Thursday, 19 January 2017

Weaving and learning and being flexible

For some time now, I've wanted to extend my weaving knowledge so that I can vary the effects in my woven pieces. I've been working with weaver friend Rebecca Conolly at her studio in the peaceful village of Calmesden in Gloucestershire - a triple pleasure then - seeing a friend, visiting a lovely place and developing my weaving skills. What more could I want?

I have always imagined I preferred to weave tapestries rather than to produce lengths of cloth that use complicated and intricate weave structures because I thought it was all too mathematical. Through talking to Rebecca about ways to increase the techniques I use in my work, I've come to realise that variety can be achieved in many ways - including some (simple versions) of those dreaded weave structures!


In tapestry weaving, the warp threads (attached to the loom and generally running vertically) are usually purely structural. All the colour and texture that creates the design comes from the weft threads that are threaded through the warp as you weave. Since you see only the weft threads in the finished piece, this sort of weaving is described as weft-faced and can be seen in the plain red stripes in the small sample above. The vertical warp threads are in yellow and can be seen in the rest of the sample.


First of all, at Rebecca's suggestion, I worked a weft-faced sample where I varied the number of warp threads I wove over, and alternated the colour I used. In the sample above, I worked (from bottom to top) a small area of plain weave; several rows taking the weft over two warps at a time; then displaced this by one warp; then a small section of twill; and finally, I worked a simple plain weave, alternating two colours with each pick (row) of weft. It was fascinating to see the different effects I could produce with such simple changes.

Rebecca then introduced me to the idea of balanced weave where both warp and weft are visible on the surface with the suggestion that it might offer interesting effects for me. This was also further developed in a one day workshop with Rebecca that I went to at the newly-opened workshop space in Cirencester called The Bothy. During this session we worked on balanced weaves through back-strap weaving (more about this in a later post). Since talking to her, I've also been exploring possible effects on my small table loom. A sample is given below.


In order from the bottom in the sample, I worked mostly balanced weave: where both warp and weft were made using the same mixed yards passed through the loom together; then the same using different colours in warp and weft; a small section of weft-faced weave for contrast; a grid produced by weaving double threads of blue alternating with a single thread of green (especially effective?); then four areas where double threads were alternated with two picks of single; and finally a section where light and dark threads were twisted together before being wound onto the shuttle which produced an interesting diagonal effect.

Throughout all this, I've been trying to exploit the elements that seem to suggest patterns found in modern high-rise architecture. I think there is much potential here ... I will post further as I work more samples.

If you're new to all this and want further explanation, this abounds on YouTube such as here or can easily be found by googling tapestry weaving.


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

On the Doorstep

After listening to a talk today about using the local environment as inspiration for textile artwork wherever you may be, I came home and thought ... and searched through my many photographs of local hedgerows and trees to see what, if anything, would inspire me. I came up with this random selection, all of which I have begun to manipulate in Adobe Photoshop, turning them to monochrome.

First of all, two photos from just down the road ...




And then one from a little further afield, on Marlborough Downs ...


These are early thoughts for a new approach to using black and white and my photographs. They may lead nowhere, be cropped and abstracted, or worked as is. Time will tell. 

Meanwhile, back to the work from last year. There is so much more that I want to do, many ideas undeveloped or, as yet, unresolved. 

The New Year blues have evaporated. Why did I fret?









Saturday, 7 January 2017

New Year Blues

Every year about this time, I have a gentle attack of new year blues ... the weather is generally dismal and often cold with little inducement to be outside (this year certainly), there's the anti-climax after the end of the Christmas festivities with family all gone home, and then there's the general malaise following a prolonged time off from creative activities which keep me mentally alive and busy during the rest of the year.

This year, things seem to be worse than usual as I have no unfinished stitch or weaving pieces to fall back on while I decide on the next steps. All were completed either before the exhibition at the beginning of November or while I was making Christmas cards.

