Monday, April 27, 2009

more buzz



I am gratified by a few lovely responses to my last post about bees. I have always loved them -- OK, at first for their looks, I admit -- and have frequently populated my tapestries with bees. They keep the surface lively and we know that they have deeply important lives, as we humans assume we have as well.

Last week Ben successfully installed a new queen. Unlike our own political elections, the hive is a matriarchal monarchy, but inserting a new queen when the old one has died is a tricky business. I am still astonished that you receive bees through the US mail! She arrives in a little box with a wire screen lid and four attendants. The exit door is blocked by a sugar cube which provides nourishment. They help her eat through that to freedom once installed the hive, and presumably they escort and defend her on arrival. It takes a while for her subjects to accept her. (A good topic for Obama's first 100 days!) The first new queen didn't get out of the box: t hey all tragically died inside, but queenie #2 (#3 if you count the first queen who died) is happily installed & laying her 2000 eggs per diem now. What a job!

Summer arrived abruptly this week and I have summer fever -- the air is wonderful! and a fresh desire to get to the loom. First I must go to install some tapestries for an exhibition at St Meinrad's Archabbey in southeastern Indiana, tomorrow. A very interesting place. More soon.
(the tapestry shown is Big Sunflowers from a number of years ago; it is a good example of bees in my work)

Monday, April 13, 2009

more on inspiration




I usually hesitate to speak about what I am ruminating about, in terms of new art projects. I feel that the first articulation needs to be visual before the discussion (others' input?) and expectations freeze the idea into a less malleable form. Nonetheless, I will tell you that last week was pretty exciting for my husband Ben, and also for me, when we together cut the first honeycombs out of frames from his four hives.

Ben is new-ish beekeeper, and it is not so easy to learn. He is learning from a local beekeeper, Dennis Hermann, who has an established family of hives and sells honey & beeswax candles at our local farmer's market. They have brought a couple of swarms over here, introduced first to hives on loan and then to hives Ben bought. Tragically the first few swarms died -- it is horrible to watch the bees struggling out, half dead! Finally last summer, with new hives, the bees stayed and have seemed to prosper. A few weeks ago we both suited up and went over to inspect the hives, and were able to harvest a few frames of honey (now we find it might have been too early in the season! Oh no!) and last week we cut them up.

Lexie Holeman designed the labels, I contributed the ribbon (and yes, as the ribbon was an afterthought we will re-calibrate the labels so the ribbon doesn't cover the labyrinth) and we proudly took the first 10 boxes over to the New Harmony Coffee House where Ben sells honey from around the world.

Those of you who know my tapestries will remember that bees have populated my work since the early 1980s, so you can imagine what resonance all this has for me. Add to it the dimensions of harvest, cooking, and nurturing that all of this implies and you might understand the satisfactions of having one's own bees. But, bee architecture....!

It is raining this morning and so I took this picture from the cabin porch, but here are Ben's hives, set against the edge of our property. The neighboring field is in spring flood (the Wabash river is on the other side of the field). I have been weaving large moths lately but will switch insects in a few weeks and move into hive housing on the loom, I do believe. There, I have said it! let's hope it is not a jinx.

(the photo of the beekeepers in suits is from this weekend: Ben, our son Will, and Christine)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

purple haze in the spring



It has been a while since I posted here; my weaving work has been curtailed a bit by what I suppose must come down to a frame of mind that simply has not been present enough to make good work. When I used to teach, I would rail against the idea of inspiration; Thomas Edison's comment about success consisting of 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration needs to be reinforced when one is beginning the practice of studio discipline. I have usually found that the way out of a block is simply to start making something and while the hands became active, the mind will begin to work in its old creative pattern again. My recent history would indicate that the 90% perspiration is useless without the initial 10% of inspiration.

But getting out the the studio can provide a jolt of, yes, inspiration. Last week a number of fallow fields in the area were shockingly PURPLE with a weed called dead nettle. It is scraggly and you would never want it in a bouquet, but masses of it seen from a distance blurs to intense purple for a short period. My friend Sally who knows everything about plants says it is dead nettle -- dead meaning that it doesn't sting -- and I have also been told that it grows particularly well in fields where the other weeds have been killed off by RoundUp. Yikes. Anyway, an amazing sight!