Archive for October, 2012

Project 9 Woven Structures Stage 3 part 2

In the first part of this Stage (blogged 21-Oct-2012) I attempted to create woven surface textures based on some photographs taken on King Island. Next I needed to develop a sample based on some of the most exciting results.

I tried to develop some ideas in my sketchbook, but it was a struggle – too much structure and I lost any connection to seaweed, too little and I had an amorphous blob (see my sketchbook entries from 14-Oct-2012). Eventually I finished with this photo of the seaweed on stones, and made a rough weaving plan. The spun newspaper could suggest the stony beach and a range of black texture effects used to give the impression of a path of seaweed sweeping across the image from foreground to background.


Things I like:
* The piece is about 22 x 14 cm, and quite by accident reminds me of a holiday postcard.
* The newspaper works well as a background-with-character.
* The variety of textures, techniques and shape give the impression of movement and distance. There is insect screen, neoprene tubing and tissue paper. Techniques are plain weave, 5-end satin, soumak and ghiordes knots.
* The neat top and bottom edges support the postcard idea. The bottom is a kind of chaining of the loops of warp that were over the warp rod. At the top I did some plain weave, a row of soumak to make a clean turning edge, and some more plain weave to form a hem at the back.

Things that could be better:
* I really don’t like the way the warp becomes visible on the black towards the top. I wanted a smooth progress of texture. I tried a couple of other yarns to get better coverage, but the changes in colour and texture were jarring. I had been careful with my planned yarns to introduce them gradually. Better yarn selection from the start would help. A black warp could work, although this would have an impact on the background, resulting in a grid effect. I could also try painting the warp in the planned seaweed area prior to weaving.
* While I like the effect of the neoprene picks across the whole width (they create some visual continuity and provide some needed structure, as well as making it clear that this isn’t an attempt at realism), it would be interesting to vary the width of the lines from bottom to top to increase the sense of depth.
* The shaping at the top doesn’t work. It’s made worse by a couple of bad choices on the slope of the curve, plus the variation in colour of the newspaper. This could be improved by practice in the technique and more considered selection of parts of newspaper to use.
* I don’t think it’s apparent in the result, but I had a lot of difficulties weaving with the paper. Improved spinning technique and a wider shed on the loom would assist.

Exhibitions, Research and Textiles/Art/Design

This post has been sitting in draft form for over a month. It started as part of the Assignment 4 Research Point, which is investigation into the work of the textile artist. The idea was that having discussed Craft in earlier research points (blog posts 18-Aug-2012 and 20-Aug-2012), I could consider textiles in Art as distinct from Textile Art (blog post 27-Aug-2012) and then examine the work of designers and designer/makers (that was going to be this post). This would allow me to establish my overall concept that while depending on context all these descriptors can refer to different things, a particular individual will operate in multiple modes – craft, art, textile art, design, then add in teacher, author, sales person… I don’t think this follows a linear developmental progression – start in mode 1, then learn and progress to mode 2 etc. Individuals and their work are more complex, they do what could be categorized as mode 2, and then a bit of mode 1, and sometimes both at the same time, and very often after a time one can see that what appeared to be one thing should be reassessed. Categories and labels are useful to help us organise and extend our thinking, but we shouldn’t confuse them with reality or necessity.

After all that I was going to take a deep breath, then write about two multivalent* individuals who include Textile Art in their practice.

However before progressing with The Plan, I want to write about two exhibitions I visited this weekend just past.

Eugène Atget: Old Paris is on at the Art Gallery NSW and includes over 200 original prints by Atget (1857-1927), who is considered the founder of documentary photography.

I did have two images, believing them to be from a source which allowed this use, but have removed them due to copyright concerns raised since. The first image was The Bievre, Ruelle des Gobelins, May 1900. There is beautiful textural detail, shadows and reflection of light, an incredible sense of space and depth to the image. It appears to be empty of people, or perhaps there are a couple of wraith-like images in the distance, where people were moving during the long exposure.

The second image was Rue de Seine and Rue de l’Echaude, c. 1900. The same comments apply. Being able to see Atget’s original prints up close was amazing. None are in fact black and white – the tones are sepia. Large areas of the photographs are very crisp and detailed. I don’t know photographic technique, but he used light-sensitive paper in contact with the glass negative, and never enlarged his images.

Coming back to the subject of this post, in the little brochure that is provided when you enter the exhibition there is the paragraph:

“In the 1980s Atget’s photographs at Carnavalet, which had previously been classified thematically, were given an inventory number and received special conservation treatment. In the process, these photographs, acquired as simple documents, attained the status of works of art.”(1)

Treating the photographs individually, doing conservation and inventory work – these processes can confer Art status. I find that thought confronting.

