Sunday, 17 July 2016

Vikings! Weaving based adventures

Weaving

One of Prism Arts big projects this year is a project exploring our Viking heritage in West Cumbria. Funded by the Heritage Lottery and working with Studio Theatre West the project has involved researching dialect, landscape, warfare, textiles and many other aspects of Viking life. There have also been lots of research visits, including a trip to the Isle of Man.

Inspiration from the Isle of Man

Inspiration from the Isle of Man

Inspiration from the Isle of Man

I have been involved in the project in a small way looking at textiles and taking part in the Isle of Man trip. I've really enjoyed working on this project, it's given me different avenues to research that I wouldn't have necessarily come across otherwise.

Inspiration from the Isle of Man

Inspiration from the Isle of Man

Inspiration from the Isle of Man

During my first session on this project a Viking reenactor visited to demonstrate some natural dyeing techniques the Vikings would have used. Natural dyeing is something I've been interested in for a long time and it was really interesting to hear about different processes and dye stuffs. I think that this is an area of my personal practice I would really like to develop more so I enjoyed the session and it gave me some new avenues to explore. Since then I've been playing about more with plant dyes and am currently making a list of dye plants to grow at home.

Viking reenactor: Natural Dyeing

Viking reenactor: Natural Dyeing

Natural Dye-stuffs

My main contribution to this project has been to run weaving sessions. Almost every Viking homestead would probably have had a loom set up and cloth would have been made for clothing, the home and for trade. I've really enjoyed these sessions, seeing how each individual child and participant has approached the weaving in a different way has really inspired me and encouraged me to 'play' more in my own work.

Drop spinning!

Drop spinning

Hand-spun yarn and felted cords

For my first hands on session I did some felt making and a bit of drop spinning with the children and participants. Whilst we may not have produced a huge amount of usable thread it was hilarious and everyone enjoyed trying to keep the spindle going and draw out the fleece at the same time. I got the children to work in pairs and it was lovely seeing how absorbed they were in the task and how proud they were when they got it working!

Weaving on cardboard looms

Weaving on cardboard looms

Weaving on cardboard looms

I then continued my sessions looking at weaving. Because time was relatively limited I made simple cardboard looms so that everyone could have a go and learn the basics. I also took along some larger simple frame looms and peg looms so that if people really got into it they could take it further. I only had a half day session with each of four groups of four children (16 all together!) but the Studio Theatre West Coast participants were with me for all those session so got two full days of weaving.

Weaving on cardboard looms

Weaving on cardboard looms

Weaving on cardboard looms

As I mentioned before it was fascinating seeing the different approaches everyone took and it was also fascinating seeing which ways of weaving worked best for the participants. The children created a range of imaginative and beautiful weaves, with varying degrees of technical skill, and enjoyed experimenting with incorporating different materials, such as ribbons, twigs and feathers.

Woven on a cardboard loom

Working on a frame loom

Sculptural Weaving on a frame loom

I was really pleased with how well the Studio Theatre participants took to it, I didn't expect them to get so involved but one of the participants (who no one expected to go for textiles) produced the most beautiful and unique pieces by manipulating the warp threads and working tightly in small sections back and forth. I love the structural quality and careful colour choices of the work he's made. Interestingly the other participants struggled with weaving on the frames but worked really well with peg looms. I find it endlessly fascinating how different minds work and it just goes to show that it's always worth putting the effort into finding a different way that works for you.

Working on a peg loom

Working on a peg loom






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