I have been working well on this portrait tapestry and here is an image of my progress to date.
For the last four or five weeks I have been working on a commissioned double portrait. Nina gave me a few casual snapshots of herself and her partner and from those I created a design concept for the portraits. I selected the faces from the photographs, enlarged them and simplified them on the computer then put the two together to create the design. The work is fairly abstract but catches their likenesses very well. It is best viewed from a distance because of the abstraction.
This first image shows that I have commenced work on the tapestry. It took three days to warp the loom - a lot of knots to tie to the top and bottom beams. The sett is 12ends per inch and I am using up to three strands of yarn in the weft. I needed the fine sett to be able to weave the fine detail in the faces.
Here I have completed the necks and am up to the hard bit capturing the likenesses in the faces. I need to be very accurate in building up the shapes that form the planes of the faces and I have done quite a bit of unpicking. Also the tonal values are very important. These must be right and the following photograph shows how I had to unpick a section in the left side of Nina's neck as I wasn't happy with the colour and the tonal value of it.
I am weaving in the new colour with a needle after pushing up some of the weft threads so that I did not have to take them all out. It worked okay thank goodness.
I was thrilled when the monofilament woven work 'Mysterium' was accepted for the Anthony Harper Award exhibition at CoCa,(Centre of Contemporary Art). It is good to be able to show a work more than once. This work was woven for the Professional Weavers exhibition 'Light Waves' and was exhibited in that exhibiton at Pataka in Porirua last year.
The hanging of the Anthony Harper works started last Monday and the opening was on Tuesday evening. Hamish Keith was the selector and he chose around 160 works from ovver 400 which were entered in the award. 'Mysterium' did not win the award but I was happy just to have it in the exhibition. It was a bit of a mission getting it to the gallery as it is a large work and was sitting in its big heavy box in my garden shed and I enlisted the help of my brother Joe Rea to get it to CoCA. We had to put it together there and carry it up the stairs to where it was going to hang. Warren Feeney the director of CoCA made a great job of hanging all the works. This exhibition is one of the largest exhibitions to be held at CoCA and is their main award exhibition for the year. The exhibition is very eclectic with works accepted from all over the country, many different genres from paintings to sculptures to object works, photographs and digital works A very difficult exhibition to hang, but it all looks great.
'Mysterium' is the work on the back wall straight ahead. A lot of the modular works were hung in this part of the gallery. The exhibition took up two galleries, the Mair Gallery and the North Gallery and my work is hanging in the back partition in the North Gallery.
The exhibition Southern Muster is currently on show in the Mair Gallery at CoCA. It is an exhibition featuring a number of top craft/object artists who are practicing in the South Island. The
exhibition was curated by Penny Orme who invited each participating artist to submit two works for the exhibition. My two tapestries, Exhibition Opening and Musicians in the Square on hanging together as a pair and I am really pleased with how they look. It is the first time they have been shown together.
Over the last three months I have been working on three large drawings featuring New Zealand plants. They are worked in conte, and charcoal and I am quite pleased with how they have come up.
The New Zealand flax is not at all like the European flax from which linen is made. This flax plant (phormium tenax) is a large plant with strong leaves that grows wild in many parts of the country. The Maori people use it to make their 'muka' which is a fibre used in their weaving. The drawing features the pods though the whole work is not in natural colour.
The New Zealand iris is also different from the cultivated iris. It is a low lying plant with a very small white flower. The flower is no larger than my little finger nail.
This drawing shows the berries on the native iris plant. I really enjoyed working on these large drawings and will continue to do more on our native plants. I work on them in my little studio at home in the early morning and evenings. They are large drawings being 100x70cm in size and are all for sale at NZ$1200 unframed.
Lace 2 - A long term tapestry project
Here are some images of the progress of the tapestry 'Lace 2'. This work has been on my loom now for some time, almost two years I think and in that time I have spent about nine months weaving on this tapestry. I am just over half way, just past the first eye. The tapestry features my youngest daughter Elissa - a portrait of her from about eight years ago. I took a black and white photograph of her face and a coloured photograph that I took of a magnolia tree that was just starting to come into bloom - a metaphor for Elissa's life at the time of designing this work.
The sett for the tapestry is 13epi (13 threads to every inch) and the warp is a 12/6 cotton warp, so a fairly fine one. I had always wanted to weave a large fine tapestry and this one is 'it'. An eighteen month project in total. The work measures about 115cm across and will be approximately 167cm long when it is complete. The weft threads are mainly wool, with some silk and polyester cotton in various shades of black, dark green, blues, yellows, white and pink. A fairly limited palette, but I think the colours are working well. There is a lot of colour graduation in this work entailing hatching to achieve this. Also heaps of small shapes, with often five or six bobbins working in a three inch space. So no wonder that it is taking a long time to weave.
Here is an image closeup of the bobbins on the work. The bobbins are lovely to work with. They sort of 'sing' as they knock together during the process and aso look lovely hanging from the fell line. There is no deadline on this work, and it goes on 'hold' when I have other things to do, such as commissioned work or exhibiton work. But one day it will be finished and I am looking forward to cutting it from the loom in about another two years time!!!! A definite rebellion against 'instant gratification' as I sometimes say to visitors to my studio.
