Summer 2013 Newsletter (not exactly like shown)
Celebrating tapestry, the Canadian Tapestry Network is an organization dedicated to communication among its members across Canada and around the world, fellow tapestry weavers and all those who love tapestry. It is a non-profit organization run by volunteers and publishes a newsletter with a Canadian slant to document, promote, and advertise individuals and events related to the art of woven tapestry.
We all love it when you write to us and send us photos of your work, and more importantly, all the CTN members love reading about your tapestry adventures – whether challenging or not.
Editorial: Summer weather is now upon us for most parts of Canada and many of us are now busy tidying up our gardens, as we enjoy the outdoors. For some it is an opportunity to enjoy some weaving time under our favourite shade tree while birds and insects sing their more popular melodies…as we appreciate the lazy days of the summer months. Consider receiving your CTN newsletter by e-mail for your e-convenience and a lighter footprint ecologically. Have an enjoyable summer tapestry adventure. We all look forward to reading about your next woven story.
…Your CTN newsletter volunteer editors, Barbara and Madeleine
With sadness, I would like to tell the CTN membership about Beth Hebert who recently lost her battle with cancer. Beth and her husband Dean, moved to Kingsville, ON just over three years ago, near their most favourite spot in the country, Point Pelee National Park, where they met on one of the beaches 45 years ago. Beth came to tapestry weaving after many years of weaving fabrics on her floor loom as well as pottery. From her lovely fabrics, she made beautiful jackets which were in demand by many, over the years. In recent years, Beth had been exploring various ideas which she picked up in San Francisco and New York where she studied historic and contemporary tapestries. Using Pro Chemical Dyes, Beth dyed all of her yarns carefully and precisely. Her shelves were stocked with an extensive array of tints and shades of all of the colours of a colour wheel.
Beth was a member of the Canadian Tapestry Network, the American Tapestry Alliance and for years, the Guild of Canadian Weavers. She loved the sharing nature of weavers in general, and excelled in all of the textile arts that she explored… perfecting her skills consciously. Beth’s last tapestry which she started just before her death portrayed a frog camouflaged among leaves. Beth was obviously focused on making this image as subtle as possible. It would have been a truly beautifully-executed tapestry. Beth Hebert died far too young in life, a life she strived to live to the fullest each and every day in her textile arts. Every day, she focused on bettering her skills, but was shy about talking about her accomplishments. Beth Hebert will be truly missed by many.
A photo of Beth by her tapestry pipe loom.
Some of Beth’s lovely tapestries
Beth wanted to live until she could accomplish all of her ideas swimming in her mind. She was only just getting started exploring various possibilities in the field of woven tapestry.
Celebrating the Accomplishments of CTN Members:
► Vladimira, who lives and weaves in Surrey, BC, continues to share her lovely tapestry work with us all…. The “Chief of Seattle” is one of her most recent tapestry adventures. This piece is 35” x 35”, with a linen warp, sett at 10 epi,and weft of hand-dyed wools and silks. Using a variety of dye materials, Vladimira dyes virtually all of her yarns and threads which she incorporates into her textile arts. Visit www.vladimiratapestry.com to see more of her lovely work.
► Congratulations Vladimira! Vladimira Fillion Wackenreuther has won 3rd Place in HGA’s 2013 Small Expressions Exhibit with her recently completed piece “Baby Snake” woven with Japanese handmade paper and silk thread. This piece was 6.25” x 5.5” x 5” in size. Photo was taken by Joel Fillion.
► “Doddle Tapestry” by CTN member, Myrna Lindstrom, who lives and weaves in Vancouver, BC
Weaving lines in tapestry is something of a challenge. A while ago, as I looked at some doddling I was doing, I decided I could use my doddle to play with weaving lines. I reviewed Line in Tapestry by Kathe Todd-Hooker and decided to work small. The results at the end do not show all the taking out and reweaving I did. I learned from the exercise and enjoyed myself. Working on a specific challenge and working in a small format made me concentrate on the challenge and know that I could finish the piece before tiring from the exercise. I can see myself doing this again with a different challenge. Size of tapestry: 15″x9″ Warp sett: 10epi; Weft: wool, sewing thread, and silk weft
►Line Dufour: www.tapestryline.com
Recently I received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to co-create a tapestry installation entitled Fate, Destiny and Self Determination. Weavers and non-weavers from all over the world are participating. The tapestry installation is composed of three sections.
