The Farfield Residency (7-8:14)

Two blogs in one tonight, that is Sunday and Monday. If I don’t do this I’ll just get so behind, and I have such a lot to do before next Saturday. There are these small matters of a woven piece to finish, a concert to give, and a new composition (forming in my head that I’d like to get on paper). 

Wall with moss - a tapestry in itself

Wall with moss - a tapestry in itself

On Sunday Alice and I were up very early. When I got to the Mill at 6.0am, there she was, sitting against the entrance wall, reading Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter. We’ve been sharing the reading of chapters of this book every evening like civilised people used to before television (My grandfather was Williamson’s schoolfriend – they went to the Front together in 1915). In the fields across the road from where we have been staying hay-making had gone on all night, and by 5.0am the farmer had brought in the machine that ‘bags’ the hay in large black polythene bags. Alice had had enough of the noise and got up . . . so we finished our business meeting of the previous evening and she packed most her ‘stuff’ and, after making a little music (Purcell and Dowland), then we had a final breakfast together. She kindly took me to meeting at Brigflatts on her way to home and family 60 miles away.

Early Morning from Farfield Bridge

Early Morning from Farfield Bridge

The ‘first day meeting’ at Brigflatts had two epistles read out by the Clerk – from the Yearly Meeting, Junior Yearly Meeting and Summer Gathering held the week before last at York University. To go to meeting at Brigflatts is to be reminded of the very birth of Quakerism. This is a meeting house visited often by the Quaker founding father George Fox and the inspiring Margaret Fell from Swarthmore Hall. Apart from the hearing loop and the electric light the meeting house is pretty much as it was in 1672.

Early stages - warp  4

Tying up to the existing warp

It was very strange to return to the Bainside studio, and be on my own again. But there was so much to do to get this ‘background’ warp on the Glimakra loom. It took a lot of Sunday just to complete winding the warps and do about half the tieing-on to the existing warp in front of the reed. Lots of people in the Mill on Sunday, and so many (often interesting) interruptions. I worked very late indeed and finally made it to bed in the very early hours. My daughter Meg’s thirteenth birthday today – though she looks about 19! My kind wife arranged a sleepover for 9 teenage girlfriends . . . there are some advantages in being away. She’s a dear girl, and I miss her . . .

the completed warp

the completed warp

I woke early Monday morning to a heavy drizzle. I wrote a number of letters, tied a few more dozen ends, and then had breakfast. It was seriously raining as I walked back to the Mill. Working out in the workshop space, running the whole length of the Mill building, I decided this tieing on job could benefit from some music. I rarely ever work to the accompaniment of music, but this morning the idea of Bach’s the St John Passion seemed appropriate. I have a wonderful recording featuring Mark Padmore as the Evangelist. I hooked up my i-pod to the Level 4 sound system (which usually plays ‘easy listening’) and throughout the day, as I patiently brought this warp to a state of readiness, I listened to all Bach’s keyboard toccatas, The Goldberg Variations, and the D minor Chaconne for solo violin. 

Progress was interrupted with a studio lunch for textile artist Norah Bell. I’ve written about Norah a few weeks ago, so it was good to meet this delightful and unusual weaver and textile artist. I should like to see more of her work than the dramatic trio of hangings I wrote about, currently at the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe.

Another equally interesting interruption was saying good morning to Tomoko Alderson, a lovely Japanese needlewoman from the next-door studio. Lots to say about Tomoko: a design and textile artist, she’s also a musician who regularly plays piano duets (and brought her partner to the concert last week); she’s the sort of person who in the space of 10 minutes you realise you’ve had the most fascinating and wide-ranging conversation with. I think we managed Quakers, Zen Buddhism, composers Debussy and Takemitsu, and the importance of listening to music with a score before we both thought – better get to work!

The completed warp - from above

The completed warp - from above

Now for that warp. Well, it occupied me most of the day and I learnt a lot about this process of tying on to an existing warp. I also learnt a great deal about Kernaf or Hemp. It is not an ideal (natural) fibre for a warp, and required lots of patience to make this possible. But it is so beautiful, and this particular hemp came from the fabulous Japanese store in New York, Habu.

hemp or kenaf by Habu

hemp or kenaf by Habu

The other yarns are predominantly linen, or linen and cotton mix. After playing around so much with the sequence and order – using painted strips of paper – it was reassuring to see the colours and textures finally come together.

Sketch from the 'balcony'

Sketch from the 'balcony'

I had supper (tea we call it in this part of the world) sitting out on the ‘balcony’ (read fire escape) looking over the River Clough in the twilight. The bats were about and the sound of the river was very soporific. I felt as though I’d had a good and necessary day – more weaving than music for once. Tomorrow I shall start designing the weft – using the colours I assembled for Le Jardin Pluvieux.

Final Note: it would be really good if those who read my blog regularly might contribute some pictures of your gardens or gardens you love. Not much time left I’m afraid. I would so like to give the studio artists and visitors to Farfield Mill an idea of the vigorous community of online textile designers, crafters and makers.


4 Responses to “The Farfield Residency (7-8:14)”

  1. Barbara Says:


    Thank you so much for mentioning Tarka the Otter. It was a most favored book in my childhood; I had become a voracious reader by the time I was 10 and this helped to only fuel that fire. I must now re-read this, and I have rooted around on the shelves and found my precious personal copy. By any chance are you reading an edition which is graced by the fabulous woodcut illustrations by C. F. Tunnicliffe? Mine is a 1960 copyright from the Looking Glass Library distributed by Random House, NY. and manufactured in the United States by The Colonial Press in Clinton, Massachusetts. I wonder if the UK editions included this artwork? I would love to see these prints in the flesh in full size!


    Barbara (a Massachusetts weaver, veterinarian, mother of one pianist and one blossoming composer/sound artist, lurker enjoying your blog for so many reasons!)

  2. Dot Says:

    Hi Nigel, good to see you are warped up now.

    Thanks for the kind invitation to contribute photographs, however, I am not able to assist with your project at the moment for personal reasons.

  3. Cally Says:

    I’m happy to share a few pics – I don’t have many but I do like to capture the peonies and roses when they are in bloom!

  4. Peg in South Carolina Says:

    Good to see a completed warp. I used to listen to music sometimes during warping/weaving. BBC classical music through internet connection. But I finally realized that my head was so wrapped around with what I was doing that I rarely ever actually heard the music! I discovered the same sad thing when I painted. So much for the fantasy of the artist/craftsman listening to great music in the studio. Some weavers actually watch television. That is beyond my understanding. Yes, Habu is a fabulous store. I go when we visit our daughter in NYC. Unfortunately that does not happen often as it is way too expensive and her apartment barely holds its current occupants. Definitely a must go-to if you ever get over here.

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