Category Archives: tapestries


People always like to compare one’s artwork to children.  “How can you sell that? It must be like your child!”  I am thinking about this comparison today as I gaze at the completed tapestry I wrote about yesterday — as yet, un-named.

Like your children, your art is part of you.  You created it: without you it would have no life.  But what I am thinking today is that, like with your children, it is impossible to be objective.  You love it to pieces; you are overly critical.  You learn to speak less critically, to give pure love, then you worry you will spoil it.  And it is now about to gain its own independent life, your work with it is complete and you have to let it go.  But it is easier to do that if you understand it first.

So I look at this piece which seems incredibly flawed (no photos today!!) and wonder what I have wrought, was it worth all the anxiety?  All the loving care & time lavished on it?  And I have to learn to look at it with love before I can actually see what — who — it is.  (I will tell you this: she is really odd!  that might be good.)

how to weave a smile

I am working on another large figurative tapestry. I should point out here that before last fall, when I began this current series, the last figurative piece I wove was in approximately 1974 when I was ridiculed at Kansas City Art Institute for using textile to depict something which should be painted.  This was the era of fiber for fiber’s sake, large expressive textural and NON-OBJECTIVE weavings were de rigeur. 

I spent my time at Cranbrook Academy of Art, working on my MFA in Fiber, trying to justify weaving at all, making sure that my subject matter had a direct relationship with the means of execution.  I spent years making tapestries of garden and architectural subjects, both of which used the woven grid as a common language.  Pattern, grid and surface texture were the language of textiles I became most fluent in.

So last fall when I conceived this body of work I was so aware of this old argument in my head.  I set out to make weavings where the thread was as important as the image; the overall simplicity and bluntness of the compositions and spatial relationships were consistent, I felt, with my woven directive of producing textiles which need to be textiles, not paintings.  The most difficult piece to date was last spring’s “In My Mind’s Eye I am Fine” a nearly full size woven silhouette of a figure.  It was nerve wracking to weave, row by row, bottom to top, as I worried continually about how I could control the form, how expressive my lines might be, whether my lack of skill in rendering this form would become a part of the expression.  It took me months, as worry is the thing that slows me down the most.

I am now nearly done with the next step in that battle.  A few months ago a close friend related her dream to me: that she saw me lying on a bier, as if dead, but I was weeping continuously and smiling.  I was also wearing a fabulous suzani dress, as it happened (my friend is a textile person too).  What an image!  I set about immediately making the warp for  this piece, made scale drawings, threaded the loom, embarked on the project.

First issue: was I going to weave the suzani flowers?  Was this about making my own suzani? (very appealing! but I was concerned it would not do justice to the embroidered reference)  Or was it about the narrative?  Would making an awkwardly woven suzani distract from the real story, the smiling-and-weeping self?  I saw this story as my next step: I am sad but I am fine!  So the flowers were left behind.

Then there was the form itself.  More difficult hands! that stopped me for weeks.  Got them done and then unrolled and saw a comically distorted body.  That threatened to stop the project, but I finally sat down, made a full scale drawing, and got back on the horse.  And today’s work, at last, is to weave the very important smile.  One might have noted, my earlier heads have had ears but no faces.  Here we go.  So it is woven, she is my Mona Lisa with, I hope, an ambiguous smile.   I took a break to write this, and now I am off to weave the top of her head.

In My Mind’s Eye I am Fine

Yesterday I finished shipping out all of the tapestries for my upcoming show at Hibberd McGrath Gallery, opening April 2. What a feeling of accomplishment! This was a big body of work, full of feeling, and the last piece was compounded in difficulty by my breaking my arm 4 weeks ago. I went to the loom as soon as I could and managed to squeak out some of the weaving, but this was the largest piece, topping out at 65″ tall, and it wasn’t until my cast came off last week that I could really attack the bees and get it finished. So here are the last 2 pieces off the loom, both woven on the same dip-dyed red warp.