Section one was woven by myself in my studio. “Osmosis”
Section three is being woven on the Gobelin loom at the Toronto Weaving School in Toronto at 255 Royal York Road. Anyone and everyone is welcome to visit the school and weave a portion of the pre-determined design. Confirm with me the times and dates that the Toronto Weaving School is open for you to do so.
Section two is composed of shapes, not greater than 10cm (4”). Anyone who wishes to do so, can have a shape or as many shapes as they wish and weave it in whatever tapestry or rug technique one wishes, with their choice non-perishable material or fibre. Colour choices will be included in the shapes you receive. Whenever the tapestry installation is exhibited, it will include the names of all who have participated. A video and slide show of the project which will also be part of any exhibition of the tapestries.
To receive a shape or shapes, send me a SASE to Line Dufour, 25 Beckett Avenue, Holland Landing, Ontario, Canada L9N 1E6. Indicate how many shapes you would like to weave.
TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2013
Lord of the Hunt and Dovecot Studios at Toronto Weaving School
One day a few weeks ago, I was doing some photocopying at the Toronto Weaving School, which shares space with many other kinds of instructional opportunities and subjects, and consequently, all kinds of instruction goes on there, from languages, to furniture upholstery, furniture refinishing, wood carving, ballroom dancing, language instruction etc….. It’s a dynamic building for mostly adult learning. One of these instructors came up to me to talk because she had found this crumpled paper in the photocopier that had jammed it up. Instantly she thought I was the culprit because the page happened to be about tapestries woven at Dovecot studios (http://dovecotstudios.com/) at the turn of the twentieth century. Of course, she probably didn’t believe me when I told her that I was not the culprit and of course I can completely understand her incredulity. The page information had very detailed information. Who else in the entire building would have photocopied such a page? This mystery intrigued me !
I was also absolutely curious as to what book it came from because from what I read from this page, the weavers were named and their initials were woven into the tapestry. The person who designed the tapestry was also named: Skeoch Cumming. So I tried googling it with no luck except to find myself ordering a book The Art of Modern Tapestry: Dovecot Studios Since 1912, edited by Elizabeth Cumming, which I did not regret but wonder is she related to. Skoech? Hmmmmmmm….the mystery deepens ……well…this page wasn’t in it. My curiosity compelled me to post it on Facebook and sure enough, to my immense gratitude, the first response was from Kathe Todd Hooker who said that she thought it was probably a page from an exhibition catalogue from Dovecot Studios in Scotland but could not tell me more than that. You can see Kathe`s incredible work here: http://kathetoddhooker.blogspot.ca/.
Clare Coyle from the UK, who studied at the Edinburgh College of Art, is the one that illuminated me!
And oh….what a response! She said:
“I noticed your post about The Lord of the Hunt image and answered……it is from the first Dovecot exhibition catalogue, Master Weavers. The full title is “Master Weavers -Tapestry from the Dovecot Studios 1912 – 1980. The image is the first tapestry they wove in 1912. It’s not available on Amazon UK and is on the US site and it seems to be available 2nd hand I think from around $15 dollars or so
which seems a bargain! I’ll post a photo of the page in the catalogue it is from as there is an actual photo of the man they used as a model – it states ” James Roddick, the night watchman modelling for a figure in Lord of the Hunt”. He doesn’t look a very happy chappy! Lol. Published by Canongate press in Edinburgh around 1980, so no ISBN no. The version I have has a mainly white cover and a small (Archie) Brennan tapestry in the middle. I don’t know if there was a second edition with the other cover or not. “
When I asked Clare if she had a website we could share with you all, she responded:
“Sadly I have been very lazy with setting up any website, however I have quite a few albums on my (Facebook) pages with a number of my tapestries in them. Have a wee gander through them! “Thanks Clare and Kathe!
