Zooming to England with Sue Lawty

I woke up early last weekend to take a workshop with Sue Lawty, a brilliant artist from England, sponsored by Selvedge Magazine. The afternoon British workshop began at 7 am for me, but a few participants from the West Coast and Canada got up at 5 am! You will understand why I signed up by reading this short article from Selvedge that announced the workshop.

Detail of “Terra,” from the Bronwgrotta Arts website. See Sue Lawty’s work represented in this gallery here.

When our virtual meeting began, Sue asked the 12 participants what they hoped to get out of the two-day workshop. My goal was to switch my brain out, to take time to play with different yarns, to be inspired by her work–to break out of my pictorial wool mode. We all had frame-type looms warped before the workshop began, and within minutes of listening to Sue and seeing images of her work, I had a craving, a feeling of butterflies in my stomach–“Oh, LET me at my loom.”

I was particularly enchanted by her use of reverse soumak (under two, over one), which results in a column of wrapped warp threads. I tried it with linen weft. It wasn’t so evident, BUT IT WAS A SAMPLE, and I’m eager to try the technique with different warp thickness, sett, and materials.

The workshop ran four hours on Saturday, and the same on Sunday. Time went by in a blink. I think it was a smashing success for those with more tapestry experience, and for those who were just starting out. That said, afterwards I mourned a bit for the lack of opportunity to take this workshop in person. Technology is not a perfect substitute. Sue’s work is, as billed–subtle–and seeing it held up on a screen is not the same as seeing the work in person. She had a slick set-up for demonstrating with an iPad, which worked marvelously for her when she tested it. But when all of the students were in the “virtual room,” it was probably a bandwidth issue that led to poor resolution. When students held up their looms to their laptop cameras, there was a good bit of fidgeting to get them in focus, and it was never super-clear.

At the end of the first day, one homework assignment suggested by Sue was to use various materials and colors in small squares, but with an aim for a consistent overall tone, a color field. I chose to make overlapping shapes with various gray tones, not a color field, exactly, but a test in making a harmonious background that included a beautiful bright blue, grayed down with other threads.

I also made a tiny wedge weave with a variety of yarns. I’ve been meaning to try the technique. Ultimately, the sample was too small to accomplish the scalloped edges characteristic of wedge weave. Some of the areas are not beaten down to my satisfaction. But it was instructional, and IT’S A SAMPLE. Now I’ll try a larger wedge weave, with more wool.

I learned a great deal. I was incredibly inspired by Sue Lawty’s work and her enthusiasm. For example, she talked about her delight in using handspun yarn, which adds energy, life, vitality. “It’s gone through the hands of someone else…becomes part of the language we use…it brings its own self to it.” She is rigorous in her study, and admonished us to take one thread and explore all of its possibilities.

“Whatever you decide to do, do it with conviction.”

For photos of other students’ samples, see the Instagram accounts for Lynn Hart, @desertsonstudio, and Nancy Nordquist, @nordquist_studio. Be sure to google Sue Lawty and look at images of her work.

More than once, while showing images from her extensive travel or of Coptic weavings, she said, “I’ll show you an image that really sets me alight.” This was a workshop that set me alight!

3 comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I love her work and I can imagine a workshop with her would be amazing. It is too bad you had trouble seeing everything clearly. I hope we can all do workshops in person again before too much longer. Lucy

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