I have a generous selection of gorgeous wool yardage that was given to me a few years ago. I had said I would weave rag rugs with it. But I haven’t. …until now. What took me so long? Uncertainty. I haven’t seen wool rag rugs. What warp should I use? What sett? What problems await? I felt timid about walking into the unknown.
Last week I came across a recent Väv magazine. Lo and behold, here is a spaced rep rag rug with wool fabric weft! My loom is already dressed for spaced rep rag rugs. Here I go!
Ten years ago a kind, elderly gentleman sat next to me on an airplane. He gave me sage advice I never want to forget,
Put your future in the hands of the one who holds the future.
We speak of past, present, and future. But for the Lord, the present has already been. The future has already happened. It’s as if the wool rug that I try to imagine and weave has already been positioned in the foyer of the Father’s house to comfort road-weary feet that enter. Amazing!
I just spent three days at Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, studying tapestry techniques with Teresa Loveless. It was a great experience! “Habitat, a Study in Verticals” is a fun and informative class, with exceptional personal attention given to each student. The looms are Rio Grande walking looms that were designed by Teresa’s grandmother, Rachel Brown. You weave standing up!
The emphasis for this class is vertical joins in weft-facedplain weave tapestry. Teresa uses memorable words and phrases that help students remember techniques. Just ask me about threads kissing! Besides the vertical joins, we also practiced other tapestry and shuttle techniques, including pick and pick, color gradation, and hatching. Finishing techniques, like sewing in loose threads, stitching slits, braiding fringe, and blocking the finished piece were covered at the end of the last day.
We had a fabulous selection of Weaving Southwest’s own rug wool in rich, fabulous colors. To take advantage of the hand-dyed wool’s unique features, I chose background colors that had an almost variegated appearance.
I will show you my finished piece in an upcoming post. And I will share a personal conversation I had with Teresa, talking about her big dreams.
Do you know that New Mexico has a guide to rural fiber arts destinations across the state? Last week, Steve and I dusted off the New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails, driving 1,100 miles through mountainous deserts and lush Rio Grande River valleys. We reveled in views of God’s creation, like cottonwood trees in brilliant yellow, and the Sandia mountains turning purple and watermelon pink in the setting sun. We visited interesting studios and shops all along the way, and encountered weavers who are true artisans.
Four Pointers for Your New Mexico Fiber Arts Trails Adventure:
1. Call ahead. Some of the stops are one-person studios, attached to a residence. Some places have changed their hours or days of the week that they are open. We drove two hours one day to visit a special shop, only to find a note on the door that said they were closed that day of the week. 2. Ask good questions. I like to ask a weaver a question that only another weaver would ask. Instead of introducing myself as a fellow handweaver, I like to let them figure it out by the questions I ask. 3. Wear something handwoven. My handwoven cap opened the door to conversation with other weavers. 4. Resist adding to your stash. I knew that I would have the opportunity to purchase beautiful yarn, but I decided in advance not to add to my stash. I gathered information instead; and now I have more resources to choose from when it is time to order yarn.
My Favorite Stops:
Albuquerque Sacramento Mountain Weavers (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails), Kelly Stewart
Located in historic Old Town, this shop has a Glimåkra Standard loom (like mine). Among other things, Kelly has woven rag rugs from strips of soft leather.
Edgewood Robin Pascal Fiber Artist
Robin’s studio is nestled in a scenic hillside covered with trees and wildlife. Her handspun yarn proved irresistible to me. This is where I broke my own rule of not adding to my stash.
Arroyo Seco (just north of Taos) Weaving Southwest, Teresa Loveless
Amazing tapestry weavings on display! Teresa is the granddaughter of acclaimed tapestry weaver and author, Rachel Brown. Teresa carries her grandmother’s legacy by teaching tapestry techniques to interested students. There are Rio Grande walking looms in the teaching studio, where you do all the weaving standing up, not sitting. Who knows? You may see me taking a class from Teresa. Her passion for tapestry weaving is contagious.