This led me to reassess an information panel in the exhibition about Atget not wanting attribution for his photos when published by Man Ray because they were “just documents”. I thought he meant that the reproduced image in a book or magazine was only a shadow of the actual print he had made. A quick internet search just now found confirmation that Atget did see his work as documents – only documents – so he chose anonymity. (2)

The second exhibition was Dani Marti, Mariposa (Butterfly), at Breenspace. I’ve written briefly about Marti, or at least my attempt to see his work (blogged 25-Nov-2011), and his work on the facade of a shopping centre in Sydney (blogged 25-Mar-2011). The photos are of the facade, since I don’t have any of his gallery work.

Mariposa (Butterfly) was a very different experience. It felt intimate and personal. The gallery is basically one large room on the third floor of a small office block in a maze of lanes in a once-seedy part of town. Marti’s work is a video – an interview of sorts – and accompanying woven wall pieces, portraits of ‘Mark’. The video was on a loop of around 16 minutes, projected on a full wall of the gallery. For most of the time I sat alone in a darkened room, my vision filled with ‘Mark’ almost naked, whirling white squares of cloth around his body in a trance-like dance. He was absorbed, ecstatic, lost in the sensuality and physicality of his dance. His eyes were closed or unfocused, except once or twice when he paused in his dance and looked directly at the camera, when he was suddenly present and conscious of himself and the viewer, and it seemed to me accepting of himself and his choices. He had made choices which allowed him to dance with joy and freedom and completely in the moment. At the same time I was aware of the cost of those choices (although perhaps I shouldn’t write “cost” – just more choices). According to the exhibition notes (3) Mark is a meth addict and drifter. The video was filmed in sessions six weeks apart, and in the later sequences Mark had one eye swollen shut, cuts and grazes across one side of his head – perhaps he had been bashed. He’d lost weight, and I was more conscious of the physical effort of his dance.

The video was filmed in New York and the dance genre is “flagging” which originated in gay clubs. Almost everything about Mark and his choices is foreign and unfamiliar to me. But I sat there in the dark and watched his dance and thought about choices – Mark’s, Marti’s in what he chose to see and present (apparently he had much more confronting and gritty material), my own choices – and I thought about living in joy with the positives, at least for some moments, and accepting the negatives. And about accepting ourselves with our choices and their consequences.

Filled with those thoughts, in fact with a new perspective on something that’s been causing some pain in my own life, it was strange to stand up and walk to the woven pieces on the walls behind me. Trap 1-3 consists of three pieces, each a deep, square frame of powder coated aluminium, the front and back enclosed with wide-set strips of leather in plain weave. Armour I is an even larger frame, woven through with nylon, polyester, polypropylene and leather, some a few centimetres in diameter, coiled around and creating a dense, defensive, spikey shield. It made me think of scar tissue or a hedge of thorns. Not at all my reading of the video – but then people are much more complex and changing than can be expressed in any static portrayal (and in this I regard the video as static, being frozen in time).

There are some images and other perspectives of the work at these links: http://danimarti.com/exhibitions/mariposa-butterfly/, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/making-art-from-the-damage-done-20121005-273bo.html.

Clearly this is art. It is also at some level documentary, so a strange contrast to Atget’s work – although both are carefully setup and arranged. Both also skirt or cross the line to exploitation of their subjects – Atget photographed prostitutes and ‘zoniers’ – people living in abject poverty in shanty towns outside Paris city walls; Marti’s subjects are often the vulnerable and marginalized (some of his work I would find very difficult to watch).

For this Research Point the thing that really grabbed my attention was not Marti’s work as such, but the language used in a recently published monograph. “Dani Marti’s paintings are physical distillations of human encounters” Colin Perry begins in his essay Bound and unbound desire: Dani Marti’s paintings (4). Perry contends that these woven or stitched works “clearly relate to painting as a medium and lie within its historical trajectory” (page 16). Historical influences are cited, abstraction, art as anti-art, modernism, minimalism, Pattern and Design. Perry introduces the term “materialist portraiture” to describe Marti’s woven works. What I find significant is that Perry doesn’t deny or diminish the media and techniques used – rope, threads and weaving, among rubber, barbed wire and material assemblage. Marti’s cv includes studies in tapestry technique, and he does the majority of the weaving. In my reading so far about textiles and art I haven’t seen such a bald and bold statement, asserting the place of a textile work in Art’s development.

As a weaver I’ve sometimes felt at a disadvantage in the world of textile art, working in grids and stripes, all the structural constraints. Was tapestry the only option? Yes, I’ve looked at the work of Anni Albers, Sheila Hicks and more, but I’ve never before felt such an impact from work – not just emotional, but seeing and maybe just a very little knowing more of a person and world so remote from me, and finding it so relevant to my own life. I don’t know how I can do it – create work of impact and intensity – but I’m hoping I can find my way.

On which lofty note I will end. My exploration of the work of the Designer and Designer/Maker will progress another day.