CTN member Line Dufour lives and weaves in Holland Landing, ON
► From Juana Sleizer:
1) I was invited to talk about tapestry in the Northern District Branch of the Toronto Public Library’s Seniors’ Club on Feb.28th. This was my little contribution to let people know more about what we do. I explained what a tapestry is, how we make it and a bit of history too.
2) The Toronto Guild of Spinners and Weavers created a committee with the purpose of doing a presentation about the Guild. This promised to be an exciting task with three members – I am one of them. We are working with very interesting research, that includes bits of Toronto’s art history.
3) My submission was accepted for the next Triennale Internationale des Arts Textiles taking place in Ottawa in August 2013.
CTN member Juana Sleizer lives and weaves in Toronto, ON
► “The High Art of the Low Countries”: by Jinty Knowling Lentier
Recently on a BBC television program, historian Andrew Graham-Dixon described the wonderment of tapestry weaving. He showed the picking out of a cartoon, the weaving and beating down of the weft, and more. He visited the De Witt Royal Manufactory near Bruges with its collection of Flemish masterpieces, including ones from around 1450. The tapestries were hung on the walls adorning the manufactory rooms. Fine details could be seen and the bright colours colours were still strong. (I would suggest light levels are kept low and humidity controlled.) Mr. Graham-Dixon emphasized that luxury and piety were the order of the day, especially in this labour-intensive medium of tapestry.
If you get a chance to see this series, I would highly recommend it.
CTN member, Jinty Knowling Lentier lives and weaves in Newquay, Cornwall, UK
Editors note – You can find Dream of Plenty on the internet – Andrew Graham-Dixon shows how the art of Renaissance Flanders evolved from the craft of precious tapestries within the Duchy of Burgundy into a leading painting school in its own right – but it says not currently available in Canada on BBC iPlayer – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0176ftq
► Fashion Series: “Revolution” – Barbara Burns
Weaving faces has been my focus since I began weaving tapestry in 2003. I have been wanting to expand my horizons for some time but have had trouble finding my way. During a phone conversation with Diane Wolf from ATA I asked Diane if she would mentor me with the express goal of breaking my mold. We did this through ATA’s Distance Learning mentorship program and began January 2012. I have a love of historic costume and textile. For about 10 years I volunteered at a local historic society that has a large costume and textile collection. After one course in conservation at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City I became the head of the costume and textile department. In fact, I was the department. It was a great experience which fueled my love. I wanted to bring this into my tapestry and with a little help from Diane I did just that. I spent many hours searching through my books of historic costume until I came upon a red and white striped walking dress made in France in 1780. The dress was photographed on a mannequin with a white head and white paper hair, perfect for a bold graphic design. Using my point and shoot digital camera (OlympusVR-320) I photographed the image two times, once as a regular photograph and a second time using a filter in the camera that gives the appearance of a black and white drawing. I worked with these elements in Photoshop using different filters, and moving the two images around (I particularly like Cut-out under Artistic). I had over 30 different versions but something was lacking in each one. The dress has a cascade of folds so I blew up a portion of that and used it as the background and the design was looking better but still not quite there. Finally I thought of putting a border with the image breaking through it and I had my design. Of course I did have to add one more element so I put words in the border. I’ll say more about the border later.
Through all this I was sending my designs to Diane and getting her feedback and ideas. She was very supportive and making suggestions. She gave me encouragement by email and on the phone. At one point I wrote Diane about my intentions:
‘I like your suggestions. My thinking for this piece is not to be realistic and therefore I do not want to give it too much depth, especially the B&W portion. I want it to read like a flat paper cutout. … I realize I didn’t make any of this clear to you and perhaps I wasn’t totally clear myself. I had a lot of time to think about this … and was able to clarify my intentions for this piece. I haven’t put it into words yet and I will try to a bit right now. I was thinking about fashion on two levels. One is how women have twisted themselves to fit into a particular fashion like bound feet or stilettos or corsets to be in fashion. The second is about how cookie cutter fashion can be and women can camouflage their individuality because they want to fit in (double entendre intended) so much so they give up their right to make their own statement about who they are by wearing someone else’s idea of fashion. That is why I’m going to use the mannequin head and repeat it in the two dresses. The one on the B&W dress will be black and I’m considering making the one on the red and white dress a shade of grey. I’m not decided yet. When I get there I’ll decide.’ (In the end I did use grey for the outline on the red and white figure.)
