I'm Home from my Teaching Trip 
Well, I have been away in Australlia for three weeks and have been home a week now. I spent two weeks at my daughter Nicola's home in Hobart, Tasmania and had a lovely time with her family and also with my third daughter Kellie who came to Hobart with me. Family time is precious for me as I don't get to spend a lot of time with my kids as they all live a good plane trip away from me (and I am not that fond of planes, but do discipline myself to get on one now and again).

I spent the last week in Geelong at the Fibre Forum teaching a class of eight students how to deconstruct and then recostruct portrait images which were then woven into tapestries.

Here is the first image of the class working away at their tapestries. It was so good to get to know these tapestry weavers in Australia as I knew some of them by name only through my contacts on the tapestry lists. Yvonne Eade was the one who visited my studio last year and encouraged me to approach Janet de Boer with the proposal for this class, so thank you Yvonne, for encouraging me to take up this opportunity. It was good to put a face to Denise Stevens also, whose work I had seen and handled during the putting together of the Tapestry Network Suitcase Exhibition here in New Zealand two years ago. Also it was lovely to meet Chris Lucas (who you can see at left in the photograph) with whom I had corresponded through the tapestry list.

This image shows some of the portrait design concepts using the deconstruction and reconstruction methods. We had a lot of fun working on these images and enjoyed the results. Each student did a number of designs and then chose one to weave.

These two photographs show the tapestries in progress. The tapestries were set at different setts according to the detail in each design, so some students were working with a very fine sett of 18 - 20epi and others at around 14epi. It can be quite difficult to weave the shapes and tonal values necessary to get a likeness in weaving portraits, but you can see from the photographs that the works were coming along nicely. Unfortunately it is not possible in five days to complete these complex wee tapestries so the students were taking them home to finish them. One student Meg Lowery has already sent me the photograph of her completed tapestry. Meg is an experienced fibre artist but this is her first tapestry. See below.

Lace 2 
"Lace 2' is growing!! I have been back working on this tapestry for the last three or four weeks and at last it is looking as if I am getting somewhere with it. I am about six inches away from halfway now. I love working on this piece. It is very fine for such a large tapestry, 13 epi, with a 12.6 warp, with a lot of colour blending using a wide range of yarns, mostly wool and some polyester cottons and silk.

This image shows work in progress on a small section of the tapestry. You can tell how many colours I am using by the number of bobbins that are hanging from the fell line. The colours are mixed on the bobbins and also blended during the weaving process.

These are my working hands. Note how I am holding the bobbin in my right hand and picking up the threads with my left. The bobbin never leaves my right hand and I pass it through the weft threads bottom first, with a quick flick of my wrist. I am lucky that I do not seem to be having any problems with RSI in my wrists, probably because I do take a lot of rests between working times. My natural way of working is getting up and down a lot, taking small breaks, so I do not sit and work without moving for hours at a time. I also get up to rewind the bobbins every time one runs out of yarn and that helps too. I wind the bobbins by hand as I do not have a bobbin winder.

This image is a close up view of the work. You can see the detail of the blending of colours often over very few warp threads. I am often working over just three or four threads at a time and using two bobbins. You can also see the stitching threads, as I am sewing the slits as I go on this tapestry. The reason for this is that the work is so large and fine that it would be a terrible job to try and sew the slits later. Also, by sewing the slits as I go it helps to keep the web firm and under control. With so many slits it is easy for buckling to develop, especially if the turns are not firm enough. Sewing the slits certainly helps to control that. I am using a black cotton thread to sew the slits and it mostly disappears into the weft, but can be seen occasionally. No worries with that though, as it is all part of the work.

Exhibition at NG Gallery 
The last few weeks have been very busy for me as I was preparing for this exhibiton before I went to spend a week in Hamilton for my daughter's 40th birthday. The exhibiton was due to be hung the day after I returned home from Hamilton so I had to make sure that everything was ready before I left to go away.

