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,
12 February, 2014
There are just two weeks to go before an amazing trip of a lifetime – two months touring, teaching and exhibiting around the wonderful place that is New Zealand!
I thought I would post a few images of the frenzy (organised, of course!) of packing, last minute weaving, revisions of lectures and workshops, and collating of stuff. So much stuff!! Samples of seersucker, overshot, shibori, stitched double cloth, honeycomb, and large pieces – my growth forms in different sizes and structures from 4 feet right through to 12 feet tall! Complete with dreadlocks!
I love the jellyfish version! In fact, I was wondering a while ago how best to weave jellyfish after a passing comment from a marine biologist student who saw jellyfish in one of the growth forms I had hung up to photograph! That got me thinking and about a week or two later I had worked out how I could actually weave a jellyfish. So, imagine my surprise when one popped up when I thought I was packing a case!!
The third image is actually of three panels of a Strata wall I’ve just taken off the loom prior to going to the Launderette for wet-finishing. It’s one of those ‘gulp’ moments. I have no idea how the stresses and frictions of the full wash process is going to impact on the 180″ panels, and then I put them in the commercial tumble-dryers to give them another going over!
This trip is doubly exciting because it is the first major exhibition I’ve ever done. Agnes Hauptli, friend, fellow weaver, roadtrip companion, and general all-around good egg, is showing with me. Agnes is a fabulous colourist and I’m really looking forward to seeing her stunning multi-panel jacquard hangings of the Antelope Canyon (Arizona)and the interior of the Luray Caverns (Virginia). She has also woven some gorgeous silk shawls picking up on the contouring of the interior of the Antelope Canyon in the amazing colours that are there in the petrified sand dunes. She has also contributed some stalactites to the growth form installation. So far, I have 14 different forms to hang, and hope to have a couple more (time permitting).
The exhibition, entitled ‘nature in the making’, is going to be shown at the Earth House in Peria, and then at the Arts In Oxford Gallery. Here’s the flyer for the show: After it has visited its two venues in New Zealand, it is going across to the US Northwest Pacific Coast, to Tacoma and the B2 Fine Art Gallery where it will be up from 19th June to 25th July. We’re very excited about this as the Complex Weavers Seminars are being held in Tacoma this summer, and it coincides with the exhibition.
The idea for the exhibition developed during one of our biennial roadtrips around certain areas of the US. Agnes and I both attend Complex Weavers Seminars every two years and, as Agnes is from New Zealand, and I am from the UK, we plan a roadtrip around the same time so that we can catch up, and also indulge in our love of geology and natural history. And let’s face it – there’s plenty to see in the US!! So in 2010, we travelled to Arizona and Utah to visit the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Bryce Canyon as well as seeing the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest and Monument Valley. Sounds like a wonderful child’s book, doesn’t it??
Two years later, we ended up under the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountain Ranges in the wonderful limestone caves of Virginia. As we sat pondering what we had seen over a meal or two, lots of ideas for how to begin to capture some of the essence of what we had experienced came bubbling up, and then we thought it would be a good idea to put on a joint exhibition. After all, that way things might actually be woven, mightn’t they?! Well, the idea bore fruit, and we started working on a few ideas. Agnes invited me to be the keynote speaker to the Professional Weavers Network conference in New Zealand, and suggested I might like to do a few workshops and lectures to make it a worthwhile trip, and suddenly we had a tour on our hands!!
A few years before hand, I had been challenged, by weavers Richard and Christine Jeryan, to put on an exhibit of my work in the US within 7 years. I had accepted, not really expecting that the opportunity would arise. But then, things started to fall into place. 2014 would be the seventh year, so why not give it a go with this exhibition? Thanks to Mimi Anderson, the convener of the 2014 Complex Weavers Seminars, contacts were made and conversations were had. Before we knew where we were, it was a goer!!
So – an amazing opportunity to travel, spend time with other weavers, see the geology of New Zealand and the US, and have a ball!!
I’ll post images and update my blog, and my facebook pages during the trip. But in the meantime, a lot of the backstory in photos and comments are to be found on our dedicated facebook page for the exhibition, www.facebook.com/natureinthemaking So if you are a facebook user, then please pop in and like the page and follow the story. If not, I promise not to leave you out in the cold!! :^)) In the meantime, we’d like to take the work to other venues, so if you have any ideas, or would like to have our exhibit at your gallery/museum, do please get in touch…. We’re hoping to take it to many different sorts of venue – geological, natural history, sealife, arboretums (?) – over a period of a few years, so we look forward to hearing from you with your suggestions.
Till next time, Happy Weaving!
