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.

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