August 2017: The last hurrah, Job’s Tears and in the studio.

September 12, 2017

This post is late. But a trip away and limited internet access are the culprit.

IMG_1959

It’s the end of an era. My exhibition, Pattern: A Universal Phenomenon has had its last showing. It has been on tour for the past four years and Childers Arts Space was its last venue. The staff at Childers did a great job hanging it and were very welcoming. I have enjoyed the contact I have had with them. I was driving past the gallery on the week before it came down and called in. My timing was perfect. There was a group of Year 7 students from a local school. They were there on an excursion to look at pattern. I gave an unscheduled artist talk.

Afterwards the group was on the veranda of the gallery where there was some lovely iron lacework.

IMG_1960

IMG_1961

While I waited for the day to demount the exhibition, I got to spend a couple of days at Burrum Heads. I just happened to be there when some trees were bring trimmed and look what I found: lichen!

IMG_1966

As well as being on the trees, there was some adorning an old fishing table.

IMG_1986

I have come home with quite a collection ready for some natural dyeing – maybe this month. I wonder how successful the dye extraction (if any) will be. However I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to collect it.

From an earlier trip: Job’s Tears.

DSC04952 (600 x 400)

I had this Akha (an ethnic group in Laos) necklace out the other day. I have been meaning to pass on some information on these beads which are really seeds, since I came back from Laos at the start of the year. I have come across textiles that use these seeds ever since I started travelling in S E Asia. A display in The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang detailed great information. This museum is highly recommended.

Pronunciation of “Job” in Job’s Tears: It’s probably easiest to describe as “Job” in the biblical person and not “Job” as in work.

In the museum, there were some great didactic panels which I’ll share detailing aspects of these beads as well as some great textiles.

I didn’t realise that there were four types of beads. I did however recognise that I was seeing different beads in different places. Check out the beads and the different shapes.

DSC04149

This map shows the distribution of the ethnic groups using Job’s Tears in S E Asia. Note the comment that “their disappearance is a indicator of our changing relationship with nature”. Beads are used extensively though often they are mass produced.

DSC04156

Naga shawl. Sagain Division, Myanmar/ Yangon, Myanmar.

DSC04151

Karen skirt borders. Mae Hongsorn Province, Thailand/ Bago Division, Myanmar.

DSC04153

Akha Jacket. Shan State, Myanmar/ Louang Namtha Province, Laos.

DSC04157

Katu shawl for sale in the Museum shop.

DSC04160

 

Earlier on in August, I had three weavers in the studio for a “Special” class. This allows for open choice and in this case the three students all chose to do something different. Now before I show you what they did, I would like to point out that one had never woven before and this was her first ever experience. Another weaver had done a token amount and had barely wound a warp. While the third was experienced.

Here’s Sharon weaving a fabric length for a blouse.

IMG_1942

Sharon is the experienced weaver. The fabric is finished. It has a cotton warp with a silk noil weft: a very beautiful fabric.

IMG_1946

But wait- a decision is pending. There are some supplementary warp threads in there for woven shibori. Will she or won’t she overdye? Sharon will be back this month and we’ll find out then.

Jan has just started weaving and is in the process of winding her first warp at home. She came to learn technique and at the same time experiment with some woven shibori. She had seen an example at the Redlands Spinners and Weavers Open day. Along the way she discovered the enjoyment of play.

IMG_1937

Here the treadles had been tied up for an 8 shaft twill. What happens if you go that direction and then that one and what happens if you don’t always keep in sequence? It’s fun! And she got to earn about selvedges and how to throw a shuttle and the process of weaving efficiently and with good technique.

And she also got to weave shibori. Here she is pulling up the resist threads. Later she got to experience the magic of an indigo bath. Unfortunately I don’t have images of this.

IMG_1945

But I do have some of a collection of things I put in the indigo too. The pattern on the scarf is not really a shibori pattern. The fabric is solid indigo and the pattern sunlight through some lattice work in the early morning. Now that could be inspiration for later.

IMG_1949

Rochelle has never woven before and wanted to weave an image inspired by a design on a piece of pottery. Why not? She got to prepare a warp and thread over a 1,000 warp threads. Not bad for a first attempt AND loved doing it. She did celebrate finishing though.

DSC04923 (600 x 400)

This is what she’s weaving. The technique is Theo Morman and allows for great control of imagery.

IMG_1943

Later on final detail of pattern will be achieved by embroidery. So for a beginner weaver she’s learn how to set up a loom, throw a shuttle and get great selvedges and how to use a cartoon to achieve imagery. She’ll be back next week to finish off.

Some dates:

The weekend workshop at GO Create will now be on Friday and Saturday, 13-14 October.

Coming up in the studio:

18-22nd September         Doubleweave and Friends

16-20th October               Two extremes: Choose between weft faced rugs and warp faced textiles including rep or textiles inspired by SE Asia. (2 places for rep/warp faced textiles only)

13-17th November          Woven shibori (2 places left)

4-8th December               Special

Lastly: a very special event. When I was at Burrum Heads I got to experience the sun setting down the river and immediately after the moon rising out to sea. It was a remarkable experience!

 

Advertisements

March 2017

April 5, 2017

In January and early February I went on a textile trip to Laos. This is the continuing report on that trip from last month. For this report, I continue to discuss the textiles that we came across based on the areas that we visited. Last month I began with Phonsavan.

Textiles in the Luang Prabang area.

