The Farfield Residency (13 & 14)

This is the final full day of my residency here at Farfield Mill. Today will see the third and final concert in the series I’ve curated for Farfield Mill, their first venture into music. This was a solo recital for guitar of Matteo Carcassi’s Etudes Melodiques.

Ready for the Concert

Ready for the Concert

Having had a really promising rehearsal the evening before I decided not to spend too much time practising, but to concentrate on making a lively display of the two-week residency and deciding whether or not to take my woven piece off the Glimakra loom. With the display I’ve really benefited from collecting and making images of all sorts during the residency. I had plenty of material to play with, and apart from not quite obeying the necessary perspective correction on the wall space, the end result is certainly colourful and ‘different’.

The display outside the Bainside Studio

The display outside the Bainside Studio

All the exhibition items on Level 4 and in this ‘corner’ outside the Bainside studio will remain on show until the end of August. Remember all the work can be viewed in detail and with extensive interpretation on my  website – just take the Quick Link marked Fifteen Images from the Home Page. If you are within striking distance of Sedbergh do come and see this work and take in some of the other exhibitions currently at Farfield Mill. The Maggie Ayres show is highly recommended.

A bit of a mess - with kenaf

A bit of a mess - with kenaf

As to the knotty problem of what to do about my woven piece and the state of the loom itself, I had almost decided to take what I’d woven off the loom. The right hand end of the warp with 10 ends of kenaf was suffering badly as my illustration above shows.

My Woven Garden piece

My Woven Garden piece

I thought if I was to restart the woven piece I would strip these kenaf ends out altogether. However, I felt I needed a second opinion (and possibly some Vilene). Well, in the end I got two opinions and the Vilene (which in the end I didn’t use). Alice appeared about midday with her family on their way to 10 days camping in Scotland, and Margaret from the Farfield Weavers’ Group was weaving herself on Level 4. Between them they decided the woven piece should come off, and Margaret showed both Alice and I some valuable and confident ways to do this, and demonstrated a lovely way of making the ends of the warp secure. During my afternoon concert Alice sat in a distant corner of the Level 4 gallery and did this tidying up process while I played away. This has made the woven piece quite presentable, even though there is still quite a lot of darning of weft ends to do.

The residency resume display

The residency resume display

The audience for my final concert was surprisingly large! Indeed, we ran of chairs and had go searching around the lower floors of Mill for extras. I was delighted to discover afterwards some of my own friends and colleagues in the audience. I’m afraid when I’m playing the audience is a complete blur, although there was a lady in the front row with an amazing frock that I found distracting at the time! I grouped the 25 Etudes into batches of six or so and talked a little in between these groups about Carcassi, 19C Paris and how the guitar had changed since the 1820s.

Nigel rehearsing for Saturday's Concert. Photo by Alice Fox

Nigel rehearsing for Saturday's Concert. Photo by Alice Fox

As an un-programmed final item Alice joined me to perform John Dowland’s Flow my Tears, the Lachrimae, a tender and reflective end to what amounts to almost a year’s work. This time last year I was discovering Brigflatts and its beautiful garden (in the rain). I attended Jeanette Appleton’s workshop at Farfield Mill and was so encouraged and enthused. A month later I had begun formal part-time studies in woven textile design at Bradford College, and had begun writing a sequence of music collectively known as Le Jardin Pluvieux. (I’m now half way through this sequence of music, textile installations, digital presentations and poetry – after my work on the life and work of Barbara Hepworth for her centenary celebrations in 2003 it is my most ambitious collection of  music yet). In November I introduced myself to a young woman weaving on one of the College dobby looms (ever curious to know what other student weavers were up to). We both, but variously, attended Sue Lawty’s lecture in York, but didn’t meet again until January, when I saw her in a corridor at College and asked, as she’d been to the lecture, if she’d look at and comment on my blog report on this lecture. She did, and from that has developed a six-month collaboration in music, textiles and digitally-mediated art that has been at the heart of my Farfield residency, and for which I am most grateful. Thank you, Alice and your most patient and supportive family.

At Farfield Mill I need to thank the Chair of Trustees Anne Pierson (for believing a music / textiles residency would be a ‘good thing’ for Farfield), Exhibitions Officer Elizabeth Eaton for facilitating the residency, to Jeremy the new administrator who made essential things happen and appear, to the Farfield staff and volunteers, to Margaret, Anna, Susan and Rosie from the Farfield Weavers’ Group, and studio artist and next-door neighbour Tomoko. At Brigflatts meeting I need to say a particular thank you to the Warden Tess Satchell and the Clerk Margaret Stocks, and further down Brigflatts  Lane  to John Rice and Clare Hamilton for their friendship and hospitality.

What next? There is lots of music to finish writing and possibly a change of studio in Wakefield to accommodate my tapestry loom (still in Exeter sadly). Facts of Life according to Gatto Marte has to be complete by the end of September to go into rehearsal on October 11. I need to put aside time to consider the many lessons this residency has taught me. I have learnt a lot in recent weeks about working and presenting woven textiles, often due to kind observations from the online readers of this blog.

Nigel at the loom. Photo by Alice Fox

Nigel at the loom. Photo by Alice Fox

Certainly what I set out to do over this past fortnight was probably too ambitious, but I only had this small window of opportunity to bring together a body of work and practice. For me, artistically and personally, it has been worth it. Whether the outcomes will be of sufficient quality and interest to catch the attention and support of galleries and centres for textile art able to accommodate this kind of cross-art residency is to be seen. I hope so.

