HNC Seminar Weekend Day 3

I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken me three weeks to get around to writing up the final day of the Seminar Weekend. I have an excuse – a bad case of the flu. It’s only this week that I’ve been able to get myself properly in gear and get back to work. Spending a little time each day on my loom over the holiday period, and thinking about the next project, has been part of my recovery programme. But to round off the Bradford Weekend Seminar . . .

The final day, Sunday, was devoted to time in the workshop working on Inlay, Rya and Leno techniques, and having an individual feedback tutorial with our tutor. I started badly with this exercise in hand- manipulation techniques because I found myself with a warp of very tough rafia which was really difficult to manipulate. As soon as the first student finished the first tutorial session and went home I got onto her loom and found I could do these three techniques without tears. The inlay technique intrigues me probably because it’s a link to the work of Theo Moorman. Moorman’s wonderful woven tapestry, that acts as the backdrop for sculptor Austin Wright’s Wakefield Nativity installation, is one of the treasures of Wakefield Cathedral. It was meditating on this very special modernist nativity that was probably the catalyst that made me start weaving last year. Of course this year I’m looking at it with different eyes, and I can work out how it has been made. Yesterday was the Feast of Epiphany, so the crib and its tapestry will be in situ for another 3 weeks until the Feast of Candlemas. When the crib is dismantled I hope to make a proper photographic record of it. 

The Moorman & Wright Nativity

The Moorman & Wright Nativity

An example of Inlay technique

An example of Inlay technique

One of the most valuable aspects of the workshop day was being able to examine a number of woven pieces made available as examples. The piece I found particularly interesting was a black and cream baby’s blanket. I took quite a few photos of this and intend to study it in some detail, trying out some of the techniques myself. Here’s the blanket as a whole, but I’ll put some of the close ups I took in the gallery at the end of this blog. I’ve been unable to find out very much about the techniques of inlay except for the Theo Moorman’s practice, which she does explain quite thoroughly in her own book. However, I did come across a fascinating review of a lecture given at the New York Guild of Handweavers in 2004 which I urge you to look at if Theo Moorman’s work with inlay is not familiar. The review also gives details of two books on her work and is, I have to say, a whole lot clearer in its description of Moorman’s technique on the 4 shaft loom than her own! My other source of information about inlay comes from Chapter X of Luther Hopper’s Handloom Weaving of 1910. I’m told that nobody consults this book anymore, but I have to say I continue to be surprised by the imaginative way it presents concepts and information. Hooper played a crucial role as loom designer, writer, teacher and silk specialist in supporting the Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 20C. All his books are available in facsimile editions  on line at the Arizona University archive. There’s also a brief autobiography and account of his work by a former student you can download here. Hooper uses the tapestry weaver’s term brocade alongside the term inlay. He gives some prominence to the importance of  ‘the manner in which the brocading process was developed. Especially as it led to some of the most important inventions in the history of weaving’. He gives some examples of the origins and practice of brocading in India and includes in the photo plates at the back of the book some valuable illustrations. Hooper’s own diagrams are always clear and revealing. Until his early 40s he was a wallpaper designer, marrying into a family of silk weavers which started his interest in weaving and its traditions. His book is full of poetic illusions and Classical references. I also learn he was a enthusiastic violinist and a fine music copyist, particularly of Corelli’s violin music.

My attempt at Inlay and Leno

My attempt at Inlay and Leno

My own attempts at Inlay, Rya and Leno were satisfactory but hardly inspired. I have to say that some of my colleagues did the most extraordinary confections, some of which I include in the gallery below. The Swedish technique of Rya has yet to convince me, but leno has possibilities as a way of creating space in the weave. I’d like to know more about the origins of Leno and to study some examples. Hand-manipulation techniques seem to have come into their own with the Japanese Saori weaving movement. Saori weavers visited the UK in 2004 (Dartington Hall) but as yet have not taken hold here as the life-enhancing pastime that seems to have taken root in the USA. Any one interested in weaving as  an adjunct to occupational therapy (like my daughter Hester – an OT in London) should look at this seriously. It’s the described as free-style weaving – a subversive mix of tapestry and handloom weaving. It  has its own special 2 treadle looms built to be suitable for children and the disabled.

I’m including here some images and links to producers of yarns from home and abroad. A batch of sample cards had arrived in the workshop earlier in the week before the Seminar Weekend. Some of these were inspiring, others questionable. I loved the Habu yarns and the company’s website is a beautiful creation in itself. The Stroud-based company True Colours doesn’t have the class of the Habu collection, but they will dye to order.

My tutorial / feedback session was the last of the day (as I live closest to Bradford). It was a positive experience and I came away with a detailed batch of critical comments and observations for which I am most grateful. Ok, I didn’t do all the swatches I should have done, but I did compensate for this by giving attention to drawing, painting and my own ‘freestyle’ research. Putting on five warps in the workshop during the project period was also deemed to count for technical progress! But my real reward has been to begin weaving with a little confidence and direction on my own loom. I’ve also started to have a few ‘ideas’ of my own, as well as getting such pleasure from encountering the work of other weavers on-line. Just before Christmas I received my first ‘comment’ other than that of my HNC colleagues. Thanks Dot!




2 Responses to “HNC Seminar Weekend Day 3”

  1. Dot Says:

    Have you seen the book “Theo Moorman 1907-1990: Her Life and Work as an Artist Weaver”, Pub. The University Gallery Leeds, 1992? It has writings by Theo about her own work, and other people writing about her work too, also plenty of photos.

    Please could you recommend sources for learning more about Ethel Mairet?

    Re. Leno, I am currently reading Harry Nisbet’s “Grammar of Textile Design”, pub. Scott and Greenwood, 1906, he has a good long chapter on gauze and leno. This is currently my favourite book on weave design. I wonder if you can find it in the library at Bradford? I haven’t looked in the online archive, it might well be there.

    Once again, you have given me new things to think about.

    My friend Peg in the US (blog is called “Talking About Weaving) uses Habu silk yarns, they seem to be good quality and some very interesting yarns offered.

    I wouldn’t worry about “satisfactory rather than inspired” samples, the main thing is what you have learnt, sometimes one learns more by saying, “why isn’t it satisfactory?” then from a lucky first go… but I’m sure you know this already.

  2. Nigel Says:

    Thanks Dot for reminding me about this Leeds University publication. I’ll look this out. I have a complete listing of books on weaving in the University Libraries at Leeds U. Bradford College is a little disappointing in comparison – but I’m in the process of doing something about that!

    You’ve discovered I’m an admirer of Ethel Mairet’s work. She was a fascinating person and remarkable designer who seems to be a central figure in handweaving in the first half of the 20C. Most of the great weaver designers spent time in her studio. I’ve a collection of images of her work (from the Craft Study Centre) that continue inspire me, indeed I wonder at them. I’ve been doing a short series of samples over Christmas experimenting with just a few of her techniques (the ones I can work out!). As for books, there’s this monograph and a recent journal article:

    Coatts, Margot (1983) A Weaver’s Life: Ethel Mairet 19872-1952. The Crafts Study Centre, Bath.

    Bristow, Ann.(2008) Ethel Mairet – Another memory of working with her at Gospels. in The Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. 226 June 2008.

    More info on an earlier blog including a photo of scarf I admire.

    The Craft Study Centre has her complete archive.

    She published six books on weaving and dyeing and collaborated with her first husband on a study of Mediaeval Sinhalese Art. All except the last appear to be out of print. I’ve read 2 of these and browsed the Sinhalese Art book – in the Special Collection @ Leeds.

    Many, many thanks for all book suggestions. Brilliant!!

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