29 December, 2013
Happy New Year to everyone, and I do hope that 2014 will be really wonderful in your weaving/textile lives whatever else life throws at us in the coming year!
A big thank you to everyone who has sent messages hoping everything is well with me and mine, especially as I haven’t been active online for much of the year. I have to confess that it was a mixture of things with both my family and my masters degree. Happily, the family is all back together safe and sound and my masters is nearly finished. Just two weeks to go and my final assessment and mini exhibition will be over with just the results to come. There isn’t much more I can do to influence the outcome other than deliver a knock-out assessment presentation!! As my son says – “no pressure, then!”
It’s been a crazy year with lots of weaving, research, dissertation writing, and exhibition planning! Yes, the joint exhibition with Agnes Hauptli that I announced in a blog post last Christmas is nearly upon us! I am the luckiest person as I get to go with my work to New Zealand for two whole months and tour round the two main islands, teaching and lecturing as I go, meeting some wonderful new people, staying with fellow weavers and experiencing the magic that everyone promises New Zealand is!! Then later in the year it all moves house to Tacoma, Washington State, US, where Complex Weavers Seminars is being held. It will be a privilege to share the work with so many people who have watched both Agnes and me grow in our weaving capabilities and dreams over the last 6 years.
Complex Weavers Seminars is where it all starts, as Agnes and I go off on a road trip during our biennial visits to the US. The first time we travelled together, CW Seminars was in Albuquerque and we visited the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Bryce Canyon, as well as Monument Valley and the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Then last year, when the Seminars was in Washington DC, we took ourselves off to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Mountain Range in Virginia and buried ourselves in caves and caverns. It is these natural history sites that have inspired our exhibition work. I have been focussing on three-dimensional texture pieces that I call Growth Forms, and a few off-the-wall pieces (in all senses of the word!!) related to canyons. Agnes meanwhile has been working on some stunning jacquard-woven pieces with her amazing colour sense, so between us we hope to put on a show that will be a treat for both eye and hand.
This coming summer, we hope to visit some of the spectacular sights and sounds around Washington State. Suggestions would be most welcome!!
I hope to be posting much more regularly now, and plan to do a regular blog during my travels around New Zealand. I’m hoping some of you may read along for the ride! Until next time – Happy New Year and Happy Weaving!!
5 February, 2012
An eagerly awaited conference, allied to the Lost in Lace exhibition, this was not a disappointment. A wide cross-section of people attended the conference, hosted by Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery with partners, the Crafts Council to hear quality speakers.
The key-note speaker was Gijs Bakker, designer and co-founder of Droog Design, the famous Dutch design company who have done so much to change our perception of craft in design. His presentation, based round lace, as were all the presentations, was informative but above all humourous, dry and beautifully ironic. Taken from the notes that were given to all delegates, Gijs’ talk was entitled, Without Concept, No Craft. ‘Form-giving’ is the Dutch word for design. He talked about craft being a tool for communicating conceptual interests, and that without concept, craft is merely a mastered sill, for skill’s sake. His talk was stimulating, amusing and thought-provoking, drawing on his technique of jewellery making (which he loves and hates in equal measure, I think), but encompassing many of Droog’s innovative ideas and methods. He mentioned “for me, designing is a way of thinking, a way of observing – intuitively understanding by continually questioning the subject and avoiding preconceptions.”
He was followed by CJ Lim, the founder of Studio 8 Architects, a practice in urban planning, architecture and landscape. His presentation was a new experience for me, with his designs focussing on “multi-disciplinary innovative interpretations of cultural, social and environmental sustainability programmes.” He uses, among other things, paper, carbon and glue to build prototype models in 2 1/2 dimensions of his futuristic, fantastical and eco-sustainable environments. I am definitely going to buy his book “Short Stories: London in two-and-a-half dimensions”. For me, this talk was of particular interest as I am investigating further the world of fractals and fractal geometry, although CJ freely admits that there is no science behind his use of the term 2 1/2 dimensions. His is purely an artistic terminology where the work is not confined to the flat plane of 2 dimensions but is not a 3D model either.
The panel discussion with the two speakers was ably MCed by Grant Gibson, who many people know for his editorship of Crafts magazine, and also for his writing in various high profile publications both in the UK and beyond,and he oversaw the running of the day.
During the lunch break, and amidst the networking that was going on, delegates had the opportunity to be taken round the Lost in Lace exhibition by Prof Lesley Millar, the curator. This was a chance to hear the rationale behind many of the works (although this can also be found in the catalogue) but was enhanced by Prof Millar’s passion and enthusiasm for the works. It is the second time I have visited the exhibition and I was just as entranced the second time.
