Contemporary Weave with Liz Williamson

Some images from last week’s class with Liz Williamson, in Mittagong at Sturt Summer School, starting at the end with our final day exhibition.

My 4 Trail Markers on the left. Des's work in black on the right.

Natural dyeing, and tube in fishing line by Des - a brand new weaver.

Chris, also a new weaver, used her own prints and handmade paper

More dyeing and weave from Chris. She picked up the pine needles on a class shopping excursion.

Exciting weft selection from Chris

Mary produced a prototype piece ...

... developing extensive work done previously.

Gail played with colour, texture, openings...

A closer view of some of Gail's work

Susan created a "book" using double weave

Dianne made mobile phone pouches and jewellery. Now you see it...

... now you really see it. The flash doesn't do justice to the subtlety of mother of pearl buttons captured in reflective tape double weave

The weave room

Unfortunately I didn’t get decent photos of the other class members’ work. There were nine of us in the class with Liz, a particularly pleasant and companionable group. Liz provided a really rich and varied learning experience. We examined examples of cloth that interested us – everyone brought some, including heaps from Liz, and talked about how they could be explored or reinterpreted for contemporary designs.

mud cloth

stripes, dyeing, colour

cloth weft and beautiful colour

Liz demonstrating

Liz had a fast way of getting a sampling warp onto the loom, demonstrated various options for warping, gave us extensive notes… but most impressively was able to help two brand new weavers do some really interesting work. Liz gave them just enough theory at each stage for what they were doing, to avoid problems and produce a viable structure while exploring and expressing themselves. Both Des and Chris brought lots of experience in other areas of textiles and creative work, and I think both are now enthusiastic about learning more and incorporating weave into their repertoire.
Liz also organised visits to the weave room by Elisabeth Nagle, a master weaver from Europe who ran the Sturt weave studio for around 50 years, and Melanie Olde who currently teaches there. Plus a number of us sat at dinner with weaver Sally Blake and her fellow exhibitor Vedanta Nicholson following their floor talk at the Rain Gauge exhibition in the Sturt Gallery.
With all that inspiration available, Liz guided each weaver in their own chosen exploration. Many of us used double weave as a structure, but with widely different materials as weft. I decided to challenge myself by avoiding strong colour, instead focusing on texture, light, and shadow. I tried to be really free and spontaneous, exploring the properties of some new-to-me materials – a couple of different paper yarns, cut strips of hessian, garden jute twine, paper rope… I struggled for much of the time, but was very happy and excited by the results. I like the things in themselves, but also that as weaving progressed I continued to learn, to experiment, to examine what happened in one piece and build on it in the next. In the end (!) it was a very satisfying process that I want to continue in my OCA work.
There was one part of the class I didn’t participate in, and I want to write about it here not to get into any big discussion but because in the past I’ve had definite opinions which I’ve later reversed and I’m wondering if this will be another. So to my future self, wondering if one day I won’t believe I thought this… I don’t get natural dyeing and its current huge popularity. Yes, there can be some incredibly beautiful results, but use of synthetic dyes can also give really stunning results – and both can produce blah. It’s the assumption that “natural” dyes are somehow intrinsically gentler on the environment, safer for the user, and generally “better” that bothers me. There may be studies out there which looking at the whole chain of production and use (mordants?, commercial cultivation/production of madder/cochineal/…?, packaging and transport?, …). I don’t know, and in any case as a hobby dyer I suspect the difference would be negligible in comparison to my impact on the environment as an urban dweller who is happy to drive my car around the state going to weaving classes.
Rant over. This was a great week, I really hope to keep in touch with the others in the class because they were an amazing group, and I’m looking forward to seeing influences from the class in my future work.


16 Responses to “Contemporary Weave with Liz Williamson”

  1. 1 Meg in Nelson January 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Goodness me, what an experience! How stimulating for you, too, in view of your recent studies, too.

    I agree with you on natural dyeing: I don’t think they are “safer” and I don’t do any unless there is no mordanting required. I’ll use salt for cottons and vinegar for wool, but that’s it. I also feel, in dyeing with either chemical or natural material, that if we are to sell our work, we need to be responsible for a certain amount of colorfastness.

    Welcome home.

  2. 2 fibresofbeing January 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Hi Meg

    Yes, it was a great week. I was on the grumpy side most of the week for a bunch of trivial non-weaving reasons, which was frustrating, but the reflections are all positive.

    You’re right. I forgot to mention the colourfastness concerns – or at least the variability. Plus the unpredictability of results, which depending on what you are doing can be a plus or a minus.


  3. 3 penmcam January 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    I think for me the idea of natural dyeing is just that it’s interesting to see what colours can be achieved with plants and minerals, and it’s historically valuable to be aware of how ancient people discovered decorative and artistic means of expression using colour. I agree though, not the be all and end end all and certainly not ‘better’.

  4. 4 Gayle G January 16, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Hi Judy
    Your blog is a fabulous summary of the week. I for one had my head down and at the end of the week, I realized I missed out on talking more to all our supportive and talented group at our workshop with Liz.

    When I returned home I googled 2008 Australian LivingTreasure Liz Williamson, she is amazing and a delight to be around

    I have a passion for India Flint’s imprint of indigenous leaves on fabric and when I occasional dye I just love the surprise and the involvement with usually with other artists and crafters.

    We have just come out of a 10 year drought in Australia and the water required to rinsed out the excess dye seems to be higher with chemical dyes. i would imagine the excess dye is my inexperience more than the dye!!

    I agree getting your ‘nickers in a knot’ about natural or chemical in theworld we live. i grow some of our vegies, live a good and conscious life thinking and taking small neighbourhood steps to maintain my environment.

    Lastly Judy, i didn’t see ‘grumpy draws Judy’ appear!! Your thoughts were very relevant and I enjoyed every individual in the group

    Cheerio and look forward to reading more of your blog

    • 5 fibresofbeing January 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks Gayle.
      Mmm, yes – some good reasons for using the natural dyes. I like that we each can make a considered choice and do what works for us, or mix and match at different times.
      I guess I’ve run into a couple of zealots so feel the need to state my case.

  5. 6 Maria Damon August 30, 2014 at 6:04 am

    Is it possible to make a large double-weave poncho in which the material is doubled and when unfolded is closed along one seam except for a 12-15 inch slit for the head to go through? If so, what’s the threading pattern? can you guide me to a solution?

    • 7 fibresofbeing August 30, 2014 at 7:55 am

      It’s the path of the weft when weaving that will do this. Four shafts is enough for plain weave. A straight threading 1-2-3-4. 1 and 3 are the top layer, 2 and 4 the bottom layer.
      Using a single shuttle for most of the poncho, lift:
      1 (first pick of top layer)
      4 plus 1 and 3 (first pick of bottom layer, top lifted up out of the way)
      2 plus 1 and 3 (second pick of bottom layer)
      3 (second pick of top layer).
      When off the loom the cloth will end up a single layer as it will be joined on one selvedge.
      Where you want the head slit, use two shuttles. One weaves the top layer, the second weft weaves the bottom layer. When you’ve woven a long enough gap, return to using a single shuttle and the layers will be connected again.

      • 8 Maria Damon August 30, 2014 at 9:33 am

        Wow, thanks so much! I have a pattern for doubleweave (from Marguerite Porter Davidson’s book) but didn’t know how to handle the slit. This is so incredibly helpful, and I would never have thought of it myself. Marvelous!

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