Stories from the weave studio – January

Liminal space

Sunrise over frosty canal

January. A liminal time. A transitory space. Caught between the old year and the new. A time to look forwards and to review the past. The start of a new year that still has to find its identity whilst processing all that the old year brought with it. Named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, time, duality, passages and endings, and depicted as having two faces, one facing the old year and one looking forwards to the new, it heralds new beginnings based on past experiences. With that thought, I’ve been reviewing old work, as well as planning new.

Retrospective: colours of Iceland

In 2016 I visited Iceland and the place captured my heart and imagination. The black sand beaches, the dramatic landscapes shaped by ice and fire, the blue of the bergs in the glacial lagoon. This visit gave rise to designs with a strong graphic element and contrasts of dark and light, blue, charcoal and ecru. This resulting one-off fabric was made into these striking bolster cushions.

Annie Morris at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Over the winter break, I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield in Yorkshire, one of my favourite places to spend time. It has extensive grounds and takes in the stunning countryside, the dramatic Emly Moor and rolling hills. Sculpture in nature seems like a natural pairing: work by Henry Moore and Babara Hepworth are prominent, Andy Goldworthy, Damien Hirst and Ai Wei Wei all sit well in the stunning landscape. I’ve been visiting since 1990, and it never fails to disappoint.

My most recent visit took in the site specific installation “When a Happy Thing Falls” by Annie Morris at the Weston gallery. To enter the gallery was to walk into an abstract piece of art, to wander through it, around it, and gaze up at it. A truly immersive experience bathing in and absorbing colour that feels both joyful and intriguing.

“My sculptures are about holding onto something that’s fallen, and to express the hope and defiance of life. The vibrant pigment on the surface is a way of trying to freeze the moment when paint hasn’t yet dried, and is caught in its most raw form. They assemble to create abstract paintings that escalate upwards and express the fragility we all feel in our lives.” Annie Morris

Ongoing work on the loom

On my loom, still waiting for me to return, is the hemp, linen, paper and synthetic space-dyed yarn in the warp that I’m using to make samples for my forthcoming group exhibition “zeven x weven” at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort. Next week will see me continuing with this work to finish the sampling warp and begin work on the actual pieces.

Mixed media and embroidery on canvas

Alongside my woven work, I also make mixed media work on paper and canvas. This is an important step in exploring different ideas, colours and patterns that are all reflected in woven pieces at some point. Collage with painted and printed papers can lead to unexpected results that are stored away for future use. Another technique I use is embroidery – this usually comes towards the end of the process and tightens up the whole piece, providing a sharp linear contrast with the often painterly soft shapes and blurred colours of the collages papers. This work takes inspiration from the trees and plants in my local surroundings and simple words from songs and poems – ‘Cold moon rising’ and ‘Weathering the storm’ are shown below.

Until next time…

So in this between time, this transitory month that still feels nested in the past more than forging into the future, my work has been slow. And the month has already almost slipped out of reach. In my garden daffodils are surging ahead, and the birds are busy. With the noticeably lengthening evenings, it feels almost springlike in the weak winter sunshine. Imbolc, also called Saint Brigid’s Day, a Gaelic traditional festival on the 1 February, marks the beginning of spring, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It certainly feels as if spring is on its way.

Thinner and thinner wears the cloth,
however; moths pass out of sight,
beyond belief, their absence is briefly
noted, if at all, as distant memory,
half-forgotten grief.

From Moth – The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane

I’m looking forward to what February holds – more weaving and progress I hope. I hope to see you then for my February blog.

Sunrise over the allotment

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