Textiles as a Medium
From a very early age I’ve always been a maker, working and creating with my hands absorbed me for hours, I found a deep sense of pleasure and satisfaction when I finished making each piece, in what ever form that took. Very quickly I was drawn to wool and knitted textiles became my focus, I happily worked my way through bright highly detailed Patricia Roberts patterns to Rowan magazines, knitting garments and accessories.
But it was woven textiles that I sought to fill my home – welsh blankets from family holidays in Pembrokeshire, woven linens gathered and quietly used at family meals. And yet it hadn’t really occurred to me that it was possible for me to weave cloth until a friend introduced me to some local weavers who offered classes, when I held the cloth they produced I was smitten and a world of possibility opened – I too could make cloth that could be functional, beautiful and made out of wool.
I could live in the weaving mill at Melin Tregwynt, tucked away in a deep valley on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales. They weave a contemporary take on traditional double cloth welsh blankets, the colours and colour mixing is beautiful – although their cloth is mill woven it’s designed on a hand loom – woolen cloth to wrap, to nest, to comfort. To design and weave some double cloth that I could have mill woven is still one of my dreams. But it was on my Diploma of Handweaving that I slowly found my voice.
Inspiration + influences
I think it’s my early training as a botanist that taught me to carefully observe and my later training as a yoga teacher that cultivated the ability to express myself creatively.
Responding to the Land
I have realized that the landscapes of the wilder places that we travel to have influenced my colour palettes and the textures I weave.
I seemed to find a way for each of my projects to be inspired by the wild places we love.
The more I wove cloth the more I felt that I was responding to the land, to the places I found myself in, the echoes that ancient ones left in ripples and bumps over old moor, dry stone walls or crumbling black houses on Hebridean islands.
Colour became increasingly important in my work – I use one or two ends in a warp to help the other colours to sing – I shade and blend to reflect moor or mountain, pebbles and sea.
In my Yoga teaching I use language and voice to hold a space for my students to relax and unwind in, threading and weaving a story – a narrative throughout the class while I’m teaching. Playing with words and language brought that element of narrative into my weaving, so when I’m designing – the cloth becomes a song or a poem or even a spell to the land.
Process from conception to conclusion
It starts with the travel to the edges of our islands, the western edges, where wild Atlantic Ocean meets beach or cliff. I walk, immerse – watch the colours shift and change with the light, in the cloudscapes, the sea, moorlands and mountains. I look for the underland, the ridges left by old field systems, moss draped stones from tumbled down blackhouses dissolving into the earth, the grey tracery of dry stone walls, echoes of ancient communities and past lives lived.
I take photographs – another passion that has worked its way in to my creative process – often in my mind the bones of a story start to form. As soon as we get back home I start a Sketchbook, print off my photos and begin to colour hunt, sometimes paint, look for for textures and write words that speak to what I’ve seen and then find the yarn colours that I think might work in the story. Initially I make a selection of yarn wrappings before choosing a palette that will become my first warp.
The texture of the land will inform my first weave structure to try and then it’s on to the loom – where I sample many times before finally I find a piece of cloth that reflects what I’ve seen.
I often find that the loom has a say too, the way the colours interact in the structure of the cloth that’s being woven isn’t always how I envisaged, they might be flat and dull or shout at each other in an uncomfortable way or I might discover new colour mixes – it’s as if the loom is also part of this conversation too.
I go back and forth snippets of cloth to sketchbook and photos before committing to a larger piece. I weave in small batches – at the moment it’s wraps, cushions and throws.
I’m still finding my voice as a weaver and building small collections of weaving responding to the landscapes I love. I’m really enjoying the whole process of photography, playing with words as part of my narrative and the cloth that comes from the landscapes I love.