Archive for October, 2009

A Beginning and an End

October 30, 2009

I’m nearing the end of the six-day Autumn School on the 2nd year of the Bradford College HNC Woven Textile Design. Today we’re going to be considering Realising a Textile Collection and Writing a Final Project Proposal. The spectre of the Final Show next June is already hanging over us and today we’ll have the opportunity to make noises to our lecturer about our intentions. In the seven days prior to the Autumn School last Monday I brought together all the threads of Project 5 whose details I described in my last blog. We had the challenge of an Interim Group Critique, and it really was a challenge to most of us because we were not sure what the expectation was and how much of it would be assessed. After much deliberation I did two things: I wove three samples; I created a web presentation that described my planning, work in progress, work to do, and proposed outcome. In other words I told the story of my Project 5 (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). Below you can see a display of the web pages that I prepared just in case my lecturers were unwilling to let me show these images from the web. You can download these slides (which also includes a draft mood board and market research images) as a PDF here.

NM images

My Group Crit. Presentation for Project 5

You’ll see on the right hand side of my Group Crit. display that I presented my samples in one length. I was persuaded to do this by my wife who reckoned it looked better that way. Several people said – oh, I do like the sections of dark blue (that’s a filler between samples thank you very much!) However, I have put the samples against individual close-up photos.

Paper - Rafia 10

My first sample with Ikat ‘highlights’

These samples I decided to do in the workshop at college. So it was back to the 8-shaft Harris loom, which I haven’t used for some time. After all that experimentation with natural fibres I decided at last to choose raffia as my main fibre and found that Texere in Bradford do a lively selection in different colours. I bought 5 packets in all that seemed to bring together some of the colours I’d explored in my visual realisation work on the parterre. For a warp I discovered a white paper yarn that looked interesting and possible. As soon as I began to make the warp with this fibre I knew I was in for trouble. I had never used anything like it before and I soon got into serious difficulties. I was saved from complete melt-down by Graham the workshop technician who encouraged me to think of a variation on my usual front to back method of warping. I’d seen this done once before by Margaret Eccleston at Farfield Mill, but never tried it.

R & P 3

The second sample using bamboo and sari silk in the middle section

I think Debbie Chandler describes this method as her 3rd way of warping. Here it is: on the warping board instead of tying up the cross, use cross-sticks. Standing at the front of the loom, tie the reed / beater up half way between the front beam and the castle. Hang the cross sticks from the castle so they are behind the beater / reed. Then simply pick off the ends from the cross and thread through the reed. This is a very good method when you have to work with a yarn/fibre that is as difficult as paper.

R & P 9

The third sample using all three raffia colours

The next step was to thread the warp. I decided to imagine this loom as a rug loom and just use 2 shafts and a straight draw. Then, the worst bit of the process – trying to tie the warp up with adequate tension at both ends – without breaking the yarn. Well, thanks to Graham’s help and ingenuity we did it . . . and I’ll certainly know how to do it next time. Putting such a warp on my floor loom will certainly require two people!

R & P 4

Detail from sample 2

I then choose a number of auxiliary yarns to go in a kind of counterpoint with the raffia in the weft. I found a couple of linen yarns of different shades of green, a natural kenaf, a few threads of sari silk remnants and the fabulous white bamboo yarn from Habu that I’d used in my frame experiments at home. I was prepared (and inspired) to weave with raffia after my last workshop with Sue Lawty. She has used this fibre extensively in her work and gave many pointers to working with it. Raffia comes in lengths of about a metre so to weave with it you have to be confident and crafty in making joins between lengths. I deliberated asked Sue Lawty how she did this so effectively, and being the very generous artist she is, she showed me . . . and look Sue, I can do it. Thank you.

Using twisted raffia for texture in sample 3

The more I wove with raffia the more I really liked it, and I was surprised how well it wove into the paper warp. I do like the unevenness of the colour that seems to produce some very subtle shades and textures. I was quite surprised to discover how well the linen yarns I’d chosen worked alongside the raffia. The first piece is all greens, then the second introduces a blue grey, the third brings in yellow. As I was finishing the second I suddenly thought about painting highlights of colour into what showed in the weave of the paper warp.

