Looking to the Light

It’s taken eighteen months to go from an idea based on this photo:


to Chasm, the A3 sized tapestry featured above. It came off the loom just today, and is doing whatever it is that textiles do after being stretched on the rack for four weeks. Next week I hope to complete the hemming, do some more styling of the shag on the back, and cover the back  with two-way stretch fabric.




What is weaverly?

Complete freedom leads to artistic travesty.

Each medium has constraints. How may those constraints be conducive to creativity? What sets a woven tapestry apart from a painting – and what are it’s unique constraints?

Sylvia Heyden notes the primacy of the grid.

The shapes native to the grid are: steps, the diagonal, and the triangle. A curve or circle should therefore admit that it is composed of steps.

From Lurcat we have the prescription of:

flat images, with no modelling/shading – no three-dimensionality,

no perspective,

no horizon or skyline –  I think this may be relaxed in the modern context

greatly reduced palette – he had six major colours and five or six tones or brightnesses of each, giving thirty or so choices,

colours bright, adjacent colours setting each other off.

But I do not accept Lurcat’s dictum that a tapestry be a very large scale architectural adornment, or that the designer’s cartoon and colour specifications be adhered to with no deviation by the weaver.

Colour blending is to be achieved with hatchures. Blending by gradually changing the colour balance of threads on the bobbin is, to my mind a ‘painterly’ approach.

The medieval ‘greats’ – Lady and Unicorn, the Unicorn series, Devonshire Hunting, like their predecessors, all abhorred a vacuum. The weaving field is crowded with images. This may not appeal to modern sensibilities – but avoidance of empty space is definitely an option to keep in mind.

Vertical slits that require Gobelin stitching are also relying on a non-native solution. Perhaps there is no solution – the completely straight vertical may be alien to tapestry, and the solution lies in the interlock as in Scandinavian style so-called “Flemish weaving.”

Scandinavian weaving abounds in interlocked verticals and triangles, as do the Navajo blanket geometric designs.

Texture on flat weave may be given by warp wrapping and looping with the several variations of soumak and running rya. I am dubious about cutting the loops to form pile – seeing that more as a rug technique. I am hesitant about using twining – this brings two wefts into play simultaneously, where the rest of the work is done with one weft at a time.

These may be artificial limits, but perhaps worth playing with.

The ‘go to’ texts for me:

1. Mette Lise Rossing – the thread’s course in tapestry (tradens gang i billedvaev)

2. Marie Cook, Valerie Kirk & Cathy Hoffmann. Dye Yarn and Produce Woven           Samples – SW TAFE Unit VBAU036 Dip Tap 21870 Vic

3. Marie Cook, Valerie Kirk, mod by Cathy Hoffmann – Refine Techniques for Textile Work – SW TAFE Unit CUVTEX501A – Dip Vis Arts – Tap CUV50111

4. Peter Collingwood – Techniques of Rug Weaving – Chapters 1-6, Chapter 14.

5. Peter Collingwood – Beyond the Basics – Weft-faced rugs in Plain Weave.

There are obviously lots of other useful texts. These are the pick of the lot.

At last, then, something…


Savannah –  25 cm h x 35 cm w

the scrub looks so open in the Kimberley, till you walk two hundred metres on that red pindan and realise you’ve lost sight of your starting point. So, either a compass, or the sun, the season and the time. And always, fire and smoke somewhere.

Note – used only old bobbin remnants and those cutoffs you can get at the Tapestry Workshop.

Had some pull in, and found one could add in one (or two) warps at the edge – hardly the most elegant solution.


Portraiture at the Cairns Art Gallery with Craig Hoy – 1st three sessions

A simple start – an imagined head, in graphite. For those who remember, uncannily like Clement Attlee!

And who said both sides of the face should be equal?

Three-quarter head often more interesting than full frontal:

So – three-quarter head, in masses rather than in line, with use of negative space to bring head forward, and done in water-soluble graphite, water applied.

But if line is preferred rather than mass, sometimes a continuous line drawing can work (and sometimes not):

Does one really need to show the face in full? Perhaps less is more:


Still less

And yet less still

A group effort – five people in turn worked on this drawing of me. Therefore the first person set the scale of the whole and made the decision on line or mass. It’s done in soluble graphite and I did the final wash over.

This next series is aiming (not particularly successfully) at some chiaroscuro and sfumato effects. The ideal was not to put a clean line down but to rely on mass. The first two are in uncompressed charcoal:

Now, on brown paper and using two colours – charcoal and white chalk:

And the even more startling white on black!

But line is so seductive, black on white

Or white on black (with graphite overlay to give a silvery sheen):

Still two more sessions to go in this course.

How to wreck an idea for a tapestry.

I had wanted to try some texture in a fairly simple yet bold piece. Fossicked through the old photo file and came up with this b/w version of a lost colour original:


However I had worked on the lost original and still had this cropped, chopped and colour-manipulated image:



And its reversal:


I thought I’d  go with the middle image above – the red-green reduction.