At the same time I was working with Diane I was going to classes with Archie Brennan and Susan Martin-Maffei (I am a member of the Wednesday Group), so I was also getting input from both of them. Who could ask for anything better. It was a bit difficult to consult with Diane on color since we were so far apart geographically so Archie and Susan were helpful here. I finally began to weave after some sampling to work out color issues with values and hues. Again, Susan and Archie were helpful with this. I was about 4/5 through the piece and took a good look. I decided I did not like how I wove the border. It is about two inches wide and includes the words: Fashionable (fash-uh-nuh-buhl) adjective 1. observant of or conforming to the fashion: stylish 2.current; popular Fashion (fash-uhn). Although I like the words I used the weaving was not as well done as I would have wished so I decided to unweave the whole border, which was a bit of work. Fortunately, I sew as I weave so the border where the words were was relatively easy to remove. The reweaving went quickly but I hope I don’t feel the need to do that again. All in all, I think it is a better design without the words.
The final tapestry is 27.5” x 60” woven with seine twine warp and cotton and silk weft. There are three shades or red, black, white, dark grey and off white. I thoroughly enjoyed weaving this piece especially the black and white portion. After doing so many faces this was a pleasure. Everyone knows how a face should look but these stripes were forgiving. The whole piece has sewn slits and there are a lot of them. I did leave some areas un-sewn. I did this where red meets red or white meets white to help delineate between the separate stripes of the same color.
This tapestry marks a turning point in my designing. I am excited about weaving a textile within a textile and bringing my love of costume into my work.
CTN member, Barbara Burns lives and weaves in Harpswell, Maine
CTN member, Diane Wolf lives and weaves in Sun City West, Arizona
► A Recent Exhibit of TWiNE members – “a piece of TWiNE” at the Imagine Gallery in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Exhibit information was given to the reporter by Tamar Shadur.
From the Daily Hampshire Gazette; www.gazette.com
Thursday, May 23, 2013
[‘Keeping Tabs on the arts’]
For your interest, consider visiting the TWiNE blog, tapestrywine.blogspot.ca, and Jan Austin’s blog, “Tangled Web”, austintapestry.blogspot.ca, to enjoy photographs of the lovely tapestry pieces exhibited by TWiNE members, some of whom are also CTN members.
Woven by CTN member, Barbara Burns: I started with a photo of a French walking dress from 1780 and worked from there. I have a love of historic costume which is where this began. The original dress is in the collection of a museum in Japan. I really enjoyed weaving it, no real face to worry about, the dress is on a mannequin. Size is 60’H by about 24″ wide. Please credit Paul Avis with the photography.
Woven by CTN member Jinty Knowling Lentier who lives in Newquay, Cornwall, UK
This is my latest tapestry–Tree Bark. Various yarns were used including North Ronaldsay, Black Welsh, silk, synthetics and spindle spun ones by me! Size: 37cm x 21cm.
Woven by CTN member, Alex Friedman, who lives in Mill Valley, CA.
It is a piece called “Aspens,” I made last year. It is 47” x 34” x 2”.
Woven by CTN member, Marjolyn Vander Wel, who lives in Penetanguishene, ON
This year I started designing with acrylic on wax paper, pressing it double and the taking it to the computer and with print shop, moving it all around.
This is the first on a few more to come. It is a lot of fun weaving with all those bright colours and because I dye my own yarns, I have a lot of colours at my disposal. My daughter confiscated this tapestry. I wove it in Florida, where the sun shines a lot. Size: 1.10cm. wide and 65cm. high, sett is 4 per cm. It is stretched around plasty-glass and looks great on the wall.
Martha Overdiep- Giesen,
Photo of part of the weaving group, below is Martha I [Marjolyn], am on the left behind her in purple.
