Tapestry Topics Online
A Quarterly Review of Tapestry Art Today

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Summer 2006, Vol 32 No 2

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Improvisation in Tapestry

by Elizabeth J. Buckley

– TT p.14-16

When I contemplate how ...chance... enters my work, I first think back about twenty years ago to when I wove directly from the gut, without cartoon, or preplanned design. ...As my designs grew more complex, I found I could not keep all the details in my head.  I realized I needed a way of making a road map on paper to track the overall idea, yet with lots of room for interpretation and suggestions from the growing tapestry.  ...I struggled because my drawings and watercolors on paper could not reflect what I ultimately wanted to end up with in tapestry.

above: Elizabeth J. Buckley, Portal, 48" x 28", 2005
This tapestry was in the New Mexico Committee for the National Museum of Women in the Arts juried show "Originals 2005"

…I began studying French tapestry, and to my surprise, found myself easily shifting from weaving row-by-row to building up shapes and working with positive and negative space.  I resonated with this approach, because it allowed me to focus on specific areas as I wove. ...Next, came going to Aubusson to immerse myself in the milieu of this centuries-old tradition, to weave in an atelier, to learn by going through the process of cartoon development, and  to discover how techniques synchronize with the design. ...I returned to the States, with a sense of the wind blowing through my previous frustrations. ...When I am preparing for the tapestry yet to come, I often enter into a period of waiting for connections and images to begin forming in my mind’s eye. ...Frequently I see more clearly when drawing.  Looking intensely at shapes and shadows, their edges and textures helps to focus my eye, My hands seem to know something my mind cannot yet grasp.

above: Elizabeth J. Buckley, Collage of sketches, watercolor, idea development for "Portal" and "Prairie Study" 
above: Elizabeth J. Buckley, Prairie Study, 9" x 9", 2006

This unfolding process of listening to what the tapestry is telling me is like improvisation in jazz, where themes reoccur, then variations expand a particular phrase, or take off on a tangent that then becomes related to the overall whole.  So, too, in tapestry.  Only when it comes off the loom, do I fully know and behold it for the first time.

Serendipity for the Tapestry Weaver

by Jan Austin

– TT p.16-18

What does serendipity mean to me? Before considering dictionary definitions, I wanted to explore what it means to me personally ...Serendipity is like an open door. ...I discovered that I have already written about serendipity in my artist statement "I prefer to allow nature to process itself through my eyes without the conscious interference of my brain, facilitating the effects of serendipity.  I avoid control, and seek spontaneity in my reaction to visual stimuli." My tapestry designs often come from artwork that is as much as 20 years old.  I might come across it while looking for something else, and suddenly recognize "this is what I want to weave next!"

above: Janet Austin, Hyssop, 6" x 9.5", 1990. Cotton warp, wool weft.

[In the early 1990s] I felt the need for new tapestry designs, so I spent a whole summer painting with acrylic on paper.  In the fall, I looked through the paintings and was disappointed to find nothing that spoke to me as a tapestry design.  However, I became aware that each painting had a small part that I wanted to weave.  So I took out my scissors, and embarked on the "Excerpts" series.

above: Janet Austin, Excerpt/Red Line, 6.5" x 4.5", 1990. Cotton warp, wool weft.
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