The exhibition features the five collaborative tapstries that I had left in my studio. These tapestries are shown alongside some work by the artists who created the design concepts for the tapestries. also showing are three tapestries of my own design and ten photographs from my series 'The City - After Dark'.

The NG Gallery is a beautiful large space which inclues a cafe and a section from where Sharon Ng, the gallery owner and director, also sells her lovely collection of fashion garments and other high quality furnishings. So it is a different place to show art works and the visitor can acquire a sense of how the art may look in a home environment. This photograph shows the tapestry 'Cityscape' on the left alongside the photographs of the city. The tapestry 'Living in the South Pacific' designed by Michael Reed hangs alongside three of his wonderful prints and a Dilana Rug which he also designed is on the floor.

This photograph shows the small tapestry 'Do Not Stare' designed by Paul Johns, alongside two of his large photographs.

The Railway Cups tapestries hang on the large painted wall in the gallery and Rudolf Boelee who designed the tapestries has hung three of his screen prints alongside.

Kidsfest Tapestry classes 
This week is the week of the Kidsfest classes which are held every July in the school holidays. Christchurch children are able to experience all sorts of activities as well as arts and crafts I have had my first class of three 8-9year old girls.

These three girls, Zoe, Francesca and Nina were working on small card looms and had a lot of fun weaving their first small tapestries. Unfortunately two hours is only long enough for them to get a taste of tapestry and they could not complete them in that time. However, they all took enough yarns home with them to enable them to continue working on their tapestries.

Drawing Classes 
Every Saturday afternoon for the last seven weeks I have taken a small class of three students for drawing. This class is an extension class in drawing for distance learning students for the Diploma of Ceramic Arts at Otago Polytechnic. I have been taking these students for three years now and have enjoyed teaching them and helping them to extend their drawing skills.

This photograph shows Sachiko and Sarah working on distorted grid self portraits in their last lesson.

This entails drawing a normal grid over the top of a portrait photograph, drawing a distorted grid on to the page and then filling each grid with the information in the corresponding grid on the photograph, distorting the shapes to fit the grid.This is a fun exercise which teaches students to really observe the images they are working from, and is one way of using a photograph as a starting point for drawing.

Tapestries in CoCA exhibition 
I was really pleased a couple of weeks ago when my tapestries 'Black on Black' were accepted as finalists in the Anthony Harper Award exhibiton at Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) here in Christchurch. I have been a working member at CoCA for a number of years now, and this exhibition is one to asppire to be part of and it is ia big thrill to have work accepted, especially tapestry. The exhbition is a real mixed media exhibition with works across all the range of mediums and disciplines, from sculptures to paintings and object art pieces. To see other works from this exhibition you can go to their website www.coca.org.nz.

It consists of 12 small black tapestries with the work 'black' woven on a black ground. Ihe sett was 12epi and I used different fibres and textures to differentiate between the letting and the background. The lettering was also woven at the finer sett and the background often over two and under two, Yarns used were cottons, wool, silks,
cut up plastic bags, novelty yarns, slub yarns, etc etc. Now a photo of it as it was seen in the exhibition which closes this weekend. You can see them on the back wall to the left of the ladies viewing the exhibition.

  |  related link
My Studio 
I took some photographs a couple of days ago of the studio and how it is looking at the moment. There are two looms with work on them and it is looking a very busy place. A week or so ago (when the big tapestry 'Watching the Rerun of an Ancient Programme' went away to Ashburton) I reorganized the back wall. This space is used for hanging work that is for sale, though I find when people visit the studio they usually tend to just see the work that is on the looms and they often do not really look at anything else. They become intrigued by the process of tapestry weaving. I am always teaching everyone who comes in (almost) about tapestry and the processes involved.

