Archive for May, 2009

2009 Weave of the week #22: “Who Robbed Roy and How?”
May 31, 2009

"Who Robbed Roy and How?" by Ann Rosenthal

"Who Robbed Roy and How?" by Ann Rosenthal

This week’s weave is another mind-bender from my friend Ann Rosenthal, whose complex woven piece “When Opposites Attract” I wrote about in January.

This work is called “Who Robbed Roy and How?” Ann described it in her weaving notes as being a combination of “2×2 twill [the checks and lighter tan background], doublecloth tapestry [the spotted cat], single cloth tapestry [the darker tan background], and discontinuous warp and weft section [the missing red square].” I also learned from the notes that the piece was woven on two beams, 8 harnesses and treadles, and that some kind of stretcher was used for the twill area.

I still don’t understand how this piece was woven, and I probably never will, but I think that to appreciate it fully it’s important to understand that it is all one completely woven piece.

I asked Ann once about her creative process, and she said that it often involves fitting together three unrelated things. In this case those things were: (1) the image of the Peruvian cat shown below;  (2) the red-and-black-checked Rob Roy tartan that Ann was weaving at her sample weaving job; and (3) her interest in, and experiments with, Peruvian and Coptic weaving techniques.

Peruvian cat 1100-1400 A.D.

Peruvian cat 1100-1400 A.D.

Ann and I first met at a Weavers’ Guild exhibition because I was so wowed by a sophisticated prize-winning piece of hers, ” Matte for Cat,” (see Gallery page) that I asked to meet her. I discovered that we not only shared a love of cat imagery, but both made our living as Garment Center sample weavers. All of Ann’s weaving is done with yarn that was discarded by former employers — for example, “Who Robbed Roy and How?” was woven with an 80/20 wool/nylon blend.

Some years after that Guild exhibition, I bought her Rob Roy piece, and now Ann and I also share the photo shown below, of my cherished cat Sweeney echoing the pose of his distant Peruvian cousins.

Sweeney 2000 A.D.

Sweeney 2000 A.D.

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2009 Weave of the week #21: Lady Dai’s mittens
May 24, 2009

Lady Dai's mittens

Lady Dai's mittens

The delicate, woven silk mittens shown above were made 2,200 years ago for a Chinese noblewoman known today as “Lady Dai.” When she died, they were placed into her tomb, along with hundreds of other luxurious items, for her to enjoy in the afterlife.

The “Noble Tombs at Mawangdui” where Lady Dai, her husband, and her son were buried were discovered and excavated in the Chinese province of Hunan in the 1970s, and more than 1,000 objects were unearthed, as well as Lady Dai’s remarkably well-preserved body. (Her last meal was still in her stomach!)

Seventy of the tomb objects — including the mittens and other woven silk textiles — are on exhibit at the China Institute, NYC, until June 7. It is one of the most interesting shows that I have seen in a long time, and the fingerless silk mittens are my favorite pieces in the show — they seem remarkably contemporary.

The panels across the mittens’ palms were dyed with ground cinnabar and woven with a damask pattern, then trimmed with handwoven gold ribbon at both edges, in what is said to be the first known instance of Chinese characters’ being woven into a ribbon (see the illustration below from the exhibition catalog).  The woven characters mean “much gold,” so the ribbon advertises the wearer’s wealth and status just as a modern logo would. As the exhibition catalog puts it, this ribbon, which was complicated and time-consuming to weave, was “produced in small quantities for an elite clientele.”

Mitten ribbon design

Woven characters

The China Institute, NYC, has an excellent short video about this extraordinary discovery on its website and there is a detailed article about it in the May/June 2009 issue of Archaeology magazine.

2009 Weave of the week #20: Lucky bag
May 17, 2009

Lucky bag

Lucky bag

This week’s weave is a woven raffia bag (shown above) from West Africa, probably Ivory Coast or Nigeria. It was given to me by a couple I knew, in exchange for boarding their cats while they were traveling in Africa.

Looking back, I’m amazed that I did such a daft thing. Taking responsibility for the well-being of four cats was a weighty commitment, and I had not even considered possible problems of cat protocol that might arise when my two cats found two strange cats in their house. But I wasn’t thinking about the risks, I was looking forward to the rewards, and my loft, I figured, was big enough for all of us (almost 2,000 sq ft) and had no furnishings of value except my looms.

It was a typically steamy New York summer, and I had no air-conditioning, so Susan and Jerry’s longhaired Persian cat staked out the cool floor of the shower as his territory. Their other cat was a gentle but frail, elderly Siamese who wheezed alarmingly and seemed barely able to totter across the loft to the litter box. I prayed that both cats would stay well at least until their people got back.

A month later my friends came back bearing gifts of African weaving implements and textiles, including this raffia bag with the woven word “lucky,” which I guess it was, because everyone survived, including my own adored cats, Princess and Puffy (shown below in a characteristic pose).

Princess and Puffy

Princess and Puffy