I've just written a text for the catalogue of my show next year (nearly this year...). Now all I have to do is translate it into French!
I was planning on being an archaeologist. I even had a place at university. Then one evening I saw a television programme about a craft school in Thomastown, Kilkenny.
The school was small - only 20 students - and housed in a converted water mill on the river Nore. The teachers were practising craftspeople who each taught two days per week. There was a potter, a silversmith, a batik artist, a silkscreen printer and a tapestry weaver. I had already had a little experience of weaving but on discovering tapestry I knew it was what I was going to do. Three years of art school in Edinbugh followed and I never took up my place at University...
Tapestry can be a seductive medium - it gets under your skin. The methodical, rhythmic nature of it. The process. The simplicity of it. The transformation of a drawing or design into something which is somehow more of an ‘object’. Something which has a depth which comes from time invested in it, from the human touch in every one of the hundreds if not thousands of rows of weaving.
It is a medium which has barely changed in thousands of years, the simplest form of weaving there is and that too appeals. I like simple. Cooking, baking, gardening, sharing
food with friends, a walk with a good dog. I love the city in short bursts, museums, galleries, people watching but soon I need to be back in my field.
I love the circle, the ring, the dot. I love the symbolism of that shape. I first started to use them not long after Max was born and my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. As Max acquired skills, my father lost them. It was a painful and joyful time, witnessing the blossoming of one person and the demise of another, both so loved.
You might call my work abstract, I have started to describe it as landscape. I use line, colour, pattern taken directly from what I observe as I walk the lanes around Salabert. However, it is also about being in that space, physically walking those lanes, placing my feet where generations of people before me have placed theirs. Knowing that this is my time and that it is short and my feet will be followed by others.
I repeat circles over and over, each one different, each one imperfect. Nothing is perfect nor should it be. In the words of Leonard Cohen “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
I've recently had printed high quality cards of five of my original tapestries. I'm in the process of opening an Etsy shop but time is marching onwards and if anyone would be interested in ordering these cards for Christmas please let me know and I'll send you an email with all the details of pricing, postage, specs. etc. In brief, they cost €2.50 each or €10 for all five (or indeed any five) - p&p varies depending on where you are.
Also available is the Christmas card below - this one is being sold in aid of the Tower at the same price €2.50 each or 5 for €10.
Email me at email@example.com if you're interested.
Anyone who lives in France will know that oh la la is an expression more likely to be used as an equivalent to the English 'Oh noooooo' or 'Oh for goodness sake' than in the saucy seaside postcard way! The more las there are the worse it is! So cutting off the the first piece of my four parter the day before yesterday and in so doing ruining it was definitely an oh la la la la la la moment. (You've got to get the tone of voice right too). The problem was the warp which shrank more than I was expecting.
So after a test shrinkage strip I'm starting again but with a bit less enthusiasm than the first time around.
The good news however is that I contacted Coats UK last week about the Drima thread. I'd tried before but had no reply - this time however they got back in touch and would you believe it, they are still making it! They said that no shop has ordered it for ages so I'd have to get a haberdasher to order it in for me. I can't quite believe it - could it be so simple?
Totally unrelated - we are going to Amsterdam for a few days at half term. Apart from the obvious ones has anyone any recommendations of things to do/see there? I've been to Amsterdam but it was such a long time ago and I barely remember it.
Two small tapestries (3 x 3" and 4 x 4") on show at the tour de Montsalès until the 3rd of November. It's the annual show of local artists, amateur and professional and this year we have more exhibitors than ever - 16! You'll find a full list on the 'programme 2013' page of the tower website.
I'm just starting a commission - big for me - 19 x 59 cm in 4 pieces. I never found any Drima extra strong thread even though I just know there's tons of it out there at the back of haberdasher's stockrooms! A tenacious Canadian friend has been scouring Toronto thread and fabric merchants hoping to find a suitable replacement but it's amazing how hard it is. Thread can be strong enough but too thick or thin or often too shiny and slippery. I'm going to try this new piece using a thread she found which is a bit thicker than I'd like so I'll use it at 14epi instead of my normal 16epi and see how it goes.
In other news, it's Autumn here and my brief spell of melancholy at Summer's end has been dispelled by the sheer beauty of the new season. Misty mornings, golden light and an abundance of food for the picking - apples, plums, pears and soon there'll be walnuts. We gathered cornell cherries last week and made jam. That felt very hunter/gathery/foragy! A second picking expedition came to an abrupt end when wild boar made their presence felt!
I recently came across these pictures of my son Max weaving his first and only tapestry. I especially love the first picture - those feet! It must be 8 or 9 years ago. He wove with the abandon and confidence of all the children I've ever shown how to weave and ended up with a perfectly Eiffel Tower shaped tapestry!
You can see the Kate Derum exhibition catalogue here. Jilly Edwards got a special mention. Congratulations!
