Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Vermont Studio Center, March 2018

My studio at the end of the March residency, photo courtesy of Viet Van Tran.

I spent the month of March at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. I was here in November of 2016 and have been looking forward to returning. I spent the first week settling in and wondering what a residency would be like if I shut my door and made small paintings. Especially since the last time I was here I did more community involved pieces such as the Orange Hat Project. https://staceypiwinskifineart.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-orange-hat-project.html

For the first week, I tried to slow down, be still, and make small paintings. I visited the meditation hut and tried to sit and let me mind relax. I couldn't help myself from thinking about the last time I was here, the people I met and the work that was created. https://staceypiwinskifineart.blogspot.com/2016/11/vermont-studio-center-first-half.html  https://staceypiwinskifineart.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-vermont-studio-center-second-half.html I was just beginning to get into the rhythm of these small little landscapes, when I returned to the Vermont Flannel Company...

Me and my little landscape paintings form week one. Photo by Viet Van Tran.

Working on a small landscape. Photo by Viet Van Tran.

Photograph by Viet Van Tran

The last time I was here, I had met Mallory at the Vermont Flannel Company and purchased strips of flannel remnants that I incorporated into my work in various ways. On the morning that I left that residency in November of 2016, I stopped at the Flannel Store and gave Mallory a scarf made out of the flannel remnants. She took me upstairs to meet the sewers and to show them what I had made from their scraps. As I was up there, I watched as this one woman named Cerese, let small little scraps of flannel fall into a bag beside her. I think she noticed me looking at her tiny little scraps and she asked me if I wanted them. I said yes, even though my car was packed, and she pulled out a Fritos bag and a few hard candy wrappers from her trash and gave it to me. With those remnants, I have made several scarves. I began to create scarves to sell as a fundraiser to earn money towards my tuition to return to the Studio Center #vermontscarves I still had many of these scares remaining in the beginning of March, so I decided to bring them with me. They could have been used into my landscapes or maybe as a bartering tool?

The 16 Vermont Scarves that I brought with me to the residency. 

Sunday afternoon, the beginning of week #2, I brought the first few bags of flannel remnants into the studio. Mallory knew that I would be returning in March and saved me some scraps. That afternoon, I went to do laundry and began to braid the flannel, in a way that could be used to make rag rugs. I came back from doing this task with a new idea and began the first small wall piece.

One bag of Flannel Remnants

Braiding at the Laundry Mat

The first small wall loom

Once I wove the flannel strips and braided flannel into the small wall loom, then I began the first large wall loom, 84 nails across the top and bottom. The next day I had a studio visit with the artist, Corban Walker. He asked me if I would have enough time to finish one and I said I thought that I could finish two. However, by the end of the month, with all the assistance I got from participating residents, we completed three!

The beginning...

The goal of working small and being still only lasted so long... Once I decided to work big, I returned to the Vermont Flannel Company to get more supplies...

They had plenty of remnants for me.

How could you resist? Time to jump in!
I did use the scarves as a bartering tool... I offered a labor exchange. For a minimum of two hours labor on these tapestries, one hour of braiding flannel that can be done on your on time and one hour of work in the studio, participants could earn a scarf.  From the first day I hung the sign up sheet on my door, it filled and I even added a wait list. Susannah was the first to earn her Vermont scarf.

While working along with volunteers and participants to create this laborious work, we would talk. When working with you hands in repetitive and meditative motions, these conversations go beneath the surface. These personal stories and social exchanges are embedded into these tapestries. These works are about people, place, and conversation.

Beginning the conversation

Patrick working on Tapestry #1

Patrick earns his scarf

Patrick was there helping me with the tapestries every step of the way. He put in a record number of hours working in the studio and even wove a couple scarves of his own. I appreciate his assistance, company, and the occasional singing of show tunes!

Viet Van Tran would  often come by the studio to take photos of us working. Many of the pictures he took are in this blogpost. He has a way of capturing artists working in a very honest and sincere way. One day I told him he had to work on the tapestry before he could take photos...

