A tapestry starts with an idea, a mood, a feeling I wish to express. After much thought, images and symbols are found that best convey this idea and the long process of creating a tapestry begins.
Drawings are made to scale and the elements arranged until the design feels right. Several colour studies are done to try and resolve as many problems as possible before the weaving begins. Then a full size “cartoon” is drawn up and again changes are made, as a difference in scale often means new design problems. As in a tapestry the artist weaves both the positive and the negative shapes it is important to check the ‘weavability’ of the shapes. The cartoon may be altered yet again. Yarn is chosen, new yarn is spun, and the dying process supplies the colour palette I have chosen. Colour is very important in emphasizing the mood and message of the images. Inevitably, as the tapestry progresses, I will have to stop and dye more wool as decisions made during the weaving dictate the need for new colours.
The cartoon is taped behind the loom and the loom is warped across the top beam with linen warp at eight ends per inch (epi), giving me the freedom to weave at either 4 or 8 epi, depending on the detail and effect desired. Each warp thread must be passed through the heddles and tied to the bottom beam with precision to keep the tension even across the loom. A heading is placed against the bottom of the loom, a hem is knotted and woven, and the actual tapestry begun. This is the exciting moment, full of potential, when the dialogue between artist and tapestry commences. As a tapestry is woven, each choice of colour or shape influences each succeeding choice, and the tapestry takes on its own life.