Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz

(A love story of place).

For a while, the retail store at Salz Leathers was know as "The Dead Cow". 

It's one of those spots where, for me, significant life-changing events occurred, so that it will forever remain a place near and dear to my heart. From 1856 to 2001 it was a working leather tannery which changed ownership and name several times. There is an interesting historical timeline here. In the more recent years it was know as Salz Leathers and I worked there between 1998 and 2001. If you live in Santa Cruz, you undoubtedly know someone who worked at "The Tannery". It was common for families to have two or three generations who worked there. It was a community unlike any other I've known. The Lezin Family, who owned it, created a sense of community and the workers felt well cared for.  Everyday I roamed the buildings, I saw the same smiling faces, about 100 of them. I liked my job and would have been a "lifer"!  But, in 2001, the business was forced to close because it was unable to remain competitive in the world marketplace, and this was a sad time for all of the workers and our little community. You can read more about that in this article: Salz Leathers Folds Up Shop: Landmark Business to Close this Year.

Several years later, a new community grew up on the site of the old tannery. The Tannery Arts Center was a joint project developed by the City of Santa Cruz, Artspace Projects, Inc., and a local non-profit, The Tannery Arts Center, Inc. It converted the historic Salz Tannery into a vibrant 8.3 acre arts campus which provides a sustainable and affordable home for artists and arts organizations to live, create, display and perform their work. The first phase, involving new construction, provided live/work housing units for low-income individuals and families. The second phase was the renovation of the existing historic buildings on site to provide 28 working studios. The third phase will be a performing arts center to seat 200 people with state of the art equipment to host music, dance, and theatre.

Five buildings of historical significance were preserved and the history of the tannery was told through a collection of exhibits throughout the Tannery Arts Center and a terrific  “Wall of History” which displays a historic 145-year timeline. This includes one of the annual group photos of all the tannery workers. 
Since it was during a time period when I had been temporarily laid off, I'm not in it, 
but my daughter took this shot below of me standing next to the group photo.

My love story with the place includes a chapter about how members of the community helped me through a very difficult decision to leave an abusive relationship, and to get settled into a new home with my kids. A good friend, Alan, who was the Human Resources Manager did an intervention and called in a Women's Crisis Support volunteer who helped me file a police report and get legal assistance. Many other co-workers then stepped in. A couple of the foremen, with the company truck, volunteered their time to move me and my kids into an apartment, others donated and delivered furnishings and took up a collection for gift certificates so that I could go buy the rest of what I needed. Alan made sure that I was given an opportunity to move into a higher-paying full time job so that I could better provide for my family.

As soon as I heard about the TAC project, I was hooked and knew that I wanted to display my artwork there. On Friday, April 4th, I got that opportunity and it felt good! My friends, Pat & Larry Worley, invited me to be their guest artist for the First Friday Art Tour. It was a great experience, and now I feel that I've come around full circle and back to a place I love.

 Larry Worley's basketry

 Pat Worley's hand-dyed scarves. 
Larry greeting everyone. Good times! 

I'm sorry that my friend, Alan, couldn't be there with me. He was killed in an auto accident shortly after his "intervention"  and never got to witness the profound and positive effect his actions had on my life. He is one of my greatest heroes.  He always encouraged me to stretch farther and to go for what I wanted. I think that he would have been proud!

The TAC is a vibrant community of artists which really comes to life during the First Friday Art Tours. You can take a cruise around with my daughter, Natasha, and see some of the sights that she and her camera captured during the evening.

Cubes by Andy Ruble (ceramic)

Sketches by Linda Levy

Beth Shields

Stephanie Schriver

Happy Ending! (Note the vintage Salz Leathers nametag I'm wearing!) 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I'm Having So Much Fun, I Don't Know Where to Start!

I've had some great experiences over the last couple of weeks and want to share some of the highlights with you. Some of the others (natural dyeing workshop, special custom orders and new straps for Chimayo bags) will have to wait for later blog posts.

My three Schacht inkle looms. On the left is an all wool sash, center cotton strap which may become a camera strap for my friend, Barb, and on the right is a strap of cotton and linen blend yarns with one single wool spot in the center. 
I posted the above photo to my Facebook page in honor of St. Patrick's Day and it got shared around the world in Thailand by the Thai Textile Society, in Spain by El Talaret, in South Africa by the Cape Guild of Weavers, also in  France, Poland, and Turkey by some enthusiastic individuals. The folks at  Santa Fe Creative Tourism also shared it as well as some other weavers around the U.S.  Wow! So cool! The pickup band in the center got lots of attention and love. After I took this photo, however, I backed up (unwove!) what I had done this far and did a similar but different diamond pattern.