[These photos and story have been submitted in memory by her student and CTN member, Marjolyn Vander Wel]
Born 1917 in the Netherlands, died in 1994 in The Hague, the Netherlands. Martha married her teacher Jan Giesen, 17 years her senior. Jan was a painter (1900-1983) and taught at the “The Hague Royal Academie of Art”. Martha was very talented artist in her own right, her speciality was portrait drawing with pencils.
My husband was transferred to the Netherlands in 1981, and I became a member of the weaving guild in The Hague. I met Martha at the first meeting I attended in 1984 and she had brought the tapestry with the 2 boys. They are her grandsons.
Martha started weaving tapestries after the death of her husband. She had never taken tapestry weaving lessons, so her first works had bad edges. She bought a bas lisse metal tapestry loom, and that helped to improve her technique.
However her sense of colour blending and interpretation gave her work a unique perspective. Martha was my friend and by publishing some of her work, will make [sure] that she is not forgotten.
The first piece that I wove on her loom, which we still warped together was a peace rose, I hoped that it would bring her peace. I still weave with some of her yarn and on her loom.
Many arts goers have better health, higher volunteer rates,
and stronger satisfaction with life: new report
January 30, 2013
(Edited to only focus on art gallery attendance)
Report funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council
The Arts and Individual Well-Being in Canada, the 39th report in the Statistical Insights on the Arts series, examines whether connections exist between Canadians’ cultural activities and their personal well-being.
The data in the report show that there is a strong connection between 18 cultural activities and eight indicators of health and well-being (such as health, mental health, volunteering, feeling stressed, and overall satisfaction with life). Cultural participants have significantly better results than non-participants for 101 out of 144 cross-tabulations (or 70%). Cultural participants have significantly worse results for only 10 of the cross-tabulations (or 7%). (Further details about the eight social indicators and 18 cultural activities are provided at the end of this summary.)
Six cultural activities and three social indicators were selected for detailed statistical modeling. The key findings of the statistical models are that:
- Art gallery visits are associated with better health and higher volunteer rates.
- Theatre attendance is associated with better health, volunteering, and strong satisfaction with life.
- Classical music attendance is associated with higher volunteer rates and strong satisfaction with life.
- Pop music attendance is associated with better health, volunteering, and strong satisfaction with life.
- Attendance at cultural festivals is associated with better health, volunteering, and strong satisfaction with life.
- Reading books is associated with better health, volunteering, and strong satisfaction with life.
The statistical models explore whether participation in these arts and culture activities have an association with social indicators above and beyond demographic information. That is, they examine whether cultural participants simply fit the demographic profile of healthy, socially-active citizens, or whether cultural participation might help explain aspects of health and well-being that are beyond demographic analysis.
While the statistical models provide evidence of a connection between cultural activities and well-being, some questions about variables that might have an association with the three indicators of well-being (such as the influence of smoking or alcohol consumption on health) were not available in the General Social Survey. In addition, it is very difficult to provide evidence of a cause and effect relationship between the variables in a statistical model in the absence of an experiment to directly measure the impacts of culture on personal well-being.
Specific findings for Art gallery attendance
The exploratory data analysis shows that art gallery attendance has a statistically significant connection with six of the eight social indicators. Compared with those who did not visit an art gallery in 2010, art gallery visitors:
- Are much more likely to report that they have very good or excellent health (60% vs. 47%).
- Are much more likely to report that they have very good or excellent mental health (67% vs. 58%).
- Are much more likely to volunteer (50% vs. 31%).
- Are less likely to feel trapped in a daily routine (30% vs. 37%).
- Are more likely to have done a favour for a neighbour in the past month (69% vs. 63%).
- Are slightly more likely to report very strong satisfaction with life (62% vs. 58%).
In a statistical model of health, art gallery visitors have a 35% greater likelihood of reporting very good or excellent health than non-visitors, even accounting for other factors. Art gallery visitors have an 89% greater likelihood of having volunteered in the past year than non-visitors, even after controlling for other factors. In a model of satisfaction with life, art gallery visitors were not shown to have a significantly greater likelihood of reporting very strong satisfaction with life than non-visitors, once other factors were accounted for in the model.