Luang Prabang, the northern capital of Laos is a hub for textiles. Local and more distant ethnic groups sell their wares here in markets, villages and galleries/shops. In addition both traditional cloth both new and old as well as more contemporary designs can be found.

 

1

The Hmong are known for their wonderful batik textiles in combination with applique and embroidery. We braved a local village where we saw women and young girls stitching. These are very high powered saleswomen.

Ock Pop Tok. They have both a gallery and a “Living Crafts Centre”. Both display contemporary textiles. The Living Craft Centre also has information on textile production including silk production and natural dyes. There are also weavers and batik dyers producing product for the gallery. The following images show yarn and batik drying, and some contemporary weaving.

In addition there are facilities for people to attend a workshop. I took advantage of weaving a supplementary weft recipe. I did not need to pick up the pattern nor thread the loom. Yes, all I had to do was decide what colour weft threads I wanted to use and weave for a couple of hours

6

Weavers use the long box loom with a vertical storage unit. String loops are used to store the patterns. The stored pattern is transferred to behind the shafts and put back on a sword to select the pattern for the supplementary weft designs. Many string loops can be used to store very complicated patterns. My pattern only used 40 loops. Several hundred loops can be used in a complicated pattern.

7

One doesn’t need language to communicate with weaving. That’s my completed weaving hot off the loom.

And a closer look.

9

In addition to the pattern being used as a single supplementary weft it may also be used as a discontinuous supplementary weft for brocade.

On my last trip to Laos and Thailand in 2015 I fully documented how these looms worked.

There are several places that sell textiles. There are local markets of course but here are some shops/galleries/organisations that impressed me.

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum have some great displays of various aspects of textile production and a shop selling textiles.

12b

Gallery Asiama is run by Linda Mackintosh and exhibits traditional cloth. As well as having many beautiful old textiles, there were a couple of “funery wraps”. These wraps are quite different to anything else I had seen from a weaving structure perspective either on this trip or the previous one. I was told that the technique is no longer being done and were produced in NE Laos and NW Vietnam.

12a

The technique is either two tie woven as “bricks” or three tie to achieve several colour areas. I saw both examples. The designs were large in scale. These were also found in another gallery exhibiting antique silverware and textiles where they were referred to as “banners”.

Ma Teˊ Sai is run by an Australian who supports weaving in the villages and sells in her gallery. While the techniques are traditional her designs and applications are for the western taste.

Caruso Lao is a gallery selling contemporary Lao textiles, wood carving and turning and silver smithing.

Textiles in Pakse and Boloven Plateau

13

In a village just outside of Pakse we saw mat mi or weft ikat being woven. They used a box loom with only 2 shafts for plain weave fabric. The vertical storage is not used here.

14a

An ethnic village has been set up outside of Pakse that is aimed at the tourists wishing for an overview of traditional crafts from the Atapu region. Each area was represented by a house with representatives from that area often demonstrating or selling their crafts.

There were various warp faced textiles for sale which were woven on back strap looms. Some of these included that woven by the Katu. I loved the warp faced stripe combinations.

15

A Katu village. The weavers here use beads on the weft. The yarn may be naturally dyed cotton however I also saw some commercially dyed in brighter colours. Sometimes synthetic yarn is also used.

The process for weaving with beads on the weft.

16

As well as many older women, I was delighted to see this young girl weaving with beads. While her design is simpler, the basic technique can be seen. The back strap loom is set up with as a combination of warp stripes to create an overall pattern and to enhance the pattern of the beads. There is only one weft thread. This has many beads threaded on it. The shuttle is to the left.

17

When the beads are required they are counted off and woven in the approximate position. The weft is beaten.

18

Then the beads are placed in the correct position according to the pattern before being beaten into place.

Here’s a movie of the full process.

19

The Dream Home supports women who were victims of human trafficking.

20 (600 x 400)

Pakse Souveni had some exquisite mat mi.

Textiles along the Mekong River south of Pakse.

We saw no weaving being done. In fact there was very little weaving being worn. Life here revolves around farming and fishing. Of note we did see some fishing nets and baskets being made; all useful for this lifestyle.

Textiles in Savannaket area

Laha Nam Village produces mat mi in natural dyes. We participated in a dyeing workshop here.

21c

The ethnic minority group of the Phu Tai originally came from northern Vietnam. They brought indigo and cotton weaving to the area many generations ago. Around 1975 weaving and dyeing stopped because of competition from Thailand. In 1989 -90 when Laos reopened after the war, a government company was set up to encourage people to work again. The company is no longer working with the villagers and instead they have been encouraged to form cooperatives to weave and sell their produce.

22

Cotton is raised on the banks of the Mekong and processed in the village.

There are several cooperatives in this village and over 200 weavers. The one we visited has 22 weavers. Details of the dyeing workshop will follow in another blog.

Here’s some examples weaving that was produced.

We visited another mat mi village in this area. They were producing yardage of a standard size: 75 x 160cm. This was using commercially spun cotton/rayon on a synthetic warp. It was also typified by two weft rows of mat mi alternating with 2 rows of solid colour. The designs were quite contemporary. We bought in what appeared to be the communal shop where the weavers bought the yarn and then brought back finished product for sale probably to an established buyer.

Textiles in Vientiane Area

Carol Cassidy is a western entrepreneur working with the Laotian weavers to created contemporary designs based on tradition. I have visited Carol whenever I have been in Vientiane. As well as being the driving force behind the gallery and studio, she is also engaged as a consultant in Cambodia and Myanmar. She is very much aware of what is happening in textiles in Vientiane, nationally and in SE Asia. She employs several weavers on the gallery site.

