Stories from the weave studio – September

A new season

Sketches detail

September has seen a return to school, routine and time in the studio. There is a change in the air, a crispness to the mornings, and it’s been one of those glorious summery Septembers – warm days where everything seems to be preparing itself for a new season, with autumn just around the corner, a final fling before the colder nights arrive. The autumn equinox has meant a shift in the light, with darker mornings and night falling sooner.

Returning to the studio, I have some sketches on my wall from earlier this year that are providing inspiration for new work. Using a combination of collage, mono print and drawing, I explore new ideas, and pattern and colour combinations in this way. While contemplating these, I have also taken time to finish work left on the loom before the summer holidays began. This is something I find helps me get back into work more quickly after a period away. A warp already on the loom, in this case one of mixed linen fibres, that I have had time mull over in the back of my mind so I can immediately return to the rhythm of the weaving, selecting colours and finding the creative flow to finish pieces. The result is two linen, lambswool and shantung silk scarves. The warp was originally used for a commission, also a scarf, but the additional two (below) are now available in my online shop LiminalWEAVE.

Collage, sketches and mixed media: developing a design

My inspiration comes from many sources: nature, architecture, materials, textiles… and all these are pulled together through sketches I make, usually spontaneously and quickly. Collage is a fantastic way of working as elements can easily be moved around to experiment with interactions between colours, textures and patterns. I sometimes manipulate these sketches digitally to create repeating designs which lend themselves to developing an idea for a design on the loom.

I have some new yarns to work with: the softest organic wool and alpaca blend ‘Echos’ by Sesia from Uppingham Yarns. Organic Sesia yarns are produced with organic blends certified by ICEA (Italian Insitute of Ethical and Environmental Certification) according to GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) standards. Sustainability and traceability are extremely important to me, and I am trying to incorporate more of such materials into my work.

I’ve already begun to combine these exquisite yarns into an exclusive collection of cushions for interiors – a new collaboration I’m working on.

Interior styling: By Ten Creations

It’s been a real pleasure to collaborate with By Ten Creations, who have a number of my cushions, woven in locally grown wool, and woven art wall hangings. Intent on creating a restful and meditative atmosphere in the home, their beautiful photographs represent perfectly the carefully selected items and artisanal one-off pieces stocked in their online store. Here are some of their recent images that perfectly sum up their signature style: effortless simplicity rooted in nature.

Colder mornings

Inspired by the winter landscape of de Vlietland, a wetland area near my home in The Hague, I have created a number of cowl scarves for those chilly mornings. The colours echo the dried reedbeds, the bare tree branches, the water and the dogwood stems flaming red in a weak winter sun. Again, these cowl scarves are available in my shop LiminalWEAVE

Woven art textiles and exhibition: capturing memories

This piece was recently on show as part of the WEEFNETWERK exhibition (17-26 September, Steenfabriek at Gilze, The Netherlands). Woven in vintage maps and mill-end yarns, it repurposes unwanted yarns and attempts to solidify the memories carried by the materials. The exhibition was in an atmospheric, beautifully restored brick factory in Brabant, in the South of The Netherlands, and the exhibition included an extensive and diverse selection of the work of the many talented weavers who make up the ‘weaving network’ here in The Netherlands.

Honeycomb woven paper map

Until next time…

Here in The Netherlands the warm summer weather continues, but the leaves are already starting to take on their autumn splendour, and the nights are drawing in. I look forward to see what the new season brings, and hope to see you here again for my next blog in October as I continue on my journey through the ever-changing year.

Hydrangea
Hydrangea blooms beginning to fade

Stories from the weave studio: August

Time out

Calgary Bay sunset

A perfect evening at Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland; the sea like a silver mirror and the sky turning pastel shades as the sun sets. The sound of the waves and cries of oyster catchers at the edge of the water. A gaggle of Barnacle geese pass overhead, looking for grazing in the nearby fields. A moment of calm. Earlier in the week, the first evening of the holiday, I sat out late, watching the stars appear until the sky was full, and wished upon shooting stars, space dust that fell as the Earth passed through debris associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet precipitating the Perseid meteor shower. Across the valley, Tawny owls call to each other, beginning their nightly hunt. This holiday was a much-needed haven of inspiration and restoration; a time to visit family and friends after almost a year of absence, and a time to travel, to reconnect with those special places that brings silence amongst all the noise.

