Category Archives: tapestries

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.

slow cloth, slower camera

I really dislike photographing artwork, which explains why these posts are so few & far between. Either I have to find someone with the equipment to do it right — which usually means having a few pieces ready to photograph! — or I do it myself with sad results.

But it is Friday, Fridays are for finishing things up! Last Friday I cut Cloud off the loom and today I will finish it for you by posting this little photo by me. Also here is Alders, which I wrote about in the post Slow Cloth a couple of months ago. Both are woven on the same warp, of wool and curly mohair. Alders was woven with wool ground weft and linen floss, along with a gorgeous japanese chenille. Cloud is made with linen ground weft, rayon, and cotton floss.

big moths

I stepped out the door this morning and saw at my feet a gorgeous and huge moth clinging to the lower edge of the door. Look at those eyes! Made me want to go in an put on more eyeliner, just to keep up. He must have been 4″ across. I love moths — except for bread moths, which are hatching again right now, and clothing moths, who make little bites across my wool threads. So I weave moths into my tapestries as talismans and protection. This fellow’s eyes will protect him!
The Moths tapestry is at Hibberd McGrath Gallery, Breckinridge, CO.

Historic Preservation

Next week, there will be a statewide historic preservation conference here in New Harmony — perfect place for it! –and the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art is hosting a reception for it on Wednesday April 7, 5-7 pm. We are mounting a series of my rural architecture tapestries for the event. I think it will be a great audience for my work.


I spent this quiet, cold, snowy day washing, pressing and hemming the last tapestry from fall. I have always loved goldenrod; I made a dye from it when I was at Cranbrook long ago (the last time I fussed with natural dyes) which made the most memorable, vibrant yellow I have ever used. I also made a pale yellow with it. Two tapestries resulted from that dyebath: Angel’s Walk, with the pale yellow, and Ornamental Garden, with the thrilling yellow. Sadly, the latter yellow has lost its thrill over the years and has faded. As this piece belongs to an important mentor of mine, Gerhardt Knodel, I will no doubt re-weave it for him. I am actually looking forward to that process — imagine re-making as carefully as possible something one made 30 years ago! That was a time of radiant discovery in my artwork: I wonder if the re-making would stir that sense again.

This current goldenrod tapestry came out of a startled observation one day as to how it grew. Having plucked if over & over for years, made dye from it, and thought about its color, I had never actually looked at how it grows — which is vaselike, originating from a single stem and branching out. Between the sturcture and the color I had to weave it.

lavender harvest

For years, I lived in Chicago, where I could not find a lavender variety which could withstand the winter. I have always loved lavender; I have made tapestries about it, filled sachets with it, kept it in my pocket to sniff at odd times. It is highly soothing, as well as cheering.

So now that we live in Southern Indiana — zone 7, I think! — we have been able to plant lavender in abundance. So far it just edges the porch, but I would love to see a field of it beyond the vegetable garden. For the last 3 nights I have been harvesting it, so that it will have a chance at a second flowering. The Provence Lavender came first, with 4 fat bunches; then the English lavender, (which Ben declares to be the finest scent, but then he is nationalistic to a fault), and tonight, the Grosso lavender. It might be the best.

The house is full of its scent; bunches are hanging from a line above the dining table to dry. It is sublime.

(The tapestry shown is called “Lavender” from 2003.)

kitchen ideas

I love making things from out of the garden, and so often these processes have later made their way into my artwork. The last few days have been inspired — first the harvest of our first successful broad beans (also known as fava beans) which have provided several delicious meals so far.
The plants are very architectural, and very different from runner beans or green beans we normally grow. I spent the other morning drawing the plant and the beans, and know this will work its way into a tapestry or a printed textile.
Then last night we went out on a country road where Ben had spotted masses of elderberry bushes growing. The flowers were at peak, and we both are very into a lovely syrup made from them called Elderflower Cordial. This isn’t alcoholic — though you might choose to mix it with gin! — you mix it with fizzy water and ice. It is a big hit with guests who prefer not to drink alcohol. So we picked 60 large umbels, as directed, and boiled a sugar syrup with 3 liters of water and loads of sugar & sliced lemons. Now this mixture is steeping for a few days, then we will strain it & bottle it. Ben looked at the contents of the pot and announced “Now that looks like the beginnings of a tapestry!”.

more on Villa Farsetti

Writing about the past has made me think more about that glorious time in 1985 when I was Queen for a Day. I won a prize in the Third Venice Biennale of Architecture for a set of weavings based on the Villa Farsetti in Santa Maria di Sala. A heady time: my career was just getting off the ground then, and the publicity from the prize was extraordinary and rocketed me into the next level of notariety.

I entered the competition because my husband Ben Nicholson (who has now participated in the Biennale 3 times!) was deeply involved in his own projects (at the urging of his former teacher, Daniel Libeskind, who had been invited to participate) and he thought it would fit my interests as well. I had been making weavings which were exploring gardens & architecture as subject matter, and so the idea of making a set of weavings like a set of architectural plans, about a specific place appealed greatly to me. It gave me a new method of working too, which held for many years, making cycles of work about historic places, usually with gardens, and working from plan overview into intimate detail as a kind of storytelling.

There were 9 tapestries, including the 4 shown here of the front gardens & reflecting pool; a guest wing; a green house (see earlier post); hedgerows; stables; more gardens.

The magazine article is from American Craft Magazine, Feb/March 1986, published at the time of the birth of my son, William, who is getting his BFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago on May 16!