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Status of the Studio – 2020

Status of the Studio – 2020

This is progress; a question or a statement; studio unfolds.

As 2020 draws to a close, a deep sigh follows my gaze as it scans the sun filled scandalously sloven space also known as my studio. Curtain fabric, slip cover pieces, two inch cotton squares and strips and felted projects cover the top layer of all surfaces. Boxes and baskets of felt pieces, carded wool, fabric, notions, yarn and tools aren’t settled in their new home although it’s more than five months since the move.

Light pours in Alanna Nelson's messy fiber art studio

Is this where I want to be?

How do I balance my expectations of my creative space and the reality?

I am where I am. I am what I am. Or, as Amy Porterfield advises, “you are where you need to be.”

Patience and setting reasonable goals were skills I worked on during 2020. With that mantra and perspective, I look again at my space. Of course there is progress. In mid-July, when the movers left, you could hardly navigate the room for all of the boxes (it was a great hiding place for the cat). Not all of the boxes belonged in the studio, but many did. While it’s untidy now, there are definite workspaces defined.

Despite passing on things I no longer needed or wanted, the pile unfinished projects and explorations was significant. In 2019, completing knitting UFOs (unfinished objects) was a priority. In that spirit, I decided not to put away unfinished projects. In my sight means on my mind, right?

As a result, I’ve finished not only curtains for most of the house, but several long-standing pieces. This exercise in patience, practice and persistence brings me joy and encourages me to think about priorities.

As the list of projects in the works dwindles, my mind clears and I get a stronger idea of what I want to create next. Of course, tendonitis constrained my stitching, knitting and just about anything I enjoy this fall. I used the time to read, write and use my rotary cutter.

So here comes 2021. It won’t be perfect and there’s a lot of work ahead. I want to be brave, work hard and dare to do the ideas that come into my head and heart. Let’s see how my studio changes.

Old Textiles, I salute you!

Old Textiles, I salute you!

These hand made treasures; need some love and a new home; I can’t resist them.

My new home town held a socially distant yard sale not long ago. I went, hoping to find silverware to use on the sailboat (score!) and book cases (maybe next time!). There were some beautiful hand made items that I couldn’t resist and several hand made baskets that I did. Thankfully, I saw someone else pick them up shortly after I passed by.

 

rectangular embroidered geometric cushion

What else did I find? Linens and embroidery galore!

I’m a firm believer in things both beautiful and useful, especially when made by hand. Crocheted tablecloths and embroidered cushions hit my heart strings and they now have found a new life in my new home.

With a few small repairs and a bit of peroxide in the tub, the crochet tablecloth was ready for Thanksgiving. Martha Stewart would be proud.

 

Crocheted second hand tablecloth at Alanna Nelson's home

Living in a more rural setting, the closest stores are charity consignment shops. And there’s a wonderful second hand furniture store in Fairhaven that’s fun to stroll (with my mask on, of course). Hopefully the cycle of letting go and discovery is one I’ll enjoy for a long time.

Do you have a soft spot for old textiles? Isabella Stewart Gardner did. I’d love to hear how you make them part of your life.

An homage to Annie Modesitt

An homage to Annie Modesitt

The bike riding, no nonsense, ever exploring Annie Modesitt passed away on October 1, 2020.

She leaves behind two adult children she adored and a legacy of knitting encouragement, discovery, books and ModeKnit Yarn. An early active user on Twitter, I got to know her when she was the guest teacher on a Tactile Travel tour of Lazio and Umbria that I organized in 2010.

She enjoyed bike riding in Rome (what bravery!), tasting pastas made with potato, corn and grains other than wheat, and shared a wide range of knitting tips and tricks with our small group.

 

Here she is with Kath, the intrepid knitter and traveler, making etchings near the entrance to Villa d’Este. 

Villa d'Este Prints

Kath brought charmeuse scarves and fabric pastels and etched herself some lovely memories. Annie was delighted to join in. Note her lovely knitted hat with brim. 

Rainy days, sunshine, there was always something that made her laugh or indignant. Straightforward, she was unwilling to let anything hold her back, and her determination was admirable and a reckoning. 

 

Annie's not wet.

Annie was a good friend of the Common Cod Fiber Guild. She joined us at the very first FiberCampBoston – just out of her jammies via Skype. While that seems ever so commonplace now, in 2009, that was cutting edge.

Annie came and spoke to the Guild in 2011. She spent the night at our place, tired after flying from Minneapolis, giving the talk and the next day, she was headed to Rhode Island to teach over the weekend. Her first thought was for her kids, and she could hardly wait to check in.

This afternoon, her children arranged a “Modemorial” for her via Zoom. More than 130 people logged in to share their memories, their condolences and their grief.

May her enthusiasm for life live in her children and us all. Thank you, Annie, for all you gave us.

No thumb?

No thumb?

Hello my right thumb; favorite strong action torque; you deserve a rest.

