Color: a manifesto

Added on by Clare Nicholls.

The American Tapestry Alliance has a new Facebook group for members called Let’s Talk Tapestry. In July we were talking about color, and I wrote this about my approach to color: 

I used to be really afraid of color until I read Chromophobia by David Batchelor. That text helped me get in touch with the color palettes I truly enjoy, which come from my childhood. I've always been in love with Barbie pinks. (I felt vindicated when I found out as an adult it was Elsa Schiaparelli's signature color!) Another huge influence is Sailor Moon's pastels and neons. I used to think that I could only be taken seriously if I was restrained, which affected my color choices. Now I relish trying to put every color next to every other color. Another huge influence has been Christina Forrer. I love her brash abandon. I try to remember that the Fauvists were called wild beasts because they loved color.

View work by Christina Forrer here
Learn more about Chromophobia here
Get more inspired by David Batchelor's drawings here

this blown out photo of one of my tapestries has been very inspiring.

this blown out photo of one of my tapestries has been very inspiring.

This blog post was originally published in my July newsletter. You can sign up for updates about classes, my process, and tidbits like this here.

Classes at Lovelyarns!

Added on by Clare Nicholls.

I started teaching weaving classes at Lovelyarns, a local yarn store here in Baltimore back in October. I teach weaving on floor looms as well as tapestry lap looms. I love teaching.

Lovelyarns has a small weaving classroom with four floor looms, each an eight shaft Macomber.

My students are wonderful-- they're often experienced knitters wanting to get into something different. I have to tell them that I don't know anything about knitting yarn weights and their eyes get wide.  They're always full of he best questions. "How do I--?" and they'll motion with their hands. My answer: "A zig-zag pattern? That's called a twill..." 

It was very exciting to work with a single woven structure this past April. I had students weaving waffle weave, but experimenting with color. We discussed how color interacts between the warp and the weft, and how certain colors next to each other change under the eye.

Tapestry classes have been exciting as well. I always ask what weavers a student has been looking at, because that changes the techniques we focus on in class. You love wild, fluffy roving, eccentric wefts? Let's do that. More into geometry? Let's build some shapes. I make sure to ground students in good technique-- weft bubbling, yarn handling, etc, because in order to understand their goals, they have to know how the grid can get them there.

I also had the pleasure (no pictures, though) of helping out a private student figure out a loom she had gotten off of Craigslist. Some screws needed to be tightened, but the wood was sound and there wasn't any rusted metal. We had a great couple of hours playing and discussing the differences between floor looms with treadles and table looms with levers.

Solo Show, "Crossed Threads" Now Up!

Added on by Clare Nicholls.

My first solo show, Crossed Threads,  is up at Stevenson University in the School of Design gallery through April 12.

The School of Design building is on the Owings Mills campus and has the following hours:

Monday - Friday, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Closed Sunday

As a part of this show, I also get to talk to a class of fashion design students. The talk is also open to the public, so if you'd like to play with double cloth and hear my thoughts about how weaving structures relate to garment construction, please come on by.

I've also been busy rearranging my studio-- I recently acquired a very big tapestry loom, and I'm psyched to get back to making things.

Here's a picture of the big loom parts waiting to be put together:


This loom was a lucky Craigslist find. It was relatively nearby in Gettysburg, which is a pleasant drive on back roads. Even better, it was being sold by a lovely woman who's a weaver and once wove on this loom, so she was very helpful with having all the parts and things. 

This past Sunday I went and saw the Louise B. Wheatley show at the BMA (on view through July 30) and it was truly mind-boggling. I love ancient textile fragments and am forever grateful for the internet that lets me pour over them-- but being able to be up close and in person is so satisfying. I love the Coptic style of going from ground cloth to tapestry sections within one object. It's a reminder that weaving can be, truly, whatever you need it to be. 

Wheatley's work is so very fine-- both exquisite and literally small and delicate. The textiles rooms at the BMA are small, so it felt nice to be surrounded by small-scale, detailed work. I wish that there had also been magnifying glasses in the room, because I wanted to get close and fall into all these little scenes. But that could just be me. 

Vending @ For the Greater Goods!

Added on by Clare Nicholls.

I'm vending at the 4th Greater Goods Market-- a pop up shop full of local makers that also benefits Art with a Heart.

Come by and see lots of great products! I'll be outside, so please also bring me cocoa. I'll have a new line of handmade rope and jewelry, as well as prints, drawings, zines, and more things.

Sunday, December 11 from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Here's the Facebook Event.

See you there!

Workshop: Dye and Weaving Workshop

Added on by Clare Nicholls.

