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Current and Upcoming Exhibitions

Monday, 13. October 2014 9:52

Plenty of opportunity for people on the East Coast to see Archie’s work in the next few months!  Enjoy!

Art is the Cloth

Both Archie and Susan Martin Maffei attended the opening, along with many other artists with work in this exhibit.  One of our own Wednesday Group members, Anna Byrd Mays, has a piece in this show, along with a number of TWiNE members.

Archie at Art is the Cloth opening

 

This show will travel to two other venues on the East Coast.

December 2, 2014 to February 9, 2015
“The Art is the Cloth”
Walton Gallery, George School

1690 Newtown-Langhorne Road
Newtown, PA 18940
www.georgeschool.org
reception date to be announced


Deerfield Academy, Deerfield MA
opening in March 2015 thru April

exact dates to be announced soon

And early in 2015, Carol Russell is curating an exhibit that will take place in New Jersey:

January 11 – May, 2015
52 tapestry artists curated by Carol Russell
Hunterdon Art Museum
7 Lower Center St.
Clinton, NJ 08809-1303
Reception to be announced
www.hunterdonartmuseum.org
908-735-8416

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Farewell to the Wednesday Group

Monday, 6. October 2014 16:50

On October 1st, all the members of the Wednesday Group gathered at our site on the Hudson for our last regular meeting.  We will never disband (famous last words!), but we will no longer meet on a monthly basis.  As the saying goes, “there is nothing more constant than change,”  and we have all made peace in our own way that the Wednesday Group must endure some growing pains.  We made plans for smaller groups to meet on an adhoc basis, and for the entire group to convene once or twice a year going forward.

I don’t normally write about my personal experiences with Archie, or the Wednesday Group, but on this occasion I feel very moved to do so.  I hope you will indulge me!

Over the past several months we have all been working on an idea that Archie concocted.  For the past couple of years we have been staying for a communal Chinese take-out dinner after class on Wednesdays.  Archie wanted to recycle the growing number of used chopsticks left over from these dinners, so he made each us of a loom with 15 chopstick warps. He charged us with the assignment to weave a face.

At our last meeting almost everyone had delivered their chopstick portraits.  Some of us really enjoyed the challenge and made some chopstick warps of our own so we could do more than one.  We were all surprised to see that it was easy to identify who wove each one of these characters!  We have all developed a pretty clear individual style!  Can you guess which two are Archie’s?  There is a wonderful sextet of maneki neko not included here.  So, stayed tuned….maybe one day they will have a public appearance!

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Archie planned a lovely farewell to us, although most of the group may still be wondering what that message was!  On the last day of class he brought in a completed tapestry that all of us had seen at different points during its making.  It’s a poem that Archie decided to weave ‘in code.’  It is one of his many explorations of language and meaning.  He is fascinated with how easily humans can read many different font styles in printing and many different handwriting styles.  He wondered how well anyone could ‘translate’ letters into colors and read his woven message.  He brought the tapestry for us to see and for us to decipher.

This challenge brought out the puzzle solver in me, but I did not decipher it before the end of class time.  As Archie wrapped up the tapestry I took a photo of part of it in its plastic covering.

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Very shortly after class, four of us were sitting together at a lovely spot on the Hudson River, puzzling over the code that would unlock this woven poem.  Two of us came up with a possible answer and then all of us began testing the idea.  We were right!  I’d love to tell you what the poem is, but Archie wants everyone to have the challenge/pleasure/torture of figuring it out for himself.

We were going to meet Archie and Susan for dinner in a matter of moments, and one of us had the brilliant idea of singing our own farewell to Archie at dinner.  When we got to the restaurant the four of us surrounded him and sang our own farewell song to him.  Not only was it obvious that he knew we had broken the code, he also seemed very touched that we had thought to do it! Yes, it was a bit embarrassing in a busy restaurant on a Thursday evening.  Yes, it was corny!  The upside was Archie’s wonderful reaction and the applause we got from the other diners!

It’s never easy to say goodbye, and for some of the Wednesday Group, it is a goodbye after more than 20 years.  For the four us who had the good fortune to have this last dinner with him, and to wish him our own personal goodbye, well…..it just could not have been any sweeter!

