Extreme Weaving! A new tapestry woven.

I should imagine I am pretty incoherent tonight, I am pretty tired, but I know you will forgive me.

Chrissie Freeth Tapestry 'Delia Jo' in Progress

Next weekend, 13th and 14th August, is Art in the Pen, in Skipton. I did it for the first time last year and loved it and am looking forward to it immensely. I always want to show new work, especially with my tapestries having changed so drastically over the last twelve months. But with one of my main new pieces over at the Weave exhibition in Craft in the Bay, I knew I was going to be pushing it. Nonetheless I felt I needed a new large piece, returning to the full width of the loom. I had enough left over warp to do it, and while I’d need to dye some new wool, I could use the colours and sampling I had done previously. The cartoon materialised quite quickly. I’ve long wanted to revisit the story of my female relatives needlessly trapped within a cycle of asylums in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, I didn’t do them justice last time.

When I got the cartoon on the loom I calculated how much time I would need to complete it, marking off where I would have to be at a certain date in order to finish it in time. I soon realised I was looking at several weeks of sixteen hour days. I’m not sure how I have done it, except to say I pretty much just battened down the hatches, gave myself over to the project and just got on with it. I’ve pretty much lived off what my workroom kettle could provide, and moving a comfy armchair into the workroom was a mark of total genius on my part.. I am quite surprised how unscathed I am considering my bleating in a previous post. There was something – can’t think of the right word – ?monastic, about the experience. I’ve actually enjoyed it. I have so many hats, juggle so many things, and although I felt rather selfish not making myself available for my other roles, it was good to focus on one thing so solidly.

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I do feel I have rushed her, but I am pleased with the results nonetheless. It was rather nerve-wracking unwinding the loom yesterday and seeing her complete. I was thrilled actually, and although I went straight to bed, I found myself getting up every now and then to check she was still there and I had really done it.

She is just shy of 120 cm x 130 cm. It was the first time I was able to utilise the style and techniques I have been developing on a larger scale, and I much prefer it, much more room for the tapestry and the technique to breathe. Although I say I rushed it, I’m not sure what I would change if I had the chance.

After such a concentrated period of uninterrupted Freeth-time, during which I’ve had plenty of space to think, my mind is so full of ideas, including lots that are quite embryonic but growing fast that I can’t wait to explore them further. Fortunately there is some space between events after Art in the Pen and I’ll be able to take some time to think things through as well as carrying on the prep for my Fellowship which is now due to start in the Spring. It will be good to regroup and think about future directions.

In amongst this weaving marathon , I did have some respite after being invited over to East Riddlesden Hall to do some demoing. They have a lovely collection of rag rugs and they were a good excuse to get folk having a go themselves. It is not often you get to poke a hole in something inside a National Trust property. I trust you will be able to tell which part of the rug was mine. It is such a simple activity for younger hands to try, and for older visitors it always seems to bring back memories. Although I am not making rugs myself anymore, I do love these opportunities to blow the dust off my prodders.

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It was also wonderful to see the volunteers again and to have been made so welcome. Strange to see Maides Coign after a year or so. I look at her and can’t quite believe I made her. Hopefully there will be lots more events at East Riddlesden in the future and I’ll keep you apprised here or over on my website or Facebook page.

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Talking of which, do have a look at the Facebook page or Instagram of Craft in the Bay. They are showcasing the work in the Weave exhibition and the quality and variety of the work is astounding. I really am terribly proud to be part of it.

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I do hope you can pop into Art in the Pen. I loved attending as a visitor before I started exhibiting there. As I am sure you know, the cattle pens of Skipton Auction Mart are given over to selected artists, including sculptors, painters, potters, jewellers and others to turn into mini-galleries. It is a great way to spend a day, and to meet artists and in a very friendly environment and if mooching is your thing there’s no pressure at all, but if you are after a little something, it is a great chance to buy work direct from artists, often at great value. You can find more details about Art in the Pen here.

Finally, my dear friend Moira Fuller, an incredibly talented designer, is about to embark on a new business adventure to help encourage and support creativity in others. She would love your input through a wee questionnaire (she’s Scottish, you know), it’ll only take ten minutes or so. Do please have a look if you can spare some time.

Anyway, I hope all this goes some way to explain my absence, for which, as always I am very sorry.