In My Mind’sEye I am fine, 2011, 65″ x 29″

Swarm, 2011, 31″ x  29″

burned and done

As I have written recently it has been hard to stay on task at the studio due to complications in my life. Last week, I moved out of the home my husband & I had made together, and into a beautiful little Harmonist house built in 1820. The day before I was to close & move I suddenly needed to weave, went to the loom I had tied up (See “Burning On”, January 21), and wove most of the tapestry — up through the roof of the barn — in a heat before having to leave to go home & finish packing. I realize that the passion to get it done was the reality leaving one life behind. Though I knew when I planned it what this piece is a metaphor for, I still can’t believe the direct line to the heart artmaking follows. I think it is a strong piece. I feel stronger having made it.

This afternoon I finished weaving the Burning Barn. It is now washed and pressed and waiting to be hemmed but I was excited enough to begin writing about it before I completely wrap it up. This photo shows a detail, the overall size will be roughly 32″ x 30″.

burning on

The life that inspires me also conspires to keep me from making my art. This burning barn, my life, is flaming on, sometimes smoldering sometimes raging full force, and there is not always enough energy left to get over to the loom and interpret it.

Nonetheless after experiencing an immensely frustrating delay yesterday on something rather large in my life, I am able to go to the loom now and begin winding on the yellow warp I wrote about several weeks ago (meanwhile the red warp languishes, bound at the feet of the forthcoming figure). The sun is shining in my 8 foot windows and the colors are alight.

a new exhibition

I was recently invited to show a group of tapestries at the art galleries at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, as part of a group of 3 textile shows: “Quilts from the Collection of Judy and Tom Morton”, and “Stitches in Time: Samplers from Private Collections” flank my show, “Stone Tapestries”. In selecting a group of tapestries for the show, Katherine Waters and I decided to focus on my Stones series which spans two decades It is always helpful to stop and view a group of works together, and to formulate a synopsis of the ideas which one was attempting to express. Here is the statement I wrote for the show.

“I have long used a recurring motif of stones in my work. It began as a way of making an equivalent of soil in the garden tapestries I was weaving many years ago. I found I enjoyed making the many small, multicolored ovals which, at the time, I viewed as pebbles. Much of my work is grounded in recognizable imagery and I viewed – still view – the woven marks I made as an equivalent, or approximation, of something which actually existed in the world. In other words, most of my woven work is created with the intention of making a recognizable equivalent of something which I have witnessed in the real world.
One day, as I realized how much I enjoy making those colorful little oval marks, I asked myself if they could hold enough interest in and of themselves to cover a field with no other visual reference. From that day my Stones work has become a way of exploring space, color, depth of field, and surface in textiles. When I make a tapestry which is simply a field of stones, I become mesmerized by the process of laying in the colored threads. Every detail counts. I might choose a red thread for a space and decide it has totally thrown the direction I was going in, as all color relates to the colors it is surrounded by. I watch as a field of color evolves incrementally and every color choice I make is spontaneous and critical. The resulting work, I feel, has great depth, movement, texture, and an emotion which have been made thread by thread in a meditative and intimate conversation between myself and my loom.”

slow work

Have faith, I am still working! but slowly.  I am happy to say that I like what is creeping off my loom, and hopefully things will calm down shortly — I have been traveling a lot, and then of course there was Thanksgiving — and I will get to the Barn on Fire tapestry that is in my head.  But for now, here is the second in the set of three portraits I have made this fall of my inner state. (you may see “Beset” here)

Bemused, 2010, wool with metallic & rayon

Art Institute of Chicago Textile Collection Opening

Tomorrow I am going up to Chicago to attend the re-opening of the Department of Textiles at the Art Institute.  The department has been closed for five years to repair structural problems.  There are two exhibitions featured in the re-opening: June Wayne’s Narrative Tapestries, and Contemporary Fiber Art: A selection from the Permanent Collection.  The latter exhibition includes my Grey Stones weaving, which AIC acquired two years ago.  I am so honored to be included in this happy show, and was delighted to learn that Grey Stones is pictured in the current AIC magazine article about the exhibition.

Art Institute of Chicago publication, 2010

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!