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Techniques of Woven Tapestry: 8 DVD set

Friday, 15. August 2014 14:31

You KNOW you want it….  so let me just give you a little tease that will have you putting this set at the top of your wish list!

16 hours of brilliant instruction by Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei, filmed by Garry Benson of Dragon Design in South Australia.  This set took years to produce….and you’ll see why when you get it!

DVD 1:  Looms, Warping, Basic skills, Leashes

DVD 2: Weaving adjoining shapes, weaving higher angles, weaving triangles, weaving small adjacent shapes, weaving lower angles

DVD 3: Lower angles, sampler summary, endless loop warp, basic curve

DVD 4: Slides 1980s — 2000s

DVD 5:  Eccentric weaving, test woven circle, inking on refined circle, weaving refined circle

DVD 6:  Hatching and half-pass, etc.

DVD 7: Hatching and half-pass cont’d, taking a line for a walk, weaver’s mark, framing small tapestries

DVD 8: 4-selvedge weaving, Dersu Ursala, Susan on half-pass and hatching, minimizing steps by pulling, half-passes and hatching cont’d,
Archie and Susan farewell.

HOW TO ORDER:

Cost $249
Shipping:  $6.95 for US, 21.55 for Canada, $25.75 for all other countries
Mail check to:  Brennan Maffei Tapestry
P.O. Box 312
New Baltimore, NY 12124
Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery after check arrives

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The (Re-)Invention of Four Selvedge Weaving

Wednesday, 13. August 2014 16:40

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!

Archie Brennan
12 June 2009

Check here for instructions on making your own 4-selvedge tapestry

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Game Changers: Fiber Art Masters and Innovators

Wednesday, 6. August 2014 7:58

The Fuller Craft Museum is currently holding an exhibition of fiber arts that include some very well known artists.   Archie Brennan, Susan Martin Maffei,  Maximo Laura, Lia Cook, Dianne Itter, Michael Rohde are just a few of a long list of names we all recognize.

The opening was August 3, and will continue until November 23, so there is still plenty of time to get there.

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Archie’s Thoughts on Warp Sett

Wednesday, 9. July 2014 10:36

Throughout the years, Archie has written out his thoughts on many subjects related to tapestry weaving and art in general.  Many of them have been published in various places.  This article on warp sett is published on the American Tapestry Alliance’s website in their section on educational articles.

The Space Between the Warps

Jeff Sedlick, writing about the jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, commented, “Davis puts as much emphasis on the silence between the notes…” It is surprising how much tapestry has in common with music, and particularly with modern jazz. For example, Miles Davis’ concern with interval in music parallels the importance of a careful consideration of warp spacing, or warp interval, in tapestry cloth. Several issues arise in conjunction with this seemingly straightforward parameter. The spacing between the warp and the size of the weft is, in one sense, a simple technical concern. It involves establishing an appropriately sized empty space between warp threads of a particular diameter. The fineness or coarseness of a tapestry cloth is usually described by giving the number of warp ends per inch. It is arguable, however, that the gap between each warp – the breadth of the warp interval – is as critical to the quality of the tapestry cloth as is the number and thickness of the warps. Put simply, the gap between the warps must accommodate the weft. So the gap itself determines the weft thickness as much as the warp sett does. Yet the nuances of this relationship are often neglected. The space between the warps, along with the fiber type and the direction and tightness of the spin, defines the crispness or softness of the line between adjacent shapes, and is thus, a key aspect in tapestry making.

Classic warp to weft and gap to warp relationships for woven tapestry specify that the gap between warps is fractionally wider than the tensioned warp diameter. However, this is a vague definition that does not necessarily lead to absolute numbers. Other factors that add to the complexity of determining a suitable warp interval are: 1) the variety of warp materials employed, for example cotton, wool, linen and silk and; 2) inconsistent sizing standards among the various sources of cotton seine twine. I offer here a useful method for establishing the classic sett of any prospective warp.

