A Tour in Words + Pictures: Anni Albers at the Tate

Anni Albers’ Loom- 8-Shaft Structo Artcraft Handloom

         Walking through the beautiful Tate Modern there is a wide variety of exhibitions to visit. A modern art museum shows all the familiar fine art mediums; sculpture, photography, moving image, and of course painting. What I had not expected to ever see was an exhibition dedicated to textiles. But this was not just any textile exhibition. The scale of it – the amount of works spanning Anni Albers’ career, the work of the Bauhaus, the tools, the starting points in how she planned her works, the commercial pieces –  this exhibition covered it all. Including looking closely at the different materials she used in her weavings next to woven samples for visitors to touch and a 3 screened film showing in close-up detail parts of the loom and the weavers hands. It is poetry in motion.

Poetry in Motion

Simon Barker Studio Warping, Threading, Weaving, Drawing 2014-15

Digital video 13 min 02 sec 

This film was made at the Joseph and Anni Albers Foundation in Connecticut, USA, with artist/weaver Ismini Samanidou. The parts of two ‘Structo Artcraft’ looms that had belonged to Anni Albers, and been used since her time at Black Mountain College in the 1930s, were repaired and restored to working order by the two artists. The film documents the slow, meditative process of Ismini Samanidou making a Japanese paper thread warp, threading it onto the loom and then weaving.

The film has been exhibited as part of an installation including the film ‘Continuous Line’, sound piece ‘Anni Albers’, 20 woven pieces by Ismini Samanidou, including some woven on Anni Albers’ looms, and a construction by Ismini Samanidou and Simon Barker ‘Heddle Construction’, using 600 heddles that had belonged to Anni Albers. 

A three channel video installation of this film is currently shown as part of the Anni Albers retrospective at Tate Modern.

Simon Barker Studio Warping, Threading, Weaving, Drawing 2014-15

Pictorial Weavings

Open Letter, 1958, Detail
Development in Rose I and Development in Rose II, 1952
Development in Rose I, 1952, Detail
Development in Rose II, 1952, Detail

Some weavings made for interiors and commercial building were monumental in scale. Curtains for a auditorium being one,that shimmered silver from the use of metallic threads.

Free Hanging Room Dividers

The Pliable Plane, Free Hanging Room Dividers, 1948-1949, Detail

I spent two hours going round the rooms, and to be honest I could have spent double the time and not completely taken in all the intricacy, wealth of knowledge and skill that is on exhibit.

The exhibition spanned 7 rooms, most of which were large and held work that ranged from small colorful gouache on paper studies that were works of art in their own right. Full of precision, geometric shapes, planned with a draftsman like accuracy and colored in with matte gouache.

Bauhaus Design for a Wall Hanging 1926

Work on display also included lithographs, embossed paper studies that at first you thought was blank paper until at the right angle you saw the maze of triangles interlocking forming new shapes and  images. The pattern drafts for many of her woven pieces including notes and tiny woven swatches on a paper written in the 1940’s.

The Albers also spent time in Peru and there was many examples in one room of historical Peruvian weaving which informed some of Albers’ later pieces. Many of the techniques that Anni used are still in use in 21st century weaving today, both on the floor loom, table, tapestry and the rigid heddle looms. Warp and weft thread manipulation techniques, supplemental warp being only a couple I could identify.

Albers’ work is many decades old. But still has a modernity. Looking at her weaving you can recall seeing something similar in a home you had visited, in a interior design showroom or a interiors magazine. Her influence is widespread and visible in the world of contemporary textiles to this day.

Six Prayers, 1966-1967, Detail

About Danielle Scott

Danielle Scott is an Artist and Weaver living in London, UK.

“By chance I found The Weaving Workshop. I was in one of my other fiber groups on Facebook and it came up as recommended groups. What caught my eye was the beautiful weaving thumbnail. I have always had a interest and love of fiber arts. I have embroidered on and off since I was 10 years old. I learned cross stitch in primary school. I went onto do art was taught by three different tutors who had their own specialisms. One of the pieces I made was a mixed media embroidery based on peacock feathers. I used every reel of thread in my mums sewing box, stitched on various handmade papers that I bought from The London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden.

During my self chosen project which was on the theme of clothing, cloth, women and stories of my life. I learned about the American Art to Wear movement from a book of the same name by Julie of Julie Artisan Gallery. Through this work I discovered that macrame could be turned into a halter neck that cradles rock quartz. Pictorial and figurative images can be knitted into massive kimonos, ribbons and all sorts of materials could be woven on a floor loom. 

I then went onto Camberwell College of Art and delved deeper into all art forms but settled on fashion. After my dreams of Central Saint Martins were dashed, I applied for Goldsmiths for the BA (Hons) textile course. There one of the specialisms was constructed textiles. We were introduced to and wove on the table looms. 4/8 and 16 shafts. It was the first time I had got up close to a floor loom. Renowned weaver Margot was one of our tutors. I still didn’t know about rigid heddle looms or that I could buy a tapestry loom apart from a little cardboard one. But I did learn about using needle weaving and shaped tapestry to make jewelery. Through the book Beads and Threads a New Technique for Fiber Jewelry and the follow up Fiber and Bead Jewelry: Beautiful Designs to Make and Wear by Helen Banes. 

Years passed, I gave the book away. All the other information I knew about tapestry weaving was from a friend who shared a series of books called Art Textiles of the World. I had all of them. But my favorite was Great Britain Volume 1 with the works of weavers who created massive pieces that looked like paintings or torn paper collages. During this time I learned about the weaver Jon Eric Riis. His tapestries blow my mind.

I also am a self taught bead embroiderer. No expert. But seeing how he combines such luxurious surfaces, the fine detail of the images, the textures of the stones and pearls. The stories he literally weaves are just epic. Over time through magazines such as Mollie Makes I found out more about tapestry weaving now and got two small tapestry looms that were freebies. But it’s only in the last year that I decided to find out more and stop hoarding supplies. Especially once I found Instagram and saw the work on there. Then somewhere along the way discovered rigid heddle looms and spinning. I now have a Ashford knitter’s loom that was a bargain buy.  And a Louet s10 spinning wheel from a lady who gave it to me for free and in her attic had a floor loom 4 shafts I think that was originally from IKEA in Sweden. Her name is Brita and she wove rugs on it using the yarn she had handspun on her Louet. So I hope to learn and feel like I have come full circle. I hope to learn more about weaving and can get some of my ideas into cloth.

Cloth is so important so with us always, from cradle to grave, through tears, fears, the years, joys and sorrows.

2 thoughts on “A Tour in Words + Pictures: Anni Albers at the Tate

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