I'm excited to announce a duo of workshops in conjunction with Wax and Wane Fiber! Both will be hosted at the Four Hour Day Lutherie.

Sunday, November 13th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. learn how to dye yarn with natural dyes. Local experts Wax and Wane will be providing materials, dyes, and instruction on hand-dyeing yarn. Walk away with some mini skeins-- but hold onto them for the next week! The following Sunday, November 20th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., learn how to use that dyed yarn to weave a tapestry. Explore color choices, shapes, and materials on your own wooden tapestry loom.

I'm so excited for these workshops-- Claire and Ashton are an amazing team with such passion for their craft. The Four Hour Day Lutherie is a gorgeous space and guitar workshop. The looms for the weaving workshop were made there! With all of these beautiful making vibes around, we're certain to make marvelous work of our own.

Buy Tickets Here!

Where: Four Hour Day Lutherie (4305 Harford Road, Baktimore, MD 21214)
When: Sunday, November 13 (Dye your yarn), 
           Sunday, November 20th (Weave your yarn) from 1:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m.

Contemporary Weaving (Part Two)

Added on by Clare Nicholls.

When I started making notes for my initial contemporary weavers post, the list of artists I wanted to highlight grew and grew until I had to separate it out into two. This is by no means an extensive list of weavers who inspire me-- that list is very, very long.

Kayla Mattes

Kayla Mattes is a tapestry weaver whose work ties multiple levels of time together in single pieces-- weaving's ancient qualities, nostalgia for early computer and internet aesthetics, and the present, the only place these things can co-exist. Mattes makes the grid of the warp into pixels, and connects that to familiar colors and textures. There's the Photoshop transparency checkerboard, which bleeds into broken layered early Mac windows, color selection palettes, and textures from video games. Mattes laughs at glitches, and even her busy tapestries ooze and warp.

Samantha Bittman

“Every time I set up the loom,” says Bittman, “I feel like it’s an algorithm or a program and the act of weaving it ends up generating a piece of cloth that is the output of the algorithm.” (via this interview with Sight Unseen)

With all of these examples of artists who relate their process to the grid of weaving, or to computers and pixels, Samantha Bittman definitely connects to those ideas on an analytical level. While exploring geometry and optics, pattern and repeat, she also explores information-- bites and bytes, what is revealed and what is hidden. Warp and weft are covered and uncovered while weaving, and she also paints on top of the fabric one it's off the loom. The structure of the weaving creates pattern, and then conceptual structure transforms the fabric into a painting-object. The on/off, yes/no nature of binary is foregrounded in her work; each piece is an accumulation of parts: threads, shapes, pixels, data, rules.

Erin Gilkes (Rinn Textiles)

Weaver and knitter out of NSCAD, Erin Gilkes's "table tapestry" works call back to traditional rug weaving, but also evoke interiors and architecture. Using a minimal palette of natural wools, greys, whites, and blacks, Gilkes creates bold geometry. I think it's so interesting that there are so many weavers that are interested in creating abstract geometric shapes responding to the grid of warp and weft (I'm one of them!) but each weaver produces entirely different work. I like in particular how Gilkes often shapes her tapestries, so the internal geometry responds to external gaps and angles. In addition, she displays her work on shaped tabletops-- what attention to detail.

Rachel Duvall

Duvall is yet another weaver interested in process, and the geometry that weaving inherently produces. Her process extends from start to finish, dyeing her luscious materials (often silk, linens, and wools) with natural dyes. Citing sources such as Agnes Martin (swoooon), she's interested in the meditative, repetitive activity and the delicate shifts in geometry that happen in handmade objects.

The Weaving Mill

The Weaving Mill is, as you'd suspect, a weaving mill in Chicago. Co-founder Emma Winter writes in this blog post:

I am working with a fellow RISD Textiles MFA alum, Matti Sloman, here at Westtown. While in school, she and I talked often about what we wanted to do when we finished grad school: it usually came back to an experimental, community-based production mill. When I found out that re-starting the mill at Westtown was a real possibility, I called Matti. She moved to Chicago this summer, and we’ve been working together on this project for the last few months. 

I love The Weaving Mill's mission: developing community, small-scale local production, and producing beautiful textiles while doing it! Their existence makes my heart swell, and I'm definitely keeping an eye out for their collaborations.

Sandra Brownlee

Sandra Brownlee is an artist living and working in Nova Scotia. She taught two of my weaving professors how to weave, so she's kind of my weaving grandmother. Brownlee works in black and white supplementary weft, a process that she uses as meditative, intuitive drawing. She also keeps fascinating tactile notebooks, and all of her work is about responding. (Responding to what? To everything.) 

