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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

22 July, 2012

Joan Miro and Carol Harries-Wood exhibitions

Two exhibitions, one day.  A busy one!  Joan Miro with a major exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  I have to confess that Miro is not generally my cup of tea, but I took a weaving student to see it because I wanted him to get a taste of some British countryside (he was from Australia) and also because it was near to the second exhibition, that of a fellow MA student’s work at Barnsley.

Anyhow, back to the Miro for a moment.  Not only did we have gorgeous sunny and breezy weather, a rarity at the moment in England, but I had a profound moment!!  It was brought about by the ubiquitous ‘Do Not Touch’ signs everywhere around his sculptures.  Some of them are so tactile that they demanded to be touched!  Others had such contrast in surface quality between total shiny and smooth and rough and bumpy.  In my diary I wrote :

… I love the roughness and patination of his raw bronzes left unfinished – subject to change over time. The black finished bronzes have contrasts – smooth/polished and rough. My fingers were itching to touch, to feel the pitted surface, to confirm what my eyes see, to experience the visual. It was a physical feeling – more than an impulse – almost a compulsion – to have the haptic knowledge of the surface, the void of the channels, the edges of the channels. I felt deprived of something essential – like the loss of a limb. Strange – when I already knew what it would feel like….”

It was a feeling in my gut, rather than just a longing.  And so strong…

I can’t share any images because alongside the Do Not Touch signs were also No Photography, so I guess you’ll just have to go and look in a book or two, unless you happen to be in the vicinity of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park any time before the winter.

The other exhibition was Carol Harries-Wood’s There’s No Place Like Home exhibition.  It is on at the Barnsley Civic alongside an exhibition called In Situ by some well known UK ceramicists.

Carol has been focusing on memory evoked through the sense of smell using the familiar form of a domestic space – the home – to highlight domestic issues of home and homelessness and the everyday.  Her sculptures are made of many different media, including soaps, metal, jelly, bread, linen, stone, wood, straw.  Some are highly scented, such as coffee grounds, various types of soaps, honeycomb, and others incredibly tactile.  The main work is arranged at different levels which, if you stand back and you have a musical inclination, you can see is the first two lines of the song ‘There’s No Place Like Home’.  There is a separate section featuring houses made from elements important to Barnsley’s heritage, and another piece incorporating a new element of her work, her hands enveloping a house – are they cradling or strangling the house, cosetting or smothering???  Carol’s work comes from her heart and working alongside her at university, watching her instinctive creative process, is a privilege.

This is her first solo show, and there is a possibility that the exhibition might tour.  If it does, I shall let you know where it will be so you can go along and see for yourself!

15 July, 2012

Kennet Valley Guild residential workshop October 2012

One of the wonderful things about guilds is the opportunity they offer for learning.  Kennet Valley Guild hold a biennial residential weekend workshop for both their own guild members and other people who wish to come (obviously subject to numbers) on 19 – 21st October 2012.

This year, the workshop is being held in Wokefield Park near Reading.  There are four tutors: Alison Ellen – knitting, me – weaving, Alison Daykin – spinning and Anna Yevtukh – bookbinding.  I am going to be teaching weaving for texture, using 4 and 8 shaft looms and exploring woven shibori, overshot and stitched double cloth to create textural fabrics in many different ways, using threading drafts that will be familiar to most weavers.

These workshops are something I love to do.  Not only do you get to meet enthusiastic weavers, but you get to spend time exchanging stories, examing samples, sharing information and contacts, and generally having an exhilarating fibery time!  Honing my skills to the 4 and 8 shaft looms is something that I also love.  It’s comparatively easy to experiment on multi-shafts and get carried away with fancy patterns.  It’s another thing to distill the information from those multi-shaft samples into something that works well on 4 and 8 shafts.  In developing the workshop, I have been having a huge amount of fun and learning loads myself.

Another lovely thing is catching up with the other tutors.  I’ve known Alison Ellen several years, mostly meeting up at various shows such as the Landmark Textiles Fair.  Her work is inspirational and she has written at least one book on handknitting.  Her cardigans and hats are beautiful!  Alison Daykin is a spinner and weaver, and lives not far from me in Derbyshire.  She co-wrote a spinning book, ‘Creative Spinning’ with Jane Deane and will be teaching techniques from that book.  The third tutor is someone I have never previously met but am really looking forward to meeting.  Anna Yevtukh is teaching a subject that several people of my acquaintance are really into.  Bookbinding is a subject that is gaining in popularity as people are wanting more and more contact with physical hand-made objects, and what could be more personal than a book bound by hand?

The workshop co-ordinator is Lorna Goldsmith (lornagoldsmith@yahoo.co.uk).  As I mentioned before, these courses are open to non-Kennet Valley members, if there are spaces remaining, and Lorna is the contact if you want to come and join us.  It promises to be an exciting, and lively, weekend!

