Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A 'Propeller' of a Project

Tiffy Thompson from Propeller Ideas (  came to the Toronto Weaving School to interview me and learn more about the weaving classes. While she and Lyziane Cantin (the photographer) were there, Tiffy tried her hand at tapestry weaving and contributed to the international tapestry project, Fate, Destiny and Self Determination. Tiffy is working on a project that Propeller Ideas is hatching called Learn Buffet, which will be an online resource  for courses/teachers in Toronto. It will launch in May 2013  and to sample of what the kind of articles they will be featuring click on this link:

While students weave on their projects at the Toronto Weaving School, they take a break and weave on the international tapestry project.Above, Simona Comenscu, who has been attending classes here since Spring 2012.
Darlene Haywood above, never wove on tapestry until this project, and this is her second time she has felt inclined to weave on the international tapestry.
No one has been more surprised than I to see what a 'propellor' this project has been for igniting enthusisasm for tapestry and connecting people together, weavers and non weavers alike.
Shapes have been rolling in at a rapid rate and I have struggled to keep up with the flow. Forgive my amateur photography! Below some of the shapes that have come in the last several weeks.

Susan Middleton, from Toronto, Ontario Canada submitted these three: Fate, Destiny above, and Determination below!

Louise Lemieux Berube from Montreal, Quebec, Canada,  submitted this shape that was jacquard woven.
Judy Kagan from Buenos Aires Argentina wrote: I love your project, the title, the concept....can't wait to see your amazing creation with the 'global weavers'. She created the red shape above.
Sofia Verna, from Umbria Italy, felted and dyed wool from her sheep. She is the founder of the much beloved Ms Emma Designs in Toronto.
Antje Goldflam from New Haven, Connecticut USA created the shape above (tapestry woven) and the one below (fabric woven).
Ixchel Suarez, Oakville, Ontario Canada.
Stella Tang, Oakville Ontario Canada

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Woven Together

Kate Kitechen and Debbie Harris
The launch for the international tapestry project was well attended inspite of snow storm warnings. In all, about 25 people participated. The tapestry installation generated a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for tapestry, after what seems to have been a dormant period. People went away inspired to create their own tapestries, or to want to learn tapestry, and the more experienced tapestry weavers welcomed being embraced by all the excitement.
Darlene Haywood and Michele Tse

Debbie Harris wrote me and said "What a wonderful event yesterday! It was good to see so many enthusiastic tapestry weavers. And it was good to see some people I have not seen for awhile. It gave us a chance to catch up. Weavers are such nice people! The piece is inspiring and I am looking forward to experimenting with my shapes. I have a number of ideas."
Judite Vagners and Barbara Aikman

Tapestry shapes are pouring in from all over the world and I've been having a hard time keeping on top of it all. The enthusiasm for the project has overwhelmed me and no one could be more surprised than I to find so many people willing to participate. Not to fear however. I will be documenting each piece as it comes in and posting it here as well as on my Facebook page for the project: Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination.
Top to bottom: Melanie Siegal, Susan Mellor and Donna Kim
Any one can come and weave on the tapestry at the Toronto Weaving School Mondays and Wednesdays between 10am and 9pm during scheduled classes. Monday March 25 will be the last winter session class. Spring session resumes for 8 weeks commencing April 3 and April 8. The school is closed statutory holidays.
Marion Kirkwood
Experienced tapestry weavers were helping the uninitiated learn tapestry techniques. Susan Middleton and Ixchel Suarez spent time showing those in attendance tapestry methods while I acted as photographer of the event, and checked in on my regular weaving classes, although I forwarned them that not much instruction would happen during the event.
Stella Tang and Ixchel Suarez
Susan Mellor
Others returned to the school after a long time away and we were oh so happy to see them.
Others in attendance that ended up not having a photograph taken of them were: Agota Dolinay, Jutta Polomski, Anne Vagi, Pat Phelan, Catherine Brackley and  Brian Nicholson.
Linda Morgenstein
Susan Middleton
Thank you to all of you that came out to participate in this event, to those of you who brought food and beverages and flowers and for making it feel oh so special to be a tapestry weaver! I'm looking forward to seeing you all back here again weaving on the international tapestry project or other tapestry project available for you to weave on, or seeing you weave your own projects.