* Multivalent – adjective. “having or susceptible of many applications, interpretations, meanings, or values: visually complex and multivalent work. Definition from http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/multivalent, accessed 21-Oct-2012

(1) Art Gallery of New South Wales (2012), Eugène Atget: Old Paris, brochure. All texts in the brochure are based on those written by Françoise Reynaud and Jean-Baptiste Woloch (intern: Emmanuelle Day)

(2) Fuller, J. “Atget and Man Ray in the Context of Surrealism” in Art Journal Vol. 36, No. 2 (Winter, 1976-1977), pp. 130-138 Published by: College Art Association Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/776161 Accessed 21-October-2012

(3) Katsof, A. (2012) Mariposa (Butterfly): Dani Marti, exhibition leaflet

(4) Perry, C., (2012). Bound and unbound desire: Dani Marti’s paintings. In: M. Price, ed. Dani Marti. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, pp. 14-27.

Project 9 Woven Structures Stage 3 part 1

This stage involves experimenting with different materials to create some interesting surface textures. As an initial inspiration I was thinking of some of the textures in seaweed, rocks and water that I saw on King Island on my recent trip (blogged 7-Oct-2012). The second part of the Stage is to select some of the most exciting sections and develop a sample piece. Currently I don’t feel too excited about any of my experiments, so I’ve decided to cut it off the loom, review results, and try to figure out a way to add some oomph.

The list of wefts grew as I went and in theory is promising, but the end result is really … just a bit too polite.

Top row left to right: fly screen mesh; individual fibres taken from screen; waxed black string; a light beading/fishing line; neoprene tube; a stiff black plastic(?) that reminds me of horsehair; handspun tissue paper – from stores, one with added black gloss lettering, the other with gold lettering; black woven cord, a bit like very thin shoelace; white knit cotton tube (plant tie); multiple strands of anonymous medium weight black thread; silver shredded paper.
Second row: I was rather chuffed with my success in spinning tissue paper, so I went on to spin: cooking foil; cooking foil held with cellophane; newspaper. Not needing spinning: cling film (from the kitchen); bubblewrap.

**Edited to add – the bubblewrap idea was taken from Claire’s work here. Thank you Claire!**

The warp was the rug linen warp.

Surely something there should lead to interesting and/or exciting???

Above is a front and back lit comparison. Next some detail.


I started off with the strip of insect screen. I’d really liked the result I got with it in the braiding section (blogged 16-Sept-2012).

After just a couple of picks of plain weave I could see it was crushing down and all that texture lost. I put in a section with the waxed string, to keep the various experiments separate plus in the hope of creating an interesting effect when backlit – filtered areas of screen divided by solid bands. Next was a row of soumak – good height above the plane of the fabric, but crushed down. After another band of waxed string I tried a structure with longer floats so that more of the “yarn” would be displayed (more about the structure below, on a part that is clearer. This was better, but all the spikey bits created by fraying the edge of the strip was ending up underneath instead of on top. The final part was the same structure but not pre-fraying the strip.

The photos above show on the left the front of the fabric – not the wild texture I was hoping for, but the later sections with almost oval shapes is reminiscent of some of the seaweed.The middle photo is the back, showing some nice spikey action, which could be useful if I could control it and get it to the front. The photo on the right is backlit. There is a hint of the banding I hoped to achieve, but not enough to bother with. I didn’t try ghiordes knots, but that could break up the politeness a bit.

The next section used a couple of yarns I got from Feeling Inspired – some thin black neoprene tubing and some fishing line. I wound five pieces of the fishing line together on the shuttle. In the photos above you can see the front of the fabric, the front at an angle to show some of the height, and a back view.

I started with a little plain weave in fishing line. Then comes a section which is pretty much a five-end satin. Basically the black neoprene floats above four warp ends, then under one (total five warp ends). Each time across the warp thread the weft goes under changes. First time across the weft goes under the first warp thread in each group of five. Next time across it goes under the third warp thread. Next the fifth; next the second; next the fourth. Then you repeat. In this example I wove a pick of fishing line between each pick of the black. In a normal satin you wouldn’t, the weft would pack down and you get a smooth surface. Here you get fairly long smooth lines on the top and dotting underneath. This is the same structure I used in the earlier section.

After the “satin” is a row of soumak in neoprene, an area of plain weave in neoprene, and a row of soumak in fishing line.

The backlit view of this area reminds me of glass bricks. There’s almost a watery texture to it when close up, but that’s only at a high detail level.

The soumak in fishing line could bring some highlights and sparkle into an area representing water. The longer floats give a flowing horizontal line with just a bit of diagonal movement. I can’t see seaweed in it. I wonder how tricky it would be to take soumak in different directions, going over wefts as well as warps and jumping from row to row.

Going further up the fabric there is the plastic “horse hair”. In a bundle like this it doesn’t really bend and there’s a glossy ribbon-like appearance. It doesn’t work in a seaweed idea, but could look really good in a sharp, modern layout, maybe framing something.

