Tapestry Topics Online
A Quarterly Review of Tapestry Art Today

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Winter 2005, Vol 31 No 4

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Hidden Energy, Warp Voices

by Patricia Dunn

– TT p.4

In weaving, warp exists in a spectrum of voices from the active to the passive. In traditional tapestry with the warp hidden within the weft, the voice of the warp is passive in terms of design. What voice has warp had in my work? I weave from side to side in each shed on a 60” Glimakra horizontal loom. I use a four harnesses threading of  4-1-4-2 blocks and 3-1-3-2 blocks . . . This arrangement gives me blocks of fat and skinny lines when I alternate the sheds that have the two adjacent warps, 4-1 or 2-3.  For example, by using one color across two blocks, the yarn goes over two warps in the one block and only one in the next block.  The hue shifts from the dominant to the subdominant. Then a different color in the next pick will shift in the opposite way. I fell in love with the idea of dominant and subdominant lines, giving me very interesting ways to use the color paths.

Patricia Dunn,  Seeing with the Left Hand, 36" X 48", 2000

When designing the warp I think about how active I want it to be.  How much energy is conveyed will be reflected in how the warp threading integrates with the hues I choose. I design each shed separately working from two gridded drawings of the color fields. The shed drawings are viewed side by side on an easel while weaving, like two exposures, each with its own color changes, discontinuous wefts and tonality. . . Once the weaving begins the warp design which creates the vertical lines becomes secondary to the building of the tapestry, one “horizontal” line at a time. At a casual glance it has the appearance of being rep weave or warp faced but in fact, the warp is hidden. Whether the tapestry is woven as designed or rotated on its side depends on the image.

Patricia Dunn, An Evening with Schumann, Lecuona and Others in 4/4 Time, #2. 32" x 46". 2000.

In 1995 I allowed the beautiful, silvery linen warp to become an integral part of  “Migration,” a 5-panel sculpture commissioned by the State of Utah. After weaving the first panel the beauty of the warp sang to me. So I decided to put 9 feet of warp at each end of every panel, leaving the final decision regarding their length to be made at the time of installation. The active voice of this unwoven warp was essential to what I wanted the sculpture to be.

Patricia Dunn, Migration, 3 of 5 panels: each 58”wide: length 72”, 144”, 216”, 1995. Commissioned by the State of Utah.

AMAT sponsored an international miniature textile show here in my home city of Zacatecas. Miniature was out of my experience. I knew it was important to participate, but didn’t know how to scale down to that small, 10” x 10” x 10”.  I had never done that before. I pondered the problem, mulled over options and just could not figure out what to do. What jarred me loose was a Rumi verse: “A tiny gnat’s outward form flies about in pain and wanting, while the gnat’s inward nature includes the entire galactic whirling of the universe.”  I cannot define why that verse made me think of copper wire, but it did. . . I created two sculptures for that show. I found the soft lustrous silk combined with the stiff lustrous copper wire and the possibility of moving out of the two-dimensional plane intriguing. I still do.  In many ways, the material remains the teacher. I can have an idea, but the only way to discover the possibilities is to weave in order to hear what the copper has to say.  I have a small warp on the loom right now. Using some of the techniques described above, I am adding copper to the weft, as an experiment, a wonderful playing, to see what happens in the tensioned warp on the loom.

above and below: Patricia Dunn, El Cerro - El Universo #1, diptych, 126cm x 280cm, 2004, wool, silk, mixed technique.

I will add that a favorite sideline of mine is collecting and painting tabuxhin seedpods.

Patricia Dunn, Delightfully rattled,  Painted tabuchín seed pods. 6” to 16” x 1.5” to 2.5”. 2004.

below: Patrician Dunn in her studio.
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