What’s at the art of tapestry?

After a successful career in film and TV costume design Katharine Swailes completed the West Dean Postgraduate Diploma in Tapestry Weaving, followed by the Professional Development Diploma. Katharine became a Master Weaver and Designer in 2000 and joined the West Dean Tapestry Studio 2009. The Studio accepts commissions both public and private, large and small scale. Previous commissions include Black Cat and Rose Virgin for the artist Tracey Emin and hand woven by Katharine.

The tapestry was seven times larger than the designer's original drawing and a project of this type would normally take at least 14 weeks to weave. The Studio master weavers are also expert dyers and are able to create customized dyes for each individual work. However, rather than spending precious time in the in-house dye lab creating new dye recipes, all the yarns had to come from stock.

You can read the full story in the Summer Issue (No. 254) of the Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

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Katharine Swailes Master Weaver and Designer of Play

"With just over two months available this left me little lead-in time for extensive preparation of cartoon sampling and colour creation. The approach, therefore, for this piece needed to be especially methodical, meditative and technical," says Katharine. The image was woven vertically, starting at the bottom and working the way to the top which meant the more complex section of the image sat in the middle. If the image had been woven horizontally, or on its side, then the complexity of the graphite marks would have run throughout the project. By choosing to weave from the bottom of the design Katharine could work on each section with a more focused approach.

West Dean Tapestry Symposium

West Dean Tapestry Symposium, Friday 31 July 2015, West Dean College www.westdean.org.uk/tapestry. Speakers include: Professor Lesley Millar, Director of Anglo Japanese Textile Research Centre at the School of Craft and Design; and Yvonna Demczynska, Founder and curator of Flow Gallery in Notting Hill, a consultant for the Crafts Council. The Studio recently completed a 13-year project commissioned by Historic Scotland comprising a series of seven tapestries for Stirling Castle which recreate the 16th century The Hunt of the Unicorn (final unveiling June 2015). An exhibition Weaving of the Unicorn, Stirling Castle runs until 31 May 2016. Manhattan Katharine Swailes & Caron Penney, an exhibition of hand woven tapestry by two Master Weavers. Zimmer Stewart Gallery, Arundel, West Sussex 6-27 June 2015

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