilecentermn.org, and I could, and often do, go on and on about color!!

 Jack Lenor Larsen:  Chevalier, 1978

While designing interiors I had copious opportunities to explore textiles at length. The fabrics that are out there are so incredibly beautiful, using all kinds of materials, from plastics and paper to metal and mirrors, to achieve a certain look and function. Very inspiring stuff!! I also had the opportunity to meet Jack Lenor Larsen a couple of years ago.

Jack Lenor Larsen:  Cumulus, 1991

He is a world renowned textile designer. He is a brilliant designer and someone who inspired me to pursue my passion of textiles

Jack Lenor Larsen:  Onward!, 1997

I was very fortunate to have been able to have conversations with Mr. Larsen! Not often is it that one gets to have a sit-down with an icon! It was awe-inspiring!

Jack Lenor Larsen:  Laotian Ikat, 1972

His knowledge is so broad and detailed! I can only dream of coming close to a fraction of of the knowledge that he has about textiles!

Jack Lenor Larsen/Cowtan and Tout, Inc.:  Hologram Leaves, 1990

So that is what I'm doing now. Just pursuing my passion! It's pretty great! The future has some wonderful things waiting for me to just catch up. That's where I'm heading.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Business plan, schmizness plan!!

Has anyone ever written a business plan? I had not, until recently being challenged by a business consultant who told me that writing a business plan was a great idea to get my business focused and productive. Well! I thought that certainly sounded like a great idea! Who could deny that they wanted to get their business focused and productive! So I entered into this with unbounded enthusiasm! I researched different business plans. The first one came from a friend of a friend who was in the midst of helping his daughter write a business plan. He emailed me a link to a business plan, and I dove in. The only problem with this business plan form was that it was written for someone interested in farming. Of course, I thought. This guy was a professor of business in agriculture! I thought I would be able to coast through, avoiding the specific farming questions or at the very least translating them into weaving terms. But as I got into it, the translation became more and more of a struggle until finally, it became clear that 'harvesting' my looms was not going to translate at all! Then I struggled with going online and going to the Small Business Administration site. I worked with their forms and structures for about 2 weeks and then threw my hands up in dismay. How in the world could I come up with such specific predictions for the future?? How could I know how many weaving "units" I was going to be able to produce in any given month? How was I supposed to be able to predict how many weaving "units" would sell in the same amount of time?? I had always done this so casually, without any plan or organization, and it had worked just fine! I couldn't predict the future of what shipping costs would be in year 5, or what my phone bill costs would be in the second quarter of year 4!! Then another friend told me about the "One Page Business Plan". Now here was something I thought I could tackle! I ordered it online, waited another week and a half until it came in the mail, and dove in again. Meanwhile, all these 'false' starts had generated some great thoughts as to my direction! I was actually accomplishing something, even though I didn't think I was! Well, I brought my 'finished' one page business plan to my consultant and he just made a face and said that I should look at his samples and outline that he had given to me way back at the beginning. Wait, I thought, he hadn't given me any. . . oh, oops! I guess he had given me an outline to follow. Shoot! If I had followed this from the very beginning I could have been done by now! Back at the studio, I started filling in the blanks. Hey! This was going to be easy! That was until I hit page 16 and I ran into those pesky questions about the future again. Dang! Was I going to have to lease space as I expanded? What equipment did I have and how was I going to amortize it? What's 'amortize'??? I am such a right brainer!! Okay, I figured I had exhausted all the possible 'easy' ways to write a business plan and they hadn't worked, so I had just better buckle down and do this. Two months later I am still in the death throes of writing this business plan, and through this whole thing I have been whining and complaining, dragging myself away from my passion of weaving and sitting down in front of my computer, trying to predict the future. That is indeed what a business plan is, you know. One has to predict the future based on what was done in the past. Well, in these economic times it is almost impossible. . . no! it IS impossible to predict the future, or for that matter to come even close to something realistic that one can base one's business decisions on. So, I am grabbing numbers out of the air and seeing how they impact on the whole picture. Some numbers work, and some numbers don't. It is all about crunching! (which I really dislike doing!!)

But things are starting to take shape! I am going between the Small Business Administration forms and the forms that my consultant gave me. I am having to make a whole lot of inquiries online and in person about advertising costs, vendor availability and wholesale discounts, insurance requirements and costs, and even whether my Prius qualifies as a company car! I am interviewing other weavers about their experience in their business. I am researching the costs of leasing space, and have even looked up the word 'amortization'! I must say that writing this thing has definitely helped me make some good decisions, and it has helped me develop a good direction for my business. Okay, okay. . . it's working. But I have to say that it is one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken, besides having my mother pierce my ears with an ice cube and a potato! My advise to anyone writing a business plan. . . Just DO It!! Don't try to find an easier way, because there isn't an easier way. You just have to research the brains out of everything so you can make informed predictions. It was very much a 'DUH!' moment for me when I came to realize that crunching all these numbers and doing all this research was actually giving me a better idea of what I needed to do as I proceed with my business! I was becoming more informed, maybe even smarter! DUH!!! I might even have to say that I am now bordering on, dare I say, SAVVY! The bad news is. . . I have to keep updating the behemoth on an ongoing basis! Awww!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Frustrated with mistakes?

Okay, this wisdom comes from many struggles at the loom!!

Many times, mistakes that are made are ones that are simple oversights, that sometimes cascade into huge problems. But when finding myself in this situation, I like to remind myself that, even in the midst of this huge problem, I should not regret the place that I am in. A great deal of knowledge is gained by any mistakes or oversight. If nothing else, the mistake leaves such an impression as to remind you at every turn not to do that again! So really, mistakes are opportunities to help one remember how to do things correctly.

That being said, even when I remind myself of my good fortune to learn during my numerous 'opportunities', I still get frustrated!