A Catalogue of Tapestry Knots

The whole of this little weaving project with raffia was hand-manipulated. Along with plain-weave I used just a few of the tapestry knots I know: soumak, Egyptian knots. (I found a wonderful summary of the standard tapestry knots in a little book my wife found on E-bay, called Small-Scale Weaving, it’s Number 17 in the Needle Crafts series from Search Press). The illustration above comes from this book – such a useful reference guide. I twined raffia colours together and layered them too. Every pick was beaten with my trusty metal fork rather than the beater.

Mark 6

Mark’s Danish Medallions

Now to the Autumn School itself. We started first thing Monday morning with an interim Group Critique. I don’t think any of us was quite sure exactly what was expected of us for this 10-minute presentation, that is ten minutes of our time and then an indeterminate time for questions (or so it seemed). I think all of us on the course recognize that it is in these presentations, the displays and availability of sketchbooks that we pick up inspiration, information and ideas. Mark was still mining his home territory with visual research based on the shepherd’s hut he had created for his annual holiday location. Beautiful visual work using a latex resist accompanied by a hemp scarf-like sample woven with hemp. This natural yarn was acquired from a local source The House of Hemp. Danish Medallions with and without distortion featured prominently.

Mark 9

One of Mark’s images demonstrating geological recycling

Fascinating and inventive work by Jane starting with an investigation into the material taken from children’s paddling pools (some striking colourful samples) to images from a holiday at Morecombe that featured the casts of lugworms! She produced a most beautiful linen scarf that I wish I could show here.

Gail 2

A Clothes-House for Samples

Gail’s work showed evidence of a long journey of investigation (starting with beachcombing) before finding ideas to really engage with. Patchwork seemed in the end to predominate, mixing all kinds of material together in unusual and striking ways. I loved the way she presented these samples on a kind of mini clothes-horse (for socks or knickers perhaps).

Bridget 3

A Ceramicist and Knitter

Of the knitters Bridget and Kate were again inspirational in their pathways to their collections of samples. Bridget unfolded the world of bees and the honeycomb; Kate took us to a palm house with recycled crochet, lace and felted wools. Bridget’s market research board (see above) opened up a totally new idea to me: a knitted item as a kind of mould for ceramics.


Shibori – an inspiration for knitter Amanda

Sadly for me after the Group Critique, and the tutorials for some that followed, my other life interrupted and I missed a class trip to Manchester to ‘do the shops’. One class member, whose life doesn’t engage very often with city shopping, described it as an anthropological experience! Seriously though, I think the class found the guided tour of fabrics in Selfridges, Heals, Habitat and then exploring Paperchase most beneficial. Sadder still on the next day, when the class was having a tutorial day in the workshop, I was in Manchester grappling with editing at the BBC and a meeting over a major Arts Council bid.

Thursday I managed, despite some rail chaos, to attend the whole day. This day focused on Professional Studies, a core unit that encourages us to be aware (from within our perceived area of interest – mine being textile artist) to engage with Legislation, Professional Ethics, Business Organisations and Job Roles and Sustainability and Environmental Issues (did you know it takes 10,000 litres of water to make a single tee-shirt?).

Friday was earmarked as a day to grapple with preparation for the Final Project through a unit titled Realising a Textile Collection followed by a kind of brainstorming session on our individual ideas for our final collection. During this session my own ideas were pretty much dismissed by lecturer and group alike. It was then that I woke up to the fact that I had probably gone as far as I was going to be able to go on the second year of this HNC. I went to sit in the next-door university’s beautiful (autumnal) Peace Garden to reconcile myself to this fact. Although I love the textile world passionately, I simply couldn’t see myself jumping through the hoops of the final year without coming seriously to grief. As Dot (Fibre and Fabric) suggested back in August on these pages, I’m still very much a novice weaver and my work is simply not mature enough to deal with the expectations of this final year. I also think you need a lively sense of humour and a very accommodating nature to stick with the vicissitudes of this course. I have neither . . .

