Getting to “Plunge” and “Thou Shalt Knot”

Wedged between two trips that Bob and I have planned for a while now, we took a lightning speed trip to New Bedford to see two interesting exhibitions that are right down the street from each other.

The first was “Plunge: Explorations from Above and Below” an exhibit of artworks inspired by the sea that was curated by the couple who make up Brown/Grotta Arts.  It’s on view at the New Bedford Art Museum. There were a number of pieces done in fiber techniques, which is what intrigued me to visit.  Foremost is Helena Hernmarck’s large tapestry “New York Bay, 1894,” and joined by quite a few other works in fiber.  There is a beautiful catalog for exhibition that you can buy here.

Helena Hernmarck’s “New York Bay, 1894”

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The details are marvelous!

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There are a number of works by Karyl Sisson, and I was drawn to all of them.  In three of them she has used miles of zipper tapes to create organic, aquatic shapes.

“Reaching Out”

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Here’s a detail, so you can see the zipper tapes and more accurate color.

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“Growth II”

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“Opening Up,” made from cotton twill tape and wooden spring loaded clothespins.

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“Long Lines” by Annette Bellamy is a hanging created with twine and ceramic hooks.  It dangles over a plexiglass plate and the gentlest breeze makes the entire piece move.  I know, I blew on it ever so lightly.

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It worked well viewed with the piece behind it, and that was signature aspect of this exhibition.  Often the pieces enhanced the works around them.

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Behind “Long Lines” is Gretha Wittrock’s (Denmark) “Artica” made of sailcloth that has been dyed with indigo and cut and shaped.

There were quite a few works in fiber.  There was a large hanging made up of many silk threads that were hand painted with dye.  There were three marvelous little boat shapes made of plant paper and willow by Jane Balsgaard (Brooklyn, NY).

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The entire exhibition is beautifully displayed with spectacular pieces.  It is on view until October 8, so there’s time to get up there.  If you do, don’t miss a visit to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Right now there is a temporary exhibit about Clifford Ashley, the master of knots who wrote The Ashley Book of Knots, a book you’ll find down below on almost any blue water sailboat.  We’ve had our copy since the late 70s.  It covers knots used in other applications (I’ve used it for tying interesting knots with my kumihimo), but it’s a knot bible for sailors.

It turns out that Ashley had about 7,000 knots in a collection he made for the book.  His daughter now has that collection and loaned it to the museum for this exhibition.  Ashley was also a painter, and I enjoyed seeing what a good artist he was.  He studied with Howard Pyle in Brandywine during the same period that N.C. Wyeth studied with Pyle.  The exhibit has photos of Ashley’s family life, his paintings, and lots of knots.

Quite a clever title for the show…and great graphics.

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Here’s the book.

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A photograph of Ashley standing in front of one his paintings


Just a few knots….along with harpoon.


And I could not resist a photo of some lace bobbins, tatting shuttle and lovely ivory fid displayed on a piece of machine made lace.

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Upstairs at the museum you can see a vast amount of ivory things. The walking canes alone must number in the hundreds!  There were no shortage of handwork tools and household items that men carved for their loved ones.  While I enjoyed looking at all the rolling pins and pastry cutters, I confined myself to photos of items for handwork.

A cabinet full of top shelf swifts!

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The crown jewel of sewing accessories….pin cushions, spool holders and lots of little drawers for supplies.

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My favorite– an ivory knitting basket, with ivory and ebony knitting needles.

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Into our 36 hour trip we also crammed in a visit to the well known Nantucket basket supply store called DELS, where I purchased some of the missing items from a Nantucket purse I started about 7 years ago.  Maybe I’ll be carrying it by next summer.  I’ve always wanted to see this shop in person.  It is a treasure trove of basket temptations.

The counter display of ivory, bone, and acrylic decorations could have entertained for me for an entire day….

There were shelves and shelves of basket molds to choose from and all the cane and staves you need to weave.  And all the tiny finishing hardware necessary for these baskets.  I thought I should make a plan for my next basket while I had the attention of an expert (Melanie) to guide me.  I settled for a small, narrow tote.  They will gather up the necessary items and ship them to me in a couple of weeks.  I’ll put it on Pandora to weave this winter.  And then I’ll be just like the real McCoy!–making a Nantucket basket aboard a boat!

So here’s the shape of my tote.  Just imagine it without the salt and pepper grinders and the center divider, and with  short leather handles for carrying.  It’s going to be just the thing! I’m making mine with a cherry base, rim, and staves.

This trip came about because of one thing Bob had scheduled to do– a tour of the Coast Guard air station on Cape Cod.  We had a 12.30 appointment to meet one of the helicopter pilots–a female lieutenant.  We met her earlier in the summer when she spoke at Bob’s SSCA event and we arranged this visit.  She is still in her 20s and has been a pilot for four years already.  Impressive!

When we arrived at the air station we learned that all the planes except one helicopter and two planes had been called to Houston to deal with rescue efforts in hurricane Harvey.  There was a pilot left on the station to man the remaining helicopter, and he graciously gave us the tour.  We have incredible armed forces, and it was fascinating to learn a bit about the Coast Guard.  Bob and I have seen two presentations on how the CG goes about search and rescue.  Visiting the air station and getting to see the actual equipment was really the frosting on the cake.  These guys can keep a helicopter level in order to lower a cable and a basket onto a boat that might be rocking to and fro and rising and falling in 50 foot waves.  That helicopter is experiencing the same wild winds, and yet the crew know how to keep control of the rescue procedure during all the uncontrollable elements in a bad storm.  The men who handle the rescue operation know how to do things that seem far beyond humanly possible.  Honestly, I don’t know how they can do it.  And what a nice bunch of people to boot!  There are quite a few women at the air station, but most of them had been called to Texas.

Lieutenant Podmore is showing me the remaining M60T helicopter that he flies.

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The hangars are ridiculously clean.  I’m not sure what this plane is…Bob and the Lt kept talking about C-130s…

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The rescue swimmers work out every day….as you might imagine.  Hard to see, but some of these guys were doing things that I (again) did not think humanly possible!

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It was a whirlwind trip–barely over 36 hours.  I have been worried about everyone down on the coast of Texas, but of course, worried about my own family most of all.  It was especially moving to me to meet these soldiers who have such an important role in the ongoing storm and will continue to help through the aftermath.  I don’t have a way to reach my relatives who live in Galveston, so it was very comforting to think that these soldiers are down there helping.  My relatives further east on that coast were managing at the end of the weekend, but have now just been hit by the 2nd landfall of Harvey, and again, I’m thankful to have seen first hand the kind of rescue and help that is down there.


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