squirrel chatter & birth of the blog: 2014

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A lightly edited presentation of posts on ATA-talk, the members discussion list of the American Tapestry Alliance; with permission from the writers.  Bolded  passages are for editorial emphasis—MLS

 img200 - Copy (2)   not I, nor I, pas moi,  me neither


SQUIRREL CHATTER/  5 Days in January



Margaret Sunday  posted “Selfies Reveal”, an overview and update of the 2013 Selfies discussion and formative project (see seminal buzz… 2013).  the post ended with a status report on her first effort at weaving a Selfie:   My first Selfie bit the dust, or rather, looks pretty good, tangled high in the tree where a squirrel has carried it.

Coptic, Head of a dancer, 4th - 5th C, 42 x 32cm,Rutschowscaya 70Suzanne Angevine: Oh, do tell how it got there.

 10644944_316540161885047_4027841305612953893_nDorothy Clews: Thanks for the summary of what is happening with the Selfie Project Margaret. It is great to see that the concept of the ‘Selfie’ has initiated a project proposal and that the Board are considering it. I shall look forward to the next update. My ‘Selfie’ is still in my head. I have been busy doing other things but I am due to start ‘weaving’ soon. Your Selfie was obviously a very attractive item to have disappeared so quickly:)

Hel-lo?Margaret: The neighborhood wildlife likes to re-purpose whatever it can snatch from our old galvanized garbage cans (so misshapen from crashing against the truck maw that the lids won’t fit) particularly fibrous items that serve well in nesting. I am happier to see bits of the Selfie away up in the buckeye than last year’s shreds of a papier mache mask and a purple onion net.


me at Linda's 2012-1Barbara Heller: I am trying to imagine the squirrel weaving a selfie up there in its tree. It has good taste, obviously and a creative bent. What would its selfie look like?

 Hel-lo?Margaret: repurposeful and SELFish, with a brain the size of a walnut. Barbara, the squirrel’s-eye-view Selfie wouldn’t appeal to you as a subject for a tapestry would it? I am trying to imagine what kind of social commentary could be embedded in this image—would the squirrel have a vanity mirror for self-oogling? or perhaps a gilded oil portrait of itself to study, in the heady high of its ethereal loft?  (This squirrel tale is taking on a life of its own—)



Janet Austin: I think the squirrel would have to use social media to share its selfie with the entire world. Isn’t that what selfies are really for? Facebook, twitter, Instagram. We need to sign up Miss Squirrel for all of those!

 Margaret:  Right Jan, I’ll get my crew right on it. She already has a mess of wires up there—just have to figure out which ones to use for the interface—we will, naturally, be getting her a SnapChat account, as she has little sense and tends to run around in her all-together.


me at Linda's 2012-1

Barbara: And don’t you think that every good squirrel deserves a life of its own? A bushy tale/tail to tell, or maybe reflections on a selfie with nuts and full cheeks?  Talking about the cycle of life, acorns and oaks, and many deep issues of survival in today’s urban forest. The need to gather seeds and nuts, bury them, and forget where so that new trees can grow to feed the next generation. The need to frolic in the sunshine and bond with other squirrels in the joyous dance of life. (Enough. I just sat through a three and a half hour board meeting and am a little off the deep end here.)



Merna Strauch: A few thoughts—

This project is perfect for an online exhibit, especially if unlimited can also mean no deadlines. Perhaps selfies could be added to the gallery each month or as they were ready. Someone might want to do a whole series of selfies and all of them could be exhibited.

Secondly, could we drop the cutesy squirrel stuff now? I dread seeing a logo or page header that includes a squirrel-in-a-tree selfie, especially one on a bicycle!

Btw, Unjuried Small Format Challenges pieces have the same deadline as any others and challenges can be repeated. But then there’s that 10″ limit to consider. A separate online exhibit is a better fit.

HPIM2042Margaret:  quoting an email received off-list, “Quick note – [as to] Merna’s comment, I can see a bicycle added to your selfie. She obviously does not believe you have a tapestry up a tree. Please send a photo of your gently blowing remains in the privet bush….”



HPIM2042Margaret: I like Merna’s concept of an “exhibit in progress”. It is something we can do with an independent website—create an active educational forum that the ATA’s website, which displays finished work, isn’t geared to. The process of adding works to the exhibit for as long as the project runs can allow it a good, healthy run, with time enough for slow tech. to be practiced and celebrated properly.

