My name is Cally Booker and I am a handweaver, textile designer, writer and teacher. Weaving is a craft which can be meticulously planned or improvised at the loom, and a combination of these approaches appeals to the different parts of my nature. I am passionate about making things by hand.
The new studio is well worn in now, with several workshops and a couple of warps accomplished in the last few weeks. There are still a few things to do around the place, including putting up some weaving! To get things up and running we focused on the tools rather than the products of the weaving process. Furthermore, with all those windows, wall space is scarce and my priorities were shelves, shelves and then shelves. Also hooks: I do like hooks. Now those are dealt with we can see what space is left (not a lot) and think about what to put in it. Knowing me, this will take several months and many changes of mind, so don’t hold your breath unless you are an experienced pearl diver.
Here’s a quick tour of the studio as it looked yesterday afternoon:
There have been other exciting changes going on in the background, and you can see one of them in my new website logo and colour scheme. I have been working with Helen Wyllie, a fabulous graphic designer in East Lothian, to create a new look for my Bonny Claith label which I will be launching later in the summer. She has also created this connected-but-distinct fresh new look for my Cally Booker Handweaver identity, so I am gently starting the relaunch process with a spring-clean of this site.
I can hardly wait to share the rest of the redesign with you, but must… be… patient…
A new address! Same building, but my looms have climbed back up to the fourth floor.
Dundee’s situation – a steep hill (the Law) overlooking an estuary (the Firth of Tay) – means that it is pretty hard to find a place anywhere in town that doesn’t have a view. However, in the fifteen years I have been weaving, this is the first time my looms have been exposed to such distractions. Will they be able to concentrate, I wonder?
Looking east I can see almost the whole history of the city’s industry, including both jute and journalism (if not jam), as well as the current specialism of oil rig maintenance and decommissioning.
Things are looking pretty good inside the studio too, in spite of a very hasty moving process. More of that later: right now, I have to get it ready for a workshop tomorrow.
Yes, you heard me correctly: distributed capabilities! The Aural Textiles project is moving into phase two, and there is a new open call for designers, makers and artists who are not working with textiles. All the details are available here: please share them with anyone you think might be interested.
Although I am in a state of complete exhaustion after the last few weeks of making and marketing, and have several more pre-Christmas tasks still to go, I have some good news I really want to share. I’m excited to let you know that I have been granted an award from the VACMA: Dundee programme to develop some new work next year.
VACMA stands for Visual Artist and Craft Maker Award, as per the post title, though I keep having to check whether there are any plurals in it. It’s a scheme run jointly by Creative Scotland and local organisations – in my case that’s Leisure & Culture Dundee – to support, you guessed it, artists and makers in Scotland on all kinds of projects. My project will entail creating more work along these lines:
These are a couple of the pieces I made earlier this year using warps painted with natural dyes. Both pieces have two warp layers: one has an interleaved threading and the other is turned summer and winter. In both cases, though for slightly different reasons, I struggled to manage the two warps because my Megado has only one warp beam. I worked around it, because that is what weavers do, but it made the process slow, awkward and error-prone so it was far from ideal.
The award from VACMA: Dundee will fix that by helping me to purchase a second warp beam as well as the materials for a new collection, so I can really dive into this way of working with natural dyes for weaving. I can’t wait to get started!
While not quite believing that December is almost upon us, I’ve nonetheless been getting myself organised for a couple of festive Christmas markets.
First on the calendar is CRAFTED at Dundee Contemporary Arts tomorrow (1 December) from 11:30 – 17:30. It’s one-day-only so seize the moment! (And if you are in town at the DCA, you might also pop along to WASPS where Dundee’s Etsy Made Local market is taking place. Many of my artist and designer neighbours will be taking part.)
Then next weekend I will be down in St Monans at Bowhouse for the Tea Green Festive Market. That’s a fabulous market with lots of amazing food as well as lovely handmade work, and it is on both Saturday and Sunday (8 & 9 December) from 10:00 – 16:00. Yes, I’ll need to be up early to get there and set up!
I have some lovely new purses and cowls for these occasions, but I confess that I have a soft spot for the pieces I haven’t woven at all… these thrums, all naturally dyed blends of wool and silk, made up into little bundles. They are just the right length for embroidery, or for keeping.
Can it really be Open Studio season again? A whole year has passed and it has been a crazy hectic one, starting with the move to my new space last November. Fortunately, it has turned out to be a very productive space and much weaving has been done since then. If you want to come and see it – space and weaving alike – now is your chance! We’re open 12 – 5 pm Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th October.
