Valley Grove Tapestries: Testing No. 1 in Place

Why did I get the opportunity for a beautiful walk in the prairie behind the Valley Grove Churches today? All Minnesotans are frantically following the weather updates–perhaps snow by the end of the week! (as if it had never happened before)–but today was yet another warmer-than-usual fall day.

The wooden church is mostly hidden from this angle, but you can see the stone church.

Filmmaker Paul Krause is working on an hour-long documentary about the history of the Valley Grove churches, with a focus on community involvement in saving the churches from demolition in the 1970s, and in enhancing the oak savanna prairie surrounding the church. He was almost done, but when he heard of the tapestry project in late spring, he was eager to include at least one of them in the film. He visited my home studio in early September to see the work in progress, and today I brought the finished tapestry to the church.

I was a bit nervous, and eager to see whether the size and impact of the tapestry would work well in the space. We opted for four smaller tapestries rather than one large one, to fit on four wall spaces under reproduction sconces. I took this photo from the other side of the church; Paul is setting up his camera for my interview. The proportion seemed nice.

We agreed that the tapestry worked well together with the ornate sconce above.

For some reason I thought he was just going to take photos of the tapestry, but there was also an interview. But he promised when he was at my house earlier that of course he will only use the most articulate parts.

Such a stiff smile in this post-interview shot

The tapestry was recently off the loom, but if you are a weaver you will understand that it is not finished. This shot is deceptive. I basted the top edge imperfectly over a thin stick and nailed it to the wall with two narrow brads.

When you turn it around, it’s a mess, only loosely tacked down for the purposes of this short display for the film. All of the loose threads will be woven into the back, so the back will be as smooth as the front, in traditional Norwegian billedvev style. The long hanging warp ends will be braided to a smooth edge. Textile Conservator Beth McLaughlin will fabricate a beautiful mounting and loose lining. Part of this grant was to pay Beth for archival quality mounting and custom boxes for the tapestries.

You get the idea

Tapestry #2, with a Ladies Aid member, some chickens, the stone church, and more is underway.

Each time I visit the churches I look at gravestones. I hadn’t noticed this motif before. If you look closely you will see a hand with the index finger pointed up–to heaven, I assume!