Stories from the weave studio – June

Lichen, driftwood and geology

Pebbles from Gylen beach with lichen

On the west coast of Scotland, two hours’ drive north-west of Glasgow, stands the bustling port of Oban, known as the gateway to the Hebrides’ because of the constant to-ing and fro-ing of the CalMac ferries. Just across the bay from Oban lies the island of Kerrera. By contrast, it’s a haven of peace and tranquility. To visitors, it’s only accessible by foot or bike via the small ferry that traverses the narrow strait of water between Kerrera and the mainland. Sparsely populated and with a rugged coastline, the southern tip is home to the 16th century fort ruins of Gylen Castle. The artist JMW Turner visited the castle and while there was inspired to fill a sketch book with drawings. During the half term May break, my family and I spent a week in Oban, exploring the mainland and islands close by. On Kerrera’s Gylen beach, I was completely captivated by the black sand and pebbly beach, scattered with a treasure trove of different types of rocks and pebbles, which were so varied it must be a geologist’s dream. The colours and shapes prove that nature really is the best artist. The oldest bedrock of Kerrera is black slate, and there were pieces of this on the beach, mixed with sandstones, basalt and volcanic rocks. The patterns resulting from the flow of molten rock writhe across the surface of the pebbles, worn smooth by time and tides. The sandstones lend a respite from the muted greys, offering pops of rusty reds and ochres. Also on the beach, driftwood, long since bleached silver by the combination of sun and salt. Add to this the muted sage green of a lichen dried and fallen from its host tree, and the result is a soothing palette of natural hues.

Developing woven pieces

Inspired by my beautiful finds on the beach at Gylen, I’ve been working on simultaneously developing a series of works on paper and in weave. My process usually evolves in this way, beginning with sketches, first in black and white considering the form and patterns, then in colour, exploring the textures and hues using mixed media and printing techniques. From these investigations, I can select yarns in the colours I want to begin weaving with. The photos above are of the fabric directly off the loom; the wools will soften and the colours blend once washed, and the intention is for these to become a collection of cushions.

Paper weaving

I seek out and collect old, unwanted and waste materials with their own inherent memories, such as vintage maps, old newspapers and cassette tapes to use in my weaving. Over the past two years, referring back to the thread of an idea I had shortly after graduating in 2004, I’ve been weaving some of my collection of unwanted materials into new pieces of work. The piece shown below was woven from a vintage map found in an antique shop. The map itself is fascinating and throws up so many questions. Who was the owner, what did they do, what adventures (and drinking exploits) did this map take them on? All of these questions went through my mind as I worked at the loom. The map has been pieced together from two maps, and contains annotations and scribblings, water marks and wear and tear. If it could talk, what tales it would tell.

I’ve also been exploring different way to display my work. It’s very tempting to simply hang the work vertically against the wall. However, again returning to my intentions shortly after graduating, I want to give my textile pieces ‘depth and character, honesty and integrity’. I want to release them from two dimensions, and one way of achieving this is to suspend them in more interesting ways. Because of the stiffness of the paper, the pieces can be morphed into sculptural forms. The piece below uses repurposed used wrapping papers in the weft, and the light in my studio was particularly good on the day I took these photographs.

The piece shown below uses vintage cassette tapes in the weft, and has a much more unstable structure, partly because of the waffle weave I’ve used. The warp threads are stiff paper, linen and synthetic yarns, and it’s important to me that they remain visible since they seem to take on a life of their own, and speak of the underlying construction of the piece. In fact, the folded work laid casually on the bench speaks most eloquently.

‘zeven x weven’ exhibition: meet the artist

The exhibition ‘zeven x weven’ [Seven x weaving] at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort has only two more weeks to run, closing on 10th July. I have three pieces on display: ‘Into the blue I and II’ shown below, and ‘Compilation VI’, which uses cassette tape weft combined with a paper, synthetic and linen warp. Thank you to everyone who came to visit myself, Theo RoodenChristiane Maurer and Babs van den Thillart at the meet the artist event on 18th June. It was a real pleasure to be able to meet people, talk about my work, motivations and process, and to get feedback and reactions from those who came by. The exhibition is a great example of the varied results possible through different weaving techniques, and is a credit to the guest curator Daisy van Groningen and the gallery owner Nathalie Cassée.