I wanted to use my current large loom – the steel one from Warrnambool, open frame space: width 20.5” ( say 51 cm), height 28” (say 71cm). I didn’t want to work too close to the top of the frame as I usually have a lot of tension on the warps (it becomes very tight indeed as one moves up the loom), so I thought I’d work to a height of piece of about 17” (say 43 cm).  Taking into account that the floor would be a little under 3” (about  7cm) above the base bar, that would mean working two-thirds up the loom. Should still be possible.

Further, looking at the lay of the verticals and horizontals, I’d need to weave the piece on its side:


This then dictated dimensions of, width 11” (27.5 cm) and height 17” (42.5 cm).

Looking at the occasional thin colour bands of reds and yellows, I reckoned I could manage them with an epi of 8 (13 in 4 cm). I think this was my major error, and instead of my newly arrived 3×4 (12 thread) Glenora warp at 8 epi, I should have used the Ashford, which, as far as I can pick it apart, seems to be 3×2 (6 threads), and on Archie Brennan’s test (number of wraps per centimetre gives warps per inch) would have given me an epi of 11 (17.5 in 4 cm:35 in 8 cm).

The reduced flexibility at 8 epi led me to oversimplify and exaggerate. The following is the current state of play – leaf 1 completed:


The little purplish patches in the blue are blobs of open soumak. The yellowish-gold leaf outlines and central rib can be seen either as half-hitches with the knot pulled frontwards or as closed soumak on two warps, and the red or bronze leaf outlines and central rib are closed soumak across three warps, returning on the alternate warps.

The leaf side-ribbing is half-hitched, and particularly on the top-side (the bronzed side) it has burst the banks, as it were, and is too blatant and bubbly. I attribute this to a combination of too thick thread (too much in the mix) and clumsy knotting, often inconsistent in direction round the warps.

Unless persuaded otherwise I will probably close this piece off at this point with a double row of half-hitches.

Currently it’s still sitting on the loom – seen here with the cartoon mounted:



Not warp speed, Mr. Sulu.

I had begun measuring out the warp for my next project when, much to my surprise I got to the end of my 12/12 Glenora cotton warp, and not yet half-way through. A phone call to Christine at Glenora Weaving (02 4234 0422), and hopefully 750 metres will arrive in the next few days.

But meanwhile, there are all those leftover tidyings up that one never seems to get around to. For instance, the need for a haircut and braiding at the back of The Forest Below:

messy back

And after that I’ve got to ball up the third skein of rather lovely silk I got at one of the little places on Salamanca, Hobart, last year. Just balled up the first two over the last couple of days. There must be a kilometre of winding in those skeins – next time I’ll have to try and improvise a swift. And then, still more braiding and finishing of my two white monochrome bits.

tasks outstanding


As to my next project – once the warp arrives I’ll begin documenting it.

A Summation of Soumaks

My next piece had been planned to be in monochrome with emphasis on textures. But what textures? I decided to do a sampler.

Texture can be added in four main ways (considering here only flat-weave):

  • by warp wrapping – which is the basis for the Soumak technique,
  • by the insertion of supplementary wefts,
  • by looping, such as a continuous, uncut ‘rya’,
  • by a combination of the above.

I wove 12 soumak variations, based on the examples in  Mette Lise Rossing’s ‘The Threads Course in Tapestry’. The sampler is very small: width 15 cm (6”), height 10 cm (4”). In the list below the block type gives the corresponding paragraph number in Mette Lise Rossing.


Reading from the bottom up there is

  1. mlr 75     open soumak, one pass, ;
  2. mlr 77     closed soumak, one pass;
  3. mlr 78     open soumak, one pick, closed soumak one pick, open soumak one pick;
  4. mlr 82     double open soumak, one pass, notated as forward 3 back 2 or 1/3/2;
  5. mlr 84     double closed soumak, one pass, 1/3/2;
  6. variation on mlr 79-81   extended open soumak, one pass, 1/5/3, so with overlap;
  7. variation on mlr 79-81  extended closed soumak, one pass, 1/6/2, so no overlap;
  8. mlr 91     double closed soumak on alternate warps, 3 picks,  each alternating                                    with the last;
  9. mlr 93     as 8 but with the insertion of a supplementary weft;
  10. mlr 102   a ‘continuous rya’, one pass – can be seen as open and closed                                               soumak on alternate warps, the second pick alternating with the                                          first;
  11. mlr 103    as 10, but the second pick stacked on the first;
  12. mlr 90     3 triple half-hitches, knots to the front, one pick – essentially a  triple                              closed soumak on 1 warp.

Items 1 and 2 show the basic soumak chevron. The doubled variations in 4 and 5 make the chevrons larger, more obvious.

Item 3 stacks one half only of the chevron.

Items 6 and 7 give elongations of the chevron, and convey a sort of lengthening, smooth effect.

