Sunday, January 27, 2013

Yurt And Platform Design

I haven't written about the upcoming chapter in my life, partly because so many of the details are uncertain. But big things are coming, so I thought I'd start to share what I know...

For the past year, we've been experimenting with integrating my weaving business into our newly forming spiritual community up in the mountains. Well, it has not been entirely successful. The amount of work that is required and the amount of focus that it takes has proven to be more than this fledgling community can handle.

It's not dramatic, but we've decided that I will create a new life for myself elsewhere. The good news is that it's giving me the chance to act on a dream I've had for years: to live off the grid in a yurt of my own design and construction.

There are many pieces of the puzzle that I need to fit together.

- Structural Integrity
- Ample Light
- Sacred Geometry
- Functional Space Use

Believe it or not, the image above was created using all free software. I used Google Sketchup for all of the modeling, and the free version of Indigo Renderer for the lighting analysis. (Yes, I have years of 3D graphics experience and yes, it helps, but I swear that anyone can learn to use these tools for free.)

In the lighting analysis, I was trying to determine whether a 7'6" roof ring would give me the amount of interior light that I want. I have intentionally modelled only two windows to see how much light is brought in by the roof ring. The answer is: lots!

Here's an overview of the platform with the yurt on it.

And here are the measurements for the yurt itself. I made this drawing to send to people who know more about yurt design than I do. I need to know whether the 12' roof timbers are sturdy enough for the job they'll be doing or whether they need to be heavier. And then, if they are heavier, will the walls be able to hold them up or do they need to be heavier, too?

And today I worked up a design sketch of a way to raise the center of the platform to make space for insulation and ensure that water won't run under the yurt. Here are some of the sketches that I sent off to the contractor who's helping me to build it...

One point of the raised center platform is to ensure that the floor of the yurt stays dry despite the fact that I'll be using the whole thing as a 30'x30' rain catchment system. My calculations show that I'll be able to reliably collect 10,000 gallons a year with this system, making a well unnecessary, even if I irrigate a small garden.

And, as a bonus I'll have 900 square feet of dry storage space underneath the platform.

This is a huge project with multiple concurrent design and construction phases. I'll definitely be sharing more as it comes together... The goal is to be living and working in it by early summer and to have it ready for rain by the time it comes this fall.

I *do* like a challenge.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Welcome Back Email Subscribers!

Well, darn!

I just discovered a slew of communication problems arising from a number of complicated sources.

First, I discovered that something had broken with the system that grabs my blog posts and emails them out to people who want to read my blog that way. The system didn't notify me that it was broken and I haven't checked in on it in months. Oops.

And then I found another, more obtuse problem. With multiple email accounts and multiple devices, I depend on services like IMAP to work correctly and keep everything synced up. Well, it broke for one of my accounts. Again, I don't know when. I do know, however, that there are a slew of important emails floating in the aether, having never been put into the stream that I read. It didn't fail completely, mind you. I would have noticed that. It just decided to hold SOME of my mail unread and unsynced with no discernible reason.

I'm currently trying to fix the situation by manually downloading 14,545 unread emails. Then comes the onerous task of weeding out mailing lists and spam from real emails and finally, biting the bullet and responding to months-old emails.

If you sent me an email and are awaiting a reply, you might try resending it. Otherwise, I'll probably find it and respond later in the week.

Honestly, I'm not that great about keeping up correspondence, but I'm not usually this bad, even in the winter. Sheesh!

Black Sample Blanket: Time To Place Custom Orders!

It's that time again! A new sample blanket is hung on the wall and I'm weaving like a mad person to get cloth to the seamstress in time to pick up finished garments on my way to the first show of the 2013 season.

I said in my post about the warp that this is the first asymmetrical cloth that I've designed and woven. The asymmetry makes it a challenge to photograph because not only does each weft color look different, the two edges of the cloth look different.

I've done my best to give representative closeups, but if there's one that you like in particular and you want to place an order, I'll send more shots of your chosen stripe so you can be sure.

Here are the bobbins left after weaving the first two stripes, seen hanging below. One change from bobbins to cloth... I removed the black and added purple.

I wove these just to see what extreme contrast would look like. Unless someone orders a custom piece, I will not be weaving garments in this range. The weft overshadows the warp gradient that's the defining element of my style.

Dark green, Teal

Three shades of blue with clear mokume. Stand back and squint to see the stripes. (Or look back at the photo of the whole blanket.)

Ultramarine and purple. (Sorry, the pure bright purple one is already claimed. I can weave one in a slightly darker purple if you like.)

Pink and red.