Blue skies and sunshine

My idyllic holiday week spent on the West Coast of Scotland was blessed with the most amazing weather – blues skies, sunshine and just the odd rain shower. As well as visiting Kerrera and Lower Gylen beach with its amazing pebbles, we also went wildlife watching on a boat trip to the Treshnish Isles (puffins, seals, minke whale and numerous seabirds) and visited Staffa, with its dazzling Fingal’s cave that so inspired Mendelssohn to write his Hebrides overture. Other highlights were the stunning white sand beach at Calgary Bay on Mull, which was as lovely as ever, with nearby Art in Nature woodland walk and gallery, and the slate island of Luing, which we happened upon by accident after a sudden downpour changed our plans.

Night garden

Throughout May and early June, the Kunstuitleen Voorburg had a special 40th anniversary exhibition ‘Lustrum’, running throughout May. I was able to call by and see the exhibition in this lovely gallery right in the heart of old Voorburg. Inspired by the artist’s garden, the work was varied in every way – colour, technique, size, concept – and very special to see. My work, ‘Night garden’, combines collage and painting techniques on canvas, and is then further embellished with embroidery.

Until next time…

Thank you for your interest and support; I wish you all the very best and hope to see you again for my next blog in July. If you’d like to see more of my work and inspirations, I post regularly on Instagram @veronicapock and my work is available online at LiminalWEAVE on Etsy.

Studio view June
Ideas for the future: current studio moodboard – a sneak peek

Stories from the weave studio – May

All about colour

zeven x weven exhibition pieces hanging

The exhibition ‘Zeven x weven’ [Seven x weaving] at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort continues this month. There have been positive responses and much interest, which is great to hear. I have three pieces on display: ‘Into the blue I and II’ and ‘Compilation IV’ shown above. The Katoendrukkerij occupies De Volmolen in Amersfoort; if you are able to, this beautiful city is definitely worth a visit. The work of myself, Daisy van Groningen (guest curator), Theo RoodenChristiane MaurerMirjam HagoortBabs van den Thillart and Marieke Kranenburg will be on display there until 10th July. Please do check the website of the Katoendrukkerij for opening times if you are planning a visit. On Saturday 18th June from 13.30 I’ll be joining Christiane, Babs and Theo in a meet the artist event. A chance to hear more about our work, see samples and gain an insight into the process, talking on a one-to-one basis with the artists. Keep an eye on my Instagram for more images of the exhibition.

Original woven wall panels

I seek out and collect old, unwanted and waste materials with their own inherent memories, such as vintage maps, old newspapers and cassette tapes to use in my weaving. I am intrigued that memories can be invoked by a snippet of text, a fragment of music, a feature of the landscape, transporting us back in time. Our memories shape us, constantly lingering in our subconscious. Connecting with the unwanted and waste materials through the process of weaving, I subtly confer them with value, integrity, depth and character, combining colour, texture and pattern in abstract woven form.  

Above you can see a collection of paper weavings made over the past few years. The paper is cut into strips using a paper shredder and carefully inserted into the warp on the loom. As I weave, the memories that the materials hold flow through my mind. Below is one of my sample weaves made as research for the pieces on show as part of Zeven x weven.

Abstract mixed media collage and embroidery, such as the canvas top middle, also form part of my process, with the colours and textures being reflected in my woven work. The two disciplines inform one another and one cannot exist without the other.

Art and craft spring fair at Tess Keramiek

The first weekend of May saw me taking part in the Spring fair organised by the very talented ceramicist Tessa Droog. Joined by eight other artists and craftspeople, and hosted by Tessa in her beautiful ‘living room gallery’ and garden, this event was a real pleasure to be part of. Below you can see the work of Tessa, jewellery by Tonke Joppe and some of my handwoven purses and handmade artist’s sketchbooks.

New scarves for spring in lambswool, British wool, linen, hemp and silk

For lighter scarves suitable for spring/summer, I’ve been experimenting with a combination of hemp and linen in the warp combined with Merino lambswool or a British wool from Uppingham Yarns and Shantung silk. These scarves are lightweight with a fairly open weave which makes them perfect for the unpredictable spring weather. Some similar scarves are available now in my online store LiminalWEAVE.