After a bit more neoprene we come to the handspun tissue paper. I’ve wanted to try spinning paper since seeing Fabrication No. 3 by Wang Lei at the White Rabbit gallery last year – info at www.whiterabbitcollection.org/artists/wang-lei-%E7%8E%8B%E9%9B%B7/. Paper from a Chinese-English dictionary was made into yarn then knitted into Imperial Robes. There’s also shifu, spun washi paper. I have a lovely Majacraft suzie pro spinning wheel which hasn’t seen much use in the last few years. After some trial and error I got a rough yarn, and the patterning on the store tissue paper gives some additional interest to the weaving. This is the one area where I used ghiordes knots and clearly they are great for some seaweed texture. I kept them limited because they make it so much harder to see the rest of the work in a small experimental sampler. Above the paper is some thin cord – bland.

Next up is the knitted tube of cotton, previously seen in Project 8 (blogged 22-Sept-2012). There are two rows of soumak, the lower one over two warp ends, the upper one over four. The longer length is better, as you can stretch and manipulate the yarn more to create texture, shape and height. It could be used as breaking waves, although care is needed as I’ve found it can take over quite easily. Dyeing the yarn could help.
At this point, halfway through the sampler, in all honesty I lost sight of the initial seaweed focus and got sidetracked onto an exploration of material and technique. At the bottom is the shredded silver paper. I used this in project 8 in early experiments with structure (blogged 13-Sept-2012). In that attempt I was able to retain the liveliness and wildness of the paper. Here it has been tamed, subdued. The multi-strand black yarn I used every other pick makes a very formal arrangement. I was trying to give the yarn space to shine. Darn
Next up in the photo above is cooking foil. Given the flatness of the silver paper, I decided to introduce some extra texture by loosely spinning the strips of foil before weaving. This created a faceted surface which catches the light and reflects in different directions. It also reflects some of the colour of the yarn around it, so I tried to extend that by spinning more foil, this time incorporating some cellophane. This has some potential. I’d like to try introducing lots of related colours around the foil in both warp and other wefts, plus bits of cellophane, and limit the foil to areas rather than across the width of the material. I’m thinking of light reflecting off water. In the backlit overall photo near the top it looks as if there’s some colouring of light coming through, but this isn’t so apparent in detail shots.

In this last section I tried spinning with newspaper. It creates a very matt surface, which could provide a useful contrast. There’s also a lot of visual texture and variation created by the glimpses of printed text and photographs, although nothing readable. I think this has potential as a background-with-interest. There are also conceptual possibilities in the choice of text or news story on the pages.
Finally there is cling-film wrap from the kitchen, and then bubblewrap. I just cut the clingfilm in half up its length and rolled it between my hands to form a “yarn”. The bubble wrap is a simple strip. Again my choice of weaving every other pick in black (the neoprene) gives a formality and rigidity. I don’t find the backlit view very interesting. It’s the reflections off the surface of the materials which adds light and life, displaying and taking advantage of the bubblewrap’s semi-spherical structure. Clearly (ho ho) the colour and texture of both warp and accompanying weft are very important.
For the last section of the weaving I was playing with ideas for the commentary that such materials could provide. You could create a sort of recycling diary – record all the waste materials that come into the house each week. Maybe just take junk mail for a period. You could sort by colour and weave patterns.
Not a line I’ll explore any time soon. Instead I think I now have enough distance and material to go ahead with the small sample required to complete this stage.

More reading about weaving

I recently wrote (posted 13-Oct-2012) about some classics of weaving literature. Yesterday I finished reading a more recent book – in fact published just a week or two ago. My tutor recommended it, but in a nice piece of timing it was already in the mail (from a pre-release order).

Warp & weft: Woven Textiles in Fashion, Art and Interiors by Jessica Hemmings presents a wide-ranging exploration of contemporary woven textile art and design. Almost all of the many (clear and good quality) photographs are labelled with details of warp, weft, type of loom, and often weave structure, but the book’s focus isn’t really the specific technicalities of weaving. Instead the book is organised in themes – Threads; Light; Motion; Sound; Emotion; Community – showing the incredible variety and innovation, the inter-disciplinary approaches of artists and designers who work in (or close to) weave today.
Hemmings also pushes boundaries, for example including Philip Beesley’s ‘Hylozoic’ series in her discussion of Motion. I took the photo on the left of Beesley’s work Hylzoic Series: Sibyl earlier this year during the Biennale of Sydney (see post of 8-Sept-2012). Seeing the original work was an wondrous, immersive experience – but I didn’t associate it with weave. However Beesley has identified woven structures as a basis for the series, partly developed out of dialogue with Warren Seelig.