Viet Van Tran weaving
The photo Viet Van Tran took of me that day with my many things.

What once was a quiet, solitary painting studio in the first week, had transformed into a place to gather, talk and work together in the second week. As people began to earn their scarves, they would wear them outside, to meals, and around the studio center. Kapil told me they were like an walking exhibition.

Jill and Kapil helping to sort flannel scraps while Denise and Lori weave. 

Jenny and her scarf

As more scarves were earned, more people would come by the studio to work. As more people would work with the soft flannel fabric, more people would visit the Vermont Flannel Company to support the local business that supported us. I loved seeing people braiding at talks and events, people proudly wearing their scarves, and all the flannel shirts. Even after their minimum of two hours of labor was complete, many residents would return to work more on the tapestry anyway... so I decided to set up two.

Anne working on Tapestry #2

Anne earns her scarf
Tapestry #2, which I have titled Flora Bunta, came to be quite fast. Many hands helped to make the piece and it quickly gained momentum. Even Mallory from the Vermont Flannel Company came to work on this piece with us one night after work. Participation guides the compositions and creates the energy of each piece.

Junko was especially interested in helping to complete this piece and she helped me over the two days time until it was complete. Thank you Junko!

Mallory weaving
Mallory weaving
Junko and Emily working on Tapestry #2, Flora Bunta

Once it was complete, we took it off the wall and became quite playful interacting with this woven tapestry...

Jake and Flora
Jake helped me hang the tapestry up high and then I set up Tapestry #3.

A passage from a poem by Cindy Veach referencing the Mill Girls of Lowell, MA...

They bleed, I weave.
I weave, they bleed.

The blood threads have now turned to healing threads.

Meg begins Tapestry #3

Kim weaving Tapestry #3, Passage to the Sky

Sarah weaving

Sarah weaving
Meghan weaving

Meghan weaving
These pieces work so well because of everyone who participated, because artists are open and courageous, allowing themselves to be vulnerable, because of what you were willing to share, these things, this process is inextricable from the finished pieces. I believe these feelings, emotions and intentions are the work.

A special thank you to Mallory and The Vermont Flannel Company for supplying me with the flannel remnants and coming to the studio two times to work on the tapestries and make her own scarf.

Weaving with Mallory. Photo by Kieran Riley Abbott

Weaving with Mallory. Photo by Kieran Riley Abbott

Mallory and the scarf that she made.

Thank you tot he Vermont Studio Center and all who work there to make this an incerdible place for artists to have a amazing and productive residency experiences.

Thank you to everyone who worked on these pieces with me...at least 25 people, you know who you are!  More photos can be found on Instagram at #loomlabor

It took many people, several bags of flannel remnants, 4lbs of nails, at least 67 hours and 23 minutes of volunteer labor and labor exchange, at least 24 bags of braided flannel, many conversations, 19 handwoven scarves made by me, and 4 handwoven scarves made by visitors. I could not have done this without all of you!

Walking in Vermont with Kate. Tapestry #1, Envelope of Sadness

Siuko helping to complete Tapestry #3, Passage to the Sky

However, now that I am back home, I set up strings on my studio wall to attempt Tapestry #4. The energy will be very different working alone in my home studio and the time I will have in the studio will be more fragmented by real life than the luxury of time one has while at a residency. I am curious how a piece that is a conversation with myself over a longer period of time will compare to the three pieces that were created with all of you. I guess, we'll wait and see what lies beneath the surface...

Photo by Howard Romero


  1. What fun Stacey! Love the collaborative work and the stories that go along with it.


    1. Thank you Terri! Can't wait to weave with you again sometime soon.

  2. I LOVE THIS and can't wait to see #4!!!

    1. A month later, #4 is still in the works. Stay tuned, the process is much slower without all of you!

  3. What a great experience! And what a pleasure meeting you, Stacey!

    1. A pleasure meeting you as well Denise. I enjoyed our time creating together. Hope out paths cross again sometime...

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