Gallery visits: Voorlinden

I am very lucky to live close to the Voorlinden art gallery and visiting this month made me realise just how much I’ve missed having gallery visits in my life over the past two years. Perhaps Voorlinden had this in mind with their exhibition ‘Art is the antidote’. Featuring works of Sean Scully, Etel Adnan and Pascale Marthine Tayou, to name but a few, this was a blast of colour to reawaken the senses.

‘One and one is three’ offers yet more colour – I particularly liked the work of Anouk Kruithof, whose wall consists of around 3500 books, bought in Antiquarian book stores in Berlin and mostly written during the DDR. The individual stories combine to evoke an abstract landscape. It brings to mind strata, layer upon layer of history, memories and stories. The mesmerising work of Olafur Eliasson explores colour theory and spatial perception. Three transparent discs rotate slowly, each disc holding a colour filter in cyan, magenta and yellow. Elliptical patterns meander and dance along the walls, constantly changing and poetically combining to make a performance I could watch all day.

Finally Beat Zoderer’s ‘Less is more’ exhibition of constructivist art again provides a vibrant journey through colour, made using anything from wool to concrete to strip lights. The artist sets the framework of his art with the choice of materials, but there is no formula or method that guides the work; it is purely intuitive, a spontaneous process in an attempt to create order out of chaos. In may ways a similar process to weaving.

Kunstuitleen Voorburg: 40 year anniversary

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Kunstuitleen Voorburg has taken us to the artist’s gardens with its Lustrum exhibition, running throughout May. My most recent work, ‘Night garden’, is part of this exhibition. Combining collage and painting techniques on canvas, which is then further embellished with embroidery, this piece is available to rent or buy from the gallery.

Until next time…

Thank you for your interest and support; I wish you all the very best and hope to see you again for my next blog in June. If you’d like to see more of my work and inspirations, I post regularly on Instagram @veronicapock and my work is available online at LiminalWEAVE on Etsy.

Zeven x weven four different pieces
‘Into the blue’ for the Zeven x weven exhibition at De Katoendrukkerij, Amersfoort.

Stories from the weave studio – April

April skies

April skies

I was struck by the evening sky just a few weeks ago. Heralding a change in the weather, the mackerel cloud formations are juxtaposed against the manmade vapour trails that traverse the skies. Clouds on many levels, interacting and combining. Mackerel cloud formations are caused by moisture in the mid levels that get trapped between dry air at the surface and dry cold air in high levels of in the atmosphere. The wind and gravity cause the rippled effect, but how much, I wonder, is caused by the passing aircraft. According to weather lore, mackerel skies are a sign of changeable weather, examples include “Mackerel sky, mackerel sky. Never long wet and never long dry”. I love these old folklore rhymes that so often ring true. We were in fact heading for a long period warm sunny days, for some of which I was lucky enough to have holiday, although the first weeks of the month were busy finishing weaving scarves and setting up work at the ‘Zeven x weven’ exhibition.

Exhibition: Zeven x weven

Mid-April saw the opening of the exhibition ‘Zeven x weven’ [Seven x weaving] at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. The preparation of the exhibition was very rewarding, despite having to negotiate ladders to reach the high ceilings of the exhibition rooms, and it was a real sense of achievement to see the works of the seven different artists and weavers come together in the space, complementing and contrasting with each other. Seven contemporary weavers working in The Netherlands brought together through the vision of Nathalie Cassée, who is the mastermind behind the now thriving Katoendrukkerij, a cultural organisation that promotes the craft of cotton printing in the historic national monument De Volmolen (a former fulling mill where woollen cloth was thickened and cleansed from oil, dirt and other impurities by beating in water). If you are able to, this beautiful building is definitely worth a visit. The work of myself, Daisy van Groningen (guest curator), Theo RoodenChristiane MaurerMirjam HagoortBabs van den Thillart and Marieke Kranenburg will be on display there until 10th July. Please do check the website of the Katoendrukkerij for opening times if you are planning a visit.

