Ellen asked what kind of tapestry loom I use. My portable loom is a Hagen. Unfortunately they are no longer imported to this country. Mine is the 21"-wide loom. As the information page says, while you can no longer buy a Hagen in this country, the Mirrix looms are very similar. Both the Hagen and the Mirrix come with coils that are supposed to function like heddles, by holding a particular sett -- i.e., 8 epi, 10 epi, etc. I don't see the need for that in a tapestry loom, and warp the loom without it, just running the warp over the top bar and under the bottom bar. I use heading cords and twining to fix the warp in to a regular sett. Here are some pictures of my Hagen with a warp for the very next tapestry, which I started the last weekend of the workshop at the Southwest School of Art and Craft.
The wing nuts on the side bars let you adjust the tension and the size of the loom. The blue tape I put on the top and bottom bars are marked at one-inch intervals. You can also see the new cartoon I have hanging behind the warp threads, tied on using some short stick shuttles.
Since I finished the Tropical City Nights tapestry on weekend 2 of the 3-weekend workshop, I began some of the finishing work there while I thought about the next design. Here is what the back looks like. As you can see, the warp threads are twined back. Some of the wool threads have been woven in, and quite a few others still need to be dealt with. Then I am going to block it. Folks on the Yahoo! tapestry weaving group (I think it is called something like Tapestry-2005) provided very useful information on how to block a small tapestry that, of course, sounds just like blocking a knitting project. At the very end I will cover the ends of the warp threads by sewing a hem with a twill tape dyed black.
But I also decided to start another tapestry on my portable loom right away, as you saw above. Starting a tapestry is a lot like travel knitting chez Rob. That is, I have tons of ideas that I spend way too much time obsessing about... until I need to start something. Then suddenly my mind is blank. So I spent a day in the workshop doing some of the finishing work on Tropical City Nights, and spent the week thinking frantically, looking at images I had clipped and saved, looking through ideas that had popped up earlier. So this weekend I started another tapestry based on lettering.
Lettering in art has always appealed to me, but often existing work doesn't quite do it for me. Part of the problem is that lettering creates words and what is said by those words in a lot of artwork doesn't resonate with me. I want the lettering, not a proverb or clever saying or irony. So I have often been attracted to lettering in art that cannot be read -- lettering that appears to be erased or faded, illegible lettering, lettering in alphabets I can't read, etc. I found a very cool book by Nicolete Gray called Lettering as Drawing that has some gorgeous examples of alphabets created by artists, early modern manuscripts in various alphabets, and artistic letter forms. Among of the latter she included a piece by Paul Klee and a piece of abstract lettering by Miro. That really appealed to me, the idea of abstract lettering.
Much of that, though, turns out not to be very appropriate imagery for tapestry techniques. And by that I don't mean it is not typical -- I am not weaving ladies and unicorns, or even still lifes -- but that the way the lines flow and move may not work well with the way warp and weft interact in tapestry. The Klee lettering would work well in tapestry, actually -- it is a piece somewhat like this one in which the letters are formed from edges of color blocks. (Klee actually used a lot of letters and letter-like forms in his work but something like this is particularly suited to the medium of tapestry.)
But I ended up with another book cover providing the inspiration for the new tapestry. Somewhere in some synapse that has not fired in decades a memory stirred -- I had taken some calligraphy classes, and thought I recognized the style of the lettering on this book cover. It is Chancery. I saved the image of the book cover, converted it to black and white (shades of gray, really) and really liked how the letters overlapped. So I have ended up with a very different sort of project. The background is being woven in a rough tweed yarn the Southwest School tapestry studio had in a box. I got two shades of a taupe/gray that I am going to use to weave sections of letters -- strokes and serifs -- as part of the background. In the center I am going to have a lower-case Chancery g done in dark red wool with gold and red silk and rayon threads woven to create an illuminated letter. Working title is Chancery Illuminated. It is going very very quickly and I hope to keep the momentum going now that the workshop is over.