Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Chakra Roots: A Study

Years ago, when I was studying drawing, we were given an assignment to choose something from a well-known draftsman (no women were mentioned) and copy one of his drawings. Never one to back down from a challenge, I selected a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (or perhaps the unknown Cesare da Sestos - attribution for this drawing is tenuous). It was a deceptively simple looking work, as I discovered, but the effort required to reproduce it taught me many things, not the least of which is that I do not care to replicate work, never mind how great the artist. On the whole, though, I did a not bad job. There's an issue with scale and proportion, which bothered neither me nor my instructor at the time. I discovered Leonardo (or Cesare) has nothing to worry about from the grave:

As I was told later, one of the goals of this exercise was to be able to step back and evaluate your own work, which was probably the most valuable thing I learned. I can look at my drawing dispassionately, measure its flaws and assets, and take note of ways to improve.

I've been meaning to apply this same exercise to tapestry for quite some time. Late last year, I discovered a small acrylic painting (18 cm x 23.5 cm) tucked away in a closet, which seemed to call out for duplication in tapestry. I jumped into the process, rather too hastily, which resulted in a host of problems as this post describes in detail.  I finished weaving on the weekend; the piece came off the blocking board this morning. Here's the original painting:

Here's the tapestry after blocking (35 cm x 44 cm):

Chakra Roots: A Study
Hand spun and dyed singles wool and mohair weft on commercial wool warp.

The weaving is not quite as distorted as it appears here, but it's more irregular than it should be to suit my tastes. (Tapestry weaving should either have enough distortion that it acts as a design feature or so little that it's non-existent, according to Dragondancer's Gospel of Weaving.) What does please me is how close I got to duplicating the painting, although you can see that I wandered off the path at the far right of the tapestry, which was the last bit to be woven:

I surprised myself with many amateur mistakes in this tapestry - I should be past inconsistent warping and lice (bits of warp showing through the weaving), but I also surprised myself with the close match in colours and the textural effects I achieved with soumak and knotting.

I'm glad I didn't follow my first thought, which was to abandon this project, because I learned many things from going back to Beginner's Mind, not the least of which is how much further I have to go along my weaving path.

I have two small looms warped and ready to go; I'm mulling over my next challenges, which will not include copying another painting, because, you know what? Copying is still boring, even if it's my own work. One of my teachers once scolded me, "If you're going to draw or paint, then draw or paint. If you're going to weave, then weave." Sounds like a plan.

Chakra Roots: A Study


(Happy St. Patrick's Day to my family, who are probably still sitting in the bar celebrating and thinking of you, Dad, ten years later.)

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