Cheerio for now xxx

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Crafted by Hand, Masham

I’m taking time to have a day off after having a fabulous day yesterday at Crafted by Hand in the market town of Masham in North Yorkshire. It has long been lauded by fellow makers as one of their favourite events. I baulked for a while as without a car it was hard to get to, but with wild abandon I threw aside all practical concerns and applied and was lucky enough to have been selected for a spot and given the opportunity for doing some demonstrating too. My knights in shiny armour were the fabulous folks behind Hawksbys gallery in Haworth, who not only gave me a lift up, but also helped in the setting up.

Crafted by Hand MashamIt was clear in the run up to the event that it was superbly organised, there was great communication with clear and timely information and a swift response to queries. Within seconds of pulling up in front of the town hall an army of cheery volunteers were on hand to help unload – I’ve never done an event where such consideration was given to the needs of the participants. There was plenty of time to set up (although I did have great help from my roadie Barry) and I was totally free to use my space however I wanted. There were lots of fellow exhibitors there that I knew, especially through the Craft Soup group. The standard of the work of all stall holders was phenomenal and the type of work very varied. There was a prize for the best presented stand, a handmade trophy and a hefty voucher to spent at the event. This was a really nice touch and it went to a worthy winner.

IMG_7338There was free tea for the makers and plenty of offers to look after the stall should we need a break. The cake stall in the café was stunning – you could actually smell cake as you stepped in. The visitors to the event were non-stop, a clear testament to the popularity of the event on both sides of the stall, and the effort that had gone into marketing the event. This all sounds so gushing I know, but there was one massive fault, and that was the fog on the drive up. I was on a road trip and I was denied a view. But clearly the organisers had a line straight to the heavens as by the time the doors opened the fog had lifted and the sun was shinning. In November. That too was a nice touch.

IMG_7330I was able to condense the set up I had done for Art in the Pen and I was really pleased with how my spot looked. Rather than just having me weaving, I thought it would be a good chance to encourage folk to have a go themselves so I set up a table of card-loom weaving for kids and tapestry frames for adult visitors. It was great to meet so many talented folk, especially the younger ones and I was often taken aback by their concentration and engagement and the questions they were asking. Hopefully they will carry it on once back home. I also learned a lot, one pair of visitors told me about a traditional Irish weaving technique I hadn’t come across before and I am really keen to explore it further.

It was a really lovely day, and a great event for visitors and participants alike.

The weekend before I was at East Riddlesden Hall. On learning I had done some rag rugging in the past, the hall’s steward invited me down to do some demonstrating. It was a great chance to blow the proverbial dust off my prodders and frames and I had a really fun and busy day, and there was some pretty spectacular autumn sun!. It was quite strange seeing Gracie, the tapestry I wove there last year, for the first time in so long. It was also so lovely to see again some of the volunteers who were so supportive of me while I was there and who helped to keep Gracie at the hall.

IMG_7262Like so many creative folk, I always think everything I do is rubbish, but seeing Gracie hanging on the wall I did well-up a bit and have a moment. I walked away with a bit of a straighter back and a realisation of what I am capable of.  It turned out to be a very timely reminder. I’ve had my head down working really hard exploring how to translate my designs inspired by archaeological landscapes into thread. I emerged feeling I had really grown up as a weaver, honing my techniques. I was ready to get the first one on the loom when suddenly, through my dodgy roof, through the rather precarious plasterwork and straight into my noggin came a realisation of how I could fix a tapestry I started last year but failed to finish.

This was the Long Night and since I cut it off the loom I always felt something was left undone and not least as the subject was so personal to me. I realised I had tried to explore the subject too literally. At the core of what I was trying to say was that there was this girl before the event, and a different girl after, and I needed to acknowledge and embrace them both. The initial sketch came quickly, it will be similar to Gracie which is no bad thing. It is very abstract, a bit Celtic, and quite textured.

IMG_7380When I tried to approach this subject last year I laughed that it didn’t affect me like I thought it would. But in truth as soon as I drew this new version, I fell into a massive funk that lasted a good few weeks, hence the absence of any blog posts. I am coming out of it now, but this has been a sign to me that this has hit a nerve and is thus the right thing to weave. The cartoon is drawn and all the samples are now done and I’ve started warping the bigger loom. I’ve gone for Sutton Hoo inspired colours focusing on reds and golds. It will be mahoosive, about 6ft by 10ft and I am loving the opportunity of making full use of the loom in weaving something so wall-friendly. The narrower shapes of the archaeological landscape pieces mean I can weave them on the smaller of my upright looms, so I can still get those going too.