Items 8 and 9 have an interesting pattern variation, quite different to the ‘bricky’ or chained appearance of  items 10 and 11.

Item 12 gives the appearance of a strong raised welt.


There seem to be 4 basic patterns:

1 the chevron

2 the ‘fasces’ – items 8 and 9

3 the chain – items 10 and 11

4 the ‘welt’ or ridge – item 12.

There are clearly a large number of possible variations, depending on

1 the number of warps crossed forwards and backwards,

2 whether open or closed,

3 whether crossings are over or under, and

4 whether the following pick is stacked or staggered.

The notation I improvised above does not cover all the possibilities. A full notation system would be quite complicated, BUT when actually working it is essential to know exactly how the effect is being produced and to be consistent in its application.

If anyone knows of a notation method, I’d be interested to hear of it.

For this exercise I used this little ramshackle sampler loom, knocked up in a hurry and held together by string, a clamp and hope. The open frame dimensions are width 27 cm  (10.8”), height 32 cm (12.8”).


The Forest Below


44 cm (17 1/4″) x 28 cm (11″), 7 epi, mixed wool and mercerised cotton, from 3 to 8 ply.

Oops! This is not what was on the cartoon. Somehow it seemed to get a mind of its own and went wandering… It’s a bit like the curate’s egg – good in parts. Some egregious mistakes (which I’m keeping to myself for the moment). But for a first effort back after a long absence, I’m pleased.

Not quite finished yet. Still on loom – have to do the final double half-hitches, slit sewing and off-loom braiding. Might mount it inset on a board – or just let it hang.

I’ve just reread Lurcat on The Design of Tapestry – limited palette, no colour mixing by thread substitution, but by shades and hachure. [I suppose we just ignore his insistence on work being on a major scale.]

Next task is a thorough sifting of the yarn cache and trying to get some order into it.

I’m not sure whether the next attempt will be monochrome plain weave using several shades, or alternatively, a monochrome textured piece using soumaks – Mette Lise Rossing’s manual details a number of fascinating soumak variants.[Or, of course, something completely other.]

Starting weaving again, from the ground up.

A new post after a long absence, being

  1. Sorry I was away, and
  2. Weaving from the ground up.
  1. Sorry I was away

Back in mid-2015 I noted an “inner-tube replacement, new valve, timer mechanism reset and air intake filter cleaned. A busy few months!” – which referred to a replacement stent, a new heart valve, a pacemaker and an asthma attack. Even so, I still don’t understand why my GP’s referral’s call me “an elderly gentleman with multiple problems…”  Elderly? Multiple problems? Pshaw!

More recently there have been the minor inconveniences of losing my voice for a number of months, until finally a growth was removed from my vocal cords, and then that thunderstorm which set off another bout of asthma.  An asthma attack can lose me a month of time, during which sleep becomes less and less possible as the prednisolone builds up – and with it the weird semi-hallucinations.

So prednisolone became the town of  Prednyi Solonyi in  my last delirious post on the Phoenix Rescue Mission – Palmer 2.


a week or so ago my younger daughter took me to the Australian Tapestry Workshop’s 40th anniversary donor’s night (she works in philanthropy administration – has a great blog at https://ozphilanthropy.com ).  Had an interesting chat with one of the three new interns – a young woman who had done the first two years of the Warrnambool diploma (as I myself did) finishing at the end of last year just as the course closed down.

And talking to her and seeing those huge looms again and the smaller sampler looms, my appetite was re-aroused…  so:

2. Weaving from the ground up 

  1. Do I have stuff to weave with – checking the stash.
  2. Design selection.
  3. Loom selection and producing the cartoon.
  4. Warp calculation and warping on.
  5. Heddle bar and leashes and cartoon setup. 
  1. Do I have stuff to weave with – checking the stash

This is the stash:


A large part of my stash is still a hangover from before I began the Warrnambool course, when I had been doing a fair bit of weavette style continuous warp work on home-made little pin looms. I knew nothing about wools, and collected a lot of, to my jackdaw mind, lovely bright colours mainly in 8-ply! I used a lot of it in my course work, so it is possible to use it (judiciously) for tapestry. Much of the rest comes either from Warrnambool or from the mixed off-cut bags they sometimes sell at the Australian Tapestry Workshop.

Anyway, it looks to me like it’s strongest firstly in greens/yellows, and then in blues.

  1. Design selection.

So – now for something greeny yellow!

I have a number of potential designs already stored in their own file on computer. They are of two kinds:

Firstly are designs I have drawn myself, either on paper or on computer. The hand-drawn ones were either photographed or scanned in. The programs I use for computer drawing have usually been the old Naturepainter or Microsoft Paint.

Secondly are designs derived from photos I have taken. I use two main programs to manipulate photos – Picasa has sufficient flexibility for most of my purposes, leaving it to Mtpaint to resize the results up to an acceptable pixel count.

