Mention the word tapestry in the company of weavers and at least one person will proclaim they dislike tapestry (sometimes even stronger and more passionate language arises). In fact, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said something disparaging about weaving tapestry. I could have a pretty good dinner with a nice glass (or two) of wine.
I think I started thinking about tapestry recently when I realized my friend and amazing tapestry weaver, James Koehler, passed away three years ago this week. He was incredible! Not only as a tapestry weaver, but also as a teacher and friend. He once watched me give away awards for a bath towel exhibit at the ANWG 2007 conference in Red Deer, Alberta wearing nothing more than a bath towel. Nearly every time I saw him after that, he would would say Robyn. I didn’t recognize you with clothes on. The chance he would say it increased with the number of people that would hear his comment. Talk about watching heads whip around. A former monk saying something like that sounded rather shocking. One can’t help but love someone with a sense of humor like that!
To learn more about James Koehler, you can watch a short video of him describing how he became a weaver. The video was produced when James received a New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2007. http://www.nmartmuseum.org/governors/awards/video.php?select=231
Fortunately, James left behind many inspired weavers to share his techniques with other weavers. In fact, Rebecca Mezoff was kind enough to post a video on YouTube of his tapestry join technique. You may see her video by clicking on the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TwNVX3nPGc
For years I avoided tapestry. Why? It was slow and time-consuming. Then came my decision to complete HGA’s Certificate of Excellence in weaving (COE-W). Three of the 40 woven samples required in Level I of the COE-W are tapestries (albeit, small ones). If I wanted to complete the COE-W, I was going to have to tackle tapestry. I went forward kicking . . . but, not screaming . . . and guess what? After developing my skills, I was able to weave a nice little tapestry. Below is one of them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t abdicate from my floor looms in favor of weaving tapestries; however, I developed a new appreciation for tapestry techniques and tapestry weavers. I also pursued incorporating tapestry techniques into my regular weaving. For example, I sometimes use a clasped weft technique to create a bi-colored weft effect. Below is an example of clasped weft in the weft pile picks used while weaving corduroy.
Tapestry techniques are just one set of skills I think weavers should develop . . . at least to some degree. There are even some resources available.
First stop for more information, should be Weaving Today. They have a free tapestry ebook available for download. Just click on the link http://www.weavingtoday.com/tapestry-weaving/
When you’re ready to move on, head on over to the American Tapestry Alliance’s website http://americantapestryalliance.org/. There’s tons of information and inspiration just waiting for you. There is also a significant collection of tapestry-related articles listed under the Education tab. Below is an image of the top of the list.
Interested in more on tapestry??? Cool! Check out the on-line PDF available from Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei. http://www.brennan-maffei.com/images/TapestryWeavingTechniques.pdf
Also, there’s a wonderful 16 minute video made available by Debbie Herd that introduces the viewer to tapestry techniques that may get you inspired to purchase Archie’s 8-disc DVD set. http://debbieherd.blogspot.com/2013/07/woven-tapestry-techniques-with-archie.html
If you need a little more to inspire you to learn more about tapestry techniques, I’ve included some images from some of my favorite tapestry artists.
Maximo Laura – http://www.maximolaura.com/about.htm
Sarah Swett – http://www.sarah-swett.com/
Cecilia Blomberg – http://www.ceciliablomberg.com/
Margo MacDonald – http://www.margomacdonald.com/
Kathy Todd Hooker – http://kathetoddhooker.blogspot.com/
If you’ve shrugged off or even runway from weaving tapestry, give it a try. It’s easy to get started. A piece of heavy cardboard with some notches cut into the top and bottom can made a good little loom to warp up.