Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tapestry weaving with Shelley Socolofsky

My trip to Seattle was really because I wanted to take a class from Shelley Socolofsky. I probably would have taken any class she was teaching even if it was not tapestry, but fortunately for me, the American Tapestry Alliance arranged Traces, Layers, Narratives, and Surfaces and I got to weave with Shelley. It has been almost a week since the workshop finished and I still can't believe how great it was. I've taken quite a few workshops and have even, at times, sworn I would never take another one after a bad experience. This one was fantastic.

Shelley's work contains a great deal of layered imagery and the class focused on using Photoshop as a design tool to manipulate images and design for tapestry. I have used Photoshop (Elements) for years a decade and had no idea it would do all that we did with it. And I think we probably only scratched the surface. We made extensive use of the Layers function to manipulate imagery using different tools and effects.

Here is one of Shelley's pieces she brought for us to look at. Please see this page on her website for a better photo of this tapestry.
Shelley Socolofsky, Incantations 6' x 3.5'
 On the first day we took photos that we had brought along and learned to manipulate them in the program. There were many different versions of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements at the workshop and it was interesting to see the differences in what each would do.

I greatly enjoyed messing around with the different images I had brought. And then things got crazy as I started looking online and in the huge photo files on my computer for more images. I got so tickled by all the fun I was having that I failed to create something that I could actually weave a portion of. So when Shelley said at the end of the first day, load your image onto my computer so I can go print it in the morning, I was not ready. I had made some very cool images, but none of them was remotely weaveable in my mind. Nevertheless, I did finally settle on something.

Here is the image I was working from. The idea was that we were weaving a sample for the complete tapestry which would be a couple meters square.
I started with a background which on the right was a plume of smoke from the West Fork Fire this year and on the left was a healthy forest. After many manipulations, overlays, and a process of cutting text out of a photo, I had this image. I was thinking a lot about fire and forests and global warming and people being evacuated and what would really happen in the long haul to the southwestern US.

We then had to select a square inch portion of the image which we were going to weave. This selection needed to have an eye to transparency as that was what we were going to work on creating with yarn. Here is my inch.

You've seen the colors of my tapestries. Do you think I had the colors for this? Not a chance. Fortunately Shelley brought some Australian Tapestry Workshop yarn that I got to try.

Shelley was an inspiring teacher. Here she is on the morning of the third day talking to us about what we were doing that was working and what wasn't and why. Creating transparency and making things look like they are coming forward or falling back in a two-dimensional medium using yarn is not easy.
Besides the amazing Incantations piece pictured above, Shelley also brought along her Trade Blanket (hybrid bride) tapestry. I feel so fortunate to have been able to hear her talk about this piece. There is a good photo of the piece on her website HERE. Below is a photo of the class examining the piece.

Trade Blanket (hybrid bride) detail
By the end of the workshop, I had woven about half of my sample. I was working from the colors shown on my computer monitor instead of the printed colors which were quite different. This was fine but I had to keep my computer up for reference the whole time.

This is the incomparable Mary Lane. She was the organizational guru for this workshop and I can't thank her enough for all her hard work. She is also a great weaver! Here she is demonstrating the difference between hatching and hachure for a student (but I was watching her use bobbins to pass the yarn and beat).

This is Lyn Hart talking about her design and weaving. She has written a great blog post about her experience at this workshop which you should read here: http://www.desertsongstudio.com/2013/07/lay-it-down.html.

The workshop was at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. The campus was beautiful, the food was exceptional if you are a gluten free celiac who needs to know that people understand that, and the dorms made me think my college days were much much harder than kids who go to college these days.
Flying home from Seattle I photographed this string of volcanoes heading south from Rainer.  I scored a window seat (Southwest Airlines) because I was willing to sit next to the 8 month old lap child. He slept the whole way home. I'll fight pretty hard for a window seat on just about any flight. You never know what you might see!

Happy weaving!


  1. This sounds like a great time!

  2. Wonderful images. Thank you particularly for the photo of the volcanos. I got to see it years ago on a flight to Seattle without a camera.

    Certainly a remarkable view of the earth.

  3. Wonderful, Rebecca. Missed seeing you and Lyn and the others.

    1. We missed you too Tommye! Several of us said more than once, "I sure wish Tommye could have been here!" :) I know life gets too busy and you have to choose.

  4. Thank you for taking me to a place/workshop/method, etc. I didn't know existed. I enjoyed the trip!
    Seema Tepper

  5. Great post, Rebecca! I see you were very careful in your choice of images... not a single backside view in the bunch! It was so fantastic sharing this experience with you. Don't forget our pact to submit our studies to ATA's unjuried small format exhibit. If my warp didn't go back onto my loom without major issues I was going to let you off the hook, but it's on like I never took it off. Working on it will probably help preserve my sanity during the remodel. Roger says "hi".

    1. I knew you were going to hold me to that! I hope I have enough yarn. If I don't, would it be acceptable to re-weave the sample with my own yarn? :) I'm glad your warp went right back on.

    2. Oh yes, as long as you get your original sample woven!

      Thank god we have a while to do it... not much weaving going on the last couple of days. Dennis & I had to unload by hand 5,000 lbs of flooring material off the delivery truck yesterday because the driver (who was three times smaller than me, about 100 years old, & only had one thumb) couldn't fit the pallet jack into the pallets. If we didn't do that, they were going to take it all back to Phoenix & re-deliver it next week. After getting it off the truck into the garage, we then had to move it all inside so it can acclimate. We just finished doing that. Time for a LARGE alcoholic beverage. Maybe some weaving tomorrow :)


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