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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

20 May, 2012

Weaves That Shape Themselves, Pairings and Textile Matters

What a bumper few days!  A book launch with an accompanying exhibition, the Stroud International Textile Festival exhibition, and a textiles seminar in three days!  Food for the eyes, the brain and the soul!

Taken in the order I experienced them, firstly a book launch at Handweavers Studio in London for Ann Richards’ book “Weaves That Shape Themselves”.  Detailing many of Ann’s experiments and discoveries over a twenty-year period, this is a great addition to a weaver’s library, sharing hints, tips, and lots of very useful knowledge on high twist yarns, weave structures that pleat and shape and finishing processes.  She also includes a number of other weavers who are exploring texture through structure and interesting yarns and processes.  (Hand up here to a vested interest – there is one image of my work in the book – thank you, Ann!)

The launch was attended by a number of weavers whose work is in the accompanying exhibition currently at Handweavers Studio, including Lotte Dalgaard (Denmark), Berthe Forchhammer (Denmark), Fiona Crestani (Austria), Lucia Schwalenberg (Germany), Jennie Parry (UK), Bobbie Kociejowski (UK), Wendy Morris (UK) and me.  Other pieces in the exhibition are from weavers such as Deidre Wood (UK), Geraldine St Aubyn Hubbard (UK), Emma Sewell (UK), Sheila Reimann (NZ), Liz Williamson (Australia), Anna Champeney (Spain), Andreas Moller (Germany), Dorte Behn (Germany), Gusti Austin-Lina (Netherlands), Teresa Kennard (USA), Kasuhiro Ueno (Japan), Noriko Matsumoto (Japan), Junichi Arai (Japan), and Reiko Sudo (Japan).   A wonderful treat!  The exhibition is on for another couple of weeks, so I urge you to go and visit very soon!  And, of course, you are surrounded by the very yarns that are used to create the myriad effects on show!  And you can buy the books….

Secondly, the Stroud International Textile Festival has been running for a number of years.  This year, due to reduced funding, there is just one main exhibition in the beautiful setting of the Museum in the Park in Stroud.  Instigated by Alice Kettle, the exhibition is ‘Select Pairings II‘, the collaboration of different artists, usually in pairs, with at least one of the partners a textile artist.  The artists featured are Alice Kettle who paired with David Gates and Jane Webb; Ismini Samanidou who paired with Sharon Blakey; Kate Egan who paired with Vanessa Cutler; Dawn Mason working with Dr Nigel Hurlstone, Shelly Goldsmith working with Annie Shaw, Jane McKeating collaborating with Jilly Morris, and Janet Haigh with Rachel Kelly.  There were also three individuals whose work was on show – Clair Curneen, Rhian Solomon, and Fiona Haines.

The pieces were varied and interesting, utilising the courtyard outside the museum, the corridor leading to the main exhibition space and the main gallery. This exhibition is on until 27th May, so you still have one week to see it!  I shall be writing a full review for the Journal of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and The Weave Shed (where you’ll also find information on Ann’s book) together with photos….

Finally, how to sum up a full day’s inspiration and input from four immensely talented and inspiring weavers from the UK, Japan, and Denmark?  Organised by Tim Parry-Williams with Bath Spa University, and the first in a series (so Tim promised!) of seminars, Textile Matters was held in the incredible surroundings of Corsham Court, the home of the Textile Research Dept of Bath Spa University.  Ann Richards started the day with explanations of some of the concepts behind her twenty years of research and exploration into weaves that shape themselves.  Her clarity and scientifically disciplined approach to her research was inspiring and salutory at the same time!

Ann was followed by Jun Tomita, a Japanese weaver who specialises in ikat art for interiors.  Jun is inspired by walls that are showing the ravages of time and decay – in this he reminded me of fellow weaver Ismini Samanidou – but their approach is so totally different to each other.  Jun uses the most simple of weaves – plain weave – to create his mood pieces through the kasuri technique of ikat.  Spanning his complete career to date, we were fascinated by his development of ideas and the use of warp ikat to convey so many facets of mood, depth and spirit.  It was also fantastic to have a glimpse into his workshop and his method of working.

After lunch, and a chance to buy books from Chrome Yellow (always a wonderful excuse to indulge in some gorgeous books!) and yarns from Handweavers’ Studio, we were ushered back into the colourful world of Ptolemy Mann.  I probably don’t need to say much about Ptolemy.  Her dip-dyed ikats in myriad colours are well known in the design and interiors worlds, and we had plenty of eye-candy to enjoy.  However, Ptolemy also talked about the need for working in different fields (although all stemming from her ikat and colour work), including working with industry and architects, licensing products and doing large-scale public art commissions in the public health sector.  A whistle-stop tour of the possibilities that have led on from her weaving, Ptolemy injected a dose of day-to-day realism in our current economic climate – a way of working that is hard work, and challenging, but ultimately rewarding in many different ways.

