Shea Henke '16 displays the intricate ikat silk weaving he made in response to a cotton weaving from Indonesia.

'Art comes from art'

April 30, 2014

With the idea that art comes from art, Associate Professor of Art Nancy Taylor started an advanced weaving assignment last spring that inspired works of great variety, and an article Taylor wrote about the project and corresponding photos appeared in the March/April edition of Handwoven magazine.

Taylor found the assignment so enriching for the students that she repeated it again this year.

“One of the really great things about fiber is its history,” Taylor says. “All kinds of fiber and weaving have been important throughout human history and across cultures.”

To start, Taylor brought in an assortment of fiber pieces from around the world, including weavings, baskets, embroidery, lace and beadwork.

“As weavers, we have a vast range of historical and modern work to be excited by,” she explains.

The students, who were all part of the advanced weaving class, were instructed to take the time to look, touch and think about the pieces and were asked to choose a piece that inspired them in some way. Then students were to design and weave a piece in response to the one they had selected.

Varied interpretations

“It was interesting to see how differently people interpreted the pieces,” says Elizabeth Tipton ’14, who responded to the weave structure and color of a rug from Chimayo, N.M. “Some made a very similar piece, while others took a more abstract approach or were inspired by the color or the structure, or just a single element of the piece.”

Summer Sleight ’14 and Alyssa Stankiewicz ’14 chose the same Turkish headscarf embroidered with silver strips as inspiration to create two very different weavings.

“I responded to color and reflected the metals with beads,” Stankiewicz explains. “I responded to the delicate texture by using the finest silk and lace structure and incorporated other changes in texture. So for me, my response was mostly about texture.”

Sleight, an art major with a focus in metalsmithing, produced a sturdy tapestry embellished with geometric shapes of polished nickel applied with epoxy.

“I was intrigued by the combination of fabric and metals,” Sleight explains. “I responded more to the materials the piece was made with.”

Discovering new ways to make art

Taylor says many students found the assignment challenging.

“Whenever you are learning from a different culture, it forces you to approach your work in a different way,” Taylor explains. “It forces you to think about your work in ways that you might not otherwise.”

Two students, Ann MacNamara ’14 and Shea Henke ’16, responded to the weaving and dyeing techniques, and Taylor says they came really close to the original processes.

Henke responded to and produced an intricate ikat silk piece that involved many hours of knotting and dyeing.

“The original piece is a cotton from Bali Indonesia with a lot of intricate detail,” he says. “I added some of my own colors, and I made mine a little less busy.”

Hannah Fox ’14, a member of the spring 2013 class, also chose an ikat.

“I chose the Indonesian ikat textile because the laborious and intricate process of tie and dye as done by the Indonesian people is unrivaled,” Fox says and adds that the wonderful imagery and colors have always caught her eye. “I wanted to attempt the process, as I had done ikat warps before but never to this extent, and get a feel for how difficult and time consuming this process was.”

Warp ikat requires selectively dyeing wrap threads before they are put on the loom. Areas of the warp are tightly wrapped with thread. When it is dyed, the color cannot reach the wrapped area, and it will remain white. These wraps can be added and removed for each dye bath, allowing color into some areas and not into others. The warp is then put on the loom and woven.

MacNamara analyzed a Peruvian belt and made her own pattern, picking up individual threads as she wove.

“I was intrigued by all the little figures and scale,” MacNamara says. “I used the same technique that the ancient Peruvians used going for similar size. The technique allows you complete freedom of design. I was inspired by the shape and created my own interpretation of the geometric pattern.”

The work was slow and labor intensive.

“I like working with small details,” she says. “It was a good challenge. It was a four-step process for one row. It’s helpful to draw inspiration from other cultures and then interpret it to see what you come up with their piece and your insights.”

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