Post #3256: A new job on the horizon

I’m on Cortes Island this week – a couple hours north of the island I live on, and I’m amazed at how much quieter it is here. A quarter of the population, at least double the landmass, and much further from major cities. I feel very far away from home even though the views (ocean, mountains, arbutus trees) are much the same. The friend I am travelling with has been coming here for many decades, and knows all the good places to hike and kayak. She found a perfect rental suite for us, and then it turned out that (happy coincidence!) one of my Zen friends also lives on the property in her bus, high upon the bluff.

I didn’t post here last week because I was preparing to go on holiday, and also in discussion about the possibility of a new job in September. The paperwork isn’t signed yet, but it looks pretty real and thinking about the shift has occupied my whole mind since last Monday. Job change is no small thing for me; I’ve been with the same organization for 23 years, and worked with one of the Communications shops (though in different roles) for my whole career. While this job is in the same organization, it will be in a different line of work entirely, and with more responsibility than I’ve had in awhile.

I’ve been looking for a change for a couple of years now, and since my manager returned to work a couple of months ago (I had been acting in her position for the better part of a year), trying to plot my next move. Difficult to do when I don’t have certain qualifications (like another language), or when some of my most developed skillset comes from my union role and not my official work capacity (some people consider union leadership an asset, others won’t touch it at all). But I do have a network of people after all of these years, and that suddenly panned out in the form of a new program someone I know is responsible for.

Over the course of my career I have often wished that way back when I started out in my mid-twenties someone close to the end of their career had sat me down and explained a few things. About career arcs, and how to manage them over the long term. About understanding career development over decade-long cycles, not 6-month leadership programs. About the divisions between junior, intermediate, and senior levels – and how to work from one point to the next. I suppose these days, few people stay with one organization for thirty-five years and so mostly we are left to library books and career consultants to figure it out. For my part, I’ve managed to move into a new project or role every five years or so, even though my career planning has been haphazard and frustrated at many turns.

I’m in the last decade or so of the employment stage of my life. I could go in 6 years (at 55), or work a few more for a bit more pension. What I decide to do about that will depend on a variety of factors. But until recently I had thought I would end my career parked in my current project management/strategic communications position. During the pandemic, I worked with others to fix a number of weak points on my current work team – developing org charts, process documents, and staffing strategies – righting a badly-listing ship as a result of those efforts. I had believed that as soon as that was all done, I would happily return to other projects and press forward in my role. But instead, things have felt a bit flat and I’ve been unmotivated in all but the most basic work. So even though I know the new role will come with more stress (new program, lots of stuff to figure out), it’s the right time to take it on. If it goes well, it will also be the right thing to keep me engaged through to retirement.

When I get back from this little island paradise I’m on, I hope to see paperwork waiting for me to sign so I can tell my team I’m leaving and start wrapping up my projects for handover at the end of August. I’m feeling more confidence about this move than nerves right now, and I’m ready to get started! I am also dying to share what little I know about the new program and my role, so as soon as that gets more contour, I’ll be shading in the details here.

It’s been a very interesting year for me career-wise, Covid changed things in ways I never expected. I’m curious to see where this goes next.

Post #3255: Summer Textile School Weeks 5 and 6

Summer Textile School is fully in swing! I’m glad my dye studio is outdoors so that during the hot, hot heat I was able to keep dyeing without warming up the house. I’ve come to realize that before I can seriously dye some yardage or larger skeins of yarn I’m going to have to come to the end of this experimental phase – but I’m enjoying it so much! I have some more yarn to turn into small skeins and then once that is done I’ll have to cut myself off and get on with the yardage dyeing.

Dyeing activities

Water

  • I’ve switched over to using the big cistern on our property which has way cleaner water than our rain barrels. I needed to get a hose, which is why I wasn’t using it before – but so glad I am now as its closer to my studio and way less hauling.

Dye space and materials

  • Bought a couple more pots at the local recycling centre this week – one smaller one for cooking smaller dyestuff down (cochineal I’m looking at you), and another mid-sized pot for dyeing in. 
  • I’m starting to run low on some of the dyes I’ve been using, trying to figure out whether it’s worth investing in extracts over whole dyes. It’s nothing I have to decide right now, but in the case of Madder which is hard to wash out in its ground form, I might just go for it.  
  • Did some more yarn prep with Oxalic Acid – though I forgot to scour. I’ll be curious to see how those turn out.

Learning

  • I have worked my way through my dye plans for yellows and browns as well as reds. Not all the reds are completely done (one is in the rinse pot, another in the dye pot), and I will be doing some more dye experimenting with madder and brazilwood to get different shades for my gamp project. 
  • I’ve learned that getting a true red is difficult and there are a lot of variations depending on water ph. I’ve ended up with more pink/purples than reds.
  • While not always true I note that fibre mordanted with oxalic acid often produces a lighter/less intense colour than the alum mordanted fibre. This is great for my gamp project as it is providing me with variation in a single dyepot.
  • I’ve also been experimenting with using dye exhaust and then throwing another colour in. For example, I added Osage orange my Brazilwood exhaust to get an orange colour, and Madder to the Cochineal exhaust for more reds. This allows my materials and water to do double duty.
Lac. Alum on the left, Oxalic Acid on the right.
Brazilwood. Oxalic acid mordant bottom/Alum at top.

