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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Diane Widler Wenzel : Native Hawaiian Weaving with Hulali Jewell

Hulali assisted me by tying off ten locked ends
 to keep them in place while working on the other side.
This is the stage where a flat weaving
is made to have four corners.

The last baskets I made were during my early teens. For several years I made paper Easter baskets for four neighbor kids. The baskets were held together with stapples. They were decorated with paper flowers and animals, filled with decorated hard boiled eggs. While vacationing in Hawaii, I learned of the basket making and woven bracelet class from a park ranger and immediately I wanted to experience and appreciate the pleasure of touching natural fiber in the process of creating. I wanted to try something new.
         For the price of the materials, Huilsli teaches traditional Hawaiian weaving classes every Friday and Saturday morning at the headquarters of Kaloko Honokohau National Heritage Park on the Kona Coast in West Hawaii. Preregistration is necessary so Hulali can make kits for each student. For reservations call 329-6881.
           Materials from nature are rewarding to my senses. I am often repulsed by perfect manufactured slick plastics. The aesthetic richness and soothing rhythm of the weaving craft permeating every aspect of the lives of my weaver friends. Their immersion and connection to the natural world is an art form transforming the quality of their lives. Even their values!
       I foresee a time when more and more people in our consumerist American culture will again value working with natural materials over the convenience of plastic containers and toys.  The process of crafting natural materials will tap into our creative selves satisfying a basic need to express ourselves. The bonus will be a more complete and satisfying life styles like my utopian fantasy of Hawaiian culture. I imagine the Hawaiians and their children together. Adults sitting and weaving while children sometimes looking on absorbing the art of living or the children imaginatively entertaining themselves now and then being entertained with their elders' stories and songs in the rhythm of their weaving.
      Neither on line nor at the Kona Bay Books was an adequate book to prepare me. A teacher like Hulali is essential to demonstrate just how to distinguish the right side from the back side of the pandanus leaf, just how much mist is required to keep the fiber pliable and not soggy limp, and just how much to pinch or tug. There is no substitute for Hulali's vigilance to catch mistakes early enough to correct them easily. As a beginner I held the basket awkwardly making weaving difficult. I tried to hold the basket as she suggested. Of course the smaller the class, the better she can assist. When I was wove a basket, I was the only student.
       From Hulali's class I received a greater appreciation of an under appreciated vehicle for creative expression. What I enjoyed most was the feel of the leaves. The right side of the leaf has a natural sheen. The back has visible, slightly hydrated veins strengthening the basket with a nice supple body as though the leaves are alive.  The fiber properties must be respected but with love and care the leaves are amazingly forgiving allowing finesse.

     Like in making pots the basket fibers are gleaned from the earth, aged, hydrated to the right consistency, coaxed to being pliable with a bamboo straight edge like the wooden potter's rib.  Both materials, leaf or clay, are measured exactly, cut and arranged precisely, tightly centered to make a vessel. Both are built up from the bottom. Both have a mind to spread outwards as the sides build upwards. Clay and natural fiber both require a feel of how much to pull inwards until the top of the vessel is reached.  Turning the lip is critical and difficult. The shaping of the body is the most rewarding. The final stage included pushing in and pulling out the body in both. Love was the pinching pushing and pulling down the lip to make a nice tight edge.  The diagonal spiraling directions of the plated weave allows for shaping reminding me of the spiraling movement of clay on a potter's wheel. The dampened slightly misted leaves slip against one another just as the molecules of clay do so in shaping. When pulling up the wall and later shaping a pot on a potters' wheel, the water makes the vessel pliable and strong holding their shape.
       The properties of the materials of both also reminds me of the way clay can imitate fabric. In both wheel thrown and handbuilt clay the softness of the natural convex shape is like the basket's body. The tendency of both clay and pandanus is to flare like a trumpet at the lip. Also like clay the woven pandanus fiber leaves behind a story of every touch. In my inxperience the story is one of struggle.

In both my clay slab handbuilt and my plated pandanus basket
the materials want to push outward especially around the lip.
They both show the touch of the maker revealing my struggles.

The walls of the basket could be shaped into greater angularity.
I see eight triangles not so natural for clay.

