4 November, 2016
Exhibition: ‘Weaving Futures’ | London Transport Museum
Dates: 22 November 2016 to 18 February 2017
‘Weaving Futures’ is an exhibition at London Transport Museum highlighting the importance of woven textile design to the London Transport system. The exhibition explores the process and making of digital woven textiles, as part of the Museums’, Designology season.
Each week, visitors will be able to see invited designers/artists in residence in the Designology studio, who will be working on a project brief and interacting with a weaver. The weavers will be interpreting the residents work live into digital woven textile prototypes and final works on a state-of-the-art TC2 digital jacquard loom.
‘Weaving Futures’ is curated by design & research industry experts, Philippa Brock and Samuel Plant Dempsey
The Weaving Futures season will start with Wallace Sewell, who will be in residence in the studio from Nov 22nd – 26th 2016
Other residents participating in the season include: Assemble, Beatwoven, Philippa Brock, Camira, Central Saint Martins, BA Textile students, Samuel Dempsey, Linda Florence, Gainsborough Weaving Company, Eleanor Pritchard, Rare Thread : aka Kirsty McDougall & Laura Miles, Josephine Ortega, Ismini Samanidou, Studio Houndstooth: Jo Pierce, Takram & Priti Veja
Resident artists and designers have been invited to respond to a project brief; exploring the role of textiles in modern transport now and in the future. They will focus on ‘untapped’ sources of data generated by, or helpful to, the transport system. Their responses will then be interpreted into woven textiles, live for museum visitors.
The weavers for the season are Rosie Green & Hanna Vinlöf Nylen
Creative responses may span from future speculations on data capture and its textile use, to new methods of digitising human interactions, to creative interpretations and visualisations of existing TfL data sets.
Design & artistic approaches may include drawing, photography, film, sound, mark-making and model making.
The Weave Shed will highlight each resident each week of the season with images, biographies and contact details.
The Weaving Futures: Data and Transport project brief given to the Designers & Artists explores the significance of Jacquard loom weaving beyond textiles, looking at how the Jacquard loom punch card system led to the development of computers and digital data, and how these have affected transport systems as a whole.
The season will also bring to the fore London’s most loved urban fabric – moquette. Many people who have travelled on the London transport network will be familiar with the patterned seating fabric on Tube trains, buses, DLR, the London Overground and Croydon Tramlink, but they may not know of its rich history as integral to the design of the capitial’s public transport since the 1920s.
Derived from the French word for carpet, moquette is a type of woven pile fabric, in which cut or uncut threads form a short dense cut or loop pile. As well as giving it a distinctive velvet-like feel, the pile construction is particularly durable, and ideally suited to applications such as public transport.
Digital Weaving Norway has sponsored the installation of a TC2 Digital jacquard loom for the duration of the exhibition.
The programme is also supported by Camira, The Worshipful Company of Weavers and Pointcarré.
Weaving Futures events will take place every week in the Museum’s pop-up Designology Studio from 22 November until 18 February.
All day-time events are drop-in and free to attend with the annual London Transport Museum admission ticket. There is also a Late Debate on the evening of 26 January 2017.
The Designology studio and Late Debate series of events, including Weaving Futures, are part of London Transport Museum and Transport for London’s Transported by Design season which is supported by Exterion Media.
The 18 month programme of events and exhibitions explores good design on the transport network and its role in the lives of the millions of customers who use it each day.
The Weave Shed will cover the exhibition on @weavingfutures twitter and @theweaveshed instagram
@ ltm #designology
Images: Wallace Sewell ( moquettes and loom), Digital weave Norway (image 2)
21 August, 2016
Isn’t it funny how certain things make a house feel like a home?
For me, as a weaver, it has to be a loom! The French house in Gascony now has a working loom in it, and the wonderful and familiar smell of wool yarn means that France is now home!!
At the moment, I am in another temporary studio – #3, I think! The salon, which will eventually be our rather lovely lounge (with mezzanine library!!) is home to a new-to-me Louet Spring loom.
You can see a little of the yarn stash I have managed to take over to France against the walls, but there is still a mountain of boxes to shift. We had to buy a transit van to help move my books and yarns across the English Channel and have to be careful not to overload the poor thing too much!! There are quite a few more trips to plan!!
