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One of the lovely things about weaving is the friends you gather from all corners of the globe.  Well, strictly speaking, there are no corners of course, but you know what I mean…

I have been focussing on my first contextual essay in my masters studies this week, and enjoying the research, but lots of hours in front of the computer is never good for you in the long run, so it was lovely to have two weaving friends from Detroit, Richard and Chris, to stop over on their way down to Cambridge and London.  We first met through Complex Weavers in 2006, and then Chris and Richard came for a jacquard course with me here in the UK prior to renovating the jacquard loom at the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village, Deerfield, Michigan.  They did a superb job with the renovations and cutting cards for a coverlet which they weave in the weaving shop at the museum – well worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity of Detroit.

They also popped in to see a mutual weaving friend, Neil Warburton of Context Weavers, at his mill in Helmshore.  One of Neil’s pet projects has been the restoration of a carriage lace loom (known as coach lace in the US).  These looms have a jacquard head but weave quite narrow fabric, utilising many different techniques including cut pile weaves and loops.  These are based on the principles of weaving velvet, which I learned on my course at the Lisio Foundation in 2004 in Florence, Italy.  US weaver Barbara Setsu Pickett has devised a way of setting up a velvet creel which can be made from easily available diy hardware and put on the back of most table and floor looms, so enabling the non-jacquard weaver to weave these methods.  Richard and Chris are also really interested in carriage lace, and have an old loom in need of restoration at the Henry Ford Museum, so this visit was of mutual interest to them all.

They also visited Dan Coughlan at the Paisley Museum and Art Gallery, whom I talked about in a previous post last year.  Like me, they were bowled over by the wonderful paisley patterns and the transparent gauze weaves that Paisley mills specialised in.

It was great to catch up with them and to pour over some historic documents they have pertaining to the carriage lace loom in Michigan.  I’d love to be able to analyse the bands to see just what techniques were used.

Anyway, having waved them off, I now have to travel myself – back up to Aberdeen to collect my work from the exhibition, Fabric of the Land, which has now finished.  The exhibition may have finished, but I am basing my contextual essay on issues which came to mind whilst reading the brief, preparing work for the exhibition, and the work that was on show in the exhibition.

I love that the masters is stretching my mind in more ways than I had anticipated, and challenges me at every level, and that art throws up more questions than it answers, keeping our minds active and questioning, not allowing us to sit on our laurels or relax in assumptions.