WEFT is a biennial festival of textiles that takes place in the West. It was developed 11 years ago and aims to highlight the history of textile production in this area through exhibiting contemporary work by regional crafters. Over the years WEFT has grown to become a great venue for crafters to display their work and for the audience to encounter the creative, vibrant works that are happening in the West of England.
Having recently started in the role of Exhibition and Arts Officer, I am organising this exhibition for the first time. My own background is one of working and volunteering in a number of galleries and museums via an M.A in Art History from Copenhagen University. As a keen crafter myself, weaving spinning and dying is close to my heart and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at the Welsh Quilt Centre, which gave me a great grounding for my future role working with textiles at Trowbridge Museum.
My vision for this year’s WEFT is to focus on one specific theme which will link together the displays, events and workshops; that of weaving. This is perhaps an obvious choice given that the museum already houses an interesting display of looms and history of weaving but in my view, there is much more to explore and many more stories to tell about this timeless process.
Visitors to the museum often express fascination of the looms and the weaving process; I have even heard it referred to as ‘magical’. And no wonder: when the Victorian mechanical Hattersley loom in the museum gets going, with its fast moving heddles and shuttles, the action happens so fast that it seems beyond believe. At the same time, watching the process of setting up the loom and understanding the technical side of weaving can make the process seem intimidating.
My idea is therefore to show weaving in its most simple and basic form. I have chosen to display work done by textile artists, groups and students who all chose to work on simple looms to create wonderful objects. To stress the fact that the weaving techniques are employed in a number of other traditional as well as contemporary crafts, I have decided to incorporate other forms of weaving too.
The exhibition therefore also displays basket and chair seat weaving as well as woven sculptural objects. This will hopefully act as a taster for the amazing and inspiring variety of crafts which employ weaving.
In the end, it was relatively easy to find practitioners who were keen to take part. Artists and craftspeople tend to form links and know of others with shared interests. Guilds were another source of inspiration, the South West is extremely rich in societies and Guilds made up of passionate members all keen to share their knowledge and skills. All those taking part in this year’s exhibition can be found on the WEFT 2015 website.
My colleagues and I are hoping that the festival visitors will be inspired by the display and by seeing the accessibility of this craft. To encourage this we have created a Weaving Corner – a snug space where people can spend some time trying out different forms of the craft. And for those who would like to try their hand at weaving more in depth, we have created an accompanying programme of workshops and demonstrations. In fact, the whole festival will culminate with the Big Weave Day on 24 October 2015 where we aim to have as many of the displayed looms demonstrated as possible.
So come November, when it is time to de-install the exhibition, WEFT will hopefully have contributed to celebrating weaving in all possible ways and enabled the visitors to explore the craft and keep this important tradition alive.
WEFT is running from 15 August to 7 November 2015 at Trowbridge Museum. You can find more information about the exhibitors and accompanying programme on the website: www.weft2015.com
Hanne Dahl, Exhibition and Arts Officer, Trowbridge Museum