This photograph shows the tapestry that I am working on at present. The original design concept is to the left of the tapestry. I created this design about three years or maybe even four years ago now, and presented it to Jonathon Hunt (then Speaker of the House)as a potential tapestry for Parliament. He had visited my studio and asked me to send him a concept for a tapestry. He liked this design but gave it to the Building Development People where it stayed and never resurfaced. I visited Parliament two years ago with the hope of revitralising the idea of a tapestry and was told that there were no funds available for such a large work and that they would let me kow if they ever decided to commission a tapestry in the future. So far I have not heard from them.

Recently I decided to weave a smaller version of the design and I am happy with the way it is looking. It will now be the first tapestry in a series based on New Zealand plants. This one of course is the 'Fern' and I am now designing for 'Kowhai' and 'Lancewood'

This image shows the back wall of the studio with the tapestry 'Living in the South Pacific' on display. This work was woven in collaboration with Michael Reed a Christchurch artist who gave me the design concept for the tapestry back in 1995. The small black and white works are digital prints in my 'Doll' series and the three to the right of the tapestry are the digital prints ''Elements'

This last photograph shows the work 'Lace 2' which is still in progress. This tapestry is a family heirloom work and features my daughter Elissa. The sett is 13epi and the size is 120 x 165cm or thereabouts and is the work that goes on hold whenever I have something else to do. I have worked on it for a total of about four and a half months so far over almost two years and I am about one quarter of the way through the weaving. So this work is a very special one but has no time limit on it at this stage. I had always wanted to weave a large fine tapestry and this one is 'it'. Probably the only really big very fine work that I will ever weave.

Tapestry in Exhibition 
Yesterday Brian and I travelled down to Ashburton to see the tapestry 'Watching the Rerun of an Ancient Programme'. This tapestry was a collaborative work with Michael Armstrong, an artist living in Timaru. Michael's work is on show at the moment in an exhibtion at the Ashburton Art Gallery.

This photograph shows the tapestry hanging alongside paintings on similar themes. Michael's work deals with issues of face and Capitalism, saying that capitalism employs racist means to protect the wealthy elite. Tribal ownership and the empty rewards of materialism feature also and the images in the tapestry are no exception. Large colourful organic shapes with faces intersect with images in grey blues, of figures watching multiple televisions, figures on couches, faces separated out in boxes, etc. These all feature in the tapestry and also in the paintings. I was especially intrigues when seeing the exhibiton yesterday, in the contasts between the textile and the paintings. The textural qualities of the tapestry are very strong and the colours seemed to me to be much more intense and vivid than the colours in the paintings. This is the first time that I have seen a tapestry alongside paintings on the same themes and with similar imagery.

New Work 
I have been very busy the last few weeks. A new work has been started on the same loom on which 'Cityscape' was woven. This work is titled 'Ferns' and is a fairly colourful abstraction based on the ferns found in our native bush. The tapestry measures 55cm across and will be approximately 160cm long, so a long narrow piece. The sett is 8epi, and consequently is growing quite quickly. The last couple of works that I have woven have been much finer than this and have taken a longer time to complete.

This image shows the first few days work. This first sectioon only took me 10 working days to complete and I am now working on the second second and hope to complete that by the end of this week. So it is going well.

As you can see, the colours are quite different from my last work, very vibrant and exciting to use. This work is much more decorative than a lot of my previous works.

Small Portrait Tapestry Finally Completed. 
The small portrait tapestry for my client Bruce Finnerty is finally completed. I worked hard last week to try and finish this wee work and here it is at last - ready to go into its frame.

I am really pleased with this work. It is a good likeness of Bruce and though it is a very abstract work it shows his personality well. The sett for this tapestry was 7 ends per centimetre and the overall size is 18 x 20cm. The design turned out to be much more complex than I had realized so took quite a lot longer than I had first thought it would. However, the end result is worth it, I think.

S0 on to other things now! I am back working on 'Lace 2' for the moment and will continue with that until I have the smaller lapponia loom warped up for another work.

Back Next