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Brazilwood exhaust with Osage orange. Oxalic acid bottom/Alum up top.

Weaving activities

  • Finished the weaving of the Asymmetry sample from the Jane Stafford Guild (sample #1 from season 2). In that project I learned about cutting and replacing warp sections, balancing cloth with different materials, and making colourway choices. Hemming those now.
  • Watching Season 2, Episode 3 of JST Guild materials and working through exercises
  • Created warp chains for Sample #2/Season 2 of the JST Guild projects. This has so far involved learning how to build a warp chain with five threads at once (much more complicated than I thought it would be).  
  • Worked on towel design draft for beach/sauna towels. Next up will be sampling. 
Asymmetry – samples on top and one still on the loom.

Post #3254: A Breezier Week

It’s been a pretty good week over here. Post heat wave things seem manageable again, I’m recovering from the lethargy that was the second vaccine shot, and my B12 levels feel normal again (I can think!) This week also starts the beginning of a new quarter in the year, by which I organize my goal-setting and creative project goals for the next three months. It always feels good to turn the page on the last quarter even if I didn’t finish everything I set out to do.

One thing I did finish from last quarter this week was hemming the blue tea towels that came off the loom last month. You can see them in the photo at the head of this post alongside a bowl of peach plums I picked up at the mid-week farmer’s market on Wednesday. These might be some of the nicer towels I’ve made, my first time using a sett of 18 EPI on a twill weave – they turned out marvelously soft. It’s hard to believe that cotton can have so many faces, but as I work through my weaving study, I can see how much density and structure change the properties of the base material. It’s obvious if you think about it, but I’ve never given myself much chance to experiment and think this all through so it feels revelatory to me. More on my summer textile school in a post tomorrow!

Brian was in the city for three days this week which meant my puttering about was rather unbounded. I got some tidying done in the garden, planted some basil and peppers where the peas and lettuce came out, cleaned my kitchen, leant a hand to a friend with a piece of furniture to move, and went to the recycling depot to buy more pots for the dye studio. I did a whole lot of responding to people about the house concert we are hosting this weekend which is now booked to capacity.

I also returned to working out this week after taking a few days off. Last Tuesday, during the heat dome, I decided to squeeze in a morning workout before going to town for vaccination. Even first thing in the day it was pretty hot, and things were sweaty, but I thought I could manage it. Not so! Right after my warm-up, in my third round of bench presses, I managed to drop a bar loaded with 100 pounds onto my face. Normally when I have trouble getting out of a press, I can roll the bar away from me, but the sweatiness of my hands meant I couldn’t get enough grip and it went the other way. Fortunately I only sustained a minor injury when my tooth went into the back of my lip (bloody), but it scared me enough that I decided to take a few days off to recover and let my mouth heal up. I had already planned to take it pretty easy post-vaccine, and this just gave me another reason to do so. (And before you lecture me on the dangers of weight lifting, as someone already did this week, note that studies show weight lifting to be far less dangerous than running, cross-fit, and team sports, not to mention boot-camp style fitness classes which have very high injury rates).

The accident was a reminder that even momentary slips in attention can have serious consequences. When I got back under the bar yesterday, I was working on laser-focus more than cranking the weight up. The only other time I’ve had an accident like that was in the gym with my trainer when I fell during a loaded squat (falling in the squat rack is quite safe because the rack catches the barbell). That time my focus was compromised due to a bystander “giving advice” and it left me flustered when I went into the lift. Lesson learned: No more heavy lifting during extreme heat waves!

Work is pretty boring these days, I have a new research proposal in the hopper for one of my internal clients and my other projects continue to tick along, but I’m not overly inspired. Something about an election looming always throws things off a bit, not to mention summertime with people away throughout the months. It definitely feels like maintenance work as opposed to moving things forward.

So instead I turn to the house concert this weekend (Corbin Keep) and some impending house guests we haven’t seen for close to a year (friends who are building a place not far from ours), I’ve got cochineal to rinse out of some yarn, and a plan for the next steps in my weaving study. If only these were the things I made my living from! But then again, that would make them work and not pleasure – so I’m probably living the right way round.

Post #3253: Transitional

I took most of last week off of everything – work, working out, writing – an unplanned fallow week due to heat wave and 2nd shot effects which left me with a few days of lethargy. It was a relief to let go of my productivity goals for a few days and just putter around the studio, nap, and then host a musician playing at our local festival and some friends who came for dinner on Saturday. Though we’re all still tentative, the summer weather and second shots this week have loosened things up considerably around here.

The way the transition out of the pandemic is happening, it almost feels like a new year full of potential and promise. Last weekend we held the first house concert on our outdoor stage in almost a year and I’ve never seen an audience so giddy arrive at our gates. This upcoming weekend’s show, two weeks later, has seen an even greater flood of interest (it’s a good thing we aren’t capped at 50 people outside any longer). We’ve had visits over brunch and dinner, friends are coming to stay, and the tension that permeated every interaction is dissipating bit by bit. Sure, we’re all worried about Delta, but we’re also ready to have some fun again.

I’ve been thinking about this transition for awhile, what I miss and want to return to versus the aspects of “normal” I have no interest in reintroducing into my life. While I have missed dinner parties, I don’t miss union travel. I have longed for spontaneous visits with friends, but I haven’t wanted to return to obligatory social functions. A quieter life in the last year has meant less scheduling and more time in my studio, more depth in my explorations, more time in the woods (and still I don’t feel like I have enough time for all of this). I’m trying to figure out how to maintain that, while allowing some of the social back into my life. I expect come fall, there will be another piece to figure out when in-person work meetings start happening and people expect me to be there. I have a union-related investigation I must be present for at the end of this month, and that will be just the beginning of having to come and go from my small island again.

While I can say no to some things, I can’t forestall them all. I am expected at a wedding in New York next June, there are disciplinary hearings I must attend with people who need support. How can I retain some of this quality of depth and quiet I have cultivated in the last year while also attending to the world outside my home again? I expect the answer to that lies in a more rigorous meditation practice, setting limits on my willingness to attend things in person when it’s possible to do otherwise, and creating space for non-productive/non-screen time during the day or week.

It’s hard to imagine now, but when the Covid shut down happened in March of last year, I had two solid months of on-the-road meetings and conventions ahead of me. Brian had a similarly packed agenda and we both felt overwhelmed by our schedules and the fact we would barely see each other for the upcoming months. As I took things off my calendar one by one, I felt a lot of relief at not having to undergo the gauntlet of obligatory work and union meetings, offset by a bit of sadness at not being able to attend my friend’s swearing in as a judge and missing a trip to New York. As much as I will keep adding things onto my agenda and be “fine” I realized then that I was increasingly *not* fine with the external pressures that had me filling up my day planner year after year. Fortunately, this was also the year I had planned to announce my retirement from union life in 2022, which will take a lot of things off my plate automatically (and not soon enough). Still, I’m going to have to be careful at my propensity to fill my time up with something else.

I am staying home for most of this summer, which is typical for us as I see no reason to leave my home during the nicest months. I have a trip to another island booked with a friend in a couple of weeks, and will go to our cabin in the interior in the fall (hopefully the fires will have passed), but otherwise we are hosting friends and house concerts, and in between I am working and hanging out in my studio. I am thinking about how to get deeper into the creative work I do, not allowing this moment of transition to yank me back into a life I don’t want to return to.

I think it will be easier to break the old habits now that I’ve had a long timeout from them. The question is how much my ego tells me I “have to” dive back into all the old behaviours of before.

Post #3252: Yellow and Brown Natural Dyes

Above photo illustrates colour comparison in yarn left to right: Cutch, Lobaria Pulmonaria, Myrobalan, Osage orange, Fustic – all using Knitpicks Gloss, fingering weight as base. Details on each below.

Today I am cooking up a pot of red dye (madder) as I shift into the next round of natural dye experimentation. The last eight days or so has been devoted to browns and yellows which I round up for you here.

Cutch

Dyed at 30% WOF. Left to right – Alum mordant on cotton, Alum acetate mordant on Cotton, Shifted with Iron at 4% WOF. Yarn mordanted with Alum.

Myrobalan

Dyed at 25% WOF using extract. Top to bottom: Cotton mordanted with alum acetate, cotton mordanted with alum, soda ash rinse (golden sample), shifted with iron @4% (brown-grey). I plan to overdye most of this with Indigo to get teal. We’ll see how that goes.

Osage orange

Dyed at 30% WOF, whole dyestuff soaked overnight. Cotton mordanted with alum on bottom, with aluminum acetate in middle. Had black flecks on the fabric which I believe is due to contamination from ferrous sulphate. Plan to shift this with indigo to get greens.

Fustic

Dyed the least amount of stuff with fustic which turned out to be my favourite colour by far! Dyed at 30% WOF using whole dye stuff soaked overnight. Am definitely going to dye more fibre with this – a couple skeins for a fall knitting project at least.


Lobaria pulmonaria

I somehow did not manage to record the WOF here, but I made a dye pot with 50 grams of dried lichen wildcrafted by my friend Jennifer. As you can see, the fabric didn’t take up much dye but the yarn sure did. Shifted with iron, the cotton became a beautiful grey (I reused an iron bath here so I don’t have %WOF). 
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