Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Mounting small tapestries

Lots of us love to weave small these days, and there are some great new looms out there designed for small tapestries.  I can't wait to try my new Mirrix Saffron loom, for example.

Small pieces need some extra care and thought in deciding how to display them effectively. They seldom look their best mounted "naked" on the wall as you would hang a large piece.  However. . . one memorable exception for me is this pulled-warp piece by Mary Colton, as seen at last year's Fiber Crawl invitational exhibit at GalleryFRITZ in Santa Fe.  I think this piece works so well without mounting because its irregular shape allows it to interact with the surrounding wall space in an active way; it doesn't just sit there inertly as a rectangular piece might.

Mary Colton, Bumps in the Road, 17.5" x 5" (widest point) 

Lately I've been doing a couple different things with my small tapestries, putting some in white frames and mounting others on painted canvas.

I found some simple white frames complete with mats and glass at Target and lucked out that a couple of my small minime pieces fit into the openings perfectly.  I went back to Target (back in the day when you could make such a casual errand) and bought the remaining stock of white frames (under $20 each).  Then I got smart and started designing the pieces to fit the frames!  I love the clean modern look and the way the white mat sets off the textures and colors.  I don't like to see glass over textiles, so I don't use the glass.

Molly Elkind, Wild Grass,  linen, wool, kudzu.  Tapestry 5" x 5.25" x 3"; frame 19" x 15"  (c) 2020.
The wiry tan kudzu yarn protrudes about 3" from the surface, so glass would definitely not work here!

Molly Elkind, Utah Walls, cotton, wool. Tapestry 5.5" x 5.75" x .5"; frame 13" x 13"  (c) 2020
Here's a closer look at the process of mounting Utah Walls.  I do have to supply a piece of archival mat board cut to fit the frame as these frames are designed to hold photographs.  First I lay the piece on the mat board, carefully positioned in the center, and draw a light pencil line on the board to indicate the top and bottom of the tapestry.  Then I use an awl to punch holes along the line about 1/4" apart.  I stitch the piece through the weft to the board all across the top and bottom.

Stitching the piece to the mat board:  Needle goes up through the hole, through the back of the weft, back down through the same hole, and over to the next hole on the back
Finished lines of stitching on back of mat board.  I finish the thread ends with a big fat knot.
The last step is just to layer the mat board with tapestry and backing board in the frame.  Easy!

In addition to the minimes, I've been working on a series of small studies of our high desert plants.  To mount these, I've been painting canvases from the art supply store with acrylics and stitching the tapestry directly to the canvas in a similar process to that above.  Sometimes I use the deeper 1.5" "gallery wrap" canvases; other times I use the traditional 3/4" thick canvases.  I hope to eventually have a dozen or more of these pieces, mounted installation-style on the wall, a kind of fragmented millefleurs tapestry.  You can see step by step pictures of this process on my Facebook and Instagram feeds from March 27 and 29.

For me the hardest thing about this process is getting the paint color just right.  I'm not a painter!  I audition background colors by sliding sheets of colored scrapbook paper or pieces of fabric under the tapestry to give me a general idea of the best color and value.  And then, by trial and error, I figure out how to mix that color!  It can take multiple tries, especially as my collection of acrylic paints (I'm using Golden Fluid Acrylics) is quite limited.  You can see below my Indian Paintbrush piece on a dark green-painted canvas, and the piece of paper in the lower right with the color I was originally aiming for!  Not even close!  (Though the camera does distort that paper color, making it much grayer than it should be).

Molly Elkind, Indian Paintbrush, cotton, linen, wool Tapestry 7" x 6.5"; canvas 14" x 11" x 1.5" (c) 2020
I tried again and finally got what I wanted.

Molly Elkind, Indian Paintbrush, cotton, linen, wool Tapestry 7" x 6.5"; canvas 14" x 11" x 1.5" (c) 2020 
I hope this gives you some options for mounting your small pieces.  There are many others!