Looking at fragments of tapestries online is frustrating at best. Any one who loves fibers knows that there is nothing like seeing fiberart (whatever that entails) in person. Being able to touch it is even better. And being able to see the back, invaluable. Because I cannot see the many Coptic textile fragments in person (and there are many that have survived even from the very beginnings of the Coptic culture, way back in the first century A.D.) it took me qute some time to unravel the first mystery: why did it seem like so many of the tapestry fragments were attached to a linen even weave background? I would like to say I solved this mystery on my own, but in fact I found the answer in a textile text book. I have discovered that some times the most comrehensive explanations for the orgin and structure of textiles comes from text books. They talk about all the geeky details from whether the yarns are S or Z spun, how many plies, what kind of weave, etc. Answers that are not commonly found in history books.
Tapestry (or weft -faced weaving) has been with us for a very, very long time. The richness and diversity of tapestry is a fascinating history of both ancient and not so ancient cultures. The oldest fragments of tapestry that have been discovered came from Egypt and date back to 1500 B.C. I found these photos of such fragments here.
The Coptic tapestries were made in Egypt from the 4th to 8th century. I found this Coptic Curtain Fragment made of wool and linen for sale that was made in that time period.
The Incas of Peru also produced tapestries, a few of which have survived such as this fragment from the pre-Columbian area (found at this website)
Almost any culture that practiced weaving had tapestry as one of its techniques. Tapestry is decorative, strong and versatile. It can be used as a saddle blanket, a bag, a wall hanging, a rug . . . the list goes on. It can withstand the ravages of time like no other woven material and hence fragments of it have survived thousands of years.
Tapestries have graced the walls of castles and the interior of tents as well as the hallways of modern buildings. No other art form is as noble and awe-inspiring. The richness of dyed fiber seems to reach out with its depth and beauty, pulling the viewer in with its amazing magnetism.
I was looking through my favorite book on tapestry: “Tapestry” by Barty Phillips and found my all time favorite fragment of a fish woven in Egypt sometime between the third and sixth centuries. This fish looks like it could have come straight from a modern tapestry. The techniques included: eccentric wefts, hatching, slit tapestry, outlining, weft and warp interlock. The colors were a rich blend of oranges and yellows and browns that seemed to have not faded over time. When I look at that fish I feel like time has not moved on at all, that I could see in my mind the person weaving that fish in the same manner that I could have woven that fish. In fact, I am so in awe of that fish that it has taken great restraint not to try to copy it!
I could pepper this blog with examples of all the cultures that have embraced tapestry over thousands of years, but I suggest that you take your own journey and explore both on the internet and through books such as the one I mentioned the varied and expansive journey tapestry has taken throughout history. It’s mind-boggling. If you are a tapestry weaver it will serve to connect you to the past as if an unbroken thread has spun its way through the centuries to reach you. It gives me chills to think of it.
If you are looking to explore modern tapestry I suggest you start with the American Tapestry Alliance website: http://americantapestryalliance.org. I could spend days and days (and have done so) just exploring the artist pages. The diversity of style and subject matter all contained within the rather rigid restraints of tapestry technique will give you a greater and global understanding of what tapestry really is: a very serious, very controlled and difficult art form that can be as diverse in style and subject matter as, let’s say, oil painting. In fact, during the middle ages oil painting was seen as the poor man’s tapestry (I love that!).
I have to admit, I am very prejudice when it comes to tapestry. I consider it the highest form of art and one of the most difficult. It is no easy task to create a tapestry that is both technically and aesthetically correct and pleasing. In fact, it’s difficult at best. It is no wonder that there are very few dedicated tapestry weavers wandering this earth. The number is actually tiny compared to other art forms.
But don’t be intimidated by this art form. After all our ancestors were not. It’s not something you will master over night. It is a slow and beautiful journey that can engage you for a life time.
May yours begin here.
Welcome to our second #letstalklooms Monday!
Let’s Talk Looms is a new blog/social media series by Mirrix Looms. Every Monday we’ll post a new weaving-related discussion topic that we’ll talk about here in the comments on the blog, on Ravelry, Twitter (with hashtag #letstalklooms), Instagram and Facebook!
Today’s question: Where do you weave?
By Mirrix CEO Claudia Chase
I cannot stop making these.
Two were made on an eight inch loom and one was made on a Mini Mirrix. Because of the way I wove it, it didn’t much matter whether or not I used a shedding device. When you are weaving across two or three warps, which was of ten the case, it doesn’t make much sense to reach up and change the shed. I did have the shedding device on the eight inch loom for occasions when I wove from selvedge to selvedge.
I never thought I would end up in Hawaii, but I did. I decided since I was already going to Seattle for Elena’s graduation from Graduate School and Hawaii is only a fairly long hop and a skip away and after all that hard work she really did deserve a fitting present . . . all to say, we rather spontaneously ended up in Hawaii. Added to our great fortune to be able to go there was the fact that we have lovely friends who live there and we were able to bask in their hospitality for our short four day visit.And Paradise provided tons of color inspiration. The light there is amazing as is the sky, the ocean, the flowers, the beaches.
I call it weaving-lite. It’s what I do when I want to weave but don’t really want to think. My go-to material is hand-painted silk because of its no-fail qualities. If you want to just play with fiber on your Mirrix, use great materials and you probably will create something that is pleasing if not out-right amazing. And it will get you through the moments when your creativity light is not shining at its brightest. After all, creating art is really 95% doing it and 5% true creativity. Often we are repeating something we’ve already done with slight alterations. These baby steps keep us moving toward the rare but wonderful huge insights. And if you are like me, you can’t help but make things constantly.
