Monday, August 7, 2017

A Darker Thread, Oriel Myrddin Gallery until 21st October 2017


I am delighted to announce that my latest curation project for Oriel Myrddin Gallery in Carmarthen, Wales is now open. Twelve artists are showcased and I'm honoured to have worked once again with photographer Toril Brancher and designer Heidi Baker to create a wonderful accompanying publication. Huge thank you as well to the inspirational Angela Maddock for her outstanding opening talk and publication essay.

Exhibitors:


L-R Alana Tyson, Llio James, Jayne Pierson, Philippa Lawrence

L-R Rhiannon Williams, Sally-Ann Parker, Laura Thomas

L-R Laura Thomas, Eleri Mills, Ruth Harries

Foreground: Ruth Harries
Background (on wall) L-R: Rozanne Hawksley, Philippa Lawrence, Spike Dennis

Foreground: Jayne Pierson


Ruth Harries (background), Laura Thomas (foreground)

L-R Indre Eugenija Dunn, Rozanne Hawksley, Rhiannon Williams, Sally-Ann Parker

Sally-Ann Parker

L-R: Eleri Mills, Ruth Harries, Jayne Pierson, Spike Dennis



Below is the exhibition essay, outlining the curatorial concept for the exhibition:

The curatorial concept for this exhibition evolved instinctively: it felt right in these times of political upheaval and disquieting daily news stories. Whilst I can’t help but feel affected by the darker tone of the times, in counterbalance, I also try to seek out and celebrate examples of hope, optimism, kindness and peace. I hope this exhibition reflects on these oftentimes complicated responses to our contemporary experience.

It is also intended to highlight some of the outstanding work being made through the medium of thread and cloth, by artists living in or connected to Wales. No doubt this is informed in some part by our rich cultural heritage of making both utilitarian and decorative textiles to furnish our living spaces and envelope our bodies from birth to death.   

I selected work that demonstrated visual poetic eloquence, a mastery of medium and an absolute sensitivity to making and materials.  I wanted work that would stop you in your tracks: to meet your gaze head-on, to challenge you, question you, but also offer comfort, reflection and embrace.  Some of the work has a punk confrontational self-confidence, others, a gentle yet searing resilience.

There are broad-ranging themes informing the work: gender politics, feminism, empowerment, memory, language, loss.  There are references to landscape, both internal and external and how we occupy it, or how it occupies us.  The recurring circle motif present in several of the artworks was possibly subconsciously sought out, due to its universal symbolism of eternity, the infinite, wholeness, totality, self and the cycle of life.  Its gentle shape has no awkward sharp corners; it flows infinitely, focuses the eye, draws us in, then acts as a full-stop to make us, pause and draw breath.

Some of these curious, provocative, intense, fragile works might feel comfortably familiar through their materiality or typically ‘Welsh’ colour palette of black, ecru and red; much hopefully, does not. There is a purposeful range of hard and soft materials across the exhibits to represent a juxtaposition of comfort and discomfort.  Sometimes a textile can soothe, but sometimes it cannot.

To conclude, I must extend grateful thanks to all at Oriel Myrddin, firstly for the invitation to curate this exhibition and secondly for all their tireless support throughout the project.  Also, many thanks to Angela Maddock for her eloquent and poignant essay, Toril Brancher for her exquisite photography and Heidi Baker for her considered design of the exhibition publication.  Lastly, I’m hugely grateful to all the artists for so willingly and generously contributing work to this exhibition.


Eleri Mills

Indre Eugenija Dunn

Jayne Pierson in collaboration with Neale Howells

Laura Thomas

Laura Thomas

Llio James

Philippa Lawrence

Rhiannon Williams

Rozanne Hawksley

Ruth Harries

Sally-Ann Parker

Spike Dennis

Thursday, July 6, 2017

EXTREME WEAVING for The BIG DRAW, The National Wool Museum, Drefach Felindre, 7th October 2017



Big Draw Living Lines - EXTREME WEAVING!

7 October 10am – 3pm National Wool Museum, Drefach Felindre, SA44 5UP

The Big Draw promotes the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention. For as long as we’ve been able to draw we’ve been depicting motion: from prehistoric cave paintings of charging bison through magic lanterns and shadow puppets to stop-motion, digital technology and social media GIF’s.

