During my post-graduate year studies in 1961 and ’62, I had tried a variety of solutions to develop a more efficient way to deal with locking off and removing the warp ends, when cut, at the two non-selvedge edges of a completed tapestry. I was then the only technically sklled tapestry maker at Edinburgh’s College of Art. In fact, I was certain that I was the only art student or lecturer around Britain with my depth of technical experience in tapestry. There was also little known research anywhere at that time in Coptic or pre-Columbian tapestry techniques. The many mural size tapestries of European origin had simply been cut from the loom and hemmed at these edges.
But small tapestries were of increasing interest to me and those edges were clumsy and visually intrusive on small works, so I worked out a new method for at first a 3-selvedge solution, and then later a 4-selvedge solution. No cut warps! I had ‘invented’ an important and unique technique….well, not quite! In fact, three decades later I saw that my ‘invention’– with many variations!–had been commonplace in regions of what is now Peru, woven some three or four centuries earlier!
In time I realized that the re-invention of many things, not just in textiles, was no rare occurrence. The real value of my experience was to apply such an approach to the teaching of any skills. To sneakily ‘set up’ students along a journey toward a ‘discovery’ of their own that, as such, was indeed new and unique for them. This certainly encouraged and developed an open and creative thinking process, both in techniques and design development. That was the real gain for me in the 60s!
12 June 2009
Check here for instructions on making your own 4-selvedge tapestry