“It takes a special energy, over and above one’s creative potential, a special audacity or subversiveness, to strike out in a new direction once one is settled. It is a gamble as all creative projects must be, for the new direction may not turn out to be productive at all.”
Looking around my apartment, I see many semi-completed objects, vestiges of past projects and explorations. Hand dyed silks, unfinished coiled forms, polymer clay pieces shaped within my fist and webs of glass beads hanging from a bookcase. Each unfinished piece is a testament to an idea, an experiment - the drive to push boundaries and uncover new paths in my creative practice.
2022 is rapidly unfolding and as each month passes I am collecting more and more of these ‘artefacts of process’ as I have come to know them. Experimentation has engulfed my practice and I am learning to lean into the mess, failure and the possibilities that flow from being a beginner again. And through all of it, I am learning, refining and creating a deep sense of connection to my process-driven practice.
When the Travelling Loom arrived smack in the middle of this period, it quickly became apparent that my contribution would not be a finished product, moreso an exploration of process and a testament to the value of taking time to experiment in your practice.
When Rainie first introduced me to The Travelling Loom project I was hesitant. In my practice I create sculptural vessels from fibre and textiles. I have previously learnt to weave, however it is not a significant part of my practice. However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to understand it not as an opportunity to apply the ideas behind my sculptural work to weaving, but as an opportunity to explore the integration of weaving into my sculptural work.
To create three dimensional sculptural forms on a Mini Loom, I needed to experiment with shapes that could be sewn together and discover materials that would add flexibility and structure to the weaving. The first step was to really examine the small loom, its dimensions and then sketch out a few ideas that would fit within the frame. To push the limits of the loom and create each form with only one warp, I utilised its full capacity, including weaving on both sides of the loom.To add structure to the pods, I experimented with jewellery wire in the warp, a process refined as I worked through the three pieces.
Approaching the project with experimentation created an environment to build upon the learnings of each piece, each one informing the next.
Pod #1 - Chaos
I had a big vision for this little pod and embarked on its creation with somewhat misguided enthusiasm. While this overview may seem simple, the reality was rather chaotic.
To start weaving, I dressed the loom with a metal warp spanning both the front and back of the frame. The pod form is created from four segments woven as two panels - two on the front of the loom and two on the back. This allowed all four segments to be woven at once. I used a simple plain weave from a weft combining three yarns, a single ply textured silk, viscose and lace weight mohair for texture.
Once the weaving was complete, the segments were cut from the loom, ends woven in (including the wire) and seamed. Repeated pinching and manipulation of the finished weaving created a rippled and undulating form.
Pod #1 evolved so much along the course of the project, including over-dying and the last minute addition of a silk fringe to cover some of the wire warp chaos.
Pod #2 - Refinement
Building on the learnings from Pod #1, I switched up a few things for Pod #2. First, I altered the shape so it could be formed from two segments, woven in one panel. Second, I added cotton yarn to the metal warp to create bulk. Finally, to ensure more of the warp was covered in the final piece, I chose a handspun alpaca and cotton boucle for the weft. Once again the piece was cut, seamed, overdyed and shaped by hand.
Pod #3 - Ease
Despite the refinements I made to my process for Pod #2, I ultimately had to simplify further and compromise on using the wire warp. It was the backbone idea of these experiments but in the end, weaving in metal warp threads was messy and left a significant amount of sharp ends. For Pod 3# I chose to add a wire framework within the finished weaving, allowing me the flexibility to only add wire where it was needed and to reduce the overall amount of wire ends to be sewn in.
To increase the size of the pattern for Pod #3 I dressed the loom with a continuous warp from front to back, effectively doubling the length of the segments. Each segment began at the top of the loom, continued to the bottom, then proceeded up the back of the loom.
Once again the piece was cut, seamed, overdyed and shaped by hand.
Jon Acuff says we should “Be brave enough to suck at something new” and joining this project gave me the opportunity to suck at weaving, make a mess, play with new ideas, work and re-work - gaining new skills and knowledge to add to my practice.
Over the course of the project I created three pieces - each one informed by the last to refine my approach to the process, materials and form. I played with shape, materials and how I used the wire to create a flexible but structured shape.
If you’re curious, why not add a little experimentation to your creative life, as Jack Dickerson said “Experiment, experiment, experiment – until it finally flows from within you. It is a hard road. But the result is also a deep inner satisfaction.”
Written and photographed by Kate Dick.