Other examples are clearer to me, the artists/designers combining weave with other technology such as microprocessors, sensors, fibre optics and LED displays. A dress by Barbara Layne and Studio subTela has an LED display, using Bluetooth to send a text or graphics message to change the image. See subtela.hexagram.ca for other work developed by this team. There’s a lot of potential there, but at the moment it looks to me quite raw and clunky, which of course is normal in developmental work.

A number of the artists in the book refer to this point. Lise Frølund has a recurring goal of “the moment when complexity returns to simplicity” (page 76). The project illustrated in this book, a collaboration with musician Hanne Raffnsøe, used technology to interpret sound files in woven structure, and weave structure was converted back to music. While researching for this post I was interested to see that Frølund has also worked on connecting weave and light as well as sound – see www.lisefrolund.dk.

The potential of new, high-tech materials is an area of exploration for many of the artists and designers. Returning to my earlier point, Elaine Ng Yan Ling uses new materials such as shape memory alloy yarns and veneer constructs in her weaving, but the technology isn’t the focus – it’s not there because it’s new, in fact it isn’t new any more. It’s one of the carefully considered elements of the design.

Of interest to me in my course theme book work on Ageing, a number of the artists in the book use weave structures in a sequence of construction and deconstruction steps. For example Sue Lawty weaves with lead warp and weft, then uses a hammer to mark and fragment the material produced. A quote from Lawty: “The ambiguity of a corrupted structure is a real link with time, but there is a tension here between the stable longevity of lead and the vulnerable qualities of the woven fabric” (page 22). Elana Herzog staples woven cloth to walls, then tears away areas of cloth. A cloth is destroyed, but the remnants and grid of staples on the wall creates at least the appearance of a new cloth.

Experimentation with rust dyeing and with abrading cloth are on my to-do list for my final project. There are clearly connections here, but I will have to think further. There are more links in the section on Emotion, such as Liz Williamson’s Protection series which raises ideas of bodily protection  and possibly memory and identity. I’m partway through researching and writing a post on Liz for the course research point on textile artists, so more on her another day.

There are many, many other artists and avenues of work included in Hemmings’ book and I think it gives a good overview of the contemporary, exciting world of weave. Only time will tell which avenues lead to major new vistas of weave and which turn out to be cul de sacs. It’s in the nature of such books to be incomplete, so I’ll finish with a couple of links to the Fluid Fabric work of Nathan Johns: nathanjohns.info/review.html and an interview on the World Of Threads Festival site (thanks to Jane for sending a link to this site which has some amazing artist, and which is an amazing time sink!). Johns weaves with polyethylene tubing and transparent fishing wire. Coloured water and air is pumped through the tubing – beautiful and mesmerising.

Hemmings, J. (2012) Warp & weft: Woven textiles in fashion, art and interiors. London: Bloomsbury Publishing

Project 9 Woven Structures Stages 1 & 2

Stage 1 of this project is to set up a tapestry frame, with suggestions for using a picture frame or art shop stretcher frame. I decided to improvise using my four shaft table loom.
In standard use it would look like this – a frame with a roller at the back to hold the warp, a roller at the front to hold the new cloth, a castle protruding up which has levers to select which shaft/s (and therefore warp ends) to lift, and a beater/reed assembly that spaces the warp ends and is used to push each new pick of weft into place (hard to see in this photo). The photo is from a 5-feb-2010 post.

The loom was in a bit of a mess. The warp left over from a class last year with Jason Collingwood (post 23-Apr-2011) was still threaded and wrapped around the castle. The castle/shaft assembly simply lifts out of the frame, so that wasn’t a problem – but I couldn’t bear to waste that beautiful linen warp. It’s not the cotton suggested in the course notes, but it seemed a reasonable substitute.

This is the end arrangement. The linen warp I was “saving” wasn’t a continuous length. Instead of wrapping the frame as suggested in the course notes, I wound onto the warp beam and lashed onto the cloth beam as I would normally, but with castle and beater taken out of the frame. I used a shed stick and heading cord as in the notes, plus a heddle rod and continuous string heddles. That last part stung me – I didn’t cross-check on my memory, and didn’t set it up properly – there’s a really nice tutorial with photos and video on this link, from Laverne Waddington’s incredibly informative blog backstrapweaving.wordpress.com.

Stage 2 involved experimentation with basic tapestry weaving techniques. It’s 23 – 25 cm wide (yes, I had some draw-in 🙂 ) and 27 cm long. Things are rather crammed in and hard to see, especially in photos. Not optimal – I was very conscious of postal weight and costs, combined with the fact that the sample is all or nothing, I can’t select which parts to include in the package for my tutor. I also had trouble with colour in the photographs. All the full shots were particularly bad, and I ended up fiddling with the colour on the best. Most of the photos below are straight from the camera (apart from scaling), with some odd inconsistencies in colour. (I’m not counting the huge variations in the three photos above of the same loom sitting on the same bench. They were taken at different times in different lights using different cameras.)

