Tree of Life - Diary of a Tapestry

The Tree of Life is a 3metre x 5.5metre tapestry designed by tapestry weaver Cresside Collette for the RMIT Spiritual Centre. It incorporates leaf elements from staff and students of RMIT and is being woven by a team consisting of three professional weavers and a number of volunteers. This blog records the progress of the weaving.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I dont know what happened with that last post. One minute this picture was there and the next it had disappeared. Any way, this is a tapestry from a burial site in northern Peru. The array of textiles of many kinds that have survived is due mainly to the dry environment in which they were buried. Thomson, in his book 'Tapestry - Mirror of History' writes that some of the tapestries found have been woven so finely that there is "a weft density exceeding 60 weft threads per centimetre (150 w/in)"

The pictures in the previous post came from the books "The Mummies of Urumchi" by Elizabeth Wayland Barber and "Coptic Egypt - The Christians of the Nile" by Christian Cannuyer

Tapestry weaving,or the weft faced weaving of discrete areas of colour to form patterns and picturs has an extremely long history and appears to have been developed in many different cultures and places. The orange and yellow one shows a band of tapestry weaving on the sleeve of the clothing of a mummy from north west China and is dated to the 1st millenium BC.As well as being old, it is interesting in that the weave is not the normal 'over one, under one' weave but a more complex 'over three, under two'.

The roundel containing the face of a woman is from Egypt and the early Christian Coptic culture. By tradition, the Coptic church was founded by St Mark in Alexandria somewhere between AD 43 and 48. and by the 3nd of the third century had spread into the Egyptian population along the Nile

The third picture is of a Peruvian tapestry of the Chimu culture dating to about the 6th century AD

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Just a quick post to let you see how the tapestry is progressing - well nto the light blue/white part and so just about half way there. More later.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

When I was rearranging my bookshelves the othe day I found I had book called "The Tree of Life" by Roger Cook which had some marvellous images of the tree of life from many cultures both ancient and more recent. It is interesting to speculate about how the use of tree symbolism spread around the world or whether it arose more or less spontaneously because trees are all around us and are so useful. It is also nteresting to see how the trees depicted relate to the particular culture involved.

The above is a bronze representation of the "Tree of Life and Knowledge" from India made in the 14th or 15th century.

The Tree of Life as a sycamore tree from an Egyptian tomb of the 16th century BC.

On the lower portion of the shaman's coat from Siberia the tree represents the shaman's descent to the underworld. On the back is another tree representing the ascent to the sky world.

The beautiful interlaced curves in this picture show the Scandinavian "World Tree" or Yggdrasil associated with the god Odin,

The Navaho sand painting shows the giant corn plant which embodies much of the same symbolism as the Tree of life.

I'll put a few more of the images up later.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Found this description of tapestry in a book I was reading and thought you might be interested:-
'Like any other woven tissue, tapestry is composed of a warp and a weft. The warp, which is nothing but a skeleton structure, disappears completely beneath the body of the fabric.All that can be seen in a finished tapestry is the weft, made up of the different coloured threads forming the decorative scheme. However the weft threads are not taken systematically across the width of the warp (as in other tissues), but only across that part of the warp corresponding to the coloured areas isolated in that section of the cartoon being woven. In other words, tapestries are woven in "patches" and several rows of the same colour are woven consecutively. By virtue of its purely manual technique and basic independence of any purely mechanical aid, tapestry fulfils all the conditions required for the production of an original work of art. It is born of the collaboration between the artist who creates the cartoon and the weaver who translates the cartoon into textile matter - not with the cold precision of a machine, but with his own personal understanding and his skill at bringing into play all the resources of his craft. This is one of the essential differences between true tapestry and the numerous other decorative fabrics produced on more or less mechanical looms which can work fast and produce less exact repetitions of the same motif."
Pierre Verlet - quoted in the book "Tapestry Weaving" by Nancy Harvey.
It seems to sum it up prretty well.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sorry about that - I had a few problems putting the pictures in. We'll try again.

Libby Austin and Cresside with Faye Dumont, the Choir master.

In this picture Faye is leading the choir with the tapestry in the background

And below are a couple of the beautiful leaves in the blue section. If you look carefully you can see the little frog woven by Julie on the waterlily leaf

Well, mid-semester break is over and work is continuing apace on the tapestry. We are well into the blue, or 'water' section now and some of the leaves are looking really spectacular. Yesterday a celebration of the work and the people involved was held. The RMIT choir sang and there were readings from several spiritual traditions. These included the reading from Revelations which you can see at the beginning of this diary, one from Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet", from Lao Tsu's Tao te Ching and from the writing of Paul Klee on Modern Art, and from Psalm 131. All of the readings were connected in some way to weaving or the subject of the tapestry. Here are a few pictures of the celebration.

Cresside Collette, the designer, and Libby Austin from the RMIT Spiritual Centre.