"Weaving a tapestry is not about reeling off the design in a sort of weaving-by-numbers process. A tapestry is the result of a myriad of design choices made at every turn, choices that bring an image to life." Thomas Cronenberg, TextilForum magazine 2/2013
Ten years or so ago, my daughter brought this drawing home from kindergarten. There's something about children's art - it is such a window into their particular take on things which their vocabulary is usually not up to expressing. I held onto this page and a few others, hoping to one day try my hand at weaving a representation of it. I'm not a tapestry weaver but I do like to draw and I love the line qualities in this drawing. I immediately saw the swervy, curvy, aliveness of those black lines portraying playground equipment and fence posts as a challenge I wanted to pursue with thread. No doubt this is a picture of children on a playground, but I find the lines to be as much the starring characters of this drawing as the figures.
So I began with a simplification of the visual information, knowing that I would basically be doing an inlay of colored yarn for the figures, tied down with a linen tabby background. In the sections where the inlay is more than five or six warp threads wide, I treadled a twill to keep the floats from being too long. This is the "cartoon" I ended up working from, my own tracing of the picture with paper clips holding a thread guide to keep my eyes focused on the information required to be woven for each pick lest I forget to weave a necessary part of the image and get everything out of proportion:
And here's the weaving taking form:
What's surprising to me as I undertake this, is that I find it necessary to take a break after almost every pick. It is mentally exhausting to decide where the bobbin must be inserted to create just the right angle and relationship to the real (already woven) and the imagined ( yet to be woven) image. It is effectively drawing at the loom, harder than real drawing because it is ever so much slower. I find I am frustrated that I can't just pick up a pencil and draw the line. I imagine that this must be a little like painting in pointillism, BUILDING the line from the ground up.
And just what does it take to communicate a child's view of a scene at a playground? It takes so little, I discover, to convey so much. Nine or ten little lines of yellow yarn in a group and voila - you have a person. Our brain converts it to this within the given context. I was concerned at first that the yarn twist and texture made the inlay look messy but after taking it off the loom and washing it, I now find that the yarn qualities are what give the overall piece emotional tone. The yellow people figures are the ones that stand off of the surface literally in the weaving, embodying the liveliness and energy of the playground. But the black lines were surely the challenge for me - how to capture the essence of her lines outside of the confines of the grid, which is what the loom wants to hold the weaver to.
"Sacred Places I". Linen, Wool. 17"x11". 2013.
As I wove, I noticed how the sett of the linen and the wool lent a quality of pixellation to the figures. I find this ironic, as it reminds me that the loom was the starting point for the concept of the computer. I know I could have scanned her drawing into a CAD program, run it through some kind of image filter to get it to look like a weaving, sent it to a mill to have it woven and gotten a piece of fabric in return. But instead the mother's hand wove the daughter's image.