I shall miss the HNC programme as a way of reconciling with my patient wife and family the time I keep spending on studying textiles, when I should be composing music and doing family stuff. I shall really miss the wonderful encouragement and technical support Graham, the workshop technician, has consistently given me. And not forgetting those rather bemused full-time students who I have regularly pestered week in week out to let me look at and discuss their work. Finally, thanks to lecturers Gill and Andrea for their patience and ‘good ideas’. I will now have to create my own objectives and signposts . . . perhaps my wonderful Cumbrian teacher will think of taking me back as occasional student!

Back in September I introduced the subject of the Slow Movement (movement) and mentioned an upcoming touring exhibition called Taking Time. The exhibition opened formally last Friday and my critical friend and sometime collaborator was there with her husband to view a new work by Sue Lawty called Calculus. I had actually decided to focus on the Slow Movement as a theme for the Critical Study element of the Bradford course. Receiving the catalogue earlier this week I was intrigued to see a list of Themes in the form of questions. In my next blog I’ll present my answers to these somewhat puzzling questions. Until then, it’s back to the drawing board as they say . . .


The Second Year Approaches

October 19, 2009

In seven days time I will start the second year of the HNC course in Woven Textile Design at Bradford College, the course I began in September 2008. The Autumn School as it is known will be 6 days in all: lectures, tutorials, seminars, but all practical workshops I gather have now been completed. I passed the first year of the course successfully, not brilliantly, but nothing to be ashamed of ! As for the second year, well, it is made up predominantly of a Project 5 titled Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, units in Professional Practice and Development, a Critical Study of 3,500 words and a Final Project: the realisation and production of a final collection.

My sample created in the July workshop with recycled materials

One of two samples created in the July workshop with recycled materials

As I’ve already suggested in my blog at the end of the Farfield Residency I have negotiated with my tutor that my second year be devoted to a study of tapestry weaving. I now have a tapestry loom, a developing association with an international name in tapestry art, a second workshop with tapestry artist Sue Lawty under my belt, and lots of enthusiasm to make the very most out of this wonderful opportunity.

Negotiating my textile work around my musical projects in the period between the HNC July Weekend and the Autumn School hasn’t been easy. It has taken me some time to organise the initial preparation for Project 5, a project to be submitted in mid January, but that will have an interim assessment opportunity in just under a fortnight’s time.

I know there are  former HNC graduates who read this blog (I heard from a member of the 2004 cohort just this week), so I must point out that for this final (final) year of the course there is an important change. Project 5 gobbles up Project 6 and becomes a longer and preparatory project for the Final Project. From my position this is most advantageous because it  means I can really prepare technically and artistically for the move from handweaving to tapestry. Project 5 asks for one small / manageable final product and the writing of a proposal for the Final Project.

For next week’s Autumn School the requirement is to present , for  what I understand to be, an interim assessment: a completed sketchbook for Visual Realisation (containing at least 8 drawings, 3 pieces of collage and evidence of work with colour and texture), some evidence of initial Design Development, a mood board, a market research board with an accompanying research file, at least 8 samples showing evidence of experimental work with sustainable fibres and yarns, and the first part of a Professional Studies file focusing on legislation and environmental issues.

For me this is quite a task because late July and August were almost completely taken up with preparations for my Farfield residency and a very necessary holiday in Wales. In September I was due to go off to Portland, Oregan for three weeks, but a family crisis prevented this and I found myself instead struggling to complete a large-scale music theatre work for its first rehearsal early in October. I made a list the other day of all that’s gone on in September – and it was alarming! All that said, I’m now on the way to achieving a state of readiness for the Autumn School.

A Parterre in Thornes Park

A section of the parterre in Thornes Park

One of the problems I have found with this course is choosing a subject focus and keeping in mind the technical theme and a market research outcome. For Project 5 this has seemed even more difficult than previously. I have, however, finally arrived at a plan of attack. My subject inspiration is Natural Boundaries, a title that I hope will embrace what I need to produce that small / manageable final item / product. This item will be a piece of textile art (probably based on the parterre in the rose garden of Thornes Park). I will focus on textile art, one of the four routes we can choose from given in the project brief as an ‘end use’ in market research. This final aspect is fortuitous because it enables me to bring together a study of the work of tapestry artist Jilly Edwards (with whom I am collaborating as a composer during the next 6 months) and my emerging interest in the techniques of tapestry weaving.

