Jan Austin, USA
13″ x 14,” wool, photo: Jan Austin
My inspiration derives from the visual rather than the intellectual or emotional. I allow nature to process itself through my eyes without the conscious interference of my brain, facilitating the effects of serendipity. Unlike most of my tapestries, Autumn Leaves was woven without a cartoon, or a plan. It was inspired by the colors of the wool, and the wedge weave process itself. The geometry that results from the weft being diagonal to the warp led me on a voyage of discovery: the weaving felt like solving a puzzle.
Brita Been, Norway
CHINESE CLOUD jade
96.4” x 96.4,” linen warp and wool weft, photo: Stina Glømmi
Pattern is, for me, a constant source of inspiration. Pattern means movement, repetition, rhythm and liveliness. Patterns` integral structure gives me the possibility to create and work within an expression I wish my textiles to have. My tapestries have been characterized as straightforward, proud and strong, with a colorful style. The joy of working, curiosity and energy are driving me forward.
Many cultural traditions speak of cloth-making as a metaphor for life . . . the stretched “fixed” threads of the warp being the universal laws and the truths we live by. The wandering weft threads trace the path of each individual as they thread their way between events, relationships and connections. Weaving for me, is just that, an essential part of my life. It provides me a meditative state on many levels and serves as the context of my work. As a transplanted easterner, I am intrigued by the overpowering beauty of so many California landscapes and in my newest work I often use embroidered embellishments that include an archaeological, geological or historical reference. My goal is to create images that are strong from a distance yet, on closer inspection, reveal a design that is integrated with the weaving process – each influencing and inspiring the other.
My inspiration for this piece was a small pintail duck feather. While sketching the design, I was focused on the overlapping feathers at the bottom and began to eliminate and enlarge them as the weaving progressed. The feathers turned into birds! I chose heavy Berber wools as weft to give the tapestry an unexpected twist in contrast to the lightness of a feather. The wedge weave/ eccentric technique creates a surface tension that causes the feathers to undulate in convex and concave pockets.
My work addresses the vital and fleeting qualities of human contact. It investigates the possibility of immortality, the commemoration of touch, and the thresholds between us. I weave images of hypothetical people in emergency situations. These hand-woven tapestries portray instructions on how to save each other’s lives, how to act rationally in the face of our mortality, and how to behave with our bodies. I use them to question notions about physical interaction, danger, and control. While tapestries have historically displayed mythological or heroic events, these safety instructions tell a story that hopefully never happens. Capturing a momentary yet epic narrative, they speak of our innate compulsion to survive as well as our compassion for others. The Three Fates tapestry from the 16th Century depicts the three fates, who spin, draw out and cut the thread of life. In my version, the horizon becomes the thread of life, and the three fates find themselves clutching flotation devices.
A work inspired by fishing traps, using the brass sticks frame as a loom and Gobelin based technique.
I love the process of weaving: that physical interplay of warp with weft in the simultaneous creation of the design and actual fabric of the tapestry. My design process is digital, each tapestry beginning with a digital photograph. Back in the studio the hand manipulation process is totally absorbing, and I’m fascinated by how an image can be so completely transformed at the click of a mouse. Living in the centre of England, beach walks are a real luxury. Clovelly beach on a wild day led me to photograph a group of stones, their beauty being revealed by the receding tide. After manipulating the image this group of four stones morphed into a design which looks more like a group of cells under a microscope than stones on a beach.
Shift is an exploration into the psychology of visual perception. The pattern and contrast induce a dynamic quality of multi-stability in which forms move and flip. The Ikat technique presents another layer of information, containing glitches and irregularities. Shift asks one to stop, stare and engage in questions of how and what we see. My work explores the development of systems, creating visually stimulating patterns and imagery which address our capacity for awareness. I focus on processes which invite repetition, distortion, and tactility. The confrontation of reality, truth and perception are the foremost concerns of my practice.
This work starts with a simple, repeatable shape, a set palette and defined parameters such as techniques using simple mathematical sequences. As the piece progresses, intricate variables can occur within these boundaries. Partly random and partly contrived, the design emerges as it is woven.