For my current project I selected a design based on this photo:


This is looking down on the rainforest from the Kuranda skyrail in Far North Queensland. Applying various filters and crops in Picasa produced this image:


Printed on A4 this will be the maquette or reference image I will use.

Loom selection and producing the cartoon.

I’ve currently got four tapestry looms, three home-made wooden ones and one steel frame from Warrnambool,  ranging in size from open frame dimensions of 9 cm x 22 cm  to  52 x 73 cm.

Notwithstanding the fact that Skyrail has a couple of prominent near-verticals, I have decided not to weave the image on the side – but I want it as large as I can manage. So it will be the Warrnambool steel frame.

To produce the cartoon I segmented the original image into quarters by cropping it four times in Picasa. Each quarter was pasted on screen  into an A4 page (landscape format) in Microsoft Word, and reduced to a width of 22 cm, using the Word rulers as a guide.

After printing the pages and trimming them, I sellotaped them onto a thin cardboard backing sheet.

Warp calculation and warping on.

I am using a fairly heavy warp (3×6) at 7 epi. I used Archie Brennan’s method of epi calculation: number of close wraps per centimetre = warps per inch. Total warp length is calculated as ((individual warp =frame length plus frame thickness) x (tapestry width in inches x 7)) plus (individual warp x 6 – this gives 3 blank warps on each side) plus (enough to tie on and off – say another individual warp length).

After measuring the width of the actual loom I divided that into the calculated warp length. Using the loom itself as a warping board that gives me the number of half turns needed to measure off the required length – nearly two hundred! After winding that onto the loom across its width, near the top of the loom, I then rewound it all onto a home-made wide wooden shuttle:


Then came the actual warping up. In order to be able to pass the warp easily below the bottom bar, I set the loom as a bridge on two equal height boxes on the garage floor. I tied the warp end onto the left hand end of the top bar, and began winding from top to bottom and up again in a figure of eight – crossing the warps on each turn.

The tie on is done either as a larkspur knot (neat) or as a surgeon’s knot – a reef knot, sometimes called a square knot, plus an extra half-hitch. Not so neat, but more Irish (to be sure to be sure.) Winding in a figure eight means that a shed is automatically built in. As I wound on, every half dozen turns I would pull down on all the warps in sequence from the left to keep up the tension and remove any slack.

I have marked off in permanent marker both top and bottom bars in inches. As I wound, I checked to keep seven crossovers in each two inches – which would give seven individual warps per inch.

It was incredible that even while paying strict attention to what I was doing, I still managed to miss-wind, forgetting to do the crossover, several times, and having to correct.  Weaving is a painstaking process – how many times during the actual weaving have I noticed a missed warp three or more picks back and had to unpick to that point!

Tie off at the end with the same knots.

Heddle bar and leashes and cartoon setup.

 The loom is now in from the garage and clamped onto an ironing board. This is a tip I got from Glennis Leary (she has a blog at http://windingthread.blogspot.com.au  but does not seem to have been active recently) . Rather than having to have a number of different height seats as the weaving level goes up the loom, one just readjusts the board height.


I then put in several rows of ‘floor’, which will be pulled out at the end. I decided not to do a fold-over, but to braid as usual at the end, and after sewing in will colour the braids.

Did a row of double half-hitches in a green blend – these will show.

Then dismounted the loom and placed it flat on the garage work-table, with cardboard padding on which is placed the cartoon below the warps. Traced the  major lines of the cartoon onto the warps with thick permanent marker.

Re-clamped the loom to the ironing board (not the one used for our ironing by the way – this one was off the nature strip, and is stripped down to the metal.)

This loom did not come with a heddle bar, so I improvised one. I cut a piece of dowelling the width of the loom, and nailed a strip of ply about 8 cm x 2.5 cm to each end. At each end of the dowel I screwed in a small hook which I had prised open slightly. I then clamped the two side pieces to the top of the loom very tightly with a couple of small clamps. I straightened out a metal clothes hanger and cut a length just over the width of the loom and set it into the hooks on the dowel.


Now for the leashes. First I wove a single strand of household string high up the loom, maybe 14 cm below the heddle bar and tied it to the frame on both sides. This brought the back warps forward, so I could catch them when putting on the leashes.

I used the same cotton that I used for the warp and made continuous string heddles using Laverne Waddington’s page at  https://backstrapweaving.wordpress.com/tutorials/tutorial-continuous-string-heddles/ as a guide. I looped the cotton onto the strip of coat hangar from the right-hand end. When I had done I ‘lashed’ the coat hanger strip to the dowel with simple household string every three or four inches – and removed the guide string I had woven.


Finally, the cartoon was mounted and set just above the row of double half hitches.


All these steps together were spread over about four days.

The next step is to start the actual weaving.