The data in this report are drawn from Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey of 2010, an in-depth telephone survey of about 7,500 Canadians 15 years of age or older. “Cultural attendees” are defined as anyone who went at least once to the relevant cultural activity in 2010. This is a low threshold of cultural participation, as repeated (or deeply engaged) cultural experiences may generate stronger social connections. Also, many cultural activities do not have explicit social goals.
Mounting and Framing Small Tapestries
There are ten articles on the ATA website about how to frame a small tapestry. http://americantapestryalliance.org/education/educational-articles/mounting-and-hanging-tapestries-a-variety-of-solutions/ also, there is a good set of instructions on Tommye Scanlin’s blog : http://tapestryshare.blogspot.com/2011/11/mountingfinishing-method-for-small.html
And yet, to the surprise of many, the form is returning on two parallel tracks. First, interest in older, classic tapestries is on the rise; they are taking their place in our minds as equals to other media. When no less an institution than New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art was looking for a replacement for its director in 2009, its trustees appointed Thomas Campbell, one of its European decorative arts curators — known to some as “Tapestry Tom” — and the organizer of seminal shows like 2007’s “Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor.”
“Art history is stepping back from its obsession with painting and sculpture and looking at the arts in context,” says Campbell. “The more you do that, the more you see that the great patrons were spending huge amounts on decorative arts like tapestry. There’s a whole new awareness of the significance of these objects.” (Click here to jump ahead to Campbell’s picks of top tapestries to view around the world.)
Shown above, a mid-16th-century Flemish tapestry is embellished with leaves, flowering branches, and exotic birds. It’s available at Keshishian, a London carpet and tapestry dealer.
The Underlying Beauty of Tapestry: Perhaps there’s something inherently intriguing in the binary structure of a tapestry. Absent the rich, wet application of oil paint, a canvas isn’t very interesting, and without a chisel, that block of marble won’t be carved. It’s the same with warp and weft, the twin forces without which there would be no tapestry: The warp threads create the unseen structure holding the whole thing together, and the weft threads form the pretty pictures visible to all. Usually the two are joined on a vertical loom via skilled human hands.
Threads — whether wool, silk, linen, or even gold — also draw us with their texture. “Part of the appeal is the medium itself — it’s tactile,” says Alice Zrebiec, a consulting curator at the Denver Museum of Art. The warmth of a tapestry isn’t just visual. In the old days before central heating, tapestries were hung to prevent drafts from getting through stone walls. A painting never had such an elemental, practical duty.
Tapestry as Social Commentary: But tapestries are no longer just charming throwbacks for viewing in museums. The other track of the current resurgence is among contemporary artists. In an age when nearly everyone is considered a multimedia practitioner, the woven textile is proving irresistible. “The whole tapestry format has been revived to an extraordinary extent,” says David McFadden, a curator at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City.
He points to Turner Prize–winning British artist Grayson Perry’s traditional textiles that comment on modern society. Perry’s Walthamstow Tapestry of 2009 (shown above) has the teeming pattern of a Baroque beauty, but on closer inspection, the names of powerful brands like Microsoft are woven in, too. “He’s part of a generation that has rediscovered the pictorial format of tapestry and found it extremely seductive,” says McFadden.
A Living History: Part of the appeal to today’s artists comes from our basic need for stories. “Sequential narrative goes back to ancient times,” says the Met’s Campbell. “Tapestry, because of its scale, provides a place for lots of narrative.” That was part of the appeal for William Morris, who led a mini revival in the late 19th century because of his fondness for medieval arts. “And there was a further renaissance in the 1930s and ’40s” among French artists like Jean Lurçat, says Campbell.
Art and Collaboration: Some designers only create the cartoon — as the preliminary design is called — and then outsource the actual weaving to a skilled workshop to create the tapestry on a loom. That was the method for some top artists of the 20th century, which saw a resurgence in a form that had changed little since the Renaissance. It was especially true among artists better known for working in other media.
