Monday, December 16, 2013

Here Today

'Here Today' is my new tapestry inspired by a rock formation at the end of the Tennessee Valley Trail in Marin County, California. With a little research I found out that this sedimentary formation is called 'Ribbon Chert,' formed millions of years ago under the sea. It contains billions of microscopic fossils. The fossils are skeletons of single-celled plankton, called radiolaria. These plankton are most common in nutrient-rich ocean waters. Like quartz, radiolarian skeletons are made of silica.

When radiolaria die, their tiny skeletons fall to the ocean floor, forming an ooze. This
ooze eventually hardens into rock. The chert forms horizontal layers about 5 –15 cm
thick. It took about 1,000 years for a 1mm thickness of chert to form! When the flat
layers of rock are carried on a tectonic plate, they may collide with the edge of a
continent. This slow collision will bend and fold the layers.
It was these rhythmic layers that caught my attention.

Here is another close up.

                                                  yes, it is right way round...

 I took a lot of photographs and began sketching out an idea. I liked the 'ribbonness' and the scale of the project.

A concern was how to make the ribbon area more interesting. I wanted shading and movement without a lot of time consuming weaving. I settled on space dying the yarn to create a dark / light rhythm and supplement it with additional colors.

 Here are a few preparation processes.

The loom was warped and ready to go. Cartoon drawn out on butcher paper and the table laden with my yarn palette.

The tapestry grew slowly but I was pleased with the start of it. Because this one is large at 72" (182 cm)  in height,  it is always hard to keep track of the color shifts because you cannot see the whole tapestry all at once (because the woven area is rolled up on the cloth beam). I had to devise a way to keep track of the different blendings I made and be sure that the values shifted where and when I wanted them to.

It was called 'Tennessee Valley' as a working title. (There was a ship that sank off this bay called the Tennessee) At the end I decided to call it 'Here Today' because the rocks are always changing. Last year a large arch near this area collapsed sending tons of rock and debris down onto the beach and into ocean.

Here is the final Tapestry  and a detail on the stripes made by the space dying.

                                         Here Today

I look forward to doing more with this idea as it has given me a lot of inspirations. I welcome your comments and questions.


  1. This is wonderful Alex! Thanks for sharing the process.

  2. Love how you were able to transpose the natural beauty into such a spectacular and intricate piece.

  3. Thank you for your kind comments. It was an experiment and I am delighted it worked out as well as it did!

  4. Wow, this is beautiful! What an ingenious way to capture the ribbons. I love the palette too. Looking forward to the next one.