For the Big Draw 2017 Oriel Myrddin and The National Wool Museum will be inviting people to join in creating a collaborative giant woven work of art with myself. Weather permitting , the plan is to weave around the big tenterhook frame that is outside the Museum.  If too wet, we'll be doing large scale in-situ weaving in the Long Gallery inside the Museum instead. Wherever it may be, this wild weaving extravaganza will be filmed and become a time lapse film which will be shown at Oriel Myrddin Gallery.

CALL OUT FOR HELP! Weaver / textile / fashion friends - I'm going to need a LOT of material to make this giant woven textile.  The plan is for this to be mostly made from recycled and re-purposed materials including loom waste.  If you have any warp 'thrums' (the last bit of warp that can't be woven) would you be willing to donate them to the project?  The palette is going to be typically Welsh - grey, black, red and white/ecru/undyed. I'd also be interested in any waste natural fabrics that are in this colour palette that I could cut into strips to weave with.  If you can help - please drop me a line and I can send you my postal address info at laurathomas dot co dot uk HUGE THANK YOU!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Darker Thread, 15th July - 21st Oct 2017


I'm delighted to share with you my latest curation project, A Darker Thread, which opens at Oriel Myrddin Gallery, Carmarthen on the 15th July at 2pm.  You are warmly invited to join us when the exhibition will be opened by the noted artist and academic Angela Maddock.

About the exhibition:

A Darker Thread 

Wales has a much celebrated tradition of creating both utilitarian and decorative textiles of distinctive design.  From power-loomed blankets to hand stitched quilts, textiles are a key part of Welsh visual culture and history.

Whilst ‘A Darker Thread’ takes this heritage as its starting point, twelve contemporary artists, designers and makers have been invited to exhibit work which subverts these expectations. 

Exhibitors have been selected for their focus on the curious, the provocative, the humorous, or the unpredictable. Some work might still feel comfortably familiar through its materiality or typically ‘Welsh’ colour palette of black, ecru and red; much hopefully, does not.


The work all consciously or subconsciously references and questions Welsh culture or sense of place: its language, folk tales, music, landscape, industrial past or contemporary subcultures. A variety of making processes are exemplified, but all make use of thread in some form.  


To compliment the exhibition, the gallery shop featured maker is Stephen Hughes who is showcasing his new collection of luxurious digitally printed scarves.

There is also a rich programme of events running alongside the exhibition, which you can see detailed below:




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Forthcoming exhibition: MAKE 18th Feb - 23 April 2017, Ruthin Craft Centre



18 February – 23 April 2017
For the past two years the Paul Hamlyn Foundation has funded Ruthin Craft Centre’s What is Craft? project. The project looked at many aspects of Craft examining different ideas and approaches to making through Materials, Decoration, Process and Function. This engaged our audience in a creative dialogue.
This exhibition, of the work of over fifty applied artists, continues the conversation of what it is to MAKE.
Jane Adam, Marthe Armitage, Gordon Baldwin, Nancy Baldwin, Jo Barker, Lise Bech, Michael Brennand-Wood, Sara Brennan, Adam Buick, Edmond Byrne, Sue Christian, Mandy Coates, Sebastian Cox, Claire Curneen, Luke Eastop, Forest & Found, Gill Galloway-Whitehead, Margit Hart, Suzanne Hodgson, Catrin Howell, Emma Jeffs, Simeon Jones, Madoline Keeler, Walter Keeler, Eleanor Lakelin, Richard La Trobe-Bateman, Beth Legg, Claudia Lis, Philip Lourie, Fritz Maierhofer, Ptolemy Mann, Lindean Mill, Alison Morton, Mourne Textiles, Nick Ozanne, Jim Partridge & Liz Walmsley, Ronald Pennell, Betty Pennell, Angus Ross, Tracey Rowledge, Michael Ruh, Jono Smart, St. Jude’s, Dionne Swift, Angharad Thomas, Laura Thomas, Adi Toch, Matthew Tomalin, Louise Tucker, Wallace Sewell, Winter & Kurth.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rule Breaking Weaving @ The Devon Weavers Workshop

