Saturday, 17 September 2016

West Dean 6th course - Knotted tapestry

First I will add in a few pictures of plants that I took during my afternoon wanderings around the garden waiting to check in - a bit gratuitous, but I hope pleasing in their way:

This is now the half way point of my FDAD course - the 6th course is the first step into the last half of the programme and I am now thinking about what the whole feels like.

For the 6th course I chose to do a knotted tapestry course with Anne Jackson. Anne is a  tapestry maker who uses a knotting technique rather than weaving, which allows her to create uneven outlines as she does not use a loom, but confines her grid to a series of warp threads onto which the knots sit. This creates a flexible way to build up the work and even allows for 3D shaping, which I had a go at towards the end of the course.

A knotted tapestry technique sits well with the experimental textiles that I use at the core of all my work, and as I am hoping that one day there will possibilities to work at a large scale, this is a way to think about scale and volume; even worked small this knotted technique is useful, as it can suggest shapes that are expandable and it could be useful in creating maquettes, I think.

So, the course really was a way to learn and practice the technique and we created some samples practicing starting by setting up the warp, knotting and knotting shapes, vertical lines and working with the warp in various ways.

I had brought some drawings to work from and interestingly there were different schools of thought on how to use the original drawing as a guide for the work: someone suggested using the traditional way of developing a cartoon from the drawing using tracing paper and focussing on the key elements, having the drawing as a colour guide on the side; others favoured using the drawing directly under the work as guide for design as well as for colour choice. 

I tried both: first using the drawing under the work, then later swapping the drawing for a tracing. As my drawing is quite complex I think in this particular case the tracing was probably the best way to work through the design, as I could examine the colour study more closely separately. It may be that when drawings are simpler and if colours were studied in more depth over longer time between the drawign and the yarns, then using the drawing directly in the knotting process could be a real option.

So, here is the very start of the 'weaving' when I was using the drawing as the guide under the work:

As you can see the technique requires you to use robust pins to hold the warp and certain knots in place, and the other thing that separates this technique from tapestry in the gobelin/Aubusson sense is the way the knots work - you have to simplify the design quite a lot, lines become quite chunky, and would probably work better in large scale works. Also, the work builds up from the top down, rather than being built up from the bottom up as in weaving.

I also worked on a small sample to develop a 3D piece to see who you can develop a more sculptural shape:

You can see here that I am working on the side that is reducing the need for warps. This requires you to tie off the warps as the knotting proceeds - I found this a bit tricky to judge when to take them in and you need more knots to fill the area out than you expect.

This work is now in progress and once it is finished I will show it in a later post. In the meantime I have been called onto a different project that I have been pondering about for a while and just wanted to try out, so the two pieces will need to run in parallel. Whatch this space for more updates.

Here's a taster - Nails hammered into a block of wood before warping up: 

A bit wobbly, but will be OK once the warp is tied on

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