I started with some lovely Hy-craft rug wool from Glenora Weaving (the red and orange) and a slightly thinner green wool. From bottom to top:

* base of all red;

* stripes of two picks green, two picks red, repeated;

* columns of one pick green, one pick red. An extra pick of red then back to one and one meant that the column colours changed;

* 3 picks green, one pick red gave a dotted effect, with the dots staggered rather than in columns;

* an area of curved wefts in green, orange and a little red. This involved weaving back and forward in small sections, creating shapes.

The next section got hidden in the overall photo. The weft is torn strips of cotton fabric, first in a couple of curved areas to get back to a straight fell line, then some plain weave. I love the way the pattern crushes up.

Next two picks of rug wool to firm things up, a row of soumak in the fabric, two more picks of rug wool and a row of soumak back in the other direction. It looks a bit like a plait laid on top of the tapestry. I like it very much. There’s pattern and texture and it looks somehow sturdy and self-contained, while also decorative and fun.

This wall of ghiordes knots is what hides the cotton fabric. Each knot is four lengths of rug wool, so eight cut ends or tufts, which is pretty bulky and assertive. I tried to get a graduation from orange to green across the width. I haven’t trimmed the ends so they are rather wild and uneven. That’s my default preference, unless there is a specific purpose or requirement that a more structured, formal line of knots would suit.

After a couple of stabilising picks of plain weave I tried a row of continuous ghiordes knots, this time four strands of the red rug wool.

It’s interesting that some of the loops sit a bit differently. I think I may have twisted the strands together a bit at some points, while at others they were sitting side by side in the knot. That could be a real trap in a larger piece, depending on the effect you want.

In this photo across the weaving you can see the actual green/orange knots at the base. It could be interesting to play with this, changing the side where the knot sits – either in single row of knots or in repeated rows.

This section is so much nicer in person. I bundled together 10 or 12 fine threads, all different reds. There’s some wool, 2 ply and singles, cottons and lots of anonymous bits. I tried soumak over four threads, at first over the full width of the weaving then in discontinuous areas.
I introduced a green bundle of threads, mixed in amongst the red. For some additional variety I used a mixture of soumak over two threads and over four threads. The mix of different colours in each bundle, some matt wool, some shiny mercerised cotton, gives a really lively, glowing effect. The relief texture produced by the soumak also adds interest and variety. I can see this being used in ocean colours to suggest ruffled water. Depending on proportions and colour choice it could be a background foil providing quiet interest, or an intense focal point.
Here I went away from the course requirements, on my own little adventure. On the right in the green is a slit in the plain weave where I wove in sections rather than back and forward over the entire width. Instead of neatly starting fresh at the bottom of each section I just carried the weft yarn down from the top of the previous section. Possibly a useful effect – some deeper shadow or even a gap from the slit, and the vertical instead of horizontal line of the yarn (good to have the variation in colour to enhance that). One could also use the loop of yarn to attach… something. On the left is a more extreme experiment. I’ve been fascinated by the yarn wrapping in Sheila Hicks’ work. Follow this link and scroll down to Zapallar to see what I mean (an aside – I just found that link, from the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, and I so, so, so much wish I could visit there).

Assuming most people don’t click through, as a poor substitute I’ve included a shot from my sketchbook, based on Hicks’ work. On this first attempt at wrapping I continued with carrying down thread from the previous column. It gives a variation in texture, but is a bit distracting and confusing visually. Some latter attempts in the sampler work better.

lace & finger manipulated sampler

While I’m off-track, I’ll add that this carry-down idea was based on spanish lace. The red/grey example is from August-2008. I’m pretty sure there is some of this in Anni Albers piece that I looked at yesterday. All to me very interesting, and another great way to add movement and space and variety to what is basically plain weave, but definitely out of scope for this project.

This next section is mostly variations of previous techniques. There are curved or eccentric wefts, this time in a variety of fabrics. I outlined each area with a row of soumak in rug wool. I really like weaving with fabric strips, but in this weft-faced tapestry I found it difficult to beat it down enough to cover the warp. The rug wool knots are nice and firm and keep things packed down. It also gives some nice definition to the shapes I was forming. While working I was thinking of rock strata – with the right fabric choice this could work really well.

On the right of the photo you can see another version of the wrapped warps. I love the possibilities for playing with horizontal and vertical, and dense areas with space. The row of orange soumak towards the top gives some lovely shadow and a little height. This was done over four warp threads, perhaps with a slightly looser tension, and give quite a different effect to the over-two-threads red below. The relatively smooth weaving in wool around it, rather than the textured fabric, also adds to the effect.

The sharp angle of green meeting orange is another off-project technique. It’s clasped or interlocking wefts. Kaz Madigan (curiousweaver.id.au) has some nice photos on how to do it here and a video tutorial here. There are also diagrams of some alternative versions in Albers’ book.

