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

Stories from the weave studio: May

New growth

Spring trees in Haagse Bos

In the space of a couple of weeks, spring has arrived. The woods have changed from bare and wintery to vibrant verdant green – vivid and lush. After the coldest April in The Netherlands for 35 years, May has continued on this chilly theme, but it has taken just a few warmer days for nature to spring into life, the fresh new leaves appearing seemingly overnight. Wood anemones have flowered and gone, and now the bluebells and wild garlic are enjoying their moment in the spotlight before the canopy above becomes too dense and the light levels drop.

This month has seen the culmination of a number of projects, and now it’s time for me to reassess and plan for the future. I’m beginning to think about new work again. An inbetween time.

Featured artist

It’s been a privilege during May to be featured as artist of the month at the Kunstuitleen Voorburg. The team at the gallery has composed a wonderful display of many of my works, both very new handwoven wall hangings and new and old mixed media studies on canvas. These, together with a selection of handwoven cushions, are available there throughout May, and beyond (to rent via the website). The gallery’s website also includes a recent interview I made with Melanie Struik where we chat about how I came to be a weaver, my inspiration and process.

Just off the loom

Using a neutral base of Shetland type wool in ecru, grey, charcoal and the softest sage green combined with locally grown wool by Grazend Populair, I’ve been weaving fabrics for a limited edition range of cushions. Some will be online in my webshop LiminalWEAVE shortly. The combination of the thicker, coarser Drentse Heide sheep’s wool, combined with finer merino and Shetland type wools in the warp enable me to create striking motifs and contrasting patterns in the design.

New samples

I usually reserve the last section of a warp for experimenting. The warp used for the cushions above forms a lovely neutral base to play with other earth and stone colours. The results are muted; the beauty in the detail.

Collaboration

Continuing with my interior styling collaboration, supplying unique wall hangings and limited edition cushions to by_ten_creations, the very talented team there have worked their magic to produce these beautiful images. Ceramics are by Tess Keramiek and wall hangings are in paper and repurposed tape.

Reducing waste

As well as using more locally produced yarns, I also aim to reduce waste as much as I can. One way to use up woven samples is to make covered buttons, which have proven to be popular with knitters and crafters. They are so satisfying to make and become mini explorations into colour. These are available in my shop now.

The cusp of summer

On a tranquil evening last week, at dusk, the sky faded to delicate pastels, and the cow parsley frothed over onto the path. The scent of hawthorn hung heavy on the air; summer was almost tangible. A promise of what lies ahead.

Thank you for joining me on my journey through the year. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in June.

With warm May wishes, Veronica

Evening light and cow parsley

Stories from the weave studio: April

Remembered colour

Handwoven scarf detail

Remembered colour

In my work I evoke memories: either literally by distilling and solidifying the memory of a time and place through the use of colours and abstract woven form and pattern, or conceptually by using materials that have memories inherent in them, such as newspaper and vintage maps.

In January of this year I went for an afternoon walk with my family around a lake at Vlietland, close to my home in The Hague. The day was bitterly cold and the wind was biting. At first the landscape seemed monotone, but after a while I began to notice how colour-full everything was. A kaleidoscope of colours unfurled. Jewel-like mossy greens and ochres on the bark of trees, and the red of the dogwood stems leaping out, catching like fire in the weak wintery light. All was tempered by warm greys, ecru and steely blues, the water reflecting the sky. The resulting series of handwoven lambswool scarves captures the colours of that moment. Colours that are first worked through on paper and canvas using mixed media techniques, and then intuitively translated into fibre on the loom.

The scarves are now in my online shop, LiminalWEAVE. Liminal means relating to a transitional stage or occupying a position at a boundary or threshold. That’s where I see my woven work – standing on the boundary between art and craft. The mixed media studies on canvas will be exhibited in May at Kunstuitleen Voorburg, where they will be available to borrow or buy, as well as some of my woven paper work, also made earlier this year.

New cushion designs

This month, I’ve been continuing with designs for cushions as part of a collaboration with by_ten_creations interior styling. Using locally grown wool produced by Grazend Populair, this sample cushion using wool from the natural lighter coloured spun fleece has come to fruition. Backed with linen, this completely unique design combines large and small motifs in the weave (right hand image). Using the darker fleece colour (middle image), a more contrasting graphical effect is achieved.

Venturing north: exploring Drenthe

Last week I had a short break in Drenthe, a province in the north of The Netherlands renowned for its nature and wildlife. The heathland there is home to many animals and birds, and it was wonderful to see a flock of Drenthe Heath Sheep being driven off the heath to their homestead by their shepherdess. The colours of the fleeces were so varied in colour and texture – some lighter, some very dark, rich umber; some straighter, some curlier. Of course when the opportunity arose, I had to buy some skeins of handspun wool which will find their way into my work when the time is right, reminding me of that time.