31

Nikone has a gallery and usually an attached workshop. Unfortunately the weaving workshop was closed due to flooding. She has also developed a range of textiles for sale in Europe and Japan. It is exciting to see that her daughter is becoming involved in the business and catering towards the Lao wedding market. This fabric woven with an ondule or fan reed was one of the treasures I found in the gallery.

32

Phaeng Mai- gallery and weaving studio. There are some delightful contemporary woven fabrics in the gallery. It was great to return to Phaeng Mai where I had studied last year.

33

Magic Lao Carpets is the first and only carpet making business in Laos. The carpets are hand knotted and are stunning. As well as seeing the finished product, we were able to see all the stages that go into weaving them.

34.jpg

Each carpet is worked on by a team of young girls. They work from printed graphs.

The silk is hand knotted around the warp. Note the line to check the pattern. Then they are beaten in.

37

The pile is trimmed with shears regularly.

There are several other galleries. Mulberries, which I had visited in Phonsavan, also has a gallery in Vientiane.

Some interesting bits and pieces and overall impressions.

38

This is how convenient a loom can be to set up. A weaver arrives with the warp all threaded through the heddles. All that needs to be done to weave is to put it on the loom, attach treadles and suspend shafts.

39

40

Often the very long warps (up to 90 m) for the supplementary weft weaving is loosely coiled in a bag and suspended from the back of the loom. In this case the warp has been wound on a board. This will result in even tension across the full width of this loom. Note that this warp board is tied onto the loom and not permanently fixed.

41

Bamboo stretchers are usually used. They are placed under the weaving, out of the way. You can tell on this weaving how frequently it has been moved. They are very useful when weaving weft ikat to keep the ikat consistently aligned.

Textile production form a part of daily life. Looms are found under the houses. Here chickens roost on the loom with the most complicated mat mi.

Many communities that are close to the Thai border have been impacted by the death of the Thai king. This is a year of morning. This has affected the sale of textiles for use in ceremonies including weddings. The village of Laha Nam has had a major downturn in indigo mat mi production. It has also resulted in an upturn in entertainment offered on the Laos side of the border with weekend tourism increasing.

It is sometimes difficult to identify which ethnic group is producing which cloth. At one gallery we were told that it comes from “the north”. This may be because a middle man/woman is involved in buying the cloth or that they are directing villages into producing cloth of a particular style because it is popular and readily saleable.

The issue of copyright is seen as a major one by many galleries. The best galleries aim at staying one step ahead of the competition. There are no laws that protect copyright.

How prevalent is handwoven fabric in today’s society? In general daily life women are the only ones who wear traditional dress in the form of the sinh or skirt. Along one road, I surveyed how many women were wearing the sinh as opposed to western dress. In this instance it was about even. It does however depend on where one is. Remote villages are more likely to retain traditional cloth and certain ethnic groups seem to value it more than others. Areas where there are government or public jobs often require women to wear the sinh as a uniform. School uniforms require the sinh to be worn though it is a commercially woven version.

44a

I thought this market we stopped at along the road between Savannaket and Vientiane provided an insight. On one side of the aisle was a shop selling western clothes while directly opposite was one selling the sinh.

45

The one area that still has high regard for traditional textiles and dress is the wedding industry. This will be the only time that men wear traditional dress. The cloth here exhibits a high standard of exclusiveness and workmanship.

We heard that the generation of Laos and International women who had dedicated their lives to promoting weaving either traditional or contemporary were approaching retirement with a lack of young blood coming through. This must impact on the future of weaving and textile production in Laos.

46a

 

DSC04144

I saw these two panels in the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum. They reflect the diverse attitudes in ethnic minority groups as to the value of traditional textiles.

The government will play a vital role in the future of textiles. It was very evident that Laos is undergoing great development with financial partnerships with China, Thailand and Vietnam. This is creating new jobs which pay so much more than textile rates. The rate of growth was extremely evident in Vientiane with high rise buildings appearing and in the proliferation of petrol stations along major roads.

The issue of the survival of traditional crafts in contemporary society is not new. As Laos moves into this new era of economic growth and the impact of the popularity of western dress increases, I hope that the knowledge and skills of those working with textiles will continue to be appreciated and for them to have a place for their work.

 

Coming: I will document the stages of mat mi, the indigo dyeing workshop we participated in and eventually a report on the textile experience in Cambodia.

  

 


February 2017 Part 1.

March 2, 2017

 

I am going to write 2 bogs for February. One will be on weaving in the studio (Part 2) while this will be the start of more to come.

I have just returned from an amazing textile research trip to Laos and Cambodia. Some was self- directed but there was also an organised textile tour. Over the next few months, I will be assimilating and reporting on aspects of this trip. There is a lot to take in and I have barely unpacked, so only a very brief taster will be shared here. It will be the start of things to come.

