Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Laura's Wood - textile art with knitting and weaving combined

I thought this time rather than comment on things from the outside world, I'd do a post about my latest art work. I've called it Laura's Wood because without Laura of Laura's Loom it wouldn't exist...
I'm assuming she'll be pleased with the compliment! As anyone artistic knows, the creative process sometimes takes a long time to come to fruition and this piece was probably longer than most!

So my tale starts almost 4 years ago when I was given a lovely birthday present by my other half Dayve to go to a one-to-one tuition session with Laura at Farfield Mill. It was a beautiful late autumn morning as I recall, Laura welcomed me, we talked about what I'd like to do (we agreed I'd have a go with an Ashford table top loom, rigid heddle, don't worry it didn't mean anything to me either at the time!) and we agreed our day's programme.

The wonderful Farfield Mill, near Sedbergh, looks (and smells) great!
This is Laura ( from her Laura'sLoom Facebook page, backstrap weaving in Bhutan apparently!
 For the rest of the morning Laura showed me the way that the warps are prepared for the loom, this is a skill in itself! I particularly liked her tale of the bloke who'd been weaving for some considerable time but came to her for a workshop and admitted that until she'd showed him this cunning technique he'd relied on the fact that he had a really long hall to lay out his warps while he set up his loom! Weavers will understand the impractical nature of this 'solution'; for non-weavers I suppose an artist equivalent would be painting with a really long handled brush a long way away from your canvas to get perspective or for knitters it would be like trying to knit with the fleece still attached to a sheep...  It reminds me that in all crafts there is a technical body of knowledge built up over many generations that it's really handy to know!

A warp frame complete with organised warps ready to be taken off for warping
We had an excellent lunch and then afterwards we got onto some actual weaving using the warps we'd set up before lunch. I had a brilliant day, it's a wonderful place, Laura's teaching was excellent and it was a good way for a beginner to get an idea of weaving. She kindly offered to let me borrow the loom as she didn't need it for a few weeks and so I had it at home and was able to design and make the piece I had in my head. I was pleased with the end result, only needed to find the right piece of artwork to use it in, and the loom was returned to Laura with much thanks.

The famous Ashford Rigid Heddle loom (a handsome devil) this isn't my weaving by the way!
Now fast forward the rest of the (almost) 4 years! My woven piece had still not found a place in my textile artwork worthy of it but then I went to Woolfest in June this year and met Laura again. My good buddy Helen spotted the selveges (edges cut from Laura's woven cloth) and immediately I knew that combined with some fab slubby hand spun wool I'd bought already that day from (I think) Freyalyn's Fibres I could create some suitable knitting to go with my woven tree trunk and finally complete the artwork it required.

A short time, ie a couple of months, was it all needed to complete my creative vision;  my only plan was a hastily drawn and rather wonky sketch in my ideas book and the rest was done by eye. I first knitted a woolly bit in an uneven shape and then tried to knit a selvege bit to roughly match up with it  and then did the same again etc. I sewed them together onto a felt backing piece, placed the woven tree trunk in place and used recycled wool-mix material to pad it out giving it a nice slightly rounded contour. I'm pleased with the finished item and like the way the knitted sections work with the woven sections.

The finished piece, named 'Laura's Wood' - knitting and weaving combined
As it seems to work so well, I had been thinking I might try another mixed technique piece like this... but I fear I may have to stick to knitting as when it comes to warping a loom sadly I've forgotten the cunning prep technique employed and unlike some I don't have a long hall!

More about the wonderful weaving from Laura's Loom; and here she is on Facebook;
More about Farfield Mill, if you haven't visited you should go!

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for knitting and textile art news.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

As I walked out...

For someone like me living in the Lake District and also interested in 'woolly things' my interest was caught recently by an attention-grabbing article involving the Lake District, hill sheep farming and being a bit rude about Wordsworth and artists.

Stock Photography by Ward: Landscape &emdash; pbw_15Sep12-110953-0001
Little Langdale, a typically beautiful Lake District scene
The Lake District owes much its famously beautiful landscape to sheep grazing the fells; and a recent article in the Guardian by journalist George Monbiot has put the cat among the pigeons (or maybe that should be the wolf among the sheep?!).... If you look back at some of his previous journalistic contributions, you realize that he does tend to go about life with a literary pointy stick poking things and this time he certainly seemed to get a suitable reaction.

You can read his piece here but in essence he says the existence of subsidies for sheep grazing the fells (aided and abetted by supporters who want to keep the landscape looking just as it was in centuries past and as loved by Wordsworth and other artists and poets of the past) has produced a barren mono-culture bereft of bio-diversity. He'd prefer fewer sheep and more trees on the fells as native trees support more insect life. In reply many people have naturally jumped in to the debate defending the sheep and the farming practices.

Some of the 'accused' Herdwick sheep
My experience of the Lakes landscape is, however, that it is not all about the iconic upland fells and that it has a lot of variety in a relatively small area, especially when I see it through my textile artist's eyes. In that context it has a host of different textures and surfaces, light and shade, and large and small patterns of interest.

Wooded slopes of oak

Gorse in flower and scrub trees coming into leaf
When I go for a walk (which is never just straight up the nearest mountain to the top, that's not only dull but hard work too!) I inevitably encounter a number of different settings. In one relatively short walk of just a few miles you can go from grassy valley bottoms with drystone walls and hedgerows, through slopes of mixed woodland (with wild garlic and bluebells in Spring), trek through rough fell pasture, fight through head height bracken, trudge across moorland and heath, paddle across boggy patches, pick your way through rocks and scree...and that's before you get to any watery things like lakes, tarns or streams. That sounds like a Tolkein-like odyssey but actually it's a real pleasure!

Coniston Water with its birch tree-line shoreline
Whilst what I describe may not be quite the same thing as bio-diversity in George's sense, it is a view of landscape in the Lake District seen more broadly and so experienced as much more varied than George's 'sheep-wrecked' fells.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that environmental campaigners who carry pointy sticks and artists who carry knitting needles don't see the world in the same way...thank goodness!

Little Langdale photo from stockphotographybyward

When I can I'm making textile art or blogging about it; here's my web site; or follow me on  Facebook and Twitter for knitting and textile art news.