IMG_7224On top of all this I’ve also finalised the content of some workshops and those details are now uploaded on my website. Once the dates and locations have been finalised, they’ll be added too. So I don’t think anyone can be cross at me for having a day off devoted to some rubbish tv and quality sofa time! If you are, quite frankly, I don’t give a damn!

Ta, ta for now x

Weeks 13 & 14: Back at the tapestry loom

The Makers Fair of the Saltaire Arts Trail was great, I really enjoyed it. Much quieter than previous years, but fabulous to have a loom there, it seemed a real hit and definitely worth the effort bringing it over – it was a lot heavier than I thought it would be! It was lovely to meet so many people who are readers of this blog – thanks so much for stopping by to say hello.

Tapestry loom, Saltaire Arts Trail, tapestry weaverA major highlight for me was doing the weaving activities on Monday. Paula and Nicola of Sponge Tree were spectacularly friendly and were there to help set up and run the event too. It was so lovely to see kids weaving and enjoying it so much many took supplies with them so they could continue weaving at home. The card loom weaving and the peg looms were clear favourites. I’m really grateful for the opportunity and hope to do it again.

Saltaire Arts Trail, weaving workshops Saltaire Arts Trail, weaving workshops Saltaire Arts Trail, weaving workshops I took a couple of days off to recover, but was soon back at the loom. I had exiled myself from the studio whilst getting ready for the Arts Trail and it was great stepping back in there. It almost felt like I had had a break. One thing that had been bugging me before I downed tools was the blending of her skin, it seemed too tweedy. I wanted some tweediness to contrast with the more solid blends elsewhere in the tapestry, but it didn’t look right. I sampled a dozen or so more blends that would have looked exactly  the same to any sane person, and picked its replacement although still with doubts. With a fresh eye it was clear there was absolutely nothing wrong with the new colour and I was making a fuss about nothing. I did have a play around adding some shading to her neck area but in the end it just made it more fussy than it needed to be. I’ve had to be very careful weaving the hair as I know it won’t take much for the structure of the cloth to turn into a tumour once it is removed from the loom, but I’ve had a good look with the tension released and – hurrah! – it all looks remarkably good. tapestry weaver, tapestry loom, tapestry artist, tapestry studioYesterday I wove her face and at that point it all became a bit poignant, as, no doubt, it should. I’m finding it a bit odd not having the whole image before me as I would with one of my scaffold looms; I’m spending quite a bit of time on my hands and knees looking under the loom and referring back to what has already been woven. At least I’m not having to balance myself on boxes and goodness knows what else to keep level with the fell. That I am relatively comfortable has meant I can work much longer and I am pretty much living off toast and a loom-bed-loom-bed cycle at the moment in order to get her ready for Art in the Pen in Skipton in (gulp) August.

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My role as the weaving features editor of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, involves me working with authors to forge their articles into something publishable. It is very much a background and rather invisible role, so I was a bit nervous when asked to write something about Maides Coign and my time at East Riddlesden Hall to fill a couple of empty pages in another department of the Journal. It was quite an experience being on the other end of all those comments and edits in red type! But it was lovely to see the article in print. In the same edition was an account of Katharine Swailes’s tapestry Play woven at the West Dean, so I was in very good company!

tapestry weaver, east riddlesden hall, maides coign, journal for weavers spinners and dyersTapestry has also been in the newspapers recently with a feature on Maureen Hodge in the Independent and the resurgence of tapestry in The Telegraph.  I’m looking forward to the next episode of How to Be Bohemian on the iPlayer which will include Eric Gill, currently one of my favourite artists, despite the shagging of his dog and daughters. He was also a chum of the man who built my loom, so I will certainly be tuning in.

I did have some rather lovely news on Wednesday. I’ve been approved as a  Member of the Society for Designer Craftsmen. This was originally the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society as in Walter Crane and William Morris, before it changed its name a few decades ago. It champions the work of contemporary designer makers and they foster emerging talent through their licentiate programme. I’m very pleased and honoured and looking forward to getting involved.Capture (2)So that’s what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, give or take a bit of website updating, researching and general pondering. I’ve also been posting regularly on Instagram, so please drop by if you use it. Right, I’m back to the loom for a couple of hours before bed. I’ve got a good few days ahead of me blissfully empty of jobs so I’m looking forward to putting my head down and just getting on with weaving.

