I’m a textile artist, a teacher, and a writer. I’ve won many awards with my weaving, I teach about visual design, and I’ve authored a book, Master Your Craft: Strategies for Designing, Making, and Selling Artisan Work.
I’m not a natural artist, which gives me an advantage in teaching others. My background isn’t in art, but science. I was raised by an astrophysicist and a biochemist, studied math at Caltech, and spent twenty years managing high-tech projects (everything from web development to aerospace). While I describe myself as a “recanted software project manager and apostate math major,” I still look at art through a scientist’s eyes.
In particular, I feel that analyzing visual design using a scientist’s toolbox makes it easier to understand and to teach art. Many people believe that being an artist requires innate gifts, and that if you don’t have those gifts, you can’t do art no matter how hard you try. This myth destroys a lot of artists before they can even begin.
Art can certainly seem mysterious, even mystical to the uninitiated. But visual design follows fundamental principles, rules that are founded in the way our eyes see, the way our brains take in visual information, and the way our culture interprets what we see. In short, visual design has a scientific basis, and can be approached and taught in a logical sequence that makes understanding and applying it much, much easier. Doing so doesn’t make art any less creative, meaningful, or fun; it simply makes it easier to design and make art that is meaningful and fun for you.
My goal as a teacher is to develop and teach that simpler, principle-based approach to art, as applied to weaving. I’m currently blogging about solutions to common color problems on my teaching website, Warp & Weave. I’m also developing a class on color in weaving – you can sign up here to be notified when it’s released.
In the studio, I’m primarily a weaver, dyer, and couture seamstress, producing fabulous handwoven garments, accessories, and wall hangings. I’ve won many awards for my work, including “Best in Show” at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers. My Kodachrome Jacket was featured on the cover of Handwoven magazine. And my handwoven wedding dress is part of the permanent collection at the American Textile History Museum, where it was displayed in their 2013 exhibit Behind the Veil: Brides and Their Stories.
My weaving credentials also include many articles for Handwoven and for Complex Weavers Journal. I am a former member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Handwoven. And in 2008, I co-founded Weavolution, the social network for handweavers. More information in my resume.
Recently I acquired a TC-2 jacquard loom, which allows me to create handwoven images. In 2017, I created Marvelous Mandelbrot, a tribute to the beauty of mathematics:
Another piece, Bipolar Prison, is about my early experiences with bipolar disorder, before I was diagnosed and treated.
I believe that to end the stigma against mental illness, it is vital for some people with mental illnesses to make ourselves visible, to put a human face on mental illness. Since I can afford to be “out” (and I am well aware how lucky that makes me!), I talk about my experience with mental illness, and educate people about mental illness, wherever I can. (Read my essays on mental illness – including my own story of grappling with undiagnosed Type II bipolar disorder.)
In addition to being a textile artist, I’m also President of the Board of Directors at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.
In addition to my articles for Handwoven and Complex Weavers Journal, I’ve written a book, titled Master Your Craft: Strategies for Designing, Making, and Selling Artisan Work, released in 2016 by Schiffer Publishing.
Master Your Craft is drawn from interviews with 22 master artists and artisans across a broad range of media. Interviewees include Tim McCreight, author of 16 books on metalworking; Paul Marioni, one of the founders of the studio glass movement; legendary quilter/knitter/needlepoint designer Kaffe Fassett; quilter Yvonne Porcella; tapestry artist Archie Brennan (appointed Officer of the British Empire for his contributions to the arts); and Roy Underhill, whose PBS show on woodworking has made him the “patron saint” of hand woodworkers; and 16 more renowned artists in clay, glass, wood, polymer clay, textiles, and other fiber media.
Master Your Craft contains guidelines for design, so you can make your work visually effective, useful, and practical to create. It also offers suggestions for streamlining your creative process, minimizing the risk of project disasters, and making your time in the studio more effective and more fun. Finally, it offers suggestions for growing as an artist: Finding your voice, developing your skills, selling your work, and making craftwork a career.
In addition to fiber arts and writing, I have a few other interests. Like chocolate. Every November, I lock myself in the kitchen with 2-3 trusted helpers and make chocolates for four days straight ““ usually 120-130 pounds of bonbons, though the record so far is 136 pounds:
In 2008, I documented part of the chocolatiering process (though my methods have evolved a bit since). I typically make 37-38 flavors – here’s the flavor sheet from 2017:
About half of those bonbons go to friends and family; the other half go into my “Chocolates for Charity” fundraiser, which has raised over $25,000 for various nonprofits over the years.
I also love adventure travel. In 2002, after getting laid off during the dot-com crash, I decided to go off and see the world, so I packed up all my stuff and spent six months backpacking through Southeast Asia. I traveled solo through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and India. While touring, I studied indigenous spinning and weaving. I tried a little bit of everything–I ate rat, scorpion, dog, and beetles. I also learned to dive; jumped off cliffs; rode elephants; lived with Tibetan cave yogis; and saw the Dalai Lama. For photos from my adventures, check out the travel section. For the juicy details, read the travel blog!
I’ve also been to Belize, Guatemala, Ghana, and China. In Ghana I studied kente weaving with Kwame, a member of the Ewe tribe; in China, I did a blitzkrieg tour of the ancient Silk Road. No textiles, alas! but I did get to see the fantastic clay soldiers in Xi’an.
If you want to email me, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!!