After almost a year of restricted travel, I feel lucky to have been able to return to the UK during August, to see family and friends, and to holiday on the Isle of Mull; I feel recharged and ready for the colder months. The value of being able to travel, to explore and experience different places is vital to the progressions of my work. August is a month where not much weaving happens, but I have some exciting projects beginning to take shape, and after a month away from the loom, I’m itching to get back to it. 

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is one of those special places. A place for art and nature to coexist in the rolling parklands that surround Bretton Hall. I first discovered YSP whilst studying in Sheffield in the early 1990s, and wandered amongst the Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore works that sit so comfortably in the Yorkshire landscape. The walk around the perimeter and up to the Longside Gallery passes works by Andy Goldsworthy, with views out towards Emley Moor. Inside the gallery, with its changing collection, I found, among other work, pieces by Rachel Whiteread and Alice Channer – whose work I was later this month was to discover at Orford Ness.

The Isle of Mull: a special place

Mull and Calgary Bay have become a part of my life. First discovered while on a cycling tour of the Hebrides some 15 years ago, Mull is somewhere I have returned to almost every year now. It has witnessed first me, then me accompanied by my children, who have played happily on the white sands of Calgary Bay each summer and have also grown attached to this place. The colour and textures, the light, the wonders of its nature, the ever-changing weather, the feeling of being exposed to the vastness of the Atlantic. These are all a part of its magic.

Tobermory, the largest settlement on Mull, is home to An Tobar Arts Centre, cafe and gallery. In the gallery at the time of my visit was a collection of screen printed textiles by Eve Campbell exploring the shapes and patterns of the ‘cultural landscapes’ in the Hebrides, and inspired by the intricate patterns formed by the marks of nature and by the island’s inhabitants over thousands of years. This was accompanied by a fascinating collection of aerial photographs of stone fanks, or sheepfolds, on Mull, Iona and Ulva, by local Carolyne Mazur. These structures are scattered across the island, and illustrate changes in crofting and farming life over the last 200 years, themselves becoming abstract images perfectly capturing the colours and atmospheres of Mull and its sister-islands.

Orford Ness: nature prevails

I recently visited the Orford Ness Nature Reserve and former military testing site on the Suffolk coast, UK. Managed by the National Trust, nature is regaining its hold on this very special piece of coastline, a constantly shifting spit of shingle and salt marshes formed by the prevailing northerly wind. During the 20th century, and especially the Cold War, it was used to test aircraft, communications and weapons. The now eerily abandoned structures are submitting to the onslaught of the weather and flora.

It currently hosts ‘Afterness’ – an exhibition of new artworks by various artists in conjunction with Artangel. ‘Lethality and Vulnerability’ by Alice Channer, housed in The Shelter, is a writhing organic structure that escapes its space through the windows of the building, echoing the brambles and other flora that are consuming the manmade structures.

Black Beacon, originally constructed to develop radio systems for marine navigation, houses the ‘Library of Sound’. This collection of archival sound recordings captured on Ness by Iain Chambers, Chris Watson and Brian d’Souza morphs the sounds of the spit into atmospheric music.

This exhibition requires commitment – a long walk, as the artworks are installed on the far side of the spit, which can only be reached by booking a boat via the National Trust. This unsettling yet beautiful place will surely find its way into my future work. 

‘Ness’, a novella/prose poem by Rob Macfarlane and illustrated by Stanley Donwood, tells the story of a salt-and-shingle island where the land is coming to life to reclaim its own. From the book:

Listen. Listen now. Listen to Ness.

Ness speaks. Ness speaks gull, speaks wave, speaks bracken & lapwing, speaks bullet, ruin, gale, deception.

Song of Ness, the drifting song, the final song …’

The bomb is buried beneath more layers of moss, more layers of moths.

The ferro-concrete is experiencing uncontrolled ruination.

Willow flourishes as forest, elder jungles each dip, each hollowness.

The falcon is bearing the day away.

The foreshore is moving as if it were alive, because it is alive.

After moonrise. Long light. Low sun. Slow dusk.

Shingle hush from distal to Ness.