Those cards, although a pleasure to do, have a different feel altogether from my usual work as I'm tightly constrained by size (whatever cards are available from the local Hobbycraft store as other suppliers seem too time-consuming to source), the requirement to work to a tight time-scale, and also the need to repeat the same design over and over again with very little change. After the initial design decisions, it's onto a production line, usually with little time to evaluate and think again.

All this means I'm at a bit of a loss and I've almost forgotten what it feels like to create 'one off' pieces with time for reflection. So now, I'm asking myself, 'Where on earth do I go next?'

I have some general thoughts about developing further the black and white work from photographs begun at the beginning of last year and I want to continue to develop my weaving skills to incorporate more sophisticated techniques into my tapestry pieces. This all sounds very purposeful, but for some reason I still feel unable to begin.

I think then, it's time to get out my sketch books and interrogate my photographs and then play and see where this leads me. Maybe some of these little morsels from my digital store will inspire me?

Thoughts of pattern to be taken in little snippets (though something in the detail has been lost here in reproduction) ...


As a contrast, solid shapes randomly broken up by time (and some colour!) ...


Interesting contrasts in structure and line ...


And perhaps a look back to last year ...


This short session playing with random images has fired a few thoughts so, perhaps all is not lost after all!

Who else has the same new year feeling? I'd be fascinated to know ... and to hear how you get yourself back on the rails again.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Trees, Frosts, sunsets ... and no snow!

We have no snow, in fact we’ve had none this winter so far except for a few wet flakes on the Marlborough Downs on Sunday afternoon as we returned home from New Year celebrations with friends near Salisbury. In the main, here in the south of the UK, we have to make do for our winter pleasures with a dusting of hoar frost night and morning.

Today was a beautiful, clear winter's day. It began with a hard frost and a gently misty sky – gratifying for those of us who enjoy such a hint of real winter, and lovely for photos, no doubt, but we were too preoccupied with the post-Christmas and post-moth tidy up to go out. That had to wait until this afternoon when we ventured out for shopping.

The drive home in early evening brought a wonderful red sunset with streaks of cloud and carefully placed tree silhouettes. We stopped several times so I could take photos with my iPhone (I’d gone out unprepared for such a lovely sunset - so, no proper camera).




And there's more hard frost and clear skies promised. Maybe I'll have time for early morning photos tomorrow ...


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Cards and Tags

To go with the printing I showed in a previous post, here are some of the cards which resulted and the tags which used left-over paint and paper ends for labelling family presents. I had intended that these would appear on my blog before Christmas but preparations for the arrival of the family took over and there was no time for blogging in any form.



I now look forward to catching up with all those of you I visit regularly and whose blogs I enjoy so much. Now New Year is past, tomorrow it will be back to looking ... and designing and making. I can feel ideas stirring.

It's not a bad life!

PS (an update!) for some of the cards and for the tags, I printed the block randomly all over large A2 sized 300 gsm cartridge paper and then cropped out sections that appealed to me with a a shaped window / view finder. It's a technique I use a great deal as I like the unplanned, slightly 'accidental' nature of the resulting prints - and also the way the images extend off the page.


Friday, 30 December 2016

Making useful things

I often say that I never make anything useful and, in the main, that is true. However, before Christmas, I added a fourth stocking to the family collection for the youngest member of the family. He is in fact almost three but for various reasons I'd failed to complete his stocking in time for last Christmas and, as is the way of things, once Christmas was over, I hadn't given stocking-making a thought. Fortunately, my conscience nagged at me this time and I got down to making his version of the family pattern quite early this year.


They are easy to make and for obvious reasons, all slightly different. Each has the child's initial sewn on in felt to ease identification in the ceremonial hanging up ready for Father Christmas' arrival on Christmas Eve and in the frantic rush of excitement on Christmas morning. 


It is a lovely time which is photographed each year to record the children's growing up. This year, the occasion was not in the slightest bit diminished by the fact that the oldest grandchild had (no surprise) worked out the prosaic truth. She, fortunately, did not spill the beans and the younger ones were able to enjoy the myth in all its glory!