This winter I had the opportunity to teach a beginning tapestry class with a friend. The weaving guild we were teaching for didn’t have any tapestry looms. In the past, tapestry teachers provided looms, usually copper pipe looms, for their students to use during the class. We explored options.
The guild was very supportive and willing to buy looms for the class. Factors we considered were how to store the looms after the class, the cost, and how to handle the possibility that a student may want to take the loom home to weave between classes or purchase the loom after the class. The loom also needed to be small enough to be used on the surface of a TV tray.
We discussed having the students purchase a loom as a part of the supply fee. The least expensive commercial looms we could find cost approximately one hundred dollars and maybe more with the cost of shipping and handling. That seemed a bit much to ask of beginning tapestry students who may not even like tapestry weaving. Making their own looms didn’t seem realistic either.
Copper pipe looms were explored as an option. Copper has gone up so much in price that the copper pipe plus parts needed would have cost fifty dollars for a 12” x 12” loom. I didn’t want to spend that much money to provide a loom for each student or require the students to purchase a copper pipe loom.
My husband and I discussed how to provide looms at an affordable cost to us and the students. The solution was a small frame loom made with threaded rods, wooden horizontal bars to hold the threaded rods, and wing nuts to provide a way to apply or change tension to the warp. My husband made the looms for the students, my friend, and me to have for the class. Several of the students chose to purchase a loom so they could weave after the class. The cost to the students if they wished to purchase the looms was $20.
You can download the plan for the looms and some ideas for a stand to hold the loom in the links below the plan. We hope you will find the plans and ideas useful to make your own loom. The loom can be made larger or smaller depending on the need.
So quickly, the new year is here. We’re in that quiet time before the spring and summer activities begin, and TWS has a lot going on.
First, the “Follow the Thread” exhibit is up at the Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC. The exhibit is gorgeous! Betty Hilton-Nash has done an excellent job, along with Niki Josheff of the Folk Art Center, with this display. Thank you, Betty!
Hélène Crié is doing a wonderful job with the TWS Facebook and Instagram pages. These pages are picture dependent, and Hélène needs your help desperately, and it is a way to show your work. Please post your work, classes, tapestry tips, exhibits you are in or know about and anything else tapestry related to the Facebook page. Hélène will take it from there and get the information to Instagram.
April Price and Leslie Fesperman have planned the June TWS retreat, workshop, classes, and exhibits. The Yadkin Valley Fiber Center has been making tremendous progress this year. There may be some changes to the retreat and workshop. Details are in the membership newsletter. In addition to the TWS activities, there are several local events happening at the same time in Elkin, NC. Details of these events and the Blue Ridge Fiber Festival are also in the membership newsletter, so get your details and start planning now. It is one opportunity to meet and be together in person.
Deb Gottlieb is looking into establishing a Zoom account for TWS. A TWS online meet up is in the works. Betty Hilton-Nash is planning to have a virtual tour of the Folk Art Center exhibit ready to share with membership during the meet up. It is an opportunity to see each other virtually, since we are such a spread out group. Once plans are complete, members will receive an email with details.
Finally, TWS needs a new president and a secretary. It doesn’t matter where you live. Board meetings are via Zoom. All board members are volunteers. Please let us know if you can help.
Hope your looms are warped and being filled with wonderful weaving! Weave on! Terri Bryson
Suddenly, it’s fall. The leaves are putting on their best colors and dazzling our eyes. 2022 has been an unpredictable year with many obstacles tossed in the path of many people, but there have been good things as well. I am just back home from the retreat. It was a fun experience, and I learned a lot. In addition to tapestry, we had fun dyeing with indigo. Best of all, at the retreat we shared the experiences with tapestry weavers. For me, the retreat was exactly what I needed, and I treasure the people I was fortunate to spend the time with.