It was great to put the loom together and to try it out, even if the first warp on was a 7.5m exhibition warp for the Nature In The Making exhibition which Agnes and I are doing in the Netherlands in November! This is not normally to be recommended – usually I would suggest several short warps with different techniques to find out all the quirks and idiosyncracies of the loom before putting on an important warp. But still, how many of us actually follow our own guidelines all the time???!!!
Happily, it was a relatively hassle-free introduction. I’ll write more about it on another blog, but suffice it to say that the loom and I are working well together!
This trip to France also included plenty of physical interaction with the fabric of the building!! Firstly, we cleaned out all the remnants of old furniture and tiles that had been left in the grange which will be my workshop, and swept it all through, leaving a blank canvas for the work to start in September.
It is another TARDIS. It doesn’t look very large from the outside but the inside is deceptively large.
Then we removed partition walls in a bathroom to allow for two bathrooms – I’m a wicked sledge-hammer wielder – and took off all the floor and wall tiles. We have also saved all the doors to be re-used.
Then I started weaving, and Graham continued with taking out all the old kitchen, leaving us with a single camping stove, a barbecue and a fridge. The kitchen was somewhat over-engineered, with re-inforced steel concrete plinths for the worksurfaces, and brick walls, but we shall be able to re-use the cupboard doors and the drawer unit as everything is made with proper materials rather than chipboard rubbish!!
I am very excited, despite the ramifications of the vote in the UK to leave the EU which has impacted on our renovations fund somewhat drastically, meaning that we have to cut back on some of the things that we were hoping to do. Basically it means that we will have to do several things in different stages instead of having all the work done at once. Such is life. It is amazing to us that we are actually in a position to live this dream, so if it takes longer to fulfil everything we planned, so be it….
The time spent in France this summer has been unbelievable, with amazing nocturnal natural fireworks on two occasions (electrical storms!), the fabulous array of summer night markets in villages and towns all around this part of France with their local produce and great music and dancing, the socialising with new friends and neighbours – we have landed in a really wonderful area for welcome, warmth and friendship!! – and the beautiful sunshine and views from our house over the changing fields mean that early mornings and late evenings are especially magical times for watching the landscape transform.
We have also been fascinated by the red squirrel nesting in the space between shutters and window in the attic, taking advantage of the woodpecker holes that appeared in the spring. She had several babies and, although she has now vacated her nest, taking her babies with her (I think she didn’t like the demolition work happening a floor below her!), she is in the vicinity and we have been waking up to the lovely scene of red squirrels chasing each other round and round the trunks of trees outside the front windows. Other wildlife has been sightings of two pairs of stunning Golden Orioles who flew in to take advantage of the bounty of our mulberry tree (tasty raspberry-like berries which we eat straight from the tree!). The birds had the top fruit, we had the bottom fruit – a good balance!! Bats are in abundance in the area, woodpeckers too, and plenty of other birdlife.
One amusing incident was when we had our first UK visitors. When we first took over La Tuilerie, we found an old fold-up wooden chair which had been painted and repainted over the years and we decided to use it in our bathroom. Whenever we were expecting visitors, whether Orange France, or friends, we put the chair at the bottom of the driveway, positioned so that it could be seen from both directions. A couple of days before our visitors were expected, we saw a beautiful, but dead, pine marten to the left of our driveway on the edge of the road. Its markings were just stunning – like the snow leopard and silver tabby crossed – although its little teeth were as sharp as needles and would certainly have inflicted a nasty bite! We didn’t know whether to remove or leave it, and in the end decided it would be best to leave it. Our visitors arrived, using the chair as signal locator and we had a lovely time! After lunch, they had to leave and I went down to bring in the chair. It had disappeared!! Zut alors! And so had the pine marten. Had the local council come along, picked up the pine marten and taken our chair thinking that it too was for disposal?
We decided to pay a visit to the déchetterie – the local recycling centre – to see if they knew where the chair was. I went indoors, sat down, and worked out how to tell the ouvrier what had happened. You can imagine the scene – my French is not fluent, by any stretch of the imagination. I practised the sentences for a while – probably at least 20 minutes – rehearsing over and over and changing the order of the sentences, trying to find the simplest way to explain the situation. When I felt I probably had it as good as I was going to, we went to the déchetterie – only to find it had just closed!! Happily we were able to speak to the lady in charge and I managed to make myself understood.