I've just returned from delivering another wonderful 3 day workshop at the Devon Weavers Workshop in Totnes.  Entitled 'Rule Breaking Weaving', participants were encouraged to consider the 'rules' of weaving, and then set about exploring ways of breaking them.  Discontinuous weft, distorted warp and weft, differential warp tensions, and loops, tufts and knots with unusual yarns were all experimented with.  We also spent some time on the final afternoon exploring finishing techniques such as devore, melting, burning and foiling to excellent effect.  The resulting samples were incredibly inspiring and give the participants much food for thought for future integration into their work. The weavers all deserve enormous praise for being incredibly bold in their experimentation, ESPECIALLY when I asked them to prepare warps in qualities new to them such as ultra fine lurex, monofilament, acrylic and polyester.  Wonderful things happen when you're outside of your comfort zone and happy to 'see what happens'.










 



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Forthcoming weave workshops...

I have a couple of workshops in the pipeline for this coming year which might of interest to some of you.  Please follow the web links to book directly with the host organisations.
 
2nd-4th April 2016 RULE-BREAKING WEAVING, Devon Weavers Workshop, Totnes
 
A workshop that is designed to encourage participants to break the rules of weaving and push themselves outside their comfort zones. The workshop will begin with a discussion and exploration of what the definition of weaving is and what the 'rules' are. Participants will discuss what their preferred yarns, colour palettes and usual outcomes are. They will then be encouraged to do the opposite! As many samples as possible will be woven, many of which could then be further processed exploring finishing techniques such as devore, discharge dyeing, melting, pleating, burning etc. Weavers will be encouraged to explore ideas unencumbered by the restraints of functionality. Laura will bring a range of weft yarns for students to experiment with, detailed handouts, tools/materials to explore some finishing techniques, plus a portfolio of samples to look at.

£240
 
 
 
 
19-20th March 2016 INTRODUCTION TO TABLE LOOM WEAVING, Craft in the Bay, Cardiff
Using prepared 4-shaft table looms, you will be introduced to the basics of table loom weaving.  On day 1, you will be taught basic weave structures, hand manipulation techniques and encouraged to experiment with a variety weft yarns in many fibres, textures and colours, in order to create a collection of technical and creative woven samples.  Detailed handouts will be provided.
On day 2, you can either undertake further sampling or alternatively weave a longer length of cloth to make a scarf, table runner or wall hanging.
Suitable for: complete novices with good manual dexterity
Please bring: a notebook and pen, fabric scissors and if desired, your own yarns.

£110 (10% reduction if you are a member or Friend of the Makers Guild in Wales)

 
 
 
21st May 2016 Weaving: Explore weft floats, Craft in the Bay, Cardiff
An exciting workshop exploring the design potential of various structures which encompass weft floats to create design detail.  Working on a pointed draft on at least 8 shafts, you will explore brocade pattern weaving, corduroy, distorted weft, and other ‘extra weft’ float structures. As well as weaving some brocade patterns given to you, you will be taught how to draft your own unique brocade motifs to weave. You will be encouraged to use unusual weft yarns to create untypical fabric samples.
What to bring: Participants are asked to bring a prepared handloom – you must have at least 8 shafts for this workshop.  Please prepare a balanced sett, pointed draft warp in a yarn of your choosing.  A plain coloured warp would preferable to stripes in order to fully appreciate the structures you’ll be trialling. The warp width and length are at your discretion, depending on how industrious you feel! Please also bring at least 2 shuttles, a notebook, point paper / graph paper, pencil, rubber, black felt pen, fabric scissors, dress makers pins, your warp yarns and your own weft yarns.
Laura will bring: detailed handouts, a range of weft yarns for you to experiment with and a portfolio of samples for you to look at.

