Summer 2008 Vol 34 No 2

A Quarterly Review of Tapestry Art Today

©2006 American Tapestry Alliance

Note: Tapestry Topics Online has been trimmed down in order to present color images with selected excerpts from the printed version, available to members by mail. For the full articles refer to the printed Summer 2008 issue. < Back     Page > 1 2 3

A Weaver of Stories
By Kathy Spoering

…I grew up loving stories: stories of adventure, of mystery and romance, and even of real life 'fairy tales.'… I could crawl between the covers of a book and go anywhere, be anything or anyone…. The stories in my work are to remind people of the wonder in our lives: the bird song, the moments of peace, the times we dance in the fields or kneel in the garden, the beauty that we too often lose to fear and horror…. include symbols of peace, of compassion… that weave us together rather than separate us….

When I stand soaking in the amazing tapestries in the Metropolitan Museum or the Tapestry gallery in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and get lost in the stories they tell, I realize that, for me, narrative story telling tapestries are the only things I want to weave.

below: Kathy Spoering, “Four Seasons tapestries,” 56"h x 36"w each; series completed in 2008; Photo by K. Spoering

Tapestry, Representational, of course!

By Martin Miller

First and foremost, I am a storyteller. I began weaving Tapestry because of the stories and imagery in the 13 – 15th century tapestries. I enjoy the allegories and trying to figure out what each of the elements means. I don’t expect ever to tire of the Unicorn and Lady series…. I find some abstract work pretty. Some of it is masterfully done. But if I can’t follow the story, I lose interest….

When I weave for my own pleasure, or for sale, I weave representational images. My favorite images are from stories (Pegasus, unicorns, the Queen Ann’s Revenge [Blackbeard’s Ship]), or flowers. I’ve taken a lot of the mille fleur images and done them as single images or put two or three in place…. I have cartoons of different Alaskan wildflowers that should let me weave for two or three decades without running out of images.

below: below: Martin Miller, Untitled [Pin], 2” x 1.75”; 2003

Flower to Bird

By Lynn Mayne

I'm responding to nature in a straightforward way. My recognizable images speak to the naive, the innocent or even primitive eye. I like to work with an image by simplifying it and adapting it to tapestry techniques. Most of the art work to which I am drawn has this quality of the familiar at its core.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman has stirred my feelings for the preciousness of the natural world. He cautions that man is threatening the balance of nature. Before I wove my first Bird of Paradise piece, "Flower to Bird," I read the Irving Stone biography of Charles Darwin… Learning about nature before man is fascinating.

below: Lynn Mayne, “Flower To Bird,” 26"h x 23"h each piece of the diptych; 2006; Photo by Ben Mayne

Abstracted Not Abstract

By Jan Austin

….I’ve never thought of my work as abstract, because I always begin with an image.… by the time I finish a tapestry, I have abstracted the image through various processes, until it’s no longer recognizable as an object.… I rely on nature to provide the randomness, the messy, chaotic energy that is always lacking in the designs that come from my own orderly head. While the organic compositions that captivate me in nature may appear chaotic and disordered, the underlying order and purpose are mysterious, powerful and compelling….

I begin by making a color copy of an old painting or drawing… Then I select and cut out areas that best express the essence of the subject. These “excerpts” are enlarged and woven as tapestries, or… further abstracted during translation into tapestry…. There is always suspense, because it is only during the actual weaving that all of those elements come together.

below: Janet Austin, “Red And Green Apples II, 12”x12”; 2004

A Personal Experience of Abstraction or,
You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Cheryl Silverblatt

After I had been a librarian for almost twenty years I decided that I wanted to give over the left-brain life I had been leading and go to art school. It was in a drawing class… that I had an “Ah-Hah!” moment and finally, at the age of 54, understood the nature of abstraction.… I could not and still cannot draw in a representational way. What… drawing class did for me… was to help me understand the principles of composition and the nature of abstraction…. the elemental “idea” that the essence of an object or color or value like beauty is real, independent and timeless makes abstract art make sense. From this essence or idea come notions of “chairness” or “redness.”…

I spent a year learning art and tapestry weaving at West Dean College… When I arrived, the first thing I saw and fell in love with was flint stone. Most of the buildings… at West Dean are made of the local flint stone, which is very beautiful in its solidity and age.… I wove many very small tapestries... of walls abstracted… of individual stones abstracted ... of colors of stones abstracted. These small pieces were... my attempt to capture the idea or elemental core of this stone.

below: Cheryl Silverblatt, “Flint Stone Wall,” 2.25" x 2.25"; 2003

Which Way to Weave?

By Linda Rees

Throughout my four decades of weaving, my work has included abstract color studies consisting primarily of bold, often symmetrical, geometric shapes. I originally gravitated to abstraction after being fascinated by the colors in Mexican serapes as a child…. a simple but well-balanced design… let [me] focus completely on color interactions with no worries about what to "say" in the tapestry….

I select a very limited number of colors… The restricted number… forces a level of abstraction that is well suited to the medium and integral to my aesthetic sensibility. What interests me is determining what subject matter and style can best convey my intuitive response to the color selection.... As my abstract designs loosened up to include more flowing shapes, I chose to not concentrate on achieving perfectly smooth curves but rather to let all images stair-step…. there was a dynamic boldness that I found exciting. The stylized blockiness worked for figurative imagery… [where] my concern was more about capturing gesture than depicting a realistic figure.

below: Linda Rees, “Bleeding Heart” Indigo Series #7, 27" x 24"; 2006
below: Linda Rees, “Rush In To Retreat,” 23" x 18"; 1988

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