Above you can see my wall hangings that will be on show during the exhibition. The two pieces on the left are entitled “Into the blue I” and “Into the blue II”, and on the right is “Compilation IV”. All of the pieces use repurposed unwanted materials such as vintage papers that I have painted and printed. “Compilation IV” uses cassette tape in the weft. My work explores the idea of memory: how memories are made and remembered; how memory is stored and how certain things, such as music, can bring to mind a specific moment in time. The woven cassette tape has music caught in its very fabric, and anyone who has ever made a compilation tape of their favourite songs will identify with the meaning of this piece. Keep an eye on my Instagram for more images of the exhibition.

Original woven artwork for sale

All of the pieces for the ‘Zeven x weven’ exhibition were a culmination of several months work, of experimentation on the loom and testing out different materials. Some of the samples are now available in my online store LiminalWEAVE.

New scarves for spring in lambswool, British wool, linen, hemp and silk

During the ‘Zeven x weven’ exhibition, a selection of my handwoven scarves will be for sale at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort. Using hemp and linen in the warp combined with Merino lambswool or a British wool from Uppingham Yarns and Shantung silk, these scarves are light weight with a fairly open weave which makes them perfect for the unpredictable spring weather. Some similar scarves are available now in my online store LiminalWEAVE.

Gallery visits

In April I visited two inspiring exhibitions: one at Beelden aan Zee, located very close to the sea front at Scheveningen beach. Who doesn’t want to combine a trip to the beach with a gallery visit? (Well maybe my kids who I took along…). As well as the permanent collection, the gallery is currently host to work by the Dutch artist Mark Brusse entitled ‘Shapes of Silence’. Brusse’s work explores death and decay, and their place in western culture. His work has often been called poetic, and his visits to Japan have had a lasting influence. ‘Shapes of Silence’ is very representative of his three-dimensional work, assemblages of wood, ceramics and stone.

Morten Løbner Espersen, the Danish ceramicist, is currently exhibiting at the Kunstmuseum Den Haag. His work on display includes a wonderful collection of sample glazes (below left), which in themselves become a work of art. These are part of his exploration of the glaze: he prefers to defy the laws of glazing, creating a tension between the form of the object and the glaze which covers it. Since 2006 Espersen has been applying his glazes to cylindrical forms, an anonymous shape, which does not distract and acts as a blank canvas. Just some of the work on display at the Kunstmuseum is a series of cylinders, uniform in size and only in monochrome colours, thereby focussing entirely on the underlying nuances of colour and texture. The glazes drip and creep over the surface, creating a kind of landscape with hills, bubbles, holes and trenches

Exploring the Normandy coast

After an early start off the night ferry to Caen, Normandy, the family and I arrived at Luc-sur-Mer, one of the Normandy landing beaches during the Second World War. The sun was just rising and patchy mist hung over the small settlements scattered along the coast, drifting inland and giving everything an ethereal, otherworldly feel. We stopped for breakfast, and spent quite some time exploring the beach and seafront. The faded beauty of the weathered buildings, all in the same muted creamy colours, shuttered and silent, coupled with the empty beaches at low tide was very memorable. A huge variety of shells littered the tideline: clams, oysters, mussels, whelks and more. Just sublime. I’m sure those colours will find their way into my work.

Until next time…

Thank you for your interest and support; I wish you all the very best and hope to see you again for my next blog in May. If you’d like to see more of my work and inspirations, I post regularly on Instagram @veronicapock and my work is available online at LiminalWEAVE on Etsy.

Weathered doors at Luc sur Mer
Weathered doorway on the seafront at Luc-sur-Mer, Normandy

Stories from the weave studio – March

Blues and greys

Handwoven papr and mixed yarns

As the saying goes, if March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. So far this is holding true with the violent storms at the end of February making way for a long period of milder weather throughout March. With the longer days, warm sunshine and blue skies, and all the plants have taken on a mantel of green, tulips are pushing through, and in the woods anemones and celandines are raising their starry faces to the sun.

Exhibition: Zeven x weven

Just as the March skies have been blue, so have these colours been reflected in the work coming off my loom for the exhibition ‘Zeven x weven’ [Seven x weaving] which opens at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, on 13th March and runs until 10th July. I feel very privileged to be part of this upcoming group exhibition together with six other contemporary Dutch weavers, Daisy van Groningen (guest curator), Theo RoodenChristiane MaurerMirjam HagoortBabs van den Thillart and Marieke Kranenburg. The exhibition will showcase our work, demonstrating the varied weaving techniques possible as used by exemplary craftspeople and artists currently working in The Netherlands who are constantly pushing the boundaries of their specialism. Below you can see the many samples that I wove (pictured top left) before settling on the final warp with which to create the wall hangings that will be on show during the exhibition. The four final pieces came off the loom at the beginning of the month, and each has its own distinct characteristics as a result of the materials used and the weave structure. This is one of my fascinations with weave: one warp can lend itself to so many different effects. The possibilities are endless. I’m looking forward to being able to share more images once the pieces have been hung: keep an eye on my Instagram for more details!

