Sunday, 10 November 2013

Fom Hippiedom to Officialdom

This year some of my tapestry involvements have been spread over the countryside.
I became a member of the Blue Knob Gallery, a successful community-run venture in the hills behind Nimbin. For those not familiar with this area, Nimbin is the hippie capital of Australia.
Its known for its colour but some of the image it portrays on the surface doesn't necessarily  give credit to the amazing creative talents, intelligence and diversity of those that dwell in the surrounding countryside. Many live on intentional communities, in ways that haven't been allowed by councils in most areas. But regardless of how individuals live on the land or in towns, community has become a way of life in this area, shining through all local activities, including the Blue Knob Gallery.
I have just returned from a day helping out on reception, seeing for the first time the latest exhibition, based on the theme of Pandora's Box. 
Its always a treat to see how the different artists respond to a theme and I like the way the people here respond in so many different materials, whether fibre, clay, found objects, or paper.
Here's my contribution in tapestry weaving. Art does not equal painting here.
I couldn't resist this exhibition challenge when it was announced and I soon found myself whipping up a design and setting up a relatively coarse loom.  The basic design evolved fairly quickly as I started with the Greek jar, which is what Pandora's box initially was before it got mistranslated, and floated it in the Mediteranean. I let all the dark stuff pour out and decided it was just the precursor to the colour of life which we dance with until we have it purified. I chose the complimentary colours of olive green and red/violet to represent our polarity as they are quite intense and a bit unpleasant when together in their dark shades, but can become quite different in their light shades. None of my friends could see what I was on about until I explained it so maybe the design was not very successful, but I enjoyed playing with the colours as I wove in a freer way than I have as yet experienced. Then I framed it in a box structure to acknowledge the mistranslation we have come to accept. Click on the image to see the weave enlarged.
Earlier in the year I journeyed to Canberra to make a small mark on the Canberra Centennial Community Tapestry. This is a big project, sponsored by the Canberra Legislative Assembly where the tapestry will be housed soon. As a community project it has been gathering many experienced and newly trained weavers from near and far to contribute to the weaving.  This is what it looked like when I visited in February, with the design sitting behind it, just a couple of months into the weaving.
It was fun weaving alongside others for over a week, and I chose some icons to focus on.
This leaf design was quite a challenge and here I am in the process of doing some embroidery stitches to create the detail.
I left the Canberra weavers to it over the cold winter and returned early October, just as all the spring flowers were coming out.  They had worked hard over the winter, but with only a month before it needed to be cut off, weavers were moving fast and I spent a week filling in an area -  the dark hillside and the area just beneath it.
And here's a picture of Annie, the designer, standing in front of the grown tapestry, looking resplendent in her outfit printed with Canberra icons  and flora, similar to those in the tapestry.

 Annie is a printmaker, not a weaver, so it gave the tapestry design a special quality and made it fun to interpret.
Since then the mountains and sky have been woven in and the cutting off ceremony was held recently.
You can see the finished weaving if you Google Canberra Community Tapestry and connect with the tapestry's blog.
When its finally presented it will be accompanied by small tapestries that weavers have contributed on the theme of Canberra and its centenary. I chose to do a small one depicting Dan, the project manager, weaving in its early stages, as that has been my main experience of Canberra. Here it is before I cut it from the loom.
I used a new technique to depict the unwoven wefts and decided to incorporate Dan into the wefts as I am sure he is totally merged with it by now. The spindle in his hand came out like a weapon!
I have enjoyed moving between the environments as I also integrate my own move from Victoria to Northern NSW only a couple of years ago. I love the rainforest here in the misty hills, and the coastal bush, but I also need a bit of the seasonal changes from further south. And the subtropical freedom of this areas contrasts with some of the formality that cooler winters seem to bring.
Here's my favourite photo from Canberra's Floriade display of tulips and other flowers, which I caught in full bloom.
Thanks for travelling with me.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Back to Nature

When it came to weaving a 'large' tapestry I decided to go safe, with a spot of nature. I had been itching to do something with the water lily images I had photographed on the dam where I was living in Central Victoria. I had captured the light on the leaves and water at special moments and I created the design from a couple of different views. The dimensions were determined by the possibility that I would be weaving it while travelling in my fairly modestly sized camper van - I couldn't have the loom too tall. I was travelling north from Victoria and had no idea where I would end up. As it turned out, I designed it in a friends house in Lismore, and did the wool dyeing and weaving at 3 different temporary residences.

93cm x 42cm
This isn't exactly large by traditional tapestry standards but it was huge for me and done on 12/18 warp with hand dyed wools. I struggled with the olive greens, trying out new recipes all the way through because I hadn't yet discovered that a touch of red would have given them the depth I needed.
I haven't mounted it yet, but when I do it will also need framing as the upper line is a bit wonky - due to my hand made loom getting variable tension adjustment along the top as I stuffed all sorts of bits of wood into the warps to tighten them.
Here are a couple of close-ups:
I look forward to having it on the wall - all that weaving and I am still fond of the image.
By the time this was completed I was ensconced in Lismore in Northern NSW, surrounded by rainforest, and the water lilies are now violet/blue or yellow.  I know there is a weaving waiting to honour them, but first I needed to explore all the new imagery of the dry rainforest where I
was living at the time. Lots of drawings helped this, but not for long outdoors as mossies are always lurking around the forest and it doesn't pay to stand still for too long.
I put together bits of different views in a fairly dense design, which made it a challenge to weave at times as I kept running out of weft space to express all the details. I really enjoyed bringing out some of the hidden colours in this environment - we are often not conscious of  all the colours that are creating the richness before our eyes.
This is my first shaped tapestry so there was much to learn in new techniques of shaping. I like the potential of shaping.
38 cm x 34 cm
Click on the image to enlarge it and see the texture.
Here are a couple of enlarged details. As you may be able to see I have woven it sideways to give smooth lines to the tree trunks. This may be an odd thing to do if you are not a weaver, but often it actually suits the design if the subject matter is changing as you move across horizontally.
At the end of 2013, with all my formal weaving assignments behind me, I was ready for the annual Australia and NZ small format show, generously organised by Ymmyarns, who also supply dyed tapestry weaving wools. The subject matter for this was 'From Mountains to the Sea'. This is a small affair, with a size limit of 20cm by 20cm, so a good excuse to try out some finer texture - for non-weavers this means a finer and denser upright warp and thinner wool mixes for weaving, so the potential for more detail, but a limit on the number of different coloured strands can be packed into one pieces of warp being used at any one time. Here's what I came up with:
I realised as I was weaving I was creating M shapes for Mountains and an S shape leading out to the Sea - so it was a lesson in our letter formations as well.
I haven't been able to get to the exhibition which has been travelling to various places in Victoria,
 so I look forward to seeing all the other entries in CD soon.
That just about completes my study journey and future blogs will happen as I have things to share.