This summer we are having a great time at The Loom Room France with weaving guests and non-weavers alike. The cherries have now been supplanted by the emerging plum harvest, and the swallows have now finished constructing their nest and are laying a number of eggs so we are waiting for sitting to start. It is lovely to be able to sit in our salon and see the head of the swallow sitting in her nest before she darts off to have a quick snack to build up her energies before the main bout of sitting. I have no idea how long swallows sit, so a little research is required. In the meantime, the 5 chicks that hatched last week continue to grow, wonderfully protected by their two mother hens. However, the cockerels are feeling a little abandoned!
One of the blessings of the internet is being able to keep in touch with people and organisations at the touch of a button, or through email. Several years ago, I went to Shetland with fellow weaver Kathy Schicker, met lots of lovely people and had a fabulous time with Andy Ross at Global Yell. He is super-efficient and produces a blog every week! One of the items on the blog this week is a very interesting article written by Jessica Hemmings on Textile Exhibition Strategies within the White Cube which is a topic that I have long pondered and tried different methods of showing my work. She calls it Floppy Cloth which gives you an indication of the sort of fabrics are being shown. Jessica’s article can be downloaded from the Journal of Textile: Cloth and Culture here.
It’s certainly worth a read and I hope will stimulate the way that you consider how to show your work if you choose to do that. For many people who weave scarves, this can be quite problematic, although I have seen many different creative ways of showing scarves and shawls. As I produce more sculptural pieces, I am forever thinking about methods and tools I can use to show my work in a way that it can be interacted with whilst still having it seen as an exhibition. Sometimes it is not easy to hang pieces away from the wall, or from a ceiling.
Whilst I am considering different ways of developing my three dimensional artwork, I am focusing on weaving samples for my next book. I’m quite excited about it. Stitched double cloth can frighten lots of people, especially those fairly new to weaving, but the initials ‘sdc’ can also be used to describe what I am up to using the technique – Simple Dimensional Cloth. I am trying to be scientific in my approach so I am doing a lot of sampling that will never make it into the book but might possibly be part of a monograph including all the variations and underlying research behind what will eventually be a book with, I hope, quite a wide appeal. I suspect it will take me a good year to 18 months to get anywhere near publication, but it should keep me out of mischief.
A book that I recently read on a trip to the UK is Peter Korn’s Why We Make Things and Why It Matters. I really enjoyed this book. My paperback version now has so many page corners turned down where I agree with his statements, or where I want to study his text in greater depth to ponder its meaning to me! He writes from his own experience as a maker, teacher, and organiser and is refreshingly honest about his own personal development and growth. Sometimes we are steered in the direction of ‘designer-maker’ as if that is the only option for people who want to do something with their hands and be creative, but his life and experience make for a compelling read and a re-assessing of our own creative lives. He has also drawn deeply on his own thinking about craft – his philosophy of craft, of meaning and of making – which resonates with a number of issues that most of us grapple with at some point or other of our working lives. As a maker of tactile pieces that I want people to interact with in a physical way, I could relate to his concerns of tactility although my pieces are much softer and fluid than his medium of wood. As a final note, the reading list that Korn supplies at the end of the book is worth its weight in gold for any serious student of craft.
After strong spring sunshine in February (3 weeks), March (3 weeks) and then back to more wintry chills in April and some of May, we are now at the right time of year, with sizzling temperatures, fruiting trees, and new chicks on the way. Weaving courses at The Loom Room France 2019 began in April and so far have included jacquard roosters, honeycomb and lots of texture.
The hens and the swallows have got broody, and at least one clutch of hen eggs is due to hatch imminently, with hopefully a second clutch later this week. The swallows have just selected their nest site and built the nest while we looked on, and we hope to watch their progress over the next few weeks.
Our world is expanding too, as Graham is busy preparing his micro-brewery, ready to launch officially in July and attending his first beer festival in August. In the meantime, a glut of wonderful cherries is leading to a series of cherry brandy demi-johns for presents and a winter warmer tipple!The pool is getting ready for its first summer dippers complete with apéros at the end of a weaving day, and we are looking forward to welcoming further students new to weaving as well as intermediate and experienced weavers over the course of the season to share in the laid-back and relaxed lifestyle of this beautiful part of Gascony. We’d be delighted if you came too! Do get in touch!
