Archive for the 'Weaving' Category

Reading: Bauhaus weaving theory

Smith, T. (2014) Bauhaus weaving theory: From feminine craft to mode of design. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

I found this a difficult book to read. It’s academic writing, with lots of references to ideas and philosophies and people and work that I don’t know, using words that I don’t know or know only in a more general sense, not the precise-in-this-field sense.

It was also difficult because of my expectations, my desires. I want to find a compelling reason for hand weaving today. Not a joy of craft or handmade functional/wearable item way, but an expressive or conceptual way in which weaving provides unique perspective or insight. That may seem narrow, or a backwards approach, it may combine with other things or develop or change out of all recognition as I progress in my studies, but to me today “weave” seems to contain more, to offer more, to have more in processes and materials and metaphors and allusions and human history, than any half lifetime could explore. So a “weaving theory” – what answers would I find in weaving theory? None really for my personal quest, not in Bauhaus weaving theory. After reading this book I have more questions – which in the long run is probably more valuable.

Smith’s book begins with the original manifesto for the Bauhaus published by founder Walter Gropius – an art-craft unity, joining “practical and scientific areas of work” (p. xiv). Weaving was there at the start, and continued throughout the Bauhaus history. And the weavers wrote about their work. “Through texts that explored weaving’s material elements, loom practice, and functional applications, a Bauhaus theory of weaving emerged” (p xv).

Their early weavings were “pictures made of wool” – not taking advantage of weaving’s specific nature, but translating other media, in particular painting. Later Anni Albers “argued that weaving’s processes, structures, and materials are best explored through direct experimentation on a loom” (p xvii). New fabrics were created from experiment, using advantage of what the medium weaving could offer.

The book explores the changing goals of Bauhaus, driven by individuals, politics and economics. Gender issues are explored. In 1922 weaving generated significant revenue, more than any other workshop at Bauhaus. However its status was low – “As the social and economic history of textiles haunted the Bauhaus weaving work, the textile medium, it seems, was dismissed as mere labor, as ornamental form without ‘intuition’, whose ‘inner sound’ could only ever ‘simulate internal necessity'” (p 32).

As time passed the Bauhaus developed a functionalist rather than expressionist approach. The weaving workshop responded. “At once modernist, or insistent on the distinctness of this thing and its space of practice, and acknowledging a specifically modern civic identity … early weaving theory joined together the rhetoric of functionalism, modern marketing, and the new women’s movement” (p 44). “Color and form as an abstract, autonomous terrain of inquiry remain integral to the object, even as it shifts toward use. Utility and formal concerns occupy the same matrix” (p 67).

By 1931 Gunta Stölzl in her writing “declares that there is a rhetorical cleavage between … the development of textiles for use in interiors (prototypes for industry) and speculative experimentation with materials, form, and color,” she also insists that any ‘cleavage’ between utility and experimentation is also bound within the very structure of the woven prototypes” (p 67). [By this stage the theory is definitely moving away from my own agenda – but I wonder, what is the modern day’s art rhetoric?].

The third chapter of the book, “The haptics of optics: weaving and photography” struck some resonances for me, beginning with “tactility”, which for me is one of the great strengths and interests of textiles generally. “The Bauhaus weaving workshop explored the possibilities of color and formal composition through the interlacing of threads, tacitly placing it in comparison to painterly composition and architectural function. Yet the specific palpability of threads and cloth surfaces required a new set of terms” (p.79). Photography, able to show the “intimacy”, the textured detail, the tactile nature of a fabric, provided a new language.

Previously I thought “haptic” was to touch as “optic” is to sight, but here I learnt it is more. Otti Berger “through a subtle and perhaps counterintuitive response to photography, … insisted on the tactility of different materials (the smoothness of silk or the roughness of jute, for instance) as well as the fabric’s contact with the kinesthetic movements of the body within architectural space (with curtains or upholstery fabric)” (p 81). Berger “queried the limits of the visual as modernism’s prized term of formal inquiry” (p 84). There is space and movement within haptic – is this part of the unique perspective or insight I am seeking? Moving beyond the visual to incorporate other senses? (I’m reminded of Hiromi Tango – see 30-Oct-2014).