8 July, 2012

Craft in practice, Craft in process

Far from quietening down during this summer (??!), there seem to be more events to attend than ever!  This week, I received an invitation to attend a seminar day, Craft in practice, Craft in process, run by the MA Textiles students at Manchester Metropolitan University.  The speakers were Helen Carnac, Lauren Bowker, and Deidre Nelson.

All three speakers are very different from each other, in discipline, in practice and in approach.  It was fascinating.  Firstly, Helen Carnac talked about her discipline and how important it is to find the right material to express what you want to convey.  Hers is metal, and more specifically, vitreous enamel with its variety of forms – liquid, chalky (when dry) then hard (when fired).  For her process is more important than product, and she loves the intermediate stage when the enamel is malleable enough to draw or etch into before firing.  She is interested in the surface beneath – an aspect that resonated with me – and looking at reductive processes rather than additive processes.  She works alone and in collaboration, with each feeding the other.

Helen is also widely known in the UK for her collaborative exhibition with Andy Horn (formerly from Craftspace) from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  They put on Taking Time: A Slow Revolution which explored practices which use both place and time as a major influence.  This touring exhibition highlighted the movement which began with slow food, and is now encompassing many different genres to make us think about slowing down and appreciating things which take time to do.

Helen also talked about her interest in siting artwork outside the regular white cube space – putting it into working environments, and communities.

Lauren Bowker has a wonderfully irreverent approach to her work, but is incredibly broad with intensive research into science (photo-chromic inks among other things), and engineering, as well as design.  She questions everything and looks at design briefs from very different perspectives, coming up with imaginative and intelligent design.  She is a practical visionary, and her work is exciting and unexpected.    Currently her work which was spread all over the place is being corralled into a new website that is not yet ready, but that will be www.seetheunseen.co.uk  So I’ll be keeping an eye out for this!

The final speaker was Deirdre Nelson.  Deirdre is well known in the UK for her use of knit and stitch in community settings, and she often uses language as a tool for connecting people.  One such project was in Ireland, called Modern Languages.  In this project she used an ‘authentic’ Aran sweater which she bought on ebay to unravel it and re-knit it in a mix of Aran and plain knitting.  This led to a conversation with many in Ireland about authenticity.  A more recent project on the Isle of Mull with Cape Farewell at Tobermory brought art and science together in a different way – she looked at the plight of the Arctic Tern in respect to its survival as a species on the borders of climate change – and approached the topic from a humorous perspective using Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/Birdyarns) and knitting as a way of broadening out the community involved in the project and highlighting ecological concerns in a non-preachy way.  The knitted ‘colony’ of Arctic Terns ‘flew in’ to Tobermory for only a short time, and could also find themselves in other places….

Thanks to the MA Textiles students for organising this seminar!  And it didn’t rain!!

1 July, 2012

UK Complex Weavers Double Cloth Study Day

This Friday, about half the UK contingent of Complex Weavers gathered for a study day with Jennifer Moore in central London.  Jennifer is over in the UK to teach a series of workshops on double cloth for both Handweavers Studios and also the Handweavers Studio Diploma.  Jennifer is a highly accomplished double cloth weaver from Sante Fe, New Mexico, and had a stunning exhibition at the 2010 HGA Convergence which was at Albequerque, New Mexico.  She focuses on beautiful artistic work using double cloth pick-up – a laborious, time-consuming and intensive technique allowing her to place her designs exactly where she wants them whilst continuing to use a shaft loom to give her basic blocks.  The colours she uses are vibrant, in 5/2 perle cotton and the work really shimmers as she combines close hues to give extra depth and zingyness (professional term!!)

Jennifer agreed to give a special condensed version of her ‘Beyond the Basics’ double cloth workshop for the UK Complex Weavers group whose experience of double cloth is quite varied.  Starting with the basics, she ensured that everyone had the ground knowledge before going on to show different ways of developing designs on 4 and 8 shafts.   It was interesting to see a different way of describing and working out double cloth and I hadn’t realised that overshot threadings could also be used for double cloth designs.  I find overshot patterns to be incredibly versatile in the techniques that I use, but this was an unexpected aspect that has me thinking in a slightly different way.

It’s not often that the UK Complex Weavers get the opportunity to meet up, and this was a wonderful opportunity to meet up with some weavers that I had not met before, and to catch up with familiar friends!  Quite a few of us will be going to Complex Weavers Seminars in September in Washington DC which will be lovely!

A huge thanks to Wendy Morris for arranging the study day, and to Jennifer for agreeing to compact her normal teaching programme into just one day.  If you want to see some of Jennifer’s pieces in person, you have until Wednesday to visit Handweavers Studio and Gallery in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park!