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: January

New beginnings

Winter on the canal

Buds and catkins are already forming on the willow trees, the first stirrings of life as nature begins to react to the increasing levels of light. The cold sky reflects off the canal; the light is blue in these northern climes. The days are getting longer and, after a flurry of snow at the weekend, the temperature has warmed again.

January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions and endings, and is depicted as having two faces, one looking back at the old year and one looking forward to the new. This time of year naturally lends itself to quiet contemplation and embarking on something new.

On the loom

Still on my loom from before the holiday break is a warp in blues and greys. I find it useful to come back to something already begun after a time away from the studio, as I can pick up from where I left off, not needing to start from scratch. It often helps to have time to let an idea sit and be turned over in my mind, before returning to it with fresh ideas. Two more scarves have since come off this warp, and a short section using a beautiful soft mohair and ecological wool that I plan to use for cushion fabric.

Studio view

The creative process isn’t always the tidiest or most Instagram-able; my studio space moves through various stages of messiness and chaos, punctuated by a periodic tidy. The materials are often inspiration in themselves, so it helps to have them on view. Then happy accidents can occur where two colours or textures next to each other will suddenly leap out at me as a possible combination for a new piece of work. The studio here is in a state of relative calm.

Drawn to the sea for inspiration

At this time of year I feel drawn to the sea. To feel the winds from colder places icey on my face and smell the salt on the air. The beach is strewn with treasures: cockle shells in soft browns and greys, striated pebbles and rare finds like cuttlefish bone, otherworldly, glowing luminous and pearlescent on the sand, and the dark mysterious ‘mermaid’s purse’, in this instance the egg case of a skate.

The way to the beach passes through dunes, a mixture of grasses and shrubs, toughened and blasted, twisted into contorted forms by the prevailing wind. The flow of the grasses is echoed in the weathered wooden balustrade of the steps leading down to the sand. The Dutch coastline is peppered with the concrete remains of the Atlantic wall. These brutalist concrete structures were built as a coastal defence and fortification against allied invasion during the Second World War, and still remain as a stark reminder against the skyline. Their battered patina has blended them into their environment.

Future work

Right now I’m starting out on some new, more conceptual woven work; something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Work starts on paper, using inks, wax resist and mono print, playing with colours and forms. Simultaneously, I’m turning to nature for inspiration, and also the yarns I have to hand in my studio, searching out the more unusual materials that I’ve come across. And of course referring back to woven samples made last year.

A small seasonal sale

As a fresh start to the new year, I’ve been sorting through older woven sample scarves and old stock. These are now available at reduced prices in my shop. I also have just a couple of my calendars left in store; you can use the code CALENDAR2021 to get 25% discount at check out. Making space for the old, so that I can welcome in the new.

Finally…

Beginning the year in lockdown has its challenges, but spring is just around the corner and I’m looking to nature and stolen moments at my loom to carry me through until things get better. And for the moment I’m going to enjoy what winter has to offer.

Blue night. Enormous Arctic air. Orion’s belt.
A geostationary satellite.
The birds all sheltering or flown

Blue night by Sean O’Brien

Thank you for reading this far. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in February; it would be great to have you join me on my journey through the year.

With warm January wishes,

Veronica

In the woods

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

Stories from the weave studio: October

The art of weaving fabric

Colour is crucial in my work. Recently I’ve been asking myself when this fascination began. I think it began when I was at school; my art teachers introduced me to acrylic paints. I played with mixing colours and learnt that by placing different colours next to each other I could make them sing out or recede. Discovering how colours interact is still a huge part of my creative interest and investigation, both when working on paper and with threads on the loom. Weaving is essentially interlacing two sets of perpendicular threads, and the colours of those threads and the pattern they are combined in can give endless combinations and effects, endless scope for experimentation.

October brings a sense of ending: leaves are falling, blooms are descending into decay. Colours are simultaneously muted and vibrant, and this is my signature palette. Years of colour exploration have brought me to this place. And it’s not standing still, it’s ever changing. Just like the seasons, my work reflects how I see the world and my experience of it.

New work

One of my sources of inspiration is my allotment. Year after year I’ve grown more and more flowers and fewer and fewer fruit and veg. At this time of year the dahlias are a riot of colour, brassy and loud. I love them for their exuberance. I temper their vibrant colours with more muted tones in my woven work, working more subtle yarns into the weft threads, so that the brighter colours can sing out.

