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Weaving Wednesday

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indigostirindigodipindigosleepinglichen2lichen

We stopped in the textiles studio this morning where Robin Johnston’s weaving class was hard at work at the looms. Robin took some time to show us around the kitchen. A ferrous vat of indigo was stirred, a piece of cloth dipped. Another vat totally slept through our visit. And someone was dyeing with lichen in a silver pot.

 

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5 Notes (A studio visit with Robin Johnston)

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1.

Taped down on a table in resident artist Robin Johnston’s studio is a map of the stars. Next to it is smaller map, loose and folded and used, with a handwritten note in the margin: WE SAW FIREWORKS. A map handed out on the Fourth of July last summer, Robin tells us. Robin and her husband and her son (age 2) watched the sky light up above Penland.

 

2.

The moments of immanence that the artist experiences are collapsed into the work, to be revived or reimagined by the spectator when she enters its arena…–Ann Lauterbach, The Given and The Chosen

 

3.

Fireworks, family, the night sky, perception in summertime–Robin is collapsing these moments in her newest work. No, it’s more accurate to say: she’s recording them across the stretched map, each weft piece to be marked with a star’s position before it’s dyed and then the weaving begins. In the final part of the process, Robin will embroider the star charts of each season on the finished piece. This will take months and months. “I love tedious work,” she says quietly, grinning.

 

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4.

If you don’t believe that Robin loves tedious work, please note:

She’s the artist who gathered around 4,000 walnuts, soaked over a hundred of them, wrapped yarn around each one, unwrapped the dried strands, and used them to weave 143 Walnuts, the piece  hanging on the wall in the photograph below. Against another wall in her studio, next to an installation of walnuts still attached to strands suspended from the ceiling, is an old walnut picker. Her grandmother used it first–a handle attached to a metal cage, rolled over a carpet of grass to collect the fallen nuts on her sheep farm in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. “Robin’s work deals with measuring time, capturing moments as they pass, and the sense of loss that accompanies their passing,” her website tells us.

 

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5.

One last note: “immanence” is the opposite of transcendence, and Robin Johnston is an artist residing in what’s in her earthly grasp: 4,000 walnuts, millions of stars, the moth wing-resilience of ikat tape, the fact that indigo is insoluble in water and must first be reduced to a form called indigo white. When the thread is dipped and then pulled from the vat, Robin explains, a molecular change occurs. The indigo reverts to its insoluble form. It retakes its blue from the air.

 

Photographs by Robin Dreyer; writing by Elaine Bleakney

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Photo(s) of the Week: Painted Warps

alke groppel-wegener painting a warp at Penland

Student Alke Groppel-Wegener experimenting with warp painting in the weaving studio. Alke teaches writing to art and design students at the University of Staffordshire in England. The university gave her a term off so she could take Robin Johnston’s weaving Concentration. The class was introduced to painted warps by visiting artist Andrea Donnelly.

 

painted warp

This is a single warp with a section painted by each member of the class. It will be wound onto a loom and woven into one long piece of cloth.

 

 

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Personal Cartography: Weaving with Robin Johnston

Robin Johnston, 143 Walnuts, handwoven cotton, 2013
Robin Johnston, 143 Walnuts, handwoven cotton, 2013

“Above all else show the data,” wrote Edward Tufte, the trailblazing philosopher of quantitative information and how humans present it. Weaver Robin Johnston takes Tufte to heart in her practice. One of Johnston’s recent woven works, above, involves hand-dyeing yarn by wrapping it around individual walnuts. If you look closely at the image above, you’ll see walnuts meticulously placed below the finished work.

Considering her taste for slow, mysterious processes, it might be no surprise that Johnston’s favorite music to listen to in the studio is “sort of melancholy Americana: slow, sad music. Gillian Welch, M. Ward, Iron & Wine, Billie Holiday.”

Johnston will teach an eight-week weaving workshop for all levels in spring 2014 with an exploration of processes in mind, inviting her students to come to the studio with their own ideas about personal patterns and the documentation of these patterns as sources for art making.

 

 

 

Robin Johnston, Full Worm Moon, handwoven and embroidered cotton
Robin Johnston, Full Worm Moon, handwoven and embroidered cotton

Robin Johnston – Personal Cartography
March 9-May 2, 2014
In the textiles studio

This workshop will use weaving to delve into students’ individual interpretations of mapmaking. We’ll explore basic weaving and dyeing techniques that lend themselves to charting, plotting, and coding information—including pattern weaves, inlay, tapestry, painted warps, and ikat dyeing. Through daily sketchbook exercises we’ll envision woven surfaces that emphasize color, pattern, image, and texture to create maps of all kinds. Whether we are describing geographic or conceptual spaces, we’ll apply personal cartography to the art of weaving. All levels. 

 

 

 

For more information about this workshop and registration information please click here.
Spring scholarship deadline is November 29.

 

 

 

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Photograph of Robin Johnston by gwendolyn yoppolo

Robin Johnston is currently a resident artist at Penland School of Crafts. Her work deals with measuring time, capturing moments as they pass, and the sense of loss that accompanies their passing. Information such as light, temperature and heart rate is collected and tracked during the making, creating real-time maps of her physical experience weaving.  The levels of translation involved in the charting and integration of various data into the woven structure add to the slowness of the process, illustrating a personal reaction to fast-paced society.  Since moving to the mountains of North Carolina, Robin has been researching colonial weave drafts commonly used in the early days of Lucy Morgan’s Penland Weavers.  She is combining these traditional woven patterns with data, such as sleep patterns and moon cycles, gathered from her daily life.