This exhibit, with its flexibility and capacity for regeneration in the form of multiple galleries can be a great tool for engaging students and academics in research and writing about Tapestry.  …a source of fresh material with rich variations and living artists to ask questions of… a resource for classes in fibers, design, criticism and related fields to gain real introductory experience in the study of Tapestry, for us (with ATA) to strengthen networks with academics in our field and to help nurture scholarship by providing a not-too-intimidating, evolving resource for students, where perhaps they could find mentors and a first publishing experience—.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAnton Veenstra: my contribution. What I’d like from the project is a legitimization of the process of an artist creating images of themselves without inferences of self-infatuation, indulgence etc; the term “selfie” verges on a new, online narcissism.

HPIM2042Margaret: Anton, what you observe, I think is true. /Self-eez/ sounds like /self-ish/, and poetry teaches that sound-alike words embed their meanings in each other. Taking a guess on behalf of others, and speaking for myself, I feel the on-line narcissism implied by the term is off-putting, maybe more like repugnant. I think it is a little, silly-sounding word with abundant implications for the idea and value of the self, the individual, in a media-/ social media-constructed world.

(I don’t know if I want to believe that world exists—for me it exists only in the belief that it does…somewhere—but it clearly exists for my seventeen-year-old, who is not vain and self-obsessed, but complex and ironic in creating her everyday social media persona.)

Whether to be ironic, satirical, metaphorical or plain exhibitionistic in creating a self-portrait is a response that comes from deep in an artist’s nature. There is also the possibility of honest visual observation, a respected approach with an amazing tradition. The broader our range of responses to this theme, the more meaningful and valid our exhibit will be.


JanetAustinSelfPortraitPurpleSketch Jan: [Referring to an… insightful and eloquent description of a self-portrait as introspective, yet selective and responsive to the moment of capture]. As with most exhibit themes, it will be up to each artist to interpret the theme in their own way.

Coptic 5th C or later, Trilling, 33

Ruth51: Margaret wrote, “Whether to be ironic, satirical, metaphorical or plain exhibitionistic in creating a self-portrait is a response that comes from deep in an artist’s nature. There is also thepossibility of honest visual observation, a respected approach with an amazing tradition.”

Selfies (aka self portraits):  Picasso, Van Gogh, VanEyck, Kahlo, Raphael, Velazquez, Massaccio, Botticelli, Lippi, Beale, Cassatt………….

The list goes on. I think whether it’s on a digital screen or a wooden panel or canvas, it is the same thing—what do I look like—to myself and to others…will anyone remember me….




Anton: I keep wanting to click LIKE. We are chatting on the FB Tapestry group page; one suggestion was we open a WordPress blogsite. We then all share the password the way we do on ATA; then as people are ready to contribute they can open a new blog chapter & people can comment.


Coptic, Personification of the Nile 3rd - 4th C, 29.6 x 29.4cm, Kybalova, 53Dirk Holger: AS FAR as I know, none of the mentioned eleven artists has produced a WOVEN self-image of themselves. Here comes the task for ATA members: not to explain why they want to weave such portraits but to make sure that these “selfies” express themselves in the weaving, done in a quality of at least 4 warps per cm or 10 warps per inch and best (I insist) not in 10 x 10″ panels but in 40 x 40″ tapestries so they will have what the art world calls “wall power”… (see Pat Taylor’s (of West Dean Studio) woven portrait: highly expressive, artistic challenging (3 basic colors, abstracting the overall design) and excellent weaving quality….)

I leave the list of “Ruth51” in so you may check on the given artists…. Any tapestry woven after a design by any one of these artists would end up in a museum collection because of “name-recognition”….will yours?

HPIM2042Margaret: Dirk, Would YOU be interested in curating a section/ “Gallery”/ page of the virtual Selfie Project/ Museum ? You could establish any and all criteria, and use your Gallery to instill your message to your ATA colleagues VISUALLY. How about it?

The rules we have agreed upon for the Selfies Project, overall are: Open, Unlimited and Unjuried. I don’t see why any individual section could not have its own specifications—after all, this is what a curator does, articulates criteria and selects works which exemplify those criteria. It is possible that a Gallery could be be filled by invitation. We would be honored to have your perspective presented in a “Gallery of Big (and Fine) Selfies” within the virtual Museum.

The only limitation is that the subject matter/ content must be in some way a Selfie. This means the weaver must weave an image that represents him or herself. (So if I, for example, elected to represent myself in the guise of a twenty-something Herr Durer, it would have to be pretty clear from the image that his face is a facade for mine—that I am appropriating his rock star, art-history-you-are-there, over-the-Alps-guy, youthful self-portrait (perfection in oil…which everyone knows, loves and probably doesn’t feel the need to see in threads) to express something essential about mySelf—an immobile, asymmetrical, over the hill, unenshrined, unrecognized, undaunted female. —Margaret may not weave Albrecht’s Selfie!—without a very good rationale!)