With Spring well and truly in full bud and leaf, my studio is resounding to the clunk of jacquard looms in action! My lovely babies are now awaiting new designs from an experienced weaver who is coming to learn how to design on these varied and fun looms. These looms have had many aspiring textile designers trying out their ideas, polishing the perch seats with their behinds (in the 1880s, most of the students were male, although there were some amazing female designers) and learning the intricacies of designing in different scale repeat systems and different format looms.
My babies have 192 hooks – a very small design area by modern standards – with a standard weaving width of 12″, but with differing repeat sizes meaning that some designs work well in one scale, and other designs work better at a larger or smaller scale. Experience, knowing weave structures well and experimentation all play their hand. Today, as then, the designer who designs for these looms not only designs the motif, but they cut the cards by hand and then lace all the cards together before putting them on the loom to weave. It’s not just throwing the shuttle, but all the intricate and vital steps along the way that makes it such fun and mentally challenging using these looms. I have learnt so much from them!
March’s wonderful sunshine is also showing up the cobwebs that need dusting away, and spring cleaning is underway. This year it also involves clearing space in our grange to create a new storage area so that my husband can get his micro-brewery launched. Non-weaving partners of my students quite often find themselves helping out with a brew, if they are interested, as well as sampling the delights of our local wines and armagnacs! The success of his brewing, up till now just an absorbing hobby, has encouraged him to launch a micro-brasserie! Larger fermenting vessels, mash tuns and other brewing paraphernalia are now finding their way to a separate building which previously housed the garden equipment so things are on the move.
This means that my two George Wood dobby looms, which sadly I do not have space for in my studio, have to find new homes. I didn’t like splitting them up, but one has already gone to its forever home with my lovely French weaving student, Chloé, which I am thrilled about. Chloé has the same love for mechanical machinery that I do, and also appreciates the history and patina of well-loved, older looms.
However, I still have another which needs a new home.
I acquired it from Middlesex University when they were changing over to modern computerised looms. The loom is around 260 cm (8’6″) tall and stands about 120 cm (4′) wide with 16 shafts. It has 3 back beams, 1 cloth beam and 7 reeds varying from 8 dpi to 25 dpi which will need some cleaning. There are many new heddles to accompany the existing heddles.
The dobby head will need a little tlc (tender loving care) as it has been stored for about 6 years.
Chloé’s loom needed the same amount of work, and took a couple of hours to sort.
It is currently in pieces, but is not hard to assemble. We will show a new owner how to assemble and disassemble it. It currently has 8 lags. I am looking for €250 for it as you will have to collect it, and that will involve travel costs.
Please email me if you are interested. If no-one comes forward, we are going to have to re-purpose the wood, which we would prefer not to do.
I hope you are enjoying your spring/autumn, wherever you happen to be, and until next time,
Craft Economies Ed Susan Luckman and Nicola Thomas (2018) London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic
‘Comprising a collection of 20 essays from 28 academics, practitioners, Craft Economies spans a wide landscape of craft practices, sites and forms of making from floristry to ceramics and from crochet to coding. It brings into focus such topics as the significance of place, the role of the digital, and conflicts between the homemade and the commodity, and looks at both regional and national contexts, from global distribution to local communities.’ (taken from the back cover but encapsulating the contents perfectly!)
It looks at topics and concepts such as disruptive collaboration, commodity activism and individualized consumption. Quite a lot of the essays didn’t mean much to me, but there are three that resonated with me.