Woven art textiles and exhibition: capturing memories

Weaving purely as an art form, creating art pieces intended as wall art for interiors, has been a focus of my work this year. It enables me to experiment freely and work with unusual materials. In July, I finished a second collection of wallhangings, and some of my work will be displayed at the upcoming WEEFNETWERK exhibition (17-26 September, Steenfabriek at Gilze, The Netherlands). I’m currently looking for more opportunities to exhibit my work.

Three Peaks map handwoven in honeycombe

New palette and future work

For September I have a new palette of colours to work with. I’ll be working on a new collection of cushions and soft furnishings. I’m currently having a sale of older designs, scarves and cushions, in my online shop LiminalWeave.

Until next time…

Here in The Netherlands it feels like summer is mellowing into autumn, and dusk falls earlier as we approach the September equinox; there’s a sense of change in the air. I look forward to seeing you here again for my next blog in September as I continue on my journey through the ever-changing year.

With warm August wishes, Veronica

Towards the mainland from Mull
Across the Sound of Mull towards the Scottish mainland

Stories from the weave studio: July

High summer

Grasses

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

Goose grass

Stories from the weave studio: June

In balance

Summer grasses and windmill

The summer solstice has just passed, and the days will begin to grow shorter once more. The grasses stand tall by the canal, and life is buzzing all around. Time feels slow now, lazy summer days, and when I’m at my studio, there’s a real sense of calm and reflection. A balance between light and shade, day and night, warp and weft, creating and considering.

A sense of order

I’ve been thinking about what it is that constantly draws me back to the loom, to weaving, and what it is that sets me on that creative journey and drives me to realise an idea, one of many that constantly occur to me when I’m weaving. Perhaps it’s the satisfaction of creating order out of chaos – choosing the yarns for the warp, which is usually a fairly intuitive process, winding them onto the warping frame in a repetitive, rhythmic movement, and transferring them onto the loom into a tidy, regimented row of threads, ready to be pulled through the heddles and bound into fabric. Recurring processes, a measured way of working, each step logically following the one that has gone before. A recipe for creating a new material. A procedure that leads to something tangible although not always as expected. Serendipity in the sequence of threads or the properties of the materials. A pattern revealed. Experimentation… what if?

The imprints and traces we leave behind: work on the loom

Contours, striations, layers of time and history, the imprints and traces we leave and that are left by the passage of time. The old ways, the paths once trodden, the footprints, the memories that persist. These are some of the ideas I’m contemplating in a new collection of work, while currently re-reading “The old ways” and “Ness”, both by Robert Macfarlane – books on landscape, nature, place, people, and how these are all interlinked.

My work explores memory through abstract woven form. Our memories shape us, constantly lingering in our subconscious. Past events, people and emotions are recalled by a snippet of text, a place name, a landscape, a landmark, the familiar dip in the path, the bend of a road, transporting us back in time, locally, globally and personally. I combine repurposed material with inherent memory, such as vintage maps, newspapers and music tapes, in woven structure and form. Connecting with the materials through the process, I imbue the waste material with value, integrity, depth and character; hidden moments in time are revealed.

As I weave using vintage maps – in this case an Ordnance Survey map of the Three Peaks (Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent) from 1973 – I think of the people who have used this map, and the places it documents. The names and markers flicker between my fingers: New Pasture, Old Quarry, Long Hill, Stags Fell, Plover Hill, Thieves Moss…. names and their connotations.

New collection of cushions

The limited edition collection of cushions I’ve been working on using locally grown wool by Grazend Populair is complete. The local Drentse Heide sheep’s wool combines beautifully with fine merino and Shetland type wools in the warp to make striking motifs and contrasting patterns. Some are online in my webshop LiminalWEAVE; others are available at by_ten_creations styling. The cushions also have my new labels sewn into the seam. A signature to my work.

Mixed media artwork

Work on paper and canvas is an intrinsic part of my creative process. The experimentation on paper informs my woven work, and vice versa. During May, many of my works were displayed at the Kunstuitleen Voorburg. It’s been interesting to revisit older paintings and to see how my work has progressed. These, together with a selection of handwoven cushions, are available there (to buy or rent via the website) if you’re local to The Hague. More of my artwork can be seen at www.veronicapockart.com.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me again at this point of high summer as I continue on my journey through the year. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in July.

With warm June wishes, Veronica

Woven newspaper in honeycomb weave