Ranchos de Taos Old Martina’s Hall Restaurant, Tapestry Exhibit (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails) Art Through The Loom Weaving Guild Show, August 20th through February 28th, 2015
This outstanding tapestry exhibit is not to be missed if you are anywhere near the vicinity! Downstairs and upstairs, every room in this restored, old dance hall is adorned with exquisite pieces of traditional and contemporary woven tapestries by nineteen different artists.
Chimayó Trujillo’s Weaving Shop (not listed on the Fiber Arts Trails), Carlos Trujillo
The first thing we saw when we entered the shop was a huge, rustic Rio Grande walking loom. Carlos was at the loom, weaving. He clearly loves designing at the loom, using unique color combinations in traditional designs. His grandfather built this impressive loom. Two women in an adjacent room filled with looms allowed me to watch over their shoulders as they wove traditional Chimayó patterns. One of the women showed me the small, narrow loom they now use for weaving coasters, and told me, “This was the loom Carlos learned to weave on when he was a little boy. As he grew, blocks were added to raise the loom to fit him.”
Chimayó Centinela Traditional Arts, Irvin Trujillo
Irvin allowed me to watch and ask questions as he wove in the massive weaving room in the far end of the shop. It was inspiring to watch this master weaver at work. I found Irvin to be unpretentious, even though his expertise is astounding. You should see his intricate tapestries that hang in the showroom of the shop! Weaving is second nature to Irvin, who has been creating with wool on a loom since he was a young boy.
Magdalena Cat Brysch Creations Studio
Cat’s nine looms are clothed in colors that describe the terrain and sky of this beautiful mountainous desert. She took the time to explain each loom’s fabric to me, as I marveled at her skill of blending colors in the warp.
If you go as far as Magdalena, you might as well go another 56 miles to Pie-o-neer in Pie Town, New Mexico. The green chile stew is fantastic, but if I had known how good the hot-from-the-oven double cherry (tart and sweet) pie would be, I would have skipped the stew and ordered two slices of pie! Steve said the same about his slice of warmed peach pie. It was a great way to end our Fiber Arts Trails adventure.
At Jason Collingwood’s Plain Weave Rug Workshop in Waco, Texas last week, I completed a technique sampler. I was not one of the fastest guns in the West, so I have a couple yards (or more…) of that linen warp still on my little loom. One piece of advice Jason gave in class was to use the intricacies of these techniques sparingly–to keep it simple when it comes to rug design. That is what I am aiming for as I finish off this warp, hoping to end up with some miniature rugs (the warp is only 11 1/4″ wide) as design samples.
Jason was kind enough to converse with me on topics that would benefit you, my blog friends. You can catch the first part of that conversation, covering Jason’s perspective as a rug weaver and a teacher of rug weaving, here.
Now, enjoy Part 2 of our conversation.
Me: Once someone has mastered the technical aspects, and is producing quality handwoven goods, they may want to sell what they have produced. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?
Jason: You need to be very determined. You have to accept that it’s not going to happen instantly. And you have to be prepared to sacrifice certain things in life that a normal job may give you–be that security, spare income, or, possibly, medical insurance coverage.
Me: It’s challenging to get started, then?
Jason: I look back to my early years, and it’s interesting… And Akiko, my wife, is a very successful ceramicist now, but when she started off, to save money, she would walk across London four or five miles, with a little dolly on wheels. She would buy her bags of clay, put them on the dolly, and wheel them back across London. And you know, there are all these early little sacrifices that you don’t see, when you see the person in the galleries successfully selling their work.
Me: Your father, Peter Collingwood, was well-known as an extraordinary rug weaver. But you still needed to put in a lot of hard work, yourself, for people to associate Jason Collingwood with high quality handwoven rugs. So, if someone aspires to succeed as a weaver, how can they make it work?
