Autumn is the most wonderful time of year for seeing all the colours changing, the leaves falling, hearing the deer rut and the cooler frosty mornings. I love Autumn (its not my favourite season – I am a Winter fan!), but I’m always drawn to Autumn for the hive of activity in preparation for Winter. What does Autumn look like? what does Autumn feel like? I use all my senses when out in the woodland during Autumn to really ‘feel’ the colours and textures of the landscape. Its not as simple as a brief walk in the woods along a designated path, its about reaching into the heart of the woods, really seeking out the dampness, the fragility of the life of leaves, the forest floor in all its glory and the changing canopy of the tree’s. It takes time, and also, patience. Listening for the voices of the woods really speaking, the birds, the squirrels, the rabbits and deer. How often do we observe the forest floor? I’ve become quite familiar to people over the years for taking photo’s of where I am standing (often with my shoes in the photo!). What this does is give me a great reference point for what is happening on the forest floor.
Last Christmas I was commissioned with a very special weave, for a very dear friend. It was a surprise from her husband, as a gift for Christmas so I had to keep it really under the radar. The request was for the colours of Autumn leaves woven into a scarf. What a fantastic opportunity! There was a strong history of my friend and I connecting one summer and spending most of it in the woods on Cannock Chase. ‘Floaty skirts Friday’ became a weekly event, the day we really explored the woods in all their glory. This included climbing tree’s, collecting random bits of ‘stuff’ like leaves and twigs, paddling in the streams, making den’s, and also the famous photo’s of forest floors. It was a deeply healing and moving time for us both during a time of immense change in our lives. I wanted to connect to these memories of these experiences through the weave that I created, alongside the Autumn colours and textures.
I took some inspiration from photographs I had taken from Autumn on Cannock Chase over the years, but it wasn’t enough. I then spent more time walking over old familiar ground to really capture a sense of what Autumn really looks and feels like to me. This is important as a photograph is great for reference, but there needs to be more. As an artist, I look for the ‘felt’ sense of the experience and then use the photograph for reference, or I sketch sometimes, but there is nothing in my process that is more important than the feel of the experience. I’m always searching for the gap between my experiences and a photo or sketch, what is happening in that gap? what do I feel?
I wove several samples, before I decided on this intuitive weave. What I mean by intuitive weave is that I weave each strand, of both the warp (the vertical threads) and the weft (the horizontal threads) in a colour and texture I feel intuitively drawn to in that moment, from the palette of colours or theme I’ve decided on. Of course some yarns I need to prepare by hand spinning or naturally hand dying fleece before I begin. Preparation is part of the process. I meditate just before I start to weave, with the mindset of ‘letting go’. I don’t follow patterns or rules, just weave in that moment. Of course, it is very unique and bespoke, but also, very slow! The results are worth the wait.
I made a conscious decision with this colour palette that I would omit green from it. I feel that Autumn reaches a point where it is dominantly orange, brown, yellow, purple, and I wanted to honour that.
The resulting shawl was just perfect.