First up let me say that it has been just 2 years since I was in the north of Laos at Luang Prabang and 1 year since I was in Vientiane. There have been big changes connected with “progress”. One of note was the number of brand new fuel station along the roads. It felt like every kilometre there was one. Is this a sign of investment and even a raise in living standards? How has this impacted in particular on textiles? What has happened in the time that I was last here? These are some of the issues I will be considering later in addition to where I found textiles and the mechanics of various aspects of weaving.

dsc04608-400-x-600

The pink line outlines this trip. The orange on in 2015

First a brief overview of where I went. I started off in Ponsovan, then drove to Luang Prabang. Trood Newman joined me on this leg. At Luang Prabang we joined the Textile Tour, organised in a fashion by Intentionally Different. The two experts who absolutely made this trip were Valerie Kirk who has been travelling here for many years and has a wealth of textile knowledge to share and Jit, our local tour guide. From Luang Prabang we flew to Pakse. Using Pakse as a base we explored the area working our way down to Kong Island at the most southern part of Laos. Driving north we passed through Savannakhet to Vientiane where the tour finished. From there Trood and another friend, Libby Hepburn, and I explored the area around Siem Reap.

I am going to structure my report based on the areas that we visited before looking at in-depth aspects of weaving. Well that’s the plan.

Weaving in Ponsovan.

This area was heavily bombed in the Vietnam War and is often referred to as the “Secret War” as often the world didn’t recognise that Laos was a casualty in that conflict. Even now there are many unexploded ordinances (UXO). This has had the impact of much of the buildings needing to be rebuilt. Farming has been restricted because of the uncertainty when it comes to expanding farms and even digging in existing ones. There is a sense of ‘newness’ overlying tradition while at the same time progress being held in check because of the uxo’s and the community being kept poor. UNESCO is involved in clearing uxo. Land that was cleared needs to be re-cleared as more uxo become exposed. Tourism centres around the Plain of Jars. In a cultural sense, the actual jars are amazing. They are large stone jars. Why are they here? What were they used for? What significance in the development of culture did they have? They are awe inspiring. The shapes and forms and how they sit in the landscape are certainly a focus for contemplation. Even the fact that they survived the extensive bombing that happened in this area is a amazing.

 

Mulberries. www.mulberries.org

I was keen to visit Mulberries after my previous trip in 2015 where I came across the organisation in Luang Prabang. Mulberries was set up by Mrs Kommaly Chanthavong is a centre that focuses on the development of a sericulture industry. In 2015, I was aware that she developed this industry that involved the whole community and wanted to follow up on this project. Mrs Kommaly Chanthavong had because of her involvement in strengthening the position of women in the community been presented as an applicant for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is what I saw.

We drove to the centre on the outskirts of Xiengkhouang and met by a guide. This is the place where obviously the focus is on growing the mulberry trees and the raising of silk worms. We were shown all stages of silk production: reeling, skein winding, dyeing and weaving. It was disappointing that there were not many people working there when we visited. There were a couple of workers using skeining equipment while the dyers were off at a wedding and there were only 4 weavers at work. I wondered if some of the work that could be done off site (winding the silk from cocoon to skein, weaving and finishing) was being done off site and whether this centre apart from the silk worm/silk growing aspect was more of a collection/distribution centre. The weaving produced is sold in the gallery on site and in Vientiane. The retail outlet in Luang Prabang is now closed. In Vientiane, we visited the gallery and met with Mrs Kommaly Chanthavong. An interesting comment that she made was that the organisation was diversifying into soya production to support their community. I must admit that after the visit to the Centre, I felt that the strength of the textile production as to what I had remembered was not as great. More will be noted of Mulberries when we get to Vientiane.

dsc04062

Mulberries grows 5 varieties of silk worms with several of these being cross breeds.

 dsc04065

Silk being reeled from cocoons.

DSC04067.jpg

This equipment allows for many skeins to be prepared.

 dsc04074

One of the four weavers. She is using a vertical storage system with sticks. There was a loom set up with string looms to store pattern but it had a few cobwebs and was obviously not currently being used. I understand that bamboo sticks are preferred though when the space becomes too cramped to use these, they move to the loops instead.  All four weavers were using sticks. The weavers are from the Black Tai, Red Tai and Lao Phuan ethnic groups.

dsc04075

A close up look at what is being woven.

dsc04082

The gallery at Mulberries (Ponsovan)

Next: Luang Prabang.


March 2016

March 30, 2016

A textile tour to   Laos and Bhutan Part 1.

This trip started with a Laos extension with 2 friends (Bettes Silver-Schack and Deb McClintock) before we joined the tour to Bhutan.

Laos: Vientiane

The main purpose of this part of the trip was to attend the Paeng Mai Weaving School. This was just too good an opportunity not to value add. Deb had attended the school several times prior to this trip and was keen to re-attend, so we organised a 4 day class where we each chose a specific topic. Of course while we were in Vientiane we also added in a much textile related activities as we could.

Any basic loom information can be found on my previous trip to Laos/Thailand. The looms are similar. Here, I will be focussing on specifics related to the topics covered in the course.

I chose to work on the supplementary warp technique (Muk).

DSC02349

This is the traditional cloth from which I took my inspiration. I selected 2 of the supplementary warp motifs. As well as supplementary warp, it has weft ikat and brocade (discontinuous weft).

The basic loom was set up before I arrived though it was decided to move it as the light wasn’t great.

DSC02355

One of the advantages of this style of loom is that it can be easily dismantled and reassembled. Before adding in the extra warp, weaving of the ground begins. About 1 cm is woven. This provides a means of anchoring the supplementary warp later on.

DSC02375

The supplementary warp was wound. This is an extremely large warping board capable of winding a 60 metre warp. The principle of using a threading cross (bottom centre) is the same.

DSC02380

The supplementary warp is chained and taken to the loom.

