Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My blu-ray copy of the documentary 'A Weaverly Path' and signed book ‘ The Making of Modern Tapestry’ by Swiss born artist Silvia Heyden arrived in the post about a month ago. I have watched it several times. Once with a ‘tapestry friend’ and the more times I watch it, the more I learn and want to do something different. In the forward to her book, published in 1998 Silvia says.
‘From the beginning, I was convinced that there was a tapestry waiting to be uncovered that could not be painted or designed on paper, but one that would evolve from the process of weaving itself. In true Bauhaus tradition, my dialogue with the loom has been one of my greatest sources of inspiration in finding a tapestry that reveals the essence of the woven medium, one that will bring the art of tapestry to a new height'
Silvia goes on to say.
'I never doubted the potential of tapestry and over the past 35 years of weaving have come to the conclusion that tapestry can indeed be an art form in its own right with its own specific mode of expression if the craft of weaving is allowed to influence the art of tapestry. In order to be meaningful, tapestry must find its own identity. It must not be a woven painting, but rather a composition that could only have been woven, not painted'

Since 1964 Silvia Heyden had woven 800 tapestries before beginning her ‘Eno Series’ the subject of this documentary. Now at 85 years young this year, there have probably been many more created.
I don’t want to give anything more about the documentary away, as I think that you should go out and buy it for yourself……..and be inspired just like I have been. I enjoyed listening to her memories of Johannes Itten, I was reminded of my first day as a student in Appolo Bay 20 years ago. Our first design class with Marg Fairbanks painting a colour wheel from Ittens book, while trying not to pass out in the 43oc heat before the gouache on the brush dried as we tried to get it on to the paper!  And all those colour studies we did from his books became so familiar in Silvias words and colour methods. I hope that if I get to her age that I am still as agile, weaving and excited about the next creative thing that I am doing.

‘Keep weaving with what the loom can do, that is probably the number one thing I learned’ 

What could my loom do that would be so different?
Stanley Dann 4 shaft loom
A very 1980’s photo of me in October 1983, the week of my 24th birthday, sitting on my new loom the day I went to collect it. This is the last loom that Stanley Dann made to order as he was already in his early 80’s. I had some emails from one of his Granddaughters a few years ago asking me about him as she was quite young when he passed away. I have a photo somewhere taken on this day of him sitting on the loom. When I find it I will write more about him and the story behind why I ordered my loom. It was like taking a new baby home.
What is different about my loom? I have 4 shafts!
I have been having a tapestry meltdown since about 2007 not feeling satisfied with the direction my work has been going in.
Are my tapestries weaverly….No?
Am I hung up on trying to interpret a painting or drawing into tapestry……YES?
Do I still want to do that…..NO?

Around 30 years ago I came across the work of an American tapestry weaver in a Spin Off magazine.
Some tapestry was woven along with a plain tabby weave in linen. Others were what I would call brocade weaving. I remember showing them to my lecturer in 2007 saying that this is what I want to do. You will have to ‘Treadle it’ was Marie’s answer. I promised myself that before I die I will make 1 brocade tapestry!
A final word of advice from Silvia Heyden.



  1. Thanks, Debbie. You used my favorite Sylvia quotes. I live by them. She
    spoke my feelings that I had not quite gotten into words.

  2. Thanks, Debbie. Great post and I love the picture! You used my favorite
    Sylvia quotes. She spoke my feelings which I had not put into words in quite that way.

  3. That is such a wonderful documentary - I have also seen it quite a few times since I've received it! She is so inspirational ;)

  4. Hi Gloria, they are wonderful quotes aren't they. Yet so far in a way removed from what we are taught as to the translation from art work to woven tapestry.

  5. Hi Michell, it is inspirational, experience gained by the act of making. If I get around to weaving 50 tapestries I will be AMAZED!


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