I recently took on a very, shall we say, intriguing challenge. As someone who loves colors and how they play and interact together and blending on the bobbin, I decided to join my local tapestry weaving group in a collaborative weaving. The challenging part? We could only use shades of gray and just one. other. color.
With the arrival of the ATA’s unjuried small format show, one of our members broached the topic of a collaborative weaving project at the Joan Baxter workshop in October. Since we all live across New England, how would we unify our pieces for the ATA’s unjuried small format show? She asked Joan for some creative suggestions, and Joan brought up the idea of using mostly shades of gray to be the unifying theme. The introduction of one other color – a personal and individual choice, along with composition – would give us plenty of creative freedom while keeping to the requirements of the group’s challenge.
Many of us bought the Granite Collection of wool weft yarns from Weavers Bazaar, including myself, but I was stumped as to what my other color would be. Since I was already changing up my palette with grays, I didn’t want to just go with one of my old favorites for the other color. I wanted to challenge myself to think outside of the box, to stretch beyond my usual comfort zone of blues and purples. At the same time, I was pondering over some design ideas. I thought of mountains rising out of the mists, a little river winding through a valley, or even my mom’s gray cat, Cole…
They were nice designs, but then I came across a short article about Carl Jung’s theory of the “Golden Shadow”, and I became intrigued.
On her blog Expressive Art Inspirations, Shelley Klammer writes how the golden shadow can be one of our greatest teachers. Anytime we feel deep admiration for another person’s creativity or passion or success, it is really a reflection of our own power and potential. Yet many of us have tamped down our most creative and powerful versions of self, sometimes because we’re trying to fit in with the mainstream, and other times because of roots going all the way back to childhood. Whatever the source happens to be, the golden shadow is a beautiful invitation for us to open up and learn from our hidden, and often times most lovable, aspects of the soul. Klammer writes…
“The Golden Shadow is the soul part of ourselves that offers a particular strength of love to heal the areas where we have experienced the most hurt and lack.”
I’ve always felt a bit intimidated by the idea of shadow work, feeling like I’d rather not face the horrible monsters hidden in my subconscious. In the past few months, however, I began to feel more curious and unafraid of the shadow, especially after reading about the benefits of working with the golden version! I wanted to see what I could learn from it, and as a friend and I discussed my gray scale weaving challenge, she mentioned opportunities being like open doors, and that was when I saw my final composition. I actually drew it on my antiquated smart phone first…
All artists should be well-practiced in the area of Stick Figure drawing!
If any of you lovely readers are curious about the golden shadow, there seems to be quite a bit of info out there on the web, not to mention some books I saw on Amazon. I plan on diving deeper into this subject as well; the act of weaving this little piece has certainly peaked my curiosity!
And if you’re craving more weaver nerd stuff (like technical notes and learning experiences from this piece) then please read on…
This weaving was done on a Hokett loom, which has easily become one of my most beloved weaving tools. The sett is 12 epi with a cotton seine twine. As I mentioned earlier, I bought the Granite Collection of fine weight wool yarn from Weavers Bazaar, and this is what I worked with almost exclusively. I’m actually not very familiar with this yarn, and when I have used it in the past, I’ve mixed it in with a wool weft yarn from Norway that I purchase from Between & etc. I love this long-staple Norwegian yarn; it’s soft, vibrant, and plays well with the warp. I recently discovered that with this yarn, my weft bundle of 3 strands for 10 epi was too small, and the “bead” of the surface of the tapestry was subtle. The Weavers Bazaar yarn is even finer, tightly spun and requires a bit more bubbling than what I’m used to. At 4 strands for 12 epi, I had some tension troubles in the beginning, but I soon got my sett back to normal…
Bubble those wefts, weavers!
I soon found that 4 weft strands in each bundle was a pretty good size. With enough bubbling, the yarn creates a crisp fabric with minimal fuzziness, due to it’s tight spin. I of course, didn’t bother to sample, and that would have been especially helpful as this was a new weft yarn (and the only weft yarn) I was using. Another challenge with this piece that I realized very quickly was how difficult it was for my eyes to tell the shades of gray apart, especially when they were just one shade different. So I numbered each tube and then kept very accurate notes on my sketch. Believe me, my sanity (and my eyes) depended on it!
A little rainbow blip came along to help me keep my faith amongst all of these numbers.
So in the end, my passion for both tapestry weaving and understanding my golden shadow came together to produce this…
“The Meeting of Shadows”, 4.5″ x 8″, 2018, cotton warp, wool weft, metallic thread
In the end, I’m really glad I decided to give myself a challenge by working with a different palette of colors, for trying out new materials, and broadening my creative design ideas. It’s easy to stay in our comfort zones, away from the shadows, but when we step into the light of our own creative potential, we may find that the shadows are filled with glorious possibilities!