DSC02383

Note the supplementary warp( white) is kept separate from the ground warp (black). It follows a different path and is tensioned separately. The angle of the supplementary warp under the ground warp is quite exaggerated. When required it is raised above the ground warp. When not required it will stay well out of the way. The warp is positioned on the loom frame before combining with the ground warp.

DSC02389

Once positioned, the supplementary warp is placed in its correct position in the ground warp. Each supplementary warp is passed through the vertical storage system, between the ground weave shafts and through the appropriate dent in the reed. The ground and supplementary warp alternate. The ground sett remains the same.

DSC02391

 

The supplementary warp is then secured on a stick at the front.

DSC02399

The next step: Adding the supplementary warp heddles. Each warp thread is allotted to a shaft ( length of bamboo) and a heddle constructed. In this case there are 6 shafts with the supplementary threaded point twill (11 threads)

DSC02402

When required according to the design, the shafts are picked up and raised. This “S” shaped hook secures the selected threads while 2 ground rows are woven. In this case 5 shafts were required and are on the hook. It varies every 2 rows according to the drafted design. That “s” hook is suspended by a series of rubber bands to give stretch to allow movement of the shafts on and off the hook.

DSC02403

Weaving progresses. Note: The single supplementary warp threads alternating with a single ground thread. (The weaver would be at the top of the image).

DSC02418

Close up showing some supplementary warps picked up and left unused. There is no danger of the warp being accidentally caught.

DSC02429

The warp is weighted to ensure it stays down.

DSC02439

I’ve finished weaving…. well me and my loom buddy, Tan,  have finished. Whenever I got up she would keep weaving and she was at it before I got to the studio and after I left. I did weave at least half. At least it got finished just before time was up on the last day.

DSC02406

Meanwhile Bettes has worked on a brocade technique (Chok) using a vertical storage system.

DSC02351

Deb had decided that she wanted to master a lace weave technique that she had seen on a traditional cloth. The loom was set up to aid the picking up of the leno groups but it is all finger manipulated. It originally was a Tai Lue technique.

Deb has mastered ‘Pineapple” leno.

DSC02449 (2)

The finished scarves. From LHS Bettes, mine and Deb’s scarves.

The following are a couple of interesting tips.

Until now I had used a knot above the head of the weaver to tension the warp. It must be undone and then reformed. However this modification means that the knot does not have to be shifted. The rope allows for the warp to be released, advanced and then retightened.

The following are a couple of interesting places to visit.

Lao Textile Museum

This is a privately owned museum which had a display of looms, traditional textiles and a shop with the focus on silk. I noted a couple of loom modifications. There was also an amazing collection of textiles.

DSC02309

On one of the looms that was set up, we noticed the bottom bar is extended. This is an alternative device that separates the supplementary warp from the ground warp.

DSC02310

This is an example of the supplementary warp fabric woven on this loom.

Carol Cassidy     www.laotextiles.com  A well known and long time USA entrepreneur/weaver, living in Vientiane who works with local weavers selling through her workshop/gallery.

Taykeo Textiles Gallery  An amazing collection of historical textiles as well as modern traditionally based ones. Taykeo Sayavongkhamdy is owner.

DSC02459

Detail of one of the silk supplementary weft brocade cloths based in a traditional design.

Bangkok

A free day in Bangkok while we waited to join the tour to Bhutan, meant that there was an opportunity to visit The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. Deb had organised a private tour with a curator. Unfortunately there’s no photography allowed of the exhibitions but at the end of the tour we came across this weaver and some interactive displays. This is an amazingly complex fabric. And she managed to keep track of what was going where while talking to us.

 

The Jim Thompson House is also worth a visit. www.jimthompsonhouse.com

Over the next few days I hope to post the second instalment of my last adventure where I go to Bhutan- where there are the most amazing living textiles.

 


October 2015

November 4, 2015

Firstly as usual, student work and then there’s more on the Laos project.

This month I travelled to Go Create, halfway between Walcha and Uralla in the New England region of NSW. It is a stunning destination. They are offering a wide range of predominantly textile related classes. www.gocreatenewengland.com

DSC01878

The six students explored weaving with recycled materials. Two were absolute new weavers, two had limited experience and two were more experienced. By the end of the first day, you couldn’t tell the difference in technique between the beginners and more experienced. I was delighted! I was also delighted by how enthusiastically they embraced using a wide range of materials, exploring methods of incorporating them into the woven structure. Three sessions explored specific techniques with the last allowing for individual exploration. The following shows the group and what was accomplished. This is followed by an image of individual students’ work. It was a great weekend.

DSC01875

DSC01838

DSC01840

DSC01860

DSC01842

DSC01863

DSC01864

In the studio: Fleur finishes her scarf. This project was of her own design, using an aspect of the sampling from her first project.

DSC01823

And she begins her third project. Fleur has acquired some silk to weave a scarf and wanted to do some warp painting. It’s also her first attempt at dyeing. She’s on an exciting journey.

DSC01836

Now for the continuing Laos loom experiment.

Last month I got to the point of having the pattern stored. It is a relatively simple matter to transfer the stored design to weave the supplementary weft pattern.

Here’s a brief movie of a traditional weaver (Laos and Thailand) How to use a vertical storage system using bamboo memory rods. www.youtube.com/vNxPTl0sWVM

The process that I used: Remove the pattern stick from its support.

DSC01741

Lower it closer to the warp. Swish it front to back till there’s a cleared gap.

