Saturday, May 21, 2011

Archie Brennan & Susan Martin Maffei workshop, May 2011, Georgia

Members of Tapestry Weavers South spent an enlightening few days with master tapestry makers Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei from May 10 through early afternoon on May 15, 2011.  The workshop location was Camp Mikell near Toccoa, Georgia and the weather was beautiful for the entire time with chilly mornings and warm afternoons.

Archie and Susan challenged us with pears... our task began as we were asked to bring two pears to the workshop, along with drawing supplies, colored papers and glue sticks.  We first looked carefully and made line drawings of our pears.  Then we put the drawing aside and cut freely from the paper to make the pear shapes.  Next we began to arrange the cut shapes within an 8" square format.  We considered the relationship of the shapes to each other and also to the edges of the format.  We thought about adding a shelf or table-top to give another quality to the simple composition.

Finally, we warped looms and began to weave color samples of possible color combinations to use to render the suggested pear design from the collage into a tapestry.

During the week we spent time each evening looking at tapestries.  For instance, we were able to see pieces the students had with them either through projected images or the real thing; we viewed a bit of the new DVD about tapestry that Archie and Susan have done (more about that in a minute); Archie showed some of his tapestry pieces from the past few years; and Susan shared images from her body of work.

It was a tremendous learning experience and everyone left with something, whether it was a new bit of knowledge, inspiration and insight or a new friend-in-tapestry.  Many thanks to Archie & Susan for their continuing efforts to educate about the process of tapestry making.  Thanks also go to all of those who worked behind the scenes to cause the workshop to happen so smoothly!

Now... about Archie and Susan's DVD.  It's called "Woven Tapestry Techniques" and holds 16 hours of instruction about tapestry, contained on eight DVDs.  It will be available through their website in the very near future; those of us at the workshop were lucky to be able to purchase some of the first ones.  So far, I've watched DVD 1 about looms, warping, basic weaving and leashes, as well as part of DVD 8--the section about four selvedge weaving.

Can't travel to a workshop?  Well, this series now gives an incredible chance to have a workshop experience with Archie & Susan... in the privacy of one's own home studio, where ever that might be!  The depth of knowledge about tapestry making that both Archie and Susan have is being very generously shared through these DVDs, adding to their grassroots efforts to educate in tapestry.  I very highly recommend it to anyone interested in furthering their understanding of tapestry making.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Traveling tapestry studio

I thought I'd post a quick few photos of my traveling studio.  I almost always have a small loom with me whenever I'm on a road trip in a car.  I usually weave while riding along -- key word is riding since I haven't yet figured out how to safely weave and drive!

This little loom is 8" wide x approximately 14" high (the nuts on the threaded rods at the sides can be screwed together more or less to make it slightly shorter or longer).  I usually place the loom between two pieces of foam core board and stick it in a bag for traveling.  I've found that a bungee cord works well to hold the sandwich of foam core/loom together.

The warp on the loom this time around is a hemp thread that I bought at Southeast Fiber Forum from Lunatic Fringe.  It's sett at 10 epi and I'm using two pieces of 5-strand embroidery floss as the weft.  The piece is about 4" wide and will be around 6 or 7" high.  Because the warp is quite short the pick shed is more challenging to make and as I get nearer the top I'll probably use a weaving needle for that shed.  I may also change the size of the open shed holder--right now I'm using a thick pencil for that, as you can see.

So my traveling studio consists of a book bag into which I put a set of small scissors, a small bobbin or two, a package of assorted tapestry needles, a couple of zip lock bags with assorted wefts, and the loom.  I can sling it all over my shoulder and lug it along just fine.  In the car the bag of stuff sits by my feet and I prop the loom in my lap to weave.  Oh... a recent discovery... a Subway napkin hanging from the sun visor in the car gives just that extra blocking of the low position of the sun when the car is headed southwest in the late afternoon!

Recently tapestry commission woven at the West Dean tapestry studio

Here's a link to an article about a commissioned tapestry recently completed at West Dean.  I got to see a teeny bit of it on the loom when I was there last fall.  It was "Top Secret" at the time--it couldn't be reveled who it was being woven for ahead of time.  But the news is out now!