Category Archives: commissions

Winding the Warp, Meditation, and Yoga

Earlier this week I put my back out, badly; probably due to unwise handling of a snow shovel.  Yoga, my usual remedy, didn’t help and maybe made it worse.  Mindfulness didn’t help, nor did swimming in a blissfully warm pool.  Four days of ache, but studio work must go on.

Yesterday, having gotten the go-ahead for a lovely commission which I am really looking forward to weaving, I decided that despite the back I wanted to start winding the warp.  Many people dread this process: very repetitive, much counting.  I view it as another meditative act, requiring deep mindfulness and focus.  I do it the old fashioned way, on a warping board on the wall.

For those of you who haven’t done this, one winds the thread continuously around the pegs, spaced one yard apart, for the distance required for the length of the warp.  Down, then back up = 2 threads.  Counting is essential, and so there is a rhythm and focus required.  I have evolved a slow swaying movement of my body to follow the motion of the arm as I go back and forth, peg to peg.  It can be a beautiful process: it works best when I focus on the anticipation of weaving something wonderful.  Silence is important so I can keep count.  Please don’t write in with a better, faster, more efficient way: I need it to be like this.

Anne Wilson honored this process with a very elegant performative exhibition, first shown at Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago in 2008.  She called it Wind-Up: Walking the Warp.  It featured pure maidens in white leotards reverently winding the miles of warp (later exhibitions featured community weaving of these warps).

From Wilson’s statement:  “Nine participants accomplished the performed labor or “walking the warp,” converting the front gallery into a six-day performance of walking, counting, rolling, and winding. The rhythmic act of building a 40-yard weaving warp on a 17′ x 7′ frame was viewed from the Peoria Street sidewalk and resulted in a sculptural presence within the gallery. “

I have puzzled over this project for years.  As an active weaver and devoted maker, I wondered at the pomp of her performance.  How ironic that in writing this piece today, the penny drops and I get it.  That’s right: how few people understand the depth of this slow labor.  When a blue chip art gallery puts the microscope on it, is it made more understandable, or more arcane?

Anne Wilson, Wind-up: Walking the Warp.  Rhona Hoffman Gallery, 2008
(photo by surabhi ghosh, from Wilson’s website)

But back to my back story.  The slow swaying, back and forth, back and forth, spine mindfully erect, worked out much of the misery of my pinched lower back.  Ahhh.  There is another benefit of mindful labor.

prairie pillow is done!

This afternoon I completed sewing up the Prairie pillow.  I had to make a time equation that was really interesting. When I lived in Chicago, I would have shopped for the backing fabric & trim and easily found something that would enhance the tapestry face.  Here in southern Indiana, I realized I could easily spend a day looking for fabric, and not find it; also it takes 45 minutes each way to drive into Evansville to begin the search!   So I hand-wove the backing as well as the fabric for the welting, and came out about the same in time, with superior results.  So here you have it: wool twill brocade pillow face, wool twill backing & handmade welting.  Voila!

white on white, finished

I did finish those beautiful white-on-white pillows and the designer was kind enough to send photos of the room with the pillows plumply in place.  The high contrast here doesn’t really show off the weave, so I am including a photo from the workroom for detail.  The set was six 22″ square pillows for a very sleek, modern room which needed only subtle interest in the sofas.  Lovely work by Dirk Denison Architects of Chicago.

white on white

I have been commissioned by a Chicago architect to weave a set of six pillow faces, white on white. “…I have the constraints of all white and no image, so I know it is not your signature work, but I do want the weave to have character,” he wrote. I have had so much fun! luxury yarns which I ordinarily don’t employ in wall hangings, (bamboo, silk/merino, and linen on worsted wool) and the subtlety and restraint of expression with out resorting to color, such a nice change of pace.

Three have brocaded faces based on my Alders weaving of a few posts ago (we are calling it the Birch design); the other three are all over textural weaves. Woven in my signature 3 harness twill with simple variations in weight and treadling, they have been a pleasure to weave.