Jason: I think you need to have determination, and some amount of grit, and self-discipline. At the end of the day, there’s no one telling you to sit at that loom, and weave again the same things you did yesterday, and again, and again, and again. I think it’s just perseverance. As long as you are producing something of quality, eventually, if you persevere, it’ll pay off.
Me: Okay, that gives hope to someone willing to work hard. If we look beyond the present challenges, and work, with determination, we have something to look forward to.
Jason: You know, those barren early years are almost like an investment in your future life, your weaving life. I mean, I didn’t particularly enjoy those years, but I think they were almost a necessary test of whether I was going to stick it out. I think a lot of people would’ve folded in those early years, and said, Okay, this isn’t working. But, you know, it was kind of a test of my resolve that I carried on.
Me: Thank you for sharing your story! Your insights bring considerable value to weavers, but also to people in other fields interested in improving their craft. I appreciate the encouragement of your example of determination. Thanks again!
Please visit Jason Collingwood’s website, here, to see the stunning rugs he weaves and sells, as well as descriptions of his workshops. You can also enjoy the artistry of Jason’s wife, Akiko, at her website, here.
Last week I had the privilege to sit down with Jason Collingwood, internationally acclaimed rug weaver, for an interesting conversation, covering several topics. This, the first of two parts, focuses on Jason’s experience as a rug weaver and a teacher of rug weaving. The second part, in my next post, focuses on Jason’s views of what it takes to become a successful artisan.
Me: Your father, Peter Collingwood, wrote the comprehensive book, The Techniques of Rug Weaving. Just how important is technical skill for creating handwoven rugs?
Jason: I’m passionate about technical competence. That is number one, because if you don’t get that part right, what you are producing is not going to be satisfactory.
Me: Is it possible to look at a rug and tell if it was woven with technical competence?
Jason: One of the defining parts of a good rug is the selvedge. Always check out people’s selvedges. If they’ve got a neat selvedge, then it’s a sign of a good rug weaver.
Me: What is it that sets you apart from other rug weavers?
Jason: Well, there aren’t many rug weavers to set me apart from. I remember when I started weaving–and I did endless shows–there would be maybe five or six rug weavers in the same show. And for the past fifteen years, or so, when I’ve done shows in London, I am the only rug weaver. So, whether that’s survival of the fittest, or they went on and got proper jobs (with a grin)…
Me: You have excelled in producing high quality handwoven rugs, even though few people have been able to do that. How do you account for your success?
Jason: I think what possibly sets me apart is that I’ve just done this one thing for twenty-six years now. Most weavers, be they rug weavers, or other, probably have other strings to their bow, and do other things. By just concentrating on one thing, your name perhaps becomes associated with that product, and that helps you in the long run.
Me: Have you considered weaving other items besides rugs–like scarves, for instance?
Jason: I don’t think there’d be any benefit for me, suddenly trying to weave scarves, and sell scarves. I don’t think I’d be adding anything to the world of weaving scarves.
Me: You teach in your studio in England; and you travel around the world teaching rug weaving. Is there any piece of advice that you want your students to grasp?
Jason: One overlooked bit of advice is that you have to accept that the technique that we’re weaving in, and the looms that we’re using, place limitations upon you. You need to work within those limitations. Do not try to make the loom or technique do things that it doesn’t want to do. I think too many people have preconceived ideas of what they want to produce from a workshop; and then they try and make the structure achieve these ideas. Sometimes it just technically doesn’t produce the design they want, and they get frustrated.
Me: How can a student get the best results, then?
Jason: I think you need to understand the structure, and work in harmony with the structure. And then you will be much happier with your finished product, because you are not fighting the structure.
…To be continued…
Please visit Jason Collingwood’s website to see the beautiful rugs he creates and sells, and descriptions of the classes he teaches. I was fortunate to take Jason’s Plain Weave workshop last week at Homestead Fiber Crafts in Waco, Texas, where my little Glimåkra Ideal had her maiden voyage. It was an excellent class that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning basic rug weaving techniques.
May you find your one thing, and grow in expertise.