Apparently William Morris put a loom in his bedroom and taught himself to weave. I too have ended up with a loom in what used to be my bedroom, but it is a dastardly unsettling place for a studio thanks to the wardrobes and heavy drapes and dark walls and cream carpet. I have been prevaricating about studio space for some time, wanting somewhere open to the public on one hand, but also craving the flexibility and cost effectiveness of a home studio on the other. Matters came to an unexpected head a fortnight ago. Thanks to the generosity of the Eaton Fund I was awarded a grant late last year to buy a new loom. That loom was in Cambridgeshire and I am in Yorkshire, and to be honest I thought it was going to be a real faff arranging the delivery. However I didn’t bank on finding such a friendly, professional and patient courier as Ophir from Yorkshire Van Man Nothing was too much trouble, and he was able to liaise between me and the vendors to arrange the delivery and at an amazing price. I simply can’t believe how hassle free the whole process was. If you need a courier, especially in and around Yorkshire, you can’t do better than give Ophir a ring. From what I can gather, the vendors were pretty much ready to adopt him as their own.
Anyway, it all meant that much sooner than I could have hoped for, there was a large dismantled tapestry loom in my living room and I had nowhere to put it. It was time to make myself a proper studio. With the aid of a hammer and brute force I dismantled the wardrobe dismantled, and got rid of the carpet and dark red walls. Under the carpet were slightly grotty but sound old floorboards. A hardy scrub and a bit of a scrape and a coating of stained wax got them looking pretty good and I was able to get rid of the carpet through Freegle.
My studio had to be somewhere where I could capture, curate and develop ideas as well as weave, and so I wanted a space onto which I could splatter my brain, albeit it with masking tape and blue-tac rather than a handgun. Although I usually go for dark and cosy wall colours I knew plain white ones would give me a clean blank canvas for my head as well as brighten the room – this is the first sunlight it has seen since 2005.
I’ve kept one wall clear so I have a big flat surface on which to draw my cartoons to size. I’ve put all my paints and drawing things onto a trolley so I can move it to where I am working whether at the work table, at the easel or at the wall. Apparently if you wash brushes you can reuse them. Who knew!
I brought in a few bookcase for my yarns although I don’t need too much storage as I tend to dye what I need specifically for each project. I made a work table out of an old side-table on top of which I put some MDF which I then stained and varnished. In the end the whole revamp cost no more than the pot of paint. Ooh and a Denby arabesque coffee set I accidentally brought when I got the paint *innocent grin*.
I brought the loom up piece by piece but knew I would never be able to put it together myself. The original wooden beams had warped (gettit?) and were replaced with metal ones, but I couldn’t lift them off the floor, let alone lift them into place. I needed muscle and after a quick phone call to my friend who runs the ice-cream barge on the canal, the services of her partner and his brother had been donated to the cause. They put the loom together in what seemed minutes. The vendors had labelled everything so well and had sent photographs, so it was a piece of cake.
I had been warned before I brought the loom that the heddles would need replacing, inevitable really with a loom of this age. Fortunately I have a heddle maker and it has been quite relaxing making them. I think I am at 600 so far. I feel that this has all come together so quickly and so easily I need to do something to feel I have earned it, to have contributed somehow, and I guess making several hundred heddles will do the job nicely!
The loom was built by George Maxwell, a carpenter in the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, an arts and crafts movement founded near Ditchling in Sussex and which thrived during the inter-wars years and beyond. His looms are still about, but this is the only known tapestry loom he built and until me, it had only been owned by the lady who commissioned it. I cannot begin to say how much I love it and how much I want to get going on it. The heddles are going on tomorrow and I’ll do a small tapestry just to get the feel of it before I start the next proper sized one.
I can’t quite believe I have this in my house. And I can’t believe I have this room. Rather than a depressing and distracting room I now have a proper studio, a proper calming clutter-free space to work. My productivity has already rocketed and I haven’t even got weaving yet.
In the spirit of the make over shows – this was the same view beforehand. Eeeeeek!
It did take me a good few days to recover from all the shifting of general stuff and furniture, but it was well worth it and I am quite proud of what I’ve done. Well I suppose that’s all for now, a big day tomorrow with the first warp on. Ta ta xxx