Not that it did any good, mind you…. The council don’t take their rubbish there and she didn’t know where the council rubbish tip was but advised us to go to the Mairie – by then well after 5, so too late for the day. I confess I chickened out of trying to explain it all again the next day, so somewhere in a council tip near Nérac, there is a lovely old decrepit blue folding chair – unless it has found a new owner, of course!!
It won’t be long before you’ll be able to see the renovations in progress. With as much of the preparation work done as we could do, things are now ready for the artisans to come back from their August break and start work in late September, fingers crossed!
It’s lovely being able to share this adventure with you virtually, and it would be wonderful if you could come and experience this marvellous place in real life. In the meantime, until next time,
10 January, 2016
I feel very privileged to be living in an era where being an artist does not mean struggling on your own, trying to justify what you do and why you do it against more ‘worthy’ occupations. I know – most of us work on our own, and yes, we do end up trying to explain, and on occasion trying to justify, what it is that we do, and its validity. But in the world that has access to the internet and social media, we are no longer emotionally or professionally on our own any more. There is so much information online, some brilliant, some good, some mediocre and some downright wrong! But we can reach out, through blogs, through online forums, through social media.
And when we connect with others, we sometimes get criticism, we often realise just how much we have yet to learn about our chosen medium/media, but more often than not, we get support, encouragement, validation, understanding.
I’ve spoken before about getting those ‘aha’ moments, and how wonderful they are. But I had never before read an account of how these moments happen. To me, I knew that the connections were made between specific techniques/problems/topics and my more general region and that there is not really much that is new but the individual voice and ‘genius’ comes from connections that are made between things that might not have been connected before, or thought about in that specific way before. I also knew that many of my ideas come from quiet moments – the middle of the night, just before falling asleep (and thus preventing sleep!!) or immediately on waking, in the shower, walking the dog – and had assumed that my subconscious had been working on things whilst I was actively or passively engaged elsewhere.
Then I read a newsletter from somewhere – possibly Sam and Joe at TextileArtist.org (more of them later) – and the author had written of a fabulous little book called A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young, published in the 1940s. I searched on Amazon and bought this little tome. It arrived and this morning, whilst drinking my mid-morning coffee, I read it from cover to cover. Don’t worry – this is not impressive!! It is a short book – 48 pages cover to cover. But it expressed exactly what happens in the creative process in such a lucid and succinct way.
This leads me on to my main point in this blog post. The world is now a much smaller place thanks to the internet. We can connect to each other like never before. The guys at TextileArtist.org are part of this amazing chain of connections and they publish really good material. If you haven’t come across them yet, please do click on a link in this blog and go and visit their site. Their story alone is one of connections and curiosity. Watch the videos that they are currently putting on their site – there is a time limit on them (good publicity ploy!) so go and check it out before the videos disappear.
The only danger is that we can get so easily side-tracked with all this social media - so many people to connect with, so many wonderful textiles to look at and admire. But connectivity-wise, we have never had it so good!!
8 December, 2015
It’s amazing to think how a seemingly inconsequential choice can change the whole direction of one’s life, isn’t it? And yet, so often that is exactly what happens. And once that initial choice has been made, other decisions compound the effect until suddenly you find yourself looking at a whole new life. And all it took was a birthday choice!
Nearly five years ago, my husband, Graham, turned 50. He wanted to celebrate by going on a cookery course abroad. Italy and France were on the shortlist, and he decided that he didn’t want to cook pasta. That choice changed our lives!
The Gascony Cookery School is based in a small village on the edge of Tarn-et-Garonne and the Gers, down in the deep south-west of France. It is set on a rocky outcrop in rolling hills with farmland all around it hosting kilometre on kilometre of sunflower fields in the summer. Gramont boasts a chateau open to the public, a wonderful auberge (where cookery school students also get to work), and a honey museum. In one of those quirks of fate, Graham, who should have been one of six students, was the only student. (Something similar happened to me when I went to study jacquard at the Lisio Foundation in Florence – there should have been five or six of us, but there were only two!) Over long leisurely meals with our hosts, Dave and Vikki, it transpired that they wanted to produce a honey beer, but didn’t know how. Graham (my husband) has been brewing his own beer from the grain since I have known him (well over 30 years) and said he could help. The more we talked, the more we realised our particular (and peculiar) mix of skills would fit in this village. Graham with his brewing and music (he’s a good ‘cellist), and his wonderful ability to get on with everyone, and me with my weaving. There was even an empty property for us to look round that would allow us to do all our activities.