The way I basically proceed is: What I feel like doing, I do. I don’t question it so much, I just do it. 
Sandra Brownlee,  Page Series #1 , in process (via)

Sandra Brownlee, Page Series #1, in process (via)

The video above is such a great window into her process. She's drawn to text, to image, to abstraction, just seeing and working in a stream of consciousness. I often have her advice running through my mind: "You have to begin."

This is part of a series of contemporary weavers, originally published April 2016 on Read part one here.

Contemporary Weaving (Part One)

Added on by Clare Nicholls.

Sitting at a loom is connecting to the origins of things-- that's how I feel about weaving.  As a practice both ancient and modern, weaving creates an intangible community: we use many of the same tools, have the same issues with spaces, time, process, geometry, and more. However, there are as many ways to weave as there are weavers; this post is merely a mini-survey of weavers who are currently working that caught my eye. 

A caveat: I haven't seen any of this work in person. So much about weaving is the materiality of the work, the desire to get up close and see every weft pick. I think once I do, each of these blurbs could be expanded into an entire post of its own!

Erin M. Riley

Erin M. Riley is a contemporary artist and tapestry weaver known for smutty content including nude selfies (herself and others) and screenshots of porn. The contrast between weaving's connotations of domesticity and the shocking images would be interesting by itself-- but Riley is so much more than that. There's also images of guns and drugs, laid out as if they were a police photo of evidence or a still from a music video, car crashes and roadside memorials. Riley turns these images on the nexus of excess and desperation into huge tapestries that could grace the halls of a contemporary Versailles.

She also collaborates with Eric Patton on To Dødsfall, a brand of rugs that investigates material and texture, in black-all-black-all-the-time (a favorite color scheme of mine).

Brent Wadden

Brent Wadden is an artist who relies on weaving's grid structure to produce geometric abstract works. When work is made on a grid, diagonals become key; Wadden uses that to make sweeping triangular shapes. I love that this work isn't complete when it comes off the loom-- panels get collaged together so that shapes and colors interact with each other. Piecing together panels of fabric is a deeply embedded weaving tradition; it is a method used to create fabric that is wider than the loom upon which it originated. Wadden's work is beautiful and huge.

Herron Clothier (Dee Clements)

Herron is home textiles by Dee Clements, and are full of eye-popping color palettes and Bauhaus-inspired geometry. Clements is dedicated to producing quality goods on traditional hand looms in Chicago, but her Instagram indicates there's a collaboration with The Weaving Mill in the works! She also recently finished up a brief residency with A-Z West, Andrea Zittel's all-in-one home/studio/institute. Her mix and match of colors is so inspiring (I am afraid of color; color is an animal that will devour me) and the influence of the greats like Gunta Stölzl isn't just evident in the motifs like repeated horizontal stripes, but also in designing and creating manufactured goods.

Sasha Baskin

Sasha Baskin's Woven Portraiture series are the missing link between hand weaving and larger, computer-controlled looms. Hand dyeing and painting every skein of yarn, taking advantage of the natural sheen of silk and tencel, Baskin has painstakingly drawn  these portraits on a 16-harness loom. Hand-controlled damask is a technique that controls how much of the weft shows using a pickup stick and different pattern setups across the span of the warp. I love the confusing nature of these portraits-- ghostly yet solid. The Shroud of Turin meets anonymous thrift store photographs.

Andrea Donnelly

Andrea Donnelly's MFA Thesis catalog was passed around my weaving class like it was scripture. We all knew the amazing time and effort her large-scale painted warp pieces involved; we were in awe at her dedication and the sheer beauty of it all. The process of weaving-and-unweaving-and-reweaving that some of that work entails speaks to a commitment to getting a piece to be just so. The exactitude!  Her more recent work still explores color and process, rejoicing in mirror-image Rorschach abstraction, as well as connecting to writing. (The link between weaving and text is also another post, or a body of work, or a life's work.)

Robin J. Kang

Kang's work fuses the handwoven and the digital, not shying away from the uncanny chimera that results. Images of circuit boards and stylized animals remind me of Giger, but the luscious colors speak to a different imagining of the future. Using a jacquard loom gives her the ability to draw such complicated, dense compositions. I wish I could see these up close, in person; the materials list of hand dyed yarns, plastic bags, and other materials, are so fascinating and I'm sure make up a lot of the kinesthetic (kin-aesthetic?) experience.

This is part of a series on contemporary weavers, originally published March 2016 on Read part two here.