I want to talk a little more about ordering custom items. I can't do custom garment design and sewing. That's just not where my talent lies. What I am offering when I say "custom order" is to weave a piece of cloth with a custom weft. As you see in the photos above, weft color changes the cloth immensely, especially with a predominantly black warp.

As with the last batch of black cloth, it's more expensive than my regular cloth. I still have to buy most of my black thread at a much higher cost than the other colors. Here are the prices for garments from this beam:

Regular Ruana - $460
Sofa Throw - $400
Short Ruana - $345
Square Shawl - $230
Möbius Scarf - $80

And, as always, blog readers get 25% off from these prices and free shipping. Just send me a message with the garment style and your preferred weft color from the samples above.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Knot Prep Snapshot

I've shown y'all the knot-tying process that I go through in order to get the new warp tied onto the the old one. This time I noticed that the draping threads on the back of the loom are kind of beautiful. After taking this shot, I spent the next few days inside the loom tying 1200 knots.

(And just so you aren't confused by the Julia Child fast forward in tomorrow's post... These pics are from last week. I'm actually weaving this cloth already. The first batch hits the washing machine today.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Black Beam Is Wound Asymmetrically!

All of my designs thus far have been symmetrical. Some have a single fade on each side and some have a double fade. For my next set of garments, I've decided to change it up bit and explore long, slow fades. This will give more iterations of my bookmatched pattern for contemplation. It also give more flexibility in terms of matching my cloth to your wardrobe. When one side is thrown over the shoulder, the pure black and purple will dominate. When the other side is thrown, the blue and teal undertone comes to the front.

So yes, this cloth is black, but it's the most vibrantly colorful and versatile black that I've designed. If you missed out the last black beam, you might think about ordering a piece from this batch. Blog readers still get 25% off!

See that bright white thread? This was at the suggestion of Karen, my friend and seamstress. It will make the sewing of garments much easier if there's a clear marker dead-center on the cloth. It is a single strand of heavy sewing thread to make it stand out like a beacon and make it simple to pull out once the sewing is done.

Friday, January 18, 2013

SAD Visualized

Last Summer I got the Nike+ Fuelband to help me track my actual activity and encourage me to get more exercise in my life. I did a great job until the snow arrived, making my daily hikes more difficult and less enjoyable. Between the short days, the difficulty of hiking in the snow and a general lack of energy, I'm not moving as much as I did a couple of months ago.

And neither are the squirrels, bears, and all sorts of other mammals. I think disorder is an unfair word for something that seems so natural. In the winter we stay inside, keep warm and relax, right? I know I do!

Now I've got the charts to help me remember in the summer just how unproductive I'll be in the winter.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Photography Results

Today's post is a quick followup to yesterday's. In that post, I talked about all of the work that went into creating new jury photos. Today you can see the results.

We shot over 1,000 photos, of which 82 were worth processing to see if they were usable. Of those, I've chosen the best of the best, and one glamour shot of myself.

I was wearing garments and holding my arms out all day to keep them from wrinkling. At the end of the second day of shooting, Adrain said it looked great and asked me to stand in the middle of the street for a photo. He was right.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Doing A Professional Fashion Shoot

Back in October I went to Portland for my first professional fashion photo shoot. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I knew that I needed models and a photographer, but that's where my knowledge ended. Thankfully, I had enlisted the help of a friend who works in theater up in Portland. I thought I was hiring him to help me find some models. It turns out that I was hiring him to do that and much, much more. In case you want to do a shoot like this yourself, here's a synopsis of what I learned. First, there are a variety of roles that need to be filled:


That's probably the artist. As the one whose work is being shot, the buck stops here. Everyone else is there to get you the shots that you need.

Artistic Director

After defining the style and other goals, the director often needs lots of help crossing the T's and dotting the I's to get it all done. The artistic director makes more detailed decisions about makeup style and amount, base garment style, color and fit, etc. The director is consulted throughout the decision-making process and approves all decisions before they're considered final.

Casting Director / Model Manager

After receiving goals from the director, the casting director finds models and communicates the requirements to them. (Shooting schedule, pay, grooming and dress requirements, etc.) This person also handles model logistics like transportation, special food needs, scheduling requirements, etc.

Hair and Makeup Stylist

The stylist takes direction from the artistic director to get the models ready for the camera. In this shoot the goal was "natural", which requires more makeup than you'd think. Blemishes are erased, color is evened out, brows and lashes are defined, features are contoured. The stylist is also on duty all day to keep the models ready for the camera.