Chapter 7 ‘Dichotomies in textile making: Employing digital technology and retaining authenticity’ – Sonja Andrew and Kandy Diamond
Chapter 9 ‘The ghost potter : Vital forms and spectral marks of skilled craftsmen in contemporary tableware’ Ezra Shales
Chapter 17 ‘Knitting and crochet as experiment: Exploring social and material practices of computation and craft’ Gail Kenning and Jo Law
There has long been a discussion between makers and the public (as well as a certain amount of introspective soul-searching as craft practitioners) as to where, if at all, the boundary can be placed when designing and making art or products (whether textiles or anything else) using digital technology. As a weaver, I have been using digital technology for many years in designing with a weaving software programme which allows me to create my own designs on the software and then to utilise an interface so that the computer can ‘talk’ directly with a solenoid box mounted on the side of my loom in an electronic version of pegs and lags of mechanical looms. In the 1980s there were considerable heated conversations in the hand-weaving community as to whether using computers for designing or assisting with sending instructions to the loom (instead of physically cutting holes in cards or putting pegs into lags) was still classed as ‘handweaving’ despite all the designing being the weaver’s own brainwork, and all the loom set-up and physical weaving (throwing the shuttle, physically lifting shafts with foot pedals or levers) still being performed by the weaver. It was therefore a little like a time-warp to read of the dichotomy that Sonja Andrew (print) and Kandy Diamond (machine knit) were still experiencing about their respective textile practices in 2015/16.
Weaving suits the computational mode as a thread is either up or down, on or off. Jacquard looms (which were effectively the fore-runners of the computer) work on this basis and used punched cards where a hole in the card ‘switched’ a thread ‘on’ (up) and a blank on the card meant ‘off’ (remain down) so it was no surprise that weaving and computers have always had a close working relationship. Having been excited by the wonderful world of Dr Taimina and her Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes and then seeing it come into fruition with the Wertheim sisters (Margaret and Christine) through the Hyperbolic Coral Reef, which has now travelled to many countries and continues to grow to be the largest communal project in the world, it was fascinating to read the links between knitting and crochet and computational and digital technologies that Gail Kenning and Jo Law have been exploring in education, combining the physicality of knitting and crochet and the abstraction of coding. The essay encouraged me to consider the relationships of other constructed textiles with weaving, and, even though I don’t have a grasp of higher mathematical concepts, to appreciate the total integration and inter-connectedness of the abstract principles of maths and design, as also embodied in other disciplines, especially 3D printing.
I was also fascinated to read of the ghost potters of Stoke-on-Trent, a place I know very well, having lived in the neighbouring Staffordshire Moorlands for 27 years. The marriage of hand-crafted prototypes and industrial processes also rings true for weavers and weaving. There have been, and will continue to be, many anonymous freelance weave-designers who create the original designs of fabrics that we see in our high-street shops and boutiques, and some who have a higher profile who nevertheless then get their designs woven industrially so that they can be sold to a wider audience. It was ever thus in the world of fabric but it is interesting to see that this model is so rare now in the ceramics industry of Stoke-on-Trent that it is now celebrated in this essay.
I do love a book that will stretch my mind and force me to consider topics from a different approach, and this book has certainly done that. From a research perspective, it gives you a moment-in-time look at the mid 2010s and it could be read in conjunction with recent ecological and consumerism exhibitions as perhaps a signifier for future developments in craft/industrial/digital processes but it remains to be seen whether some of the essays will be seen as truly prophetic in their approach, or destined to be a philosophical cul de sac.
Steal Like an Artist – 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative Austin Kleon 2012 New York: Workman Publishing
If you’re like me, I have always been aware that to copy is a cardinal sin for an artist, and yet, as a classical musician, that is what I was taught to do – reproduce the music as written down by the composer. The artistry came in my personal interpretation of the music – how I chose to perform it. But whether you are a musician or a visual artist, we all copy, sometimes to learn techniques, sometimes elements from something else that we’ve seen or heard. Austin Kleon very clearly states where the boundaries are between plagiarism and inspiration in this amusing, arty take on the artist’s dilemma and also gives you ideas of how to unlock your creativity.
The ten topics cover
1 Steal like an artist;
2 Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started;
3 Write the book you want to read;
4 Use your hands;
5 Side projects and hobbies are important;
6 The secret: do good work and share it with people;
7 Geography is no longer our master;
8 Be nice (the world is a small town);
9 Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done);
10 Creativity is subtraction.
I’ve had it on my shelf for quite a long time and this isn’t the first time I’ve read it. It’s a quick, but thought-provoking coffee break read and one to have on hand for those moments when you are not quite sure how to progress in your creative life.
