Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Time Warp. . . and Weft: Tapestry Diary exhibit

I had the pleasure of viewing an exhibit of time-related tapestries last week in Athens, Georgia at the Lyndon House Arts Center.  A number of tapestry weavers have been making tapestry diaries and other pieces exploring the passage of time, and this exhibit highlights those weavings.  As always, it was great to see work in person that I had previously seen online or in printed publications.  You can appreciate the techniques, the textures, the physical presence of a weaving so much better in person.  

Perhaps the best surprise though was the sheer variety of approaches that is possible with what seems like a fairly straightforward idea:  mark the passage of time by weaving.  If you are interested in tapestry or in a daily practice of any kind, do yourself a favor and go see the show.  It's up through July 29, 2017.  And if you want to know how to get started on your own diary, read to the very end of this post for an exciting announcement!

Geri Forkner's daily weavings in foreground; Kathy Spoering's calendar pieces in background.
Photo by Jean Clark.
The pieces were beautifully installed in a spacious gallery.  Each artist's work was hung together so works could be compared from year to year.  Geri Forkner has been doing daily weavings incorporating found objects and non-traditional materials since 2005!  Her long narrow strips were hung from the ceiling and on the wall behind, making an visually rich environment that invited viewers to walk through and among them, studying individual details.

Geri Forkner, daily weavings, suspended and on wall
One of my favorite details was the comb which formed a miniature loom!

detail, Geri Forkner 
It was also interesting to see how Geri experimented with a different finish for the edges of some strips:

detail, Geri Forkner 
Several artists have taken the diary aspect literally, weaving a small defined bit each day.  Every artist sets up her own rules of the game, deciding in advance how colors will be chosen, what techniques will be used, and the overall size of the finished piece or pieces.  Janet Austin, Janette Meetze, and Tommye Scanlin have all created traditional wool (or mostly wool), weft-faced woven tapestries this way. Sometimes the month or the date is indicated; sometimes it is not.  But often events from the artist's life or the larger world make an appearance in the weaving.  The daily inventiveness of these artists' approach really impressed me.  And their craftsmanship inspires me as I continue to refine my own technique.

Janet Austin, Tapestry Diaries 2015 (left) and 2016.  Apologies for the askew photo. 
I love the way Janet Austin has outlined each day with a thin black line, setting it off and alluding, perhaps, to the calendar format.  And each day is a delightful miniature in itself.

detail, Janet Austin, 2010 tapestry diary 
Janette Meetze made her 2013 diary in three panels, with each day a distinct and detailed rectangle.

Janette Meetze, 2013 Tapestry Diary Triptych

detail, Janette Meetze, 2013 Tapestry Diary
But for 2015 Janette adopted a more fluid approach, in which the days flow into each other, and the journey through the year is like a hike through the hills.  Red squares on the sides indicate the months. 

Janette Meetze, 2015 Into the Hills

detail, Janette Meetze
Photo by Jean Clark
It was especially interesting to see how several artists' approach to the project changed over the years of their practice.  Tommye Scanlin has been weaving diaries since 2008.  You can see the evolution of her pieces below.  A weaver can choose to weave one loooooong piece, or several smaller pieces. She can choose to leave the warps unwoven when she is away from the loom, as Tommye has done in Year Two 2010 below.  In another year, she chose to weave a solid "filler" color for those days. 

Tommye Scanlin, left to right:  Month of May, 2008; Year One, 2009; Year Two 2010
For the past few years, Tommye has woven a small image related to the season for each month, and has indicated the passage of each day with squares and rectangles that surround each month's image. As long as each month's image and surrounding shapes are completed by month's end, it's all good. 

Tommye Scanlin, Year Seven, 2015 (left) and Year Eight (2016)

Kathy Spoering completed a calendar series, weaving a pictorial tapestry for each month of the year.  As I understand it from her blog, this was a project requiring several years' work, and the detailed imagery and thoughtful designs attest to that.

Kathy Spoering, January (top) and May
Kathy's pieces were hung in a grid of three rows of four pieces each.  Here's a detail of June:

detail, Kathy Spoering, June 
Finally, Rebecca Mezoff took yet another approach to the theme of time.  In a recent artists' residency at Petrified Forest National Park, she took her small Hokett loom outside each day and wove a 2" square piece in response to the landscape around her.  She mounted several of these pieces together on fabric-covered stretchers.  

Rebecca Mezoff, the Petrified Forest Tapestries 
These intimate pieces invite the viewer to come in close to appreciate the details.  Rebecca has also made a book available with photographs of the tapestries in the landscapes that inspired them.  I may have to treat myself to this.  Research, you know!  

detail, Rebecca Mezoff Petrified Forest Tapestries
I am mid-way through the second year of my own tapestry diary practice. (Go here to read about last year's diary and my plans for this year's.  My most recent post updates you on June 2017's diary.)  I am still fascinated by how this daily activity of sitting to weave a bit every morning has been such a spur to creativity--and a way to practice and refine my technique.  As I write this it is July 1, and while I have woven the hem of this new month's piece, I still don't know what my approach will be.  But tomorrow morning, I will find out.  Stay tuned.

P.S. I have just learned that I have been selected to teach "Plan Your Tapestry Diary" at next year's Convergence conference in Reno, Nevada.  If you're excited by the possibilities of any kind of time-related weaving (and isn't it all time-related?), join me there. 


  1. Wonderful post, Molly! Thank you for visiting the exhibit, taking a close and thoughtful look, and writing about it all. Congratulations on your Convergence proposal acceptance! That should be a marvelous class.

    1. Thanks, Tommye! I'm looking forward to it.

  2. Thanks Molly! I really enjoyed seeing the details, especially of Geri's work. I've never seen that in person so I didn't have a feeling what it was like until seeing your details.

    1. Wonderful post Molly and equally wonderful news about the class at Convergence. Many thanks for reviewing the show so thoughtfully and the best of wishes for your very own time travels on the loom.

    2. Thanks, Janette. I thoroughly enjoyed the "time travel" show and am really looking forward to the class as well. Good luck with your new studio venture!

  3. Fabulous review, thank you for this!