The huge expanse of sky and the wide open spaces were a perfect antidote to the claustrophobia of lockdown in the city. It was the first time I’ve travelled anywhere further than an hour’s drive away since August, and it reminded me of the mind-expanding joy a change of scenery can bring.

The Drenthe landscape harbours many wooded areas where partial flooding leads to a strange mixture of arid grassland and marshy waterlogged flatlands. Traversed by Vlonderpadden (board walks), it brought to my mind the African savannah (even though I’ve never been), and I half expected to see antelope hiding in the grasses.

The sea from here

Last year during lockdown, the artist David Cass initiated an open call via Instagram for photographs from people living by the sea to send in their photographs of the sea near them. The intention was to raise awareness of the plight that our seas are currently in. It was a real privilege to see my contribution included: a photo taken of the racing clouds and churning waves on the beach at Scheveningen in June. It was an incredibly windy day, and the kite surfers were out in full force. Now online, ‘The Sea from Here’ is a stunning online exhibition with contributions from as far afield as Greenland and Tasmania; you can see the exhibition here.

Changing seasons

The colours and atmosphere of that freezing January walk in Vlietland now feel like a distant memory in the first flush of Spring here in The Netherlands, where everything is bursting with life. Fresh greens and yellows, whites and softest pinks are now nature’s palette. Somehow these seem to be reflected in the colours I’m sampling now for the cushion fabric – the rich brown of the natural sheep’s fleece is the colour of the fields ploughed and ready for crops to be planted that I saw while in Drenthe just last week, and other samples incorporate soft greens and off white, the colour of the frothy hawthorn blossom appearing in the hedgerows.

Thank you for joining me on my journey through the year. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in May.

With warm April wishes, Veronica

Handwoven repurposed material
Handwoven tape and mixed fibres on the loom: woven wallhanging

Stories from the weave studio: March

Making connections

Weaving is all about connections: a connection to the past through the loom, the oldest technology known to man, a connection to the material and the way it asks to be used, a connection to my inner self as I determine how to progress with the piece I am weaving, and a connection to the fabric itself as it grows on my loom, every inch of yarn passing through my fingers before it becomes interconnected to make the fabric.

Having a creative practice and being a maker can be a solitary profession, and having the opportunity to connect with others is a great chance to find support, inspiration and forge new connections. Thinking about my work following the prompt ‘connections’ as part of the Seam Collective Instagram challenge #SeptTextileChallenge last September led me to think about my work and process and what it means to me on many levels. It was a real privilege to be mentioned in Seam Collective’s blog connections earlier this year.

Off the loom

Using vintage newspaper, maps and other repurposed materials, I’m really happy with how these unique pieces of wall art have turned out. Making memories tangible, I’ve chosen materials that have inherent memory. The newspaper is dated 13 July 2003. Seeing that date on the newspaper immediately pulled me right back to where I was in that year, and all that has happened since. Where does it take you?

Inspiration: remembered landscapes

Following winter walks in Vlietland, wetlands near my home in The Hague, my work has moved on to an exploration of the colours and atmosphere there. The subdued yet rich palette and the piercingly cold wind. The cries of the birds and the rustle of the reeds. The big skies. Starting with works on paper, investigations into these observations inform my woven work. It’s an opportunity to experiment with colour and form without having to commit to the loom and the constraints it imposes.

Process: from inspiration to woven textile

Following observation comes a distilling of the ideas, colours, atmosphere. Working in mixed media and collage, initially on paper in a very rapid and free way, I use acrylic paint, inks, wax resist, mono print and mark making techniques. The works on paper become pieces in their own right, and I am currently developing these into larger work on canvases, embellishing with embroidery threads whose colours sing out and give the sharp definition I’m looking for. I work simultaneously on the loom with similar colours, and the link between the two is clear. One leads to the other, and I quite often switch rapidly between weaving and working on paper, and back again. More of my work can be seen at www.veronicapockart.com, and I have a number of pieces in the collection of Kunstuitleen Voorburg.

Collaboration with By Ten Creations

In the coming months, I’m looking forward to collaborating with Tessa and Netty of by_ten_creations interior styling. They seek out unique and special handmade products and art, and offer advice on interior decor. They’ll have a number of my handwoven wall art pieces and wallhangings for sale in their online store (coming soon), and I’m also currently collaborating with them on woven designs for cushion fabrics using the locally grown wool produced by Grazend Populair. The flock of Drenthe Heath Sheep is grazed by shepherdess Judith Prins in Meijendel, Wassenaar and sometimes Solleveld in Monster. Truly locally grown. Their fleece is spun into beautiful robust yarn retaining its natural colours of cream, softest marl grey and a rich chocolatey brown; it’s a real pleasure to work with.