Smith continues to examine Berger’s work in the next chapter Weaving as invention: Patenting authorship. In a traditionally anonymous field, Berger sought acknowledged authorship of her textile designs. Her initials appeared on sample books. She took out patents on innovative work. “Berger was not the typically creative author-artist – at least insofar as that would have signaled the deep recesses of her inner life, the projection of her soul onto her work. But neither was she the anonymous factory laborer” (p 111). Berger was an inventor. Smith explores ideas around the inventor as author, the anonymity of textiles, a link back to gender.

It was in the final chapter, Conclusion: On weaving, on writing that I lost my tenuous grip on Smith’s arguments. “Recall that the Bauhaus weavers, in their practice and in their essays on their craft, absorbed the languages of other media. In their wall hangings, for example, the weavers adopted the formal principles of expressionist painting; in their workshop’s prototypes for architectural textiles, they assumed the functionalist vocabulary of the Neues Bauen; for their fabrics found in Neue Sachlichkeit photographs and glossy magazines, they considered the limits of optical and tactile perceptions; and within patent documents, one weaver sought intellectual property protection for her textile inventions” (p 141), seems a good summary of earlier chapters. Much that followed was beyond my grasp. The subtleties of “media” or “mediums” are clearly important, but I don’t have the background knowledge to appreciate them. “Weaving is not just a set of processes: it is also, as I’ve indicated, a certain mediation of the semiautonomous zones of form and history” (p 172) I want to understand, I suspect is relevant to my own inquiries. The following sentence, “Textiles are so overtly bound up in the modes of production that define precapitalist and capitalist societies, and the gendered problematics that circumscribe labor, that they are rarely called ‘art'”, seems to point to areas I have been keen to avoid in my thinking, that I want to move beyond.

So yes, a difficult book. It began as a doctoral dissertation, and it shows. There is nothing wrong with either of those things. I’ve learnt from this book and I’m convinced there is much, much more I could learn. I just need to work up to it.

ArahPaint

This morning I’ve been playing with ArahPaint, free software designed as “a drawing tool, which helps textile designers in editing pictures in repeat” (from the User Manual). It’s intended to support the first step in designing jacquard woven fabrics, but I was thinking of stamping and printing.

First some links:
http://avlusa.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/new-program-arahpaint-free.html The AVL blog which alerted me to the software. It has direct links to the software download, user manual etc.
http://www.arahne.si/The Arahne website. Their main product is weaving software for jacquard and dobby looms, and there’s also a draping or texture mapping program which looks complicated but fun (there are demos for both, but I don’t think they’re open source).
http://www.gimp.org/ Gimp is my preferred image manipulation software (also free). I found myself swapping between gimp (to adjust my basic image) and arahpaint (to produce pattern repeats) and it worked pretty smoothly. The windows snipping tool came in handy too.

p4s4_02I used a design based on a shell, from A Creative Approach (sketchbook here and blog post 11-Feb-2012). A few of this morning’s new patterns are in the slideshow below.

I didn’t get into the details of ArahPaint, just tried the things that worked without too much trouble. A few times either the program or I got confused, which was generally solved by starting a new image, closing and reopening the software, or getting a cup of tea. With my gimp experience most things worked pretty much as I expected, and the User Manual helped out.

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Overall a very useful tool which I will explore further when a project suggests itself.

Jennifer Boldt, OCA postgraduate student and weaver

Jennifer Boldt, a postgraduatestudent of the Open College of the Arts (OCA) from Chicago, Illinois, has been shortlisted in the 3rd International Emerging Artist Award (OCA press release here).

Jennifer’s website: http://jenniferboldt.com/

Jennifer’s work is an exciting, contemporary, use of weaving. This is absolutely the sort of work or approach to work that I want to get to. Even more exciting is that she has chosen to be a student at OCA. The undergraduate course doesn’t seem to have much specifically focused on constructed textiles and I sometimes wonder if my OCA studies are a diversion, an interesting sidetrack. Asked and answered?