It’s now Sunday morning and there is the final packing up to do. All my stuff is staying here for 10 days while I’m in Wales. I’ll then say my goodbyes to Ruth and her mother Jean at Oak Dene where I’ve stayed this fortnight. Definitely the best B & B in Sedbergh. I’ll then walk to Brigflatts for meeting and then hope to get a lift the 10 miles or so up to Garsdale Station. I cycled it last summer in an hour and a quarter. Walking it would probably take three hours  . . . I just wish it would stop raining.

No more blogs for bit . . . I may be back in September when I start learning to be a tapestry weaver!

Nigel @ Farfield Mill

Nigel @ Farfield Mill

 An Extra Note: If you’d like to read a resume of the whole Farfield Residency it is now available as a PDF here.


4 Responses to “The Farfield Residency (13 & 14)”

  1. tomoko Says:

    …really enjoy reading your blogs 🙂
    It was fantastic to have a musician next door, specially while I was sewing. Thank you (Matt and Alice, too) for the very beautiful and the most interesting music. As a designer/maker, I am also always practicing my new skills and ideas because I want to be a better designer. I got lots of inspiration from your work. With very best wishes.

  2. Dot Says:

    “I may be back in September when I start learning to be a tapestry weaver!”

    Learning to operate a loom and weave beautiful cloth and design your own requires the same dedication as learning a musical instrument.

    You are a beginner on the floor loom, but now apparently going to abandon it in favour of tapestry weaving, which although it is a related craft and loom based requires very different skills, and no less to learn – it’s not as easy as it looks!!

  3. Nigel Says:


    Thank you for this comment. It gives me a chance to provide something of an explanation for what sounds a ridiculous suggestion and course of action. But first, I agree entirely with what you say about learning and dedication. You are an example to us all (the online community) in embodying both of these attributes . . . That said, you should know that I embarked upon experiencing woven textile design as a result of my fascination with the work of Anni Albers. I loved the fine art side of weaving and knew very little about the making of garments or the design side associated with interiors and fashion. Taking the HNC course at Bradford opened my eyes to this, and (for me) at least the course I have been following has been perfect. I now know something about the commercial side of woven textile design. My blog, if nothing else, shows that I have tried to become aware of textile world – as far as time has allowed me to. If you’ve read my blog from the outset you’ll know that experiencing the work of Sue Lawty through a lecture last November and then a workshop in March this year were important experiences, experiences which spoke to me very deeply. More recently I have began a collaboration (as a composer) with Jilly Edwards to create a large-scale installation at High Cross at Dartington. I have also taken an introductory course with Fiona Abercrombie.

    How do you start as a tapestry weaver? Often by studying the elements of woven textile design using a handloom. That’s what Jilly Edwards did . . I simply can’t afford to consider studying at West Deane . . .

    I’m certainly not abandoning my interest in the floor loom or the techniques of handweaving, but I have only a year I can spare to give time over to study this whole area (before I start work on a full-length opera) and my tutor at Bradford has sanctioned ‘The Study of Tapestry Weaving’ as my final project for Year 2.

    I have no motivation to be a commercial design/maker. Handloom weaving is not something I envisage for my retirement (composers don’t retire!), but I am interested to investigate aspects of textile design, music and digital technology. I think my recent 15 images piece is evidence of this intent.

    Yes, Dot, I am very much a beginner on the floor loom . . . and it was certainly very presumptuous of me to be recently ‘in residence’ at a centre of excellence for textiles as both a composer and weaver. By sharing the whole learning experience warts and all on a blog I hoped to leave some kind of trace of the fascinating world I have clearly stepped into. I realise that you and others may find my approach rather shallow and lacking the intent towards achieving the highest level of craft, but just looking and not doing will never give the insight required to begin an understanding of the medium. Did you know that Margot Coates studied weaving with Hilary Chetwyn solely to be able to write her monograph on Ethel Mairet? I needed to understand what makes the work I admire tick . . . and now I certainly know a lot more than I did in April 2008. It has changed my life, and my music (surprisingly). After 45 years I’m still studying the guitar (with the brilliant soloist Alan Thomas), and your suggestion I should now consider studying privately is well received . . .

    I’m sorry if my blog possibly gives the impression that I’m somehow demeaning the craft of weaving and textile design by not being single-minded enough. I’m sorry if that seems the case. I hope this overlong explanation goes someway to explain my motives and intentions.

  4. Dot Says:

    My question was asked because I am puzzled that half way through a course in weave design you are switching techniques, at a point where I thought you were just getting into your stride with the floor loom.

    I feel that the Bradford course, by concentrating on design, assumes you either know or can master very quickly the technical skills needed to realise your design ideas. I regret the fact that the modern Bradford course is basically a design (and presentation / marketing skills) course, and doesn’t meet the needs of people like myself who are wanting to study the methods for the construction of cloth as integral to design.

    Having read your response I understand better why you signed up for the Bradford course and your expectations, and now it seems to me that the formal course has been a means of making the space in your life to explore weaving & visual / textile design crafts.

    I was sorry to miss your guitar recital. I learnt much more about this instrument from the superb Radio 4 series recently where Joan Armatrading talked to her favourite guitarists. I hadn’t realised that the guitar is only recently established as a “classical” instrument.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: