"Aurora". 100% naturally dyed wool and silk. 2010.
Ever since learning to weave, I have been intrigued with doubleweave, a structure that creates two entirely independent layers, each with their own weft and warp. Traditionally, the two layers are interconnected for stability and aesthetic purposes through the use of a pattern where the bottom layer is brought up to the surface, sending the top to the bottom and thus “tying” the fabric together structurally. Doublewoven fabrics are found in cultures all over the world, but some of the most complex and awe-inspiring examples come from right here in the Appalachian Mountains in the form of the handwoven coverlet.
With "Aurora" I used the traditional coverlet pattern known as "Sun, Moon and Stars" as a point of departure, gradually disassembling its pattern elements from top to bottom as I wove, draining them into a deep blue ground, permeated by an arc of light blue holes. I first removed the largest "sun" circular motif, then the medium-sized "moon", leaving only the smaller checkered "stars" which, when removed in the blue section results in no means of interlacing at all, thus allowing the two layers to hang apart from one another. Narratively in time, the actual weaving process of top-to-bottom pattern disassembly moves from brightest light to deepest darkness, in a downward motion, suggesting a dying light rather than a dawning one. However, if the piece is read as a static two-dimensional canvas, divorced of its process of making, it could be read either as a sunset or sunrise. In any case, Aurora gives expression to the other structural fascination that I’ve tackled in various ways over the years – how to get light into fabric. At the bottom of this piece, you’ll notice that I attempted to literally do just that - I used a Yoruban weft technique to weave holes in the top blue layer, exposing the space in between to light as well as illuminating the back layer with a pattern of stars.
Color, however, is arguably what this piece is most about, and I didn’t hold back. Three years ago, I began to experiment with growing and collecting natural dye plants and I was amazed at how easy it is to achieve a full palette of colors. Additionally, the colors all seem to share a common undertone which blends them in a mysteriously harmonious way, creating a magical union that I don’t find with chemical dyes. All of this yarn was dyed in my studio from plants native to this region, with the exception of the blue, which is from woad. Woad is an indigo variant that was the main source of blue in Europe prior to the import of indigo from warmer climates. Woad grows quite well here, producing this clear, bright blue, but to my knowledge, it was never popularly used by the settlers of this region in the way that indigo was.
“Aurora” represents the culmination of over a year’s worth of time and experimentation in the studio, as well as the realization of a dream to have the time and space to explore this pattern and its structure – truly a trip to the sun, moon and stars and back.
Engraving by Camille Flammarion
"Whether the sky be clear or cloudy, it always seems to us to have the shape of an elliptic arch; far from having the form of a circular arch, it always seems flattened and depressed above our heads, and gradually to become farther removed toward the horizon. Our ancestors imagined that this blue vault was really what the eye would lead them to believe it to be; but, as Voltaire remarks, this is about as reasonable as if a silk-worm took his web for the limits of the universe." - from Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire 1888
My first Sun, Moon and Stars sample, 2009