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!





Thursday, March 7, 2013

Process and Individuality

Prometheus Dreams, 2005 Linda Wallace
This week I am featuring an article writen by Linda Wallace, a tapestry weaver in British Columbia, Canada that she wrote for the British Tapestry Group. In it she articulates her thoughts about how she has learned to evolve her personal style. The first half of the article appears this week and the remainder will appear next week. Although Linda describes the process in terms of labeling herself as an 'artist' , this same philosophy or approach is also true for craftspeople.

Process and Individuality 
Developing a visual continuity, where viewers are able recognize an artist’s work, is an ephemeral process.  Each of us who reach that stage arrives using different pathways, but common elements underlie them all.  The development of an individual style takes years of learning and practicing skills as well as constant self-critiquing.  I do not believe short cuts exist and the old “Carnegie Hall” truism cannot be denied.

Here are a few thoughts for those who are still searching for their individual voice.  Create, weave, pay attention to intuitive responses and follow where your ‘self’ leads you.  Weave, and while you work: pay attention to what areas work, what could be improved and struggle to figure out how.  With each tapestry completed, the experience and knowledge gained will improve the next one. Pay attention to what you respond to, draw, sketch, photograph, critique your own work and the work seen in galleries.  Follow your heart.  We know all of these things, but we need to believe in them. 
When I wander galleries and find myself drawn into another artist’s work, responding to it at a visceral level, I always want to know more about it.  If the work is tapestry, I understand the medium but I am curious about the process the artist followed.  How did that one unique, individual tapestry come to be? 

The answer to that question is as individual as the artist.  Each of us could fill a book with the story of how and why we make the work we do, but I will try to encapsulate a bit of my own process and share it. 

I finally decided to follow the voice in my head, to become the artist I believed I could be, and enrolled in art college in my forties.  The benefit of taking life experience into that intense milieu, coupled with exposure to multiple disciplines allowed me to find my media:  tapestry and graphite drawings.
As time passed and I created more work, I knew my heart and my hands were revealing my own pathway.  There were commonalities:  the concepts are driven by my engagement with humanity, social structure, our uneasy relationship with each other and with the world around us; my drawings and the imagery in my tapestries are organic in nature; colour, beauty and materiality are elements I combine with the drawn imagery to write the symbolic narrative of each piece.

Beware the Petards, 2010. 10" x 10" graphite on paper.

Before anything concrete happens, I research.  The form of that research may be the traditional reading of pertinent articles, forming concepts, seeking symbols and iconographies, allowing the concept to shift without restraint, letting it build depth and complexity.   Visual and tactile research is continual: wallowing in colours, light and textures, absorbing sensations as I run my hand over yarns, over tree bark, over stones.  I photograph patterns:  natural and constructed.  And, I think about narrative and the viewer.
Part week.
Kate Kitchen, 10" x 10", wood and fibre
Kate Kitchen recently completed this tapestry-like piece. She says of it:
"This one of the series of my new tapestry weavings that are woven with linen warp and include wood from a cherry tree that fell in a summer storm outside my studio. The design of the weaving is inspired by damage, also from a storm, to the bark of a nearby paper birch tree.
Weaving together these natural elements that surround me as I work was the goal.
I have also written a poem to accompany each weaving. This is the for this piece."

Old Wood
Rings of time long passed
Join with linen grasses and sheep’s wool
All impermanent
But they fill me with joy.

