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