My own recent journeys have not been quite as far afield or as intensely fiber-focused, but I've taken a couple of fun trips so far this year, one to Guatemala and the other just over a week ago to the Four Corners area of the U.S., encompassing Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and Monument Valley Tribal Park. On each trip I took dozens, maybe hundreds, of photos, and my mind was whirring with ideas as to how I might take what I'd seen and use it in tapestry somehow.
In the Four Corners region I was awed by the scale and patterning of natural formations. At Zion, desert varnish painted the cliff walls with shiny areas and with abstract expressionist drip patterns. I learned that in geological terms the wedge weave pattern in the cliff faces is due to crossbedding of different layers of rock.
|Rock walls at Zion|
|Rock wall with crossbedding (or wedge weave) at Zion|
|"Fairyland" section of Bryce Canyon|
|"Big Eye Hogan" at Monument Valley. The same forces of erosion that shaped the monuments are at work carving the eye in the ceiling of this giant alcove.|
In Guatemala, the landscape was gorgeous, but I was most enchanted by the vibrant colors and the exuberant mixing of patterns in traditional Maya clothing. I admired the incredible workmanship in the dyeing and weaving. But since I returned, I've not found a way to directly translate any of that into my own work. It could be that Mayan weaving is Mayan and not for me to emulate. I have, though, continued to explore and research the ways in which color, culture and place intersect. (If you have any books or articles to recommend, please share!)
|Market in Antigua, Guatemala|
|Woven huipil, or blouse, from Guatemala|
In all these places I feel shrunk down to my right size, very very small in the grand scheme of things, and that is oddly comforting. (Another way to say it is that I'm getting out of my studio and out of my own head!) Perhaps this is the feeling that I can try to convey in my work, rather than a literal depiction of any of these places. Hmm, how can I depict in visual terms the feeling of being small in a vast, diverse, and mysterious universe?? I recently read an article about British textile artist Claire Benn who is doing exciting work along these lines.
I did make sketches and notes of ideas after my trips; I will revisit these and see what "has legs" and is worth pursuing. I'm curious about how you respond to travel once you're back in your studio. Have you taken a trip where you've seen or done things that resulted in new work, perhaps even a new direction for you? Or is it enough for travel to be a chance to rest and refresh your mind and spirit, to refill the well? I'd love to hear from you, in the comments below or on Facebook or Instagram.