We came home from that holiday buzzing with excitement and potentialities. We went back to have another look in the summer. The property was daunting – a lot of building work would be needed to make it functional but we had got the bit between our teeth and approached the sellers.
Not a lot happens speedily in the countryside of France, as many Francophiles will tell you. That’s part of its appeal! Because there was so much structural work to undertake before even starting work on making the property functional, we put forward a price which was not accepted. We hoped that time would encourage the sellers to reconsider. We went back to Gramont several times. Then all went quiet from the sellers.
We went back this April, still set on the same property, but this time we decided to see what else was out there. What other properties in the area would allow us to do our thing or give us a comparison to be able to negotiate a better price? We viewed 15 properties in one week, and I have to say that the estate agents were all amazing! Then it happened. The very last house we looked at just took our breath away. As we drove up the drive, I said to Graham ‘This is it!’ We felt exactly what we had felt when we first set eyes on Willowgate 23 years ago. And as we walked round, it felt more and more like home without all the back-breaking work that would have been entailed in the property in Gramont and only 40 minutes away from Gramont.
We hummed and hawed for a short while after we got home but that was just nerves. We had really already made our decision, and in May our offer was accepted. Just two days later, another offer was put in but the sellers of La Tuilerie honoured their word to us. And now, finally, at the end of November 2015, we are the proud owners of a beautiful maison de maitre with attached barn for my weaving studio and teaching studio, a workshop for Graham’s micro-brewery, and a small shop to sell our wares! We will be able to put guests up and offer the kind of immersive experience that we enjoyed at the cookery school, where I can teach weaving and intersperse it with trips to local markets, restaurants, local beauty spots and places of interest so that students and guests can enjoy the tastes and sights of Gascony.
And all because of a birthday decision!!
It will take a while to renovate the buildings to allow us to run the weaving courses and the B&B, but this is the start of a new life. Graham is taking the plunge and leaving teaching which he has done for 30 years, to devote himself to looking after my guests and brewing his beer. Of course it will be a challenge – not least the language side of things – and we are not taking it lightly, but there are so many people who are looking out for us and encouraging and helping us, both in the UK and in France, that with a lot of hard work and patience I think we will settle in to a new way of life and really be part of the local community in Nérac and Condom.
I do hope we will have the opportunity to host some of you, my past students, dear weaving friends and fellow explorers on life’s rich path. I will post updates on FB and here and in my occasional newsletters, but in the meantime,
May All Your Dreams Come True!! (Because they sometimes do!! :^))
9 November, 2014
I don’t know about you, but I get sent a number of requests from students asking for me to complete questionnaires for their dissertation research. Some of them are not thought through and in that case I reply tactfully that they need to do a bit of basic research themselves before sending out questionnaires willynilly. But this week I have had one that gave me pause for thought.
In my own masters research, I read a lot about the importance of tactility in everyday life and art, as that is something I feel passionately about – textiles are for touching for me, although I respect that many ‘art’ pieces are not designed to be handled. My work is about erosion in all sorts of guises and about tactility and I want people to interact physically with my work. It’s also a medium that, for the handweaver, insists on physical interaction at different times during the making process. In every step of creating a warp, I interact with the materials physically, although the planning is all brainwork and 3-dimensional spatial planning inside my head.
The questionnaire I received this week asked me if I find weaving challenging. This I interpreted two different ways – challenging as in ‘difficult to overcome’, and challenging as in ‘mentally and maybe practically demanding’. The first meaning isn’t so relevant to me, but the second most definitely so. If it is not challenging, I am not pushing myself. Occasionally I do something that doesn’t take too much mental effort but just requires the physical input of weaving – my Xmas cards, for example – but mostly I am challenging myself to develop new ways of doing or learning. Using the natural world as my inspiration I strive to envisage ways of using weave structures and materials to allow me to interpret geology, growth and erosion patterns from flora, fauna and minerals into textural expressions. I use all the things I have learnt previously, and play with them, investigating how I can merge ideas or structures to create a different take on something and make something unexpected happen. Serendipity plays a crucial role but first I have to think things through and move things in a certain direction so that serendipity can have the room to intervene.