These three thumbnails show my attempt to experiment with fancy yarns. They are side by side near the top of the weaving. I’ve heard/read somewhere that fancy yarns are more effective if given some space – you see move of the texture if it’s contrasted to areas of non-texture. So with each yarn I first did single picks to get dots of colour and texture surrounded by green, then two picks in a row to get a line, then a row of soumak to get a heavy, raised line, then a row of continuous (uncut) ghiordes knots to get still more height and yarn showing. Clearly I didn’t leave enough open space around each section. In the photos it’s just a muddled mass/mess. Fortunately it’s possible when holding the sampler in your hands to cover up the surrounding bits and concentrate on a particular section, so it is still usable. The effects achieved are definitely different, and as always which you would choose to use depends of what you’re trying to do.

My final experiment used a more complex fabric and thread combination. I’ve enjoyed the height and springy-ness of organza in previous work in the course. This variation has two colours of synthetic organza. It looked a little dull and I was concerned that the colours might blend into blah while weaving, so I added some sparkle with four different metallic threads, everything wound together on a small stick shuttle. The first section is continuous, uncut ghiordes knots, since I thought that would give the space and height to really show off the organza’s oomph. In my eyes it worked well in a rather cheap-and-cheerful way. I’m thinking sunshine and sea-side rock (the boiled sugar confectionery).

Partway through I realised I hadn’t created enough “yarn” for a full row of ghiordes knots, so I finished with some simple loops. To do this you weave a pick, then with the shed still open use a knitting needle to pick up a loop of yarn each place the weft sits over the warp, then close the shed and beat gently with the knitting needle still in place supporting the loops. Obviously it’s all pretty unstable – there are no knots to keep the loops in place – so keep the knitting needle there for the next few picks and beat them down firmly. Different size needles will give different size loops, and of course you don’t have to pick up at every point – you could have a line that stops and starts or trails off…… ….. .. . . .     .
After all the above I’m reasonably happy with this sampler. I didn’t use a huge variety of wefts – that’s in the next stage. I think I stayed true to the general thrust of the project requirements, with just a few variations and additions that I learnt in “normal” (to me) weaving but that make sense in tapestry. Some of them worked (the final wrapped columns), others not so much (the spanish lace variants). I just need to keep pushing.

Resources:
Albers, A., (1965) On Weaving. Dover edition published 2003, an unabridged reproduction ed. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.
Simon, J and Faxon, S (2010) Sheila Hicks: 50 years, Andover, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy in association with Yale University Press

Reading about Weaving

Throughout this OCA course I’ve been looking forward to Project 9 with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. For the past several years weaving has been my textile focus/obsession – but this isn’t weaving as I know it. I’ve been warming up by re-reading a couple of classic weaving texts.

Weaving as an art form: A personal statement by Theo Moorman includes a lot of information about the weaving technique she developed and which is named after her. The Moorman Technique combines a ground weave with inlaid colour that is bound or tied to the ground using a separate fine warp. Finding tapestry too slow, Moorman looked for a less laborious way to weave dense, rich colour and texture.
I’ve briefly used the technique, in a class with Kay Faulkner (blogged 19-April-2010). The photo shows my sample and some notes. I’d like to try using this in parallel with some of the OCA exercises, but it would be additional to the requirements so I’ll have see how time goes.

Moorman’s book is about much more than her technique. There is her personal journey, together with her deeply considered thoughts on weaving as art, the challenges and the opportunities facing the modern textile artist (the book was published in 1975, but most of the ideas seem to me fresh and current). For example Moorman writes of textile artists “almost intoxicated” by the abundance of materials available – natural and manmade, traditional or found – and the need to maintain control lest an “undigested tangle of richness” or “strange and unorganized accumulation of trash” result, rather than the intended work of art (Moorman, page 8).

The design approach discussed includes careful observation, sketching, abstraction. I like the idea of exploiting as positives what could be seen as limitations in weaving – horizontal and vertical lines, imprecise linear patterns etc. I would like to see some of Moorman’s work closeup and in person. There are lots of photos in this little book, but many are black and white and/or distance views.

On Weaving by Anni Albers is another great read that makes me excited about the possibilities for self expression through weaving. Albers describes the history of weaving and the loom. She regards ancient Peru as the most accomplished textile civilization and one recurring theme of the book is that each technological development in looms may provide efficiencies in time and labour, but at the price of limiting the weaver’s freedom, control and flexibility.

Albers presents the fundamental constructions in weaving, and ways of modifying and combining them in limitless combinations. The individual characters of yarns and weave structures work together – or against each other – in the final textile.

This book takes a wide view of weaving, but there is a chapter specifically on tapestry. Like Moorman, Albers does not advocate tapestry as woven versions of paintings. Innovation within the natural discipline of the medium has the potential for expressive, persuasive art.