Alexander Calder, famous for his mobiles, applied his unique sensibility to tapestry; so did the great modernist architect Le Corbusier and the painter Sonia Delaunay. They showed that unicorns and hunting scenes weren’t the only subjects appropriate for tapestry; the form could also be abstract or gestural. Made in editions of six, these tapestries are more available today than pieces that are centuries old.
Tapestries in Contemporary Culture: The developments of the 20th century paved the way for artists like Sheila Hicks, who had a large retrospective in 2011 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. She alternates between making free-form fiber sculptures and weaving tapestries at a loom. Hicks, who is based in Paris, is currently in the middle of a commission from the French government to create a tapestry in the famed Gobelins workshop, established in the 15th century as a decorative arts center with tapestry at its heart.
“They’re so labor-intensive,” says Hicks, who is devoting two years to this new project. “It’s so much more challenging to make one, but once it’s finished, there’s a great sense of accomplishment.” Her current 9×6-foot piece at Gobelins, an abstract composition that references landscapes, will be in wool. Her colors are evocative in and of themselves: gold, bronze, ochre, cadmium, and moss green, the last of which is a venerable tapestry tone because of its frequent use in woven Renaissance landscapes.
Hicks loves many things about this form, including its portability. “A tapestry is an old-fashioned thing that fits our nomadic existence,” she says. “You don’t just hang it on the wall and contemplate it. It’s an extension of your life. You can even wrap yourself in it.”
I See Unicorns: Living with tapestry doesn’t require a castle. The large interiors common to modern suburban houses are surprisingly amenable to them. “They were conceived for large spaces, and they look great in modernist interiors,” says New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Thomas Campbell. “Paintings, when they’re large, have a sheen and a reflection. But a large textile brings a warmth and a unique coloration.” Campbell discusses top tapestries to seek out:
- The Unicorn Tapestries, the Met (Cloisters), New York. These seven panels, woven in Brussels around 1500 and depicting a unicorn hunt and capture, “have a complex allegorical scheme, like great poetry,” says Campbell, who explains the tapestries have a higher-quality weave than that of their Parisian counterparts.
- The Lady and the Unicorn, Cluny Museum, Paris. Six panels, woven in Flanders in the late 15th century, take human senses as their allegorical theme. “Magical,” says Campbell. “The figures have a poetry and grace to their conception.”
- The Hunts of Maximilian, Louvre, Paris. Flemish painter Bernard van Orley around 1520 had 60 weavers working for two years on this famous series about a Hapsburg duke’s outing. “Perhaps the richest visualizing of Renaissance Europe that survives,” says Campbell. “They have a cinematic sweep.”
- Sistine Chapel tapestries by Raphael, Vatican Museums, Rome. “People don’t realize the Sistine Chapel was originally hung with tapestries woven in silk and gold,” says Campbell of the commission by Pope Leo X to depict lives of the Apostles. “They cost even more than Michelangelo’s ceiling.” Raphael challenged the weavers to introduce perspective, “opening up a whole new era in tapestry design.”
A Tapestry of Your Own: You don’t have to be an archduke to buy a tapestry. “There are some amazing older tapestries available at auction for $20,000 to $30,000,” says the Met’s Thomas Campbell. Or less: A mid-18th-century piece from the great weaving center of Aubusson went for about $12,000 in 2009 at Sotheby’s London. (That city and Paris are the best places to buy pre-19th-century tapestries.) If the cartoon design is by a famous name, it will go for more. François Boucher’s The Flute Player, circa 1778, is $185,000 at New York’s Vojtech Blau gallery.
A Tapestry of Your Own: For animal- and nature-themed pieces by the likes of Jean Lurçat, who led a revival among French weavers in the mid-20th century, pieces range from $10,000 to $100,000; the same is true for the work of Le Corbusier, Sonia Delaunay, and Alexander Calder, who made their names in other media.
Whatever the tapestry, a few rules apply: Keep it dirt-free and out of the light. “The sun is a killer,” says dealer Simona Blau. “And no major temperature changes, as the fibers expand and contract. Silk is the most delicate.” When it comes to tapestry, age is ultimately less important than condition.
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