Charlotte also asked if weaving is a stressful occupation, and whether it has helped me improve other skills such as problem solving/mathematics/social skills? Well, yes, occasionally I do get stressed when something goes wrong, but it’s usually if I am in the wrong mind-set anyway, or I feel under pressure from outside forces. Where I am the person totally in control of things, then I don’t usually get stressed, even when things go wrong. It takes as long as it takes. But I know for sure that it has certainly helped me improve problem solving – thinking laterally, seeing what is around me that I can press into service when something physically goes wrong with the loom (happily a fairly rare occurance), being spatially aware of how a flat fabric will shape up into a 3-D piece once it is removed from the loom, thinking in terms of numbers of shafts and patterns when working out what designs to create, and socially, well I get the chance to travel and meet lots of people, sharing with them my technical knowledge, love of weave and my particular way of looking at the world…. All wonderful things to be able to do and share.
I also talked about how weaving can be meditation – getting in the zone allows you to drift away from the pressures of everyday life and focus entirely on the moment, what your body and mind are doing right now, right here. It has also helped me work out how to approach difficult situations in my emotional life, moral issues raised by a teenage son, and gives me a sense of perspective when things get overblown in my mind.
The questionnaire went on to ask about other aspects of weaving which also required further thought but I stopped for a while to think about just how important these particular questions are to what we do. We are engaged with our hands, minds, emotions and body, using sight, touch, smell and spatial awareness in the physicality and preparation of weaving. Yet the act of physically throwing a shuttle allows us to engage analytic thought (if we wish!), but also to focus on the moment, awareness of our bodies, throwing the shuttle and moving the shafts, and also, at the same time, the mental distance from everyday things to allow our subconscious minds to sort out knotty and complex emotional and mental issues whilst we are physically engaged in a rhythmic exercise.
No wonder weave is all-engrossing, and that it continues to be a craft form that gains adherents, devotees, and fanatics (I count myself in the latter group!! ), even more as our daily lives are more and more engaged with digital technology. The fact that it is found world-wide, and is such an old craft form, is testament to its endurance as an essential craft for our physical but also our mental well-being.
Thank you, Charlotte, for reminding me what weave means to me.
1 October, 2014
Today I chanced across a post on my Facebook feed. I don’t usually spend much time on Facebook, but this one article caught my eye and I read further…. http://mic.com/articles/99408/science-has-great-news-for-people-who-read-actual-books
I have always had a reluctance to use e-readers, although I have one. Wherever possible, I much prefer to pick up a physical book. I could never put my finger on it, but especially when doing research reading for my masters, I found myself unable to concentrate if reading text on an e-reader. At the end of the piece, I wouldn’t have understood it and would have to read it again and again. It frustrated me that I couldn’t turn page corners down to emphasize where I had found an interesting point, although I could highlight text, but finding the text again wasn’t so easy, especially if I was carrying several trains of thought in my head at the same time.
Then, once I had ‘liked’ that article, several others popped up underneath the original one. This time there were three other links to articles that drew me in. The first one was about writing …. http://mic.com/articles/98348/science-shows-writers-have-a-serious-advantage-over-the-rest-of-us
I am a diary girl. It helps me to keep track of ideas, emotions, events in my currently rollercoaster life, and it also helps me to gain a sense of perspective on my own and others’ actions. It started a few years ago, proved its value during my masters journey, helped me to keep a memory of places visited on my trips, and now is a way to help me keep track of what I’ve done, upcoming deadlines, and a memory jogger as my own memory is having serious issues! I know memory is highly subjective anyway, and we only keep a memory of how we view something, and that that memory is subject to change, but I am very aware that my imagination interferes with my memory and I cannot always rely on remembering something accurately. This is incredibly frustrating and I hate not being able to trust my memory. So the journal is a vital tool in holding on to my emotions and reflections of events, places and people at the time. Of course, journals can be manipulated as we write them and most people writing a journal on a computer undo sentences and rewrite. It is easy to do, and can allow streams of consciousness writing which are then re-written. In a physical journal, if you don’t want to end up with phrases crossed out, you are required to construct the sentence and therefore the slant in your head prior to committing it to the paper. I know that my own emotional issues have been helped by writing them out both on paper and in an e-diary. Curiously, I findthat I tend to get more emotionally involved in my writing if I am writing in a physical diary, and to stay with the emotions longer – not always a good thing. Writing emotionally on the keyboard is not so immersive and reading back my writing on the laptop has a distancing effect, as if I am reading someone else’s writing. This can have value, especially if the emotions you are expressing are not positive ones.
