Always Greener

Always Greener600



Always Greener came out of my developing awareness of how the two sides of tapestry weaving, pictorial and geometric, relate to each other.  It always seems like there’s just a shade of jealousy about “the other side” having it easier, either making or selling their work, or just getting respect for it.  And I really am uncomfortable with any kind of “us versus them” mentality.

This piece was about taking naturalistic shapes and making them geometric.  It’s about how they relate to each other.  So I revisited this body shape that I’d done in a handful of pieces before.  And I let the bodies do things.  They float, they play with the lines that encompass them, and they turn into geometric shapes.  I was told that the upper right body is doing something akin to “downward dog.” I even divided bodies up for their geometric components.

It was woven in 2000.  It uses all natural dyes,  and it’s here in the shop at the moment on consignment from the owner.

Clearly we are solidly in the camp of geometric tapestry weavers.  Pictorials have been around in our tradition, but, other than things like thunderbirds and roadrunners, haven’t really been a big part of it.  It isn’t that our techniques aren’t amenable to imagery, but they really are very much designed around things like symmetry and pattern, and our techniques train our brains around logical thinking that just doesn’t much apply to naturalistic forms.  These thought process are certainly a big part of what I like so much about weaving.

Weaving imagery requires having something to say in imagery.  That “picture painting a thousand words” thing is something I have always found mildly intimidating.  And I’m sure I’d always have the nagging sense that maybe just painting it would be faster and more appropriate for whatever I would want to say with an image.

And once, a few years after I completed this weaving, I was told that what we do wasn’t actually tapestry weaving.  She had learned a different kind of methodology and apparently couldn’t mentally encompass what we do as being tapestry, despite the fact that it very much fits the definition of tapestry.

So, in my mind, getting respect for tapestry as an art form is challenging for all of us.  I’ve watched people talk about it as an issue, a challenge, for tapestry artists, but I don’t have any answers as to how such a thing is ever going to come about.  I know that there are tapestry weavers that promote their work really well, so I guess it could happen that someday a tapestry weaver, or a few really great ones, will push the envelope of artistic respect beyond where it sits today.  I don’t know that there’s any reason to think that geometric forms or traditional design should be any more or less likely to garner respect for tapestry than imagery or boundary pushing new tapestry forms.

I’ve heard from pictorial weavers that those of us weaving in a tradition have it made, that we have an already developed market.  Which is, sort of, true.  But I’d argue that, as individual artists, we have to build a market for our work in precisely the same way that any other artist does.  Our work has some credibility as an authentic outcome of an old tradition.  I wouldn’t say that that was really a simple thing to achieve, but it is something that adds value to our work based on work done by those that have gone before.  So maybe they have a good point there.





“Bubbles” – Lisa Trujillo, handspun indigo dyed and undyed wool, 60″ x 90″, 1993

This morning the people who own this piece came to visit us.  They were happy to talk to me about it, telling me about where it lives and what good care they are taking with it.  Clearly it means a lot to them, in part because of the connection it makes between my family and theirs.  They remembered that I had told them that I had woven it when I was pregnant with my daughter Emily, and they have a daughter Emma who is a bit older than my Emily.  The similarities of our daughters’ names and, I’m assuming here, the fact that our daughters mean so much to us, has made this piece something worth revisiting today.  Actually, there’s a lot to be said about this piece.

The background of the piece, as well as the blue patterned diamonds in the border design, are made with ikat-dyed yarn. Ikat is a very specific technique that plays a small part in the Rio Grande tradition but is something that a variety of different weaving traditions around the world use.  Here’s the Wikipedia entry on ikat, in case you have an interest.   I’m sure that one day we’ll write something more about ikat here on the blog.

In our tradition, ikat was used in Rio Grande stripes.  Over the years, Irvin and I have done more ikat in the context of tapestry.  We have yet to find any other weaving tradition that combines ikat and tapestry, but now know of another tapestry weaver who is combining these techniques.  We usually have done ikat with an indigo dye which has the advantage of being easy to sort of reproduce the same color.  So the diamonds in the border and center design were all dyed for an earlier piece called Hyperactive.  I did the background ikat especially for this piece.  It is simply an evenly spaced resist, so that during the weaving process I could line up the resisted areas as I pleased.  And it worked!  But it meant I had to come up with a sort of  randomly blended area towards the white of the border.  I still remember that being an ongoing challenge during the piece, but it certainly looks fine to me with a couple of decades having passed since doing it.

The really important part of this piece is that it was woven while I was going through that huge transformational event in life – pregnancy.  It did not occur to me when I started in on the two-pieces-seamed weaving that my pregnancy would impact the piece, but it did.  As it turned out, my growing belly made it hard to tension the warp the same as I progressed through the piece.  So one side is a bit longer than the other.  I must have figured out how to get the center seam to work out, but clearly didn’t figure out how to make it all square.  Although I would’ve liked to have woven a perfectly flat and rectangular piece, I think it’s a fitting reality that my weaving turned out to be so accommodating to that major life change it happened to coincide with.  I think that the shapes I used look a bit pregnant too.  I named it “Bubbles” more for the background design than anything else, but it turned out to be an adjective that I think many would apply to my daughter, as her spirited, light-hearted personality is perhaps her most prominent feature.  I think she might have earned “Bubbles” as a nickname at one time.

This piece is an important reminder that my work is not separate from the rest of life, but an integral part.