Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Weaving to a Theme

I love to try new techniques. The good thing is, it keeps me from getting bored weaving the same designs over and over ad nauseum. The bad thing is, my booth at craft shows can tend to look like a group show, instead of the work of a single artist. For someone whose primary sales outlet is fine craft shows, looking like a group effort is not a good thing.

A few years ago, I took two workshops from Sharon Marcus, a tapestry artist and art educator (at the time, she was on the faculty of the Oregon College of Art & Craft). One workshop was at CNCH, the annual weaving conference held in Northern California, and the other was at Convergence 2002, the biennial conference of the Handweavers Guild of America. These workshops focused on the art and design aspects of textiles, not technique. In both workshops, Sharon stressed the need to develop a style that is distinctive, a style that everyone seeing your work can associate with you and only you.

I explained that I found it difficult to stick with one technique or style, and explained the situation. Because I'm a one-woman shop, there's only me doing the weaving. I can't assign the boring "bread and butter" weaving to an employee and keep the exciting, challenging explorations for myself.

Sharon said, “Choose a substance other than cloth, and try to express that substance in cloth.” She said that by doing so, I could group work according to the theme the pieces evoked, and the result would be a more cohesive display that would look less like a group show. Sharon's advice was a revelation to me, and has influenced my approach to design ever since.

My first step was to pick a substance, and try to express or evoke that substance. I chose water. After all, water can take many forms (flowing river, waterfall, ice crystals, fog, raindrops on a pond, waves on the ocean, and so on), so I have lots of room for exploration. Also, water can be almost any color, depending on what’s underneath it and what’s reflected in it, so I’m not confined to shades of blue (think green pond water, creamy beach shallows, milky glacial runoff, dawn mist, clear water running over stones of all colors in a mountain stream, sunset reflections on water).

For a couple of years now, I've been weaving water. The yardage called "Grand Ripples" that was exhibited at Convergence 2006 in Grand Rapids was just one example of woven water.

The scarf woven on the AVL Workshop Dobby Loom at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is another example (scroll down for pictures in an earlier blog entry). I've woven water with faux seersucker, and with ground cloth gathered up by shrinkable supplementary warps, and with any number of different designs and techniques. All different, but all water.

Since then, I’ve branched out into a feather series, with the weaving patterns forming shapes that evoke feathers. I’ve done a hummingbird colorway (see below), in honor of the Anna’s hummingbird that is a year-round resident here, and a raptor colorway, similar to the red tail hawk that I often see from my window.

Next came a wood-grain series (it helps having a woodworker for a husband, as there are lots of examples around to provide inspiration). I’m trying to use wood-based yarns (bamboo, rayon, lyocell) for the wood series, and plan to experiment with wood-based dyes as well (walnut, bloodwood, brazilwood, etc.).

My booth now has “themed weaving” and doesn't look so much like a group show, I get to try lots of new things, and I’m definitely not bored!

1 comment:

beryl said...

Thanks for sharing your workshop knowledge. I agree that developing a recognizable style is important for an artist. Some people come by it naturally -- some of us have to work at it. Your new scarf from the demonstration day reminds me of a piece of shibori. Lovely.