Monday, March 1, 2010

Weaving at Knoxville Museum of Art at Anne Wilson's exhibit

I was so excited today to be finally at Knoxville for my first experience weaving on the loom as part of Anne Wilson's exhibit, "Wind/Rewind/Weave"--the "Local Industry" part.

I don't know how many weavers have volunteered and been coordinated through the project manager, Libby O'Bryan, to weave on the 50 yard warp. When I came to the museum in January for a weavers meeting as the exhibit opened there were probably 30 to 40 people attending.  There's a core group of weavers in and near Knoxville who are coming in regularly, I believe.  I think Libby has the loom scheduled to be in use almost every day of the time the exhibit is running.  That in itself is an amazing task--and to have been done from Chicago, several hundred miles away is even more amazing.  All of this just is one more aspect of the exhibit and how Wilson's concept honors the fact that the fabric that we use (and often take for granted) is the product of many people and much labor.

This was what I saw as I arrived... the previous day's weaver's work.  My task was to begin by responding to what I saw.

I began with a beautiful red bobbin that the previous weaver had left.  I used it for several inches with some breaks with the band separating color, black.

We who are weavers by choice are so far removed from the back breaking hard work that is needed to make fabric on the scale that it is consumed in our society today.  Yes, industrial looms are pounding out the millions of yards needed for the majority of our fabric needs.  But there are still individuals in the mills, daily working with the cloth.  And there are still thousands producing by hand and very hard labor the more specialized cloth we use daily.

Are there other products of our daily lives that we take for granted more than the textiles that clothe us, that cover us at night, that wipe our mouths--then our dishes after we've eaten, that cushion our steps, that shield the sun from our eyes at our windows, that even are with us as we fly into space?  If there are I'm not aware of it.  Textiles, cloth, weaving... the products of an elemental process: the interlacement of threads.  In classes I usually point out that the creation myths of several peoples have weaving at the core.  Anne Wilson has taken the complexities of weaving and reduced them to the very basics as she presents her exhibit.  She's had yarns donated from many sources, being wound into paper quills by visitors to the exhibit (she also has the visitors making the quills).  She's assembled a work force of volunteer weavers from across the Southeast (and points beyond) to do the weaving of a plain weave cloth.  Plain weave, the simplest of structures, becomes the basis for this beautiful banded fabric that many weavers are having a hand in creating.   I'm so glad to be having a chance to be part of this cloth by my days of weaving.

Here are more shots from today; it was Monday and the museum was closed to visitors so I wove alone for about five hours.  Nick came in to hang bobbins in the morning but otherwise there was no activity in the gallery other than my weaving and when the curator, Chris, came to check with me once this afternoon.  Tomorrow will be a different story and, from what I read today in the weavers' log, there are frequent and vocal visitors!  More about it all tomorrow.

Nick, hanging bobbin ends from a reed mounted near the ceiling.

Here's Nick and the yarn wall--my view from the loom.

This view shows the loom and the pile of yarn from which bobbins are wound.  The tables in the two photos above are the the bobbin winding stations (one is for making quills).

A view of the roll of cloth that's been woven since late January.  This is a weft-faced fabric that is probably about 30 or 40 pick per inch.  

Here's the end of my session today--17" from the beginning of the day.  


  1. Thank you for sharing your view of the exhibit.

  2. I'm just blown away by all of it! I know you've woven on this cloth... any thoughts about that?

  3. Tommye - What a beautiful entry. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. Your passage is looking beautiful! I love seeing that cloth beam filling up!

    So you know, we have over 60 participating weavers, but there are still a few days open for any new weavers to join in.

    Looking forward to following along with you for the rest of your time!
    - Libby

  4. Thanks, Libby!
    As you very well know, you're responsible for so much of all of this exhibit.
    I'll be posting for the next few days that I spend here. Hotel St. Oliver in downtown is great--don't know if you stayed here or elsewhere but--when you're back again, consider it!

  5. What a wonderful project. Wish I lived closer! I was just making a point to my students tonight, about how very much you can do with stripes. I love the photo that shows how much is rolled onto the cloth beam, with the edges of all those stripes peaking out.

  6. Be sure you try Pete's on Union Street for breakfast while you're here!

  7. Hello Dear Tommye!!
    I figure that if the NYTimes had a fiber arts (specialty in tapestry) editor, you'd be TOP choice. As I go thru your photos and captions I can feel just what it's like to be there. I would LOVE to be able to be there and participate, but won't happen. Therefore, many vibes of appreciation and admiration go from me to you and the others who are making this woven statement.
    Pat Williams

  8. What an interesting experience! Slow cloth...
    I love the pictures of the view from the loom. The yarn hanging on the wall looks great.
    I look forward to hearing more about your week!

  9. That looks amazing, Enjoy the experience.