Image: Elaine Wilson and Naomi Robertson, Sea View (detail), 2021. Woven Tapestry. Courtesy of Dovecot Studios
For over 100 years Dovecot Studios has trained apprentices in tapestry weaving. One of the only organisations to offer formal training in the art, the skills and knowledge have been passed down from Master Weaver to Apprentice since 1912 and the Apprenticeship programme, which was recently relaunched with the support of the Dovecot Foundation, is vital to training and inspiring a new generation of weavers. The online exhibition The Art of Being an Apprentice charts the journey of Elaine Wilson throughout her three-year QEST Allchurches Trust Apprenticeship at the studios to her current role as a Junior Weaver. From translating her own paintings to weaving works inspired by Romantic painter JMW Turner and contemporary artist Jenny Saville, the display demonstrates the evolution of skill and artistry of Dovecot’s newest weaver.
Image: Elaine Wilson
Since starting her apprenticeship, Edinburgh-based painter Elaine Wilson has acquired skills including warping the loom, creating and inking on a tapestry cartoon and producing work that explores line, shape, texture and colour. Working in the context of a Studio, Elaine worked directly alongside experienced weavers on full-scale tapestry projects as well as creating her own designs for tapestry.
Elaine comments: “As a painter and textile designer, I was drawn to tapestry weaving as it is an artistic pursuit that combines my interest in the tactile and the process of making...”
Image: Elaine Wilson, Study From Jenny Saville's Rosetta II (detail), 2019/2020. Woven tapestry, 56.5 x 48cm.
Alongside learning the technical and practical skills of weaving, apprentices at Dovecot undertake their own study into the processes, stories and history of tapestry. For Elaine this involved looking into archives, as well studying contemporary weaving, and considering how her own paintings might evolve through translation into tapestry. The first section of the exhibition features the earliest small samples and technical exercises woven by Wilson. The very first exercise, introducing in the techniques required for making basic shapes, has changed very little since the first weavers were trained at Dovecot in 1912.
View the rest of the exhibition and find out more about Elaine’s work on the Dovecot website. The exhibition will be available to view until 3pm on 3 May 2021.