Let me begin with the beginning which wasn’t weaving, but was actually turning an already woven silk strip into a wearable item. I was inspired by the below findings that I had just received in the mail. I thought they would be perfect for making a silk bracelet, and I was right.
Maybe you’ve played around with a wooden frame weaving loom or a little wire bead loom and you’re ready to take the next step in your weaving journey. Perhaps you’ve just discovered weaving and you’re looking to start out weaving with the best loom you can buy. It could be that you can’t decide if you’re into fiber art or bead art and you want a loom that can do it all. Whatever the reason, here are our top ten reasons why you might want to choose a Mirrix for your weaving needs.
From tapestry weaving to bead weaving to wire weaving and free-form fiber weaving, Mirrix Looms are incredibly versatile.
2.) Size Options
Mirrix Looms come in eight sizes, from the 5″ wide Mini Mirrix to the 38″ wide Zeus Loom, allowing you to choose a loom size that best fits your needs. Need help deciding? Get a free loom recommendation below.
I am not an artist.
This statement, of course, begs the question, “Who is an artist?”
This answer varies from person to person, from medium to medium and from age to age (I’m pretty sure all children are artists). But most artists I know… they know they are artists. These are the people who can’t function without creating: The ones who try to smuggle knitting needles on airplanes; those who can never leave the beach without leaving behind a sculpture; individuals who sink into a deep depression after only a few days not behind their wheel, their loom or their canvas.
I read a post by Rebecca Mezoff the other day (side note: If you want to learn tapestry, you need to check out her online class). The post was titled, “The Desperate Joy of Making Art” and in it she said:
Almost 19 years ago my mom started Mirrix. She was a professional tapestry weaver simply looking for a better portable loom. It turned out a lot of other people were looking for that same thing. When mom started Mirrix I was 11 and didn’t have much of an interest in parental business ventures. As long as she was still always around when we got home from school, I was happy. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I really became aware of her success and her accomplishments with Mirrix. There she was, this artist without a business degree, running a successful business on her own. That pride has only burgeoned since.
My mom and I were always close. Like other-mothers-probably-hated-her-for-it kind of close. She was always my favorite person in the world, and she will continue to be until I have a child of my own (sorry, hubby, mom wins).
When I was a freshman in college I got this idea in my head that my mom should run for State Representative. For some reason she listened to my crazy idea and that summer we ran her campaign together. We did nothing the normal way. We rode our horses to the town hall to register her as a candidate playing Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” from a CD player perched on my saddle. We had magenta signs and glittery bumper stickers. We made t-shirts with puff paint. We knocked on nearly every door in our district. She lost the election by a few votes, which broke my heart. But it turned out there were some issues at one of the polling stations and a recount was called. I was back at school on the day it happened. I had just arrived home from class when I got a call from a friend. “I just saw your mom on TV. She won the recount.” All she said during that interview was, “My daughter is going to be so happy!” That day she became the first female Democrat to ever win her district.
During that campaign was when we realized that we work very well together. Our strengths and weaknesses played off each other perfectly during that campaign, as they do today running Mirrix.
Years later, after graduating from college, living abroad and having my first real-world job; I started working for Mirrix. At the time I didn’t know if it would be a long-term just or if it was just a placeholder while I figured out what I really wanted to do. It became clear fairly quickly, though, that working for Mirrix was what I wanted to do. Now that I’m at an age where I’m beginning to think about having children myself, I’m happy to know that my job will offer me the flexibility to be available to my future kids in a similar way to how my mom was available to me, and I’m happy to imagine that one day my kids will look up to me the way I look up to her.
When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
Happy Mother’s Day to my wonderful mother and to all of you mothers out there who have loved, cherished and inspired your children in similar ways or in totally different ones.
Side Note: While I do hope to be able to be a work-at-home mom someday (hopefully with a nanny, so I can actually work), in no way do I disparage the lifestyles of mothers and future mothers who have found and will find different ways to balance work, life and motherhood.
Mostly my looms travel in reusable shopping bags. It isn’t pretty, but I don’t have even one nice bag (besides some large travel bags, which aren’t terribly practical) that fits a loom bigger than my Mini. A few months ago I brought a few looms to a local store that was interested in selling them. I parked several blocks away and had three haphazardly packed shopping bags full of looms and other supplies. When I arrived I couldn’t find a thing in the jumble I had created at the bottom of the bags.
The topic of loom bags is something we’ve talked about endlessly at Mirrix. We’ve contacted bag manufacturers, talked to customers who have made their own bags and have looked into finding pre-made (Made in America) bags that would fit our needs. While there are many options out there, we haven’t gotten it together to even find the perfect bags for our own looms (as you can see from the picture above).
A couple weeks ago Claudia taught a weaving class in Groton, MA. We talked after the class and she couldn’t stop talking about what a wonderful class it was (see her blog post on it here). She also couldn’t stop talking about a bag one of the students had made for her loom.
This student was Bunny Pepin, author of the blog “La Sewista“. I’d seen her blog and her gorgeous bag, but Claudia says it’s even more amazing in person. “It even has a place for the shedding device” she shrieked over the phone.
The ultimate loom bag by Bunny Pepin
You can read through Bunny’s blog posts about her bag here:
I know, I know, now you’re looking at the canvas bag your loom has been traveling in and thinking, “Do I need to learn to sew?” Fear not, friends, for in the near future Bunny is going to start selling her bags! The details aren’t worked out yet, but it looks like she will have a range from a basic bag to one with all the bells and whistles. We’ll keep you informed when we know more!
Thank you to Bunny for sharing your work!