New material from Phoenix Rescue Mission – Palmer 2

A previous post (under ‘Digital’) published an aerial view of Prednyi Solonyi found in the archive of Rescue Mission Palmer 1. This was the image:

06-first landscape

We now have an image of one of the oldest buildings in the colony, the Old Krankenhaus, or hospital:

krankenhausPrednyi Solonyi was the first settlement established on Teitelbaum 5, known as Phoenix (Teitelbaum = date palm, Latin Phoenix dactylifera.)

The Old Krankenhaus was built by Dr Ernst Loebe entirely from local materials. Loebe also established the faience works, and tiled the hospital roof with the rare red-tinted tiles, and finished the outer wall with the commoner blue-green in the coping work.

This drawing was in the archive brought back by recovery vehicle Palmer 2. It can be dated fairly accurately as the sky colour is typical of the middle stage of the second major solar flare (Teitelbaum Event TF 17.) The artist (or cartoonist if you like) was evidently a member of one of the dissident groups opposing roboticisation. This can be seen from his lampooning robotic servitors as ‘tin men’, and in the wry notices on the outer wall.

The drawing gives a good impression of the ubiquitous nitro-converters. These were originally torus-shaped when installed in the fields. However when it was decided to put them within the built-up areas they had to contend with the overhead wiring. The inverted crescent shape was designed to accomodate this, and turned out to be more efficient than the original torus.

The kerb-stones in the drawing are clearly Sick Rocks from the first quarry opened. The radiation danger from these when used in the construction of buildings was not realised initially. After the ban on their use for housing they were still often used in kerbing and for field fencing.

Comments by

Franklyn Russo

Librarian, Palmer 2 Recovery Material.

Cityscape in Koornang Road

Gleneira Artists Society had an all-day love-in called Cityscape, in  Koornang Rd on Sunday the 8th of November. About fifteen of us, scattered up and down the shopping strip. Second time we’ve done it there.

Here are my two pieces:

  1. Koornang tripleview, 40x50cm, Texta on canvas!

koornang tripleview

2. Koornangg street signs. 30x40cm. Also texta on canvas, but ruined with a little bit of fixative…

koornang street signs

The Hind at the Meeting of Night and Day

12 x 14.5 inches, 8 epi. Undyed wool, 4 strands.

Even tho’ all one colour, at one stage 10 bobbins were dangling!

Clearly only an apprentice piece with lots of egregious errors – but a hell of a learning experience with sumac, chaining, twining and pseudo-twill all jumbled up together. But, ah, the texture!!!


The cutting off of Imants Tillers’s “Avenue of Honour”

It was a privilege to be present this morning at the formal cutting off of the huge tapestry “Avenue of Honour”, designed by Imants Tillers for the Canberra War Museum, and woven by the weavers of the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Weaving commenced last October, and had to be completed for installation for this Anzac Day, April 25th.

Imants Tillers in front of the tapestry still mounted on the loom:

avenue on loom

 Drs Hanbury and Brendan Nelson wielding the scissors:

the cutting off The tapestry laid out:

avenue laid out

A Matter of Design

Warping the loom is a very formal process, as is putting in the floor, adding the ‘waste’ (if you do that) and ‘casting on’ with either double half-hitches or a fold-over hem. And the weaving itself is going to be a slow, painstaking process needing constant vigilance and concentration.  It is not surprising, then, that few of us will proceed to extemporise on the loom without guidance of a plan or cartoon. Unless one is doing small incremental  units for a journal a la Janette Meetze or has the confidence of a Sylvia Heydon a plan is inevitable. Yes, in the course of the work there are often slight deviations or sudden inspirations for small additions – but I have found that these always must be able to be accomodated within the original framework.


It is not surprising then that the schools put such an emphasis on the design process preceding the physical approach to the loom. And it too can be a long process.

One exercise we had was to look at an environment both familiar and pleasing to us, indoor or outdoor, and to come up with a set of symbols representative of that environment – and then use those to produce four possible designs to weave.  I have always been drawn to the strip parks and creeks that we have here in Melbourne – the secret intrusion of the wild that has been allowed to remain, not out of any regard for its aesthetic value, but because it was ‘unuseable’ – flood-prone, marshy or too steep. Now of course, these hidden places are often torn apart by freeways, bounded by high walls constricting and imprisoning the secret places even more. The following sequence shows the development of my designs on this theme  from the quite illustrative to the more abstract.





I won’t labour the meanings embedded – I don’t think one should read the plaque next to the exhibited object for anything more than  the title, date,  name of author and the medium!


A second lengthy and fun design exercise I call

   A      FUNNY      THING      HAPPENED      ON     THE      WAY      TO      THE      FORUM

We had to think of a strange or funny or embarrassing or striking event that had happened to either us or a friend and use that as a basis for a design.