Pattern & Loom: a practical study of the development of weaving techniques in China, Western Asia and Europe John Becker (with collaboration of Donald B. Wagner) Nias Press 2nd edition 2014
It’s taken me a long time to read this book. I remember posting that I would need to sit down and study it properly to do it justice, and I was not wrong. It is incredibly detailed and contains a wealth of knowledge garnered from solid research and practical application with hands-on weaving and loom adaptation. It was first published in 1987 after the death of John Becker and was recognised for its importance in bringing new knowledge on the development of weaving techniques across the centuries and continents. John Becker was a Danish damask weaver with the intimate knowledge and practical experience which informed his research into original techniques of ancient fabrics. Donald Wagner is a Sinologist who worked with Becker and who has cleaned up the original work for this edition.
Starting with Part I, we learn of the patterned weaves of Han China, dating from 206BC to 220AD. Right away, on the first page of text, my understanding of ancient Chinese silks as having been woven on drawlooms was challenged. I confess to not being a historical weave scholar and to not having read Burnham’s 1965 book which first put forward that notion, but it instantly got my interest roused. Amazingly fine silk fabrics were woven on relatively unsophisticated looms with pattern rods (think large pick-up sticks like the wonderful weaving still found in Laos). I learnt immediately about the qi which is a tabby monochrome fabric patterned with 3/1 twill; the Hanqi – tabby patterned with 3/1 warp floats on every other end; the jin – polychrome (2 or more warp colours) compound warp-faced twill or tabby; and the qirong jin or rongquan jin – jin patterned with pile warp loops. The ground weave was always tabby. With the simple use of clasped heddles (or on texsolv using the space above the heddle eye for threading) even non-lifted ends can be raised simply to become a pattern-end.
I did need to get my magnifying glass out to follow some of the drafts, but it’s worth the time taken at the start to study the nomenclature so that drafts are understood. I found the first chapter on monochrome patterned weaves particularly interesting for my own research.
Then we looked at gauze weaves, and looking at the outlines of the gauze weaves reminds me of cable knitting. There are clear descriptions of how doups work and instructions in how to set them up are helpful in understanding this effective open weave.
It is interesting to compare the loom-based method of the Chinese to the finger-manipulated weft method of Peru and the picking method found in Finland for their Karelian lace, which are all methods of creating twisting of threads around each other and which were all described in this section.
Chapter 3 on polychrome silks, known as jin, showed complex loop pile warp patterns which were woven on very simple looms using pattern rods for the loop (warp pile) and ground weave patterns. These could much more easily be woven on jacquard looms from 1804 onwards but this whole book demonstrates how incredibly complex fabrics were woven on very simple looms. Having woven jacquard velvet by hand, this description of the process in the Han dynasty left me in awe.
Part II, featuring patterned weaves of Early Western Asia, began with weft-faced compound tabby which is known as taqueté. The consistency, quality and strength of the cultivated silk yarns in China led to warp patterned designs. By contrast, weavers outside of China had to rely on spun thread of wool, cotton or linen and this led to more open setts where the “finest and most expensive yarns were reserved for the weft” which led to the weft become the pattern-forming element, such as tacqueté – weft-faced compound tabby, using a main pattern warp and a binding warp which were totally covered by two interacting weft yarns to create the pattern design. Reducing the simplest patterning to 4 shafts and 4 treadles, the principles are shown clearly.
Chapter 5 was on weft-faced compound twill, or samitum. Samitum using 1/2 twill used as a ground fabric became the main technique for multi-coloured silk weaving during the first millennium AD, developed first in Iran. 2 or 3 coloured wefts were most often woven.
Patterned samitum in one colour is elegant and subtle and used in churches and courts in Europe although it was woven in Islamic regions, most likely Syria, Antioch or Palmyra, using one colour weft as if it were two, which made a tiny aperture where the interlacements of each side’s wefts interact, creating a subtle design line that looks incised in the surface of the cloth, giving a “refined simplicity”.
Pseudo-damask uses a tabby ground (not of plain weave) but as the binding warp versus the whole main design warp, in an order of 1 tabby weft, 2 pattern wefts, opposite tabby weft, 1 pattern weft; but the same loom set-up as for 1/2 twill samitum.
In half-silks from Venice and Spain, linen and hemp was used for the main warp and other samitums of silk combined with fine woollen yarn and cotton with wool.
