Tapestry weaving by Donna Loraine Contractor
The word "tapestry" seems be often misused... I've seen people call batiks, quilts, and almost anything that you can hang on the wall a tapestry. As I am not a weaver, I did a bit of reading to prepare for this post and found that Wikipedia defined it in a way that resonated with me:
"Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom, however it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length (called the warp) and those parallel to the width (called the weft); the warp threads are set up under tension on a loom, and the weft thread is passed back and forth across part or all of the warps. Tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are typically discontinuous; the artisan interlaces each coloured weft back and forth in its own small pattern area. It is a plain weft-faced weave having weft threads of different colours worked over portions of the warp to form the design." Wikipedia
In lay terms, I understand that to mean that if the warp shows through, it cannot be a tapestry. The article also says that weavings like kilims and Navajo rugs would also qualify as tapestries. So, for the record: a batik, cloth, or anything sewn is NOT a tapestry!
There were lots of other great tid-bits about tapestries in the article, including historical references to why tapestries became so popular in the Middle Ages and how they have gone on to become a unique art form, even with the use of computer technology. There is a nice list of links to the most famous ones, so go have a read. One of them is the Tapestry of the Apocalypse in Angers, France, pictured below:
Tapisserie de l'Apocalypse, the longest tapestry in the world, woven between 1373 and 1382. It narrates the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible.
We have many talented weavers on TAFA, as well as members who sell old and new kilims and rugs from around the world. Many of them have not loaded their member profiles yet, but there is plenty to see now. Do some keyword searches for tapestry, kilim, weaving, and see what you will come up with! Here are a few them, each with a unique story and focus, to give you an idea of what a great medium this is!
"Blue Water North" by Donna Loraine Contractror
Donna Loraine Contractor, lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the SouthWestern influence clearly shows itself in her work. The first image in this post is also hers. She is working on a Feng Shui series where she explores the concept of windows and color:
"The image of a window set within a frame, a view to another place, another reality is a unifying theme in my work. The colors and the unique quality of light in the southwest make up a rich and diverse palette that I naturally make use of and the diverse forms of its land and sky scapes find their way into the window “views”. I try to achieve a blend of the representational and the abstract in the landscapes and to keep a geometrical contemporary feel in the “frames” combined with a bold approach to color. Color is a source of constant joy for me and I delight in the full range of its use from the bold and surprising color combinations to the subtle gradations of a single color."
Bonnie Clark, of Dakini Dreams is also in the American SouthWest. Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she uses her weaving techniques to make small, wearable tapestries! She decorates them with beads, finishing them off as beautiful pieces of wearable art.
Bonnie's art journey embraces the mythic paths that spread through many cultures. She wears many hats and looks great in all of them! She states:
"My art is an exploration of the importance of change and releasing the past in order to facilitate personal growth, empowerment and transformation. The utilization of mythic figures, archetypes, motifs and themes allows me to explore letting go of the familiar, safe and secure in order to travel to the dark, often frightening, places of the soul."
Still in the West, Doris Florig has the nomadic spirit that takes her into the wilderness of Wyoming and on down to the Caribbean where she researches ancient weaving and dyeing techniques. Doris lives on a boat for part of the year, getting down to the basics and revelling in nature!
"Grand Isle Corn" by Doris Florig
As Doris does not have her own blog, she has started to contribute stories about her travels in my blog, Fiber Focus. Go on over there and you can see a bit of her fascinating live as a weaver on a boat!
Then, we can take a quick look at tapestries outside of the United States.
Let's go on down South to Mexico!
Norma Hawthorne has immersed herself in the local culture of Oaxaca. She started the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator as a way to give others a wide variety of experience through cultural immersion events there. Doesn't this just sound fun, fun, fun? Here is what Norma says about what they do:
"We are committed to preserving the arts and cultural traditions of indigenous people who have lived in the Oaxaca Valley for over 8,000 years. My vision is to facilitate intercultural exchange programs between Oaxaca artists and artisans and visitors to broaden opportunities for an authentic, inspiring connection."
Weaving has been a traditional artform in the area for thousands of years. That knowledge has been passed on from generation to generation and whole villages in Oaxaca thrive by producing fine pieces of work. One of Norma's workshops is led by Federico Chavez Sosa, a master weaver:
Norma describes the image:
"Master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa shows one of his extraordinary hand-woven, naturally dyed rugs. The design is pure Zapotec incorporatiing pre-Hispanic symbology found on local stone carvings of nearby archeological sites. The dyes used in this rug are from cochineal, moss, wild marigold and pomegranate. Federico and his family teach Oaxaca Weaving Workshop: Dancing on the Loom in his home/studio/workshop.
Spin the globe and land on the opposite side and you will find Anton Veenstra doing something completely different. Mostly narrative stories drawn from his life, Anton's work is bright, wild and purely his own style:
"Attendant" by Anton Veenstra Textiles
Anton describes both the piece and the influence others have had on his work:
Attendant was part of a Sydney Mardi Gras Exhibition at the Object Galleries at Customs House, Sydney in 1999. It was one of five tapestries I combined as an iconic, quasi-religious altarpiece of images. My work attracted media attention by the art critic of the Sydney Morning Herald.
When I had begun to weave tapestry in the mid 1970's my influences were Oriental. From China and Japan I learned the importance of deliberation as part of the art process. The artist gathers together energy and focus then in a dynamic moment unleashes that energy in a mark or gesture. From the Middle East, the Sufis, I learned that weaving is a craft that can be a path of spiritual development. My visual teachers of the West were the post impressionists: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Jawlensky and Andre Derain. The use of expressionist mark-making, or pointillism that these artists employed was something I wanted to express in tapestry also.
As in Japanese art-making I felt that any depiction, a portrait, for instance the Attendant, was a dialogue between representation and an abstracted field of marks and gestures. A portrait required that eyes, mouth, ears be recognisable, but the intensity of the dialogue, the process, would determine how realistic the image would be.
As you can see, all of these artists take great pains to create authentic works that come from have deep spiritual and historic roots within their own world views and experiences. We believe that when you buy one of these works of art, you bring that into your own life and we all become more united as people, no matter where we come from. It is fascinating to hear the stories and to participate in their processes in whatever way we can.
I greatly admire weaving as a technique and as an art form. I have great patience for many other things, but not for threading a loom or keeping all of those colors of yarn or thread in order! I stand on the outside, applauding their labors, and recognizing that we are all a part of this wonderful tapestry that is LIFE!