Once in hospital I got severe hallucinations after a dose of Stillnox:


This in itself is a comic cartoon rather than a tapestry cartoon – but the verticals of the drip-stands and the ballooning bladders of gunk hanging from them could perhaps give something:

stillnox dream2


On another occasion after waiting for two hours for an ordered dinner to arrive at a country hotel I was so hungry that I ate the carnations in the vases on the tables:


dinner flower.2jpg


On Rarotonga once we crossed the island by walking the track over the extinct  volcano, went canoeing in the lagoon and almost got washed out to sea, where we would not have been able to emulate the Maori canoes which left seven hundred years earlier for New Zealand and which I picture here:

canoes in surf2


And finally, there was a time when winter came early. Once we were in Marysville when it snowed in the first week of April. My fine leather boots got soaked and my wife tried to dry them in front of the cabin’s log fire – cooked boots (after which I graduated gratefully to modern, light, Katmandu type boots.) I  also happened to be reading Freud on infant sexuality – so here are images of boots and forbidden bodily parts in a design attempt to be true to the pixellation of tapestry – no curves and no verticals.

burnt boots 2



Now the question which all of this raises in my mind is – when does one look at the design and say – well, that’s not a tapestry, it’s a painting. Or can it become both?


Sevilliana – sketching fast and loose

They don’t really do our coffee in Spain. You seem to have to choose between cafe con leche (nothing like a latte – a bit yuck actually), cappucino (a small cafe con leche with a big dollop of cream) and a cortado (a short black with a small shot of milk) – probably the best choice!

So, in the morning one checks the weather from the balcony:


and heads out for the first cortado of the day:


before heading into one of the local ancient attractions:


 One can have too much of Moorish tiles, so after a while one can wander into the gardens, where the fountains bear strange decorations:


All that clearly calls for another cortado – and all that walking and the scent of the orange trees has thrown one off balance (or is the fountain really like that?):


The scent of these oranges is everywhere in the old city – but they are quite inedible, the raw taste being extraordinarily bitter. But they are apparently excellent for use in marmalade.

But back indo0rs – the old hospital for the care of the sick elderly, now houses a great little Velasquez collection,  and a marvelously decorated church. We caught it just as the organist was doing some practice for Holy Week:


After which, of course, another cortado:


Evening – so flamenco. Not allowed to photograph during performances, which are often on tiny stages. This is a really small one:



And after the performance – a cortado!


A bit bustly in the evenings! So at last one creeps home through  the courtyard gate:



Err..  hmm.. but who can resist a last cortado? Caffeine? Who sleeps here anyway?









Two Questions about the Warp-Weighted Loom

Before you read the whole of this post please note that my main question – cannot one weave from the bottom up on a warp-weighted loom – has been answered in the affirmative. Debbie Herd has provided this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a5by09CyV0  which is to a clip of Kristin Saeterdal doing just that on a modern loom built for that purpose.

The  accounts that I have seen of the warp-weighted loom describe the weaving being done from the top down, and depict this with illustrations from Greek friezes and pottery.

My crude drawing of this:

img137 An advantage of  warp-weighting over winding round the weft beam is cited as being an even distribution of tension across the weave.

The obvious disadvantages are

a. the difficulty of beating upwards as compared with downwards, and

b. the limitation imposed on the length of the weave.

Question 1: has anyone noticed, on a  normal frame,  a real  tension problem across the weave? I know that the first few warps on either side can be noticeably slacker than the central ones – but has it been an actual problem for the end product?

Question 2: Why cannot one weave from the bottom up on a warp-weighted loom – with a very slight modification?

img138 All that has happened here is that instead of being tied to the top beam, the warps are carried over the top beam and across to a second top beam on a second set of pillars and tied to a weft beam below that second top beam – and now one can weave from the bottom up. The second pillars and top beam in the diagram are of course purely there for illustration of the principle. They are in fact redundant because the warps can simply run up and over the top beam and then come straight down to a lower weft beam on the same pillars.

Reading Maria Brekke Koppen’s ‘Norwegian Tapestry Weaving’ I find on pages 90-92 explicit instructions on tensioning the warp with weights, and with some close-up illustrations but none of a whole loom set up in this way.However it appears that such methods are in use currently at least in Scandinavia – and perhaps therefore in the US – say in Wisconsin?? 

Any comments or information on this, anyone?

Triptych Terminated

The final item of the triptych is now complete- it’s something a bit different:


This is SO not me – but wow, was it interesting to do – I really dislike the notion of transposing a painting into tapestry, yet the attempts to get gradations of colour by adding or subtracting a single thread  in a mixed yarn, and the endeavour to keep edges fuzzy (not always successful) was a fascinating exercise. Here is Bruno Leti’s original:


and this is the complete ensemble:


On reflection I can see that this task was pretty carefully chosen to illustrate a whole series of technical problems. The Miro gave a basically simple black and white image on which was superimposed a confusing network of coloured lines. The Picasso gave a series of hard-edged geometric blocs of graduated greys (admittedly with a dash of added pink – which I ignored), and Bruno Leti obviously delights in liquid fusions of colour. Three styles. Three different sets  of problems to solve – and all while juggling with threads of different thicknesses and different tensile strengths – breaks became quite common!