Commissioned work

Once the very slow paper weaving for the exhibition had been finished, my loom wasn’t empty for long before I began work on two commissions that have been waiting for attention. I’d already planned the warps for both, mixed yarns (mainly wool) in warm colours combined, in the first case, with a beautiful Alpaca/organic wool yarn ‘Echos’, by the Italian company Sesia, in the weft. The second scarf uses a mixture of yarns in the weft in a simple tabby weave, and relies on the changing of the colours and textures along its length to give the distinctive effect and vibrancy of the colours. The weave structure doesn’t have to be complex to give interesting results. Wool is such a versatile material and still my favourite to weave with – it’s so forgiving on the loom and its inherent stretchiness makes it easy to handle and tension. A real pleasure after working with the temperamental mixed warp I used for the exhibition pieces.

Colour and textural inspiration

I get a lot of my inspiration from nature and my surroundings. However, often it’s the materials that can spark an idea. The beautiful slubby silk yarns (shown below left) from Bart and Francis have a mix of colours that I combine with wool or linen in the weft to add interest. I use anywhere between five and 20 different yarns in the warp, combining them intuitively as I make up the warp. I’ve recently started using a British wool from Uppingham Yarns, spun in Yorkshire by Z. Hinchliffe. This doesn’t shrink and felt as readily as merino lambswool, and when combined with a silk/linen mixed yarn in the weft it gives the resulting fabric more weight and a beautiful drape. The scarf shown below was woven with the remainder of the first commissioned warp (above) using the British wool in the weft and a different weave pattern. The result is quite different, again showing the variety of effects that can result from the same warp depending on the materials used and the weaving draft.

Until next time…

Thank you for reading this far; I wish you all the very best and hope to see you again for my next blog in April. If you’d like to see more of my work and inspirations, I post regularly on Instagram @veronicapock. I hope to see you there.

Nectarine blossom in Orangery at Calke Abbey

Stories from the weave studio – February

Back to the loom

Woven sample with floating threads

February has been a month of grey and stormy days interspersed by glimpses of blue skies and a promise of spring. I have finally been able to return to my loom after what seems like a long time away, and weaving has resumed.

Zeven x weven

Having woven a full 8 metre warp of smaller sample pieces, I’ve been able to determine the direction of my work for my forthcoming group exhibition “zeven x weven” at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort (April-June inclusive).

I’ve now made up the final full width (48 cm) warp and begun weaving. From the samples, I learnt that I needed more colour and white in the warp to lift the pieces and give them more interest, otherwise everything was a little too sombre. As well as the previous hemp, linen, synthetic space-dyed yarn and black paper yarn, the new warp has a blue linen yarn, a brown raffia-type yarn and white paper yarn added to it in varying proportions. Making a warp is the first step of commitment to a piece; once on the loom it’s difficult to make adjustments.

Once the loom had been dressed and the heddles and reed threaded, I began to prepare the weft material. I’ve been using embossed paper which I’ve block printed with an abstracted motif taken from an antique map of Amersfoort. The motif is placed randomly, and the paper is then shredded into strips so that it can be placed between the warp on the loom. This is a meticulous and time consuming process, but well worth it for the result.

I hope to be able to take the finished pieces off the loom shortly … watch this space!

Exploring colour

Whether it is the thought of spring, or just a new direction for my colour choices, I’ve recently begun to use more vivid green in my colour palette. In a collection of scarves woven in November I used a lime green in the warp, and I’ve run with this in some recent mixed media collage work. I often revert to working on paper to explore colour combinations, and these works and my woven practice co-exist, one drawing on the other for inspiration. I love the freedom and immediacy that working on paper gives – a real contrast to weave. Playing with acrylic paints, monoprint and ink washes gives interesting results. I’m particularly liking the combination of a vivid poisonous green with an earthy brown overwash, and can see this combining nicely in a woven piece.

