I’m working up concept sketches for my next piece. Technically, there are two pieces in queue ahead of it, but they are relatively mechanical – weaving a project directly from a photo. Not very original, but appropriate gifts to the people who made it possible for me to buy and weave on a jacquard loom.
After that, I want to do some phoenix pieces, since I have had phoenixes on the brain for the last few years. Maybe that will clear out some of my obsession. Or maybe not. Anyway, I thought the design process might interest you, so here’s what I’ve been working on:
I started with thumbnails, which are very small sketches intended to help you work out layout. I wanted a theme of rebirth. The legendary phoenix is a bird that dies in fire every 100 years, and is reborn from its own ashes, so it’s quite appropriate. I sketched a couple possible layouts:
I wasn’t in love with any of them: the ones with phoenixes rising from lava (the cracked earth) felt hackneyed, and the ones with a dead bird at the bottom felt clumsily literal. After looking through lots of images of phoenixes on Google, I realized that it would be very difficult to do something with phoenixes rising from fire that hadn’t been done many times before. I wanted something a bit more original.
At that point, I realized I was ahead of myself: I was doing layout without a concept. So I started doing larger, more free-form drawings to brainstorm ideas. Here’s the best one:
Here we have a rendition of bipolar disorder: the phoenix rising on the left side symbolizes the fires of mania, the black crow descending symbolizes depression and death. In this interpretation, both birds represent destructive, though opposing, forces.
I love the symbolism in this sketch, and have set it aside for later development. However, I want something more upbeat as a first project, so I’m still looking. I think what I need to do is brainstorm a set of ideas/words around rebirth, and then use that set of ideas (perhaps with my Design Poker exercise) to brainstorm more images.
One thing I have realized is that my concept sketches are going to look like a six-year-old’s drawings for quite some time (if not forever). And that’s OK. I learned in my digital painting class that I’m perfectly capable of turning a crude sketch into something much more sophisticated, once I commit to the idea. And the idea of a concept sketch is to express the idea, not to be a finished painting. So I feel a lot less self-conscious now about the crudeness of my concept sketches. This, in turn, makes them a lot more fun. 🙂
Meanwhile, Christmas arrived early yesterday, in the form of a box from Bluster Bay Woodworks. I had emailed Terry to ask whether lacewood would work for a shuttle, and he said no, but leopardwood looked quite similar and would work well. So he made me a Honex-tensioned end-feed shuttle from leopardwood, and I was so enchanted that I asked him to make me a Swedish boat shuttle and a mini boat shuttle out of the same wood. I also got two more mini boat shuttles out of exotic woods (curly boxwood and granadillo). A few weeks later, this wonderful collection of shuttles arrived on my doorstep (click to enlarge):
That really doesn’t do justice to the leopardwood or the curly boxwood, so here is another photo. I love the golden glints in the leopardwood:
I love Bluster Bay shuttles – they are beautiful and a joy in the hand – and I’m particularly fond of their Honex-tensioned end feed shuttles. So these are a welcome addition to my collection.
And the cats? My mom left on Tuesday, after a delightful week and a half. In order to pack for the trip home, however, she first had to empty her suitcase of cats. Here’s Fritz, trying to stow away:
Alas, we foiled Fritz’s attempt to visit exotic places, and he’s still here at home with us. (Thank goodness!)
(Fritz and Tigress may appear somewhat less frequently in these blog posts, by the way. I’m going to try to write a bit more frequently, so there isn’t quite as much packed in each update – which means I may not have a photo for every post. Rest assured, though, that they are doing well and will continue to appear regularly. Wouldn’t want to deprive you of the real stars of the show!)
I love your shuttles! The swedish model in on my Christmas list! I like the longer slot they put on those models… I have two of their end feeds as well, but they are not the Honex and I am thinking of selling to replace with ‘better for fine yarns’ Honex tensioners…. Love the cats too… am looking forward to your getting new loom… 🙂
I love Bluster Bay shuttles and have two, but I have a question. After weaving with end-feed shuttles, why would we weave with anything else? They are so wonderful. But, am I missing something, do the other shuttles have benefits beyond that the end-feed have?
Tien Chiu says
Some yarns don’t work well in end-feed shuttles – ribbon yarns, for example, because the yarn twists as it leaves the pirn. Boat shuttles are better for those yarns, so I wanted one on hand just in case.
In the case of the mini boat shuttles, I’m thinking of doing some inlay work, where small shuttles are better.
Other than that, I agree with you: end-feed shuttles are great!
National Geographic had a fantastic special on Birds of Paradise a while back. Worth googling about. Might help spark something for that phoenix brain storm session.
Tien Chiu says
Thanks! I’ll check it out (and look for photos of birds of paradise generally).
Just a quick thought – the crow doesn’t appear to be descending to me. Just lower in relation to the phoenix. What if you tried putting the crow head-downwards, as if diving?
Tien Chiu says
That’s a good idea….though I was thinking more of having its claws out as if it were landing. I’ll try both ways. Thanks for the suggestion!