Jan Warburton Charitable Trust

Paul McLachlan

I have finished the first week in Tilburg developing my tapestries, and it has been both exhausting and exhilarating. The machines were loud in the laboratory and there was a lot of fast-paced scrutinising of threads and weaving patterns and comparing of strange colours and materials. I feel like I have made countless decisions about a lot of things I have little experience in, but thankfully everything developed in the right direction.

The first day was a bit of a learning-experience (which is what you say when things don’t go terrifically well). The project developer was very intuitive and erratic in his working approach, and he had a penchant for using a lot of mohair wool. After five hours I felt like we were making giant ugly jumpers, they were so fluffy and the image was ill-defined. On the second day I took more control and said we would be approaching the process like I do printmaking: Find the black, find the white, create a gradient, adjust the colours, compare the textures, make an image test... Unless we became more systematic and logical, we could have spend weeks floundering in experimentation. He said I was a “fast worker”, which is probably the only time in my life I have received such a compliment.

I had hoped to find a shiny, oily, silky-black yarn, but they there isn’t anything in their stockroom that fits this description, so we spent a hours experimenting with other options. The black we were using at the end was a crushed rubber, more of a charcoal grey, very matte, with a rough physicality that contrasts with the soft woollen (alpaca) areas of the paper-white. I am constantly being told to, “stop comparing it to your design,” because the final tapestries will be a "metamorphosis" of the original concept. Part of me is mourning having to let go of the original turquoise and teal colours, and the many fine details that will be lost…so many hundreds of hours…However, because we are using some novel materials and reflective and metallic threads (in moderation), the weaving samples have a life and physical qualities I hadn’t anticipated.

Due to TextielLab’s scheduling, I have to return at the end of the month to finish the project, which gives me over two weeks (too long!) to ruminate on the progress we have made so far. It feels like a horrible cliff-hanger, having to wait so long so close to competition. But, delayed satisfaction has become the theme of my life, so I can suffer it.

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