Renaissance in Tapestry

Tapestry in the UK is experiencing a publishing renaissance with the release of Tapestry Weaving Design and Technique and the Art of Modern Tapestry: Dovecot Studios since 1912.

Tying warp onto a low loom
Black Cat Tapestry, 2011, designed by Tracey Emin, woven at West Dean Tapestry Studio, wool linen and cotton, 215 x 178 cm, © Tracey Emin.
Black Cat Tapestry, 2011, designed by Tracey Emin, woven at West Dean Tapestry Studio, wool linen and cotton, 215 x 178 cm, © Tracey Emin

Tapestry: A Woven Narrative addresses tapestry as a contemporary medium. The contributing authors bring a wealth of experience: Caron Penny, Studio Director and weaver at West Dean Studio; Fiona Mathison, weaver and teacher at Edinburgh College of Art for over 35 years; and writer and curator Timothy Wilcox.

The book packs a lot into 208 pages. Vibrant colour illustrations accompany essays on tapestry’s history in the Medieval and Modern world, and 32 ‘Contemporary Weaver Profiles’. Of these 32 weavers, at least 7 were trained, and/or work, in Scotland. The individuals have been selected for their unique and personal approach to tapestry as a medium. Examples range from the atmospheric imaginary worlds of Peter Horn’s weavings, to the confrontational political work of Unn Sønju. Some tapestries are intended as hangings, others show the potential of the medium to move away from the wall and interact more with the three-dimensional space of a room.

The book also features the work of three international tapestry studios: The Australian Tapestry Workshop, Dovecot Studios and West Dean Tapestry Studio.

Prater I, 2010, Peter Horn, 102 x 80 cm
Prater I, 2010, Peter Horn, 102 x 80 cm

The inclusion of both individual weavers and workshops gives the reader a fuller understanding of different weaving practices. The place of tapestry within the contemporary art world is considered with the inclusion of Black Cat Tapestry, designed by Tracey Emin and woven at West Dean Tapestry Studio, and quick, slow by Claire Barclay which incorporates a tapestry by Dovecot Studios.

Appealing to both professionals and those with a general interest in tapestry weaving, resources are also provided for those readers who wish to learn more about the details of tapestry weaving. Caron Penney has written an in-depth, illustrated essay on the technique and a glossary of weaving terms is provided. Appendices include an interview with William Morris and an essay by Archie Brennan on the transposition of a painting into tapestry. Perhaps the only thing missing is a substantial bibliography, but this is a minor complaint when compared to the sheer volume of fascinating information provided.

Blood cannot be washed out with blood, 2010, Unn Sønju, wool on wool warp, 250 x 250 cm
Blood cannot be washed out with blood, 2010, Unn Sønju, wool on wool warp, 250 x 250 cm



Tapestry: A Woven Narrative
Fiona Mathison, Caron Penny and Timothy Wilcox
Published 2011
Black Dog Publishing
£29.95 rrp

The Art of Modern Tapestry: Dovecot Studios since 1912
Edited by Dr Elizabeth Cumming
Published 2012
Lund Humphries 2012
£35 through Dovecot Shop.

See the exhibition:
Weaving The Century: Tapestry from Dovecot Studios 1912-2012
13 July – 7 October 2012
Dovecot, 10 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LT
Open Mon to Sat from 10.30am
Free

Review by Francesca Baseby


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