For several years now I've been wanting to visit the topiary gardens at Marqueyssac. A friend sent me Anna Pavord's column in the Guardian where she spoke of them and I filed the cutting away in my 'must do' notebook. Well we don't get out much! Partly because we live in a very nice place and are busy and partly because I have a real aversion to sitting in a car for more than an hour if it's not absolutely necessary. Last week however, before the holidays ended, I donned the hat of shame and we took to the road in the Mog.
What a brilliant day it was! The gardens are mad and quite spectacular. There is the very ordered, clipped, formal part near the house but there are also acres of woods with follies and views, cascades and pools. You can walk for about 4 miles in all and we did. Just lovely. There is also a tearoom - a rare thing in this part of the world. The French just don't get that if you're going to look at art or visit a garden you also need to eat cake...!
The house itself has the most beautiful lauze roof. It is undergoing restoration and the knitting together of the new and old is amazingly skilled. It costs a fortune so I guess they're doing it as and when money is available but in the meantime finish it nicely rather than tarpaulining the roof. The whole thing weighs 300 tonnes.
Some photos from the tapestry workshop I ran in July. There were seven students, some of whom have some experience of weaving and some who were completely new to it. Four francophones and 3 anglophones which was a bit taxing for me but we managed! We had two intense days of setting up warps, learning to mix colours, weaving different colours side by side and making shapes. The more experienced weavers experimented with texture and weaving on a finer scale than before. Everyone got a lot done and left happy on the Sunday evening. We picnicked under the plane trees on the village square each day and the village goat made an appearance now and then just to add a bit of local colour!
Warb has a show of recent paintings at the tour de Montsalès until the 21st of August. Opening hours are 3 - 7pm every day. Entry is free.
Anybody wishing to support the work of the gallery could become a friend (adhérant) for 18€ per annum. All the money for running the tower has to be raised from private and corporate donors as well as fundraising events such as the tapestry weekend held in July, sales of catalogues and refreshments in the tour, the annual quine etc.
Our main expense is our gardienne Corinne who is at the tour Monday to Friday to greet visitors. Everything else - design and distribution of publicity material - posters, catalogues, cards, the hanging of shows, website design and maintenance, meeting artists and planning the programme, gardiennage of the tour at the weekend etc. is all done by a handful of volunteers.
This tapestry was a nice surprise in my inbox this week. I taught Naomi to weave when she was about 13 or 14 and although life has taken her in other directions she still finds the time and inclination to make tapestries now and then.
This summer I will be teaching a beginners tapestry weekend in Montsalès. If there is enough take up it will be at the Salles des Fêtes and if there's only a few of us we'll probably do it at my studio. The dates are 20 and 21 July from 9.30 - 12.30 and 2 till 6pm. (This is France, there has to be a long lunch break!) The cost is 200€ with all the proceeds going to the Tour. You can find a list of other workshops on offer here.
Univers d'Artistes is an exhibition of the work of seven artists at Galerie la Tour Montsalès until the 28th of May.
There are three ceramicists (Jean-Pierre Chollet, Sylviane Perret and Patrice Teulières) two wood carvers (Jean-François Delorme and Kathryn O'Kell), one painter (Jean-Pierre Gilly) and me!
Alongside their own work each artist is showing objects from their homes or workshops which have particular emotional significance for them. There are stones, fossils, birds nests and tools as well as some works by other artists and makers, each accompanied by a short text. I'll post some photos of the show just as soon as I take them but in the meantime if you should be in the area, do drop by!
Two new tapestries which are on show until May 28th in 'Univers d'Artistes' at Galerie la Tour Montsalès. Just recently I've come to realise that in fact my tapestries are landscapes. Not in the sense of direct representation but as a reaction to repeatedly being in and moving through the landscape which surrounds our home.
I've just had an unexpected few days in Edinburgh. What a city it is, I never cease to be amazed by it. Arthur's seat, seeing the sea from the Bridges, the Castle Mound, that long view over the Waverley and Princes Street Gardens. I feel so much more affection for Edinburgh than I do for Dublin, my home town. Not so pleased about the proliferation of tartan tat shops. Were they there when I was a student? I don't remember so many.
We went to the Dovecote and saw the Wendy Ramshaw show. I appreciate her rigour and liked the early jewellery and large scale work but the Room of Dreams didn't transport me - it was good to see in any case. Unfortunately it was after 3pm so we weren't able to go to the viewing gallery and see the weavers working. (Open noon till 3pm). Another day we popped into the City Art Centre where we saw the Derek Williams collection, the highlight for me being an Ivon Hitchens ( Arched Trees) and a little Lowry - can't remember the title - of a boat with an island behind it. Dark and flat and empty. I don't think I've ever seen a Lowry in the flesh before.
Of course no visit to Edinburgh could possibly be contemplated without a visit to the Kalpna - so we did - twice!