Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tapestry Diary: from Lent to Easter

Last week I shared with you my excitement about my daily practice of collage and where it might be leading my work.  Today I want to update you on my tapestry diary, which I began late in November 2015 at the beginning of Advent, which is also the start of the church year.  In my diary I am following the seasons and colors of the church's liturgical calendar.  I intended for this to be a spiritual practice of sorts, in which for at least a few minutes a day I would focus on the meaning of the spiritual season and the sanctity of time generally.  I confess that many days my focus has been on the practice of tapestry technique as much as anything transcendent.  

The color for the period of Lent, like Advent, is purple.  During Lent I continued to practice various tapestry techniques, mostly hatching (horizontal lines) and pick-and-pick (vertical stripes).  I did an exercise that Kathe Todd-Hooker calls "spider" by combining the two techniques to make a large cross shape in the center.  I acknowledged my birthday by using purple ribbon and silver thread for that day (above the cross and under the A).  As I have been doing, on days I was away from my loom I inserted a white strip of matboard to fill the empty warps temporarily. 

For Holy Week, the week before Easter, I decided that I would weave the word Hosanna (conveniently, it has seven letters), the word that the adoring crowds shouted as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  I challenged myself to weave the letters without a cartoon, and I did so, though the letters are rather crude block capitals until the last two days, when they became crude lower-case letters.  At the start of the week the letters were the green of the palms the crowd waved in the air; by the end of the week the letters are barely distinguishable from the gray-purple background.  It seemed appropriate in light of the story of Holy Week for the Hosanna to die out at the end. 

This past Sunday we celebrated Easter and the start of a six-week white season in the calendar known as Eastertide.  All through Lent I wondered how to weave this section.  How could I use tapestry to indicate the significance of the holiest day in the Christian calendar?  How to show the radically new beginning and disruption of old rules and assumptions that the Resurrection represents?  And not least, how to make a large white section interesting visually?

I decided to weave a half-pass of dark gray between Holy Week and Easter week, indicating with a sort of dotted line the permeable membrane that separates life before Easter from life after Easter.   For Easter and the few days since, I've used white linen thread and silver metallic threads.  On the first day, the far left, I used too thick a weft bundle and the yarn didn't completely cover the gray warp.  Since then I'm using only one strand of white linen at a time and that is working better, but in keeping with my original rule about not ripping out, I left the first day as is.  I'm inserting small shapes and diagonal lines in silver that I intend to carry throughout the season.  (Sorry they're not more visible in the photos.) I have some other ideas for how to disrupt the old diary grid and conventional techniques as well.  Stay tuned! Soon I will have to advance the warp and what I've done up to now will be rolled to the back of the loom.  

P.S.  For another look at a truly spectacular and inspiring daily practice, check out Penny Berens' yearlong adventure in embroidery

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