Spring equinox

March 20th marks the spring equinox in the Northern hemisphere. Day and night are equal and nature is moving into a period of intense activity. Trees are breaking into bud and bulbs are pushing through into the sunlight. It’s a time of optimism, of fresh beginnings. New projects, new work, new connections and collaborations, and so much to look forward to.

Thank you for joining me on my journey through the year. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in April.

With warm March wishes, Veronica

Handwoven wall hanging and mixed media on board

Stories from the weave studio: February

A sense of place

Snow changes everything. I cycle past this unremarkable tree growing against this unremarkable wall almost every day, but during the recent cold weather the reflection from the snow cast it in a completely different the light. The orange tag sings out against the grey that has been rendered Payne’s grey in the reflected light and the trunk glows in contrast. A fleeting moment, depending on the angle of the sun and the presence of snow. Next time it snows, this tree will have grown, the wall will have weathered, and the tag may be lost.

It’s familiarity that brings a sense of place – a feeling of belonging. Knowing each twist and turn a path takes and where the uneven paving slabs are. Snow removes this familiarity and makes us look at the world with fresh eyes. I’ve become preoccupied with this image. The colours and form. It’s stored, in my mind’s eye, waiting to be used.

Black and white inspiration

With the world reduced to black and white, I’ve coincidentally also been working in a very limited colour palette. Unable to travel, I’m using old maps as a reference for memory, weaving them into my work as a metaphor for the contours of a well-trodden landscape.

On the loom

Delving deeper into the concept of fixing a transient memory, a happening, an event, into something solid, I’ve been weaving with newspaper. Trapping the stories and events of the day in the warp. This is an incredibly slow process as I can’t use shuttle to insert the paper weft. Every piece has to be inserted by hand and eased into place before changing the shed and using the beater. The result is an abstract motif which is punctuated by the highly textured warp.

This work takes reference from some very early work using various handmade, sliced and painted papers.

Crafting Business

This renewed direction in my work has come about after working on my artist’s statement as part of the Crafting Business programme run by Crafts Council NL in conjunction with Crafting Europe. It was fascinating to be a part of the online Crafting Business Seminar, with speakers contributing from eight different countries across Europe. Participants came from as far afield as the Ukraine and Georgia to those closer to home in The Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and it was an insight into how other programmes were run and how other craftspeople work. The seminar was recorded and will be available to view online shortly.

Dutch landscape

In winter, there’s a stark beauty in the polderlands of the Randstad region of The Netherlands where I live. Wetlands and reeds provide a sanctuary for migrating birds, and there’s a melancholy in the colours and forms. At first glance the landscape seems empty and colourless, but looking closely, the dogwood branches glow ruby red in the cold scarce light, and the trees and reeds are subtly painted with mossy greens and rich warm browns and greys. Moving through the landscape, an underlying rhythm of jewel-like pops of colour emerges: dun, ochre, earth colours and steely blue. Broken by the constantly flat horizon and the big, big sky. The wind rattles the reeds, like so many whispers, bringing to mind the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men.

 We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass

The Hollow Men, by T.S. Eliot

A continuous thread

Originally from the UK, I’ve lived in The Netherlands for many years now, and am beginning to feel a sense of place here. The local woods, which I’ve grown to know intimately since the first lockdown of last spring have become a constant friend. Seeing the seasons turn and the ebb and flow of the months is grounding. Limitations and travel restrictions have meant being unable to return to my home country for many months now, and I can feel the pull of the hills, the wild ancient places where history lies thick in the ground. As life moves on, with each passing year, more and more experience is gained, and all of this, a combined life in The Netherlands and the UK, is reflected in my work through the colours, patterns and materials. Experience grows year on year, and the work that I do now is an extension to that of a decade ago, and, throughout it all, there is a continuous thread that makes it distinct. A personal palette and handwriting that continues to evolve.

Thank you for joining me on my journey through the year. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in March; it would be great to have you.

With warm February wishes, Veronica

Stories from the weave studio: December

Tradition

Winter trees

Today, 21st December, marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The longest night. It’s a time for tradition, timeless festivals and rituals. For bringing light into the darkness with candles and fires. The days are short and the woods are bare, the tree branches laid naked against the sky. The low sun throws its weak rays across the landscape and the colour is rarified. Cold mornings with ice forming on the canal.

As a weaver, something that I feel very strongly is a connection to the past, to the skilled artisans who have woven cloth since the first rudimentary looms were developed to weave flax in ancient Egypt in 5000 BC. I feel connected to the past, connected to the materials, and connected to the fabric that itself that has so many traditions and memories associated with it.

A quiet time

The last commission of the year has now been woven and cut free from the loom. The studio lies silent and still, holding its breath, waiting to see what the next year will bring. This is a quiet time in the studio, but full of potential. A time to reflect on the year that’s passing (and what a year 2020 has proven to be), a time to plan for the year to come.

