A year of new tapestries

Huzzah! My goal was to get another blog post in before next week cus then I can at least clock up two posts a year. I cannot apologise enough, but as I’ve said before I have pretty much moved over to Instagram, and it is over there that you can find me posting regularly and discussing in more detail the processes and decisions that have gone into my work and more importantly, how my WCMT Fellowship has been impacting my work. I’ve also benefited hugely from interactions and discussions over there which have left me with a lot to think about in what I am doing and why.

As for this year, room was limited at the Saltaire Arts Trail and I was allocated a room with a half a dozen fabulous other artists but sadly there just wasn’t room to show my work and so I had to pull out. I won’t be taking part in 2020 but will make sure this sort of last minute change doesn’t happen again, apologies to anyone who was disappointed. I had a marvelous time at the always fantastic Art in the Pen in Skipton. Thank you to folk who came and said hello. I’ve also been doing a fair few talks on my Fellowship, and again thanks to everyone who has invited me, there’s also an article coming out soon in the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. I’ve also been doing a lot of work on the Commission Which Must Not Be Discussed, but without doubt most of this year has been heads down at the loom working to weave pieces for my exhibition at Ripon Cathedral in May 2020. It has been strange focusing so much on an event so far off, but it has meant it has also been a year of building on my research and this has in no small way been helped by a follow on grant from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust which enabled me to purchase much needed materials.

I think I last left you with Hush on the loom. This tapestry returned to the theme I have often tried to get to grips with, the several generations of my family haunted by suicide, mental illness and incarcerations in asylums. On the left is my grandmother’s grandmother Jane who drowned herself int he mid nineteenth century. Of the three young daughters she left behind two ended up in asylums, as did her granddaughter here on the right. It was the first time building up to a proper full sized tapestry and which gave me the space to explore some of the techniques and influences from my Fellowship. It was the first real experimenting with pattern too, something I had always been rather afraid of.

This was built on in the next tapestry of St Catherine. She was one of the most frequently seen figures in medieval tapestries and it did occur to me that there was a lot in these young women, unafraid to stand up for their beliefs, in more contemporary figures like Greta Thunberg to mention one. There were also parallels in Catherine’s story with the MeToo movement, and of course the disparaging attitude towards women boosted about by those we are supposed to look up to. I focused on Catherine after she was scoured and put into a prison and left to starve. She was administered to by an angel and fed by a dove. The queen came upon then and converted and had her paps and head removed for her trouble. The ecclesiastical theme of the tapestry allowed me to experiment with metallic threads and more specifically with how shading and patterning work together. It was rather nerve wracking working on a tapestry that was based on a medieval subject, using medieval techniques and for a medieval environment but to still make it contemporary and relevant.

Just finished yesterday is a new tapestry. My grandmother was a remarkable woman intellectually and a huge inspiration to me. But I am conscious that the dictates of the time meant of course, that when families came that often marked the end of other aspirations. Motherhood is a choice for my generation, and the opportunities so much more and I wanted to articulate that somehow. There was a belief in the medieval period that pelicans fed their young with their own blood. It was a motif that was used to celebrate Christ’s self sacrifice and one I first saw in a 14th century tapestry in Switzerland and have since seen often and I wanted to use it to acknowledge the sacrifices of motherhood. The tapestry was meant to be very different, another figure representing my generation, but I soon realised that figure was already in the tapestry in me as the weaver and the opportunities and paths I have are evident in the freedom I have to weave it and in all that came before to get me to this point.

I suppose looking back this year has been about consolidating and honing down my skills as a weaver, really making use of the photographic archive at the loom, building up to do things I saw on my travels and said to myself I’d never be able to do that and then sitting at my loom and realising I can. It has also been about becoming increasingly secure in my methods and by that having the confidence to make things up at the loom and finally to strengthen my voice and my vocabulary as an artist. A lot of that has been introspection into what it is about the medieval that hooks me and in turn that has made me less afraid about exploring it in my work. Again I am sorry that these processes are something I’ve articulated elsewhere rather than here. But today is the first day in a long time I’ve sat on the sofa with a keyboard and the time needed to write.  And with that I do hope you had a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year x

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