One of the projects I have been working on this summer is now just about complete. The Aural Textiles collaboration began back in March and we have come a long way since then. I can’t wait to see the final pieces my co-conspirators have made: the glimpses on Instagram have been tantalising! Anyway, there is not long to go now: our exhibition opens on Monday 24 September and you are all invited.
As well as finished textile pieces – knitted, woven and screen printed – the exhibition will showcase the processes we have used to create our designs and feature samples in the different techniques. There are six of us, so we used six different sound recordings from the Scottish landscape – one made by each person – and swapped them around. If you can’t get to Forres (and I do realise it is a bit of a stretch for most!) then watch this space for digital content… and do read our blog too.
For the last week I have been beavering away on my own final piece and on getting all the documentation together: there’s a lot of it! Sound files, images, drafts, notes… All that remains now is to take the photos and package everything up. In the meantime, here are some sneaky peeks at Sound of the Sea: naturally dyed wool/silk yardage based on, you guessed it, the sound of the sea.
Here are a few examples of the purses I have been making for the Craft Scotland Summer Show in Edinburgh. Because we all have different things we need to stash, I’ve made them in a variety of shapes and sizes…
These little guys with the clips are my favourite to make, because they are so cute when you turn them right side out at the end. (It’s a bit tricky to tell how large they are from these photos, but this wee chap is about 4″ square and one inch deep.)
I delivered these and their several brothers and sisters, along with a selection of scarves and cowls, to White Stuff on George Street this morning. The show opens on Friday and is then open every day until 26 August.
Most people probably wouldn’t classify the Megado as a simple loom, but a mechanical dobby does have a pleasing transparency to its operation. So when weaving stops dead and cords are seen trailing on the floor, it is fairly easy to identify the cause of the problem. In this case, it was a metal bracket at the back of the dobby box which had succumbed.
On the face of it, this is pretty bad news. I phoned around several Louet suppliers in the UK and nobody happened to have a spare one of these stashed on a shelf, so I had to get in touch with Louet themselves to organise a replacement and that takes a bit of time.
However, on the plus side, it is actually perfectly possible to weave on the Megado without this piece, because the dobby can be advanced by hand. It is slow and a bit awkward, and the awkwardness introduces a greater risk of error than advancing the dobby by treadle, but weaving is weaving … and when there are deadlines, slow progress is better than no progress at all. And the second plus is that a useful person – one such as S, for instance, who has patience and the relevant skills – can produce a facsimile to be going on with.
The original is of a much sturdier type than the homemade replacement, and I am not sure how long the latter will bear the forces that are placed on it by the dobby advance, but it is doing fine for now. And for the last couple of days the loom has had a wee rest, while the sewing machine has taken the strain. I have been busy turning small pieces of my Dotted Quarter fabric into purses for the imminent Craft Scotland Summer Show. More on that in another post!
When I was teenager I once received a card from a friend – who hadn’t been in touch for about a year – which had the following printed message: ‘Just because I haven’t written doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you. I just can’t think and write at the same time.’
I still remember it after all these years, because it actually sums me up pretty well. So you can imagine that while I haven’t been blogging I have been very busy thinking for the last several weeks… thinking, learning, dyeing, thinking, thinking, weaving, and more thinking.
And now I’m, somewhat belatedly, on a roll. I have been weaving up a storm for all the summer events in my calendar, starting next week at Designer Crafts in London. My contribution to this exhibition is relatively small but quite exciting, as I can include a couple of ‘statement pieces’ as well as a selection of scarves and cowls. That’s given me an opportunity to continue playing with painted warps using thickened natural dye extracts, which is something I’ve found very satisfying – even though I end up painting myself, the table and just about everything else as well as the warp!
Many months ago I mentioned that my colour palette was based around a particular scarf that is perfect for listening to live jazz. I am really delighted with the way that palette has worked out using a fairly basic set of natural dyes: madder, weld, indigo and cochineal.
Dyeing comes a long way behind weaving in my list of enthusiasms, but I get more enthusiastic when the results are what I want! I don’t have a ‘favourite colour’ (who could choose just one?) but this ensemble is pretty much my happy place in colour terms, so weaving with these yarns is a joy. Add in fine weather and a single-minded focus on studio time and I really couldn’t ask for more.
Here’s a wee peek at some freshly pressed results…
Now I have to leave the loom to head down to England over the weekend, but there’s plenty of warp awaiting my return. Next up will be the Craft Scotland Summer Show in Edinburgh, so I can’t slow down yet…