The tapestries of Birgitta Hallberg hold an intense and rich coloring. Colors and lines are thrown onto each other, moving around rushing human forms. Her tapestries explore multifarious possibilities from thread to thread. Here nice expression is ruled out – a wild energy flows from the tapestry, never in tranquility. Birgitta takes us on a journey to the garden of childhood, inspired by the country of her childhood in Skåne, where her mother often would photograph Birgitta in their garden. These memories Birgitta wants to retain in the journey to the brightly colored flowering garden of childhood.
Thinking in layers, I consider color first, then hatching, which allows for movement and rhythm to come into play and finally soumack which adds texture and shadows to the piece. My work is a dance between color, value and line. Drawing on my interest in intaglio printmaking I have explored the historical technique common to both printmaking and tapestry, hatching. Instead of using hatching as a shading device to create volume, I have streamlined the technique into a graphic design element which accentuates the warp and weft grid, the foundation of weaving. Because of my interest in music I design the color palette of my tapestries to have an ebb and flow, much like the shifts in sound and harmonic progressions in music.
This tapestry is symbolic of our unfolding journey from our physical selves to our spiritual home. The ladder can be seen as a metaphor for our life, as a liminal space between birth and death, heaven and earth, matter and spirit, tzimtzum (contraction) and tikun (healing through good deeds). As in the story of Jacob’s dream in the Torah, the ladder is a bridge that allows us to travel in both directions. The squares could be seen as the angelic messengers in Jacob’s dream but to me they are stepping stones on the path of spiritual attainment, of transcendence. My work reflects my concerns about our world – fraught with inequities, beset by senseless violence in the name of a “greater good,” people in pain, the environment, and our increasing psychological isolation from one another. Recent work warns of the degradation of the environment of our home through careless acts and acts motivated by greed. These concerns may not always be evident but they are always there as subtext.
My work is about the gray tones of life and the light within them.
The point of departure around my work West Wind was a pine tree. I have had the idea that when I got old, I wanted to focus on trees. Trees tell a story of life, and trees are tuning the mind – it may be in dreary drama a summer night, or in winter twilight – where the bare tree crowns call imagination into adventures, trees may wrap us into a dreamy or meditative state – depending on our mood, the season or time of day. I try to reflect the wind, with a thread stumbling across the surface, and am pleased that I have succeeded in making a flickering impression, that makes you think the photo is shaken.
“Dreaming of embracing the world, wrote Ane Henriksen in 2004 in a piece about her quest to create images that accommodate the existential and delicate balance between the ambient and the inner world, about finding the personal expression for her quest and about passing on the vulnerability through the craft of textile-making. In her many unforgettable wall pictorial tapestries created in the past 25 years, Ane Henriksen, with sensitive seismographic precision, has caught hold of painful nodes in the world, in nature and in human existence. Through these pieces, she has managed to redeem experiences that nobody evades.” Bodil Busk Laursen 2011 (Museum Director, Designmuseum Danmark 1995-2011)
The sea is enormously important in my life. These powerful bodies of water are constantly moving and changing. They can be dangerous, unpredictable places, a metaphor for our current, political, cultural and ecological future. We must navigate with care. Personal experience and research are the starting points for my creative journey. It is as much a self-portrait as it is a reflection on the sea.
The transitory nature of atmospheric color and the strong emotions we connect to these fleeting moments of ocular pleasure inform this work. I am especially interested in dawn and dusk, when magical moments of intense color are experienced and remembered, but seldom in their fullness. By locking these visually seductive color memories into a tapestry I am intentionally producing an experience that is seemingly as impossible as the original moment.
Rays in the Ice is completely abstract, full of free space composition in which transparent, expressive textural veils cover colorful areas. It would seem that the whole work appears to twinkle and glide. The illusion has been achieved both during the weaving and with its help. I wanted in this work to show the different materials, textures and color of changes and harmony and the fragility of human existence and its temporary existence on earth.
the smell of acid dyes
the twang of a warp under tension
softness of weft through the fingers and sounds of a bobbin beating yarn
sharing the soliloquy centuries of tradition
challenging the loom and the weaver
playing with textures and light
the exquisite woven bead
constructing dark visions
of the infinite
My tapestries tell stories of the human being and life. With symbolism, I want to make pictures with small, concrete things using moments and atmospheres in a person’s life, so that they form a metaphor of something greater. In my art I depict human growth and life’s complexity and emotions poetically. I feel that even sad things are more easily approachable in textile because the material itself holds optimistic and soft values.
