Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Not long ago I received an email from Robert Genn which ended with the following quotation from Francis Bacon:

Great art is deeply ordered. Even if within the order
there may be enormously instinctive and accidental things,
nevertheless they come out of a desire for ordering and for
returning fact onto the nervous system in a more violent way.

One of the things about weaving is that by its very nature, it seems automatically to impose order on the final piece. The ordering I am talking about is the ordering imposed by the straight lines of the warp and the straight lines of the weft.

I am always struggling, it seems, to overcome the ordering of this loom imposed grid. I am always trying to find ways to overcome this rigidity. I am always trying to get "instinctive and accidental things" into my weaving.


This is why, I suspect, many people are drawn to Saori weaving. This is weaving that is based on improvisation and lack of planning. Bonnie Tarses had a go at this a while back and posted her experience on her blog. Go here to read about it. For an excellent introduction to saori weaving, go here.

Meg Nakagawa recently posted on fluidity in other arts and some of her consequent frustrations with weaving as an artist's tool. Go here to read her post on Art-Form Envy.


For what might seem to be absolute freedom, I could weave tapestry. I've tried tapestry. I had thought I would adore tapestry weaving. It seemed to be the freest of weaving possibilities. But I did not adore it. Weaving tapestry was not an unpleasant experience. Something was lacking that I needed.


Ikat is another possibility for overcoming the rigidity of the warp/weft interchange. In weft ikat the yarns are made into small skeins, the width of the warp plus allowance for takeup. They are then tied of with a resist material and dyed. In warp ikat, the parts of the warp are bound with a resist material and then dyed. The ultimate ikat is of course the combination of warp and weft ikat. This requires extraordinary skill attainable only by years and years of experience.

But ikat, true ikat, lovely as it is, does not really appeal to me any more than tapestry does.Ikat, like tapestry, usually results in a piece where the original grid of warp and weft can disappear completely.


I am beginning to learn why I find crackle so appealing. Why I never weary of it. With crackle I see possibilities for manipulating colors and treadlings so that the grid is less obvious, though still there. I see crackle, moreover, as a structure that allows me to design in the rough an overall piece but also allows me to make final decisions as I actually weave. The crackle blocks become simultaneously a deeply ordered structure and a place for "instinctive and accidental things" to occur.


For a brief but good description of ikat and photos of some beautiful ikat fabrics, go here.

For examples of ikat being produced by a contemporary professional fiber artist, Candiss Cole, go here. You can learn more about the artist by clicking on the side link on that page.


Jun and Noriko Tomita, in their book Japanese Ikat Weaving, say in the opening chapter that ikat is "...the kind of technique which could have been produced accidentally by weavers using unevenly dyed faulty yarn giving rise to unexpected patterns." (p.1 ).


Leigh said...

A thought provoking post. I've never thought of weaving that way, or has it ever occurred to me to try and change (or appear to change) what it essentially is; a particular interlacement of threads. But then, as weird as I am personally, I pretty much prefer the traditional forms of weaving. One thing I realize however, that it is color, that keeps it interesting for me.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Leigh, I'm glad you found it thought provoking. That, for me, is what is important.

Dorothy said...

I agree with Francis Bacon about the importance of order in art. We need order / organisation of elements of some sort in order to understand anything of what we are seeing.

But there's also an element of culture and education - we don't necessarily understand the art of other cultures as well as we understand the "order" in art of the society we have grown up in. Ikat, in Japan, and Indonesia, exists within a very particular tradition and has significance and "order" within that tradition that we don't necessarily understand. Similarly, it is said that many people don't understand classical music without having been taught something what it is and how it works.

Must say, I don't like all Ikat, didn't see the point of it at all at first, but I'm getting more interested. I actually prefer the more abstract stuff, and pieces of warp only ikat, rather than ikat dyed warp and weft. I think you have to see some of it as an alternative to printed pattern.

I don't see tapestry as free, as I have learnt more about it I see it as tied to colour units of the dimension of warp & weft - so it turns into just another clumsy pixel image. I've done lots of editing of images on computers at pixel level to the point where I hate that type of organisation.

I do enjoy the complex interactions of colour and weave in your crackle weaving. I find that the possibilities go on and on - not too much restricted by reference to anything else.

Could say more, but it's late at night here and I should switch off. Thanks for provoking interesting thoughts again!

Peg in South Carolina said...

I had not thought of the pixel constraint in tapestry. I think were I to take tapestry seriously, I would want to sett it quite finely. And then I'd probably lose my eyesight weaving!
And I like the more geometric and the freer ikat work, though I much admire the technique of the more representational ikat.