DSC01743

I put an extra stick in which is not as flexible to move the heddles at the front well forward, though traditionally this isn’t done. That extra stick is also insurance so that I can move the pattern stick to its next position: either above or below the warp and know that I’ll not have picked up or lost any of the stored design: in this case it is moved to below the warp line.

DSC01744

With the pattern heddles moved well towards the front, it is a simple process to raise the selected heddles by pulling on them so that the sword can be inserted.

DSC01746

When turned on its side the pattern row is ready to weave. This image shows the sword turned on its side behind the plain weave shafts and beater with the pattern shuttle in the shed.

DSC01748

There are two pattern rows woven for each lift with plain weave between. You do not need to take the sword out. If it is pushed back, having the sword in has no effect on compromising the shed for the plain weave.

DSC01749

I have used this basic process to also weave the brocade or discontinuous weft pattern. A pattern weft is required for each motif.

DSC01766

When I saw the ladies in Laos weaving I enquired if they only used one foot. No one used two. Now I know why. It is much easier to control these free hanging treadles if a heel and toe action is used. The one foot controls the position of the treadles. They don’t move as much as the foot is always connected to both, all be it in a very minor way when not using one of them. It is all very motion efficient.

DSC01757

As each pattern area is woven, the pattern sticks are moved above and below the warp line. When they are below, there’s no need for any support.

DSC01795

Another pattern area is woven.

DSC01796

The weaving is completed.

DSC01804

Now to separate the scarf while making sure I retain the stored pattern. I may want to reuse this at a later date and with the Laos system, this is possible. I want to keep the vertical storage system threaded and able to be reused but without the stored pattern. Firstly, I reinsert the lease sticks as I want to be able to rethread this warp later for plain weave and using a more western set of shafts and further experimentation. These are moved to behind the vertical storage system and can be moved to the front when I’m ready.

DSC01810

Then, I transfer the vertically stored pattern to the horizontal. In essence I use a similar method to when I was weaving, however keeping in the sticks in the warp. They are positioned as close to the plain weave shafts as possible.

DSC01807

Once all the pattern sticks have been transferred, I carefully cut the warp between the storage system and the series of sticks, knotting on both sides.

DSC01812

Once the knots have been undone, the entire collection of stored pattern, shafts, reed and woven scarf can be removed from the loom.

DSC01815

Now to separate the stored pattern and scarf. Once the scarf is cut off, the warp in front of the reed is secured. I can now put the stored pattern to one side to be used at a later date if required.

DSC01818

DSC01819

DSC01821

Finally I have completed the project. Some detail:

DSC01830

This image shows my scarf with the original source of inspiration.

DSC01824

Now that I have completed the project there are some points I want to explore. This loom has many similarities to a western drawloom in that both have two sets of heddles. One is to weave the plain weave base fabric, the other to select the supplementary pattern. One of the questions I have is: How do they compare and is there any difference in efficiency? This image shows the two sets of heddles on a drawloom. On the left are the shafts which will be used for plain weave. On the left are those for the supplementary weft pattern.

DSC01932

For this project I have used the same warp though it has been threaded at a more open sett (density of the warp threads) to allow for the same warp and weft yarn to be used this time. I have also decided to keep to the original basic design although on a narrower width. The design for the pattern stripes is based on this scarf that uses the basic motif in an all over design and with some different stripe patterns.

DSC01923

I have also decided to simplify the border and transition. The original requires about 40 pattern shafts. This simplified version, just 14 . Here’s the draft. For optimal weaving to provide distance between the plain weave and pattern shafts, I have chosen to start threading the pattern shafts on shaft 3.

Drawloom pattern

This is the process that I used to weave the pattern: The loom is threaded so that each thread that works in the same way will be on the same shaft. To weave a pattern row the warp threads on each shaft that makes up the pattern are selected. So for the first pattern row (the one at the top), I need to pull shafts 4, 5, 8, 11 and 13. This process needs to be done after every plain weave row. It is very labour intensive with multiple shafts being pulled for each pattern row every time one is required. There’s no stored design option here.

DSC01925

The scarf nearly finished. All I have to do is weave 12 cm of plain weave.

DSC01933

How did they compare?

Setting up to weave: On the drawloom, the warp was beamed and then threaded through firstly the pattern shafts and then the front plain weave shafts. I much preferred the other loom where I just knotted and tied on and then beamed the warp (after of course experimenting with the traditional method of handling a warp).

Using the pattern shafts to store the pattern: On the Laos loom, it was extremely slow to pick up and store the pattern on the sticks. Initially I did wonder about have the equivalent of these sticks on each pattern shaft on the drawloom. That would have meant that I could just pull one cord and the appropriate row be selected. However, the number of long eyed heddles would have been huge as each pattern repeat would have required 105 long short eyed heddles. There are 7 repeats. I just didn’t have them. So instead, I threaded it in a point threading on 12 shafts.

Using the pattern shafts to weave the pattern: See the descriptions above. On the drawloom, I had to select several pull cords to achieve the right combination for the pattern whereas there was just one bamboo stick for the Laos pattern row. Where the pattern was repeated a number of times, the Laos loom was the most efficient; it just needed the sword to be turned on its side after each plain weave row. The pattern sword stayed in place. The drawloom required a number of cords to be pulled each time. Because the Laos system was new, I got up for each pattern change. The ladies who do this normally just change from the seated position. If I didn’t do this, they would probably take about the same length of time. The pulling of the cords probably allows for a greater incidence of mistake as the Laos pattern is preselected.