It really does surprise me, genuinely, every time I take something off the loom to find that I can make a fabric that is both useful and beautiful.

The Kröller-Müller museum: van Gogh and nature

I’m lucky enough to live just an hour’s drive from the world class Kröller-Müller museum which houses many of van Gogh’s works, and is surrounded by a wonderful sculpture park. I love art in nature, seeing the sculptures in a natural surrounding, being able to interact with the work, touch it, walk round it, experience it fully. The forms and colours of the weathered stone eventually find themselves into my work in one way or another.

New in my shop

For 2021, I’ve produced this unique calendar which features 13 different images of my textile designs. It’s a different take on my designs, viewing them as little pieces of woven art. A limited number of these is available in my shop and you can see more by clicking here.

Upcoming events

I have an open studio planned for the 6th/7th November, 11.00-15.00, for those who are in The Hague and surroundings. Due to the current restrictions in The Netherlands, you’ll need to book, which you can do by filling out the contact form on my website by clicking here. Numbers are very limited and on a first come, first serve basis. You’ll be able to find out about my design process, how I translate this into a woven piece, and I’ll be giving weaving demonstrations.

Studio view

Finally, I’ll leave you with the current stack of soft, warm, luxurious lambswool scarves I’ve been working on over the past year or so. Rich colours pulled together on the loom, fusing colour, texture and pattern in a process of colour exploration.

Thank you for reading this far, and hope to see you here again soon! If you’re interested to see more, I post regularly on Instagram – some daily inspiration and an insight into my creative practice.

Veronica

Stories from the weave studio: September

Autumn inspiration

There’s a crispness in the air, and September feels like a new beginning of sorts after the strangest of years so far. Today the equinox marks the beginning of autumn. This truly is my favourite time of year. The colours, the fading splendour of the trees, a feeling of melancholy in the air, the soft thud of acorns landing in the woods, and the sharp, metallic tang of fungi and leaves gently being absorbed into the earth.

At the allotment, the sunflowers are a feast for the birds, the bright stalks of chard provide a pop of rainbow colours, and the dahlias are a riot of hot pinks, rich reds and acid lemon.

There’s just so much to take inspiration from, I want to soak it all up and hold it in my head for the year to come.

New work

Last year at around this time I visited the Voorlinden Museum, a contemporary art museum not far from The Hague, to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibition. The gardens, designed by the renowned Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, were a tapestry of texture and colour, with grasses and seed heads interwoven with Michaelmas daisies and striking dahlias. The combination of soft violet, browns and greens has proven a rich vein of inspiration for the series of scarves I’ve woven over the summer.

Memories of summer

During August, in what is becoming something of a yearly tradition, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a week’s family holiday on the Hebridean Isle of Mull, staying in Limetree Cottage at Calgary, just a stone’s throw from the stunning beach at Calgary Bay. This a magical place where the sea and sky are a constantly changing presence and the colours have gently woven their way into the most recent batch of larger scarves to have found their way off my loom. When I’m weaving, I begin with an idea of the colours and atmosphere I’m in search of, winding these into the warp. Once the warp has been put onto the loom, I combine a variety of weave patterns with a range of colours and textures of weft threads to paint the full picture.

A new way of working

This year has brought many challenges, but somehow I’ve managed to keep working through it, albeit in different ways. Often, my creative practice has been a refuge from everything that has been going on in the world. After a regular start to the year, home schooling, combined with a studio move, suddenly meant that I had much less time to spend in my studio. Working at home, I concentrated on developing new ideas on paper, mixed media pieces which are an important part of my design process, as well as being artworks in their own right. An order of shantung silk from Bart and Francis gave me a broader palette of colours to work with, and the results have since found their way into my woven work.

Upcoming events

I have an open studio planned for the 6th/7th November for those who are in The Hague and surroundings. More details will follow closer to the time… you can join my mailing list (link on homepage) to make sure you don’t miss it.

News

I was so pleased to see my interview with KOEL Magazine published this month on the KOEL Magazine blog. In it, I talk about my motivation to weave, my work and how I came to the place I find myself in now. You can take a look by clicking here.

Studio view

Finally, I’ll leave you with the current inspiration board on the wall of my studio. Ideas, colours, samples; a melting pot of potential… who knows where it will lead.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into my weaving practice, thank you for reading this far, and hope to see you here again soon!

Veronica