Further inspirations

Since the Sue Lawty workshop I wrote about at the beginning of the month, I’ve been very preoccupied with family and musical business. Although I did manage a workshop day at Bradford in the week prior to Easter, College was closed (for me anyway) from 2 April until the end of this week.

My Dobby Adventure Part 3

My Dobby Adventure Part 3

I’m about to put a full-stop on my adventures with the dobby loom. On my last workshop day I spent most of my available time improving this bespoke dobby pattern to get more variety and definition. I’ve ended up with a pair of 8 16-peg lags (X Y) serving 2 blocks of 8 threads (A B). For X I’ve retained my original design with the ‘arrow’ in A and a hopsack variant on the B portion. I’ve then inverted A (a kind of mirror image) with the remaining section (B) a variant on the plain weave ‘skip a lag’ pattern, which produces these block-width floats with spaces between them.

My Chinese Characters

My Chinese Characters

The blocks are more distinct now and I’ve also prepared the way for placing a pattern on the warp itself, which will be partially (and playfully) concealed by the weft. This is something the workshop technician has often mentioned as an extended technique, and now is definitely the time to try it. I’ve chosen a series of Chinese characters and painted these on the warp with a procain orange dye ‘fixed’ with Manutex, a cotton binder. Before painting, a specially sized wooden board is placed under the selected piece of warp  between the front beam and the reed.  As it takes about 2 hours to dry I left painting the warp until just before the workshop closed – so it’s ready to weave over next time I come in.

The Dobby Adventure Part 4

The Dobby Adventure Part 4

I now feel comfortable with the physical operation of the dobby loom and don’t get completely exhausted after a few hours weaving! To summarize: I’ve explored four different ‘conventional’ peg plans and three of my own. I’ve used two different dobby looms, the Louet and the George Wood. At home, I’ve worked with an Atwater Bronson lace 4-shaft block threading, a 4-colour warp of imitation chenille (polyester) and a wool/ cotton boucle yarn. I have to admit that I still find myself working out in my head why a particular lifting plan with this block threading produces the effect it does! But then I’ve reached the stage of going beyond the standard lifts. There’s more on this adventure later in the blog.

My Atwater-Bronson Project

My Atwater-Bronson Project

School holidays mean residential music courses for my children. My 18 year old is having his first taste of the National Youth Choir (making a CD with Eric Whiteacre); the 15 year old is playing viola and percussion with the Cumbria Youth Orchestra. Delivering the latter was a great excuse for a day out in a part of the world I have recently come to love, and where I began my textile saga just a year ago. Although my son and I had to leave really early to make the 9.30am rehearsal in Cumbria (about 80 miles from home) it meant that I then had the whole day to myself.

Sketch of the Topiary at Levens Hall

Sketch of the Topiary at Levens Hall

First stop was Levens Hall. This largely 16C house is renown for its garden with a splendid topiary. I’ve known about this place for years as I’d seen it so often in the paintings of a former studio colleague David Wright, whose large canvases often featured Levens as a kind of dreamscape. I have to admit to finding the topiary claustrophobic, so spent several hours at the far end of garden sketching and painting against the boundary wall. Getting very cold finally made me explore the gardens – with a camera this time. I loved the strange corners and unexpected vistas. The topiary only made sense in counterpoint with views of the house. When I got home I made several charcoal and pastel drawings based on my photographs of this juxtaposition. You can explore my gallery of Levens Hall images here.

David Wright and 2 Garden Pictures

David Wright and 2 Garden Pictures

From Levens, next stop was the beautiful Quaker meetinghouse of Brigflatts, the subject of my rather ambitious music and weave project begun last August and now well on its way – completion later this year I hope. Well, part of the musical work is already complete, the piano ‘images’ receiving its premiere last month, and the wind octet has been sent off to the Festival Winds in Canada. The garden, the real focus of my visual interest, was, as ever, captivating yet such an understatement in design and colour.

laura1

Woven work by Laura Rosenzweig

From Brigflatts to Farfield Mill, where I first learnt to weave, and the subject of a blog last November when I spent an afternoon with Farfield’s weaving group. It is my first visit since that day, and there’s a lot of new work to view in the galleries. The woven work is dominated by Laura Rosenzweig’s Howgill Collection. This features predominantly Black-faced Leicester woollen throws woven on Farfield’s own Dobcross looms, beautifully dyed and finished in Galashiels. Alongside this collection there was a chance to see quite a retrospective of Laura’s work, and, for me, the first opportunity to look through her photographic record of 12 years past work, fascinating and inspiring by turn. New names also on show included a Cockermouth dobby-loom weaver Rachel Dutton – some fine silk scarves from her, and knitted work by Farfield artist Angela Bradley. There was a lively collection of small woven rugs and hangings made in Harris Tweed by Jane Jackson.

Sketchbooks by Anne Marie Foster

Sketchbooks by Anne Marie Foster

Later in the week my wife, youngest daughter and I returned to Cumbria, this time to Kendal to be proud parents at the youth orchestra concert. We meant to do all sorts of things during the day, but a late start and a long meal out meant only a little time in Kendal before the concert. While the girls did the shops, I went to the Brewery Arts Centre to see an exhibition by 7 women artists, (aka. The Sketchbook Group),  called Lines of Thought. Two artists particularly caught my attention: Anne Marie Foster and Shelley Rhodes. Anne’s work is mainly in watercolours and with monoprints in oil-based inks and chine colle. Predominantly abstract work, she also showed a collection of her sketchbooks. Shelley’s work is mixed media bringing together fabric, collage and embroidery. Her colours are muted, her designs quietly compelling and slightly temporary. You feel she might just appear and make radical changes to some of her work. She is leading a day on Mixed Media Sketchbook Techniques at the Brewery Arts Centre on 20 June. Shelley has exhibited with Farfield artist Jan Hicks, whose beautiful dyed yarns I have a small collection of, and who I should love to have the opportunity to study dyeing with one day.

New colours from a negative image

New colours from a negative image

Back at my studio I’ve had two Saturday afternoons devoted to my Atwater Bronson project. Following my discovery at Sue Lawty’s workshop of the potential of my camera’s negative filter to show me concealed colours, I have completed a second swatch adding these extra ‘negative’  colours. I’ve also explored how many different patterns I can bring together with just a 4-shaft threading and lift plan. I’m quietly pleased with this, and plan to do just two more experimental pieces. No broken warp ends this time – my warp has stayed beautifully even in tension (quietly proud weaver here for once).

Now it is time to get seriously back to the demands of the College course. I have to spend some time studying finishing and dyeing – to make up for the all too (far too) brief introduction my HNC group had in February. On the near horizon, I have a trip next week to the Craft Study Centre for a day with the Ethel Mairet Collection. This will form the basis of my Historical and Contextual Studies presentation in May. For those interested in the late Peter Collingwood, the Centre’s curator and collections manager Jean Vasher was clearly proud to tell me, when I rang her before Easter, that the Centre had acquired Collingwood’s complete collection (which I imagine must be vast). Collingwood was one of the few male students of Mairet along with Edinburgh weaver Alistair Morton. Kindred spirits . . .

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