I'm just back from a really good weekend in Edinburgh, spent largely in the studio of Fiona Hutchinson, Tapestry Weaver.
I was on one of Fiona's two day workshops, and I was there really to get a bit of technical help with ideas that I might use in my college work. I've done various experiments in tapestry weave and have spent quite a time in Sue Lawty's studio last year, seeing her working and helping with various things, but haven't actually done that much of it and certainly haven't had much instruction in technique. Tapestry isn't really included in the weave that is generally done at Bradford College. Although I've loved the floor loom weaving I have done at college and played with a little on my loom at home, it is the experimental possibilities of tapestry that really appeal to me. Although there is still a fair amount of preparation and thought that can go into tapestry weaving it does feel a bit more immediate than setting up a floor loom, which can take a whole day to prepare. I guess I'm just impatient! Of course if you're weaving on a big scale it can be a very slow process but there are so many possibilities using just a simple wooden frame.
Getting hold of a copy of Shiela Hicks' book Weaving as Metaphor (this book is unbelievably beautiful!) kind of sealed it for me. She weaves these small pieces on a simple frame with whatever materials are available to her - she has travelled extensively with this simple bit of kit and produced some really stunning, playful and subtle pieces. I turn the pages of this book and each image becomes a new favourite.
So, under Fiona's ever-attentive and patient tutelage I spent the first day of the workshop weaving a technical sample. It looks pretty straight forward stuff but there is a lot of detail involved in warping up properly, keeping your edges straight, starting and ending threads, blending colours and fibres, creating splits... I only just brushed the surface in a few hours but it did confirm some technical basics for me that were really useful.
On the second day I started to work with some of the ideas I'd had for my beach-combing project. I wanted to investigate ways of trapping items in the weave and also get the benefit of Fiona's experience over using different materials. We talked through my ideas and she had some really useful suggestions as well as a wonderful pile of books pulled from the shelf with examples of other people's work to look at.
Being surrounded by Fiona's beautiful work and her many samples was very inspiring and to be able to ask questions about their construction was so useful.
And apart from the learning there was a little time to see a bit of the city, which I love, and (despite the dismal rain for part of the time) never fails to be a vibrant and beautiful place to be. No romantic shots of the castle for me this time though as my mind was firmly on architectural detail that relates to my project.
Edinburgh listening: some rather unusual sound scapes