Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sampling is my Art

Bhakti lecturing to high school students

Yesterday I went to Randolph Union High School for Career Day and lectured to two groups of students in the art room. I brought lots of studies and tried to broaden their concept of weaving and textiles. Most young people know fashion designers, but never consider who actually designs the cloth. I don't think most adults think about this either. One of the things I love about textiles is that the field encompasses so many ways to work within it--textile conservation, textile design, textile art, textile writing, textile teaching. I hope some of these students will look at cloth a little differently after hearing me talk.

I spent two days redoing my compound warp and warp-backed structures and then made new versions of the tests so I could be sure they were correct. This time I used aspect ratio for each section, based on the information from the first studies, and made them approximately two inches high. When I wove today, I used white weft instead of black, which I used in the previous studies, so I could see the affect of weft color. Doing these studies, and going through boxes to find examples to bring to the high school made me realize how much of my work has been sampling, and how much I enjoy this kind of exploration. Someday it would be nice to have an exhibit of just my studies, because these are really my most valuable fabrics. I think it is fair to say that sampling is part of my art.

Second version of warp-backed studies on the loom

I first became aware of compound tabby and compound twill while a graduate student at Cranbrook Academy of Art. I had just purchased a copy of John Becker's book, Pattern and Loom, and used it to try and find an appropriate structure for the narrative textiles I wanted to make. Below are five studies I did at the time--all woven on an 8-shaft loom with the imagery hand-picked. The two studies on the left had a rotation of three colors in the warp, and the next three had two colors. After these I found lampas, which became my structure of choice for many years.

Five Samplers

Two details from the samplers above

One of my favorite weavings I made was called Lucca Math. It had a damask ground based on an Italian textile (14th or 16th century, I don't remember now) and imposed on that were sketches of pots I drew in Florence, as well as the pages of math that i generated when trying to figure out this textile. Woven on an electronic jacquard loom, the writing became the "hand" of the piece. This weaving had the sense of abandonment that I like about my samplers. It is didactic and at the same time illegible; it is like a doodle but in fact it was very considered. I sold the piece but have retained a sampler for my own pleasure.

detail of Lucca Math


  1. three cheers for you.
    hope you talk enticed the audience as we need a new generation to become interested.
    Lovely Lucca Math, but i'm really in love with your annotated sample :-)

    neki desu

  2. I am so excited to read your thoughts. You are indeed giving a tutorial to your thinking as you do your blog... not just to your weaving. Thanks so much.