The rain has finally come to the Riebeek Valley and everything feels washed clean. Now the million's of Rands worth of germinating wheat seeds will have a chance to grow instead of wilting under the warm sun. Even those of us that only live on the outskirts of the farming community feel their relief. At the same time the weaving of my most recent newspaper tapestry "Second Trumpet" is complete and for some reason the coming of the rain feels significant to me.
I worked on the image for this piece during the protests a few months ago when farm workers were protesting their daily wage. While the protests in the valley were thank fully rather peaceful it was a time of tension and stress for the workers, farmers and communities living in the area especially while farms and vineyards were being burnt in the Darling area.
Just as I have finished weaving the smoke and fire for weeks on end the rain has come to give new life and vigour to the land and the people who live so closely to it. It has taken me 140 hours to weave and will take another week to work off completely, however, one of the best parts about finishing a tapestry is that I get to start the next.
By its very nature tapestry weaving is a time consuming and laborious process. The general practice for tapestry weaving is to use a detailed, full-scale image attached to the back of the loom to provide a guide for the weaving. This image is known as a cartoon and it often contains numbers or marks as colour references.
So the thought of making a tapestry 'sketch' is rather incongruous.
An artist in Australia who is doing some interesting work is Cresside Collette. She is exploring the concept of 'en-plein-air' tapestry and makes small jewel-like works which convey some of the immediacy of the environment she is working in. She works directly onto a small loom without the aid of sketches or any other preparatory work and the results are captivating and fresh.
She has also written a paper in which she explores the importance of drawing since the Medieval times as the "foundation for and the integrated context of woven tapestry" and looks at the "the shift in importance of the weaver as artist within the process".
"Found in Translation – the transformative role of Drawing in the realisation of Tapestry"
Whether one attempts to work 'en-plein-air" or not I think it says something about staying focused and creative even while working from a well considered and detailed cartoon. Working on a tapestry need not be a mere multiplicative process, but rather a continuation of the creative process.
"Bundanon Valley", Tapestry 9 x 9.5 cm
"Pulpit Rock", Tapestry 10 x 10.5 cm
"Towards the River", Tapestry 9.5 x 8 cm
"Valley View", Tapestry - 6.5 x 28 cm