As an artist, I work in a variety of disciplines. I’m mainly known as a photographer because I’ve done that the longest and sold thousands of works through 20 years of art fairs and gallery work. Ceramics, fiber, mixed media painting, and most recently tapestry are included in my art practice. Every discipline requires study. More importantly, every discipline demands practice. Lots of it. Over and over and over.
Learning a new media starts with the basics. Learn a technique. Put it to work. Most students learn by copying others. Moving beyond copying to finding your own voice and style is the path to artistry.
At the end of the last century, about a year into my ceramics study, I was struggling with a form. I asked for advice. The teacher told me I was at a point when I needed to reach down a little deeper and find the answer myself. “When you can take an idea and make it a “solid,” you have reached the first level of mastery. You won’t progress until then.”
What a challenge! She was (and still is!) a good teacher. That’s where I was with “Winged.”
For the last several years I have been exploring symbols from different cultures and different eras, and marveling at how humans have used the same structures to represent ideas. Peoples who are tens of thousands of years apart or tens of thousands of miles distant have used the same symbol to convey the same idea. Our DNA remembers and reaches back hundreds of thousands of years. The symbols unite us.
I chose tapestry for this series because it is a tactile medium, a forgiving, medium, a challenging medium. It uses spun fiber, which women have been doing, in much the same way for maybe 40,000 years. Weaving is a woman’s art. I stand on the shoulders of thousands of generations of grandmothers and aunts. It connects me.
“Winged” is inspired by the Maori object Kākā Paori, a ring that fits around the leg of a kākā bird and is used to tame it. Stylized it can represents the character of the bird. It is intricately carved of stone and valued as a heirloom. In many cultures birds represent the connection between the humans and the sacred, wisdom, or freedom.
I wanted to take this simple ring, sometimes represented as a “C” on it’s back, and create a representation of a winged bird. I knew three things: it would be woven side to side, it would be 3D, and it would need a supplemental warp. Supplemental warp was new to me, and I didn’t have a teacher for it.
The images below show the progression of the piece and the completion of the first wing.
Note that I was weaving from the front until the wing started taking shape. Since it would be folded over, I started weaving from the back to keep the ends on the proper side. The cartoon was used only for shaping. The weaving was free form. I added colors and shapes as I went, using a rough idea for how I wanted it to look. The idea of free form weaving gave it an organic, natural feel.
“Winged” was one of those projects that I figured out as I wove it. I knew it was possible and understood the basics in my head but had a hard time visualizing it. Of course, it seems simple now.
— Supplemental warp and 3D pieces are intriguing. I see more designs in my future.
— 22 gauge wire is too small to support the wings, which need to be tacked down. It is strong enough to give it some shape.
— The Shasta Combs on the Mirrix make this project easier. Supplemental warp can be challenging. The combination of the combs and the tensioning device on the Mirrix made it easy to release the warps, tighten the loom and rewarp it. (I don’t represent Mirrix Looms, just use them!)
–Don’t overthink the design. I spent far too much time trying to figure out how I was weave this — more than the weaving itself, I think.
There’s still lots for me to learn. My circles aren’t what I want them to be, nor are my selvedges. The trick, of course, is weaving, weaving, weaving! And don’t be afraid to try something new.