Press Release: Weaving in lockdown at West Dean Tapestry Studio

During the Covid-19 lockdown, West Dean Tapestry Studio has relocated to the kitchen or loft space of each weaver, and weaving continues - albeit on a much smaller scale. Trainee Weaver Emma Straw has been creating a series of striking small tapestries inspired directly by the Empress of the Insects project that she was working on in the Tapestry Studio before the lockdown. The Tapestry is a translation of a fantastical drawing by Edward James, The Empress of the Insects at her Midsummer Night’s Ball created by James in 1983.

Emma has selected elements of the drawing, specifically the eyes that adorn the Empress's dress, as the theme for these affordable tapestries. She comments: "I returned to my home in Nottinghamshire and have been weaving in the attic! As I couldn't continue weaving the Empress in the studio, the decision was made to create a series of tapestries focusing on the Empress's 14 impressive eyes. The eyes showcase a range of techniques used within tapestry weaving including wrapping, blending and eccentric weft. The eyes were really enjoyable to weave and the perfect project to focus on during lockdown."

The production of the work has been captured in a time-lapse video, viewable online. The tapestries measure between 8.5cm to 16cm and are for sale, putting ownership of professional tapestry within reach for many who appreciate tapestry but would not be in a position to invest in larger works. Prices range from £150 to £250 and can be viewed on West Dean’s Tapestries for sale page.

West Dean Tapestry Studio is one of the only professional Tapestry Studios in the UK and has been working with contemporary artists and designers to translate their images into woven tapestry since 1976.

Recent projects include two with Eva Rothschild - The Fallowfield (purchased by the Tate) and Rings of Saturn, five tapestries with Tracey Emin and work with Martin Creed. The Hunt of the Unicorn, seven tapestries based on 15th century originals commissioned by Historic Scotland, was the biggest weaving project undertaken in the UK for 100 years and was completed in 2015.

Master Weaver Designer, Philip Sanderson also teaches at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, which is where the Studio is located, and it is one of the few places MFA students can study Tapestry. A Foundation Diploma and short courses in Tapestry Weaving are also available.

For full details, please visit www.westdean.ac.uk or www.westdeantapestry.co.uk

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Notes to Editors:

  • West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was founded in 1971 by the poet and Surrealist patron, Edward James, recognised by BBC Arts as the ‘the greatest patron of art of the early 20th century’.
  • The College is part of The Edward James Foundation (Charity No. 1126084), also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.
  • All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.

    West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 OQZ

For further Press information, please contact Rachel Aked:
Email: rachel.aked@westdean.ac.uk
Telephone: 07790 732448