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.

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)

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)

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. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

'Fourteen', Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Cwmbran, 26th July - 20th September.

Tomorrow, a new exhibition opens at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre in Cwmbran. Fourteen artists living in or from Wales were invited to exhibit a piece of artwork that reflects their thoughts on the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. Each artist has created work which makes us reflect on events that changed the world forever.

For this exhibition, I decided to celebrate my love of Welsh blankets to hand weave a blanket in memory of my great uncle William Roy Gifford who lost his life in the First World War, and also his younger sister, Ivy. Every death as result of war is tragic and heart breaking for loved ones and I have always been haunted by this element of my family history. Ivy was so profoundly traumatised by the loss of her brother in the war, that she was institutionalised in her teens and spent the rest of her life in a care home, dying aged 60. Their mother was advised by the family doctor that the best way to overcome her grief was to have another child, and thus my grandmother Nina was born. Although Nina grew up knowing of her siblings, they were rarely mentioned and she never met her sister.

The blanket is a handwoven double cloth an iconic method of creating traditional Welsh blankets famed the world over. The decision to make a blanket was deliberate due to its symbolism of being indicative of nurture, protection and the envelopment of loved ones. Its colour and pattern is muted but rhythmic and has been created as a meditation on loss, absence and not knowing.

Each block of colour represents the siblings and what age they lived until. The red block represents Roy, aged 19, and the brown block Ivy, who lived to age 60. These blocks are joined, as the siblings knew each other. The separate fawn block represents my grandmother, who lived to 88.

The blanket has been handwoven in vintage pure wool, gifted by Ann Sutton some years ago.  Ann produced iconic Welsh double cloth blankets in the late 70s and early 80s.  Knowing my affinity for the history of Welsh blankets, she gave me her remaining stock of yarn when she had a studio clear-out a little while ago.  It was wonderful to use some of it for this project.

The other artists in the exhibition are:

Becky Adams, Iwan Bala, Sarah Ball, Peter Bodenham, Anne Gibbs, David Greenslade,Ruth Harries, Rozanne Hawksley, Buddug Humphreys, Alice Kettle, John Selway, Peter Spriggs, and Stephen West.

You can see an online catalogue here, which you can also purchase a hard copy of.

With extra thanks to my cousin Amy Roach for her help with dates and genealogical information for this project.

Monday, March 31, 2014

New film of my work by R&A Collaborations

Am so excited to be able to share this wonderful new film of my work with you. Its made by the super-talented R&A Collaborations who specialize in making highly distinctive & evocative films about makers and designers. They were a pleasure to work with and I think give a real insight to my practice. Should you be looking for someone to make a film of your work, I can't recommend them highly enough. Thank you so much Richard & Arron.

Woven Entrapment from R & A Collaborations on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Featured Maker, Oriel Myrddin, Carmarthen

If you head to Oriel Myrddin this coming month to see the wonderful Bryn Ogwr exhibition by Jacqueline Poncelet and Anthony Stokes, you'll also see my work taking centre stage in the retail area. Exhibition continues until the 26th April. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

On the move.....

Well, its with a very heavy heart, I said goodbye to my studio in Model House Craft & Design Centre this weekend. Whilst I loved my studio space in the heart of Old Llantrisant, my vision of juggling a toddler & a studio hasn't really worked out! We've recently bought a house in Bridgend which is big enough for me to work from home instead. Hopefully I'll now be able to get on with work more efficiently in the evenings etc.

Anyway, I now have a scary amount of unpacking to do as I write this surrounded by boxes and boxes and boxes of yarns, fabrics and paperwork..... Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Arts & Business Cymru Awards

Photo: Carrick Creative 2013

Earlier this year, I was really honoured to have been given the significant commission to design and produce the 2013 Arts & Business Cymru Awards. Presented last month to notable businesses and individuals that have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural landscape in Wales, the awards have been designed to incorporate the A&B corporate colours. Using my trademark technique of seemingly loose threads cast in acrylic resin, these pieces have an added extra: light reflective thread. When light hits the threads, you get a wonderful flash of light in the same way as light hitting safety clothing at night.

Many thanks to Carrick Creative for these photographs, Arts & Business Cymru for the commission and huge congratulations to all the winners.

Photo: Carrick Creative 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Llanelli town centre glass canopy

Rather overdue sharing this news with you, but I'm really excited to bring you these wonderful photos by Dan Staveley of my largest commission to date. This canopy in Llanelli town centre was unveiled last month, as part of its multi-million pound regeneration programme. The canopy structure had been designed as part of the town centre facelift, and I was commissioned to create the glass. 

Drawing inspiration from the incredible industrial heritage of Llanelli, I decided to explore using industrial materials to laminate in glass, rather than my usual dyed silks, cottons and linens. Carbon fibre threads alongside copper and steel meshes were chosen, and they had the added benefit of being colour stable for this outdoor usage. I undertook a lot of research into the tinplate manufacturing process - Llanelli was once the worlds largest producer of tinplate, and so there were a huge number of people once employed in this industry. And it wasn't just men working on the hard production lines either as I had assumed, and so for this commission I wanted to honour the memory of all the women working in the tinplate industry. As the shape of the canopy reminded me greatly of quilting patterns, there was a pleasing juxtaposition between the more expected feminine pastime of quilting and the work women were doing in the tinplate factories.

And so each pane of glass was treated as if an individual pattern piece in a quilt. The gradating blues were achieved with an adhesive vinyl. The copper and steel meshes were folded in reference to the significant 'doubling' process in the tinplate manufacture. This creates a fantastic moire effect so the work has an extra dynamism as you shift your angle of gaze. There are also wonderful shadows cast on sunny days.

As always, I am hugely grateful to the brilliant Innovative Glass Products for helping me realise this commission. To say that this was a challenging job would be an understatement, but they made sure that my vision became a reality.

The canopy structure was made by Broxap who were an absolute pleasure to work with throughout.

The seating underneath the canopy was also a special commission, undertaken by Dallas Pierce Quintero.

And the public art manager was Emma Price, and the build contractors were Alun Griffiths.

Enjoy the pictures...................

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Contemporary Craft Festival, Bovey Tracey, Devon 7-9 June

This Friday sees the opening of the tenth Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey. I'm delighted that I will be part of the festival for the first time this year. I'm demonstrating weaving on stand 13 outside, and will also have a selection of my resin sculptures, plus blankets and cushions available to buy.

Mill Marsh Park, off St John's Lane
Bovey TraceyDevonTQ13 9AL
June 7-9th
Open 10am-5pm

Hope to see you there!