Although not the focus of the book, I find the illustrations of Alber’s own work very exciting. In the past I’ve tried to supplement my viewing of photos by working in my sketchbook (some examples looking at Sheila Hick’s work can be seen in sketchbook 5, link here). Following my tutor’s comment on not restricting myself to conventional drawing media, I tried extending my original sketch into a small weaving. In the photo you can see an illustration from Albers’ book in the bottom left (“Under Way”, 1963), part of my initial sketch, then on the lower right an attempt at a little weaving based on the original image.

Click on this thumbnail if you want a closer view of my experiment. Of course it’s not right in so many different ways – I won’t even start. On the other hand, my sketch is also very not right. Both helped me really take some time and look carefully at the photo, and a closeup on the next page. While working I kept thinking of Sheila Hick’s small works, almost a diary, trying different ideas and techniques. I’d like to try this sort of thing again.

Albers, A., 1965. On Weaving. Dover edition published 2003, an unabridged reproduction ed. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.

Moorman, T., 1975. Weaving as an art form: A personal statement. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

Project 8 Reflective Commentary

This project included some preparatory work analysing colour, texture and proportion (blogged 7-Sept-2012), then exploring the qualities of yarn (also blogged 7-Sept-2012), experimenting with structures  with paper weaving (blogged 13-Sept-2012), making braids and cords (blogged 16-Sept-2012), weaving inside a shape (blogged 22-Sept-2012) and weaving in a grid (blogged 27-Sept-2012). Overall I really enjoyed the work. I tried to challenge myself with materials used and generally keeping out of comfort zones – I’d rate it a moderate success on that.

My reflections on specific exercises can be read in the links above, but the course notes have a couple of specific questions:

Did you enjoy inventing constructed surfaces? Were you surprised at the results? Can you see a connections between your choice of materials and the types of structures you made – regular, irregular, small or large scale? Which samples worked best – why?

This assignment is much closer to textile work I’ve done in the past and I enjoyed it very much. I tried to approach each exercise with a fresh and open mind, very aware that even if in the past I have done something that seemed similar on the surface, the approach and purpose were quite different. For example last year I made a braid for a bag handle (blogged 30-June-2011). I wanted something strong that would not stretch and that complemented the handwoven material of the bag I had made. In this project I was making braids to express or contrast surface qualities such as sharp or bumpy or soft. Expression, not utility, was the goal.

On reflection I am surprised at how satisfying it was to work with some non-traditional materials and how effective some of those results were. I see myself as a bit of a fibre snob, but would now add weed trimmer line and fibreglass window screen as good materials in the right circumstances.

In some cases the choice of material determined the scale of the work. For example the rigid grid was made using wire heddles – a fixed size. At other times I worked to overcome or minimize a characteristic of a material. For example the weed trimmer line has a very strong curl. I ignored this when making yarn samples, and the resulting braids are still curved. The curl was impossible to ignore when trying to make a circle to weave in, and I eventually used the ironing press to control that characteristic. The scale of the paper strips when weaving made the original images, and their value, very important in the final results.

I think this paper weaving is particularly successful. There is good contrast in colour and value, and I like the movement achieved by cutting along the lines of the field boundaries in the hillside scene. This means that both images are readable individually, while still making an interesting pattern as a whole. The links and contrasts in the original photographs adds additional interest and meaning to the weaving.

The combination of shredded silver paper and acetate sheet also worked well. The unruly nature of the paper is still apparent even though ordered and controlled. The fragile paper is well supported by the acetate. I like the contrasts of texture – the acetate and paper are both shiny, but in very different ways.

On the left of this photo, the yarn made from fibreglass window screen is particularly effective in my view. I wanted to express “sharp”, and I think the result does look sharp and likely to cut. In fact it is quite soft and pliable.

The yarn on the right, which used blue weed trimmer line and a black pvc tie material, has  a nice contrast of visual density, for want of a better term. The pliable black wraps around and contains the transparent, fluid blue. There is lots of contrast in a coherent whole.

How accurate were you in matching all the colours in your postcard: with paints?; with yarns/other materials?

I was disappointed with my colour mixing in this exercise. I had been working in watercolours in my sketchbook and started with those, but was unable to get the intensity of colour needed. Matching colours with yarn was also difficult, given constraints of yarns available and the complexity of colour in some of my chosen images.

My preferred approach in the past has been more approximate, going with my emotions / imaginings (for example “autumn” or “hydrangeas“) rather than strictly matching a particular image. Intellectually I know the matching exercise is good skill development, but it doesn’t come easily to me.

Finally the course notes remind me to keep working in both sketchbook and theme book. Sketchbook work has continued most days, although I’m a bit behind in uploading it. However my tutor recently commented that sketchbook work doesn’t necessarily have to be in conventional drawing media, and that I should use whatever works best for me. I’m going to have to think about how to pursue this further.

My themebook has not progressed much lately. It’s hard to keep everything on the boil at once! So this is a good reminder that I need to balance time and effort, keeping all the different parts of the course moving along.

 


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