In August, I noticed that months of painting beadboard walls and ceilings hurt my thumb. In September, I whacked it hard on something while sailing. In October, I spent many hours on a laptop track pad. In November, my thumb demanded a change. 

That ever versatile, weight bearing, load carrying, needle pulling, felt massaging thumb got an X-ray. Fortunately, there are no breaks nor lesions. It’s just tendinitis, so a splint, more ibuprofen and 9 days of rest should do the trick. No biggie, right? You’d think so. What did I learn?

I am addicted to stitching.

No knitting, no embroidery, no hand sewing or making dorset buttons for nine days. No computer (oops, I’m breaking the rule here…but I’m not using my right thumb when I type :).  Absence makes for restless distraction and lack of focus.

Take a stitch today for me, and thank your hands for all that they do. I’ll sign off for now, but hope to be stitching again soon.

Meanwhile, any coping techniques for the stitch addict?

Suffragette Celebration: Light, Wool and Persistence

Suffragette Celebration: Light, Wool and Persistence

“To the wrongs that need resistance, To the right that needs assistance, To the future in the distance, Give yourselves.” —Carrie Chapman Catt

Momentum builds with every puff, idea, plan, breath of courage and event. Such whiffs fed my need to celebrate the centennial of the women’s right to vote in the US. I cannot imagine anyone who would have been against the 19th Amendment, but that’s only because I’ve been able to vote my whole life. It took longer than my life span to actually make women’s suffrage a reality.

I heard about plans in Waltham, a subscription yarn offering to celebrate the August 20, 1920 anniversary. I thought about my mother’s participation on the Wisconsin Commission on the Status of Women. With the renovation of the Melrose park that bears her name, the remarkable Mary Livermore came to mind. How can you not honor the contributions of this historic Melrosian as a writer, a pundit, editor and organizer? The long and continuing road for equality of all people needs to be honored and fed in many ways, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate what happened 100 years ago.

The opportunity for a group show at the Loading Dock Gallery gave a big puff to that head spinning, idea feeling momentum, pushing me into the studio.

Suffragette Celebration” is my first attempt to recognize the many lights that connected so that women across the US could vote in federal elections. One hundred white felt globes stitched together, illuminated and bubbling over the surface illustrate the shapes and spirits and their contributions to the 19th amendment.

For several weeks, my daily practice included creating the small, hollow globes of translucent wool. it’s been the perfect opportunity for me to play with light, think about making three dimensional art and to learn more about the suffragette movement in the United States. In January and February, I made more than 100 felted white balls, teaching a friend and my dad who helped with the process in hopes to finish it for the “Stitched” exhibit. I managed to finish hours before we installed the show.

As a resident of Massachusetts, it shocked me to learn that a Women’s Suffrage referendum in 1915 that would give Massachusetts women the right to vote did not pass. Only 35.5% percent of male voters were in favor of this – results similar to an 1895 referendum. Really? Even with that bluebird campaign logo? Seriously, really?

Blue bird logo for 1915 Massachusetts Women Suffrage campaign

Massachusetts slowly adapted to the 19th amendment.. Last fall, while on jury duty, I learned that Massachusetts did not allow female jurors until 1957. This fact truly shocked and dismayed me. Who would have guessed?

Joined by Stitch exhibits at Loading Dock Gallery in Lowell, MA March 2020
Suffragette Celebration on exhibit in Lowell

With the COVID quarantine, I’ve yet to retrieve and properly photograph “Suffragette Celebration.” It’s in good hands, and it will return soon. Meanwhile I have ideas for other ways to commemorate the long road to equality….

Off to my newly painted studio to see how these ideas build momentum.

Pay it forward – Notions & Fabric

Pay it forward – Notions & Fabric

In 2003, someone asked me if I would be willing to take the notions and fabric from her mother in law’s haberdashery. The shop closed temporarily when she had a health problem, never to open again. They were remodeling and just wanted all of this carefully stored inventory to disappear – and be appreciated.

The only caveat? I must take everything.

Two station wagon trips later, my Via Volta studio was full of notions and fabric. With friends, we dissected this treasure trove, giving away, selling, and enjoying for ourselves everything from embroidery floss to shoulder pads, silk velvet to snaps.

View down Via Volta, Monza, Italia near Cafe San Biagio
My old stomping grounds on Via Volta, Monza

Those were wonderful days! When I left Monza, my fabric and yarn friends made me a wonderful scrapbook of those days. During my March Madness painting spree, I enjoyed paging through this wonderful work of love. But I digress…

I’ve made incredible progress on this gift, but it makes sense to #payitforward again. Here’s a list of the notions and fabric I’d like to give to another creative soul or business.

I’m giving it away, and it’s definitely something that can fit into a small car (it’s about 2 medium moving boxes). I ask that you enjoy, make beautiful things and perhaps consider donating to Follow Your Art Community Studios in Melrose if you are able.

Leave a comment below, or find my on Instagram or Twitter so we can arrange delivery. Everything’s been in boxes for more than a month (kind of like me!), so the quarantine time for textiles has passed.