The next article seemed to bear out my own thinking http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/ and led on to another article that seemed to encapsulate my own experience when note-taking in tutorials/lectures at university during my masters….. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop/
I had done both methods and totally related to mindless typing of verbatim discussions, missing the wood for the trees in a discussion and wondering what had just happened when the session was finished. After a few ‘typed’ sessions, I reverted to hand-written notes and understood far more from patchier notes. It also struck me that court recorders might have to disengage with the content of what they are recording in order to distance the mind to focus on the taking down of accurate records. Theirs has to be verbatim notes but if they actually thought about the content, would their emotions have an impact on their efficiency of record taking? I’d love to hear from a court recorder about how they work.
This got me thinking about how we learn in weaving. I am currently studying Marian Stubenitsky’s book ‘Echo & Iris’. I struggle with learning something new. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it usually takes me about 3 weeks to process a visiting tutor’s weaving workshop. I just have to stay with the discomfort of not knowing what people are talking about or understanding the fundamentals of a new technique and suddenly it will ‘click’. When working through a book, I read the information, weave the samples, and then analyse the physical weaving. When teaching drafting, I do not allow my students to start off with the computer. Even if they have the weaving software, I encourage them to do the drawdown with pencil and squared paper. Why? Because in the slow process of physically drafting by hand, their brains can assimilate the visual knowledge and turn it into comprehension of the relationship of warp and weft.
I’ve just been weaving 8S versions of some of Marian’s samples. It took me a while to realize that I work better with Bonnie Inouye’s method of tie-up and to change Marian’s tie-ups into a Bonnie-method. Then suddenly I could see what the two sides were supposed to be doing. I could then work out how I wanted to adapt the liftplans to give me the results I was looking for. During the writing of this blog, I have had a sudden ‘click’ moment about how to get the effects I am wanting to achieve but I am going to go back to the software to check if my thinking will actually work before I weave it. I am able to do that because I know what I am looking for, but if I didn’t, I would go back to drafting longhand to understand the principles before going to the software to develop designs quickly (relatively speaking!).
What am I trying to say here, in my long-winded way? I think that technology in reading, writing and weaving is very useful, can be time-saving, can also allow for weaving experimentation in a way that old-fashioned drafting precludes by its very ease of use, but that comprehension is required before that experimentation can occur and for me, longhand drafting can aid in that comprehension in a way that technology cannot provide. It’s very interesting to read (electronically) the four articles looking at how digital reading and writing can impact on our memory and comprehension and to note that it would have been very probable that someone like me would not have had access to this kind of material prior to digital technology. The dissemination of information is so wide-spread thanks to technology.
For me, digital technology is wonderful, but not the be-all-and-end-all. It has its downsides, things I don’t like about it. I am aware that I stare at the screen whereas I don’t force my eyes when reading a book. I change my posture lots when reading a physical book, but find myself hunched in one position not having moved for ages when looking at the computer screen. I now ensure that I switch the computer off for large chunks of my day, and I limit myself to a certain length of time on the computer at a sitting. Writing this blog and reading the 4 articles have taken up the best part of a morning. A useful exercise for me, and therefore not time wasted, but I could have been weaving……
Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the weaving, and nothing is more effective than sampling to check that not only the weave structure but also the yarns behave in the way that you intend. Although I am using a table loom for this warp, the work I will develop from it will be woven on a computer-assisted floor loom – a perfect marriage of technology and hand!
10 August, 2014
It’s been a while since I last sat down at my AVL to weave serious amounts. In fact, I warped 12 metres on back in February, and threaded up for the Complex Weavers study group samples for Collapse, Pleat & Bump. Those samples were finally woven in May after my return from New Zealand, and then the warp was left ready for another Growth Form on my return from Washington.