Take the available warp material and wrap sufficient turns, firm and close, to cover one centimeter on a ruler. The number of wraps becomes the number of warps in one inch in a classic tapestry cloth (see illustration). Obviously, using this standard with a thicker (or thinner) warp material will produce a finer (or heavier), yet still balanced, tapestry cloth. Although this method of determining warp spacing has a certain universal application, regional and even national variations exist. I use this system myself as a basis for determining a warp sett, although I am prepared to make minor adjustments. For example, if the number of wraps in one centimeter indicates a warp sett of 8epi, I may shift to either 7epi or 9epi, in order to produce a tapestry cloth that has a slightly different density and hand. Varying the warp sett from the classic model results in softer shapes and images when the gap is wider than the classical prescription, and crisper shape abutments when the gap is narrower. A secondary, but not insignificant result of narrowing the warp sett for a given warp size is that the finer warp sett requires a thinner weft, which subsequently results in a slower weaving speed. My argument, and my purpose in discussing this, classic tapestry or otherwise, is to point out that making a conscious choice about the gap between the warps is an important decision often ignored by tapestry weavers.

Brennan warp weft balance illustration

The importance of warp spacing and warp interval has implications for other aspects of tapestry weaving as well. The silence between the notes in music is generally not a subject that receives much attention, but in the visual arts the interval between pictorial elements, the background space itself, is of great concern. It is likely to be given as much thought as the objects being portrayed. The term “negative space” has become something of a cliché for the aspiring painter in recent years but the thoughtful tapestry maker quickly discovers that there is little that is negative about such spaces. They are not something that one gets for free. A very positive act is required to weave the space between pictorial elements and, because of this, the resultant “background” can have a very positive presence. When weaving two leaves, for example, the surrounding space is not a byproduct of creating the leaves. Indeed, the background must frequently be woven first, and it is the shape of the background that determines much of the actual shape of the leaf. The weaving of the leaves, in fact, is often the easier task – a simple process of filling in. If you think of weaving a row of circles or diamond shapes, the gap between the lower half of each shape must be woven first. Like building a rough stonewall, you cannot position a stone projecting into space and then force the support stone underneath it. Nor can you weave the lower half of a circle or a diamond without building the support first!

If you are an experienced weaver, the previous statements may seem obvious. But often the conditions and qualities that we consider obvious are the ones that can offer subtle and significant insights to those who take the time to consider them carefully. Because in tapestry the background shapes add a very positive aspect to the pictorial field and because the growth of the cloth up the warp has a logic that flows from the image and from the process of weaving, the aforementioned parallels with musical performance are further increased. Both are journeys through time marked by rhythm, interval and composition. Improvised live jazz and the re-emergence of the designer weaver extend this comparison even further, especially when the tapestry artist explores and exploits this creative journey during the making rather than planning every step beforehand. In contrast, the formal scores of classical music might be compared to late Medieval and Renaissance tapestry with their thoroughly prepared cartoons.

One last diversion on interval and spacing. I am not wild about weaving areas of plain weaving. I get bored. Yet, at times I sense the need for a quiet passage. These areas are not just a pause in the pictorial composition. They are also an opportunity to assert “clothness” as a valuable element in the vocabulary of tapestry making. These “empty” areas can be an opportunity to introduce a subtle surface change by using different weft materials or a weft with a different spin. But, of course, this change can in time get boring to weave as well. Well, maybe it’s a moment for some background music. Perhaps Miles Davis?

Archie Brennan January 2008

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Serendipity

Saturday, 31. May 2014 13:07

What a long hiatus since the last post.  I offer up sincere apologies for this.  I won’t bore you with the reasons why both Archie and I (mostly me) have been pulled away for some time.  However, I would like  you to know that although there were no new posts on this site, Archie has continued  to work on this project (at my bidding) and I have continued to transcribe his work. Life events have distracted us a bit over the past couple of years, but now I plan to be back here on a regular basis. I hope you will join us!

I have added some photos to the galleries.  Take a look!

Last fall Archie had a very serendipitous email communication with a tapestry weaver.  It is a small world….

Archie Brennan 218:Hello Sailor:1991_2

“Hello, Sailor” 1991. Archie Brennan

“On Friday I got an email from a weaver on the West Coast, who said she had been looking online for information about the instructional DVD when she saw an image of my tapestry, “Hello, Sailor.”  She was convinced that the man in my tapestry was her father.  She emailed me and attached a photo of her father that was taken about 10 years later than my tapestry, and I recognized him as the same man who was the subject of that particular work.  She told me that when he got out of the service he married and had three children, one of which is her.

