the gifts of gift multiply, sometimes.
Opportunity sometimes presents and is missed, at least that was the case with me. A couple years ago I was out in Victoria BC teaching at ANWG and in the Seattle/Tacoma area. I heard about an amazing exhibit of tapestries and tapestry book(s) by someone, whose name (I am daft at remembering names) went forgotten. Sometime later that year someone insisted I check out that weaver’s website, A Field Guide to Needlework, and there I met an extraordinary body of fiber work, sometimes written/drawn as comic. There she was: Sarah Swett, that same weaver, and I began to read her most recent, and then the older blog entries. How I wish I had pursued seeing that exhibition, but at least I had now found her words and pictures.
Sarah weaves stunning tapestries; strong design and color, rule bending and adventurous, full of life. One thing she wants to do is get tapestries off the wall and into the dimensional world. When I began reading she was writing about weaving on a homemade backstrap loom and weaving small tapestries (along with spinning, dyeing, knitting, drawing and other making). Her tapestry work that I found there refreshed and marveled me (to marvel, verb). It was climbing off the wall, into her pockets and back out as a woven novel written on store receipts…woven books in many ways.
I thought I should let her know how much I liked what I saw and read. And so began an occasional email correspondence. About then Sarah was weaving miniature tapestries with four selvages, something I’m interested in. I’ve been making small cloths, in my case for the shifu books, with no fringe or knots. She named it fringeless, I couldn’t agree more with that. (Fringe certainly has its place, just not in my book pages.)
I used to make miniature tapestries, began that work when my first child was born. I could then at least finish something and I could sit on the floor with him. Perhaps the repetition of thread through shed, of fork beating down the weft helped soothe him. I wove on small frames, on books, making dozens of them over the next several years, and never solved the problem of the ends: knotted, needle woven into the web, braided, what to do with them? When I decided to make shifu book pages I needed a better solution, dismissing a Navajo supported warp as too difficult for a paper warp and weft. I just built a stump loom with a chunk of 4 x 4 from the paper mill and some brads and began weaving discrete single pages. I built a more than four selvedge stump loom, too, for complex book structures. Imagine my excitement when small, fringeless tapestries appeared on the Field Guide. She had solved that problem brilliantly!
I’m always making paper to make books or other stuff with. These little papers are business card size, and I have two sweet moulds to make then with. I sent a small stack to Sarah, who promptly wove covers and bound them together into her kind of book. There is kami-ito in the cover tapestries…and a bit other handspuns. Pages are flax with indigo, white abaca, orange cotton and linen off-cuts, red cotton rag from a friend’s shirt, pigmented flax, heavy flax, and gray cotton off-cuts. They’re housed in a house (hoose?) in the Palouse, sewn and strung together with a string and a prayer, of sorts. It’s a happy little book.
Such a nifty visit and a beautiful trip through Palouse country, I’d driven over to Moscow to meet Sarah. We talked and talked and I rediscovered I can enjoy floor sitting despite my ouchy knees. Sarah took me to a nifty restaurant and we had delicious lunch, pizza and soup, talked more, returned, and her husband sent me away with a new and delicious pickle he’d just made. After driving back to Colfax, I met up with my workshop fellows and Tim and Ann for Mexican supper before the workshop.
*Do search for A Field Guide to Needlework (you can follow the link above) and enjoy Sarah’s weaving and writing and all the rest. You will also then understand that connecting thread.