With one thing and another, it has taken me until this week actually to sit at the loom to start weaving. Having created a new liftplan and decided to change the amount of plain weave in my overshot tie-up, I started work.
Everything started badly. The paper weft had been left on the bobbin, wound since May. It doesn’t like to do that! The yarn had set itself into its tightly wound spirals and did not want to behave. Rather belatedly, I remembered that I should always wind it off the bobbin once I have finished my weaving if it is to sit more than a night or so before being used again.
Shafts began to play up and not lift when they were supposed to – rather a problem when they cross layers and you are attempting to weave a tube! I was getting quite frustrated.
Then I realised…..I was trying to weave too fast.
My thinking was all skewed. I needed to allow myself to slow down, breathe deeply and focus just on the moment, not on how much I had to do and how little time I had to do it. Get back to basics. I had to do what I advise my beginning students to do – enjoy the moment and be aware of everything that is happening. I started to pay attention to the shafts and not expecting the loom to do it correctly every time. I allowed myself to smile when one of the shafts misbehaved, and to congratulate myself for having noticed the miscreant! I decided I would weave a certain amount of picks, and not to worry if it took a long time.
Three hours flew by and 1008 picks (the pattern repeat) looked good.
The next day, I set myself the same 1008 pattern picks to weave. This time, I thought I was already mentally in the right place, but I wasn’t. My mind was zooming all over the place and I found myself having conversations aloud with myself! Two hours dragged, and I wasn’t getting anywhere very fast. So I stopped for a little while and thought about why this was happening. OK, so we have a lot going on in our lives at the moment…. Who doesn’t??! So what could I do to quieten my thoughts and focus on the moment?
Weave 12 picks at a time! One short burst of concentration. Followed by another. And another. Before I knew where I was, I had woven my complete 1008 picks in a fraction of the time it had taken to weave the first 400 or so!
I now have two intense weeks of teaching ahead of me, and when I tell my students to slow down and savour the moment, I shall smile to myself and remind myself that I still need to learn that lesson myself!
Make haste slowly!
20 July, 2014
I must admit to being a little shell-shocked with the past 7 months’ activities. It has been a total whirlwind of travelling, teaching, experiencing new places and people and now I have landed back on planet reality!
But time to reflect before plunging into the next phase.
January – completing my masters degree and finding out I had been awarded a distinction! What can I say? Three years of focused learning/investigations into weaving, art history, philosophy, materials, writing essays and fine-tuning things, but most of all, learning about how I think, how others think things through, what art can mean, abstracting ideas and honing in on specifics and details in order to create something that means many different things to different people. I knew when I began the MA that I would learn so much and develop as a person and an artist, but I have truly discovered so much more through this process than I could possibly have imagined. I would encourage you, if it is something you have considered doing, take the plunge.
February – immersed in finalising details for workshops in New Zealand, February swooshed by. Packing my exhibition and teaching materials into two suitcases, as well as a few clothes for a two month visit, took a fair bit of trial and error, and eventual sitting on the suitcases to squeeze out enough air to close the zips!
March – arriving in New Zealand and hitting the ground running. Agnes didn’t give me time to breathe, which was probably a good thing! Straight into the Professional Weavers Network Conference at Coopers Beach, North Island. Stunning area of natural beauty. The first leg of our joint exhibition Nature in the Making at the Earth House, Peria. A huge thank you to Dhaj Sumner, amazing lady and so warm-hearted, who created the Earth House in the first place, and gave us such a welcome! Great reception of our work – it looks like it was made to live here! Continuing preparations for the start of the teaching tour, although a little time to visit a couple of places for geology and relaxation. Then on tour. A series of workshops travelling from North to South, from Oruru, through Whangerei, Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, meeting lots of new people, lovely weavers, stunning scenery and warm welcomes from generous hosts. including an unexpected holiday in Wellington thanks to Robyn and Dave Parker.