Lotte Dalgaard was the final speaker.  Lotte is a weaver of collapse weave fabrics which are mostly for accessories and fashion.  Working in collaboration with a fashion designer, Lotte’s fabrics are developed to become garments that can be shaped in many different ways to create different silhouettes.  A founder member of the Danish Yarn Purchasing Association, GIF, Lotte has helped to introduce many different kinds of unusual yarns to the handweavers market, including many of the high-twisted yarns that she researches and uses in her work.  She published a book called Magic Materials in Danish a few years ago, which Ann Richards translated for English buyers of the book.  This book has inspired a new wave of weavers to work with high twist yarns and will, I suspect, continue to prompt new weavers into trying out active yarns.  One of the highlights of the day was at the end of Lotte’s presentation when she gave a demonstration of how the fabrics ‘do their magic’ when exposed to hot water.  She showed us the woven ‘grey’ state, or loom-state, fabric and then submerged it in hot water where everyone could see it crinkle into its folds.  A magic end to a magic day!

Despite the short-notice of this seminar, the delegates, most of whom were weavers, had a memorable day, energised by their conversations with each other, meeting up with old friends and making new connections, enjoying the incredible surroundings and indulging in some retail therapy, as well as absorbing a lot of intricate and fascinating information.  Even the peacocks were impressed – one showing off his formidable tail feathers – a great photo opportunity for those of us present!!

As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I will be writing reviews for the Weave Shed, and also one on ‘Pairings’ for the Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers which will include photos (after permissions have been sought).  So keep your eyes out for these…..

13 May, 2012

Reverance of age

Filed under: Life,Nature,Philosophy,Psychology — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 5:10 pm

Maybe it’s because of the milestone birthday I’ve reached, or maybe it’s because of studying for an MA and being challenged to challenge and think deeply about everything, but I’ve become more and more aware of how little we appreciate the ageing process – unless it’s to do with antiques, that is!

Why does our Western society worship youth?

Yesterday, a reminder letter arrived from my dentist.  Nothing earth-shattering there – just a reminder to schedule a 6-month appointment.  But on the letterhead was the announcement – in bold and capitals -

COMING SOON – New Service: Facial Asthetics (line & wrinkle treatments)

At my hairdressers, (which I only visit about once a year!), you are urged to take waxing treatments for all parts of your body, electrolysis to remove body hair if you don’t fancy waxing, and botox and other methods to remove lines and wrinkles.

Other societies revere the wisdom that age brings and lines and wrinkles are a sign of a life that’s been lived, with highs, lows, laughter and tears.

Yes, most of us do want to look as good as we can for our age (!) but how far do you go to look younger than your life experience?

My paternal grandmother was 101 when she died earlier this year, and her face showed her longevity and her passion and enjoyment in living.  She had dignity, wisdom, gentleness and steel and all was there to see in her face.  A wonderful book, a fascinating read.

Facelifts create a mask – sometimes like a death-mask, it seems to me!  In the effort to wipe away the trace of the years, life is wiped away with it.  The face’s myriad expressions are paralysed.  Visual expression is vital to our human mode of communication, along with body language and verbal/aural language.  Without the use of tiny facial muscles, how can we communicate effectively?  Lines and wrinkles are merely the result of repetitive facial movements. They express us more clearly than any words.  They can tell the lie behind words sometimes.  Perhaps that is why people want to eradicate them.  Perhaps their faces betray what they really feel as opposed to what they say they feel.

I must confess – I have thought of botox to remove the depth of my frown line.  I frown when I concentrate, and I concentrate a lot, so it is a deep line.  But it is mostly visible to me.  Other people see the laughter lines, the tiny expressions that show humour, passion, love of life, interest.  The frown line is mostly employed when I’m looking at the computer, or reading, or thinking deeply, so is not really an expression of who I am to others.  Would I really contemplate injecting a poison into my skin to remove such a line?  In my less confident moments, yes I would.  But when I really think about it, my face is a record of how I live my life, my communication with others, my outlook on life.  Would I want to eradicate part of my own history?  Remove part of what makes up that entity I call me?

So here’s to lines and wrinkles.  Raise a glass of whatever you like to drink and let’s toast life lived!

6 May, 2012

Resuming posting….

Filed under: Life,Philosophy,Psychology,Teaching,Weaving — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

Over the past couple of months, life has been challenging in a number of ways.  But one constant throughout all the challenges has been weaving.  Whether teaching, preparing for workshops, or planning and weaving my own projects, weaving has kept my thoughts positive, my mind actively planning, and my hands occupied.

I have come to realise that people with a consuming passion in something, whether it be weaving, family ancestry, cars, bird-watching, have an advantage when it comes to hard times.  That part of the brain is busy and distracted from whatever else is proving difficult, and you can switch to that part of the brain whenever you need to re-charge your batteries.

For me, various deadlines with weaving have proved the anchor to keeping things in perspective, although sometimes the deadlines have also felt a little like a noose round my neck!  Happily, most of those deadlines have been met and I can now relax a little and smell the roses!!  They have helped me stay focussed on things other than my other challenges and kept me in the world instead of apart from it in my own little bubble.

Having students has forced me to stop for breath and concentrate on their needs and, in doing so, has totally refreshed me in a way that I hadn’t expected.  I have always loved teaching, but never expected it to be a therapy as well!! Thanks to all my wonderful students who are now weavers themselves!

I feel so grateful that I have weaving in my life – for my mind, for my soul and for my sanity!!! Here’s to all us weavers – whatever life throws at us, may our weaving prove a solace and help us get through the rough times.

Happy weaving!