I’m working on a series of sculptural pieces that are woven in linen, each made specifically to relate to a piece of found metal. I then manipulate the cloth so that it responds directly to the metal: encasing it, wrapping it, slotting through it etc. The metal is then allowed to stain the weave where it is in contact with the rust, with the aid of seawater.
The first uses a metal pipe that I collected on Holkham Beach in Norfolk. The object is linked to the place in my mind because that is where I found it. It is therefore completely ‘of the place’ to me, even if the object has no other significant link to there: I have no idea what its history is prior to me picking it up.
The next piece takes a metal hoop as as starting point. The strip of tapestry weave sits gathered and looped within the hoop, extending either side.
The third piece is shown here just off the loom with its warp ends still waiting to be finished, but looking rather beautiful in their wild arrangement. There is a hole in the cloth, ready for its designated metal to slot into.
Each stage of the process is slow and to be savoured: the weaving by hand, beating each weft down to cover the warp; stitching each warp thread back into the weave; the staining of the cloth by the rusty metal as it dries.
At Easter I collected some mud from a tributary of the Severn Estuary, whilst down in Somerset. The tubs of this lovely mud have been sitting patiently in my studio, waiting for me to open them up and play with their wonderful smooth contents. I’ve been weaving away at a long strip for quite some time and this came off the loom last week. Although it was woven on a table loom, once off the loom I manipulated it so that most of it became densely packed, covering the warp in a tapestry weave structure.
This morning the strip was coated in the silky estuarine mud. Freshly muddied and still wet it has taken on a ceramic quality. It will dry slowly now and its surface quality will change as it does so. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the surface as it changes.
I’m developing some new work in the studio at the moment. I’m experimenting with various weave techniques and enjoying being back at a loom. I have a table loom that was rescued from going in a skip a few years ago. This spends most of its time sitting in my studio looking rather redundant but I’m making good use of it now. I’m preparing a series of samples, on which I will then experiment with other processes. I love the act of actually making a structure that becomes a fabric and I’m aiming to end up with some quite three-dimensional pieces… but that could all change.
I am also playing about with an inkle loom (shown above). When I acquired my Grandmother’s floor loom (currently sitting redundant, but maybe over the winter it will see some action) there came with it a whole load of paraphernalia, much of which I didn’t know what to do with. Sadly, Granny died before my career change and my professional interest in textiles developed so I didn’t get to share this interest with her. She spun wool and wove rugs on the loom I now have and I wish I’d had an opportunity to learn from her experience. I do have some of her rugs though, as well as a couple of her paintings.
One item amongst the box of wooden accessories I realised was an inkle loom and I’ve just been working out how to use it. I bought a book but this still wasn’t very clear and I realise how different it can be to learn something when you are shown what to do rather than trying to understand a written instruction. With the help of various online instructions and a couple of false starts I got the thing warped up and have started to weave on it. I even found Granny’s little heddles, made from some strong yarn, that had sat in amongst other things and I hadn’t realise what they were for. They’re still strong and now in use on the loom.
And as if those two looms aren’t enough, I’ve got a couple of tapestry frames on the go too for more samples.
I’ve been asked about the frame I’m using for my weave samples. Here is the full frame. The late-autumn light is not good for photographing things successfully at the moment and we’ve had some particularly grey days. My samples haven’t progressed as I’d have liked due to many other things happening but my frame and its narrow warps are slowly being populated by little investigations.
I’ve been using some of the string that bound previous rust bundles. These are variously dyed themselves so when they are woven they produce random stripes and mottles.
I am enjoying the discipline of weaving again. I have also put a first warp on the four shaft table loom I rescued earlier in the year so I’m switching between loom and frame. In both I feel that plain weave offers so much potential. I love the simplicity of it and the focus on the action, the repetitiveness, the discipline of achieving evenness and a straight edge. There is so much scope for exploring subtle texture and colour that I’m not sure I will ever tire of it. I admire complex weave patterns in others’ work but for now plain weave has enough to hold my attention.
I have, sitting on my kitchen table, a lovely four shaft table loom.
I rescued it from going in a skip at my kids’ school yesterday and still can’t quite believe my luck!
It is in need of a little care and attention: one of the strings that lifts a shaft is frayed and almost broken. But really it is in pretty good condition and I wonder how long it has been sitting in a store room un-used and un-loved.
While I’m talking about studio equipment, let me introduce you to my new printing press: I bought this just before moving house and it has been wrapped up ever since, waiting for the studio to be sorted enough and set up to use it. I’m hoping it won’t stay this shiny for long!