Are you looking to exhibit your work?
Ann Noble let me know about the Maria Schuka Public Library located at Eglinton and Dufferin. It offers FREE display space for art work. Many libraries offer the same arrangement so check out your own local library.
GAS - Gerrard Art Space also accepts proposals from people wanting to exhibit their work. There is a fee. To know more go to

Community Threads Project, Alliston Ontario.
Funded in part by the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners
Nathalia Sugden recently wrote:
"Many, many members have each in their own way helped to make this project a success. The photographers, painters, drawers, the outliners, the ones culling photos, the choosers of yarns and colour, the preparers of the looms, the weavers, finishers, the people working on the applications for grants, the bearers of the tapestries for exhibit at many local and weaving events, the organizers, eventually the blockers of the tapestries and the hanging and final showing at exhibits, etc., etc. All hands and all help has brought rewards to the whole Guild! Bravo!!"
Monday March 18 11am to 8pm
All are welcome to attend and participate in the official launch of the international tapestry project. Already 150 people from 20 countries are co-creating this tapestry installation entitled Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination/Le Sort, le Destin and l'auto-determination, funded by the Ontario Arts Council. You do not have to be enrolled in the classes to participate. If you would like to weave on the main tapestry please come to the launch. If you can't make it, you are welcome to come Mondays and Wednesdays between 10am to 9pm during the school year (except for holidays). It's wise to double check with me to be sure the facility is open on the day you intend to be there.
Design, colours and butterflies prepared by Line Dufour. Agota Dolinay prepared the warp heading, positioned the butterflies and was the first to weave on the communal tapestry and prepare it for the public and invited guests to continue weaving the tapestry.

Thank you to everyone for their contributions and submissions. Feel free to keep me posted as to what you are doing in your tapestry endeavours.



Friday, March 1, 2013

Enthusiasm for tapestry is building

 For those of you who could not come to my booth at The Artist Project here is my work on display. A mixture of handwoven tapestries, woven wallhangings and fibre mixed media. As people walked through my booth, an everexpanding smile would permeate the geography of their face. I wish I could have videotaped each of these individuals as my work transformed their countenance as they viewed it.  I met many wonderful artists and got to know several of them quite well.
My booth at the Toronto Artist Project.
An update on the international tapestry installation, Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination. We now have 131 people participating from 20 countries. To keep posted and updated on the project and make connections with other weavers all over the world, friend me on Facebook and then click on the Fate, Destiny and Self Determination project page, if you haven't already. Below, shapes that have been completed and/or received recently.
Shape woven by Bernard Ossant from France.

Shape needlepointed by Sharon L. Smith
The Community Threads tapestries which I launched in July of 2011 in Alliston Ontario continues to move at warp speed with their hardworking, dilligent, and accomplished weavers and spinners at the Nottawasaga Weavers and Spinners Guild located in the beautiful historic Gibson Community and Cultural Centre.
The latest panel to woven by Elisabeth Bishof depicting the historical octongonal barns on the Banting Homestead  in the New Tecumseth area. The entire banner is dedicated to Banting (insulin), and the property where he lived.

Linda Needles writes:
"We have just started weaving two more tapestries on the Gobelin loom. One depicts historic buildings in the New Tecumseth area and other is of scenes in the area. We are beginning the process of putting headers on the finished tapestries in order to ready them for hanging in our upcoming exhibit. In addition, we are preparing write ups for a brochure that will accompany the tapestries."
Betty Cerar, the current president of the guild, emailed me to say that the guild received a grant from the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners to pay for the expenses of displaying the Community Threads tapestries when they are completed.  A number of guild members assisted in putting the application together. Betty says that there is still a  LOT of work to complete in order to have the exhibition ready for the  Fall of 2013.   One of the requirements of the grant is to write an article in Fibre Focus magazine about the project so that more people (in particular weavers and spinners) from Ontario can see the finished results of their endeavours. Betty goes on to say: "I sure hope we don't run out of steam before the exhibit! The two current tapestries on the Gobelin loom had a bit of a slow start as people scrounged around for suitable colours, but they're going well now, and if we keep up the momentum, we'll be okay.I dropped in today after work for a bit, and yet another visitor was brought up by the director of the Gibson Centre to see us working. It's really nice to have so much support and enthusiasm for the project."

tapestry at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Jutta Polomski writes:
"My daughter and I have been touring the galleries, museums, and sights around London. At the Victoria and Albert museum. we saw many wonderful textiles. I took a couple of pictures, which of course do no justice to the actual tapestries. They had an example of how a tapestry is woven, and what it looks like on the back. There was also a write-up which I thought you could post in the class, for those new tapestry weavers who find it takes soooo long...."
More next week!