Materials & methods
I often use wire as an integral part of my wall hangings. In 2002, I was received a grant from the Theo Moorman Foundation to allow me to explore weaving wire with silk more thoroughly. The results of my exploration and experimentation form one of the foundation pillars of my recent work.
When I first started weaving in 1977, I drew my design ideas in black and white, writing in the colours, but not actually colouring the drawings. Now, for commissioned work, I have to provide colour sketches so that the client can see what I am planning to do, but in my own eye, I am still seeing the sketch in black and white until I start dyeing the yarn. This is because the yarn and dyes work differently from paint or pastels on paper, and I must remain alert to the compatibilities of the dyes to each other on the yarns and aware of the eventual weaving, not of the sketch. On a large commission, it can take a month to get the colours right before starting to weave.
I use the Ikat and dip-dye
processes for colouring the yarn. Ikat is best described as tie-dyeing the yarn before it goes on the loom where it is woven together with a single colour to make it into cloth. For dip-dyeing, I dip small areas of the warp yarns into the dye without tieing them. This allows more subtle overlaps of colour than the Ikat. Both processes are completed before the weaving starts. If you see the unwoven yarn stretched out, you can see the pattern of the finished piece. Think of it as a canvas that is painted before it is made into the woven canvas. For me, starting out with the undyed yarn is much easier to visualize than starting out with a blank canvas.
Colour creates the power of space. Sometimes the colour seems very representational, particularly when I use green in a landscape format, but then the reds, purples, oranges come in, moving through the scene and carrying the viewer with it. Colour becomes the movement, the geometric shapes, the static element.
For my silk scarves and shawls, I choose colours which are appropriate to the weight of the finished fabric, the colours are strong in their relationships: soft colours that slide gently one into the next beside a sharp, hard-edged houndstooth black-and-white stripe or a bold contrasting stripe, then with a very narrow stripe zinging through the gentle colours. The colours range from gentle pastels to strong blacks with vibrant accent colours. Each scarf is a unique piece of wearable art.
I find silk an endlessly facinating material. It can be either lustrous or matt. The differences depend on the length of the fibre or filament. When the silk moth spins its cocoon, the outermost part is spun first and is long - as much as half a mile long. Then it starts to break as the space becomes more crowded. Eventually, the caterpillar reaches the end and the fibre is very short indeed - 6mm long (or short) - good for insulation: fluffy. The longest bit is known as filament silk and reflects light in a single direction uninterruptedly producing the highest shine.
The medium length fibres are spun to make spun silk and the light reflects off them in different directions, so not as much light reaches the eye, making it less shiny, The final, shortest fibre is called noil and is spun to produce a very matt yarn as the light refracts off the fibres in many directions.
I am attracted by wire in part because of its contrast to silk. It bends. It kinks. It does not drape. And it is very lustrous. I use stainless steel and enamel coated copper wire, both of which do not discolour with time. Wire makes possible wall hangings which are unachievable in yarn alone.Â