And now there will be a pause in posts of several weeks while I get a bit more organised and catch up on reading – books, and the incredibly useful information on the blogs I list at the side here.

Pablo and Me

The second part of the Dreaded Technical Triptych is an interpretation of a portion of a Picasso painting – ostensibly of the  “Half-length Female Nude”. This title usually refers to the 1906 piece in a naturalistic style, whereas the given photo seems to be of a cubist abstract. Whatever. I think I have stretched the meaning of ‘interpretation’ a little far in this case. Other versions of this which they showed us at SWTafe were far more literal in the sense of being much closer approximations to the original. However:

me not pablo

Compare this to the original:


This was a far more joyous piece to do than the Miro – I suppose because I was wondering more about specifically tapestry techniques to suggest the original textures. I was trying to create a unified piece from an extract and  I indulged in a fair bit of extemporising.  Played about too with pick and pick,  and tried varying slopes and curves. Though I enjoyed doing this, I fear this is not what was intended by THEM.

The Owl and the Asterisk

Joan Miro had a thing about owls – and asterisks.  SWTafe has a thing about torture. Put them both together and you get “The Dreaded Technical Interpretation Triptych” – the first part of which is to ‘interpret’ the following section of a  Miro print given at a size of 18 x 9 cm (the whole triptych fits onto an A4 sheet):


I began this one at “summer camp” – we were directed not to go back in an attempt to undo or correct if we looked back and found even the most egregious of errors, or we would not be able to finish the whole triptych in the time allotted. I thundered right ahead at full speed – and therein lay my downfall:


I was so absorbed in getting down to the actual weaving that I didn’t realise my drawing was way out and that I had a rather expanded (or squashed) owl till day three of work back home… and yes, not enough time to start again and correct the lay of the blue and yellow lines, [bad words deleted here]. The warp is 9 at about 11 epi. A finer warp (or a larger width and height) would have given a much ‘smoother’ interpretation of the base image. The real question here was how to handle the yellow and blue fine lines. The double strands that I used overemphasise them  from the original – but perhaps that is what such a translation/interpretation must do – or maybe single strands would have been better – and why attempt to stick to the original colour anyway? There is some inconsistency in the way I have handled the lines – some are soumak, some are an attempt at flying shuttle and some are embroidered over the base weave. Not one of my better pieces.

So now on to part 2 and Picasso.

Local Art Society new term has started, and maybe some of these quickies could form the basis of ideas for later print making assignments:

prints maybe

When we get a male model (as we frequently do) there will be an opportunity to objectify maleness too…

P.S. I’ve only just noticed – they all face to the right. Hmm. Maybe I must move my easel to the other side…

Summer in the ‘Bool

I won’t tell you that thousands congregated down in Victoria’s whale capital for the Diploma of Visual Arts – Tapestry summer ‘camp’ – but we were certainly a respectable gathering of both off- and on-campusers from all the diploma years and from all across the country – and it was, of course not the right season for whales. Which was as well as it gave us time to do some work. There seemed to be workshops in, well, actual weaving of course, starters, advancers, historical copiers,  and technical samplers, And in design, business matters – and a printmaking workshop.

Though the Centre for Creative Arts Building has been open quite a while now,  it has no air-con – and the weather, to put it mildly was  b l o o d y  hot. So we did the weaving material in the main building  – and a weaving session there looks like this ( though this is last year’s group in the photo):

weaving at camp

We moved back to the Arts Building for the printmaking. We tried monoprints, using acetate sheets as the plates.

First up – a reduction print – remove the ink directly from the plate with whatever takes your fancy, then press the paper to the plate:


This is of course  a positive of the plate, but reversed laterally.

Then we moved on to the transfer method – the paper is placed on the inked plate and then drawn on – the ink adhering to the parts pressed down by the drawing tool(s):


Above is the actual print. Below is the reverse side of the paper where I drew the image  (with pressure and some hand rubbing).  My drawing and the print are both positive – though the drawing does not show the hand-rubbed areas, but the print is laterally reversed. The plate is oriented the same as the drawing, but becomes negative to it. I was clearly confused over the reversal – my signing is on the wrong side! Here is the drawing:

leaf original

Calling the plate the negative, with transfer monoprints there are three options:

1. The plain transfer – the print is positive, and laterally reversed

2. The “ghost” print – laying a second sheet on to the plate after the first print has been pulled, and        pressing it down – gives a negative print laterally reversed, and

3. The ‘double print’ – laying a new sheet of paper over the damp first print and pressing, gives a            positive print not laterally reverse – or as a truth table:

                                                                        colour                                           reversal

plate                                                 1                                                         1

print                                                0                                                        0

ghost                                               1                                                         0

double                                             0                                                        1

From there we skipped making a direct monoprint – drawing the image directly onto the plate – and moved onto intaglio prints – again using acetate sheets which we disfigured with various sharp tools ranging from  orthodox burins to ground nails. We discovered that using newsprint can be as effective in wiping the plate surface clear of ink as traditional tarleton. I have found a web post which suggests organdy silk as a longer lasting substitute.   We each attempted to pull several prints off our plates:

tulp1 tulp2 tulp3






Intaglio is fun – but what if you have no access to a press? Well, see this blogpost which will solve the problem IF you are a very very patient person: http://mirka-h.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/printing-intaglio-without-press.html

After that we looked at a couple of already prepared collographs – a plate made by pasting onto a cardboard base other pieces of whatever, and treating that as a relief print – inking it and printing using a press – I guess it would be possible, but difficult, to pull a print by hand.

