I had the rare privilege of taking a 4 day Sarah Swett tapestry weaving workshop at The Taos Wool Festival in Taos, NM a few weeks ago. I learned so much in the workshop and I can’t say enough good things about Sarah as a teacher.
She teaches you LOTS of stuff but at the same time lets each individual’s creativity shine through. Her energy level is amazing – she is one of my favorite types of people – what I like to call the precocious adult. She jumps into everything with full enthusiasm and is willing to try just about anything including weaving, egg tempura painting, novel writing, fiddle playing and shoe making (yup – not making that last one up!).
The Value of Value Workshop
The workshop was called the Value of Value and the name really does say it all. It was about learning to read the value (as in a value scale) of various yarns and weaving them together so that they don’t get lost next to each other because the values are to0 close together or become too disparate because the values are too far apart.
We supplied the looms – many in the class used either Archie Brennan style pipe looms or Mirrix looms – and Sarah supplied the warp and weft. The warp was a 2-ply wool warp from Weaving Southwest. I have never used a wool warp before and I must say I liked it. All of the weft materials were hand spun, hand dyed wool singles (two more of Sarah’s talents).
The Warm Up
The first day was spent warping our looms and doing some value studies. These were invaluable to understand how the weft colors worked with each other.
It was a revelation to me, for example, how red could completely dominate a color. This photo shows my warm up value scales. Notice how red the middle row looks (this is a mixture of reds and browns)? The row right above it is woven with exactly the same browns and cream colors. You can’t even see the brown in the with the those reds!!
Geometric Shapes and Perspective
We moved on the next day to learning a bit about one and two point perspective and understanding where light is coming from on an object. We then translated what we learned into a cartoon and small weaving.
Doing a cube seemed kind of boring to me so I went with a building. It turns out that geometric shapes are more complicated to weave that you might think. Sure the vertical bits are easy but it is tough to do smooth angles and points! Sarah came to our rescue and gave us lots of tips.
Here is my building with interior and exterior shadows.
Can you tell what kind of perspective I used and where the light is coming from?
As part of the Value exercise, we used iPhone apps to take B&W and color photos of our work to see how the value worked in each woven piece. Here’s the B&W version of my building – I was pleased that it translated “pretty well” to B&W and that all my values were distinct.
Here is the whole weaving with the value warm up and the Pink Barn.
After sweating out the geometrics we moved on to try our hand at organic shapes. For me, the organic seemed way easier than the geometric shapes. Many of the gals in class worked on weaving pears. I have had rabbits on the brain for a time and decided to put all my newly learned Sarah value skills to the test and create a monochromatic piece. The rabbit and the background are all done in shades of brown.
And a close-up
What do you think – can you see all the rabbits parts clearly? What about that back leg – that’s the part I was a *bit* concerned with.
Sarah Swett’s Work
Sarah brought some of her tapestries to the class – what a treat. She gave me permission to take some photos and post here – enjoy!
You can also go to Sarah’s website if you want to see more of her incredible tapestries!
May you too find an inspiring teacher to help you on your journey.