Saturday, January 18, 2014

A day with the artist

Back in the day my sister and I purveyed our handwoven clothing and rugs to the world, to earn our daily bread and pay the mortgage. I was a weaver, but one who saw numbers and listened to recorded books on the road. My sister was the right brain. Also the nice brain, who set out to befriend another weaver and her husband, Linda and Dick.

Like most artists we knew, their trade secrets were close to the vest.  Jan and I were rubes, we had no idea you weren't supposed to tell. We shared everything. “Oh, yeah, we buy this thread from (name of supplier); you can get that cheaper from (name of supplier); who do you buy that from?

Dick and Linda weren't sure about us. That offended Jan, so she sent me to shows with homemade raisin bread to ply them. I heard Dick consumed every crumb behind the curtains. We talked. We had much in common. Each also left professional careers behind, for one reason or another, to see how it was to live hand to mouth.

Dick died suddenly in 1996, just months before our own mother left just as quickly. We figured there was an urgent call for skilled weavers beyond the bar, and carried on.

Artists are not like the rest of us, including me. I see numbers, Linda sees in color. Or in music. Whichever strikes her first that day. She’s also hooked on how well the prosecutors make their case on the live court television channel.

She tends to weave a rug to the end of her book on tape, and then name the fifteen foot monster  KiteRunner. Not to worry; it’s the rug two customers were considering at St. James Court. I sold it to mine while Linda’s customer dithered on the phone consulting her husband.

“I think I want that,” wailed the lady outside. “I already decided,” announced the lady in the booth, as I tied up her purchase and took her money. Linda went to smoke a cigarette. “Come back and talk to Linda tomorrow, “I advised the lady without the rug. “She will make you a rug you will love.”

And that’s how it is. People who see numbers take pictures, mental or actual, while chaos swirls around the artist and the customers get A Linda they will love. It starts here, at the selvage supplier, Great Northern in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Linda drives an hour to my house, then four hours to Kalamazoo and then back. Artists work hard, and we solve all world problems while driving.

She has to go herself to select her colors. They ship and Linda has tried that, but there could be too much beige. Linda doesn't see beige, or a few other colors I won’t mention here, so any customer who has ordered those colors and received a perfect rug won’t be offended, in the event they stumble on this account.  

The goal. Upholstery selvage. 
These bales are huge and moved by tow motor, on pallets.
This one is waiting to be sorted.

"Stick your camera right in there. I want Betty to see this."
(Linda and Betty go to the opera.)


More red.......?

This is Carol. She sorts colors.
Carol sees in color, too.
A language all their own.

Looking for turquoise.

Found it.

Raw rugs.

It doesn't leave on it's own. 
I helped load up three of those bins,
weigh them,
put them in the van.
Something over four hundred pounds
to be

This is Pat. 
Her little feet went here and there,
Sweeping the floor,
Breaking down boxes,
Restocking shelves,
Putting our mess away.

I could be Pat when I grow old.


  1. That's the best kind of fun and the best kind of friends. And it's nice to get a little cash and travel on the side. FUN!

  2. I got caught up with your blogs today... wow! what an interesting life... we could compare notes on the "ex"... but.... on a nicer note... that place in Kalamazoo is fascinating. I'm trying to visualize what's in the bags... long strips like yarn? long pieces of cloth, like you'd make a rag rug? Maybe you wrote a blog once showing all those weaving parts?

    1. The selvage edge of fabric is the bound or finished edge. The raw edge is at either end. Think of buying a length of fabric in the store.
      Huge factories still weave, but the looms go so quickly there is no time or need for neat selvages. There are no shuttles to carry the thread across the loom. The thread is blown over by great bursts of air, the weft hanging off on each side. This selvage is trimmed neatly off and the furniture upholsterer receives neat bolts of fabric to use. The weaver gets the waste!
      These selvages are the continuous strip of a few inches of the colorful threads held together by a half dozen or so weaving threads going the length. I didn't put a link, but you can google Great Northern and see the selvage more closely.
      And yes, the long strips are woven like they were long strips of yarn. Only wild and crazy.

  3. I so admire folks who can SEE colour. I get black and navy mixed up all the time. Hopeless.

  4. Those selvages look to be fun to work with....I used sometimes to use remnants but they were a lot more regular thanks to being cut.

  5. Hari OM
    hmmmm I like your idea that we see in numbers or colour - being ambidextrous I see both... Had a look at Linda's rugs. They are worth the effort of loading 400lbs. YAM xx

  6. I think I'm more of a colour person than a number person. I think you all work amazingly hard and bless Pat with the tiny feet. she's a star too.

  7. It sounds like a lot of hard work to me!
    Jane x

  8. Maybe I'm a bit of both sometimes I see in colour sometimes the numbers.

  9. Very interesting. We had a friend who wove us some rugs with our old wool sweaters. When wool sweaters had holes in them, you put them aside and when there was enough she would weave a rug. It was interesting to recognize your old sweaters on the floor.

  10. How I wish I were right there to watch the whole process, from choosing the colours to weaving to selling. Crafting is my kind of fun.

  11. I love color and am grateful to those who can see it and visualize how it should go together. I don't know what's wonderful until I see it put together.

  12. I bought a beautiful silk rug in India in 2012. I was told it took 4 years for a family in Kashmir to weave by hand. Simply gorgeous.

  13. I'm a Pat. The sweeper, the cleaner-upper, tidy it all away again, that's me.
    It's an interesting story, to see how rugs begin, and end.

  14. I am fascinated by those people who see in colour - or Music.
    And love, love, love Linda's rugs.

  15. My amazing friend, Joanne, can see my soul like no mirror ever could..She is a blessing in my life, a good tag along rider on such a trip, a wonderful retired weaver and always a talented writer. God's blessing on her as I unload my truck and get back to my looms. Thank you.

  16. Great post, Joanne. Pat looks like a sweet lady!

  17. I like the concept of seeing in colors; what a beautiful world it could be with that talent. What adventures and stories and life you had with Linda as a friend!


  18. Ha, I love the more red photo. I never see in numbers and maybe see in colors. Actually I see in ideas. Is that like seeing in numbers?

  19. Definitely colour. I confess that numbers also have colour in my world.
    Linda's rugs are superb.

  20. numbers ? Colours ? whichever - you are all so talented x

  21. what a lot of work, had no idea, but then again I did, turquoise, one of my favorite colors

  22. that looks like fun, going through all those containers to find just what you want. I'm a maker. Don't like to sell though. I need a number person to do that for me.

  23. I want to be a color person, but I'm a number too.

  24. I have been a number person. Being in audit made me that way. I used to be a color person. May be I will go back to being a color person.Putting things away? That is my edge. I start cleaning up when I am worried or tense.