The forms I use investigate the relationships between shapes, negative space and corresponding forms that our eye automatically fills in for us. A sharp contrast between crisply cut lines, soft painterly washes and torn edges provides tension or balance.

Commissioned work

Whilst working with the very slow paper weaving on my loom, I’ve also been planning the warp for a new commissioned scarf, which will be woven in a mixed warp (mainly wool) in warm colours, combined with a beautiful Alpaca/organic wool yarn ‘Echos’, by the Italian company Sesia, in the weft. Wool is such a versatile material and still my favourite to weave with – it’s so forgiving on the loom and its inherent stretchiness makes it easy to handle and tension on the loom.

New work on canvas

During January I made several large mixed media works on canvas, and I was very happy to have all three accepted by the Kunstuitleen Voorburg – ‘Winter trees’, ‘Weathering the storm’ and ‘Cold moon rising’ are shown below.

Until next time…

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Stephen Hawking

I wish you all the very best and hope to see you again for my next blog in March.

Samples on moodboard

Stories from the weave studio – January

Liminal space

Sunrise over frosty canal

January. A liminal time. A transitory space. Caught between the old year and the new. A time to look forwards and to review the past. The start of a new year that still has to find its identity whilst processing all that the old year brought with it. Named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, time, duality, passages and endings, and depicted as having two faces, one facing the old year and one looking forwards to the new, it heralds new beginnings based on past experiences. With that thought, I’ve been reviewing old work, as well as planning new.

Retrospective: colours of Iceland

In 2016 I visited Iceland and the place captured my heart and imagination. The black sand beaches, the dramatic landscapes shaped by ice and fire, the blue of the bergs in the glacial lagoon. This visit gave rise to designs with a strong graphic element and contrasts of dark and light, blue, charcoal and ecru. This resulting one-off fabric was made into these striking bolster cushions.

Annie Morris at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Over the winter break, I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield in Yorkshire, one of my favourite places to spend time. It has extensive grounds and takes in the stunning countryside, the dramatic Emly Moor and rolling hills. Sculpture in nature seems like a natural pairing: work by Henry Moore and Babara Hepworth are prominent, Andy Goldworthy, Damien Hirst and Ai Wei Wei all sit well in the stunning landscape. I’ve been visiting since 1990, and it never fails to disappoint.

My most recent visit took in the site specific installation “When a Happy Thing Falls” by Annie Morris at the Weston gallery. To enter the gallery was to walk into an abstract piece of art, to wander through it, around it, and gaze up at it. A truly immersive experience bathing in and absorbing colour that feels both joyful and intriguing.

“My sculptures are about holding onto something that’s fallen, and to express the hope and defiance of life. The vibrant pigment on the surface is a way of trying to freeze the moment when paint hasn’t yet dried, and is caught in its most raw form. They assemble to create abstract paintings that escalate upwards and express the fragility we all feel in our lives.” Annie Morris

Ongoing work on the loom

On my loom, still waiting for me to return, is the hemp, linen, paper and synthetic space-dyed yarn in the warp that I’m using to make samples for my forthcoming group exhibition “zeven x weven” at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort. Next week will see me continuing with this work to finish the sampling warp and begin work on the actual pieces.

Mixed media and embroidery on canvas

Alongside my woven work, I also make mixed media work on paper and canvas. This is an important step in exploring different ideas, colours and patterns that are all reflected in woven pieces at some point. Collage with painted and printed papers can lead to unexpected results that are stored away for future use. Another technique I use is embroidery – this usually comes towards the end of the process and tightens up the whole piece, providing a sharp linear contrast with the often painterly soft shapes and blurred colours of the collages papers. This work takes inspiration from the trees and plants in my local surroundings and simple words from songs and poems – ‘Cold moon rising’ and ‘Weathering the storm’ are shown below.

Until next time…

So in this between time, this transitory month that still feels nested in the past more than forging into the future, my work has been slow. And the month has already almost slipped out of reach. In my garden daffodils are surging ahead, and the birds are busy. With the noticeably lengthening evenings, it feels almost springlike in the weak winter sunshine. Imbolc, also called Saint Brigid’s Day, a Gaelic traditional festival on the 1 February, marks the beginning of spring, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It certainly feels as if spring is on its way.

