Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Developing and Idea and Concept in Tapestry

Linda Wallace's article "Process and Individuality" continues from last week:

“Promethean Dreams” 2005 22” wide x 16” high. Tapestry
“Promethean Dreams” (above) is an example of taking a stray thought and developing it into a tapestry.The conceptual seed for “Promethean Dream” lodged in my brain, as I listened to a presentation by a young PhD candidate, at a feminist symposium at UCBerkeley.  She was touting a future where gestation of embryos would all be ex-utero, allowing both genders to become parents without the demands of pregnancy.  Her youthful, affluent, Western enthusiasm appeared to blind her to the negative aspects of any such technology.  Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a concept I knew would become a piece:  “If women’s bodies were no longer required to produce the next generation of men, would women in traditional, patriarchal societies be considered of even less value?”  But, I needed months to research and to think, before I understood what I wanted the tapestry’s narrative to say.

When I sat down to create the imagery, I knew the symbols I wanted to use and I understood the placement of the selected iconographic images.  Without preamble, I literally sat down and drew the cartoon.  At that point, I had no plan for the colours I would use, except for the background.   The male, pregnant seahorse seemed to require a blue sea.  Beyond that, the colours were selected as the weaving progressed.  Their choice was never random or without thought, as colour also forms how the narrative unfolds. 
A similar process took place when I created “DisConnect”, my most recent large format tapestry.

      Sketch of DisConnect

           “DisConnect” 2011 32” wide x 48” high.  Tapestry

The concept developed from a newly learned comprehension of women, feminism and culture.  While looking for an aspect of women’s health to explore and possibly become an advocate for, I thought I would seek out a pressing issue outside my own country.  In discussion with a feminist scholar, I realized my intention to help could be seen as an unwelcome intrusion.  Disconcerted, I slowly understood:  I, a middle class, Caucasian women, coming from a colonizing heritage, could not enter the culture of women elsewhere without wearing the mantle of my own culture.  Our cultures are treasured and revered; our histories are brought forward one generation to the next.  Two women, who wish to interact, must do so with awareness.  What we value and remember can often form barriers between us:  two female humans.
Unlike “Promethean Dreams”, the beginning of “DisConnect”’s imagery came from my sketchbook.  While I often fail, I try to do a small sketch every day.  The drawings are done with a very sharp “H” pencil and are really doodles.  I begin by making random marks, allowing my subconscious to direct the action of my hand, following imagery as it evolves.  Many remain doodles, but now and then…. magic happens.    While I was working through frustrations and grappling with my new awareness, I did one of those magical, morning sketches.  That tiny (about 2” x 3”) drawing formed the tapestry’s central image.

Working outward, I added borders and symbolic imagery, and then integrated the elements to create both a pleasing design and increase the narrative’s depth and complexity.
Colour decisions are made as I weave, always thinking about the concept.  The most problematic area for me came at the end of the piece.  My original idea was to present the second figure as an “other” woman, beautiful yet made “different” by our cultures.  To demonstrate difference, I intended to present the cloth as indigo blue and the confining cage of culture, as iron.  When I approached the area, I realized both cultures must be equal and the differences between the women must be presented as minimal.  I wanted the viewer to feel we might be able to reach one another, and to explore commonalities and to establish a connection.
Enjoy the process of our medium and weave from your heart, listen to the voices inside you and be willing to stretch and change.  Your individuality will emerge, and the tapestries you create will become work only you could do.  Keep weaving!





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