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.