 Here's the finished piece. I finished it while visiting my son, Max, who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He pointed out the interesting optical illusion that the diamonds look larger than the strap itself because of the dark green lines which lead your eye off the edge of the strap. We liked this one!!
Max and I had a few really fun days together. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Taken on the trail up to Cave Rock

On top of Cave Rock, the best place around the lake to view the sunset from.

Max getting some good shots high above the lake and highway. 

View on a sunny day on the lake aboard the M.S. Dixie, where Max works as a photographer.

This is us having a good time! 

And, I got to sit in the racecar that Max and Brian are building at Because You Can Motorsports. 

You can see more of Max's photography of cars, scenic Lake Tahoe and beautiful people here on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thewayoftheroadwarriorstudios

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Reptile Inspiration

Recently, someone posted a photo of a San Francisco Garter Snake on Facebook and mentioned
 a local park where you are likely to see them this time of year. A friend posted this to my wall and suggested that it looked like one of my weaving patterns. Then another friend commented that he would pay me "handsomely" for a guitar strap with that pattern. Challenge on! 

Thanks to Dr.Alan Francis of the UK for allowing me to use his photo here. This is the one which I worked from to create the weaving  pattern. You can see more of his great snake photos here:  http://www.gartersnake.co.uk/index.html

This is the strap which I wove. The colors are beautiful! Some of the design elements did not turn out exactly the way I wanted them with the right ratio/proportion of color, still the strap is lovely and my friend is happy. In it I used yarn of several different thicknesses and twists which led to a  more 3-D pebbly texture. All the better! The aqua threads were a #5 perle cotton had to be doubled. The red was heavier (worsted weight) , and the black is my standby, Omega Sinfonia.

The pattern draft looks like this.

True confession: This draft is how I intended to make the pattern. In my woven strap, however, there is an extra turquoise spot on the right side. I didn't even realize it until I was halfway done with the weaving! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

From Oaxaca City, Oaxaca to New York City, New York - Sharing My Love of Color With Fellow Artists

I wanted to share some fun and exciting things that have happened this past week which involve other artists who clearly enjoy playing with color as much as I do. I find this very refreshing as I think that in our culture, in general, we are much too timid with color. 
 Each of these artist uses color in a masterful way!


For several months I've been admiring the beaded designs of Pedro Robledo of Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, looking at the Etsy shop he runs with his wife, Danielle, and reading some of her blog posts. I finally decided that I needed a bracelet. But I couldn't choose, so I bought 3!!
 Each one is fantastic! 
He draws inspiration from the Huichol Indians of northern Mexico and their symbolism, mandalas, spaceships and crop circles.

"Huichol, Mandala Inspired, Galactic Spaceship Diamond" 
I  love the center which appears to have one large red area, until you look closely and see that there are actually two colors there, one slightly more purple.
When I hold it up to the light, it really comes to life. Magical!

In this design, my favorite part is that there are only 4 turquoise beads placed near the 
outside of the central diamond. That and the lovely gradations of color.

Pedro's designs are beautiful especially because  he has given incredible depth and movement to them by incorporating somewhere between 15 and 19 colors. (There are 1500 to 1700 beads in each bracelet.) I realized that he also uses this idea in his designs which I talked about a few posts back. They are woven on a bead loom and I was thrilled to learn that he, like me, most often does not use a written pattern or chart, but each of the designs come from his imagination straight to the loom. I highly recommend a look around the Pachamama Native Art Etsy shop.
Prepare to be bedazzled!

Tripp Derrick Barnes, a painter living in New York City, saw my posts on Instagram and told me that he'd love to have one of my straps for his camera. Judging from his Instagram posts, I saw that he uses a lot of vivid color in his artwork. Inspiring! We began talking about what colors he'd like for his custom strap, and to my surprise, he said that primary colors are his favorites.
Here you can see him at work in his studio. 

Originally from the deep woods of South Carolina, Tripp is now living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Pop Neoism is a new movement based on Tripp's new style on Pop Art.
 His artwork is best described as a cross between Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.
"When Worlds Connect" by Tripp Derrick Barnes 

What I love about these paintings is the way he takes so many bold colors and makes them all work together. And while they appear to be at random, each color is in balance in the piece overall.
 Have a look at his website here to see some of the interesting projects he's worked on.
http://www.popneoism.com, but to see his latest you really have to follow him on Instagram!
Instagram: Tripp_Art

He sent me this photo of the new strap on his camera.
I had a great time doing this special order, because of his easy, friendly manner and especially because of his super enthusiasm!! If I ever get to New York, I'm looking him up!


I 'll leave you with some music. Last week I met Steve Palazzo, a Santa Cruz guitar player. 
Thanks, Steve, for choosing one of my straps! Have a listen to his great style here: