Friday, 29 February 2008

Designing for the warp

Fiona showed us her sketchbook design process which included experimenting with blocks of solid colour and spontaneous scribbles. I was inspired by the immediacy, simplicity and contrast in her designs.

She suggested using a cartoon (a paper design taped onto the frame behind the warps) as a weaving guideline (rather than a rule), which I have been doing here. I’ve gone off at a tangent which is okay in this particular sample. The cartoon has become a springboard for ideas.

Weaving an established design closely is something I need to work on. It is another reminder at this stage to keep things simple. I could make future cartoon designs simpler and more dynamic by using bolder lines and shapes but then weaving them more subtly. Additionally, a cartoon on coloured paper would stand out against the white warps.

I’m wrapping around a single warp with a single fibre- it feels like colouring in. I can make spots much more apparent by floating weft behind them for several passes before covering their warps again - they jut out more. I plan to develop this idea by having exposed warp wrapped in UV white, with plain weave behind it in a second attempt at a labyrinth design.

Next projects
  • Refining horizontals, verticals and spotting, using white plus one other colour
  • Weaving a circle (which I haven’t done before)

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Allowing the conversation to unfold

Finished – this sample has turned out well - I can see developments throughout.

I'm glad I persevered with it in its early unpromising stages. It became something quite different to how it started - I need to remember this. I need to remember to allow samples the time they need to find their own way, to gradually -or suddenly- evolve.

I had a gap of several days away in the middle of weaving this sample which was definitely noticeable to me. I am learning about the effect of an absence from an idea at the loom for any length of time..

..It then takes a while to tune back in to the subtleties of the weaving again - literally, picking up the threads of the conversation, and continuing the story of the particular sample to its conclusion.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

A workshop with Fiona Rutherford

Today I attended a workshop led by Fiona Rutherford organised through the Durham Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. I find it greatly valuable to attend workshops led by a range of experienced weavers since each individual has their own perspective, interests and ways of working. All of it adds flavours and layers to the melting pot out of which my own style is emerging.

Fiona encouraged us to play around with mark making, and to consciously restrict our colour range to just two colours in order to focus on the relationship between them. I was reminded of one of the beauties of weaving: two constrasting colours can be blended successfully together yet still retain their own individuality. In addition, we worked only in simple plain weave, rather than bringing in additional textural techniques. I found the simplicity of the exercise to be very freeing - it has opened me up to a new range of ideas and ways of experimenting.

About the artist
In her Designed and Made profile, adapted, Fiona states: 'In my tapestries, I like to create a sense of immediate energy by using vivid colours and simple imagery that contradict the slow process of their weaving. My images are a careful balance of patterns, symbols and mark-making that suggest the selvedge of a larger unseen design.'

Monday, 18 February 2008

A magical process

There is a parallel that runs between blogging and weaving. They are both chronological sequences of events.

Sitting down, ready to start weaving, with a sense of anticipation about what might happen at the loom today. This sample is evolving organically. Patterns are emerging and developing as the tapestry grows. Tuning in ever more subtly to the ways of weaving is a magical process.

I like this simple palette of black, white, and earthy colours. The white knobbly markings make me think of teeth, vertebrae, or stones laid out in a pattern on the earth. Remembering to step back from the loom every so often is important. It often looks different up close to the overall effect when viewed from a distance.

Knotting, wrapping and whipping techniques are helping to firm up the softer wefts. I’m whipping on top of strong foundation wefts such as hemp, so that the different fibres stay separate rather than bleeding together. The more subtle background colour base is working well with the foreground contrasts. I’ve been weaving with single colour wefts on this sample rather than blending wefts together on the same bobbin.

For the next tapestry I might use a circular warp to help with posture as it enable me to keep pulling the tapestry around the frame and therefore work continuously at the same height. I find it better to sit above the weaving level, so that I don’t have to lift my arms up to weave. It should always be as relaxed a posture as possible.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Discipline and balance

I am still working out how to weave bold colour areas without it looking clunky. Blending background colours is easier because I can get away with a lot more when the colours are a close blend. Contrasting wefts on the other hand show up the mistakes like a spotlight.

Because weaving is systematic and you have to work from the bottom up, you are not afforded the luxury of going back and correcting a mistake (apart from really minor ones) unless you unpick your way all the way back down again and re-do it. Unless you are just playing around and experimenting, you need to have an idea of what you are setting out to do early on. That discipline is something that I really love about tapestry.

The tapestry is constantly evolving its look. I can't always tell in its early stages whether it is working or not. It is always useful to stand back and look at the balance of the whole thing. Continuing the recurring themes adds visual structure and strengthens the dynamics. I have just added some more black areas and it instantly transforms this sample. Definitely a good move.

One challenge of weaving a designed tapestry is that there are several conversations going on at the same time with different structures and different patterns. Learning to stay on top of it all and keep it going at the same time is the tricky part. The more time that I spend weaving, the more the materials are teaching me how they work, rather than me trying to impose my design ideas on them.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Time to develop

My relationship with weaving began almost twenty years ago when I came face-to-face with a large contemporary tapestry created by a young student. Realising that this individual had made the conscious decision to use their time, day after day, week after week, month after month creating this piece of work, and wanting to do it more than anything else, affected me profoundly. Our time here is such a precious commodity. I thought 'I need to be doing this too'.

Weaving doesn’t give away its secrets easily. Patience leads to discovery. To get results after sustained effort feels like an achievement. The formula is simple. In order to discover, go to the loom and cover the warps. Time spent at the loom = results. Evaluate, edit techniques and styles, evolve, move on to the next piece. Repeat.

In this sample, I’ve used a lot of whipping around single warps to create surface texture. I find it a lot more interesting to give the impression of a line without actually creating a solid line. If you give enough information, a line is visually assumed – I find that exciting. I’ve been creating these lines with a white cotton that glows under UV light. I am fascinated with the idea of combining ancient and modern.

The integrity of the weaving is really important to me. Hence, in this textural sample, I've been using plain weave amongst the whipping, and firmer wefts next to soft wefts to give structure and stability. In the next textural piece, I’d like to experiment more with wrapping vertically and whipping horizontally, and creating more contrasts in colours and textures.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


Finding the right balance of colours, weft materials, and surface textures in each piece is an ongoing challenge. Today I was reminded - again - that it takes patience to find out what each material can do.

The only real way to gather this information is to put in the weaving hours. In doing so, I am gradually beginning to take note of the different characteristics of these materials, whether they combine well or not, and making adjustments as appropriate.

Perseverance is beginning to pay off. After an unsatisfying start, this piece has began to take shape and find its way. I am particularly interested in three areas: the nodule-like texture that is coming into the white lines; the dynamic between the horizontals and verticals; the mixture of bold foreground colour and quieter background colours.

(jute, sizel, rug wool, hemp, mercerized cotton)

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Creating texture

The samples I’ve woven over the last month have focused on developing textural surfaces using techniques such as soumak knotting and weaving with textured fibres which add their own distinct characters and flavours to the woven surface.

In this piece, soumak knotting is carried out using sizel to create a regular pattern of distinctive, raised surface markings. I am inspired by scarification markings.

(sizel, jute, twine, rug wool)

Friday, 1 February 2008

Doing what you love

I believe that when we do what we love - whatever it is that makes us feel switched on, connected, peaceful, excited, happy (even if nobody ever knows about or sees what this thing is) - then we will in turn be at our most harmonious when we interact with the world around us.

For me, this means re-engaging with my creative process, and in particular, expressing my ideas through weaving.

(Jute, sizel)