Monday, December 17, 2012

Double Trouble

I have good intentions to blog but I guess you can tell I would rather be making art! Some of you have asked for more details of this new tapestry so I have tried to make this more available to you here.

                                 'Terra: Wheat and Grass'

This is my new diptych, 'Terra: Wheat and Grass.'  They are about 35" (90cm) in height.  I am  intrigued by the eccentric wefts I have been working with and have recently completed a diptych that incorporates large areas where the eccentric weft areas can shift and overlap the adjacent sections.  

                                        'Grass' details

                                        'Wheat' at an angle

Here are some details where you can see the overlaps and gaps. They provide unusual surface interest which is an aspect of tapestry that has not been really exploited as far as the construction goes. To me, tapestry is a construction project. Beyond the 2D imagery of the tapestry, I feel there needs to be an aspect that shows it is not a painting or a photograph. It must be true to its textile roots. With this way of working the viewer can see the process but there is more to it than meets the eye. By letting the surface move, shift, bulge, it begins to behave more like a piece of textile which, in fact, it is.

In this example I weave each tapestry as one integrated unit; there is no sewing or piecing to create this overlap but rather the full effect takes place after it is cut from the loom. Without the tension to pull it straight, it buckles into these wonderful layers.

I have added the top and bottom areas for framing this special effect and for contrast. In addition it anchors the wayward shifting area so it does not lose its context. 

I like the look of these sort of jigsaw pieces which I wove without a cartoon. I knew the colors and the sorts of shapes i wanted to use but it was hard to not fall into a regular patterned design. (The only negative for this slit process is that there are a lot more selvages to manage; the loose ends at the back need to be sewn back in.) Overall, I am very excited about these. There are a lot of directions I can take to explore in this technique.

 I am already thinking about and sketching the next pieces I want to do to further this 'textileness' effect.  Let me know what you think.

The Mark Adams symposium at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles held a symposium June 24, 2012 in conjunction with the current exhibit on the wonderful tapestries of Mark Adams. Mark was a prolific San Francisco based artist who made paintings, design stain glass windows and, for the focus of this blog, he designed many tapestries. He studied with Hans Hoffman in New York City and was later intrigued by tapestry and went to France to study with Jean Lurçat.

 The five speakers included Melissa Leventon, Jean Pierre La Rochette, Phoebe McAfee and Rudi Richardson, who with Phoebe wove many of his designs at the Bethany Methodist Church in San Francisco, and another student of Mark's, Constance Hunt who gave an engrossing account of making a series of ten cartoons in ten days. The exhibition includes over 40 tapestries spanning many years of his productive life.

In the early 1980's I had the pleasure of meeting him in his converted firehouse and going to see the nearby studio where Phoebe and Rudi were weaving. I was amazed how few colors of yarn were on hand. He knew exactly which colors were needed for each project. His cartoon was a large piece of Kraft paper (?) over which he had pasted his design changes.  In some areas there were many layers reflecting his design process.

I always like looking at his tapestries because of the use of color, clarity of design, and simple joy of life. They usually look so simple but that is an illusion. A lot of thought, sketching, and patience went into each one.  I find them very inspiring.  His use of color is stunning.

 Here are a few of my favorites from the show.

                                     White Petunia  1978

                               Lotus , Sumatra   1989

                               Cabbage Leaves   1976

There is now a new catalogue raisonné of his tapestries which is a treasure trove of illustrations published by Stanford University Libraries.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A visit to Exeter

I had an opportunity to visit family in London. I took a brief trip to visit four tapestry weavers who live in and around Devon. It was a  wonderful and inspiring visit but all too brief. I visited the studios of Anne Jackson, Jilly Edwards, Pat Johns and Christine Sawyer. Some of their work is posted here.  From top to bottom:

  • Christine Sawyer, 'Out of the Blue' in progress
  • Jilly Edwards, 'Memories,'  a sort of woven journal about 3 cm wide and several  meters  long.
  • Pat John, 'Crow,' an experimental piece.
  • Anne Jackson, a study for a larger piece

I really enjoy the chance to meet and speak with other weavers as I usually pick up some new ideas about techniques and presentation. I suppose since I never studied tapestry at school it is a chance to compare notes and learn more tricks of the trade. I hope to write a more in depth article in the ATA newsletter later this summer.  All of them have very well developed styles and are pushing the traditions in new directions.


Well, all my good intentions to be regular about blogging have gone awry. The newe tapestry is developing nicely. I have decided to have a series of graduated colors in the background with a series of twisted yellow streams falling from the top edge. Both the top and the bottom edges will have cut outs where the yellows start and stop. I think this creates a more dynamic feel within the tapestry and also separates the yellow flow areas from the background.
I like the few areas where the two yellow elements flow together. For me there is a subtle reference to the musclature of the human torso which you can notice at the lower part near the balls of yarn.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The most recent Flow

It has been a while since i logged in.  The new tapestry is being woven on its side as that is the easiest way to manage the 'flow' parts. The design of this one required a greater stretch in the fell line (the upper working edge of the piece) and that made it harder to manage the tension. I have some better ideas for the next one.

Here is the finished piece.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A new start

This is my favorite wall of my studio. It is always an inspiration when I see so many different colors altogether. I have pulled the colors I will use in my next piece onto the table.  I like to do a black and white cartoon and keep it very simple in scope. I leave many of the details to the moment when I am working on an area. The colors on the table remind me of my palette. Even with my big color collection, I am occasionally frustrated not to have a certain shade.
I do the best I can by blending 3-4 ends together but sometimes I have taken to the dye pot to get exactly what I want. That is quite a treat too.
Over the years I have amassed a lot of yarns; mostly wool, some silks, linens and cottons and I have a stash of unusual yarns which I incorporate for effect now and then.

Many years ago I went to visit Mark Adams and to see his studio in a church loft in San Francisco. I was quite astonished to see that he had no big collection of yarn but rather just the colors he knew he would be using in the current project. His cartoons were large, fully colored and layered with many changes in his evolving designs. He would have worked out his colors based on the cartoons. He also did a lot of beautiful watercolors which would have informed his color choice. 
He is known for some beautiful tapestries but, in fact, he had two assistants who did his weaving. That he did not do his own weaving probably explains his limited selection of colors. I don't know many weavers who do not revel in the colors that a yarn stash provides!

More on the next tapestry in the next blog.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

the New Year

Now that the holidays are behind us and the new year has begun I will start to keep a better log of my projects. I was very pleased to see this link below which features one of my small tapestries, 'Energy Flow,' in a blog. It is a good way to start the year. 
I am preparing for a solo show in the wine country in Late February and have started a final piece which I will start documenting with pictures and comments as I go along. 
For now, the link will have to do!  It is from an Australian art and design blog called Isiiad (I saw it in a dream). It is centered in Warrandyte and the surrounding Yarra Valley but will go where ever my creative spirit takes me… so Warrandyte to the world. Creator and blog owner is Jeannette Davison.
She writes,  "A visit to the Australian Tapestry Workshop in South Melbourne reminded me that it is one of Melbourne's great treasures."