Storing the pattern for another time: On the Laos loom, the pattern, plain weave and reed has been stored and can be reused to duplicate the next project. It would be possible to change the sett by rethreading. I’ll have to set up the drawloom from the beginning for another project.

As the drawloom has a number of pattern shafts there is more loom waste than on the Laos loom in its current format with all the pattern ‘shafts’ stored vertically.

By the way, I’m finding the Laos loom much lighter to weave plain weave than the countermarched action of the drawloom in spite of treadles that are not fixed.

Here’s a look at what I have just completed. The woven scarf with the original.

DSC01942

My working collection: two original scarves with two that I’ve woven.

DSC01946

There’s an exciting development in the studio. I have decided that I’m enjoying weaving “in the garden” very much but I do not enjoy being exposed to the wind and rain. I am now in the process of achieving the best of both worlds with the patio being weatherproofed.

DSC01926


September 2015

October 2, 2015

As last month’s post extended into this months, there appears to be not as much happening as usual. Firstly I’ll report on a beginner weaver’s completed projects, a road trip that included teaching for the Canberra Weavers guild and of course the ongoing Laotian loom project.

DSC01684

Last month Fleur finished her first warp. Here are the washed and finished series of handtowels.

The end of the second week this month saw me set off on a road trip. The first major stop was the Canberra Weavers where they did a 3 day workshop on East Meets West. It was only on the final day when everyone was packing up that I remembered the camera. It was a very busy workshop with many techniques being explored. The guild own their own building and the facilities are terrific. They obviously take great and well deserved pride in their home: from the gardens to the actual space. It was a great venue to work in.

DSC01688

Here packing up has commenced as there are cleared tables while others just want to keep working.

DSC01689

It’s certainly a sign of their dedication and interest to want to keep working right up till the last possible moment. The following shows some of the work that was accomplished. It’s unfortunate that some escaped before I remembered the camera.

DSC01686

DSC01692

DSC01693

DSC01695

My hostess, Pam (who really did spoil me) took me to the Arboretum where I enjoyed this sculpture. I love the flow of the metal form and then how it transforms into script.

DSC01698

DSC01699

On leaving Canberra, I headed north. An examination of a map shows that by heading straight up on a map, you’ll eventually run into Blackwater. I was headed there primarily to collect my Pattern exhibition that had been in storage there for some months. Along the way, I had a morning off and went hiking in the Warrumbungle National Park. The spring flowers were out and it was very beautiful. I also did a 6 km hike. It seems to me that 2 of those were straight up and of course 2km straight down, but the view was spectacular.

DSC01702

DSC01707

Another couple of day’s drive saw me in Blackwater. Not far away is another wonderful destination: The Carnarvon Gorge. I’d been there before and have been inspired by the aboriginal rock art in my work. I took time to revisit these ancient sites.

DSC01722

DSC01711

DSC01723

Total distance covered: 5,171km and home to a garden that in a matter of less than 3 weeks has embraced Spring.  Now to the delight of the rainbow lorikeets there is great abundance of bottlebrush flowers. This is just outside my kitchen window..

DSC01737

There has not been much time tis month to work on the Laos Project. However when I left, I was very aware of the advantage of the original set up where the warp was tensioned by a knot at the front of the loom and the warp being free of the loom. If I hadn’t wound it onto a cloth beam, I could have removed the whole lot very easily from the loom and put it in storage for the time I was away, safe from the elements. As it was, I just walked away and left it on the patio and hoped that the weather would be kind.

DSC01680

I have completed the pick up of the graphed design. (see previous month)

DSC01676

There’s the full stored pattern.

Hopefully this month, I may be able to have a good block of time to start weaving the stored pattern.


August 2015

September 7, 2015

The blog this month covers workshops and then more on my Great Experiment.

But firstly a gathering of friends and another studio celebration. Cathy and Peer Moon donated a mutual friend’s loom. They had Marjorie’s loom in storage for quite some time and decided that it needed a new home. It will be a very useful addition. By the end of August there were students weaving on it – you’ll see it in action later on. At the same time Janet de Boer selected work for The Director’s Choice exhibition at Gallery 159 to be held in November.

DSC01509

Cathy and Peter Moon, Helen Barnard and Janet de Boer celebrate amongst the looms.

The Gold Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild hosted another workshop at Bornhoffen. Apart from an excellent venue for a workshop why wouldn’t one come here?

DSC01513

The topic was Colour and Weave. About half the students elected to work in a round robin while the others elected to work on individual projects.

The following are some images from the workshop. Firstly there’s some general images, then the results of the round robin. Each warp was divided up so that students took their own samples. Then there’s individual student’s work.

DSC01515

DSC01514

DSC01522

DSC01528

DSC01540

DSC01555

DSC01552

DSC01557

DSC01551

DSC01561

DSC01526

DSC01562

DSC01563

DSC01564 b

It was a highly successful workshop. I am impressed by what was achieved. It was also great fun.

The first weekly class has finished with very satisfying results. There were 3 students, all inexperienced.

In 5 weeks Maxine completed two projects.Firstly an introductory project where students learnt a variety of basic skills.

DSC01594 (600 x 400)

And then a project of her own choosing. It was going to be vest material but Maxine decided it was just too beautiful as it was. A great effort!

DSC01601 (600 x 400)

Melissa examines her project. There’s a lot of information here: lots of different structures and an exploration of colour. Another great result.

