Weaving is an ancient craft used over the centuries by many cultures to create fabric for the home and clothing. Once weaving became mechanised during the industrial revolution woven fabrics were accessible to all at a low cost, but weaving by hand once commonplace all but died out. However the method of creating structure by interlocking threads continues to be explored and developed by artists and designers a like. In this blog post in the series about how traditional textile techniques are being developed for contemporary sensibilities I will be giving you a taste of how weaving can be at the cutting edge of fashion, design and art.
It goes without saying that the fashion industry relies heavily on woven fabrics but in Viktor and Rolf’s recent Haute Couture collection, ‘Vagabonds’ for Fall/Winter 2016/17 the designers have taken the woven fabric to a new joyful place. The whole collection uses remnants from their 25 year old fabric archive, cutting everything up to weave into new garments. The structure of the weave is very visible forming a chunky and solid surface. In the resulting sculptural forms there is a mixture of colours, textures and materials where loose ends in foam and denim create playful silhouettes.
Silvia Beccaria uses weaving to create avant-garde and bold jewellery pieces. By extending the definition of ‘fibre’ she expands the range of materials she uses to include pvc, rubber, acrylic, latex and polyurethane. These are woven into structural pieces that form large eye catching works in an array of complex textures, colours and compositions. The experimental use of materials tests aesthetic meanings, for example realising the beauty in deflated balloons as they make a bright red ruff. The work is shot through with fun and an exuberance for the daring but also remains functional as statement pieces of wearable art.
The artwork of Jeffrey Gibson assimilates the traditional art and craft of his Choctaw and Cherokee ancestors with contemporary urban culture. Frequently he uses re-appropriated punch bags, embellishing the reconstructed woven surface with brightly coloured glass beads, mixing masculine and feminine metaphors. The patterns and designs reflect a traditional design aesthetic with geometric shapes and repeating motifs. The work is often interspersed with text from popular music. The language mixed with the bright bead work bends and flexes the way that both aspects are interpreted. This blending of personal experience and traditional craft creates meaningful and engaging artworks.
In the work ‘the event of a thread’ Ann Hamilton investigates the meaning of weave – the crossing of threads to make cloth. There is an exploration of what cloth symbolises and how we interact with it. It is a large scale interactive artwork where swings are attached via ropes and pullies to a piece of white cloth suspended in the ceiling. As the visitors swing the cloth becomes turbulent and liquid, bringing to mind a sky full of clouds. The cloth brings together the artist and the viewer, both working together to create atmosphere and accord.
The performance piece by Anne Wilson ‘wind-up: walking the warp’ traces the journey of the warp thread as it is organised on a warp frame. Her artistic interest lies in the processes that are used in the manufacture of everyday objects. For this artwork a team of dancers using shuttles add the threads to a large scale warp frame, building up a colour palette that is both vibrant and calming. Their mesmerising efforts connect the human experience with the manufacture of cloth reaching back thousands of years.
What I hope you will take from this blog post is a taste of what is possible in contemporary weaving. That by experimenting with concepts, materials and the methods fresh and exciting approaches can take shape.
Bibliography and further reading
Ann Hamilton Studio http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com/current.html
Ann Hamilton: “the event of a thread” Art 21 Exclusive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fJ4umqXGjM
Anne Wilson http://www.annewilsonartist.com
Anne Wilson – Wind-up: Walking the Warp, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston May 15 – July 25, 2010 https://vimeo.com/137899912
Center Field / Threading Infrastructure: An interview with Anne Wilson by Caroline Picard 31/05/2011. Art 21 Magazine http://blog.art21.org/2011/05/31/center-field-threading-infrastructure-an-interview-with-anne-wilson/-.V_uT1KOZOV6
Dream Weaving: Jeffry Gibson fuses traditional folklore with contemporary art, by Brook Mason. October 30, 2015 Wallpaper Magazine http://www.wallpaper.com/art/dream-weaving-native-american-artist-jeffrey-gibson-fuses-traditional-folklore-with-contemporary-art
“Fiber food” di Silvia Beccaria https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGgPEZrhZQ8
Jeffrey Gibson lecture 19/01/2016 Cranbrook deSalle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P78aez6RZNk
Jeffrey Gibson, Marc Straus Gallery, New York. October 25 – December 13, 2015 http://www.marcstraus.com/exhibitions/jeffrey-gibson-october-2015/
Jette Vandermeiden, Weaving Basics: Making a Warp – Part 1 (Setup using thread guide) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDyodjE9_Ok
Knoxville Museum of Art, Anne Wilson Lecture 04/12/2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-9-8990qjE
Silvia Beccaria, Contemporary Jewels http://www.studio-filarte.it
Images: Silvia Beccaria