NAME: Jennie Parry
BACKSTORY: Jennie Parry’s braiding was something that attracted me right from the first moment of seeing her work. Her delicate touch, her imagination, her use of less usual materials such as paper and her dedication to her textile discipline are apparent in everything she does and that resonates with me and her many devotees. Her work involves thread: its interaction with cloth and/or other threads and she researches, samples (excessively!) and creates fabulous art pieces using her skills as a braid maker and embroiderer, exhibiting widely. Jennie is currently the President of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers (WSD) and The Braid Society (of which she was a founder member), a life member of the Embroiderers’ Guild, a member of the Online Guild and also founder member of the Leicestershire Guild of WSD as well as being an experienced freelance teacher.
HOW I GOT INTO WEAVING
Assorted looms & weaving seems to have been part of my life since I was four years old.
My mother so wanted to learn to weave and purchased her first loom, a Weavermaster 24” 4-shaft table model from Kensington High Street, in 1949. I was given the little 2-shaft model for Christmas in 1951 when I was just 7 years old. The proof is there in the tiny photograph that was taken in the summer of 1952 in our back garden in Woodford Green.
That year we also visited Warners, the silk weavers in Braintree and I saw silk damask curtain fabric being woven for Windsor Castle for our new queen. By that time my father had converted my mother’s table model into a foot power loom and used rollers & brass pulleys of two sizes to aid the shafts to move smoothly. He later built her a large 8-shaft loom with over-slung beater & sectional warping back roller using a lot of wood from the reclamation yard on the High Road (he used to take me to help choose nice pieces of wood). As a family we visited Ditchling in about 1957 to meet George & John Maxwell, the wonderful loom makers, and we also saw Val Kilbride weaving fabulous silk for vestments. The overall appearance was a rich purple, but the warp was actually a strong ultramarine blue and the weft orange. I remember being totally amazed by this, it made a huge impression on me.
It was about this time that my mother joined the London Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers who met at Mary Sumner Hall close to Westminster Abbey. We both took part in an exhibition there. I entered a handspun handwoven scarf woven on that first floor loom – I was actually given that loom in the early 1980s!
Although I had dabbled in spinning and weaving during my childhood, music took over my life for a good many years and I only returned to embroidery and then spinning and weaving during the long evenings when my children were in bed and my husband, a professional orchestral musician, was out often till the early hours.
Embroidery dominated for many years, with weaving and spinning beginning to blossom in the early 1980s, (I bought my first spinning wheel from Eliza Leadbetter in 1978), thanks to the formation of the Leicestershire Guild and the opportunities to learn sound techniques on weekend courses in Oxford with Patricia Baines and being able to design my own yarns (thank you, Mabel Ross). My husband was then a peripatetic flute teacher so had very different hours. I became totally fascinated by the range of braids that could be made on the very versatile marudai (they featured in my many embroidered bags & purses), but then came the explorations on the largest Japanese braiding equipment, the takadai.
My world changed. It has taken over my creative energies. Yes, I have explored ply splitting sculptures and a lot of band weaving, thanks to the formation of The Braid Society in 1993. Yes, I still have a loom, a Louet 8-shaft Kombo, that I use when I need some fabric to work with some braids!
Textiles and textile makers have surrounded me all my life and the experience of different yarns, techniques and structures are ingrained in my bones!
I was completely ‘gobsmacked’ to be asked to be Present of the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers in 2019. But then, thinking and pondering about it, I realised that the Guild movement, weaving, spinning and dyeing have been with me all my life, as a member, student, teacher and lecturer, so perhaps I had things to offer this wonderful organisation that I am keen to support.