I have been weaving faces for several months. I began with small works, about 8” square each. Simple sketches, gestural and to the point. The idea is to give quick studies of the kinds of feelings which occur in a time like ours.
My artmaking, when I was young, was mostly about drawing faces, and i longed to get back to the direct expressivity and engagement of personality and opinion.
Working like this now, in weaving, is about the precision of line necessary to make subtle changes in expression. It gives me a new way to interact intimately with my process and examine each thread to see what it will do.
I have envisioned a roomful of large faces like this, suspended, not necessarily nailed to walls, 36”x 30”, or so. I am working on these now, along with a set about 12” x 18”, which, annoyingly, are proving more expressive. What’s size got to do with it? Most likely, it is easier to control the image at that scale.
I am amazed by the difference in working between these scales. What works as a small gesture seems, well, sometimes silly, translated to a larger scale. How do I draw at that scale to keep it real? What is astonishing is the technical dexterity that I need for this translation.
Everything becomes exaggerated. Lips, when small, nearly inconsequential, a mere mark , but then 6 times as large? Silly?
The small pieces seem gender neutral. The big ones seem more female. And perhaps cartoonish? It seems I always come back to the face I know best, my own.
This is all good information to ponder, as I make. I often find that I do not know what I am actually making until after I make it. This is new territory for me. Feedback is so helpful. Please comment, if you are so moved.
One of the nicer hats I get to wear is as a freelance designer, and I work regularly with Crate and Barrel. Generally I meet with my person there twice a year, and she is incredibly creative. I show her ideas, and she takes what she thinks will work off for sampling. Her input results in really beautiful and imaginative ways to make those designs into some kind of textile. We work on primarily pillows, throws, and rugs.
The drawback (for me!) is that she does not have the final word on what goes into the line each season. A group of creatives from all of the various departments must meet up and select from among the samples. They choose things which will work well together in the stores, and later in homes. This means my person and I might absolutely adore my pillow, say, but it still won’t go in the line if it can’t be reconciled with someone else’s sofa.
A lot of expert research and thought goes into preparing for this, and a trend report is issued to vendors like myself to get us started along their path in the right direction.
I am currently preparing my portfolio for fall/winter 2019 (and here it is, the first day of spring 2018!). But the company is working against ever tighter deadlines. I have not yet received my trend report, and I will be up in their offices a week from tomorrow presenting my portfolio full of design printouts and woven samples for FW 2019. So yep, I am working int the dark!
Much as I love designing textiles, right at this moment I feel at a creative standstill. So I am telling you about it all rather than banging my head against the wall. I am waiting for their Oracle to speak any moment now. Thanks for listening!
Below, find a throw in the current line at C&B, and my samples which inspired it.
For me and for many people I know, 2017 has proven, so far, to be a year full of dread. The hope and creativity I reaped from an artistic retreat at Bloedel Reserve on Puget Sound last October remains a fragile flame to protect from howling winds of change around me. I am grateful, so lucky, to have had the opportunity for that beautiful and thoughtful time, just before the election, to focus on what was important to me as an artist, and to sharpen my ability to see, and to manifest what I see in my art.
My work for many years has been more about pleasure, contentment, finding the good in my world. It has felt solid, providing a vision of beauty as a way of making sense of what is important to me. That no longer seems to be enough.
I recently began a weaving which, in spirit at least, felt totally new to me. Some of the visual techniques are familiar, some are stretching, as I struggled to manifest something deeply felt and ineffable. I have decided that it is the world of the feeling and the spirit that have meaning for me now. How to show them?
As I was trying to focus on how to go about the new work, I was doing my morning crossword and hit upon a clue to both a word, and to what I was thinking about: “river of forgetfulness”. Aha. It resonates.
The resulting tapestry refers to the sad, longing eyes in the alder trees which watched after me on my daily walk through the woods. They were growing around a gloriously evocative bird marsh at Bloedel Reserve, and the knots where limbs had been were all eye shaped. This image spoke so strongly to me I knew it was a big metaphor.
I know it seems to be a dark work. It hurts me to look at it. The silver river winds among the watching trees, trying to distract from what they are seeing.
Recently, I had a fit of pique when going through my tapestry inventory. I saw I had too much work around, and decided to have a flash online clearance sale. It was fast and furious, and I sold 14 out of 15 tapestries in 36 hours. It was so gratifying to send old work to appreciative new homes — particularly to those who had often expressed the desire for my work but felt they would have to win the lottery to be able to afford it.
Today, in response to a note from one of the happy purchasers, I was looking through my old source photos, and I thought it would be fun to pair the source up with the tapestries which resulted. I often work from photographs when the source is out there on the highway, and sometimes the relationship between the source and the resulting artwork is very obvious.
The tapestries shown here all date from between 2008-2010, and are based on the rural landscape near where I live in southern Indiana.
All tapestries are copyright Laura Foster Nicholson, and photos are either by myself or by Ben Nicholson.