Like shooting stars, the grasses at the side of the path catch my attention. Their seed heads are full and heavy. July has been hot and very dry here in Zuid Holland. Time slips by in a heady rush of end of term activities, a summer holiday feel and plans for travel further afield. We wait with bated breath to see if everything can go ahead. The studio has been tidied and the loom waits quietly; it is dressed with a linen warp, poised to be woven after the holidays.
The story of a scarf: a commission
I was recently commissioned to weave a scarf for a friend of a friend. It’s always a privilege to be asked to do this, and I love the challenges a new brief brings. I find it really helps to know a little about the person I’m weaving for, as this informs the materials and colours I use. Once these basics have been decided, I can then select the yarns – this time I’m using a linen warp composed of mixed weights, with a weft made up of soft merino lambswool and beautiful shantung silk from Bart and Francis which comes in luscious mixed shades.
The warp is made up on the warping frame to 48cm plus selvedge, and once it’s on the loom I can begin to weave a sample, trying out different colours and designs. This is the most playful part, where ideas can be explored – sometime they work, sometimes they don’t. The woven sample is cut from the loom, and washed, just as the finished scarf will be. There is shrinkage of around 15% across the width, less along the length, but all this must be accounted for when weaving the final piece.
Once I know the client is happy with the sample – they can pick out the parts they like and dislike – I’m ready to weave the final piece. This particular commission used a painting as its inspiration, so I had a good idea of the colours to use and their proportions. I combined merging patterns with varying colours drifting into each other using ombre effects to complete the finished article.
Memory: a study in weave
The landscape holds imprints and traces that we leave and that are left by the passage of time: contours, striations, layers of time and historical artefacts. In this recent series of work, I’ve used actual maps, sought out and collected from antique shops.
Whilst weaving with the maps, fragments of names and geographical features jump out at me: Old Quarry, Springs, The Arks, Ringle Mill Cave, Horton Scar, Little Wood, Coronation Point, Pile of Stones… How did they come to be there? Who named them and when?
“… I … imagined the depths of history the soil held – Neolithic, Iron Age, Bronze Age, Roman, Augustan, down through all of which the beech roots quested….” – Robert Macfarlane, “The Old Ways”
The woven wall hangings have a quiet presence, but on closer inspection are full of detail that holds the attention. The history of the actual maps also becomes important: discolourations and markings give the paper character. I’ve used a limited number of weave structures which give different effects depending on the materials used. Honeycomb weave emulates the undulations of a hilly landscape, twill echoes the rhythm of ploughed fields or regularly planted crops.
From sheep’s fleece to woven fabric
It was a pleasure recently to be able to see the flock of locally grazed Drentse Heide sheep of Grazend Populair being shorn. The process was done with care and attention, and the sheep seemed relieved to be rid of their bulky fleeces. The wool from these sheep is spun into yarn which I’ve used combined with fine merino and Shetland type wools to make a limited edition series of cushions. Some are available now online in my webshop LiminalWEAVE; others are available at by_ten_creations styling.
Midwinter: mixed media artwork
This recently finished work on canvas harks back to the cold days of winter in the woods. Blues, golds and browns contrast with acid yellow embroidered highlights, a technique that I use a lot in my work on paper and canvas. It’s time consuming, but it gives the contrast and sharp outlines that I otherwise find difficult to achieve using other markmaking techniques. This piece of work has gone through many changes, with large sections of it being painted over before I could achieve the feeling I wanted. That’s often the way with a larger work. More of my artwork can be seen at www.veronicapockart.com.
Thank you for joining me again at this balancing point in the year, where the fresh new growth of spring and lush decadence of high summer begins to shift towards autumn’s arrival. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in September as I continue on my journey through the year.
With warm July wishes, Veronica