I’ve been quiet here, but I’ve not been quiet everywhere! Over the last couple of months I have been ‘guest blogging’ in a few different places, so I thought I’d share some links here.
Over on the Applied Arts Scotland blog I wrote a post about the Shift Canada residency and how that work has evolved since we first started. We’re actually inching towards the end of that project now, with a revised exhibition date planned, so I hope I’ll soon be sharing more concrete information. And I’m excited that we will be sharing the finished work online – I think you’ll enjoy it.
My work with Jen on the Aural Textiles project has been on pause for a little while, but we recently met up online to kick things off again. I have added a new post to the project blog describing some of our design experiments.
Finally, Craft Scotland invited me to contribute to their online Craft Journal by reflecting on my experience of making during lockdown. Although the interview was a few weeks ago, its publication this week is quite timely. Here in Scotland many restrictions are being re-imposed or tightening up, and suddenly the winter ahead looks long and dark. I wonder whether I’ve learned what I need to sustain me?
This time last year I was at the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, taking part in CLOTH#19. This year I was planning to repeat the excursion for CLOTH#20, but… we all know how that story goes.
Instead of packing up and going home, however, CLOTH has gone online and international. So now you don’t need to be in Edinburgh to visit – though there is a small exhibit at the Dovecot if you can get to it – but can drop in and say hello from anywhere in the world. There’s an amazing line-up of textile makers at CLOTH Online and I’m honoured to be part of it.
I’m also extremely relieved. The event is linked to my Bonny Claith website, where I sell my handwoven scarves, and it failed catastrophically earlier this week (taking my relationship with my hosting company crashing down with it).
By Wednesday I was getting desperate, and decided on a drastic plan B. I pressed the big red button on the old site and started over with a new domain on a new hosting provider. Thus for the time being, my site is a .com rather than a .co.uk – and you can find it here – but the old link will also take you through to the new venue. I may well end up keeping both.
This site, however, is still with Old Host. I need to work out what I am going to do about that, once my stress levels have returned to baseline. If you tried to access it this past week then you may have noticed it was acting strangely. On Friday they did finally apply some remedial action, so at least I am able to come here now and write this post! Do head over and take a look at CLOTH if you can. The directory will still be there after this weekend, so you’ll know what to bookmark for your Christmas shopping.
On Friday weavers around the world learned the very sad news that Sandra Rude had passed away in the early hours. She was a lovely person, an excellent weaver, and an inspiration to many of us. Sandra’s articles on interleaved threadings in the Complex Weavers Journal were a foundational resource for me, and she was always so generous with her knowledge.
Sandra contacted me to ask whether she could use these images as the basis for some Jacquard weaving. She was a year or two into her Jacquard journey at that time, and was exploring different approaches to design and to finishing. It was fascinating to follow the transformation from photo to weaving as Sandra documented it on her blog. You can see the completed work here.
The original piece was sold, but the last time I saw Sandra in person she quietly handed me my own woven image as a surprise gift. It was one of the other photos in the series and I hadn’t even realised she had woven it. It is a beautiful work and something I treasure.
Quiet generosity, exceptional weaving. This little story sums up my experience of Sandra. I will miss her.
Do you remember that game? You take it in turns to tell a story round a group of people, and each contributor has to begin (alternately) with ‘Fortunately…’ or ‘Unfortunately…’ The story rapidly becomes quite surreal as our hero lurches from catastrophe to rescue to disaster to triumph to failure to intervention and on and on.
These days, whenever someone asks me how I’m doing, I struggle to frame an answer that doesn’t sound like a round of Fortunately Unfortunately. On the one hand, I am acutely aware of all the good fortune I enjoy: a safe and comfortable home; my favourite human and feline companions as my lockdown buddies; a loom and a project to work on; ability to connect with friends and family around the world. But hot on the heels of the fortunately, comes the unfortunately: all the things that are unravelling, both for me personally and in the bigger picture.
Lately, for instance – as if they are feeling the pressure too – random household appliances have started breaking down, just as repairing them has become a wild game of chance. Even in easier times, I am not a person who likes to buy a new thing (other than a new loom, of course) when I already have an old one. Indeed, I consider anything under twenty years old to be the ‘new’ whatever-it-is, and was startled to realise that my Kenwood mixer (RIP) did not in fact fall into that category. The jury is still out on what will happen re the mixer. In the meantime we have established a way of holding the oven door shut with a stick, but we did draw a deep breath and order a new printer to replace the inert lump of plastic that was sitting next to the computer, because neither of us could get our work done without it. My hope is that we can get the older ‘new printer’ repaired later for use in the studio – if I still have a studio, in the post-covid world.
Under the ‘Fortunately’ heading, I can at least file my current weaving project. When I last posted about it, I was still working out the details of the design. It took me a long while to pin down exactly how to proceed, so finally getting started at the loom was a big relief. I don’t know about you, but I find I think much more clearly about weaving when I am weaving.
The knotted pile makes this a slow weave: I’m giving myself the routine of weaving about 18 cm a day. The pile doesn’t cover the whole piece, but tracks across the fabric in long lines. It looks a bit mad, but it’s madness with method in’t. You can trust me on that or not as you choose!
Things have changed dramatically even in the short time since I warped up the Eeva, ready to start working on the Shift Canada project. Lockdown has thrown everyone into a world we don’t quite know how to navigate, and it has taken a few days for life to fall into new patterns.
I’ve learned that, although I am accustomed to the shapelessness of working from home, I depend on the regular to-ing and fro-ing of S to give my week its rhythm. Now that we are in shared confinement, I mostly have no idea what day it is.
As for socialising, though, my life has lurched in the opposite direction. My usual solitary state has been overturned as my diary has filled up with scheduled coffee break chats with friends and colleagues. Online meetings have also been in greater abundance as projects need to be reconsidered and deadlines renegotiated. This has inevitably involved more grieving for plans that cannot be realised as intended, but also a strong sense of solidarity and shared gratitude that (i) we are safe and well and (ii) we have opportunities to do things we weren’t expecting.
It’s all kept me pretty busy and I haven’t been at the loom as much as I expected. However, there’s obviously no need to rush…. I mentioned that the Shift Canada deadline was approaching, and it still is, but from a much greater distance. This has given me more time to develop my ideas in detail using Photoshop, a process which is still quite new to me.
I’ve already completed a sample warp and know a lot about how I want to continue. The final piece will involve rya knotted fabric scraps (which are themselves the product of a recycling process) and I have determined how dense I want the knots to be, and hence where they will need to be worked into the structure. The ground cloth itself will be woven in a broken twill, which I like for its integrity and the contrast between warp- and weft-faced variants. So that the piece will be suitable for the next stage of the project, I am planning to use warp- and weft-faced broken twill to create a background ‘grid’ in the cloth.
The grid will be completely independent of the pattern made by the knotted fabric, and this is where I have been using Photoshop. As I am not used to working at these two different scales simultaneously, I am doing quite a bit more planning than usual, and in more detail. I need to develop the liftplan for the ground cloth, but also to visualise the layer of pile over it. I was drawn to using a honeycomb structure, so I made an attempt at a few different versions of this, from strictly geometric to more organic hexagonal shapes.
I really like the textured weave this creates, but it is not right for this project. I’ve gone back to an earlier and simpler idea, which worked well in the sample warp, and have been putting in the Photoshop-hours to really nail it down. Eventually I’ll get back to the loom…
* This hexagonal grid was created in Adobe Capture, which is one of my favourite apps for messing around. The base image is literally a photo of the back of my phone’s case, folded back and pressed over the camera so that the light just seeps in at one corner.