DSC01599 (400 x 600)

Isn’t this a great result? Fleur knew she wanted to weave but had never seen it done. I’ll look forward to seeing them finished. Her work was much admired by these weavers,

DSC01621 (600 x 400)

Marg Barnett, a wonderful shibori artist and friend decided that she really needed to find a home for her loom. She had acquired it in 1987 but then discovered shibori so no more weaving.  I’ll look forward to getting it working. Yes another loom in my space and another plaque coming up.

DSC01603 (400 x 600)

There has been another 5 day workshop. This time three students came from Vic., NSW and Qld for intensive study of woven shibori.

They wove……

DSC01655 (600 x 400)

8 looms were set up in a variety of structures and yarns so that a wide range of techniques could be explored. Here Jennifer and Lynda weave on an 8 shaft countermarched and 16 shaft computer assist respectively.

This is Marjorie’s loom in action with Virginia (the loom donated by Cathy and Peter). All students enjoyed it.

DSC01653 (600 x 400)

They pulled up to dye…..

DSC01624 (600 x 400)

They worked so hard, showing great commitment. We also had a lot of fun along the way. Morning tea and an examination of results.

DSC01650 (600 x 400)

At the end of 5 days this is what they each managed to produce. What a collection!

DSC01657 (600 x 400)

DSC01660 (600 x 400)

DSC01662 (600 x 400)

The level of commitment shows in what they managed to achieve. I am certainly impressed.

I had the opportunity to visit the local Spinners and Weavers Guild. It was a real treat to spend time with these ladies. It brought back great memories as it was the first guild that I belonged to. There were some familiar faces from a long time ago. What a shame I forgot the camera. http://redlandsspinnersandweavers,wordpress.com

Now for my continuing adventures with my replica Laotian loom experiment… well as of last month it did undergo some modifications but it remains the Great Experiment.

The following is a movie from my recent Laos trip and will give reference to what I’m about to undertake.

How to make a vertical storage system on a Laos loom.

I have graphed out the design from one of the scarves I collected in Laos. Each squares represents 2 warp threads.

DSC01582 (600 x 400)

From this graphed design I have picked up the pattern on the loom. Getting it perfectly centred took a couple of tries. Using cotton ties to identify pattern change and centre certainly helped.

DSC01632 (600 x 400)

I know that I have to get this picked up design to behind the plain weave shafts to transfer it to the vertical storage system. To do this I did it in two stages, Firstly I turned the pick up stick on its side and transferred it to behind the beater, then repeated the process to transfer it to behind the shafts. I confirm that I’ve got all the warp threads (pairs) at each stage.

DSC01633 (600 x 400)

DSC01634 (600 x 400)

Then to transfer it to the storage system. I had tried with my usual wide sword (middle one in the image below) and discovered that it was difficult to do the transfer with ease. I knew that I’d need a super wide one. I recognised that my wood working skills are basic and came up with an alternative by going to my favourite place for perspex (Plastic Welded Supplies at Capalaba). I got them to make me one with smoothed off edges. It works a treat. Here are the pick up stick and 2 swords that I use for the transfers. While the wide one is not necessary for the previous transfer it is absolutely essential for the next stage.

DSC01669 (600 x 400)

This is the process I used: First position the sword immediately behind the plain weave shafts. Then bring all the pattern heddles forward. Turn the sword on its edge and hey presto the heddles not selected slide backward leaving a gap. This wide sword makes the job so much easier. Then I’ve inserted a narrow dowel in the gap and moved it to the top suspending it by putting them in the loop of Texsolv cord. It works a treat. In Laos I saw both yarn and bamboo being used to store the design. (see previous posts) I’ve decided to use the equivalent of the bamboo rods instead of a cord purely because I think it may be easier to manage. I’ll try the other later.

DSC01640 (600 x 400)

DSC01641 (600 x 400)

DSC01643 (600 x 400)

At some stage one does have to weave. This is the process that I’ve worked out is best for me. After removing the picked up design just once without storing it and having to pick up again, one recognises the need to have a system in place!

1.  Pick up the design and transfer it to behind the plain weave shafts. Do not remove any of the pick up sticks. Weave the pattern row by turning the pick up stick on its side. Remove the stick and the sword between the beater and plain weave shafts. Check that the pattern and picked up pairs is correct.

2. Transfer the pattern to the vertical storage system. It’s insurance knowing that it is stored but keep the sword in place.

3. Weave plain weave. It’s necessary to remove all but the wide sword to allow for the plain weave shafts to move.

4. Turn the wide sword on its side and weave the pattern row.

5. Weave plain weave.

The process is slow but I’ve only got a couple more rows of the design to store.

DSC01672 (600 x 400)

Here are some observations: Lightness of equipment and movability are very beneficial.

Having those light weight lengths of wood as treadles allows for the heddles on the shafts to move freely- very necessary in transferring design. The ability of the shafts to move forward and backwards facilitates transfer and weaving as each stage is processed. I have the vertical storage system under flexible tension with it being anchored by stockings tied to a brick. The brick anchors it, while the stockings allows for tension, necessary in the opening of the vertical storage system during the selection process. In the movie, the weaver re-tensions with her feet. I had to find an alternative as my toes don’t work that way. Here’s a general look at the loom to show these systems in place. The bricks are insurance for when it rains.

DSC01664 (400 x 600)

I am looking forward to weaving without pick up. It’ll be soon. Lastly a close up view of the border so far.

DSC01675 (600 x 400)