Posts by Kaila
Suddenly fourth week is in full swing. It is amazing that we have only been weaving for less than a month! The works we have produced are ones to be proud of for sure. We have spent late nights avidly weaving many yards,
problem solving, and eating an unreasonable amount of freeze pops to arrive where we are today.
As the final projects emerged from the looms, the personal style of each weaver became delightfully clear. Curiosities were explored and challenges overcome in a spectacular show of wit and determination. The morning was spent adding finishing touches and hanging our pieces for our final critique. Today we are having a show in conjunction with the printing press and bookmaking class in Coburn Gallery!
We have our fabrics on display in creative ways to enhance the viewer’ experience, and show off the variety of techniques each student has employed. There are pieces that boast double or triple weave, silk painting, and even an invented weave structure! The show is not one to miss. It will be a satisfying bookend to a very fulfilling block.
Throughout the whole block, we have been learning the many ways to dye various fiber materials. Fibers can be relatively picky about how they want to be dyed, and dyes take careful measuring and planning to come out the desired color. At first it all seemed overwhelmingly mysterious to me. All of the chemicals and temperatures sounded impossible to get right, and I pictured myself melting in a disastrous chemical hot water rainbow. As it turns out, dyes are a load of fun and have a great amount of exploring potential. While the measurements are important while learning, the rules can be bent for different effects and purposes as things become more familiar. The trick is bending the rules on purpose, and not out of carelessness. We have learned that hot water dyes are used on animal fibers, such as sheep’s wool, alpaca, and mohair, whereas cold-water acid dyes are used on plant fibers such as cotton, linen, and hemp. We even learned how to dye with indigo by a very talented local fiber artist who is also a CC alum.
Some students in the class have gotten very creative with dyeing. A funky pair jeans and a few shirts came out of the indigo dye bucket with interesting shibori patterning. Shibori is a type of “resist dying” (sort of like tie dye) we have been learning.
Experimentation with dying has also led to detailed batik pieces and beautiful skeins of yarn. As our final project looms, each of us is preparing to dye hundreds of yards of yarn to the desired colors for our projects. Some skeins will be individually painted, while some will be dunked or soaked for different color qualities.
The adventure into the mysterious basement of the Fine Arts center was an unforgettable one. Michael led us behind the scenes, into the basement where priceless art waits on its way in or out of the museum. We held our breaths as the grille of the massive elevator screeched into position, locking us in for the descent into the archives.
The tapestries were carefully rolled out before us one by one by a pair of very knowledgeable CC interns. Each rug held its own rich history, its own secrets, and its own important place in the Fine Art Center’s permanent collection. We oohed and aahed at each rug as its vibrant patterns rolled out in stark contrast to the one behind it.
Jeanne quizzed us playfully on techniques and technical details of the tapestries, bringing to our attention dyes and warp quality, finishing stitches and antiquated weaving practices. We soon found that the pieces being revealed to us were a special few of many special tapestries that stood at attention behind the doors of a temperature regulated vault along with thousands of other priceless artifacts.
Our brains full with new information, speculations, and images, we returned to our studio where our own miniature tapestries sat barely woven.
After a night of hard weaving, our approximately 8”x10” samples hung proudly on the wall of Coburn Gallery. It was no surprise that traces of the rugs we had admired the day before had emerged boldly in our weaving samples. The sturdy fabric that laboriously came into its existence on each of our looms is so satisfying to handle and look at, that it will be hard to resist taking on the ultimate challenge of making a large one for a final project.
This week has been a whirlwind of learning. It is amazing to work our way through the many steps of creating fabric—something we are in contact with every day. Textiles are such an integral part of cultures all over the world and the craft of weaving is a specialized and versatile one. Somehow handling the yarn, the loom, and the books of hundreds of patterns holds a weight of an ancient and beloved art. Fabrics such as quilts are passed down as special heirloom items through generations. Epic stories of empires are recorded in fabric for us to see today in the form of tapestries. The more I learn each day, the more I am amazed at how vast and deep the world of fiber arts really is and the more sure I am that we have endless amounts to learn. In only one week we have already learned to thread a loom, weave a few twill variations, dye wool, and read patterns yet here we are at the tip of the iceberg!
The loom turns out to be a very complex mechanism. Any slight mishaps that might occur in setting up will become clear in the woven piece. Careful method becomes crucial in preventing utter madness.
With the yarn that each of us dyed to our desired color (or an accidental other color) we set up for our four different Twill samples. It was amazing to see the patterns emerge as we wove! The sounds of everyone weaving at once are very satisfying. The squeaking and clacking of the wood looms, the whooshing of the beater against fiber, and the occasional gasp of dismay make for an eclectic orchestra. When all of our samples were done, including our exploratory handloom pieces, we pinned them to the gallery wall and beheld our work as a class. What an enlightening week it has been.