Complexity out of simplicity

I already have plans for my next pieces of work. These will be more experimental, using some unusual combinations of materials. There are so many possibilities with weaving, the choice of material, colour, texture and pattern, that I find it important to simplify my choices when starting a new body of work. The weaving patterns I use are actually quite simple, and I have a small number of designs that I use to weave with; the complexity comes in the choice and combination of colours and textures, something that comes from years of experience in working with the material.

Throughout this year I discovered a way of working with different colours and materials, and what I’ve learned will continue to evolve throughout next year.

Moving forward

Weaving on the loom is being in a constant state of flow, progressing onwards as the unwoven warp moves through the loom and onto the front beam, transformed into woven fabric.

At the beginning of the year, no-one could have predicted what upheaval 2020 would bring. Moving into 2021, the world is in a state of flux. Just as at the start of a new piece of work, I don’t know what will lie at the end of the journey or how the path will evolve. Thank you for reading this far. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in January; I’d love to have you join me on my journey through the year.

Have a wonderful festive season, stay safe and all the very best for the new year.

Veronica

This calendar for 2021 features my unique handwoven designs and is available now in my shop.

Stories from the weave studio: November

Material matters

Woods in autumn

November brings rain and winds that send the leaves cascading to the ground. Yellow predominates in the woods, vivid against the dark wet umber of the tree trunks. Dusk comes early. The crows gather in noisy crowds, carried on the wind as they make their way to roost, and murmurations of starlings flicker and flow in the twilight.

It’s a time for being out in the weather, experiencing it, embracing it, and feeling the exhilaration of surviving what Mother Nature has to throw at you. And it’s a time to wrap up warm and enjoy wearing wool.

The virtues of wool

The first week of October saw the 10th annual wool week in the UK. Organised by the Campaign for wool, this is a global endeavour to raise awareness amongst consumers about the unique benefits offered by the fibre.

This amazing natural material is recyclable, biodegradable, compostable and naturally renewable; wool is the most adaptable and sustainable material, and is beautiful to work with, being elastic and forgiving when on the loom. The choice of colours and wonderful textures is huge, and it lends itself equally well for use in clothing and home furnishings. In this range of cushions, as well as lambswool, I also use Alpaca wool and mohair yarns.

Something that’s very important to me is the origin of my materials, their sustainability and integrity of source. I use mainly natural materials, wool, silk, linen and cotton, but also include so-called ‘mill-end’ yarns that are surplus to the textile industry when I’m weaving more experimental pieces. All my scarves are woven using high quality merino lambswool from Z. Hinchliffe and sons, spun in Yorkshire and responsibly sourced. They are wonderfully soft and warm, and will last a lifetime.

Exploring linen: a commission

Commission work is becoming increasingly important as part of my day-to-day work. It’s a real pleasure to connect with the client, and talk with them to discover exactly what it is they are after. The correspondence continues throughout the sampling and weaving process. Some people come to me knowing exactly what they want; others are happy to be guided in the direction of colour and material. Both ways of working are deeply satisfying, and always a learning process for me.

I recently completed a commission working in linen, wool and silk. The linen warp was quite challenging to work with but, combined with a lambswool/silk weft, resulted in a scarf with the most luxurious drape and sheen; something I’ll definitely be exploring further.

New work

To weave with materials on my loom is, to me, also to create a piece of art. It’s a way to fuse colour, texture and pattern in an endless variety of combinations that can express a feeling or atmosphere. Two new pieces I’ve recently finished, woven in wool, linen, silk, cotton and ecological recycled string, reflect the current autumnal colours and mood.

Crafting Business

Since August, I’ve been taking part in Crafting Business, a programme of speakers and workshops aimed at new and established craftspeople, run by Crafts Council NL. The final session took place in November and, as well as being extremely informative and with a great line up of speakers, it’s been an opportunity to connect with other makers and professional bodies here in The Netherlands. If you’re interested to see more of professional craftspeople in The Netherlands, the Crafts Council NL website has plenty of information (in English and Dutch).

A fascination with trees

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved trees. These gentle giants are my constant in keeping track of the seasons. To walk amongst trees is to be close to nature. Earlier this year I read the thought provoking book “Underland” by Robert MacFarlane, in which he journeys into what lies beneath, exploring the world under our feet, fusing travel and nature writing. The book gives an insight into the interconnectedness and inter reliance of every living and nonliving entity, man’s effect on our planet, and, sadly, our lack of appreciation for this complexity. Just one example is the recently discovered communication system that trees have via the mycorrhizal fungi that joins individual plants by an underground hyphal network; trees talking to each other.

So, as we approach the darkest time of the year, when the nights are long and full of fires and stars, I’ll leave you with the poignant words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson that, for me, so sum up this time of year

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall, 
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground, 

Tithonus, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Thank you for reading this far, and hope to see you here again soon!

Veronica

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© All designs and images Veronica Pock 2020