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Applied Arts: Sculptural Weaving Workshop March 15, 2010

Posted by claralieu in Applied Arts, sculpture.
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This past weekend we hosted the Sculptural Weaving workshop with Boston artist Nathalie Miebach, who is also one of the artists featured in the “Transformations” exhibition, currently on view at the Jewett Art Gallery through April 10. Miebach got the workshop started by providing everyone with a foundation to understand the materials, process, and history of weaving by examining woven objects she had brought in herself, images workshop participants brought with them, and also a slideshow which demonstrated these ideas in more depth.

Sculptural Weaving Workshop

Miebach explained that the weaves have not changed throughout history, but that the materials for weaving have. An example she brought with her to demonstrate this was a small woven bowl, created by the Zulu tribe using telephone wire to weave.  She also talked about how in contemporary woven works that both the materials and forms have departed from being purely functional.

Sculptural Weaving Workshop

Miebach displays a woven form she created which is based on a calendar of daylight and nightlight hours in Boston.

Referencing her examples, Miebach talked about the four kinds of weaves:
1) Coiling: a process where a material is wrapped around the reed. An  inner structure is created with other forms.
2) Twining: in this process there are “spokes” which are vertical, and are made of a thicker material, and the “weavers” which are horizontal.
3) Plating: in this process, every element of the weave has the same voice.  Together, these same elements create a form. Plating often begins flat and is very geometric. Hexagonal plating is a common shape seen in many woven forms.
4) Random weave: a weaving process which is based on a bird’s nest.  Miebach explained that the bird is the most incredible weaver because it creates the entire nest with only it’s beak.  The random weave is probably the most playful of the weaves and has a wide range of possibilities in that the weave can be either very dense or very open. The random weave is surprisingly solid and strong as well.

Sculptural Weaving Workshop

Miebach discussed materials in great depth during the workshop. She talked about reed as being a natural material which has a lot of pliability when worked with wet.  Hot water makes the reed pliable faster, but cold water is also effective. Listening to her slide show, it was amazing to hear the incredible range of materials weavers have used throughout history: wax linen, pandan leaves (from a coconut tree), watercolor paper, reed, wire, gimp, bamboo, wood, garden hoses, plastic cable ties, etc. The contextualization she provided by all of her examples from history and contemporary artists provided the perfect launching pad for everyone to start to create their own weaves. I will admit that my own knowledge and perspective on weaving was vastly limited, and it was wonderful to hear about the incredible range of possibilities in this process.

Sculptural Weaving Workshop

Miebach talked in depth about the process of weaving, and how in weaving you have to use your entire body. There are many ways to achieve the form: you can start from a solid object (like a box) and weave around the box to create the corm, and many baskets are woven on molds and even created in layers.  Tension of the material is a major concern in weaving, a lot of the weaving process has to do with learning about the tension of the material. Combining multiple weaving techniques together is common as well.

Sculptural Weaving Workshop

One aspect Miebach pointed out was that every woven form will reveal to you how it was make, once you know what to look for you can figure it out.  She explained that the sign of a weaver is a person who will pick up a woven form and look at the bottom, since the bottom of the form is where the weave begins. Miebach also stressed that a lot of weaving is learned by making mistakes, since that’s how things get discovered and understood. She was also very encouraging about embracing mistakes, since they can sometimes have wonderful results.

Sculptural Weaving Workshop Sculptural Weaving Workshop Sculptural Weaving Workshop Sculptural Weaving Workshop Sculptural Weaving Workshop

Miebach gave a thorough demonstration on how to begin a woven sculpture with the reed.  This involved creating a round opening with the reed which would serve as the beginning point of the sculpture. From there, the random weave technique allows for tremendous flexibility in terms of process and form. I found working on my own piece during the workshop that the process was consuming and meditative at the same time.  The physicality involved with weaving was also exhilarating as well, Miebach described earlier in the day that you “weave with your entire body”.

Sculptural Weaving Workshop

Pieces created by workshop participants.  We were able to send everyone home with extra materials so the pieces could be finished at a later time.  Miebach explained that one of the most challenging aspects of the learning process is that weaving is highly demanding of your time.

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