Six tiny (3cm x 11cm) tapestries by Jilly Edwards

Six tiny (3cm x 11cm) tapestries by Jilly Edwards

This last week I’ve been able to collect together many of the materials and research sources I need to meet the Autumn School target. There’s been a lot of thinking to do to get this right, and I was so fortunate last week to be able to discuss the detail of my proposed approach to Project 5 with the textile artist I’ve been working with during the summer. I mercilessly raided her studio for journal articles and images, and have been kindly allowed the use of a rich collection of natural yarns and fibres to explore and experience the project subject: Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle. The most important aspect of this opportunity was having a friendly ear to listen to my formative ideas and to be in receipt of so many sensible suggestions, strategies and observations.

Yarns, fibres and journals

Yarns, fibres and journals

The first stage in my progress towards experimenting and handling sustainable and natural fibres and yarns has been to abandon my loom and concentrate on my small weaving frame. You may remember I started using this frame to great effect for the Design Development of Project 4. Having recently seen how two professional tapestry weavers use the small frame loom I became convinced that this should be the medium through which my experimental samples should be created. From attending workshops with Fiona Abercrombie and Sue Lawty I have learnt just enough to set up a warp on such a frame loom and get weaving and experimenting. Here below is illustrated a first experiment just to get the feel of the medium, some off the yarns and fibres, and the weaving techniques.

sample 2

An experimental sample

The fibres and yarns include a green linen layer, white unbleached bamboo (from Habu no less), a layer of rich blue silk, a weft pick of light blue wool, some raffia and finally a little hemp. The piece is woven in plain weave with a base of end knots and a single line of soumak in the hemp section. I’ve tied up the frame on my loom so I can sit comfortably whilst weaving and have open space under the weaving frame.

A Frame within a Loom

A Frame within a Loom

Although I did more thinking than weaving for Project 5 during September I did complete my own ‘re-use and re-cycle’ of the double warp I created for Project 4. From this I have made a sequence of 4 panels, which today I finally ‘finished’ (warm press) and installed above my desk in my studio. This is the double weave opened out at one end to create a single woven piece twice the width of the original warp. I regard this as my first complete art piece at the floor loom. It significantly extends the design and colour palette of my set of double weave sample for Project 4 based on visual realisation of the sea and sky surrounding my cottage in North Wales. I’ve particularly focused attention on the coloured stripe and creating a play of colours through a sustained sequence of striped panels. Producing this has certainly taken up time that might have been put towards Project 5, but completing this work has been a valuable and important design challenge and helped me experience just what it requires in concentration and technical confidence to weave a substantial piece.

Four Panels (above my studio desk)

Four Panels (above my studio desk)

For the Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle aspect of Project 5 I’m focusing my attention on a local rug maker – Area of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. This company makes bespoke rugs and carpets. They have an impressive collection that includes work by the designer Carrie Scott-Huby. This painter and textile artist has her own a label called PinkMoonInspires. This label demonstrates a strong commitment to using recycled materials and Carrie’s current collection of rug designs for Area certainly reflects this. I was surprised and delighted to see  Carrie’s work in this new context because for several years she occupied the next door studio to mine!

Back in July Andrew Warburton, Managing Director of Area, visited my studio during an Open Studios evening at Westgate Studios. When he saw  my loom he generously asked if I would be interested in visiting the Area workshop and offered me access to any yarn remnants left offer from many of his ambitious rug projects. As I now have two looms capable of weaving rugs it seems sensible to begin exploring this aspect of woven textile design. It is very much a world of its own, though not really a part of the HNC course. I’m hoping to arrange a visit soon to Area and look into collecting, re-using and then recycling possible remnants within part of my Project 5 piece for January.