Part III focused on the Patterned Weaves of the Mediterranean Region beginning with lampas. There is much discussion about the development of early lampas into true lampas, but the pertinent difference between taqueté and lampas is that taqueté is weft-faced, whereas the tabby binding and general appearance of lampas is of a balanced cloth (equal prominence to warp and weft) with patterning in the supplementary pattern weft, beginning in Iran before 1000AD and Moorish Spain from C8th – 15th, featuring prominently in Italy from C13th/14th (where Italian weaving centres were founded during the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire C12 – 13th), France from mid C17th and England from early C18th. Chinese influence into lampas weaves appeared in C13th bringing Chinese dragons and motifs into designs with Arabic script, presumably originating in Turkestan, showing the influence of war and current affairs on fabric design.
Beiderwand from Schleswig-Holstein is also described in i) block patterning for shaft looms and ii) drawloom designs with a) flora and fauna forms and b) figurative scenes.
Chapter 7 looked at double-faced weft weaves from C12th onwards. One warp, 2 wefts, using 1/3 and 3/1 twills ensure that the binding points of the other face are always hidden under the weft float of the first face, specially featured in Spain with many designs.
Chapter 8 looked at patterned double cloth. Earliest examples of patterned double cloth have been found as far back as 850 – 300 BC in Peru of such quality and excellence that indicates a long previous development. Persian examples of drawloom patterned double and triple cloth are found around C11th. Early Scandinavian examples date from C13th. Drafts and explanations are given for drawloom, shaft loom and pick up designs, even showing pick up triple cloth which may be of interest to Anni Albers fans with 6 shafts at their disposal. Note that tie-ups are generally for countermarch looms.
Chapter 9 covered damask. The earliest found examples in twill date before 200AD and it is supposed to have developed in Syria where Eastern and Western design and technology met. An incredibly intricate and advanced design found in Milan, Italy has been tentatively dated to early C5th Syria. The subtle versatility of damask (the play of warp v weft emphasis in twill and satin weaves) was proved in its popularity in drawloom weaving from C15th onwards from Italy to Flanders and Holland as interest changed from colourful lampas to subdued silk damask with a focus on surface texture variations and damask fabrics were used for many different purposes in upholstery, costume and “wall linings” and later linen damask for tablecloths.
Part IV went back to China, to the Tang dynasty (618 – 907AD). My understanding now is that the draw loom was developed in Persia in order to weave the weft-faced weaves such as taqueté and samitum, and then travelled east in to China with the Chinese weavers who had woven on the looms in the Abassid capital (now Iraq) in the C8th. Twill lifts were only used for patterning, never for ground in Han, but by the Tang, twill was used in China with shafts and treadles, like in Western Asia, with a weft-faced compound twill. However reversible samitum has never been found in Western Asia so perhaps this was a Chinese ‘speciality’.
The final section of the book showed the development of mechanical patterning:
From simple pick-up warp rods adapting through pattern heddle rods, true pattern shafts, cross-harness in Western Asia/Persia (new to me), drawlooms with individually weighted harness cords (China), the European drawloom and finally to the jacquard – fascinating developments and adaptations are outlined over many centuries. What struck me was, contrary to my previous understanding, loom-controlled pattern selection was being used in Syria and Persia before the development of individually weighted harness cords in China, which is what we tend to think of as the original draw loom. It’s incredible to think that, even by the year 1000AD, silks of Byzantine and Islamic original were being woven at 250cm wide on drawlooms with some kind of comber board with the expertise that demonstrates that the techniques were already developed to a high degree. For example, a famous Mozac silk dated 671AD used 2700 different rows of pattern for a design which was around 90cm high.
This book has given me a much deeper understanding of how the various patterning weave structures were/are constructed and therefore much that I can consider when designing for my sample jacquard looms. It has also turned on its head much that I thought I knew about the history of the development of looms for patterning and this I will have to digest and re-read a number of times. It is well researched and I really enjoyed the hands-on practical application of weaving examples of ancient textiles to get a tactile and haptic knowledge of the method of weaving and the challenges faced by the weavers of history. It has certainly widened my knowledge and given me a lot to ponder, which is always a positive for me.