Workshop – Silk Tapestry

!!!!!Textile content!!!!!

silk_tapestry01silk_tapestry02silk_tapestry03silk_tapestry04silk_tapestry05silk_tapestry06silk_tapestry07I had a wonderful day yesterday learning to make small silk tapestries. The class was taught by Marie Clews and Yvonne Eade (see some of her work in my post 2-Mar-2013), and organised by ATASDA.

It was a really nice group of seven students. I thought it might be a relaxed, chatty sort of day, but apart from the breaks we were all very quiet and focused on our work.

We worked on canvas stretcher frames and wove 20/2 silk using a needle. The warp width was 5 cm and most of us chose to weave slightly less to keep a rectangular shape.

I am very excited about the possibilities with this – results with relatively small time investment; it’s small and portable, unlike most weaving; 20/2 silk is one of my favourite yarns and I’ve got lots of colours I’ve dyed in the past (for example see post 28-Jan-2011); it’s weaving!; although I haven’t done tapestry weaving before, I think some of the ideas learnt from a rug weaving class with Jason Collingwood (see 23-Apr-2011) may be adaptable, and there’s lots more learning potential; the results could be taken further with beading, stitching, etc; I’ve already started thinking about lots of applications as special little elements in a work.

On the right are all our results – unfortunately I didn’t make notes of names! Pretty little things, aren’t they 🙂

Edited later to add: I can’t believe I wrote “I haven’t done tapestry weaving before”. There was just Project 9 of Textiles 1: A Creative Approach (see for example my post 14-Oct-2012)! Ahem. It will be interesting to try some of those techniques on a smaller scale.

 