My work reflects the complications and contradictions of issues with which we live. Through symbolic imagery, materials and the labour intensive process of hand weaving, I call attention to the precarious nature of our environment. Wonderland: Curiouser and Curiouser # 2 considers the effect of pesticides and herbicides on our environment and continues my exploration of human / nature relationships. The work begins with the barely visible chemical formulas for two widely used herbicides, then unrolls to expose a dark and shadowed abstract landscape and the silhouette of dying plants. Near the end of the work attention is focused on an image of a mutated amphibian skeleton and a tattered fragment of a butterfly wing. These images suggest the dangers posed by agrochemicals leaching into the watersheds and pollen that may contain bacterial toxin. Are we creating a future Wonderland, or will we be trapped in a nightmare?
Warp and weft are terms for the two basic components used in weaving to turn yarn into fabric. The warp yarns are held stationary in tension on a frame or loom while the transverse weft is drawn through and inserted over-and-under the warp. My new tapestries are woven on the warp which is changing its angle constantly and discontinuous weft yarns create new sculptural, unpredictable forms.
My artwork is influenced by the many environmental issues that are impacting and shaping the world we live in. Using various types of fibers and materials I weave an array of fluid shapes and shifting textures to communicate my contemporary interpretations of the changing nature of our world. I often like to portray these issues on a local level, but occasionally on a more global level, which I find can increase focus, rather than dilute it. My piece, Nebula, takes that thought to the extreme. Nebula represents my perspective of our global indifference to the environmental challenges we face today. In the vastness of space, our planet is but one speck of dust making up our galaxy. In a universe that gauges time in eons, our opportunity to act is brief, and must not be wasted.
I grew up in a family of artists and had access to Japanese prints, art making materials and plenty of art books throughout my childhood on Martha’s Vineyard, which is again my home. During high school, I met my mentor, Edith Reckendorf, who taught me weaving, art history and design, which combined to form my lifelong love of tapestry. We all intuitively gravitate toward a medium which exemplifies the qualities we seek in our lives. My favorite artists – the Paleolithic cave painters, Chagall, Hiroshige, Anni Albers, Agnes Martin – share the qualities of simplicity and purity of form which I strive for in my work. I regard my design and weaving not as separate processes, but as inspirations for one another, and I follow the lead of my materials rather than forcing them into preconceived imagery. In other words, I more or less let the tapestries weave themselves.
Arid landscapes preoccupy me. For some, it implies barren wastelands, for others it evokes landscapes of biological, cultural and aesthetic richness. Aridity refers to a scarcity of moisture, making arid landscapes vulnerable to climatic change and human interference. It is the vulnerable aesthetic richness of the arid landscape that draws me. It has a materiality to it that is textural, tactile and sensory. The texture is closely connected to nature’s own processes – with leaves, straw and twigs all intertwined. Straws and Scrubs relates to the landscape of the high mountains near where I grew up. The tapestry has three parts and moves from an abstract approach to a figurative approach.
Through the years my compositions have become simpler and simpler. Do not look for a specific pictorial motif, my composition’s ‘image’ is abstract, not specific, and an expression of concrete art. The image is what you see and experience. I find it interesting to note that it is possible to transform a two-dimensional plane into a three-dimensional space with few lines or a single line. The warp is made up of black, blue, and red linen. The weft is sisal, linen and flax, and I have used various black dyes in the composition’s surface. The tapestry is finished with a braided edge where the coloured warp threads appear as colour spots.
This fan-like form starts out from one point and closes back in and refers to one of the most general human features.
This tapestry is a story about longing in time and space. My ambition and interest with all my tapestries is to create a serious, reflecting and humorous description of human life. I have no underlying drawing behind the warp. The creative process transforms a small sketch into the final tapestry. The materials are wool on linen warp. Simple figures and animal creatures behave as mutes to tell a story which gives you something to think about.
Watching the light and the vibrancy fade from my mother’s life during her 15 year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, compelled me to illuminate this journey. This tapestry will hopefully engage a conversation with caregivers worldwide, that they may find strength along the way. This Navajo-style weaving utilizes stainless steel cable as the warp. The coldness of the steel and of the disease are eerily intertwined. The warp is the hidden strength of a weaving, and only steel can illustrate her core strength. The weft is a combination of 2000 LED-lit strands of fiber optic cable and 1000 yards of satin ribbon that I dyed as a gray scale to illustrate the progression of the disease. At the end of life, the weaving’s slits with random fiber optic strands reveal the final unraveling. I can think of no word that better described my journey with mom’s disease than continuum. With each passing day, the changes seemed imperceptible, yet over the years the changes were on a cosmic scale.
