Friday, May 8, 2009

Working with Tommye Scanlin

A radiant Tommye Scanlin weaving at the TC-1

I am so glad I decided to offer tutorial weaving lessons in my home. In the last two weeks I have met two of the nicest women in the world, and even better, I have gotten to work with them. Working side by side with someone is the best way to become friends. Sharing a passion for weaving, as I did with both Betty Vera last week, and Tommye Scanlin this week, means these friendships will go on for a long long time. Tommye had never woven on a TC-1 before, but she took to it like a fish in water. You can see how radiant she looks weaving on the loom--and she looked like this for three solid days! She is home now (she called from Georgia to say she arrived) and probably, like me, dragging her feet, since we were up at 4 a.m. to get to the airport for her early flight. I am also sure, like me, that she is euphoric from the burst of learning that occurred for both of us in the last three days. 

Tommye's four weft taquete in process

The first day, to familiarize Tommye with the process of going from design in Photoshop to cloth at the loom, we took one of her drawings and worked it as both a two-structure damask and a shaded satin with multiple structures that shaded in the weft direction. Since Tommye is a tapestry weaver, working with a loom controlled weft-faced structure made sense, so the second day we began exploring taquete. She wove many two inch sections of a leaf design, using different variations of the taquete structure but at the end of the night none was quite right. In the morning, fresh from sleep and aided by good strong coffee, we tried something different--resizing the image down in size to the "face" dimensions. Of course this was suggested in the taquete and samitum chapter of The Woven Pixel, but maybe as co-author I thought I could ignore it. When weaves were inserted, and the image expanded for weaving, the wefts could pack down and cover the inner warps. After several more two inch sample sections were woven, Tommye made her choices of file, type of yarn, and color, the image was resized for the correct picks per inch, and she wove a lovely piece, which you can see above, in progress.   

Tommye cutting off her weaving

When Tommye cut off her weavings, they measured 108.25 inches. This is really amazing considering that we spent hours sitting downstairs at the computers going over ways to modify images in Photoshop as well as creating weave structures. She told me she hadn't expected to weave much, perhaps a few inches of samples, just to understand.

Dylan loving Tommye's weaving

As soon as we cut off the fabric and put it on the floor to look, Dylan (also known as Biggie), who always knows where the action is and who likes to be in the center of the best energy, took possession of Tommye's cloth. 

Tommye holding up her finished cloth, which measured 108.25 inches (not all of it is showing in this photograph)

So another very satisfying experience teaching and learning from another master weaver has come to an end. Really, I should say, has started. I imagine Tommye will write about these days from her perspective on her blog, and I hope she will post good images of the weavings, since I couldn't capture them in the evening light. We had several discussions about the possibilities of having a dialogue between the contemporary tapestry weavers, active in ATA (American Tapestry Alliance), and jacquard weavers active in Complex Weavers. This experience working on the TC-1 gave Tommye a much better insight into the creative possibilities of handweaving with today's jacquard technology. Sometimes it seems as the fiber field has splintered into many focus groups, and forgotten to talk together about common ground. Maybe in Albuquerque in 2010 there will be an opportunity to get these two groups together for a dialogue. If not, it has already begun with the two of us, and has generated an exciting collaboration that we will pursue, but I will leave that to discuss when it has actually happened.


  1. WOW! Bhakti! Thank you for posting the photos and comments about our experience over the past three days... I've not downloaded my photos yet--still buzzing from the several stages of journey home.
    You and Mark (and Dylan, Molly and December) are wonderful hosts. And you are an incredible teacher. I hope the dialog we've begun will continue and that others will join in from both the tapestry world and the jacquard world. So much in common... so much to share.

  2. Complex Weavers and the ATA were both meeting at the same time on the same campus in St. Petersburg, FL, in the summer of 2008. It was a true missed opportunity that we didn't try to get the two groups together for some good,healthy cross-fertilization.

  3. Your blog is so inspiring. I'm missing designing jacquard fabric lately and reading this gives me the little shot of structure talk that I need.

    (Is that rug the one you bought in Istanbul? It looks familiar.)