Creative retreat

I’ve just returned from a week away with a group of artists I belong to. We do this every so often and it’s special because they are special people and the creative vibe is huge, and doubly special for me because it’s in my native Cumbria, in Grasmere.

I used the time to consolidate and develop what I learned over the last few months of Considering Weave with Jude Hill. I was travelling by boat and train and bus, so no large looms for me, but I managed to pack several little ones in my case! These are tiny weavings, just a few cms wide. I’m enjoying working at this slow, small scale. The whole Considering Weave class has been very good for me, and I’ve signed up for Jude’s ‘Small Journeys‘ to continue travelling along with her as and when I can.

In Grasmere, we had beautiful surroundings, excellent food and lots of fun, with a constant flow of ideas, encouragement and constructive critique.

The space that emerges between our perspectives is ‘dialogic space’, a liminal realm of possibilities where new ideas emerge and innovation thrives. Drawing the ideas that emerge in this ‘dialogic space’ back into our practice helps us to reinvigorate it. (Permission to Speak by Dave Camlin)

There were excursions. Some of us revisited the wonderful Allan Bank, a National Trust house where dogs are welcome, you can sit on the chairs and make yourself at home, and there is something creative going on in every room.

I went for some walks among the trees and by the river – something I do miss, living on Tiree. So much visual inspiration. So much green.

It was a lovely week.

Matt Mullican

Tiree in Your Words  is the title of the  mini-project I’m doing in collaboration with the otther Art and Social Practice student on Tiree, glass artist Frances Woodhead. There are various things we’re doing for the project which I’ll write about soon, but the gist is that we’re collecting words from everyone on Tiree who wants to participate, and next weekend we’ll hold a community event to create a display with the words we collect. This  morning Frances emailed me about an artist whose work is in the 2013  Venice Bienniale, Matt Mullican. I hadn’t come across him  before but found this video and there is so much to think about in his work.

This is inspiring us to create some artwork around our own words to be part of the Tiree in Your Words display.

weaving play

I made this little sample quickly yesterday and can’t wait to explore this further. I warped a tiny frame loom with some very rough hemp, and wove it with alternate picks of torn fabric and thick and thin Colinette yarn. Then I threw it in the washing machine with a load of washing.

experiment

When it came out I thought it looked quite interesting, with some parts firmly felted and some holes, especially where the yarn was thin. I hadn’t planned to remove the warp as well but once the idea occurred to me it became an irresistible ‘what if’, so I snipped the knots and pulled out the hemp. I wondered if the wool would hold the weft together and the answer is yes. I like the way it’s solid in places and fragile in others, just like memory. I also like the texture and structure of it, and the way the effect of the warp persists.

I’m going to have a play with handspun and unspun wool, and different kinds of fabric, and different warps, felting by hand, to see what emerges. I imagine a series of pieces, ragged yet strong, To do with prayer and memory and being made new. I am thinking about habits and quotidien rhythms and the structure of praying the hours, and how our outworn clothes embody our history and memory, about what we keep and what we waste, and about connections and inclusion and mixing things up. All sorts of things.

Serendipity or something

I always enjoy the way a current preoccupation takes on a life of its own and starts appearing all over the place, a bit like when you learn a new word and then it crops up in everything you read. Was it there all along and you just start noticing because you’re now paying attention? Or maybe it’s a kind of grace that delights in seeking out connections and charging them with significance.

In the last few days I’ve been finding some lovely insights and inspirations around combining strips of cloth with wool, especially from Jill at Centering with Fiber, and this wonderful woven fleece by Elizabeth Armstrong (Studiofelter).

This weekend I made some felt samples for our workshop tomorrow: including a piece to show add-ins of various kinds, some 3D felt using a template resist, and some samples using different types of pre-felts.

felt artwork

And this little bit is just for me, an experiment with torn strips of silk chiffon, caught between thin strips of drafted fibre and felted. Very fiddly!

felt sample

But what if I wove something like this before felting, instead of laying the fibres out? I would need to put a little twist in the drafted wool, to stop it drifting apart; I wonder what difference that would make to how it looks and feels and behaves.

I’ll leave you with some netted inspiration from a walk along the beach,

creels

and some plastic made beautiful by the sea.

plastic