The May Weekend Seminar

It’s possible you might have missed looking at the evaluation of my third and most recent project ‘Conceal and Reveal’ for the Bradford HNC course. If you have, you can find it on the Pages section of this blog. I’m not that happy with it as an evaluation, it seems more like a summary. It isn’t a requirement of this course, but I find it useful, and a valuable way of bringing together what I have achieved (or not) over the project period.

Shadow - ss displayed for the Group Critique

Shadow - as displayed for the Group Critique

What the evaluation tries to explain is the range and variety of inputs that make up the outputs of my Project 3 response; Shadow & Light. Unlike some of my colleagues (who had already planned their next project before attending the project weekend!) I grope towards a response, exploring all kinds of highways and byways, until something acceptable appears. And despite acknowledging the need to tick the boxes the outcome has to fit with what I see as developing ownership of my learning.

A detail from my sketchbook flow-chart

A detail from my sketchbook flow-chart

When I started assembling my sketchbook (about 4.0am on the morning of the hand-in date), I put in first a number of flow-charts that show how the different and often disparate inputs connect together. You’ll notice it is the exploration and interpretation of the project theme ‘blocks’ that was at the heart of my efforts. So that’s why everything flows from that central ‘box’ in my flow-chart.

I admit that having finished the weaving about a week before the hand-in date I did have to put in many extra hours to complete all the satellite assignments: a report/essay on Dyeing, Finishing and Costing, the Mood and Market Research Boards, my technical ‘loom tickets’, the Sketchbook and Diary, the research file for my Ethel Mairet presentation for Historical and Contextual Studies. My studio looked at though a bomb had hit it by early Friday morning of the extended weekend course.

Sketchbook preparation in progress!

Sketchbook preparation in progress!

I have to own up to a little assistance along the way: my wife helped me tidy up, finish and add the all-important Vylene to my swatches (she also appeared from time to time with a cheese sandwich); my assistant Phil shot a batch of photos of buildings in Wakefield for my Mood Board ‘Shadows’. I also pulled in a number of my fellow artists to give a yes or no to assemblages in my sketchbook (and thanks Ian in the next-door studio for the mount boards – the local shop closed on the day I had planned to buy them).

Visual Realisation - before going into the sketchbook

Visual Realisation - before going into the sketchbook

A sample of Swedish home weaving

A sample of Swedish home weaving

By the first day of the extended weekend course I had so many musical things piling up on my desk I really should have spent the day at home. As it was, I, and my colleagues on the HNC course, had to give our ‘presentations’.  I’d love to be able to share these on the blog, but the task is beyond me. All I can do is offer my colleagues the opportunity to place something of their research on my on-line gallery and I’ll make up an index page on this blog to enable interested readers to explore further. If I pick any particular presentation out now I do so because it touched a personal interest and I makes no critical comment on the presentation per se. Mark’s research on painter Sean Scully aligned with  a series of interviews with weaver Jenny Wilkinson gave him an opportunity to unravel something of the mystery of abstraction that so dominates the business of woven textile design. By constrast, Anneli’s introduction to the history of Swedish weaving was tantalising in what it had to leave out! The icing on the cake of this presentation was undoubtedly the table spread of samples she brought woven by her distant relatives from a remote part of northern Sweden. Bridget’s exploration of the life and times of samplers opened up all kinds of productive thoughts and directions for me. What she achieved in her ethnographic survey was all about the relationship of personal history to the embroidered art and practice. It was a most telling and fascinating presentation.

As my presentation fell last – I felt everyone had had quite enough – so I departed from my script and simply talked to my slides. I was ‘not’ satisfied by my presentation at all. I’d hoped I could explain something of Ethel Mairet’s achievement and ‘story’ through discussing the two pieces I had so closely studied and handled. It didn’t work – I think my ‘audience’ wanted (probably rightly) more of the background. I spent much of my discussion trying to explain what the woven item itself can tell us and asking my audience to ‘look and think’. Sorry folks!

A Page from my Diary

A Page from my Diary

On Saturday morning we had the Group Critique on our Project 3 efforts. Last time I set myself to write a hundred words on each presentation accompanied by a distant photo of my colleagues presenting their work. I was asked not to do this again. So I’ve just made my own drawings, sketches and notes and I present above just a single page here to give you an idea of what I’ve done. I do this exercise partly because, in what amounts to a long morning of presentations, it helps me keep alert and focused. I’m also becoming interested in observing woven textile design critically – and this is one way to do it. There is, quite rightly, a fear by some students that by showing their work at all on any blog their ideas might be ‘stolen’. Fair enough. Let me illustrate this fear factor  by relating a little recent event – one I’ve kept silent about until now.

In April I spent a day visiting Levens Hall and Farfield Mill in Cumbria (written up in an earlier blog). As I was travelling from the one location to the other I passed a specialist interior design and fabric shop. I stopped and went in for a look. I had my diary with me, and thought it might be useful to me to note down any names of designers and makers the shop featured (in the interests of the Market Research component in the project brief). The owner appeared after a few minutes, insisted on examining my diary (all College stuff fortunately), and asked me to leave. She clearly didn’t believe I was a bona fide student and accused me of stealing her ideas. She thought I was ‘in the business’ and made it clear what I was doing was unacceptable and ‘theft’. She said she had to safeguard her investment. I left, feeling rather sick.