After lunch, Michael Brennand-Wood gave the story behind his piece in the exhibition, as well as showing us his close connection to lace throughout his long career. I first came into contact with his work back in the 1980s and was intrigued by it then, something which has continued to this day. His talk was called Pretty Deadly which reflected the use of military motifs integrated within lace-like and Islamic patterning.
Then came Kathleen Rogers, who explained the development of her piece in the exhibition which is a video installation of black Chantilly lace seen through a scanning electron microscope. It is accompanied by the sound of silk worms chomping their way through mulberry leaves heard through headphones, and leaves you wondering if you are listening to a tropical storm in a rain forest or the silk worms.
Finally, the team of Kira O’Reilly (artist) and Janet Smith (biochemist) talked about their joint work on working with living cellular materials in the laboratory. In the past, Kira has created artwork based on creating a living lace from skin cells, and together with Janet Smith , they have been working to culture cells onto spider silk. This talk was very interesting, especially in relation to the ethical issues raised, and how the development of the work they are doing ‘sits within larger lace, craft and textile practices.’ This is indeed thought-provoking.
A very stimulating day, which left delegates with plenty to think about! Also it was a very successful day in terms of attendance, even with problems on the mainline from London! Hopefully the Crafts Council will be encouraged to put on more events like this outside of London….
8 January, 2012
This week I went on a little trip. Around 150 miles in total. In retrospect, I would have gone a lot further. This exhibition is most definitely worth it!
Labcraft is a touring exhibition under the auspices of the Crafts Council. Currently, it is showing at The Civic, Barnsley. The participants are makers from various disciplines from woodwork through textiles to jewellery and sculpture. What they all have in common is the use of digital media to assist in the creation or design of their artifacts. Obviously, seeing as I am a weaver, I was drawn to the woven pieces, most especially that by Philippa Brock. I am delving in the same field as her with dimensional fabrics and her Self-Folding #1 and #2 were based on paper-folding ideas and realised through her knowledge of weave structure and a computer jacquard power-loom with the assistance of elastomeric yarn in addition to silk, organzine, paper and silver lurex. Wonderful!
Other items that particularly caught my eye were Zachary Eastwood-Blooms’ “Information Ate My Table”, table of beech with chunks ‘eaten’ from one corner. I loved the humour! I also loved seeing Gareth Neal’s “Louis” table – I remember seeing an article in Crafts on him and loved his approach to construction of furniture. Daniel O’Riordan’s “Ripple Tank Table” was also a covetable piece.
In the metalwork area, I fell for Drummond Masterton’s “Terrain Cup” which holds a topographical formation within it, and his “Decagon” which reminded me of relief maps and Chinese rice fields ranked in rows up a steep hill. Lynne MacLachlan’s Bubble Jewellery was very topical as I’ve just read a book on the science behind soap bubbles and films!
In glass, I really loved the concept behind Geoffrey Mann’s “Cross-Fire Wine Glass, Teapot and Knife, with the shaping influenced by sound waves caused in an argument. Who would have thought that the sounds of an argument could lead to such funky pieces?! And Shelley Doolan’s “Iteration 512″ appealed to my love of sand dunes. With the rippled effects happening dramatically on the back of the work, I was drawn in to see the close-up effects on the surface. Very engaging.
Also interesting were Michael Eden’s “The Babel Vessel #1″ although I preferred another piece of his I saw at the Ceramics Biennale two years ago, and Daniel Widrig’s “Cloudlike” sculpture in polystyrene.
It’s really good to see the marriage of hi-tech digital technology with traditionally based craftsin a quality exhibition such as this. It’s a marriage I think is particularly exciting and one that brings crafts’ contemporary relevance to a technology-savvy audience. I was converted years ago, but this may be an exhibition that brings new people in and raises the profile of contemporary crafts.
18 December, 2011
This week my fellow masters students and I visited the Lost in Lace exhibition, curated by Lesley Millar, which is being held in the Gas Hall of the Birmingham Museum & Art Galleries. The Gas Hall, along with its sister building across the street – the Water Hall, is a beautifully elegant, tall, spacious room with two side ‘aisles’ of practically equal size, one either side of the main section. The lighting was low, but not too low, and photography is permitted (although no flash of course). The pieces are beautifully laid out with plenty of space surrounding each one to allow you to walk around them and experience them from different angles, which really helps to appreciate them.
