Latest tapestry weaving

Using a hand dyed cotton warp, I have been mixing material as weft, including paper, hemp, silk noil, mercerised cotton, BFL (blue faced leicester) and worsted wool. 3epc

I like the juxtaposition of the curved lines and eccentric weaving in the base area with the straight lines of the cream/natural yarns. Still working on a title!

Chichester Ship Canal 200 year celebration

Poyntz Bridge/What Lies Beneath

As a member of Artel Contemporary Art, I and other members of the group, am researching and preparing work, which celebrates the canal’s 200 years, for our exhibition in June 2022 at the Oxmarket Chichester.

Finding the right ‘angle’ for any themed exhibition takes me quite a while and often several false starts before I find something that I can work with. Two things have emerged from my research, which has included a boat trip on the canal, walks on the towpath, drawing sessions alongside the canal and special access to the Canal Heritage archives (for which we are very grateful).

Circus elephants passing through Chichester in 1903, taking a bath in the canal basin

I was fascinated by finding in the archives, a photo from 1903, of circus elephants (and a cow!) bathing in the canal as they passed through Chichester. I couldn’t resist creating my own versions in tapestry weaving, of what these (poor) elephants might have looked like in the ring. The canal must have been a welcome reminder for them of what life should be for an elephant.

Nellie the Elephant
Balancing Elephant

A second elephant performing a trick is being ‘finished’ to go alongside Nelly.

I thought about what the bottom of the canal might look like and how it ultimately meets the sea beyond Saltern’s Lock. I made some studies of how water behaves on paper, using black and yellow inks. Using these as a guide, I made tapestry weaving samples

Canal studies – samplers

The final tapestry in this series shows red diagonals to reference the structure of Poyntz Bridge

In addition to tapestries, I have made three hand embroideries in which I make a stitched response to the walks, the photographs and the drawings which have made up my research into the canal as it is today., including yellow diggers lined up alongside the canal. Two of the three embroideries in this series are now complete. The embroideries are 10cm deep and 70cm wide, reflecting the feel of travelling along the canal on the towpath or by boat where it is navigable. I have taken imagery and shapes within the canal environment without being too literal. In the embroidery (not yet shown) which represents the canal basin, I have included a small pink elephant (well you wouldn’t expect to see an elephant in the canal would you? I must be drunk! Hence a pink elephant*) I have shrouded the elephant and my representation of the watching boys behind a thin gauze to represent looking through the mists of time rather than what can be seen today.

The work on this topic continues.

Canal Journey (2) work in progress
Canal Journey (2) detail
Hidden Gem Dusk
Hidden Gem Dusk

*This is also a timely reference as the first recorded mention of pink (and green) elephants was in 1896 in Fables of our time by Henry Wallace Phillips.

 Phillips, Henry Wallace (April 30, 1896). “The Man and the Serpent”. Life27 (696): 343.

Devonshire Way – My 7 to 11 year old home

This is my latest and largest tapestry so far, woven on a pin loom. It shows a floor plan of the house I lived it from the age of 7 to 11 years old. It emphasises areas that were important to me such as the porch where I played two-ball (endlessly), the gramophone in the front room and the Wendy house in the garden. They were happy places and were woven in yellow (the happy colour). The area outside the back door also has a lot of yellow showing all the activity with children and dogs constantly in and out.

Devonshire Way – early stages

This shows the early stages of the tapestry, including the bottom selvedge with my weaver’s mark in orange. The warp is coral coloured, not quite the deep red I had hoped for when I was dyeing the warp. I find the natural warp colour difficult to ‘lose’ sometimes when I am preparing the work for showing and this is why I decided to dye it.

Devonshire Way – nearing completion

Tapestry creates a meditative state and I have been surprised at how some very obscure memories of my childhood home have come to mind, such as the fact that there was a green step-stool in the corner in the kitchen. Other details, like the position of the furniture in the back room (lounge) were more difficult to bring to mind, although I do remember sitting on the sofa under the slope of the stairs. It would have been called a settee in those days.

The brass-bound, black coffee table and the round, wicker dog basket were important parts of the lounge to me – whereas I have had to guess at the positions of the chairs, which were for adults. On the whole we children sat or lay on the floor. The TV had a V shaped aerial on top of the set, which sat in the corner of the room.

The hall had a very strongly patterned, green carpet, which continued up the stairs (which I loved to crawl down on my tummy).