Garment Stylist

The garment stylist is in charge of preparing all garments for the shoot and making sure they look their best as they are being shot. For my cloth, it meant steaming about 20 garments and keeping them unwrinkled throughout the shoot. The garment stylist works closely with the photographer to get the garments donned, draped, and smoothed for every shot. This job will also probably be filled by the artist.

Production Assistant

The PA kind of holds it all together. They take notes, track the schedule, wrangle garments, and generally make sure that the director and photographer are not forgetting anything. In a small shoot like this, they also manage "craft service", reminding us to take breaks for food, running to get coffee, etc.


Many people want to use themselves and their friends. Depending on the style, this might work fine, but it's often much better to hire models who know how to give the photographer the looks that they request. And remember that you'll probably need a variety of ages and body types represented in your photos. Make sure you've got enough models!


The photographer is the reason we're all here. Once the director and art director have communicated the goals and overseen the preparation of the models and garments, it's up to the photographer to set up and capture the shots. I believe that it's best to hire a knowledgable photographer and then stay out of the way as much as possible. The photographer knows which light will look best and how to choose and shoot the models to meet the goals. The director, art director and production assistant are all there to make sure that every required shot is captured. It's best, though, to keep demands on the photographer to a minimum so that they can focus on their area of expertise: taking great photos.

Photo Assistant

The photographer will probably bring a trained assistant. This person carries cameras and other equipment and wields the all-important reflectors, used to bounce light into dark areas.

How It Works

Once you've assembled the team, you need to get it done. Here are the steps that we went through...

Book The Photographer

When I was in Seattle in July, I met with Adrain and went over my requirements. (I was already familiar with his work so we skipped reviewing his portfolio.) We agreed on price and deliverables and set the date.

Hire The Casting Director

Next, I found someone who was familiar with the theater scene in our chosen location, Portland. I gave him my requirements and the names of a few people I was considering for models.

Set Up The Shooting Schedule

Everyone on the crew needs to know where to be and when. We set up the schedule and made sure everyone had it so the shooting days could go off without a hitch.

Scout Locations

I arrived a day before shooting was to begin and drove around with the photographer looking at potential locations. We found our ideal locations and chose a few contingency locations in case of bright sunshine or rain. (The forecast was calling for absolutely ideal cloudy skies.)

Prepare Snacks

Contrary to the rumors, models need to eat. The night before the shoot, I collected a range of tidy and healthy finger food so that everyone can snack throughout the day.

Create A Shot List

The director and the PA need to know which shots are required. For this shoot, I needed a lot of shots:

  • Ruanas in various colors on various models

  • Ruanas paired with shawls

  • Hats and Scarves

  • Tall/short couples

  • Thin/wide couples

  • Male/female couples

  • Solo shots

  • "No eyes, no teeth" shots to focus on the garment.

  • Artist photos. (So I was in makeup for the whole second day of shooting.)

Shooting Day

Finally, the magic day has arrived.

Prepare The Garments

All of the garments need to be inspected for perfection and steamed to remove any wrinkles from being in storage.

Prepare The Transportation

In my case, I reconfigured the van to hold a garment rack that would keep the steamed garments in good shape while we drove to the various locations.

Hair and Makeup

While the garments are being prepared, so are the models. The makeup artist is working the magic that's required for people to look natural on camera.


From here on, everything is as you would expect. Everybody arrives at a location, the photographer finds good light and starts taking pictures. The director and PA swap out garments and models while the photographer gives posing direction and takes pictures. We stop for snacks periodically, take a real break for coffee in the afternoon, and go home cold and tired at the end of the day.


This is an important step. If at all possible, meet with the photographer on the next day to review the photos and give feedback. The photographer's next job will be to choose shots and perform any correction that's necessary. It's much easier to do that job if they know which shots you respond to.

The End Result

Yes, it's expensive and yes, it's difficult. When jurors accept my work into fantastic shows and customers are influenced by banners demonstrating the garments in beautiful settings, it will all be worth it. In my next blog post I'll show you some of the images that came out of this project.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Snow, snow, snow

What a difference a few hundred feet in altitude can make! Remember that snow we got a while back? Well, it hasn't melted and it doesn't look like it will any time soon. A mile down the road there is no snow at all, but us? Completely socked in.

I've got to deliver the next beam to Jacob, the Portland apprentice, this weekend. This has meant two days of grueling snow removal. It's grueling because there was a point when the weather became warm. The snow started to melt, and then refroze. So now it's heavy and frozen solid. The section pictured above took about three hours to clear.

'Here's the rest of the upper portion of the driveway, another 3 or four hours.

And here's today's project: removing 200-300 pounds of ice from the roof of the van.