Archive for the ‘Handweaving’ Category

Tapestry snippets: A chat with Marianne Yoors
February 16, 2011

Ploughshare, 1977, wool, 84"x84." The Yoors Family Trust.

More about the Yoors tapestries (see previous post here).  If you missed last summer’s exhibition of work by Jan Yoors, or would like a chance to see some of his fascinating output,  there is currently an exhibition of tapestries,  drawings,  and gouaches from the estate of Jan Yoors at reGeneration Furniture, NYC.  The exhibition has been extended until June 5, 2011.

There are several striking pieces in this show, but the standout is the enigmatic “Cobalt Mountain” (shown below), which measures over 20′ wide and took hundreds of hours of weaving to complete, and like most of their tapestries,  was done “on spec.”

"Cobalt Mountain," 1977, wool, 259" wide x 89" high. The Yoors Family Trust.

I continue to be intrigued by the Yoors’ mystique, and I asked Marianne if she would be willing to talk to me about her life and art.  She graciously agreed,  and here are some snippets from our conversation:

Jan, Annabert, and Marianne Yoors, together produced dozens  of handwoven tapestries in their Greenwich Village Studio between 1945 and 1977, the year that Jan died. The actual number is closer to 200,  seven of which are over twenty feet long.

Jan “dreamt in wool – only in wool”  because he loved the intense color that it absorbed.  Coincidentally,  he met and worked exclusively with the Paternayan Brothers, two Armenian wool dyers in New York. Their wool-dyeing business produced the skeins of rich Persian wool for the Yoors’ tapestries.  The colors are as brilliant today as when they were first dyed.  See, for example, the detail below,  from the border of “Wolves Howling at the Moon,” woven in 1956:

"Wolves Howling at the Moon," border detail, 1956, wool.

The tapestries were always signed, “Jan Yoors.”  Marianne  sounded weary of being asked why she and Annabert didn’t sign the weavings, and her answer is “we signed with every stitch.”

The Yoors family’s lives were inseparable from their work. Annabert and Marianne sometimes wove for days without a break. “When you spend six, eight, ten months weaving a tapestry,  you weave a foot or so and roll it up.  You cannot make a mistake because it cannot be fixed.”  Weaving together for fifty years,  Marianne says that they wove as one person,  as the tapestries’ flawless surfaces show.

Jan wove too, but he also wanted to design, and had “definite ideas of what he wanted.” He painted, drew, designed, traveled, sculpted, wrote and took photographs. (Jan Yoors’s photography can currently be seen at the L. Parker Stephenson Gallery in New York City.)

Since most of the Yoors’s tapestries were designed and woven during the 1960s and 1970s, I wondered where their work fit into the “fiber revolution” and concluded that their almost religious devotion to the work,  put it into another realm.  But Marianne has definite ideas on the subject, too, that she summed up by saying,  “all tapestry is fiber art, but not all fiber art is tapestry.”

Postscript:  Shortly after Marianne and I had our conversation,  I came across this sharp snippet of dialogue,  from Nicole Holofcener’s brilliant film “Please Give.”  It’s only 23 seconds long, so I transcribed the clip to make it easier to understand.  Note:  the “tapestry” being argued about is only seen briefly at the beginning of the clip, but is clearly a cut-pile rug.

Shopper 1:  I feel like that would look good in our house in New Paltz, either on the wall or on the floor.

Shopper 2: I’m more of a floor rug person.

Owner 1: It’s actually a tapestry.

Shopper 1: No it’s not.

Owner 1: Yeah, it’s a tapestry.

Shopper 1: It’s a rug.

Owner 1: OK, it’s a rug . . . or a tapestry.

Shopper 1: I’m like a hundred percent sure that’s a rug.

Owner 2 (on phone): You know, I think you’re right.  It’s a rug.

Nicole Holofcener has perfect pitch for yuppie bickering, but I was amused that she chose a tapestry, of all things, for her characters to argue about.



Sheila Hicks: 50 Years
November 7, 2010

Exhibition catalog

If  you have been following my posts about Sheila Hicks,  here’s the latest:

The first museum retrospective of Sheila Hicks’s remarkable career just opened at the Addison Gallery of American Art,  Andover,  MA, and will continue through February 27, 2011,  after which it will travel to the University of Pennsylvania,  Philadelphia, PA, and the Mint Museum of Craft and Design,  Charlotte, NC.

For information about the exhibition, contact the Addison Gallery, and for information about the exhibition catalog  (shown above),  contact Yale University Press.

To read my previous posts about Sheila Hicks, click here , here , and here.

2010 Weave of the week #8: Sparklers
October 2, 2010

Red Sparkler designed by F. Devlin, handwoven by S. Roehl

For months I have been sidelined by medical problems that have kept me  immobilized,  depressed,  and,  most definitely,  uninspired.  But the bright side of all this downtime is that I had time to work on my website,  which,  as I said almost a year ago,  has been “under construction” for years.  Well, it’s almost finished.

One of my tasks was to write brief copy about the scarves on each web page,  so I had to distill their most important features, and in the process,  I made some interesting discoveries about the red Sparkler scarf shown above and below that I have chosen as this week’s featured weave.

Red Sparkler detail

The red Sparkler is one of my favorites — I love its name,  the clear red color combined with multicolored iridescent glitter,  and the diagonal mock-leno weave.  But in looking at it again,  I was surprised at how soft and lightweight the scarf  is,  so I weighed it and found that by using a lofty merino wool in combination with an open weave,  I had gotten a 9″ x 60″ scarf that weighs just under 5 oz.

Here’s the draft that I used.  I played around with the denting and ended up cramming groups of three ends into one dent,  then leaving two dents empty,  and wet finishing easily took care of the rest.

Red sparkler draft

But what’s really important to me about the red  Sparkler is that it has inspired my first blog post in months.  I hope that’s a positive sign.