This book is a valuable addition to the bibliography of the serious student of structure and complex patterning, and to the historical textiles buff as it encompasses technical know-how with history and geography and makes connections that I hadn’t seen before. I still find myself a bit muddled over some of the timelines, but this is more probably my failing.
The end of the year always leads to reflection, and this year I was reading through the essays that I wrote for my MA coursework. Each year we were required to write an essay on contextual studies that we had done through the year, and for my first year, I selected two weavers, Philippa Brock and Lia Cook. I have had the immense pleasure to meet both weavers on several occasions and to attend conferences with them.
My first exposure to Lia’s work came in 2002, with a landmark (for me) trip to Washington DC to attend the conference and exhibition Technology as Catalyst: Textile Artists on the Cutting Edge. When I first saw the advert for the exhibition in a textile magazine, I thought how lovely it would be to go, but didn’t dream that it would actually happen. Then I saw it again and again, and each time the desire to go, that somehow this was important in my life, grew deeper and deeper. In the end, I decided to apply for grants, and if I got them, I’d be able to go, but if I didn’t, then that wasn’t the path the universe wanted me to pursue.
I got all the grants I applied for.
It was an amazing trip. I got in touch with the Handweavers Guild of America and met up with Ruth Blau and Janet Stollnitz, a meeting that led to me joining WeaveTech and Complex Weavers, both of which enlarged my weaving world immensely and Complex Weavers in particular is continuing to challenge and extend my knowledge. The exhibition was incredible. Susan Brandeis‘ work was the image on the advert that I had seen which had inspired the desire to go, and it was a pleasure to meet her and hear her talking about her work. Carol Westfall’s work at the entrance to the exhibition was also highly inspiring and she was so delightful and sharing with her artistic approach. Junco Sato Pollack’s work was also represented, along with Cynthia Schira, who I was also inspired by. Hitoshi Ujiie was also featured. But Lia’s work was quite breathtaking.
The main piece stood 140″ tall and dominated the wall. It was huge-scale, complex, full of intricate maze-like colour-and-weave effects in pointillistic effects with the overall image of a young child (in fact, Lia herself) Big Baby. It had an amazing WOW factor, and was so impressive, especially (for me) on close-up inspection where colour-and-weave effects took hold. I have always been fascinated by the pointillist painters and in photo-montages that are more than the sum of their parts and this really appealed to me.
Lia’s work with the the jacquard loom got me fascinated about the possibilities of jacquard weaving. And just two years later, I was able to rescue Hattie from the scrapyard and that led me to going to Florence, Italy, to learn how to weave jacquard at the Lisio Foundation, and then to acquire my lovely baby jacquard sample handlooms which were the teaching looms at the University of Leeds from the 1880s.
At the conference, I also sat next to Paulina Ortiz, a fabulous Costa Rican textile artist, whose work is continually inspiring and who I have remained in contact with. She encouraged me to enter the Women in Textile Art (now renamed World Textile Art) international exhibition in 2006 in Costa Rica which I was selected for, which led to an amazing trip to Costa Rica and an insight into a culture so different to mine, and more friendships with textile practitioners from South America.
Back to the essay.
Philippa Brock is one of the UK’s most influential and leading weave tutors, leading the weave programme at Central Saint Martins in London. Her students have access to one of the best weaving brains in the country and a networker who continually engages with industry. She set up The WeaveShed, a network website which brings weave education, industry, and art together into the same space, with funding from the Worshipful Company of Weavers.
My MA project (which has continued) was looking at how to weave three-dimensionally in order to express how geology affects the earth, through earthquakes, strata layers, erosion processes, and stalactites. My research into Lia and Philippa was to see how they worked with scientists in their respective projects – Lia with neurologists looking into how brains respond to weave as opposed to printed photos, and Philippa with a biophysicist looking at the structure of a virus, and also working in three-dimensions. Their work is still inspiring me today, and I hope the essay will be of interest to weavers, students and scientists alike in showing how textiles have a valid role to play in expressing, explaining and inspiring ideas between science and weave which have implications for both sides of the collaboration.
There always seems to be something interesting going on here, whether involving weaving, work on the house, cultural activities in the area or simply watching nature.