Carrie Scott-Huby's design 'I thought I knew you' for Area - rugs and carpets of Dewsbury

Carrie Scott-Huby's design 'I thought I knew you' for Area - rugs and carpets of Dewsbury

Throughout this busy time of finishing off one project and preparing and planning the next project has been a particularly glorious autumn backdrop. I’ve made several  short trips through autumn colours to Cumbria and most recently to the Devon / Cornwall border, but back here at home in it’s been pretty good too. The park across the road (where I walk or cycle every morning) seems to get more and more wonderful in its autumnal shades. The sun keeps shining and there’s been so little wind and rain to take the leaves from the trees. I even was inspired to write a short and very autumnal piece of music commissioned recently for the launch of a new Chamber Music Project. It was beautifully performed within 10 days of its completion by cellist Tim Lowe and pianist Stephen Gutman. My friendly editor described it as Nigel Morgan meets Gabriel Faure!

The avenue I cycle down every morning

The avenue I cycle down every morning

Afterword and image: I’ve started to experiment with a watercolour medium Koh-I-Nor. This enables some rich and illuminated colours that I think will proved invaluable for some of the preparatory work for Project 5. Here’s an autumnal sample.

Autumn images

Autumn images


A painting with Koh-I-Nor waterbased dyes

A painting with Koh-I-Nor waterbased dyes



The Loom Trip

October 9, 2009

A Loom Trip doesn’t sound very prosaic, but that is what it became known as over the last few weeks. It was to be a 700 mile round trip to collect my very own tapestry loom from its previous owner, the renown tapestry artist Jilly Edwards. We clinched the deal on this loom back in the spring, but it has seemed impossible to find an appropriate time when I could manage the trip. Finally, a kind  invitation to visit a colleague on the Bradford HNC course provided the necessary glue to seal the trip: the opportunity to give an intimate concert in a beautiful home in the remote Lew valley  in mid Devon.

The Dower House @ Lewdown, Devon

The beautiful Dower House @ Lewdown, Devon


I made ‘the loom trip’ with the textile artist who shared part of my recent Farfield residency, my critical friend, soprano and erstwhile otter expert Alice. She’s been working this past month as an assistant to another tapestry artist, Sue Lawty. Sue is currently engaged on an ambitious piece for a Craftspace touring exhibition opening this month in Birmingham.

Leaving Wakefield mid-morning in the first rain we’d experienced for a month, we made a picnic stop just north of Worcester at Hanbury Woods. This consists of two old commons (sometimes known as Piper’s Common) of some  40 acres now managed by the Worcester Wildlife Trust. These woodland commons contain many ancient beech, sweet chestnut pollards  and oak trees, some over 300 years old. What is lovely about this spot is the way the trees have been planted and thinned out over the years, making the wood feel so spacious and full of light. Last week the leaves were beginning to fall gently, and I found myself tempted to catch those coming my way as an excuse to make a necessary wish! I’m told this is a great place to find those rare chanterelle mushrooms that seem to defy cultivation, but love to grow around beech trees.

After very slow progress through interminable road works around Bristol we turned off the Motorway near Tiverton and enjoyed the scenic route to Okehampton and thence on the old A30 to Lewdown. The final few miles took us deep into a network of valleys on the very edge of northern Dartmoor and onto the estate of the descendants of the author and polymath Sabine Baring-Gould, whose extraordinary novel Mehala I still have plans to transform into an opera – one day!

Mark & Alice search for Otter Spraint beside the River Lew

HNC student Mark & Alice search for otter spraint beside the River Lew


The following day really requires a blog all of its own. It had very little to do with weaving or textiles, more with finding otter spraint and getting nicely wet walking part of the estate, rehearsing Campion and Dowland lute songs, a late afternoon stroll on Dartmoor, performing to our hosts, and then being thoroughly spoilt at the table of the warmest kitchen I’ve been in for some time.

My sketch from the back garden of the Dower House, Lewdown

On Sunday morning reality took over and we set off for Exeter to collect ‘the loom’ from a storage centre on the outskirts of the city. Thence to Jilly’s new home, a small but perfectly formed chalet-like structure in a back garden of a city house. No room there for a large tapestry / rug loom with a 72” weaving width.

Here’s part of the e-mail I received when I first asked Jilly for details:

I think it may have been made in Poland, it has no makers name on it and there have been changes made to the loom over the years! But it is in reasonable condition, it is about 25 – 30 years old.  It has two shafts that are operated by the pedals, the rollers are very sturdy with metal ratchets on both ends of each roller and the shafts run well in the runners and they have metal heddles.  The loom is strong, sturdy and of course very wide.  It is so unusual to see such a loom, which is why I bought it, but I am really not going to use it, so for space reasons and I hate equipment just sitting around, I would like it to go to being used.  Your project sounds perfect . . .

