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