The connecting theme, as you might have guessed, is lace. The museum holds a lovely collection of laces from many countries and centuries and some of them were shown in an associated exhibition, Concealed and Revealed, elsewhere in the museum. The artists all responded to the lace in different ways, some producing items of lace-work but not made in the traditional ways of needle or bobbin.
Where to start? Each of the works was evocative, compelling and rewarded close inspection. My particular favourites included Piper Shepard’s Lacing Space; Atelier Manferdini’s Inverted Crystal Cathedral, incorporating lots of Swarovski crystals hanging in ginormous spider’s-web loops; Michael Brennand-Wood’s Lace the final frontier, in which he had worked his lace in motifs of war and weaponry and based the formal patterning on a fusion of Islamic and Western geometry; Annie Bascoul with her Moucharabieh and Jardin de lit, lit de jardin; Katharina Hinsberg’s Perceids; Ai Matsumoto’sNo Reverse, which used impressions of lace in silicon embellished with embroidery; Tamar Frank’s wonderful spirograph A thin line between space and matter which used phosphorescent thread, and different lighting conditions; and Alessia Giardino’s Polluted Lace which involved printing onto light-sensitive photo-catalytic white cement which uses UV light to oxidize pollutants and odours in the air. This last piece gradually became more and more visible over a period of time during which it had been exposed to the environments of Italy and Birmingham.
This is an exhibition that one can return to again and again – happily it doesn’t close until 19th February 2012 – but the fact that the stewards I talked to find it the most interesting and engaging exhibition they’ve been in for a long time, and that since it opened, the visitor numbers have well exceeded the estimate of visitors for the entire duration, I think you might begin to get an idea about the sheer quality of this exhibition. Stewards have to sit in an exhibition for a long time and shows quickly begin to pall when you are in them for long periods. If the stewards love a show because of the different perspectives they get and the visitor interraction they get, then you know it’s a well-curated show!
I would urge you to visit the website http://www.lostinlace.org.uk/ and buy the catalogues. There are two, a small one (£4) which has lovely in situ photographs and interesting nuggets of info (generally those provided on the interpretation boards in the exhibition), and the more expensive but more expansive £25 Lost in Lace: Transparent Boundaries which is a treat for anyone’s book collection!
Also, don’t forget to visit the Birmingham Museum & Art Galleries site http://www.bmag.org.uk/ and see their collections (which are extensive) and the other exhibitions on, including the famous Staffordshire Hoard of gold!!
We are so fortunate to have wonderful museums in the UK and Birmingham’s is a jewel in the city’s crown!
5 September, 2010
When the Midlands Textile Forum decided on this title for an exhibition to be staged at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham, (on from now until 30th September), I had to smile! I could just imagine certain men of my acquaintance brightening up with the titivating thought of what they might see!! But they would be disappointed.
Not in terms of the quality of work on show, but in the subject matter.
Exotica refers to the plants that can be found at the Botanical Gardens which, although not large (15 acres), is perfectly formed! Just like the exhibition. 22 works are shown by 17 artists in a long thin gallery with good lighting and plenty of space around the exhibits.
Themes are good for exhibitions. One study day at the Gardens led to different interpretations from each artist, and the range of textile techniques used, the different approaches, the different subject matter taken from the Gardens worked well together.
Themes are also good for individual artists developing their work. I used to be a total scatterbrain, tempted by a myriad of techniques, a wealth of subject matter and influenced by everything. (Some would say that I still am but I suspect they don’t know what I was like before!!!)
For me, finding weaving was a turning point in my life. From living the life of a musician, I found myself pulled to weaving. It stimulated my brain cells, helped me to look at life with the eyes of a visual artist, and challenged me in many different ways. Then, in 2006, I got the book Above The Earth. Casually flicking through this lovely coffee table book, I was taken over by a total certainty that I had now found my genre in weaving - a total expression through weaving of what I am about. I still have that feeling today, and am aware that this will probably be with me all my life. Satellite and aerial images of the unpopulated areas of the world, away from the obvious visual physical damage that humans have perpetrated on this lovely planet, inspire me with thoughts of how to affect people’s perception of their world through weaving.
The limitations of having a theme can be a positive thing – a jumping off point for delving deeper. Limits are good for stimulating creative thought and lateral thinking. As a child, how often can boredom develop into imaginative ideas for play, for making something out of materials close at hand. I know for me as a child that I developed some crazy ideas that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, but I always had fun finding out.
Now I have found my theme for weaving, my world is opening up in ways unimaginable to me before.
Do you have something that inspires you in a similar way? Do you want one? Sometimes just thinking about it can help address that overwhelming feeling that can come from too much choice. Perhaps this week might be a good time to ponder what you want to be your special theme…..