Project 9 Stage 4 – part 2

See my post of 6-Nov-2012 for the initial work on this stage. It was fairly well progressed, but with a major question mark about how well I could create shapes in the planned scale of the weaving plus a big gap in process with no yarn wrapping done.
The first question was resolved pretty easily. I put on my cotton warp and did a quick, temporary sample with the yarn bundles already developed. The angular shaping I wanted worked quite well and with a fairly wide sett I was able to get good coverage of the warp with my yarn bundles. (I just left the un-needed warp ends pushed to the side).
Encouraged by this I went on to do a full yarn wrapping. This photo shows the original photo combination, the wrapping, plus a separate card to help me reproduce the yarn bundles. Clearly some of my colour mixes are quite different to the photo.
Maybe they didn’t match the printed photo, but what about the photo on my computer screen, other photos from the island, and most importantly colours in my head from having been there just a few weeks ago? There are different colours in a couple of the build-up sketches I did where I had stepped away from the original images into a more geometric arrangement. Add into all of that the colours that I think will look good together in a woven piece. My choice was to regard the photos as part of the inspiration and a guide, but not a “source of truth”. This turned out to be an ongoing battle during the weaving – holding on to my rather abstracted design and not reverting to a more literal approach.
The finished work is about 41cm by 12 cm. It’s irregular in shape, but that’s less apparent in real life. Also the orange areas at the bottom are strong but don’t shout as they do in the photo.
Generally I’ve been able to get the diagonal lines that I wanted. The image is more recognisable than I intended. I think the mixing of the yarns bundles worked well. At a distance there are clear blocks of colour (except for a mid-blue group in the middle below the point which is indistinguishable from the slightly darker blue to its left). Close up there is lots of interest when you can see the individual colours. Close or distant, the mixing provides good texture that works for both the granite and the water. I chose not to add any extra textural elements with soumak – it would have been out of scale and I think an awkward interruption to the main image. Plus it would be technically difficult – at times I had four weft bundles working at once, all creating different diagonals, and that was quite enough to think about.
It was interesting to experience the impact of the preparation process. The early part of the weaving went fairly easily, even though I was still learning technique. However I hadn’t fully resolved the shapes around the rockpool in any of my sketches, largely because I didn’t have the experience to know what I would find possible in practice. In the event I was able to get some nice shapes – in particular that triangle of blacks and greys coming in from the left.
The area near the top has a couple of horizontals, particularly the shore line of the distant island. This makes the work much more readable as an image and horizontals in the water were part of my original plan. On balance I like the variety it gives – but it would be interesting to see a version that continued diagonals throughout.
This photo shows the inspiration photo, the final work and the sketch which first showed me how I could use the inspiration in a piece of weaving. To me it illustrates a bit more clearly my reasons or process in moving quite far from the photo colours, particularly in the foreground granite and lichen.
The course notes have questions on specific areas of the project at this point.
* Variety of yarns and other materials, and impact on look and feel of samples.
In the early stages (posted 14-Oct-2012) I used a variety of “standard” yarns – wools, bundled yarns, fancy knitting yarns and torn strips of cloth. In my larger sample in stage 3 (posted 21-Oct-2012) I re-purposed materials from hardware and jewllery-findings stores, plus spun various papers and kitchen goods. My final sample from that stage (posted 26-Oct-2012) was largely newspaper, neoprene and insect screen. The sample from stage 4, shown in this post, returned to more traditional yarns – a wide variety of natural and man-made yarns bundled together. To my surprise weaving accepts, accommodates, tames and unifies them all. There is beautiful visual texture from the newspaper, forming my pebbly beach. Creating the yarn bundles above posed different challenges to spinning newspaper, but the results were just as effective in their own way in suggesting a rugged shoreline. In my weaving in the past the specific materials were critical – for example the combination of 20/2 silk and a laceweight Cashmerino (70% merino, 30% cashmere) in a deflected doubleweave scarf (posted 25-Oct-2009) to create a beautiful texture by taking advantage of their different properties in washing. I wouldn’t want to wash any of these new weavings!
* Weaving compared to other techniques.
This was not weaving-as-I-knew-it, but I still found it very enjoyable and absorbing. I love the whole idea of creating cloth; that the image or pattern is integral to the very substance of the result, not just added in or painted on. It seems more personal, more thoroughly an expression of my self. It could be seen as slow, but french knots are slower. It could be seen as repetitive, but especially with this style of weaving I was making decisions and watching for possibilities all the time – although in honesty I enjoy the repetitive, alert meditation of “standard” weaving. It has its limits, as does everything – for example I abandoned my ideas about grasses on a beach. I’m really looking forward to combining weaving with other techniques more.
* Aspects of the final sample.
The quick answer is that I like it very much. The proportions work well with the diagonal design and the depth of image that I wanted. I think the textures work well, and there is a variation that supports and enhances the design. The lumpy, uneven shape is distracting – a combination of poor technique and differences in thickness of the yarn bundles, plus my choice of equipment could be a factor. I wouldn’t want to change the yarn bundles, but better technique, experience and slowing down a bit could help. There’s an area just below the outcrop of rock where I intended different shapes, but my yarn choice was poor and two of the shapes merge. The fix there is clear! Also as mentioned above it would be interesting to try a version that stepped further from the original image into a more pure play of colour and angles.
* Design process.
It’s quite clear to me that I got a better result by attending to the design process. I did _not_ want to do the yarn wrapping. I felt I had done a few trials and that going further would be just a formality with no particular benefit. Instead I found it helped me to focus and identify problems in my initial yarn bundles. Based on the wrapping I made a number of improvements as I went. One that didn’t work was in the blue area already mentioned. With hindsight I should have done a second wrapping or adjusted the first until I was completely happy. At the time I felt I was getting stale and would loose enthusiasm for and interest in the actual weaving.
* Working from source material versus putting colours together intuitively.
In the past I have thought of a theme (say “hydrangeas”), looked through some photos, but made the actual yarn choices from memory and emotion rather than carefully analysing source material. In the final sample I enjoyed the hybrid approach (apart from concerns about not meeting the assignment brief). Careful experimentation and planning allowed me to refine choices and correct mistakes. That didn’t work entirely, but I think I prefer to risk a few mistakes (aka learning opportunities) rather than rigidly locking in choices and not having the flexibility to respond to the work in front of me. There were some colour problems in both my final sample and the seaweed/stoney beach sample – but I think experience will help me avoid similar problems in the future.
Re-reading the above, I see quite a bit of conflict in my responses. Do a second wrapping to refine colour choices, but risk errors to allow flexibility. Well, I’ve long thought that consistency is over-rated. More seriously, I feel there is enjoyment and risk in both approaches. I wouldn’t want to rule out either.

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.


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