What I will say about the Group Critique is that I gained so much inspiration and information from it. This time around the timing of each presentation was carefully monitored and the whole experience was certainly better. I did take a small number of photographs of work that interested me, and I shall put these up on my image archive. Permission has been requested from the students concerned and the images will be in low resolution and can’t be downloaded from gallery. There were two collections that particularly really interested me:  

Bridget's lace mobile

Bridget's lace mobile

Bridget’s work with the lace carriage on her knitting machine. Her visual realisation had begun with the use of different papers, particularly mulberry paper – lots of collage and experimentation with tissue paper and embroidery. All this on the subject of the acapanthus. She’d used linen and spaced-dyed yarns and produced origami like pieces, even a mobile of lace structures.

Marina's Manipulation & Distortion

Marina's Manipulation & Distortion

Marina’s collection focused on distortion and manipulation. She had devised a single warp which by its design produced block patterns of different width configurations. Very clever and so effective! Some great sketchbooks as before – Mark’s series of studies of a nearby River Lew were outstanding, and I’m looking forward to revisiting these (and reading the accompanying texts) when I get to visit his beautiful Devon home in a few weeks time.

The rest of the weekend was devoted to workshops and demonstrations on double weave, the focus of our next project titled Layers. There is far too much surrounding this subject to begin a description or discussion here.  I’m still trying to digest the very speedy demonstrations given and decipher the handouts. Our lecturer brought in some intriguing samples for us to handle and examine, along with copies from the Textile Archive of the famous Leclerc sample books, which I’d never seen. The three volume L’ ABC du Tisseur was published in 1899 and written by Edmond Leclerc (whose name survives in the Canadian loom making company). Two of the volumes contain samples: planches (II) et échantillons (III). Sadly and surprisingly, none of the three volumes are available at the University of Arizona archive.

A Double Cloth sample

A Double Cloth sample

We also had the opportunity to experiment on a number of looms set up with warps for plain double weave, and with double weave in block threadings. In the past week I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about all this, and spent part of a day in the workshop examining the loom threadings. So until mid July this blog will be featuring my journey towards dealing creatively with double weave, and I hope to start purposefully on this next week.

sample page from Leclerc L'ABC du Tisseur

Sample page from Leclerc L'ABC du Tisseur 1899


3 Responses to “The May Weekend Seminar”

  1. Peg in South Carolina Says:

    Oh my, what richness. I have only skimmed. Will come back at a later date—somehow this seems to happen to me with all your posts as they grow more and more inspiring!

  2. Dot Says:

    Re. the gallery owner who thought you weren’t a student, don’t you have a student card in your wallet?

    There are many approaches to protecting intellectual property, I don’t put anything on my blog unless I’m prepared to let go of it. I think that’s the only realistic approach given that the internet is very international and not all countries are signed up to intellectual property agreements – i.e. in some countries your IP rights don’t exist and even where they do they may be totally unenforceable.

    Arizona archive – this is largely the work of one man, Ralph Griswold, who died a year or two ago. All the work was done by volunteers scanning, cleaning up scans and creating good quality pdfs. Since Ralph died the archive has been kept but not added to. Some of the people invoved are members of the WeaveTech yahoo group.

    Edmond Leclerc – I see there’s a copy of his book for sale in Spain (abebooks), £173. Hmm, I’m over my book budget already! I’d better stick to weaving my own samples.

  3. Peg in South Carolina Says:

    Finally back for my second read! One of the things that has always struck me, and continues to strike me in this post, is how differently the British approach textile design from me (from Americans in general?). The importance of drawing and looking at objects, both natural and manmade in the design process, at least for weavers, I have a great deal of trouble with. Except when it comes to color. Yet I must admit, I have seen many weaver’s statements similar to the one Jenny Wilkinson makes on her website and I have always thought they were written after the creation for the sole purpose of impressing. Am I wrong? I hope I am.

    I love the photo of your messy studio! I think that is quite typical. Though I know one tapestry weaver in the Southwest who has a truly minimalist and clean studio. I would find that impossible.

    Regarding stealing ideas. I think the shop owner was horrible. People are going to steal ideas and there is not much that can be done about it. That’s one reason idea development is so important in industry. When a piece, or group of pieces, is woven, it’s done, it’s history. It’s out-of-date, so to speak. You are on to something new. And all the great artists have stolen–composers, artists, architects, writers. Indeed it used to be expected that the readers would see the borrowings, which would add to the pleasure! Indeed, my PhD thesis would have been the poorer had John Milton not been such a thief!

    Of course, to some extent what I am talking about is the ability of great artists to transform the material they use. The shopkeeper and the blog writers are worried about the hacks who simply take whole and do not transform.

    My loom is a LeClerc……….

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