The other interesting facet to this story is that just the day after I received her email I was talking to my son Jess, who happened to be on the West Coast, driving from Portland to Seattle.  Jess owns “Hello, Sailor” so I thought he might be interested in communicating with, or possibly meeting, the woman who is the daughter of this sailor and who happens to live near the area where he was traveling.  I gave Jess her email address and will be interested in hearing what transpires!”

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World Map

Monday, 8. November 2010 16:20

72 postcards - 8" x 5.25" 2003

Recently I arranged that seventy-two colleagues and friends return these tapestry woven postcards to me, by mail, from around the world.

I had adapted an airline map (JAL) that was centered on Tokyo to cover the entire world with the North Pole at its center.  This view of the world is as distorted as any flattened world map must be.

It is also symbolic of the inevitable reality that each of us carries on our own world map.  Ours is an individual map laden with conditioned points of view, with biases that grow out of our own limitations.  It goes beyond the accident of geography.  Our maps encompass our environmental, social, national and personal experience.

As a more general comment, I have mailed some 100 tapestry postcards and packages all around the world for more than 30 years.  Perhaps surprisingly, not one has failed to reach its intended destination.

Archie Brennan

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The Drawing Series

Thursday, 4. November 2010 15:31

It’s been a while since I’ve posted (computer problems…), but there has been lots of progress on the book project!  Here’s an excerpt from Archie’s notes!

“Seated Female Nude” (Drawing Series LXI)

A first glance at this tapestry may suggest that it is based on cubism, but it grew from the reality that when drawing on paper you get the space between any two lines or marks that you make for “free;” ie, it is the untouched paper. When weaving tapestry however, that “space” has to be woven, sometimes even before the drawn lines or marks get woven. And it is not an anonymous space. As part of the tapestry cloth it can have a very positive presence, a presence that can be orchestrated to have an important role in the overall work.

Pictorial drawing on paper is essentially about the illusion of form, volume and space. In this tapestry the major concern is the interplay between this illusion, the seated female, and the real presence of varied cloth surfaces. It builds on this spatial contradiction and the picture plane—here, a heavy tapestry cloth.

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What’s on Archie Brennan’s Loom Right Now?

Thursday, 8. July 2010 10:48

When I visited Archie and Susan’s studio last week, Archie was preparing  a loom for his next tapestry. What you can see of the cartoon below will certainly remind you of numerous earlier tapestries.  Isn’t it a hallmark of Archie’s thinking process to return to an idea to explore again ‘what would happen if…?’

….like his drawing series, his postcard series, his historical series.  There will be more about his series in upcoming posts!

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Archie is making a 3-selvedge warp for a large project.  The cartoon is behind the loom on brown paper. There is also a small loom in between the loom Archie is warping and the cartoon, on which he made some woven color studies. 

This warping process is quite involved.  The rod at chest level shown in this photo is wrapped in a certain way to create a selvedge.  Instructions for making a 4-selvedge warp can be found on Archie and Susan’s website.

 

 

 

 

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Archie holds the entire spool of cotton seine twine as he makes the warp, carefully tensioning each wrap as he passes the spool over the top of the loom,  around the wooden dowel in the middle, then around the bottom and back up to the top.  The wooden dowel can be moved as the weaving progresses to allow the already woven section to be turned to the back of the loom.

This tapestry will probably be exhibited at GAGA Arts Center in September.

 

 

 

“Under the Influence/Objects of Obsession” — Susan Martin Maffei


“Exploring Woven Tapestry”
— Archie Brennan

Sept. 10 – Oct. 3, 2010

GAGA Arts Center
55 Railroad Ave
Garnerville NY
(845)947-1155

Opening Reception: Friday, Sept 10th  4- 8PM
Gallery Hours Fri 4-8, Sat 2-6, Sun. 12-4 or by appt. 646-796-9798
Artists’ Lectures: Fri. Sept. 24th starting at 6PM.

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