This tapestry references the experience of time. Time flows like water, each moment passing quickly, unnoticed. But occasionally time seems to slow, just long enough for one to realize that what once was, is now fundamentally changed or even gone. The black and white, polarized section represents a dramatic shift in perspective, seen with unusual clarity. Satori is the Japanese word meaning “sudden comprehension.” The lotus is a traditional symbol associated with time, the cycle of life, and human nature. The golden overlay alludes to Japanese screen painting.
My work comes from stripes and landscapes, widely understood and in the context of the loom. The meeting and the space between structures; pattern and nature; landscape, human movements. I am aware of what happens when a touch of a landscape or a volatile movement is maintained in the loom. When tiny color shifts can be swung and change with the light instances and perspectives. When a stripe is perceived as a stripe and reaching a memory of a landscape can seem as real as a real one. And when displacements in pattern and landscape invite new perceptions. Nocturne is a composition of stripes and a still image from a broken video recording of a classical song contest. An apparently tight pattern, fragmented, broken up, gone wild and extending beyond the edges (the fringes). The pattern is infiltrated by human activity, with the danger of uncontrolled chaos…. and the possibility of redemption. The figuration is modified and incorporated into the pattern.
Since studying Coptic tapestries, I have been interested in the idea of tapestry clothing. I experimented with this tapestry jacket, woven as a single piece. The image runs strongly from left to right, so the tapestry can be opened at the shoulders for display, or closed for wearing. The image also works when closed. Woven fine (12/9 seine twine), the fabric is firm but folds comfortably around the body. The image is a detail of a majestic walnut tree, carefully nurtured for 120 years, yet which died, limb by limb, through a terrifying ten year drought, brought about by climate change. I grieve for it, and appreciated remembering it, leaf by woven leaf. I enjoy the experience of wearing it.
These tapestries were created for the Galerie Chevalier in Paris to be shown at the “La Biennale Des Antiquaires” at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2016. I created a work with an image of late 17th-18th French influence with an update to the 20th century with the contemporary floral tattoo applied to each portrait.
Handwoven tapestry often deals with photo realism. My approach is to recognize the grid imposed by the loom. What are the minimum bits of information that can suggest a recognizable image? For this tapestry, I used an image of a face from a Picasso painting (“Woman with Bangs”), and reduced the image to 20 pixels wide.
I make tapestries with motifs inspired by sci-fi scenography and computer games. I am searching to express archetypical human situations and states of mind. My works are commenting on issues connected to technology. Can technology save mankind from distinction? Can man control technology or will technology take over and control us? In the work New Territory a human is discretely present in the corner of the Control Room. This person and the spectator is together looking out on an unknown territory. The piece is woven by putting thread by thread into the loom by hand. I dye the yarn myself, and the wool comes from an Old Norwegian type of sheep. I am interested in the relation between the old weaving techniques and contemporary motifs.
The process of making tapestry allows me time to examine ideas and center my artistic focus.
Color and pattern and their inter-related meanings are the foundation of my visual language. By working with different textures and colors of yarns and exploring pattern I investigate narratives of order and disruption. Recent Landscapes I is the beginning of a series which indirectly references the landscape and my concerns at the many ways that human behaviour is affecting and changing it.
I am drawn to weaving simple images, realistic as well as abstract, through which I seek to capture a narrative, sometimes more hinted at than defined. Tapestry weaving is an art form that allows texture, depth and substance to be embedded in the finished piece creating a distinctive “presence.” The slow pace of tapestry weaving allows for a full immersion in the image being created. I work from cartoons, but the reality of the image is only revealed over time as I pass the bobbin across the warps. Adonis Rising came about following a visit to the Highdown Hill, part of a range of chalk hills along the south coast of England known as the South Downs and home to the beautiful Adonis Blue Butterfly. It is the site of a Neolithic hill fort, just discernible in the shape of the landscape. Adonis Rising seeks to capture not only the beauty and remoteness of Highdown Hill but the history and wildlife that are an intrinsic part of it.