Woven Piece by Ma

Tapestry by Marta Rogoyska probably woven on my loom - now in the Tate London


The loom had two previous owners before Jilly, Marta Rogoyska and Gabriella Falk. For me, it was comforting to know this loom had been used by three professional weavers, and moreover properly maintained by Jilly’s husband Robert.

My Polish Tapestry Loom - in bits!

My Polish Tapestry Loom - in bits!


Well, that’s all you really need to know about my tapestry loom for now. I got it back to my studio late on Sunday night and early Monday morning my eldest son and I found a space for its dismantled parts in my small studio where it will stay until I rearrange my large studio to accommodate it. I’m not planning to start using it until early January as I have my fifth HNC Project to complete. Then, all being well, ‘A Study of Tapestry Weaving’ becomes the focus of my final 6-month project, a project that I shall artfully connect to the collaboration I’m making as a composer and digital artist to a major and really ambitious installation Jilly Edwards is creating for the famous High Cross House on the Dartington Estate.

The real meat of this ‘loom trip’ was the opportunity to meet Jilly Edwards and visit her (temporary) studio. We spent a fascinating four hours in her ebullient and generous company and came away knowing that we’d met a very special artist.

Jilly and a Texture of Memory

Jilly and Textures of Memory


What I’d like to try and do here is to discuss what I think makes this tapestry artist so special, and to describe those elements of her practice that might speak to the wider textile community that I know occasionally read this blog. Jilly’s work is well documented in print, but not discussed widely on the web. I hope I can give a personal angle to my own enthusiasm for her tapestry art. I’ve certainly no wish to duplicate any of the writing on her work by the likes of Margot Coates (whose excellent monograph on Ethel Mairet I discussed back in May this year).

Curiously enough Jilly’s textile journey began under the tutelage of one of Mairet’s assistants Joyce Griffiths, who taught Jilly to spin. She studied first as a handweaver, but knew she wanted to explore tapestry. She even adapted her Toika loom by building up the back beam to get a slanted warp (as used in the West Dean workshops). Studying with Fiona Mathison and Maureen Hodge  in Edinburgh as a ‘special’ student  (alongside Jorunn Finne and Anne Newdigate-Mills) she adopted the haute lisse, sold her cloth-weaving loom, and didn’t look back. She now uses the vertical loom of Archie Brennan’s design made from ‘Accro’ props and scaffolding, the favoured loom of the famous Dovecote Studio. Pictorial tapestry has only occupied a small part of Jilly’s career. She seems to have progressed quickly to the abstract forms, and acknowledges the influence of the Albers and the Bauhaus, the St Ives school (particularly John Wells and Patrick Heron), weaver Leonore Tawney, and the American minimalist painter Agnes Martin.

Painting by Agnes Martin

Painting by Agnes Martin


Although Jilly’s work is embedded in many of the traditions of tapestry making, when it comes to displaying her work forget everything you might have thought previously about the medium. This isn’t (necessarily) about woven cloth you hang on a wall. Her work is definitely (and mostly these days) ‘off the wall’ (in fact that was the title of a ground-breaking show at the Crafts Study Centre in 2006).

Detail from Texture

Detail from Textures of Memory


Her signature piece associated with that show is Textures of Memory of 2005. This is a piece some 12 metres long and 5 cm wide. It has become indelibly associated with the artist through its selection as the poster image for the Tapestry Group’s Tapestry 08 exhibition in Halifax. And there it was, in a very smart box in her studio, for us to pick up and explore. But I jump ahead . . . let me introduce you to her studio space.

Nigel looks closely at some sketches in Jilly's temporary studio space

Nigel looks closely at some sketches in Jilly's temporary studio space


Jilly has just moved house and is awaiting a purpose-built studio in her walled garden. Meantime, she’s joined Exeter’s principal studio community (Exeter Art Space) sharing a high-ceilinged (rather chilly) space with a painter she rarely ever sees.