First, I want to give a huge Thank You to April Price and Leslie Fesperman. April and Leslie are a great team working to see that the retreat and exhibit happen. Due to unexpected problems at the mill, Leslie had to move and switch gears for the Fiber Center more than once. That also meant April was shifting gears with retreat plans. They really came through! Leslie found a space for the exhibit that we had in June. The retreat date had to be moved from June to October. During that time Leslie found a permanent home for the Fiber Center. Next year, the retreat will be back to the normal time in June along with the annual exhibit some of which will be moving from the Folk Art Center. Be sure to read your newsletter to get the exhibit details as well as details about the postcard project. Betty had pictures of the postcards that are finished already. They are delightful.
The board to use some of our money to support documenting the careers of Edwina and Cynthia Bringle. A donation has been sent to Toe River Arts for the Bringle project, a film about Edwina and Cynthia and their impact on Penland and the community. As many of you know, Edwina has been very involved in the fiber community and is a tapestry artist. Cynthia is a master potter The board also voted to sponsor an episode of HGA’s Textiles and Tea. We have requested that that HGA sponsor if possible one of our TWS members or another tapestry artist. As we hear more about that, we’ll be letting you know.
We are an all-volunteer organization. That means there are no paid staff members. We still need a secretary and a vice president. In the meantime, some duties are being performed as an extra duty by existing board members. For example, in addition to planning retreats, April Price also takes care of the library and takes notes at meetings. April voluntarily does this, and her efforts are much appreciated. Thank you, April! Sarah is working to transition the Membership Chair to Jean Clark after serving as Membership Chair for five years. Sarah’s work is much appreciated. Laurie O’Neill is managing the website for us also much appreciated. Deb Gottlieb keeps the treasury up to date and keeps us on track with TWS funds. Thank you, Deb! Helene Crie takes care of the social media and keeps it updated. Janet Hart is our long serving historian. Thank you, Janet! Many of these things wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have dedicated volunteers. If you have skills and some spare time that you can share with TWS, please let us know.
Wishing everyone Happy Holidays and wonderful weaving for the rest of 2022 and into 2023!!
Fiona Hutchison is an Edinburgh weaver, who studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and has been teaching weaving for many years. Please take a look at her website: https://www.fionahutchison.co.uk.
We all followed our own paths in the class but they were based on a couple of new techniques that Fiona demonstrated. One was weaving narrow strips of tapestry side by side, then pulling the warps to distort the work once it was off the loom. Another technique was creating surface texture by using different materials, wool, linen, nettle fiber, weaving 2 x 2 instead of over 1, under 1, leaving small open warps, weaving roughly, not smoothing out the yarns and letting them poke out randomly (linen was good for this, as it would hold its shape). She also showed us how to add a wrapped cording to the surface of our weaving, and integrate it into the weaving.
As a committed Gobelin/Aubusson style weaver for 30 years, trying always to achieve the flat surface with perfect edges, all of a sudden I could breathe deeply and just play and explore. This for me was the ah hah moment. So new direction for me, I can’t wait to go forward and explore these new techniques.
Here are some pictures from the class. Enjoy.
Exploring surface texture. (Betty Hilton-Nash)
On the loom, prior to cutting off. (Betty Hilton-Nash)
Pulled warp technique; still some manipulating left to do. (Betty Hilton-Nash)
Whipped cording and surface manipulation. (Terri Bryson)
Optimistic, hardworking, and adaptable are words that come to mind describing the TWS board members. Dedicated is another word describing the people who make TWS events into realities. Events this summer tested the board as we planned the second in-person retreat since the pandemic. As the retreat dates approached, Leslie learned that the Fiber Center would have to be closed. Electrical work needed to be done during the remodeling of the building housing the Fiber Center, making it unsafe for people to be in the building, which also affected the members’ exhibit. Leslie Fesperman and April Price scrambled to come up with a plan so that everything would not be cancelled. The retreat has been re-scheduled for October. The exhibit will be in a new space in downtown Elkin. Good things seem to be coming from these sudden changes.
As I’m writing this column, HGA’s Convergence, Complex Weavers, and American Tapestry Alliance are having biennial events in Knoxville, TN. I hope many of you can see the exhibits and perhaps take a class or two. Tapestry has a great presence in these events. There are tapestry classes to take, and well-known teachers are teaching. Jennifer Sargent and Fiona Hutchinson are workshop leaders for ATA, and both Tommye Scanlin and Molly Elkind are teaching classes for Convergence. WOW! Such great learning opportunities. If only it were possible to take advantage of every class.
