The Knitting and Stitching Show will open in Edinburgh on Thursday with shopping, workshops, talks and exhibitions. Taking part in the festivities is The 62 Group; an international, artist-led organisation who aim to challenge the boundaries of textile practice through an ambitious and innovative programme of exhibitions. This weekend their exhibition Making Space looks to be a worthy highlight for visitors. Fiona Rutherford will be exhibiting and giving an artist talk at noon on Thursday at the Making Space stand and to celebrate we’ve decided to publish an excerpt of Fiona’s feature article in Selvedge issue 62, written by Jennifer Harper…
The term ‘tapestry’ should not be confused with embroidery, needlework or needlepoint – these techniques involve sewing into an existing fabric and decorating it with stitches. Tapestry is weaving the cloth and the image simultaneously at a loom by interlacing two sets of threads – the vertical warp and horizontal weft. Fiona Rutherford weaves at a vertical loom frame – she has a range of different types from small wooden frames that prop against the table, to a builder’s scaffolding frame which she uses for large-scale commissions. She sketches her idea first and uses that as a guide behind the loom – with big tapestries she has to scale her drawings up.
“I use the Gobelin’s technique,” she says. “The wooden bobbin is the only tool I use along with my hands. I just use beautiful yarn and weave on an upright frame. The design takes a significant amount of time, as does scaling it up. I’ve always woven but in the early 1990s I realised that I wanted to create images in the weave through tapestry. My rugs were functional textiles, but with tapestry I started making pictures and smaller works that people wanted framed.”
“I had run out of steam with the rugs – I could see that I could start afresh with tapestry. It was liberating for me – my drawings could come to life. I had previously been afraid of colour and how to use it as I had been fairly conservative and mainly used earthy tones in my rugs. But when I started working with cotton and linen instead of wool, I really enjoyed it. The cotton and linen have a completely different feel and work well with my designs. Now I use colours that I wouldn’t have put together – tapestry unleashed colour for me. Having said that, there is a limited palette and a theme in my work. I use a background colour and a few others that sing – too many and the colour is lost.”