Tuesday, May 15, 2012

COPTIC TAPESTRY AND LOOKING TO THE PAST

coptic
I have a tapestry project at the moment that is taking over my thoughts lately as to how I am actually going to weave such a complicated image into a small tapestry?
A lot of time has been spent searching through my tapestry resources, collected over the past 20 plus years. My mind wanders to the topic ‘Going International ‘a future theme for the American Tapestry Alliance newsletter. How things have changed in the last 20 years. When I first started weaving tapestries I had to take a 3 ½ hour each way train trip to Melbourne to do my research at the State Library of Victoria. Now you can do most of your research via the internet.
 technique
It is a shame in a way that all of my old research material is in black and white, but I am amazed that I collected so much. I think that I have around 10 folders full of references. This is a page showing some of the weaving techniques used by the Copts.
coptic detail
An example of the use of flying shuttle technique that looks similar to stem stitch embroidery across the tapestry.
detail
I really fell in love with Coptic tapestries and wrote an article once about the comparison of the use of imagery in Coptic tapestries and the paintings and mosaics by the Paris born Melbourne artist, Mirka Mora.
Nancy Arthur Hoskins gave a fascinating presentation at the International Tapestry Symposium held in Canberra in 2008 on 'Coptic Fabrics and The Fauves', you can read it here.

V&A Conservation in Action: A tunic from Egypt from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

I came across this video ages ago about the restoration of a Coptic Tunic so I thought that I should share it here. So why the research into Coptic Tapestry? I have just finished re reading Meghan Nuttall Sayres’ book, Weaving Tapestry in Rural Ireland TAIPEIS GAEL, DONEGAL. It is a lovely book, maybe it reminds me of my childhood growing up on a sheep station where some years they would shear up to 20 thousand sheep. As well as the fact that my 21st birthday present was an Ashford spinning wheel and two Tonkinese kittens, most of my spinning and weaving tools still wear the cats teeth marks! I noticed while looking through the images of tapestries how more alive the tapestries that feature eccentric weaving are compared to shapes built up by the use of stepping. I never use eccentric weaving in my tapestries, I think that I stopped about the time that I was told that the A.T.W do not use any eccentric weaving, because of the risk of uneven tension that can cause a tapestry to hang badly when taken off the loom. That would probably be about 19 years ago now. So maybe it is time to take the plunge as I certainly don’t want to think that there is only one way to weave, and not always the safe way.
Artist Lynne Curran is known for her use of Coptic style technique and the artist Silvia Heyden has taken eccentric weaving to the maximum in her tapestries. I don’t think that I want to push my eccentric wefts that far but I am looking for a way to weave a more lively surface.   
smell
It has been a pleasure to re visit some of my old research that I have not looked at in many years. It has reminded me of the fact that when I began there was so little opportunity to collect information and when I could I would photograph books with my SLR camera, hence the poor quality photo.
pencil study of smell
And even more time consuming I would make colour pencil studies.
How things have changed with technology, new students don’t realize how lucky they are with so many more books published on Tapestry Weaving. Information searched on the internet with the click of a button and home printers that print in colour.
hair
There is something quite beautiful about my black and white copies though, the tonal values are broken down and you can still appreciate the weaving.  So I think that I will have a little practice of some new techniques in a sample before I embark on the final tapestry so that I can sort out any problems. Well that's the plan!
I photographed the black and white Coptic images from my book Coptic Fabrics by Marie-Helene Rutschowscaya it was published in 1991 and I bought mine in 1992. It is a beautiful book, worth tracking down if you are interested in Coptic Fabrics.

2 comments:

Michelle said...

What fabulous resources - thanks for sharing! And that's a great pic of the flying shuttle/thread technique ;)

Debbie Herd said...

Hi Michelle, I have lots of tapestry 'STUFF' a long time collecting. It is good to look back through it sometimes as I forgot that I had some of it. Was especially delighted to find a very old article by Nancy Aurthur Hoskins that I did not even realize I had!

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