If articles about the Knoxville Convergence, ATA Retreat, and Complex Weavers don’t make it into this newsletter, watch for them in the fall newsletter. We will also likely have to send out some email blasts to make sure you get the retreat news for October, so be watching your emails for updates about the retreat between newsletters that you will need to plan to attend the retreat. Sarah Thomsen and Allie Dudley do a great job of making communications among us stay on track.
About exhibits: Betty Hilton-Nash is working to make the 2023 exhibit at the Folk Art Center in Asheville become a reality. The Folk Art Center is a beautiful exhibit venue with a lot of foot traffic, and people do buy art work there. This exhibit will begin in January. Be sure to be weaving and watching for more information in your newsletter and email blasts about this exhibit. There will be an exhibit in Elkin in 2023 as well.
We also need your input as members, and your time to volunteer if you can. Contact your board members with information about what you can do or ideas you have. The articles from you also make the newsletter interesting. Please send any news about classes you are teaching, honors you’ve earned, essays about tapestry you have written or anything tapestry related to Allie Dudley at email@example.com. Please send items of TWS historical value to Janet Hart. Many thanks to Deb Gottlieb for taking care of the treasury and Sarah Thomsen for taking care of membership.
Life will keep happening and adjustments must be made as things happen that are beyond control of board members. Many thanks to the all who work so hard to keep the events possible.
When they go on vacation to France, or on a business trip, most people are interested in museums, culinary arts, history or landscapes. When I am in France, I look for tapestry workshops, textile artists, and wool factories. And I am very disappointed each time: apart from the city of Aubusson and the Parisian Manufacture des Gobelins, I find nothing, or almost nothing. Weaving, yes, but no tapestry.
Fifteen years ago, when I arrived in North Carolina, I wanted to reconnect with the hobby that I had practiced diligently in France in the 90s: tapestry. In France, I had learned this technique in a specialized school, which no longer exists today. Already at that time, it was very difficult to find a place to learn tapestry, at least when you just wanted to practice for the pleasure of creating, and not to become a professional in a studio or factory.
When I moved to the United States, I did not know where or how to find a teacher or a workshop capable of updating my knowledge. I thought tapestry weaving was neither popular nor taught in the United States. Obviously, I was wrong. Thanks to the possibilities of the internet, I was introduced to the vast community of weavers in my new country.
Over the years, by searching the French cities where I travel, by monitoring social networks to see who practices tapestry weaving, and by talking with French weaver friends, I understood the main differences between France and the United States in this specific field. In France, the word “tapestry” evokes for most people large and heavy hangings hung in castles and official buildings. Over the years, this creative art has slowly died, crushed under the weight of its high cost. The workshops’ production is only bought by government entities, big firms or very rich collectors.
So I discovered that there are more domestic tapestry weavers in the US than there are in France, where possible beginners are way too intimidated by the weight of tradition to even think of learning the technique, when they only just heard about it. Most of the American weavers I know work indeed on relatively small looms, even table looms, which allow for only small tapestry formats. I discovered the small format tapestry when arriving in the US, because strangely, in France, I know no one who is weaving that small.
There is another reason for more practitioners in America: It is easier to find someone to teach tapestry in the US. First, tapestry is sometimes taught in art departments in American universities. Second, there are the Navajo and Mexican traditions that have made rug-weaving more visible, while not being too intimidating.
Finally today, thanks to the internet, one can search “tapestry class” and easily find a place, a teacher, a class for a weekend or a week, making it possible to be introduced to the technique with minimal fuss. While doing the same research on French Google, you find mainly upholstery classes (“upholstery” is translated in French by “tapestry”.) Or you are directed to the famous Gobelins studio who teach only professionals. However, there are now some possibilities up opening at the Aubusson studio through the new Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie, where you can get
some wise advice.
Last year, in my city of Rennes in French Britanny where I spend a lot of time, I was very happy to discover a lady who teaches weaving and tapestry weaving to beginners, in her studio, on small looms. Sylvie Wujek offers three hour or one week-end introductory courses. She says: “Weaving is linear. When the students discover that tapestry can be worked in blocks, it opens up new perspectives. They then want to create a small picture.”
Sylvie confirms what my tapestry weaver friends are all telling me about what is happening in France today: textile art has been back in fashion for a few years. As in the US, many young persons now embark on embroidery, knitting, crochet, macramé, and some timidly approach weaving. Most don’t know anything about tapestry, or confuse it with cross-stitch embroidery. Tufting is also making a big breakthrough in the field of textile hobbies.
The big trend today, among people (largely women) in their thirties, is wall weaving, a mixture of non-figurative weaving and tapestry, including all kinds of fibers, most of the time fluffy and hairy. One type of event works very well with this new public interested in this “mural art”: happenings/workshops for Instagrammers. They are often organized by magazines or trade salons specializing in decoration. The instructors offer kits to make a tiny wall work, including a small frame with zen and soft fibers. Everyone leaves with their work, whose photos are immediately posted on Instagram surrounded by hearts and kisses. One thing is sure: no one dares today uses the terms “weaver” or “tapestry weaver”; we must instead say “thread artist”, or “textile designer” to be taken seriously. It is thus in France and perhaps also in the United States? Tell me…
Tapestry Weavers South Annual Exhibit , New Works 2022, is now on display:
The Studio Gallery
110 North Bridge Street
Elkin, NC 28621
June 3-August 21, 2022
By chance or appointment. To schedule an appointment, contact Leslie Fesperman of the Yadkin Valley Fiber Center. Contact information is on the Fiber Center website. An appointment can also be scheduled by contacting the Foothills Arts Council whose contact information is also on their website. The Yadkin Valley Fiber Center and the Foothills Arts Council co-sponsor the exhibit.
Just when newsletter chair, Allie Dudley, had everything ready to send out on time and everything for the retreat and exhibit were in place, life happened. This newsletter is coming to you late due to circumstances that were unanticipated and beyond control of the board. These circumstances resulted in changes to the retreat and exhibit plans. Be sure and read the articles about the exhibit and retreat in the newsletter from April Price and Leslie Fesperman. Thanks to Leslie, April, and other board members being flexible, new plans are being made.
Don’t miss the article by Betty Hilton-Nash about the exhibit planned for the Folk Art Center in Asheville in 2023. Betty has some fun ideas for the exhibit and the Folk Art Center is a wonderful opportunity to exhibit your work.
Hélène Crié-Wiesner has written an article about tapestry in France. This is a wonderful article. It points out how lucky we are to practice tapestry here in the USA. Hélène points out that tapestry art as practiced in the USA is very rarely done in France.
Always remember newsletter articles sent in by members of TWS are what make the newsletter a good read. It is encouraging to hear about exhibits you are in, tips for weaving, classes you are teaching or know about, or any other tapestry related news. Please always send your news to Allie Dudley, our terrific newsletter editor. They do a great job of putting together your news and creating an informative newsletter.
TWS has two social media opportunities for members to post their work and news. Facebook is one; Instagram is the other. If you post to Facebook, Hélène will see that it gets on Instagram.
All TWS board members are volunteers. Sarah Thomsen is our Membership Chair. Leslie Fesperman is our Exhibit Chair. April Price is our Retreat Chair. Deb Gottlieb is our Treasurer. Betty Hilton-Nash is Co-Exhibits Chair in charge of the Folk Art Center Exhibit. Hélène Crié-Wiesner takes care of our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and announced at our recent board meeting that the TWS Instagram page now has 800 followers. Laurie O’Neill helps with the website but is not on the board. Without these volunteers doing such a great job, we wouldn’t have the opportunities.
Contact your board members if you have suggestions. You can also be a part of the Board. We currently are in need of a Secretary and a Vice-President. Contact me if you would like to join the Board.