Thinner and thinner wears the cloth,
however; moths pass out of sight,
beyond belief, their absence is briefly
noted, if at all, as distant memory,
half-forgotten grief.

From Moth – The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane

I’m looking forward to what February holds – more weaving and progress I hope. I hope to see you then for my February blog.

Sunrise over the allotment

Stories from the weave studio – December

Space

Last hydrangea bloom

The midwinter solstice on 21st December came just a couple of days after the full cold moon, the last full moon of 2021, which also brought the first hoar frost of the winter. Bright blue skies and the world transformed, magical and glistening. The ground at my allotment was covered by a crisp frozen shell. A last hydrangea bloom shone out like a star, and the dead grasses and seedheads were dressed in silver.

The longest night was clear and bone cold, and familiar constellations vied for attention in the spiralling sky. Gazing upwards into the night sky somehow magnifies the loneliness and fragility of earth, so small and insignificant in the vast vacuum of space. On nights like this, I feel very conscious of the constellations rushing and whirling through space in their continuous lonely dance across the heavens.

The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all,
And the star of the sailor, and Mars,
These shone in the sky, and the pail by the wall
Would be half full of water and stars.

Escape at Bedtime by Robert Louis Stevenson

New work – paper weaving

In the spring of 2022, together with six other weavers, I will be taking part in a group exhibition at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort. I’ll be displaying new work drawing on the history of the building and its current use as a block printing workplace and heritage centre. Currently on my loom is a series of smaller woven pieces – experimental samples using hemp, linen, paper and synthetic space-dyed yarn in the warp and handprinted, handmade papers in the weft. Intrigued by the history of the Katoendrukkerij (cotton printing factory), which was originally a woollen mill, and its location in Amersfoort, I abstracted an image of an antique map of Amersfoort from the 17th century, and made a very rudimentary block print using balsa wood. My crude attempt only serves to highlight the skill of the craftspeople carving the original block prints in hardwood. So far I have an interesting collection of samples on which to base my final work.

New collection of scarves

Reflections in a still canal, and leaves caught before they sink and decay. Colours ripple on the surface: sky, tree, leaf, bird. All these colours and textural effects are stored in my visual memory and resurface on the loom. This month I decided to challenge my usual colour choices by making up a lambswool warp using an almost fluorescent lime green, chamomile pink, moss greens and sky blue warp. Limiting my colours to six and then randomising the order in which these are threaded onto the loom gives rise to serendipitous patterns and effects in the weave. By further varying the weave pattern, I can create an individually unique, yet still coherent, series of designs. The effects achieved echo the complexity of colour in nature. Nothing is flat colour, everything seems to be composed a myriad of different shades and hues.

Honeycomb weave

A favourite weave pattern of mine is the honeycomb weave. This sculptural weave works well when using very contrasting materials in the warp and weft, for example, very fine yarns in the warp combined with very thick threads in the weft. There is a huge amount of depth in the resulting material. The pieces below use the hemp, linen, paper and synthetic space-dyed warp together with vintage newspaper (left) and recycled string (right). Once off the loom, when the tension has been released, the individual cells become even more pronounced.

Thresholds

Ending the year with a holiday in the UK has been a real pleasure – some time to relax, restore, renew. The pandemic has meant that social contacts have been very limited, but it’s been relatively easy to find space and solitude in the beautiful countryside in the local area. At one of my favourite National Trust properties, Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, the gardens are quiet and ready for the new year to begin. Signs of fresh growth are still few and far between, but nature seems poised in her slumber, ready to burst into life now that the days are getting longer again. The threshold of the new year beckons.

Calke Abbey doorway

Until next time…

Trees in winter have a stark beauty, etched against the sky. With all their leaves gone, their structure is exposed, fractal, but strong, not vulnerable.

The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees
Seem a botanical drawing.
Memories growing, ring on ring,
A series of weddings.

From Winter Trees by Sylvia Plath

For the time being, I’m enjoying winter walks amongst the woods and hills, and preparing to return to my studio in January. My paper weaving is waiting for me there – slow, fragile, patient work for a new year.

Bare trees against the sky