Before we could begin the workshop, we had to warp our looms. Warping a heddle loom has a reputation for being a real chore, and it turns out the rumors are true. I think the hardest part was not really understanding what steps were going to be coming up, so I think it could go quite a bit faster in future.
Artist Robin Kang began our workshop by walking us through a sort of loose evolution of looms across the globe, from backstrap looms to the Jacquard punch card system. I had heard that “looms were the first computers,” but I did not know the actual story about how the Jacquard system inspired a method used for the U.S. Census collection (or about how that company later became IBM).
Robin introduced us to weave drafts and how to read them. We were then set off on our to do the actual weaving. I started with a simple plain weave to get comfortable with the loom.
I started by just weaving back and forth with the raspberry-colored yarn. Then I swapped back and forth with two rows of raspberry and two rows of blue. Finally, I alternated every row between the two colors. I unintentionally created a sort of gradient. It would be interesting to explore that further to see how gradual I could make that effect.
I then began experimenting with other materials. Tin foil was the first thing that came to my mind. I like the contrast it adds and the way it sort of emphasizes the warp threads. My next idea was to try parchment paper to see how the transparency would change things. It didn’t have a very dramatic effect, so I pushed the idea further and tried weaving in lines of plastic wrap. The first time I tried it, the plastic wrap smooshed down. It lost its transparency, but did have an interesting glossy texture.
One thing that struck me as I was weaving is the way you have to roll up your work as it grows. You might be weaving in patterns and messages, but you’re forced to forget about them (at least temporarily) to move forward.