Firstly, there was a wonderful Complex Weavers Study Day in London, organised by the UK’s efficient CW Liaison Officer, Lesley Willcock. I was honoured to give a half-day presentation on Honeycomb Hybrids to weavers from Britain, Europe and the US, followed by Cally Booker (Scotland) who was talking on double-huck lace (I took copious notes!!). Then Alice van Duijnen (Holland) shared with us her passion and research into some of Anni Albers‘ works including some recreations of a couple of pieces. This tied in brilliantly with a lecture and visit to the amazing exhibition of Anni Albers’ (German) work at the Tate Modern. Wow! What an exhibition (and several books in the bookstore, including this one!!). A wealth of information and woven pieces were there, as you would imagine, but also printing that Anni did later on in her life, and a fabulous collection of indigenous woven pieces from across South America which had inspired Anni in her own weaving. My first visit to the exhibition lasted 3 hours until my brain couldn’t take any more, and then my repeat visit enabled me to capture some of the pieces on film (how old fashioned is that?!!) – well, digital anyway. It is amazing that we are allowed to take photos for personal use. The image at the top of the page is from the cover of the book accompanying the exhibition (triple warp, double weft hanging).
At our shared meal on the evening after the presentations, we did a quick round-the-table addition of how many years weaving we had between us. There were 17 of us there at the meal, and a rough total of 460 years, which averaged out at 27 years apiece!! The most was 55 years (followed by 47 years), and the least was 5 years. Staggering, isn’t it?! I wonder what the total would have been with all the attendees?
I got back to France to receive an update of our amazing mother hen. Josephine (Graham will insist on naming them!!) had been sitting on a brood of 17 eggs! She managed to hatch 11 of them about a week before I left, and was doing a fabulous job shepherding them around the garden and teaching them the do’s and don’ts of being a chick. I fully expected there to be a few casualties on my return, but she was only missing one. Our very loud and proud main cockerel, Percy, had recently taken up with a new hen (poor Fiona got a bit upset!) but disappeared during broad daylight along with his new paramour a few days before I went to the UK. Two teenage cockerels who had been banished from the garden by Percy, and who we had called Hot Pot and Casserole (say no more!!) took advantage of the feathers blowing in the wind and took on Percy’s harem. Now we have 3 cockerels and three hens plus an adolescent hen.
Then two nights ago, there was a kerfuffle outside around 11.30pm. I had locked up and was in bed, and by the time I had got the door unlocked and the shutters open, there was nothing to be seen. But alas and alack, in the morning there was another pile of feathers, no Josephine and 9 of her 10 chicks were also gone.
So now we have a little solitary chick who is doing ok, so far. He/she must have managed to hide in a wood pile (of which we have several) and keep safe. I have been throwing chicken feed into 3 piles of wood so that it has food wherever it is hiding, and I have seen it dashing between wood piles. When the other hens are around its area, it sticks with them, but won’t follow them round the garden – a good thing, I think. I managed to shut it up last night and hope that it will soon learn to climb the ladder into the tree, like the other hens.
As the saying goes – “Nature, red in tooth and claw”. Sad but true.
Next time, I hope to show you our new gates! I love that gates can get me excited!!
We’re experiencing a superb crop of figs right now, and figs and honey together are a winning combination, so when an unexpected space opened up in my Honeycomb Hybrids course from 21 – 26 October, I figured (groan) I’d better let you know, just in case you fancy a bit of the one with a bit of the other. Also I’ve just tried figs with blue cheese! Oh my goodness – what a wonderful little explosion of taste!!! To pick them straight off the tree in the morning an absolute treat.
Autumn is an amazing time of year here. The fields are continually changing colour as crops are taken in, fields ploughed, and sunlight angles are altering giving a more orange tint to the soil. Graham has been planting winter-cropping vegetables, and the markets are still full of gorgeous fruits, mushrooms, and vegetables from the area. There’s more time to stop and chat in the Saturday market now – fewer visitors to the town means more room in the aisle to meet and greet but things seem to be as busy as ever with Henri’s bar full to overflowing with people enjoying the sunshine and watching the world go by whilst sipping a pastis, a pression, a wine or a coffee.
