It’s almost mid-December and I’m catching up, writing about November. A busy time in these darkling days of late autumn. Finishing off experimental weaves using a double warp – each warp separately tensioned – has led to some interesting new work. Weaving the vintage maps into the warp is painstaking, and I’ve been letting the materials speak to me. This combination of paper and raffia has potential, but I’m letting it rest so I can decide how it needs to be presented. I’ve also been working on a commissioned throw, opening up a world of possibilities. And I am inspired by the large woven sculptures of Magdalena Abakanowicz, seen at the Tate Modern in London.
On the loom
At the beginning of November I was commissioned to weave a throw to accompany a set of cushions bought from me last year. I’ve always avoided weaving such a large piece, as I didn’t think it would be possible on my small loom. However, this time I decided to give it a try, following a hunch on how this might be achieved. Using a four-layered weave structure I was able to weave a piece 150cm by 190cm, which shrank slightly when washed to 130cm by 180cm. My experiment worked, and the throw is now on its way to Vermont in the USA. It still amazes me that my work finds its way around the world. Below you can see the sample woven to test out the weave structure, the selection of yarns used, and the resulting throw. The colours are inspired by the rocky shoreline of the Isle of Mull; the weave structure and colours are planned but the patterns are a result of happy accidents when threading the heddles in a random way. I prefer to work in this intuitive manner letting the materials and chance play their part. Sometimes the results can be magical. With a lot of mistakes on the way. As ever, this commission has taught me a lot, pushed my boundaries and broadened my horizons.
Weaving simultaneously with two warps
Setting up the loom with two separate warps tensioned onto the two separate back beams on my looms enables me to create effects with structure and dimensionality. This body of work began with a simple sketch (below left). I rarely have a definite idea of what my finished piece will look like, and this brief sketch was just the jumping off point, allowing me to plan how the warps would need to be set up and the widths and threading pattern to acheive this effect. The pieces have been woven and are awaiting framing and hanging.
Magdelena Abakanowicz at the Tate Modern
A brief visit to London gave me the chance to jump on the Thameslink from St Pancras to south of the river and the Tate Modern. This has to be one of my favourite galleries. Huge, imposing and brutal, its interior, the turbine hall, is vast. Currently running until the 21 May 2023 is Magdalena Abakanowicz ‘Every tangle of thread and rope’. Having crowbarred my rucksack into a tiny locker, I set off to see what this exhibition had in store for me. The gallery attendant in the lift told me it was very ‘warm’ and I can’t agree more. Walking amongst Abakanowicz’s huge creations was like being inside an enormous living, breathing organism. Rich dark colours glowed with an animalistic life.
Interestingly, I felt very drawn to her earlier works. Smaller (although still large) mostly rectangular tapestries woven in two dimensions. Seeing her collages and sketches for the weavings really brought her process into focus. She says:
I am interested in constructing an environment from my forms.
I am interested in the scale of tension that arises between the various shapes which I place in space.
I am interested in the feeling when confronted by the woven object.
I am interested in the motion and waving of the woven surfaces.
I am interested in every tangle of thread and rope and every possibility of transformation.
I am interested in the path of a single thread.
I am not interested in the practical usefulness of my work.
Magdalena Abakanowicz, 1971
Once again, November hasn’t disappointed with its vibrant colours. The smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria) in my garden turns the most stunning purples, oranges and pinks, tempered by the softest sage green. Each year I look forward to its wonderful display.
The cold autumn sunlight finds its way into my studio at unexpected times of the day, reflecting off nearby windows, and the yarns glow on my shelves. The light at this time of year is very special, inspirational.
… for joining me on my creative journey through the seasons. If you’d like to see more of my work and inspirations, I post regularly on Instagram @veronicapock and my work is available online at LiminalWEAVE on Etsy.