Work in Progress on A Sense of Place

Work in Progress on A Sense of Place


The woven work ‘in progress’ is tantalising in its rewriting of traditional form. At the loom we saw three strips made up of sequences of small 5cm x 12cm pieces. Imagine a woven piece the size of a railway ticket. To Jilly the stuff of journeys is pretty central to her thinking, and railway tickets assume a significance all their own, proving evidence of the journey and its date and time. The tapestry strips (and there were three on the go) are to be viewed front, back and sides. These strips are able to inhabit space in a totally new way. The sketch below (on the wall behind her loom) shows just one example of how such strips might be laid out.

Sketch for a Sense of Place

Sketch for A Sense of Place


Some of these railway ticket sized pieces are presented singly and permanently in glass-faced boxes, a tapestry in miniature displayed like a prize butterfly. Bigger pieces, such a seesaw-like construction about 5-foot long has the woven pieces wrapped onto a steel armature. Also, there are the transparent Muji boxes with compartments containing rolled up tapestry lengths (3cm x 6000 cm approx), rail tickets, delicate leaves, and in one I saw what appeared to be a miniature book.

A box of delights

A (Muji) box of delights


I was really intrigued to read prior to my visit that this artist ‘creates her own language for recording sights and feelings, using colours, shapes and marks that hold specific meanings for her, finding expression in the quality of edge or line’. And there it was, in front of me, exactly that.

In these curious and gently coloured flowing gestures of tapestry there are contained observations and expressive responses from everyday life. The repetitions of regular journeys, celebrated afresh every time as the light, circumstance and seasons change, are found alongside the shock of the new, landscape experienced for the first time. It is tapestry as language, tapestry that will hold and display found objects, objects that act as an aide memoire for the artist, and so a colourful mystery story for the viewer written in a novel script .

One way of really appreciating Jilly’s approach to colour and woven gesture is to get to see The Art Textiles of the World Great Britain Volume 3 published by Telos. This features a section of Ma, a beguiling 90 x 230 cm tapestry of wool, linen and chenille weft on a cotton warp. The play and depth of tone in the central blue panel is unlike anything I’ve encountered in tapestry. You’d be forgiven, seeing it at a distance, in believing it to be painted. Here’s the whole piece:

Ma - Jilly Edwards 2001

Ma - Jilly Edwards 2001


What so much of her work seems able to convey is the outcome of a contemplative making. The artist seems to be saying through her work: I weave this so I can think that, or indeed, not think, but open myself up to the eternal now. Is this a kind of Zen-ness of tapestry weaving? The new work for High Cross House at Dartington in Devon is aptly titled A Sense of Place, probably some 90 separate pieces all told – large and tiny – that will reflect qualities special to each room in the house, but also will recount experiences, describe journeys: to engage through touch and texture with the perambulating viewer. There will be music and soundscapes too, gently colouring each space, entering into a dialogue with the many unique forms Jilly is already weaving. The  Bauhaus influenced house conceived in the International Modernist style in the early 1930s is already a totally integrated design inside and out. Jilly is part way towards assembling a further layer of integration with the inside and the outside through the line and trace of thread and weave. It is such a fascinating and compelling idea.

One of a set of five 'open-ended' double weave hangings in progress

One of a set of five double width hangings in progress


Highly Recommended!

Highly Recommended!


Back in my world of handloom weaving I’ve now completed three of the five  double width panels I’m making with the remaining section of the double weave warp I created in July. It’s been going very well and I’ve had such inspiration from studying a remarkable book from Sweden. Forma Monster (aka. The Textile Design Book) by Karin Jerstorp and Eva Kohlmark is the book I should have had at the start my HNC course. As a manual of basic design strategies and thinking it is unique, and I love it. I can’t recommend this book too highly. There’s an English version published by A & C Black (1992).

I went into college briefly this week to discuss with Graham my proposed workshop day from now until January. I’m hoping to use one of the computer-controlled looms and get to grips with the WeaveIt software. Visiting the library I discovered a copy of Ursina Arn-Grischott’s Double Weave. Recommended by many followers of this blog when I was studying double weave, it is really one of the most exciting and beautiful books on weave I have ever seen. Be warned, it is seriously expensive!