Cost: £65 (10% reduction if you are a member or Friend of the Makers Guild in Wales)

http://www.makersguildinwales.org.uk/whats-on/workshop/event/502-explore-weft-floats



4th June 2016, Taking plain weave one step further, Craft in the Bay, Cardiff
        
A workshop for rigid heddle weavers as well as shaft loom weavers to enjoy alike. Plain weave, the most basic and fundamental weave structure is often overlooked for its ‘first step’ simplicity. However, great things can be achieved through exploring hand manipulation techniques to take plain weave into the realms of the untypical and unexpected.
The workshop will begin with looking at a wide variety of ‘plain weave’ samples, discussing how they are made.  Participants will be given a range of hand manipulation techniques and processes to explore as per individual preference.  Techniques will include tufting, knotting, discontinuous weft, leno, soumac, loops etc. Consideration will also be given to colour mixing, beat and finishing possibilities.
What to bring: Participants will be asked to bring a loom prepared with a smooth fine or medium weight cotton, silk, viscose, polyester or similar warp (not wool and no slubs or knops).  Please choose a balanced sett. Could either be a single plain colour or a multiple colour stripy warp depending of your individual preference. Likewise, warp width and length is for you decide depending on how industrious you feel! Please also bring shuttles, a notebook and pen, fabric scissors, dress makers pins, your warp yarn and if desired, your own weft yarns.
Laura will bring: detailed handouts, a range of weft yarns for you to experiment with and a portfolio of samples for you to look at.

Cost: £65 (10% reduction if you are a member or Friend of the Makers Guild in Wales)

http://www.makersguildinwales.org.uk/whats-on/workshop/event/503-taking-plain-weave-one-step-further-with-laura-thomas

Friday, February 5, 2016

Wandsworth 'rugs' and columns

Back in 2014, I was contacted by Walter Jack Studio, to develop some brightly coloured geometric designs based on weave structures to be used to create outdoor 'rugs' and pillars within the public space outside a new housing development in Wandsworth, London.  The Walter Jack concept was to create a contemporary ruin - traces of a previous building are alluded to and the 'rugs' suggestive of the domestic space.  Its also hoped that this scheme will encourage residents to picnic outside and for children to play in the space.  Needless to say, this project was right up my street, so I relished this challenge enormously. 

One of the 'rug' designs, produced using my weave software

I very much enjoyed using my weave software in an entirely different way to create design work, that would be scaled up and translated into hard materials.  The designs have been made from coloured resin bound recycled glass by SureSet, which were carefully inlayed by hand into a bespoke steel grid structure. 

The project has nearly been completed - more planting and finishing details to be added, but I really couldn't wait to share some of these pictures.





All photos (c) Walter Jack Studios, 2016

 
Huge thanks once again to Walter & Paul at Walter Jack Studio, for inviting me to contribute to this project; to SureSet for being translating my ideas impeccably; and to Plan Projects for their overall project management.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Art at Waunifor exhibition

I currently have some work on show as part of the annual Art at Waunifor End of Summer exhibition. This year it has a particular focus on textile art.  The Waunifor Centre is a real hidden gem, nestled in rural Carmarthenshire not far from Llandysul - well worth the visit.  I'll be there on the last afternoon day - maybe I'll see you there...
 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

'Connected Threads', Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 28.3.15 - 17.5.15

Connected Threads: an exhibition celebrating the importance and reward of teaching and learning.


Exhibition statement:

‘Connected Threads’ brings together five mixed media textile artists connected through education, whose practice is all rooted in the principle of manipulating threads to diverse outcomes.  Laura Thomas, a woven textile designer and artist, also co-leads the BA Textiles: knit, weave & mixed media degree programme in Carmarthen School of Art, Coleg Sir Gar.  Having been invited to exhibit at TenbyMuseum & Art Gallery, Laura decided to take the opportunity to invite two of her former tutors Julia Griffiths Jones and Ann Sutton, and two of her former students Sian O’Doherty and Debbie Smyth to exhibit alongside her. 

Teaching is a common accompaniment to the professional life of an artist or designer-maker.  An otherwise often solitary practice is greatly enriched by the joy of sharing expertise and inspiring keen learners.  Laura is particularly passionate about passing on the skill of weaving in a country where the manufacture of cloth is so fundamental.  Carmarthen School of Art offers the only remaining degree programme in Wales with the option to specialise in weave.  