April – over the straits to South Island. Workshops in Blenheim, Canterbury, Timaru and Dunedin meeting felters as well as weavers and making new friends all the way. A short break and chill time in Nelson, thanks to Sue and Tom Broad. Setting up for the second of our exhibitions in New Zealand at Arts in Oxford, near to Christchurch. Delighted with the gallery – lovely space and warm people. Special thanks to Rachel McRobb, the gallery manager, and the volunteers, especially Celia for her generosity in sharing her love of local pigments! The work looks amazing in this fine-art gallery space! And thanks to our hosts here, Wilson and George! And in Timaru, lovely Mary and Gary Anderson. Then after the Creative Fibres Forum Festival at Dunedin, a holiday incorporating lots of geology and the west coast. Amazing! Firsts include seeing albatross, Hector’s Dolphins and 3 Keas.
May – home again and trying hard to absorb all the sights and sounds of New Zealand whilst preparing for the Complex Weavers Seminars in Tacoma. Learning how to cut and twist paper for weaving, and busily weaving some more samples to enhance my presentation on textural techniques for 4 – 8 shafts, the month zoomed by.
June – completing preparations for Tacoma, and wondering how I managed to fit all my samples and my exhibition into my suitcases as the samples now seem to be taking up most of my luggage allowance! Then off to the Pacific NorthWest to hang our exhibition in B2 Fine Art Gallery, visit Seattle to see the Chihuly Museum, and travel some of the west coast of Washington State and pop down to Oregon before the whirlwind that is Complex Weavers Seminars. A huge thank you to Gary and Deborah Boone, owners of B2 Fine Art Gallery, and wonderful people, for their support and generosity! Not only did we have an opening ‘do’, but also an artists’ reception and then a very special ‘Nightcap’ dessert reception during Complex Weavers Seminars when the gallery opened especially for the weavers to visit! Then Complex Weavers Seminars! Exhausting, exhilarating, and exuberant! With minds fully overloaded from inspiring teaching seminars, and friendships renewed, new ones made, and amazing sunsets appreciated, it was time to depart.
July – an awe-inspiring trip to Mt Rainier started an incredible two weeks of travelling in Washington and Oregon, visiting geological highlights of Oregon’s coast, mountains, high prairies and river gorges, with huge thanks to Barb and Steve Walker for their hospitality! Big thanks, too, to Suzie Liles, as our exhibition will travel from Tacoma to Eugene Textile Centre for its next showing from 1st August to 11th October!
So now….. getting my head around these amazing 7 months; writing up my notes from the US trip and writing down all those weaving ideas that the inspiring countryside and geology have given rise to, then prioritizing those ideas into things I can instigate immediately, and those that will have to wait a while; preparing for an intensive month of teaching; and also researching possible venues for our exhibition here in the UK. On that last note, if anyone has any suggestions for galleries or museums that might be interested in our work in any country, please don’t hesitate to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will follow up!
Who knows – I might even start blogging regularly again!! :^)) Thanks for bearing with me over the last 3 years!
And Happy Weaving!!
6 April, 2014
Well, ‘Windy Wellington’ did not live up to its name! We had glorious weather for our sightseeing! Whereas most people whizz round places and see lots in a short space of time, Agnes and I prefer to take our time, enjoy the vibe, have a coffee/tea, take lots of photos, look around some more….. you get the picture! So on our first visit to Wellington we managed to take the cable car, visit the Carter Observatory and mooch through the Botanical Gardens, and the second day we slowly strolled along the Waterfront and visited Te Papa, the national museum and art gallery.
Here are a few photos from that day…. a lovely statue to Katherine Mansfield (author), a token tree from the Botanic Gardens – a hugely tall eucalyptus – and water, water, water from the waterfront.
We were photographing some water shots at the end of our day when Agnes and I independently got approached by passers-by asking us what we were photographing. When Agnes explained, the lady looked again and started seeing the patterns, but unfortunately, I don’t think the man who asked me could see what I was seeing – to him it was ‘just water’. Just as well we all think and see differently!!
The clouds weren’t bad either!!
The next day we had a quick stroll around a reserve at Whitby before heading off to catch the ferry. Farewell to the North Island… and hello to the South Island with a little bit of water in between (just for a change :^))
Two Texture Days followed with weavers and felters from the lovely Marlborough textile group before moving on to Nelson across the vinyards of Marlborough, a beautiful river crossing, and the winding mountain pass, into a glorious evening overlooking Boulder Bar and Nelson… One amazing view after another! That’s my experience of New Zealand!!
Hope you are enjoying the trip along with me!
31 March, 2014
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