The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet and Doctor Merryman (Jonathan Swift)
... And to these three doctors, I would add ‘Doctor Art’. Apart from observing my husband David Swift’s work, which involves reaching, by means of creative activities, where other healing treatments haven’t succeeded... I have recently been watching the effect that art has on people, whether it be in exhibitions, in an artist’s studio or on display in houses of friends. If the ‘artwork’ is a successful piece of work, it will reach out and strike a chord with the viewer... leaving them uplifted and/or calmed... that is, if the viewer is ready to participate, because art appreciation is a two way process. THIS is what I want to achieve with my work. Although it is woven, it has no practical use, however I hope it will warm the spirit and therefore have a purpose.
Here I will introduce it to you by describing one piece. The Hidden Heart. A figure in ‘strawberry fool’ dress is watering a garden of strange flowers, artichoke ‘moons’, snail spirals, dandelion clocks and strawberry nests. A bonfire sends up its smoke signal and a cat watches a bird, which in turn preys on the strawberry harvest... ‘The Hidden Heart’ refers not only to the hearts you can find quite literally in the design, but also to what the piece might offer if you take time to ‘read’ it. Just as the world of gardening offers more than flowers, fruit, fresh air and vegetables, but can also be a sanctuary or a metaphor for life.
The design starts to form once there is an important enough idea (Hidden Heart) to communicate. I like to stylize the drawing to suit the medium of tapestry and as was also done in medieval tapestries, I choose motifs as symbols. Designing and sampling are done simultaneously, so that the cartoon lends itself to the tapestry process, and therefore the final making stage is a creative and enjoyable experience, retaining some freedom to improvise. I use linens, silks, fine wools and cottons for their tactile qualities as well as their colour ranges... for example, silk for the bonfire smoke and linen for the straw. Weaving by hand on a simple vertical frame (no heddles or pedals), gives me the freedom to place weft threads at angles to the warp and follow the sweeps and curves of the drawing, for istance, the shower of water from the watering can, sometimes woven at angles with the warps and sometimes crossing the surface, using ‘floating’ wefts where the splashes of water cut across and interrupt the regular pattern of the strawberry hearts.
Nuances of colour are arrived at by ‘playing’... adding and changing threads, and subtle changes made by hatching, all the time keeping an uneven, undulating weft thread, packed down with a bobbin. And finally, there’s the little textile ‘joke’ of thread-mixing, in the style of ‘pointillism’ to give the impression of a translucent dress in a medium which is by it’s nature dense and opaque.
This is my Hidden Heart.
Text by Lynne Curran, March 2013, Italy
Photo by Maureen Kinnear