When I set off for Complex Weavers Seminars three weeks ago I wasn’t at all ready, either for the travelling or for the weaving content. It was such a rush after the Open Studios that I barely managed to wash enough clothes to take with me never mind gather anything else together – like woven items for the fashion show or even my own thoughts. I consider it a triumph that I had both my passport and my toothbrush.
I didn’t travel the same route as Pat, but we arrived at Dulles at the same time and shared a shuttle to the 4H Center in Chevy Chase – only to turn round and head back out again about an hour later in order to visit the CW exhibition and hear the opening lecture of the conference. I fear I may not have taken much in… I did enjoy the exhibition but after half an hour was really wishing I could lie down in a corner and go to sleep.
My weaving head took a while to get switched on, but I was lucky in that the first class I had signed up for turned out to be a very tactile session on collapse weave with Marcia Kosmerchock – handling fabric samples is a much better recipe for wakefulness than watching PowerPoint slides. I had chosen my classes somewhat wildly (there are so many options that it is hard to make a final decision) but ended up with a good balance overall between theory and practice.
I can’t pick a favourite out of such a diverse bunch, but must give special mention to Norma Smayda’s class on 3-shaft weaves. She had tried far more weaves on three shafts than you would have thought possible and had examples of most of them, from subtle “lacy waffles” to bold and colourful blocks of overshot.
Before I left I hadn’t really formed an impression of the place I was headed to, but when I got there I realised that it wasn’t what I was expecting. The words “youth centre” conjure up for me something much more utilitarian than chandeliers and big squashy chairs.
(Sorry about the feet — it was far too comfy to move them just for the sake of a photo.)
Perhaps this is a transatlantic difference, or perhaps I was just the wrong kind of youth. Still, the food was more in keeping with the title: safe, hearty and lots of it, designed for the boy scout appetite. We were glad to slip out for dinner on our last night and go to a tapas bar recommended by Carla, a locally resident weaver. And glad to have a couple of bottles of good Spanish wine with our tapas too….
But mealtimes at the seminars are not really about the food, they are about the chat, and I really appreciated that the lunch and dinner breaks were long enough for proper socialising, not just a bite and a word between classes. This was my second CW seminars so I wasn’t a stranger this time but was able to greet people I had met before. It was lovely to be greeted too, even though the typical greeting was “Hi, Cally! Where are your pants?” (I would like to emphasise to UK readers that I did not go commando at the seminars; the pants referred to were these.) And there were lots of new folk to meet as well, including people in the same study groups as me whom I have only known by email up to now. If any of my old or new CW friends is reading this, Hello! It was lovely to see you.
The day after the last seminars we had a museum outing to Washington, DC. We had a guided tour and a talk scheduled at the Textile Museum in the afternoon but in the morning we had a free choice. I chose to visit the Renwick Gallery which I had never been to before. It is a short walk away from the Mall where the big museums and galleries all hang out together, but it was a lovely sunny day and Carla was on hand to guide us furriners to the right place.
There was an exhibition I particularly wanted to see called 40 under 40, i.e. the work of 40 craftspeople who are all aged under 40. It was a very well thought out exhibition, with lots of different crafts represented (glass, ceramics, wood, textiles etc) but grouped according to different themes rather than disciplines. There were those who were using novel materials, those whose work was focused on the useful rather than the decorative and vice versa, those whose work was politically motivated – quite a big section, this, and I got the impression from the notes about it that politics, and the politics of war in particular, is a strong theme in the work of the under 40 age group.
We couldn’t take photos in the show but I jotted down some names to look up later, so I’ll report back — but if you’re interested and want to get ahead then there seems to be a bunch of links and resources on the exhibition webpage.
Seminars, Museums and there was still more weaving goodness to come. Pat had arranged for us both to study for two days with Bonnie Inouye. Regular readers, and even erratic and infrequent readers, will probably have noticed that I often reference Bonnie in this blog. I am a devotee of many of her publications, including articles in magazines and on Weavezine as well as her book on multishaft design, so it was very exciting to be able to spend two whole days with her soaking up as much information as I could manage. As Pat noted, the data rate was very high!
We were learning about four-colour double weave. In this approach, rather than dividing the shafts on your loom into two groups (where each group controls one layer of the cloth) you use an extended parallel threading (hooray! my favourite!) so that the layers interact and change places. The “four colours” are simply the two layers of warp (A and B) and the two wefts (C and D) interacting to give you A +C, A + D, B + C and B + D, but in practice you can end up with many more subtle colours than this as you alter the draft. We had a lot of fun tweaking our designs and seeing how much difference a single stitching line could make.
We concentrated on designing different tie-ups and treadlings which is an approach that suits me very well. A couple of days earlier I had been to Marg Coe’s seminar on designing double weave liftplans, but because my loom has a mechanical dobby I am limited in the length of liftplan I can use. However, a tie-up which I can use back-and-forth is ideal – once I have the design I want in Fibreworks, it just takes a couple of mouse clicks to get it into the right order for treadling and that is what I need to peg.
Anyway, we made lots and lots of drafts and gradually got the hang of it. Bonnie is not only a very thorough teacher, she is also very patient! Colours were chosen to show the structure rather than to represent desirable combinations, so many were quite hideous on the screen. But there was one where I happened to pick colours which turned out to complement the design – these shapes look like pansies to me.
Besides all the designing in Fibreworks, we also wove several samples on Bonnie’s 24-shaft AVL.
This was a humungous treat for me! The only looms I have woven on other than my own are the little Harris workshop looms which they have at Bradford (and other places). I have never woven on a floor loom that isn’t a Louet – and only once on a Delta that wasn’t mine. It was very exciting to weave on something as different as this.
My favourite bit of the samples we wove is this little section here, where I was using two textured yarns – a chenille and a something-bumpy – and it produced these highly contrasting stepped bands of colour/texture, like rock strata.
Altogether that made seven consecutive days of input, so there is much to keep my thoughts occupied for the next wee while. But on day eight, Stuart flew out to join me and we went on holiday. Yay!