     What took the longest for me was tucking in the loose ends to finish the basket. I recalled my weaving friends who were always so patiently finishing their weaving. No final tucks for clay vessels.
      I came into this class careless about craftsmanship. But I soon learned that each stage whether it is a basket or a bracelet, requires correct tightness from the start with consistent rhythm to the end. The bracelet furthered my appreciation of the fiber because it feels so good hugging my arm.  According to a park ranger who takes regular lessons from Hulali, she never takes her bracelet off and wears it even when she swims in the ocean. Truly amazing pandanus fiber! Only in the tropics, Hulali and islanders do not export the raw material for weaving. At home in Oregon best to collect and use natural fibers growing in Oregon.
        I commend the National Park for programs like Hulali's class as a national treasure that will continue to inspire our mix of cultural exchange for a brightly satisfying future for those who will it.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

My world and thinking

By Rain Trueax

February 19th-- Super Snow Moon

For this blog, I had ideas, multiples-- during the week. Then here the time comes, and my mind is more or less blank as I try to remember what I thought mattered. This was a great week for dreaming-- several of what I call my movie dreams. Once in a while one of those works into a book-- not sure if any of these will.
It's raining again in Tucson, which is way unusual for this month, at least in my experience. Friday, we had a rare snowfall, which brought more snow to higher elevations. It's also been colder than usual requiring twice to cover the bougainvillea hoping to protect its beauty for spring. The freezes last a few hours, but the damage takes longer to repair by nature. Bougainvillea are so colorful and say desert communities as much as anything I can think of. Their red blossoms aren't actually flowers but literally leaves.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

by Diane Widler Wenzel: From suitcase to watercolor painting in Hawaii

I packed a few art supplies including 11"x14" Aquabord and some canvas boards coated with absorbent ground for watercolor. For paints I had Daniel Smith watercolor sticks not to be confused with watercolor crayons that have a little water soluble wax. Also took a palette with a little tube paint squeezed into the divided slots. In Rubbermaid containers I brought a little absorbent ground white and matte medium. Also an assortment of pencils and pens, collapsible water container and easel with an oven pan table included everything I needed for painting!

These are a few of the paintings. In next week's post I will write about a special experience doing something completely new for me - Hawaiian weaving.

Fishing at the fish pond at Kakoiko-Honokoau National Park
painted on tinted absorbent ground on canvas board
Keki pond at Four Seasons Resort
started at a West Hawaii plein air painters event
painted on aquabord
Energy Lab Beach
painted on Aquabord

Saturday, February 16, 2019

What's up now

by Rain Trueax

It's been cool in the desert with more rain than last year but that promises a beautiful year for wildflowers. We've also enjoyed some amazing sunsets and once in a while sunrises.

Rather than going off and doing fun stuff or even looking for a fifth wheel trailer, to upgrade ours to something a little larger, we've had more time here at the house than we initially expected because of repair work that was needed-- most outside but some inside. I am starting to think in terms of storage here if this becomes our full-time home along with time in the trailer. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

by Diane Widler Wenzel: Valentine

Great Aunt Myrtle's hand sewing on paper and fabric
around 1930

To my valentines, my co-author Rain, my supportive husband, and my readers, I thank you. I appreciate you because of the satisfaction I derive from formulating my ideas here. In the process of writing new ideas come to me. And a special thanks to those of you who have commented.

Love all of you!!!

Saturday, February 09, 2019


by Rain Trueax

This week, I got to thinking about how much of life is about luck and timing. Those two items can go either way for whether we consider them good or not so much. In my own experience, timing has sometimes been amazing how a series of events leads to one result. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

by Diane Widler Wenzel:The Art of Entrepreneurship in Being an Artist

Exhibits at the Corvallis Arts Center open up fascinating Lunch Box Artist Talks facilitated by the talented curator Hester Coucke. January 31st, Pete Goldlust and Kristy Kunn were interviewed.
 Both after much living are successful at supporting themselves with their art. Both achieve their desires from a long journey including preparatory business experiences combined with various learned skills which ultimately help to shape their art.