Ta ta for now x

Chrissie freeth, instagram, tapestry weaver

Good news, some other good news, and then some more

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I have been floored by a horrid head cold and have spent a great deal of the time wrapped up in blankets on the sofa in sight of my upright loom Doris. When I started to feel well enough to want to do ‘something’ but not well enough to trust myself upstairs with the big tapestry, I found myself putting a warp on. It was only narrow and I had a few drawings I wanted to play with, but apart from that, no real plan, just weaving with what yarns I had to hand that I normally make cloth with (I didn’t have the energy to go upstairs to raid my hand-dyed stash) and I just wove. It was very much like sketching in a notebook. It was a really great experience and quite liberating. It was also a good opportunity to sample some techniques I’ve been meaning to explore, like using eccentric wefts (which sucks by the way). It was nice to know I could weave on the small-scale as well as the large, even if I don’t seem to be able to do noses.

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It was great to get back up to the big loom, and perhaps I did need a break from it. From the moment I sat in front of the weaving and dived my hand into the cool soft stringy-ness of the warp I felt like I was home.  Crazy I know, but that was how it felt. Oh and the tapestry has now got its name – The Long Night. The idea behind the tapestry is that even the longest nights must end, as mine has with weaving. It does feel good to have something to call it at last. I’ve discovered a local source of cheap daylight bulbs – they are doing a good job keeping me warm too.

hgfhgfh I have had some great news, I have been awarded a grant by The Eaton Fund to purchase a new loom. Since the injury to my knee I’ve not been able to climb step ladders to warp my scaffold loom, and it is very uncomfortable to use, as my incessant whinning in previous posts stands as evidence. The new loom is beamed so it will be much easier to warp and I’ll be able to sit at it properly instead of sitting on the floor or standing or balancing  precariously on stools and boxes. I am about to be discharged by the physio and they have done as much as they can but I am still a long way off from being where I was before the accident and it looks like that is the way it is going to stay. It has been a lot for me to take in, but I am really greatful for the grant which will mean I can keep on going; I am feeling very lucky. It also means a great deal that someone has that kind of faith in me and my work. Very humbling. Hopefully I will be able to get the new loom up here to Yorkshire soon – the vendors have been incredibly patient with me. I will have to double my efforts to get The Long Night finished so I can swap the looms around in my workroom; I am hoping to have a pretty free diary over Christmas to knuckle down to it. I’ve also been asked to contribute an article about myself to the Tapestry Weaver, the magazine of the British Tapestry Group. A great honour for me, and I was quite giddy to be refered to as a tapestry weaver by someone who actually was one! I’ve also got my cheque from the National Trust for Maides Coign so all in all, it is proving to be a nice close to 2014.

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More generally there have been lots going on in the heady world of tapestry. The shortlist for the Cordis Prize has been released and there are some stunning pieces selected. It is great to see tapestry looking so vibrant and being recognised as such. Tapestry was also featured on BBC Radio 4’s On Your Farm. The weavers and spinners involved in the production of a tapestry at Dovecot Studios using the undyed fleeces of various sheep breeds discussed their experience. You can still hear it over on the website if you missed it.

Right, I think that’s it – oh except to say I’ve started to use Instagram, I treated myself to a tablet through the Bank of Mom as my laptop is about to die. If there are any of you out there who might want to follow me, I am there as chrissiefreeth.

Toodles for now xxx

 

 

 

Gracie Finds a Home and Abbie Takes Shape

I have been tardy posting, but in truth I didn’t know where to start – it seems the funds have been raised to keep Maides Coign at East Riddlesden. That the money has been raised largely through the donations of the volunteers at the hall is incredibly humbling. There is no doubt that East Riddlesden is the right place for her, and she has already been hung in the space where she was woven, something pretty unique I should imagine. I’ve not seen her yet but as soon as I do I’ll take a picture and share. She’s been lying on the floor for a few weeks so I suspect she’ll take time to settle.

