As part of our ongoing series of blog posts by tapestry weavers, we asked artist Miriam Vergara to walk us through their process of creating an autobiographical tapestry weaving with our Array wool. Below you can read about the piece they created, the story behind it, and their experience weaving it on a floor loom. Enjoy!
The piece I worked on was based on a sunset photo I took from a bay. The photo was taken in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York—a place that I grew up around and one that has been such a constant part of my life. In all transparency, I was both excited and nervous to do this project. This was going to be my first floor loom tapestry and though new things can be scary, I’m always excited to break out of my comfort zone. I think the best thing you can do as a creative is to continue pushing yourself to experiment and explore. It’s moments like these where I discover a new technique, style, mode of expression or even realize older methods and practices that I miss and want to resurface.
In the past I’ve used frame looms but I’ve always been curious about the experience with a floor loom. I was hoping that this format would increase my speed of making tapestries because of the use of treadles and beater. My tools for this project were: a comb, scissors, boat shuttle + bobbin, plastic tapestry needle and my wooden tapestry bobbin. The colors that I chose for this project were: Indigo-1 to represent the water, Forest-2 for a color pop in the water, Marigold-2 to represent the sunset, Daffodil-3 to represent the brighter part of the sun, Black-4 to represent the shades of the water, and Black-5 to create a gradient combined with the previous color.
While I did use my shuttle and bobbin for some parts, the rest of the threads were wrapped in circles around my hand. This made it so that I could unravel at a slow place while keeping them from tangling up. It also allowed for an easy transition from between the warp threads.
Even though I had sketched a design and even warp-painted a template, I used my first inch to figure out how I was going to be successful. My imposter syndrome voice was saying “I’ve over-compromised. I have no idea how to create water. Why did I choose such a complicated project?” but I would assure myself back by saying “you got this Miri, you’ve made tapestries before. You literally work with textiles all the time, just trust yourself.” This is advice I would suggest for you as well. If you ever feel like your inner voices are bringing you down, have the willpower to speak up for yourself and you’ll see the rewards. Plus I had greater reasons for creating this tapestry piece.
Growing up, my cousins and I would walk from Sunset Park to Bay Ridge in order to go to the pier nearby. We’d spend hours walking along the bay, talking about life, school and staring at the sunset. As an adult, I decided to move to this area because I would be closer to those cousins and a pier that I grew up around. This past summer and fall I would walk to the pier and stay on the phone with a friend, talking about life and getting advice. I wanted to dedicate this piece to my cousins and friends that spent their time with me.
Ultimately, the tapestry was broken into two different styles: one that integrated the complex flow of water and the other that simplified the horizon. This decision was made in order to give the viewer a break from the complexity of the water. The biggest challenge for creating this tapestry was figuring out how to illustrate the movement of water. When you’re staring at a calm bay, there are ripples, movement, a floating feeling—I needed to figure out how I was going to show movement, how I was going to illustrate ripples, and how I was going to use colors like green and gray and still have it be read as water.
I experimented with integrating multiple threads of color in one weft, creating color blocks of one color versus making thin singular layers of multiple colors. The strategy I liked best was imagining the threads as water. When I started imagining the threads as water, I started to understand the necessity for the threads to overlap, the necessity for a thin longer green weft going to the left and a thin longer gray weft going to the right. Those thin lines of integration were creating small ripples made to mimic a calm bay. I also realized that the color blocks were becoming representations of the reflection of the sun water. They needed each other to create the whole pictorial image of a sunset cast across the water.
The last section was the skyline of Staten Island with the sunset. As I mentioned, I kept it simple to give the viewer a visual break. I worked on making small incremental alterations and emphasizing other hill sections in hopes that the Marigold-2 would contrast enough to show the minute changes. This method involved creating the skyline first then integrating the sun and sunset. It was different from my previous method of weaving line by line in the water section. Once I started integrating my sun and sunset, I made sure to create a round sun with some bits of sunset entering in. This is mostly when I started using the tapestry needle and comb, because I couldn’t use my beater to reach the lower part of the sun and sunset. I was happy with the results and to see that the contrast of the navy blue with the marigold was stark enough to emphasize the edge of the skyline.
Overall I enjoyed using the treadles and beater, but I missed the experience of grazing my hand past every warp thread (something I experienced more with frame loom weaving). But since I completed this project within three weeks, I would consider floor loom tapestry weaving a quicker process. I finalized the tapestry by braiding the top ends and fringing the bottoms. Here’s how it turned out!