Review by Ali Burdon of http://veryberryhandmade.co.uk
Tapestry is big news in the art world at the moment. An exhibition of tapestries, ancient and modern, called Penolope's Labour, was a huge hit at the Venice Biennale last year, and artists Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin and Craigie Horsfield all have tapestries featured in big, well-received exhibitions just now. This hugely labour intensive craft, definitely associated with dusty stately homes and palaces in the public imagination, is now at the cutting edge.
I have admired Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin's tapestry work in the past, and long been intrigued by the weaving process, so I jumped at the chance to review Tapestry: A Woven Narrative for UK Handmade. The book is an overview of the development of tapestry, with a focus on the contemporary art scene. It's a very rich read, with a series of essays covering the history of tapestry, the revival of tapestry weaving in the early 20th century under the influence of William Morris, and the place of tapestry in the art world today. As a complete newcomer to the subject I found the essays were enlightening and easy to read, giving real insight into the relationship between the role of artist and weaver in the creation of tapestry. It was also fascinating to read about current controversies concerning the use of digital images and Jacquard (automated) weaving to create tapestry.
The book is wonderfully illustrated with both historical and contemporary pieces. The tapestries included clearly show the huge range of work, materials and techniques that contemporary weavers use. There is a section of profiles of contemporary weavers with examples of their work and inspiration, and it was good to be introduced to the work of these artists, who I feel I should have known about already!
As well as the art works themselves, there is also a series of photographs showing weaving studios, looms and the way in which looms are prepared for weaving. These pictures, along with the essay by Caron Penney, of the West Dean Tapestry Studio, are my favourite section of the book. The technical skills of the weavers are pretty awe inspiring to see, and I was also fascinated to read about the way in which a weaver and artist work together to create the final tapestry.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about the intricacies and beauty of tapestry weaving.
Timothy Wilcox, Caron Penney and Fiona Mathison
Black Dog Publishing - http://blackdogonline.com