Point of Information—Our number is close to 25, including what I am hearing from other discussions. Other Point of Information—People have started weaving Selfies for this project. Discussions will be turning to technical questions. Dirk’s suggestions (above) are a great resource (thank you, dear sir). Others have their own ways of learning and defining technical problems and solutions. Open/Unlimited–We Honor Them All.

Coptic 5th C or later, Trilling, 33

Ruth 51:  Dirk wrote, “…quality of at least 4 warps per cm or 10 warps per inch and best (I insist) not in 10 x 10″ panels but in 40 x 40″ tapestries….”       In my wildest dreams…..


Coptic, Personification of the Nile 3rd - 4th C, 29.6 x 29.4cm, Kybalova, 53Dirk: Thanks for this invitation, but “no, thanks!” due to my other commitments I made already (5 lectures, the final layout for the tapestry book, the new layout for the “Unicorn in Tapestry”—book, 2 new international touring shows, one for a Polish weaver, one for a Japanese selection of several (superb) tapestry artists, a project “Tapestry: a Mural Art”, (including the invisibility of the weaver!), a Aubusson-Felletin-trip, the 50th anniversary of my class there, motto: “in vino veritas”, (the second part of the saying “sed aqua sapientia” follows when we wake up), 2 cartoons (1:1) for new Aubusson tapestries, all in synthetic silks, my Coptic textile collection- presentation, finding and adding 2 more venues for the current tapestry touring show, assisting my eldest son inmoving to “a better place” in New York, etc., plus 4 more “etcetera” , plus a medication-free life now…. Please understand, thanks…

Coptic Orbiculus with a cavlier 7th - 8th C, 27 x 26-5cm Rutschowscaya

Kathe Todd-Hooker: sure and leave all of small format/ small scale artists out!

 Coptic, Personification of the Nile 3rd - 4th C, 29.6 x 29.4cm, Kybalova, 53Dirk: No, not all, just those who produce mediocre work, please…

HPIM2042Margaret: It sounds like Anton’s suggestion of getting a Selfies Blog, which can have multiple “chapters” (which I have been calling “galleries”) that can be designed and operated by individuals or groups for exploring their own interests is the best way to go.

One could do a chapter as a solo exhibit, themed exhibit by content, technique, size and/or scale or in-depth study of a single tapestry, overview of the work of classmates/ schools/ regions? anything that one would want to explore, in whatever way they would want to explore it within the limitations of the blog medium.

—Interest has been expressed in curating a chapter on the Artist’s Process of Making a Selfie, showing the photo alongside the tapestry… conceptual/psychological issues, as well as technical.
—Dorothy, if I may say so, and I have talked about curating an OOGLES (Openly Old Greys Like Selfies) chapter.
–Small scale is open/ small format is open/ and both together are open. Any takers?
—I still think, Kathe would be excellent for Imagery from Popular Culture as expression of individuality/ self, re: her work in contemporary culture imagery and the antique French body parts imagery she described in an earlier Selfies thread.

Coptic Orbiculus with a cavlier 7th - 8th C, 27 x 26-5cm Rutschowscaya

Kathe: Margaret et al—sounds like fun. I am in. I am used to doing blogs for the most part, but would need help with technical aspects.

> …I still think, Kathe would be excellent for “imagery from
> popular culture as expression of individuality/ self” …

I am also interested in participating in Ogles—the old ladies one. I have already been trying to design one.


img200 - Copy - Copy  the denying hares, above, are details from The Lady and the Unicorn, “To My Only Desire” panel, preliminary cartoons, c. 1500, Musee de Cluny

Coptic Orbiculus with a cavlier 7th - 8th C, 27 x 26-5cm Rutschowscaya

Coptic Orbiculus with a cavlier 7th – 8th C, 27 x 26-5cm Rutschowscaya

Coptic Head of a dancer, 4th - 5th C, 42 x 32cm,Rutschowscaya 70

Coptic, Head of a dancer, 4th – 5th C, 42 x 32cm, Rutsch- owscaya 70

Margaret Sunday, wee me

Sunday, wee me


Strauch, Selfie

Coptic, Personification of the Nile 3rd - 4th C, 29.6 x 29.4cm, Kybalova 53

Coptic, Personifi- cation of the Nile 3rd – 4th C, 29.6 x 29.4cm, Kybalova, 53

Coptic 5th C or later, Trilling, 33

Coptic 5th C or later, Trilling, 33

Anton Veenstra, Vietnam War Conscientious Objector, detail

Veenstra, Vietnam War Conscien- tious Objector, detail

Barbara Heller


Dorothy Clews,

Clews, Trying to put it back together again, detail

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