We are enjoying balmy days with temperatures still in the upper 20s and more occasionally now the lower 30s, but the mornings are fresher, and the evenings getting shorter. We still can’t believe our luck that we live here!
The winter logs were delivered this week, and Graham now has 8 cubic meters of oak to stack. That should keep him out of mischief!! He’s also on hedge-cutting duty – not a quick job!
With just a couple of weaving courses to go until the end of the season, I have been amazed at the number of people who have been in contact about next year’s offering already! Thank you so much for your support and enthusiasm. We look forward to welcoming many new people to the weaving world, and also to enjoying more time with returning weavers! I’ll be launching the new dates in a couple of weeks or so.
If you can’t wait until next year – there are just two more opportunities to join us; 7-12 October and Honeycomb Hybrids on 21-26 October. Do get in touch. We love to hear from you!
Thank you so much for your continued interest in The Loom Room France, and for being part of our success!
Prof Brenda King is known for her research into the dyers Wardles of Leek. She has done extensive research into their archives and wider afield, bringing to our attention the deep study of Indian dyestuffs and tussah silk undertaken by Thomas Wardle, and the relationship between him and William Morris, a relationship built on mutual respect and admiration for the principles in life and design of both men, their wives and families.
Dye, print, stitch is an accessible book for the general lay person into the thinking behind Wardle’s lifelong research into dyestuffs and traditional methods employed in innovative ways and marrying the growing understanding of chemistry in dyeing with the traditional dyes of India and elsewhere to create dyes that persisted in fastness where other dyes faded through washing or light. It highlights the growth of Wardle’s printing business and his determination to bring the highest standards of workmanship and research to the industry without compromising his vision or his principles.
The book takes you through the Wardle companies, and then with greater depth into the relationship between the Wardle and Morris families and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and describes the work of the ladies of the Leek Embroidery Society (mostly local women), led by Elizabeth Wardle, who created many beautiful vestments and commissions for local churches in the Staffordshire Moorlands area, for the Arts and Crafts Movement, and for Wardle’s own business.
I am very fortunate to have lived near the beautiful, rural market town of Leek in Staffordshire, and to have seen first-hand some of the church vestments and altar cloths in various of the beautiful churches around the Staffordshire Moorlands which were commissions from Arts & Crafts Movement practitioners associated with William Morris and Thomas Wardle. Architecture and vestments were designed to complement each other as cohesive projects, and the area of Cheddleton, Meerbrook and Leek were very fortunate to benefit from the talents of such creative artists as CFA Voysey, Lindsey P Butterfield, and Walter Crane as well as William and Jane Morris, and Thomas and Elizabeth Wardle.
Whilst I found editorial errors in the book a bit irksome, there is no taking away from the careful research that Prof King has undertaken over many years, and her passion for the achievements of Thomas Wardle in particular. Her breadth of research and the love that she holds for the printed and embroidered textiles created and/or designed by the Wardles, and the amazing life and interests of the Wardles and the artistic and scientific times they lived in makes for an absorbing read and has re-kindled my love for the area and its artistic connections.
This book is still available from Prof King, and also from the Foxlowe’s Arts Centre, a volunteer-run gallery, social arts space, and great café at one end of the Market Square in Leek.
She is currently in the process of publishing another book on the Wardles which should be out next year. More on that when I have information. She is also the Chair of The Textile Society, an organisation that runs events, fairs, and a conference coming up in November that I would have loved to have attended called “Inspired By….”
Which leads me very neatly on to a series that I am giving to the Online Guild of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers on What Inspires Contemporary Weavers – a series of interviews through narrated Powerpoint and illustrated pdfs of 12 weavers (plus me) and a couple of surprise features at the end of the two weeks. It was an absolute pleasure to talk to the weavers involved and delve deeper into the background to their practice. These interviews will be available to members in perpetuity so do join the guild and get access to so many wonderful workshops and presentations from across the years that the guild has been going. http://www.onlineguildwsd.org.uk/
I also forgot to mention on my last post that the image I used was Misty Morning by Cathleen Tarawhiti from DeviantArt. I didn’t have my camera with me when the morning mists were so gorgeous over our valley!!