Oddly enough, after seven hours or so there wasn’t time to start actually doing a lino cut though we did watch a detailed presentation by Silkcut on the methodology. I took my design away with me to be worked on later:


And now it is on to the dreaded three-part technical sampler – watch this space!

Hullo 2014!

People like me who didn’t heed the warnings and used to light up at every opportunity (I was even known to do a set of tai-chih with a cigarette dangling from my lips) – well, some of us got zapped in the end. COPD. Me, I tend to lose six to eight weeks every 18 months or two years – first a slight cough, then treat it at home, and then when that doesn’t work it’s often too late for my GP to do anything.  “This time,” she said, “we’ll do it with bells and sirens.” So the ambulance it was. Ten nights with the drips in… and then the long period coming down off the steroids (the ones that don’t let you sleep and turn you manic – the first time I had them I went out and bought six phones – but that’s another story.)  Impossible to concentrate or do anything constructive.

So EVERYTHING goes on hold.  No tapestry assignments, media posts, anything. And of course I still had an assignment to finish – so it’s been a rush to catch up so I can take the assignment down to tapestry ‘summer camp’ at Warrnambool in another week. The weaving was finished an hour ago, and now there  is the tidying the back, sewing slits, and the dreaded braiding. Anyway, here it is, still on the loom:


In the old days, some observant Jews would have a wall hanging on the eastern wall of a room (the wall that was turned towards Jerusalem.) These were called a mizrach – the word means ‘east’. There were several types of mizrach. The one I have made is called a shiviti, from the first word of its text. In some houses they were purely a traditional decoration (which still had some mystical power), and in others they were used as objects of meditation.

The weaving was very interesting to do – because of the lettering and also the long curves. My tapestry teacher at SWTafe said that lettering is usually woven on the side – and a second reason for the side weave was those curves…  The actual design is a bit obvious or banal (God’s name against a bckground of flame and lightning) and  the colour scheme is not particularly successful (looks better on screen than in real life). I did base the lettering on a  General Public License font that is royalty free. I learnt that next time the lettering must be measured out on the cartoon and marked on the warps with greater accuracy than I achieved in this effort.

Next post will hopefully have something about the ‘summer camp’ – signing off till then!

Underway at last

My “shiviti” piece which I posted the cartoon of in my last entry is at last underway – though it’s going to be submitted as a ‘small’ tapestry, it’s the biggest I’ve done so far – 18 x 24 inches, say 59 x 46 cm, 12/12 warp at 9 epi, unmixed yarn – knitting wools both natural and viscose:


So far, so good – apart from one  broken warp and probaly too much white!  Anyway, it’s going to keep me quite busy over the summer break.

Words after long silence

I seem to have got caught up in various local busynesses and family catastrophes lately and ignored the blog.  So – moving backwards – my current assignment is the last of the Drawing Techniques group, though being demented, I am doing it before the previous one, which is full-figure drawing. The final is to produce three designs of tapestries to be used as gifts for visiting diplomats(!), on  several Ozzie themes.

1 – Here is my take on the savannah:


This was   derived in steps by enhancing a photo and then pixellating part of it:




 2 The second design is The Reef – done straight as a drawing:


3 and finally – a floral theme – based on a drawing I have posted previously – the Kuranda Railway Station’s plants on steroids – but this time  without the steam engine!


These pieces still have a lot of work to do – they are to be presented framed, in a portfolio, with artist’s statements and a development trail of notes and preliminary sketches and drawings. Phew!


The last tapestry I completed  was for the so-called ‘Environmental tapestry’. assignment. Here again I used a drawing I had done in the north – this was about A5 size:

cl tropicana

 and translated into a tapestry of about 46 x 30 cm:



The last assignment for this year is completely open. I am planning my largest piece to date. It will be about 44 x 59 cm. Currently the loom is warped up, I have set leashes (also for the first time), and the floor and waste are in and the cartoon is marked up. This piece will let me work on letters for the first time too. The design is fairly bland – it is a meditative wall hanging called a ‘shiviti’ – with the lettering in Hebrew:


I am still considering the colour scheme – the legend says that the letters are written in ‘black fire’ – but I don’t know about that.

Enough for now!