I started experimenting with extracting colour, primarily yellows and oranges, from Dahlias towards the end of their flowering season. With the first frost this locally sourced fresh raw material ended.
An alternative colour-way using dried natural dyestuffs was developed. An individual dyestuff rarely yielded the precise pinks of the Tibetan monks robes so I used two or more dye-baths to obtain better colour matching.
I experimented with natural dyestuffs that generally give reds/pinks/purples such as Madder Root, Brazilwood and Logwood, ‘modifying’ each dyebath to get what I wanted. By adjusting the acidity/alkalinity of the water, the maximum heat applied to extract the dye and other factors, I turned warm reds into cool reds, blue-purples to red-purples and these red-purples into cerise pink by grating chalk into a Brazilwood dyebath.
Colour was blended across the width of the warp, alternating one of cerise pink with smaller amounts of the other pink/purple tones. Both this warp and the yellow/orange warp was just 2m long; sufficient to weave just two of these unique rugs.
Loving the ceremonial head-wear of the Tibetan monks, I just had to incorporate a little of the Dahlia dyed yellow and orange into this pink/purple design.
JOY is the title of this new work, created specifically for Get Fresh 2019; an exhibition organised by The Devon Guild of Craftsmen showcasing the work of emerging craft practitioners.
Working with the wool from rare breed and commercially farmed British sheep, I have used dyes made from Dahlia’s and other plants and woven these joyful unique pieces by hand.
The colour reference for this work came from images in a book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama; The Art of Living.
Colour was extracted from fresh Dahlia flowers and used to dye hand-spun wool from the White-faced Dartmoor sheep. As well as yellow, orange and red flowers, I experimented with white, purple and almost black petals, most yielding yellows and oranges with a surprising bright green from a cerise pink flower.
With a single flower only dyeing 10g of wool, I designed a warp of 320 threads to accommodate the the vast number of small skeins each in a unique tone of yellow or orange. Two Meditation rugs 20″x 28″ were woven by hand on my vintage wooden 4-shaft counterbalance floor loom, from this warp.
Yoga Meditation Rug. Hand-woven in naturally-dyed rare breed Wool 2019.
As red Dahlias did not yield a red dye, madder root and brazilwood were used to dye the Welsh Cross bred and Dorset wools used in the weft patterning.
The patterning was inspired by patterns in The Art of Living and the 6-bar patterns from the I-Ching Hexograms; 6 solid horizontal bars representing Earth Energy.
Yoga meditation rug, British Wool and natural dyes
In August I was invited to work with the inspiring day patients, volunteers and staff at the Sue Ryder Leckhampton Day Hospice on this multi-discipline creative art project. The pieces created will be exhibited for the first time on Saturday 8th September, at their Autumn Fayre.
I wound warps onto tiny frame looms, into which the participants wove plant dyed wool, fragments of textiles from home and paper strips printed with words from their poetry. The discovery of a ‘treasure trove’ of glittery threads, ribbons and beads proved too tempting, so these were incorporated into several of the little woven pieces.
The journey of the exhibits at this year’s Society of Designer Craftsmen show started in autumn last year when British Wool obtained two cones of yarn, spun by Gardiners Yarns of Huddersfield from British Herdwick in the natural grey tones of their fleece, for me to weave with at Decorex 2017 on their stand with CountryLife magazine.
The ‘demonstration’ warp remained on the loom for several months until I decided to use it up by experimenting further to see what designs I could create from using just the two Herdwick greys. The contrast was a little too subtle so I added Shetland wool in Charcoal, Quarry and Pearl to enhance the difference tones of the two Herdwick wools. The design elements play with the visual trick of appearing to change direction from a horizontal stripe to a vertical stripe.
Tempted to add colour, the reverse side of all the cushions have a subtle addition of a little colour.. turquoise, pheasant, claret, navy..
I decided this cloth would be perfect for my show pieces as it illustrates how my woven designs are frequently driven by the character of the raw materials. The wool ‘tells’ me what it wants to become…
These cushions are not destined for a lounge sofa, but a rural working kitchen and taken outside onto a garden bench or stone step.
For the first time the one-off pieces I have created to exhibit at the show will be available to buy, therefore they are constructed to a high standard with down/feather pads.
Raw Talent is a biennial exhibition at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester showcasing the very best work produced by the students and tutors of our extensive education and participation courses and workshops.
Exhibition dates: Saturday 26th May – Sunday 17th June.
I will be exhibiting a long foot stool upholstered in my hand-woven British Wool cloth.
After a fully booked class on the first Weaving Day workshop I ran for Prema Arts Centre in Uley, Nr Stroud in Gloucestershire, they have invited me back to run a weekly evening class over 4 weeks. For further information and to book, please contact them directly.
On Friday 26th January I will be running a new workshop for Lechlade Craft Barn (GL7 3DL). The day will be spent exploring weaving by using the simple Rigid Heddle and Back-strap loom. You could weave a series of samples working with a range of fibres, colours and textures, or something ‘useful’ like a strap for a bag, a little pocket or embellishment for a cushion. All equipment and a vast range of yarns will be provided.
Friday 12th , 9.30am to 12.30 and/or 1.30 to 4.30pm
Half day weave practice session primarily for students who have done my Introduction to Weaving workshops or are not absolute beginners. Wide range of equipment and materials available for you to experiment with or bring your own. Held at my studio at The Tallet, Calmsden. £22.50. Please send me an email/message to reserve a place as limited to 4 at each session.
Day Course ‘Introduction to Weaving‘ in The Bothy at Vanessa Arbuthnott, 12 Ashcroft Road, Cirencester. GL7 1QX. For information and booking please go to The Bothy website or phone the shop on 01285 831437.
Day Workshop “IntroductiontoWeaving‘ for Lechlade Craft Barn at Lechlade-on-Thames, GL7 3DL. For information and to book please go to http://lechladecraftbarn.com
Cushions from my Cotswolds Inspired collection were snapped by Interior Designer Nicole Hood, on the Country Life / British Wool stand at Decorex International 2017; a show which is “internationally renowned for being the destination where interior design professionals discover the finest and most coveted luxury products from new, emerging and established talent” (www.decorex.com)
To see her blog post “7 ways to brighten up your home this winter”, go here
I designed the fabric for these cushions using hand-spun and dyed British Wool from rare breed sheep. The cloth was woven by hand, sufficient for only 3 of each pattern/colour combination. These designs are available (while stocks last) directly from Rebecca Connolly Design or through my only outlet, Vanessa Arbuthnott Fabrics