           Their similarities mostly end with their entrepreneurship skills. Pete originally wanted to be a commercial artist but his teachers stirred him away and he studied fine art at two prestigious art schools. His formal art training was with teachers who were encouraging to his outsider tendencies. He retained his own playful, intuitive, imaginative imagery for making art.  He made work only for his own satisfaction for many years. An example is a very large scroll painted over many years. It is a detailed colorful painting of his imaginary world crowded with detail.
           Kristy had no formal art training. She studied engineering until she found she would not be doing any hands on building. Woodworking was her first passion. She then went to work in a California furniture workshop featuring natural woods and fibers. She married a manufacturer and learned the business end of a craft industry. After separating from her husband on her own, she made a living by starting her own business of importing art supplies for her children's school. One supply was wool fleece for felting. For only the past three years she has started felting and promoting herself as an artist and art workshop instructor. Her techniques are self taught. Interestingly my first response is wonderment at how she engineered perfect right angle joints in felt. The mystery of her work methods is bait for students to take her workshops.
          Pete, after years of making art that was not marketable, he finally just a year ago found a satisfying approach to being economically viable as a full time artist. Some of his work lends itself to designing it while leaving the labor of making it to others. His biggest commissions are his drawings enlarged to gigantic proportions by commercial vinyl laminators. Also on exhibit are his small Sculpey clay animals he hopes will be commissioned. He envisions them as monumental bronze sculptures. His diverse directions include some hands on art work like his delightful colorful "Jellies" that are made of  found plastic kitchen containers purchased at thrift shops.  He screwed them together to look like jellyfish. The "Jellies" were commissioned by a charter school and a dentist.
           Kristy Kun's method is tactile. She has a very general idea when she starts and is open to having a conversation with her materials, interacting with them as she works.  Her work is intensive but never a labor because of her love of the wool. There is nothing she rather do than work on her art.  When a problem in handling the material occurs, one of her approaches is to take a short 5 minute nap. After separating her mind from the work, she wakes up with an idea on how to solve the problem.
           Pete loves the business end. The first work he does in the morning is business.  He spends 90% of his time doing the records and applying for public commissions working in partnership with his wife who polishes his proposals. Pete Goldlust, like a commercial artist of his boyhood dreams, made proposals showing exactly what his piece will look like. Those who commission work want to see what they are buying and no doubt his explicit proposals were a prerequisite to success. When proposals are accepted most of his work is already done and the actual making of his huge wall hangings is done by the vinyl laminators. His challenge is to research the needs of the projects and come up with ideas before the deadlines.
           I asked Pete when during the day does he get his best inspirations. He immediately said happy hour. After a good laugh by the audience, the conversation was moved towards questions of who in his past inspired him. I am left with a vision of him drawing on cocktail napkins while socializing  with friends and family.  Maybe the joyous feelings of the occasion transferred to his drawing late into the night.
         I imagine that if an artist is spending most of the time on business the intuitive subconscious would not be easily stimulated to produce ideas. But Pete's early practice continues to enrich him while he meets the demands of  seeking commissions for public art. To Pete's advantage, he has kept a scroll of tiny imaginary beings and environments which could inform him for years.
          A period of freedom is very important in an artist's early development away from the demands of the marketplace.  My professor Frederich Heidel at Portland State College told me I should keep my early work and not sell it. Having early work as a reference is vital in having a rich art development. I took slides of my work but that is not the same. Interestingly Frederick Heidel and Pete Goldlust studied at one of the art schools in Chicago, a savvy oasis for steering students away from the pit falls of marketing and encouraging the intuitive? My Woodrow Wilson High School art teacher, Henry Heine, said art making must be fun. When making it is not fun, people quit making it.  He also went to the same art school at the same time Heidel studied there.
        I come away from the Arts Center feeling like celebrating the importance of these two artists being in a sweet spot where their original desires are satisfied. They are making art that is true to themselves and are solving the dilemma of being true while making a living.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

life and death

by Rain Trueax

There is one given in life and really only one. Once we are born, we will die. Now some believe only the body dies. The soul lives on for the body to be resurrected (not sure in what form but sounds like it'd be good. The Apostle Paul said without that resurrection, Christians were being fooled). Whatever the case, of an afterlife, our current bodies do die. While that might seem a ways off for some, it's closer for others-- like the aged. What does it mean?

Friday, February 01, 2019


by Rain Trueax

photo for Imbolc 2017

When we are in Oregon, we usually see the first lambs about now. Imbolc, Ewe's Milk, is a Celtic, Pagan, agrarian celebration-- the true end of winter when the grass begins to green up. 

The Oregon farm did have its first lambs already, and they are doing great thanks to the help of our son, who is taking over a job he's not thrilled with. He likes the cows but the sheep not so much. I have to remind him the sheep are why we do not need a lawnmower. He might want to reconsider it.

The link below has some rituals you might consider to celebrate the end of winter. Of course, if you are on the middle of that Polar Vortex, you probably aren't ready to celebrate just yet. 

Interestingly, the West Coast has had a milder than usual winter. Humans have so little real control over climate. It's something to be aware of when people want to demand we do something. Study earth's history, and you know it's a constantly changing place. For humans, we have been through a fortunate time.

We will definitely have a fire in the fireplace tonight to welcome back the sun.

This is not a regular post but a special one for a special day. Tomorrow will be on death... hmmm not sure how that fits rebirth but then it depends on how you see death...