Fiber Arts #5 …and the universe is me

Here we have the latest Fiber Arts post, which is a sort of Part 2 to this one which was titled “I am the universe…”

While completing that earlier screen-print on meditation, I was also working on my first tapestry weave, which was also a rag weave. What do those words mean? Well, first you need to know that in weaving, you have a warp and a weft — pick up a piece of woven material. Look at it – the warp are the strings that go up and down. The weft are those that are perpendicular to those — they go right to left. Now, in reality, depending on the fabric and where you’re looking at it, you may or may not be actually looking at the warp and/or weft based on that description. But you get my drift, I hope.

When you weave, the warp are the part that comes first — so basically the up/down strings are stretched from one pole to another, with needles to organize them. There’s all sorts of stuff involved in this, but you basically work out a way to lift some of the warp strings but not others — and then weave the weft string in those spaces. In tapestry weaving, the weft has to be woven separately for each color — and in rag weave, it’s not just string, it’s actually ripped-up rags. In my case, they were strips of fabric that I bought on clearance specifically for their particular color tone.

Here is that first, rag and tapestry weave:

Now, the idea was to create a galaxy form in a very general way — so I placed a map-like drawing of a galaxy that I had made using a light table underneath my warp. I used it as a guide to work out when to weave which colors to create a semblance of a galaxy. One of the colors — a mid-tone green — did not work out the way I thought it would, because when squished up, the dark tones in the print made the lighter green background look darker than I’d planned. But the weave I’d chosen, which was a variegated twill, worked out fairly well, and I still like the overall feel.

The concept was to create a sense of wholeness in the individual by recreating the largest form I could really understand — the Milk Way galaxy itself.

After I started graduate school, I realized that I needed and wanted to keep up with my weaving ways — and so I got an independent study in the spring of 2006 where I could weave 3 projects (and have student loans and such cover it). The initial one was based on a photo I’d taken of a tree that had rotted around a blaze mark — an image I’d taken on a hiking trail on Mount Washington.

Sadly, I don’t have an image of that one.

But here is the second one in that particular series — this one is based on a comic book cover and a spiral pattern from one of Hokusai’s prints. The cover in question is Hellblazer #11:

I don’t have the Hokusai Print, but the goal was to create a sense of the other side of that earlier, galaxy image, and even of the Meditative Screen-print — which both attempted to catch something universal and even galactic in a single image — to capture something big in something small. This print was intended to capture something smaller — the moment of recognition, when a person understands the tininess of their own existence. And, simultaneously, the darkness of that moment, the realization that we are all specks of life in an infinitely expanding vast chasm where galaxies themselves are mere specks of light.

And I rather love the result — the spiral especially worked out quite well — though the face definitely needed more detail. I wound up going back in with a needle and reweaving a few sections. It’s still not quite perfect, but I’ve grown to accept some imperfection — as a kind of signature I guess.

This success would lead to the next step in my textile art. We see, next time we talk about Fiber Arts, what happens when one adds screen-printing to a rag-weave tapestry…

Until next post,

J

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