This image shows a closeup detail of the work, showing the characteristic ribbed effect of tapestry. This is how you can tell a 'real' tapestry from an embroidery or a jacquard weaving, often called tapestry. These textiles do not have the 'ribbing' of the warp thread showing behind the weft threads. The light is catching the silk threads in the work. I am stitching all the slits in this tapestry, even the very small ones, as there are so many slits and turns around the warp ends. This can cause a small amount of buckling in the weave, but I find that if I stitch the slits as I go then the buckling is reduced to a minimum and the stitches help to keep the tapestry firm and solid as I weave. So I am very pleased with its progress so far.
More images from 'A Common Thread'
Yesterday I travelled back to Timaru to attend the NZ Tapestry Network meeting and whilst there also visited the PWN exhibtion again and took some more photographs.
Here is a close up view of Wilson's lovely table setting. It is unusual in that it is made up of three long pieces that overlap each other on the table forming six places. Woven in double weave it makes a striking setting for entertaining guests at dinner.
We were all very shocked and sad to hear in January that one of our members, Robin McLaughlin passed away suddenly after a short illness. Her superb transparency and the blue tablemats have been travelling with the exhibition since September and here we have a photograph of these pieces. The transparency was woven in linen and looks lovely hanging in the window with the tablemats on a small table below. Robin was an excellent weaver who loved weaving with linen yarns. In 1997 she took over the weaving supply business Glenora Craft, running it from a building alongside her home in Dunedin. She will be sadly missed by all the members of The Proffessional Weavers Network and other textile people all around the country.
Here we see Rose Pelvin's lovely red huck-lace table setting. To go with the tablecloth Rose wove festive napkins, napkin rings, coasters and candle rings. The whole setting makes a very strong statement.
We have had excellent feedback about the quality of the work in this exhibition and visitors are 'wowed' by the impact of the display in such an unusual exhibition space.
Early this week Wilson, myself and Alison Francis from Auckland travelled down to Timaru to hang the Professional Weavers Network of New Zealand exhibition 'A Common Thread' in the Function Centre of the Landing Services Building. This wonderful old stone building is one of the oldest in Timaru and is situated down near the waterfront and the port. I had no idea what to expect as far as the exhibition space was concerned and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to hang the work in this space. The walls were stone that had been plastered over with a white plaster and the floor was an old wooden floor. Te whole effect was very rustic and suited our weaving very well.
Here you can see a view of one corner of the space with Alison's lovely rug in the foreground. Ashley Millikin Furniture Court supplied the furniture for us as this exhibition features contemporary textiles for interior spaces. My tapestry 'Musicians' is on the back wall at the right and one of Trish Armour's small tapestries is visible on the left with Anne Fields wall hanging in between the two works. This wall hanging features stainless steel threads.
Our Official Opening for the Studio
Last Wednesday evening we had an official opening for our studio as we are now all settled in and working well together. It was a lovely gathering with a number of our friends coming to help us celebrate our new space. This photo shows some of our friends and visitors. Gwen on the right is chatting to a visitor from America who is making her way down to Timaru to the Woolcraft Festival which opens next week.
Anne and Wilson with Nigel from the Arts Centre Management. Anne's husband Edward and Leslie Taylor in the background. We are looking here at Wilson's loom in the foreground and Anne's computer assisted AVL loom in the background. Wil's loom is a Mecchia 8 shaft jack loom and he is weaving fabric for women's jackets. He has two computer assisted looms in his studio at home. Funny isn't it how obsessive we weavers are about looms and we tend to gather them up. I am not better owning three looms altogether.
Valerie Osborn and Wilson being a bit cheeky at me with the camera. Valerie is an excellent weaver and has taught Wilson a lot since he started weaving. She is very good with colour and also works with a computer assisted loom in her studio at home. She is a member of Artisan Fibres in the Arts Centre.
Well, it is finally 'done'. The shift into my new studio is complete and yesterday was the first day that I could actually sit down and weave for about three weeks. It has been a long hard job with ten years of 'stuff' having to be sorted in my old studio, shelving units all painted up nicely and everything that would not fit into the new studio has had to find another home and be stored. But it is all done now and I can finally get back to normal. It will take a wee while to adjust to the new space. It is much smaller than the old studio but I should soon get used to that. I will have to be much tidier I guess, and try not to accumulate too much more. I should have more flexibility about my hours of work as well. I am sharing the space with Anne Field whose studio it has been for the last 20 years, and Wilson Henderson, for whom this studio is his first public space. A new venture for him too.
Here I am, looking all forlorn and small in a big empty space!
As you can see from this photo my section of the new studio is definitely smaller but I do fit in quite nicely. The guys who helped me shift managed to carry the big light table up the stairs and that was a bit of a mission, but I was so pleased that they were able to do that. It was very heavy but it fits nicely into the far corner. I have the two Lapponia looms in this space and my big loom has gone into storage in a shed out at Wilson's place.
This view shows my tapestry 'Lace 2' which is still a work in progress and Wil's jack loom with some of his work around it is in the background. Anne's big AVL loom is to the right behind Wil's loom but is not visible in this photo.