Blurring lines between imagery and object-hood, my work draws from long histories of textiles and ornamentation. Referencing the vernacular of pattern and decoration, I mine the intersection of storytelling and ritual. Ancient divination, New Age romanticism, and Victorian mourning traditions become points of departure into the creation of personal and collective memorials. My process is slow, methodical, deliberate, exploiting excessive handiwork. Mimicking ritual behavior, this rhythmic practice incorporates time and duration as meaningful elements as I work to find ways to make relevant the smaller moments: edges, the overlooked, the marginalized – synthesized – then transcending the moment. Within this context, Paper Towel sought to reimagine a mass-produced lowly domestic item as a one of a kind luxury object.
The transparent tapestry, Summer in the Woods, is part of a series named Waldeinsamkeit. The concept of the German word Waldeinsamkeit represents the idea of being alone in the woods. It suggests a calm, contemplative atmosphere amidst a beautiful setting. Like solitude, meditation, and contemplation, as in the phrase “being at one with the universe.” The visible yellow warp in Summer in the Woods is made of wool dyed with plants – heather, tansy and leaves from oak and blackthorn. The weft is shimmering white nylon and the design is made by leaving parts of the warp unwoven. The intention of this work is to bring the feeling of air and light from the woods in to the gallery.
I started in my early years exploring different textile and fibre techniques and so far have been weaving tapestry weaving for over 37 years. The journey is just starting. The more I explore the world that surrounds me, the more I have the urge to be part of this universal weaving. Working with the idea of patterns, repetitions, beats and fractals, this tapestry refers to the intricate designs that simple bark from a maple tree can produce. In its process of creating this fascinating composition of fractals and structures, the tree suffers innumerable transformations and the scars remain not only on its surface, but also deep inside the centre core. The metaphor of rhythm for life, for music as a beat, for a heart to repeat its motion, is how I connect to the overall process of this fascinating technique of tapestry weaving. It is, in essence, like nature. It takes its time to create, to transform and to transcend. Color and fibre, music and life, texture and structure. That is life.
My focus is on the relationship between the surface and the structure of the tapestry. I use shiny fibers so that the structure of the tapestry is even more visible. Depending on the brightness and the viewpoint, the surface of the tapestry is alive and creates a varying effect. This work was created in the spirit of research of harmony; repetition of similar elements that make up the unit. Regular repetitive waves produce a feeling of calm and harmony, expressed by breathing or the heartbeat.
With my project, I present 3 phases of our Earth’s existence: the Big Bang that created our world, the dénouement, in which I present the devastation of humanity, apocalypse, and whatever is in between: our world full of labyrinths, a place of constant wars, gunfire, which is itself amidst dynamic, periodic change, and which repeats itself over the course of history. Hope, failure, struggle, love, hate, birth, devastation ceaselessly taking one another’s place. The deep blue backdrop expresses not only the colour of space, but also the endless, and the timeless. The composition also symbolises the shape of the earth as a round whole, and the elements on the two sides reflect the fact that this round whole can be broken, and disrupted anytime. The three forms symbolise the parts of a process.
My tapestries are designed with the intention of bringing beauty and a sense of quiet to the places they inhabit. While some of my pieces reflect an inner call for peace, other works may address the intensifying discord in our world. Through my work, I seek to find balance between active engagement in events surrounding us, and the periodic need to retreat for reflection and self-renewal. I’ve been told that the weight, line and balance in my pieces reflect an architect’s sensibility. Feeling that often less is more, my designs are intentionally spare. Weaving attracts me for its simplicity: two opposing sets of threads twining together to create a whole. Working at the loom provides me the opportunity to sit in the stillness of my thoughts, allowing my hands to think.
The over-and-under manipulation of individual fibers into cloth is neither a heroic, nor a precious activity. It is a simple repetitive process, which, when plied with thoughtful intention, artistic vision, and inspired craftsmanship, becomes the agent for textile objects of legend. For three decades, I have been creating woven tapestries that are as visually compelling as they are narrative. My image making is based on geometric and metaphysical symbols, saturated with color frequency, technically layered using a complex ethnic textile process called ikat. My blending of the archetypal and the innovative results in textiles that span centuries of artistic tradition and situates them squarely within the contemporary visual lexicon. The classic and powerful metaphysical triptych of the trinity expressed as mountain, pyramid, triangle and temple is the visual metaphor for the Mountain for the Buddha series. My intention is to not only reference landscape, but geometry and sacred space.