HEATHERMATTHEW

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Warp and Weft

 Where to begin? The floor of la filature.

Where to begin? The floor of la filature.

How to actually start a new project from scratch? When I walked into the studio space this morning, I was again struck by the idea of making a space for me, in which my thoughts and hands can find a rhythm. I had been told that residencies are about arriving at a space completely open to possibilities. I was open, but still rather daunted. Always I have worked on a small scale, tiny artist books, small collages, daily collaged shipping tags. Yet now I needed to make artwork on a large scale, without the time or facilities to create large sheets of paper.

In the store room was a huge roll of heavy brown card that was at my disposal. Yes I’ll make use of that somehow. We rolled that into the studio space near the worktables we had set up. Then stacked against the wall of the storeroom I discovered a set of moveable wire grid frames. I became quite excited! There were eight, perfect for a large accordion fold book. We carried them to the back wall, arranged them in a concertina shape and suddenly I was away. I had a structure, a frame and the materials at hand with which to work.

 Starting with a structure. Wire grids assembled as concertina folds.

Starting with a structure. Wire grids assembled as concertina folds.

I began by tearing strips from the roll of paper, weaving them through the grid structure to create warp lines.  As I did I was reminded that it was silk weaving which was first introduced to France during the 11th century. Silk production came later and flourished after the Edict of Nantes when Henry IV of France granted religious freedom to the protestant Huguenots. When Louis XIV revoked the edict in 1685, hundreds of thousands of protestant Huguenots fled to other countries and the silk industry in France was severely diminished. 

All this history of persecution and population migrations. It was these skilled protestant refugees who brought their particular textile, metallurgy and other crafts to England, America, Holland and Germany.  The warp and weft of human societies threaded with rich colours of diversity. I know that as I create these woven books, I too will warp my loom with ideas from Australia using French paper and thread soundlines of human interaction through the structure. I may make more books with tables, chairs, who knows? I have found a place to start and now I can begin in earnest.

 The beginning of a large woven artist book. Note the branches of heather in the folds.

The beginning of a large woven artist book. Note the branches of heather in the folds.

This project was assisted by a grant from Create NSW, an agency of the New South WalesGovernment. The NSW Artists' Grant is administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).

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