Having always known that a career in art and design was where her future lay, Laura was still uncertain about what to specialise in when she began her Foundation Diploma in Art and Design in Carmarthen School of Art in 1995.  Typography had been an obsession throughout school, so graphic design seemed inevitable.  However textiles tutor Julia Griffiths Jones introduced the idea that textiles could be something quite unexpected and truly exciting and so the path shifted.  Working with wire and other untypical materials and processes were a revelation, and so a degree specialising in mixed media textiles was selected in Birmingham City University (formally University of Central England).  However, here once again the path changed.  The four week introductory taster to weaving was a life changing ‘light-bulb’ moment.  Having never given a second thought to the construction of cloth, the weave room, with its floor-to-ceiling shelves full of yarn, encasing rows of table looms was a welcome onslaught to the senses.  The opportunity to explore the key passions of colour, composition and line, and fundamentally, to make cloth proved irresistible and thus became Laura’s chosen specialism.

One the foremost draws to subsequently undertake an MA in Woven Textiles at the RoyalCollege of Art, was that Ann Sutton was one of the visiting tutors.  Prolific artist, designer, maker, curator, speaker and writer, Ann Sutton’s energetic, rule-breaking and pioneering approach to weave was inspirational.  Treasured tutorials challenged Laura to see the ingenuity in overlooked structures and to recognise that weaving is ‘soft engineering’.  The possibilities for woven textile application in unexpected arenas, such as public art set the die for Laura’s future career.  Good fortune also meant that Laura was due to graduate in 2001, the year that Ann Sutton was recruiting for her first tranche of three Weave Design Research Fellows for The Ann Sutton Foundation in Arundel, West Sussex.  Thrilled to be awarded one of the Fellowships, the two years spent at the Foundation were entirely fundamental in Laura developing the confidence to establish her multifaceted studio practice in Cardiff in early 2004.

Soon after arriving back in Wales, Laura wrote to the textile department in Carmarthen School of Art to introduce herself and offer her services as a visiting speaker.  An informal meeting and talk to the students led to a one-day a week appointment as weave tutor. Laura has taught there ever since, and has been co-leading the course since January 2013.

Carmarthen School of Art is a joy to be a part of.  It is a true art college, in that it’s purely art and design courses undertaken on the campus.  It’s uniquely small, meaning that class sizes are a fraction of those in the ‘big’ universities and so has a nurturing, family atmosphere, where tutors really get to know their students.  Its size also means there is plenty of scope for inter-departmental working, something that both Sian O’Doherty and Debbie Smyth embraced throughout their studies.

The biggest reward in teaching, is to watch already talented students develop over their three years of study into something exceptional; to observe their ‘light-bulb’ moments; to suggest a creative direction that proves to be their personal revelation; to celebrate their recognition in the wider world of art and design.  Both Sian and Debbie were outstanding students from the outset, but what set them apart was their unstinting work ethic, creative risk taking and thirst for experimentation.  Both students were multi-talented and could have easily specialised in any textiles discipline, but both took a mixed media approach comfortably exploring different techniques and processes as per aesthetic and practical demands.  Underpinning their work throughout was their high level of drawing ability, comfortably taken into cloth, paper or thread manipulation. 

Debbie graduated in 2008 and achieved instant recognition at New Designers, the annual graduate showcase exhibition in London.  Work was sold, exhibitions arranged and commissions won.  Debbie has worked consistently since graduation for a stellar list of clients achieving international recognition for her trademark ‘pins and threads’ drawings and large scale installations.  Recent commissions have taken her to Shanghai and Las Vegas to create spectacular installations.

Sian graduated in 2012 and likewise achieved immediate success at New Designers winning the prestigious Lucienne Day Award for her final collection of woven quadruple cloth and digitally printed textiles.    Throughout her studies Sian demonstrated an exceptional technical ability for making fabric in all disciplines, so the final degree exhibition showcased only a fraction of her talents.  Subsequently the focus of Sian flourishing practice based here in Tenby, has primarily been knit for both fashion accessories and homewares, but she also makes mixed media artworks as showcased here in this exhibition.  Sian is also now the knit tutor and co course leader for the BA Textiles course in Carmarthen School of Art.