Tapestry Topics Online
A Quarterly Review of Tapestry Art Today

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Summer 2006, Vol 32 No 2

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Serendipity for the Tapestry Weaver


At a recent Tapestry Weavers in New England meeting, Sue Pretty showed some of her paper weavings. ...Because her approach is so playful, and she seems to revel in the unexpected,  I asked  if we could carry on an email correspondence about serendipity. Sue feels that since tapestry weaving is so labor intensive, it is important for each piece to be an exploration and push the boundaries. "These paper weavings have been an exploration. I'm not sure where they are going.  Maybe I will weave some of the pieces..." "One of the early paper weaving ...was sitting on my drawing board half done. ...Something about the piece slightly unraveling kept drawing my attention, so after looking at it for months I mounted it with archival glue and worked on it more with gouache.  It's one of my favorites.

above: Suzanne Pretty, Fragmented Coastline, 21" X 17" framed woven paper with gouache. This is the piece that sat on my drawing board for several months.  I like the unraveling effect.

...I was working on [one] with gouache and decided to put acrylic matte medium on it because I was unhappy with the background.  An interesting thing happened: the weave of the paper weaving [rose] with moisture and really brought out the twill structure.  Even after it dried it remained raised, almost like the washing process for wool, fulling out the image.

above: Suzanne Pretty, Mobile Forest, 15 1/4" x 20" framed woven paper with gouache mounted on canvas.19 1/2" x 16" A close-up that displays the twill structure of the paper weaving with gouache.

When at last, I consulted the dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary ...quotes E. Solly (1880) who defines the word as "looking for one thing and finding another." The Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines serendipity as "an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident" and as "good fortune; luck." I am interested in the suggestion that serendipity involves sagacity or aptitude, not just luck.  We tend to associate serendipity with qualities like spontaneity and intuition, but leaving the door open for serendipity is only the first step, we have to be present and alert enough to recognize and welcome it when it arrives.

above: Suzanne Pretty, Pease Bypass, 15 1/4" x 20" framed woven paper with gouache mounted on canvas.  I am considering this for a tapestry.

Sue says "one of the most important things is showing up in the studio.  Some days may be more productive than others but it is necessary to keep working through the ideas."  The discoveries, desirable or not are made, not just by accident, but because we are actively looking for one thing, and then find another.

Review:  "The Hidden Element"

by Terry Olson

– TT p.18-19

"The Hidden Element," currently on exhibit at the Contemporary Crafts Museum & Gallery in Portland, Oregon, combines and contrasts the woven hangings of Rosalie Neilson and Audrey Moore.  Neilson creates complex geometric designs using the Swedish technique of "rep weaving" and a computerized loom, while Moore's simple and colorful narratives are expressed using a Navajo-style loom and traditional tapestry techniques and tools.  In Neilson's warp-faced weaving, the weft is the hidden element, whereas Moore’s technique is weft-faced and hides the warp.

A Northwest Coast Indian button blanket that hangs on Audrey Moore's wall inspired her.  She had been looking at that blanket for a long time and one day decided that buttons would be a good addition to her tapestries.  This series, "The Ladies," emerged from  that decision. ...[It] is a series of ten tapestries, each about 30 inches square, and each depicting one dress surrounded by a three-sided frame cropped just below the garment.

above: Audrey Moore, Lady I, from "The Ladies" series, each about 30” square.
below: Audrey Moore, Lady V

They  have a different background and each presents a different mood.  Yet they are tied together to form a whole by the subject matter, the use of strong colors, the shape of the frame and, of course, by the buttons.

above: Audrey Moore, Lady VI
below: Audrey Moore, Lady VIII
above: Audrey Moore, Lady VII, in the artist's studio.

The room in which the exhibit is hung is well lit and spacious.  Neilson's weavings were grouped in series; each a different set of bold colors.  Moore's tapestries were hung six on one wall and four on the wall directly opposite.  They are displayed in an order chosen with an eye for both color and design, resulting in a harmonious show that is bright and cheerful on a rainy Portland day.

above: "At First Glance," installation of "The Hidden Element"  showing work by Rosalie Neilson and Audrey Moore.
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