I included the Wendy house in the back garden as I fell in love with this when my family viewed the house before moving in. I was so disappointed when we arrived on learning that the previous residents took the Wendy house with them. Also included in the tapestry are the fruit trees in the garden and the igloo that we built one very cold winter.

Completing a tapestry is always a pleasure, even thought a lot of work remains in order to prepare it for use.

The back of the tapestry needs the ends and spent bobbins trimming off and then the work is pinned out ready to ‘block’ the piece.

The House that I was born in

There’s something about the house that I was born in that draws me. Happy times I guess. Learning about the world was always enjoyable and I was keen to know learn the next thing. Even then I was drawing out little maps of the roads that I knew – the roads to school, the way to the library and the shops and then later on, my route to the bigger school, which I wasn’t allowed to do on my own. It requiring crossing Brigstock Road with all its buses and vans. It seems amazing now, that I was allowed to walk to school on my own as an infant, crossing two minor roads. We lived in a Victorian semi, which originally had three bedrooms and then the back bedroom was converted to a bathroom and box room.

The House that I was Born in

As this tapestry progressed, I was interested in how my use of colours developed. I had an idea of a palette and had decided not to be driven by the aesthetic of the work, which would be my usual approach. Instead, colours took on a meaning and in particular, bright orange for no-go areas like the scullery, that we weren’t allowed into as children. The pale blue areas show where we lived routinely, and places like the front room were very vague to me, only used for visitors and for short periods of time and very cold, with Lino round the edge of the room.

The house I was born in

Another surprising thing for me was the realisation that, in my mind, I always see the plan of this first house with the back of the house at the bottom. Other houses I’ve lived in I see the other way around, the front of the house at the bottom. I guess that I didn’t have to enter this house – I was already in it. It’s where I was born.

The tapestry is small, but quite precious to me and is probably technically my best work so far. I am now starting work on a larger tapestry 33cm wide for my 7-11 house (we moved twice when I was a child). I am going to experiment with using sock wool (cheaper!) but I am wondering if it will be as resilient as the beautiful worsted yarns that I bought from Weaver’s Bazaar and my own dyed worsted yarns.

Tapestry Weaving Continues

Another Sampler

There is so much still for me to learn about tapestry weaving. Despite a lengthy history of working with knitted and embroidered textiles, tapestry weaving imposes its unforgiving linear structure, reminding me of the quotation for the Rubaiat of Omah Khyyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writMoves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit. Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

….and I have tried to jiggle the weft and tug at the warp to adjust a part of the tapestry that offends my eye. Patching in from behind or beating down harder doesn’t remove those unacceptable wefts which lie further down the tapestry than I am prepared to unpick. And I do unpick a lot. Even in my peaceful studio, devoid of most distractions, I lose concentration, forgetting which direction of travel I need for a new bobbin colour, so as to allow an easy transition or junction with its neighbour.

The most interesting thing for me has been learning how to blend several fine threads together to create a ‘weft bundle’ and how colour graduation is achieved thread by thread with each newly wound bobbin.

Tapestry Weaving

I have recently started the Foundation Diploma in Tapestry Weaving at West Dean College as I wanted to bring together my extensive research into colour, through painting and my many years of working with textiles, mostly through making and using yarn.

I have much to learn and am trying not to be too frustrated with this. Choosing the correct warp thickness and size of weft bundle (I didn’t even know that you could have a weft bundle!) has been quite challenging, but slowly I think I am getting there.

Sampler for borders

I am interested in how artists such as Kirsten Glasbrook use borders in their work and so I tried some ideas out here.

The image below also introduces the use of borders and a central motif with a variegated background to the motif. I was pleased with the colour scheme but I found that the ‘sett’ of the warp was too close for the thickness of the warp. This resulted in a rather congested tapestry that didn’t lie entirely flat. I’m still learning.

Border and bird tapestry
Icon image

This small tapestry is an interpretation of my drawing of a radiator cover in Stansted House. I wanted to try out icon colours, but also to practise graduating the colour of both background and image from dark at the bottom to light at the top.

This is the first of a series of tapestries where the source material is one of my paintings. I am taking fragments of the original (unfinished) painting and interpreting them into tapestry weavings. They are approximately 10cm wide. This first fragment is made on a moderately thick warp (15s) with 2.5 ends to the centimetre. The bottom part is a bit ‘clunky’ but as my hatching improved the imagery improved towards the top. The colours worked for me.