I really didn’t think it would happen, but now it has I am finding great comfort in the thought that something of mine will be looked after forever and that there will be something of me left long after I am gone to show I was once here. I am also feeling incredibly indebted to those who have contributed, and this has left me with a huge sense of obligation to knuckle down and make a go of things, to take myself and my weaving, and my ambitions, seriously. I guess the purchase of the tapestry is making me feel like I can see a future for myself.

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To this end I’ve been working hard on the preparation for next tapestry. If you remember I initially had in mind a triptych but unable to make it work I abandoned it to focus on an image of a single figure and got quite excited by it, but it didn’t last. I was still making do, it wasn’t worthy of the idea behind it, I suppose it was trite. My friend Kate suggested returning to the original triptych and pulling the hair across all three panels. It fixed everything in a stroke – they were separate but joined, it gave a focus from left to right, and it meant I could return to a more familiar and comfortable palette.

It was a salient lesson 1) always have friends who are cleverer than you 2) don’t write blog posts until you are ready 3) trust your initial instincts and instead of abandoning an idea, play with it, mould it and knead it until you get it to work.

At the start of the project I got a notebook and initially thought that the idea was so well formed I would only fill the first few pages – oh how I laugh now. I am already having trouble shutting it, but it is proving an invaluable resource.

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Once I was happy with the design everything else fell into place. I’ve spent several days focusing on the blending and I have as of today pretty much locked them down. The sky will be varied greeny-blues from dark to light with dark gold stars. The hair of the main figure will be in browns and her skin a golden grey. The colours are rich and lush and have that ‘dive in’ factor I was after. As with Maides Coign, soumak will feature prominently in both the hair and the stars.

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I’m having a few days off and will come back to it with a fresh eye just to make sure I am happy with it all. As long as I don’t change my mind yet again, there really should be nothing left but to get the cartoon drawn up and the loom warped, but it will have to wait until I’ve had a break. Until then ta ta x

Week 19: That’s all folks!

Gracie is finally ready to hang. Sewing on the carpet tape and velcro took much longer than I thought it would and it has been quite frustrating – no matter how hard I worked, when I left at the end of the day she looked no different to when I started. My last act was to sew on my name and date. I never did get round to putting in a weaver’s mark.

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Fundraising is ongoing and I’ve said the hall can hang her until the end of July and we’ll see where we are at then. I’m not going to be there when they hang her, I suspect I will just get in the way and will fuss. I do like the idea of the tapestry hanging in the same place she was woven. The next and last job is to go back for the loom and I am looking forward to seeing her up. I feel like she isn’t mine anymore, which I suppose is a good thing. And I’ll be keeping in touch with East Riddlesden, staying on as artist-in-residence with a view to doing some workshops next year.

P1070847Now there isn’t anything else to be done I feel free to focus on the next project – details of which I will share soon I promise. I have spent the last couple of hours resetting and tidying my toolbox and I’ve already been experimenting with dyes and tomorrow I will order more and some yarn – I’m quite looking forward to it now!

So it isn’t all folks; now I’ve got into the habit of blogging pretty much weekly I will try to keep it up. I would just like to say that I’m really grateful to everyone who has read and commented – it does help me to keep going. x

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Week 18: Off the loom!

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It seemed fitting that as my friends Kate and Paula had been so supportive throughout this whole process that they were with me as I cut Gracie from the loom.

It all happened very quickly and it was me doing the snipping so I never really saw it – which was probably for the best as I was totally over-emotional about the whole thing anyway.

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Miraculously she stayed in one piece as we laid her down on some sheets. It was a shock how nimble she was – but there again I suppose she is a piece of cloth. Not only was it fitting Kate and Paula be there, they are also expert sewers – I’m not stupid! As they began plaiting the warps and sewing the turn back in place I knotted a few areas of weft at junction points.

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I had assumed the way I had done the vertical soumak would mean I wouldn’t have to sew up the slits but the pedantic side of me came out and I have started sewing them up and this is ongoing, taking up much more time than I thought. A meeting in London on Saturday and the Tour de France bringing Yorkshire to a halt on Sunday meant I went in on Thursday and Friday when the hall was closed but it looked like I’ll have to go in next week as well – the staff must be wondering if they will ever see the back of me! tapestry bobbins

In the mean time Shelly at Toast of Leeds has put on her blog some of the images she took (above and below) – I am in awe at how she has managed to take the common place things I no longer notice and turned them into pictures of such beauty. I’m feeling very lucky to have had this opportunity – do go over and have a look at the rest of them.

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