Saturday, April 29, 2017

Basic and Beautiful

Ikat technique
Today hand spinners and weavers have a wide array of tools and materials at their disposal.  Many of those tools save time and physical effort so we can produce more products with enhanced consistency.  Consider how efficient a drum carder is compared with using hand carders  Other tools, such as design software, support an advanced level of complexity in our designs.  But modern tools can't replace good design and excellent technique.
Maybe that is why we tend to have a deep appreciation and a sense of awe when we see a master work created by hand using simple tools and techniques.  Maybe that is why so many fibre artists feel compelled to help preserve or revive skills that maybe lost in the name of efficiency or advancement.

Salish Blanket

The first nations people of the pacific northwest were noted for the fibre arts.  They worked in cedar, mountain goat and dog hair.  Blankets and other woven items were used in commerce as well as for personal or ceremonial use.  Fibre art is an important cultural heritage for all people.  We are lucky that it is being preserved, revived and in some cases reinvented without loosing its meaning.

Salish blanket 
 The photograph above shows a typical but newly minted Salish blanket that was created on a large frame loom that we refer to as a "Salish loom".  Many of us tried weaving on a "Salish loom" in the 70's and can appreciate the skill that it took to create this piece.
Traditional patterns have been used in the border of weft stripes.  As with other forms of traditional weaving the patterns have meaning and would tell a story about the blanket if we knew how to read it.

The thick yarn is spun using a large headed spindle attached to a wheel but in the past a spindle would have been used.
jewellery set

The set of pendant and earrings is a fine example of modern Chilkat weaving.  The same technique is used to create large ceremonial dancing blankets.  It is hand worked in on a simple loom using a complex combination of twining and weaving.  Traditionally the warp would have been a blend of cedar and wool.  The yarn would have been spun and plied without the use of a spindle.  
Salish weaving in progress on loom
The colourful photograph shows a "Salish style" weaving in progress.  It is being woven on a small frame loom.  The warp is thick hand spun yarn that has been plied to create a multi-coloured yarn with a lumpy texture.  The piece is a riot of colours that are anything but traditional but it is being constructed in keeping with the traditional techniques.  A very nice example of the artist expressing their own personality while keeping in touch with their heritage.

If you are interested in the Chilkat weaving you might want to check out "The Chilkat Dancing Blanket" by Cheryl Samuel, Pacific Search Press, 1982  ISBN 0-914718-69-X

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