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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Back in 1991 I was lucky enough to see an exhibition called 'The Sacred Art of Tibet' which included a number of the thankas, or banners. One of these had been made in silk in the tapestry technique and it was absolutely stunning - and so fine that you had to get up really close to see that it actually was tapestry. The thanka came from Kara Khota in Central Asia and is now in the Hermitage Museum in Russia. Silk was used extensively in tapestry weaving in China where it is known as 'kesi' and has a very long history. The tapestry in the exhibition has been dated to 'before 1227', and it is thought that the technique of tapestry weaving in wool arrived in China with the great eastward migrations of the Uighur people of Turkic origin from Iran and Sogdiana. With the development of silk weaving the technique was transferred to that medium. The earliest recorded descriptions of kesi is in the 'Songmo Jiwen' (Records of the Pine Forest) by Hong Hao who lived from1088 to1155. However as you can see from the other piece shown,the technique appears to have an even earlier history. This piece is a fragment dated to the eighth century and is part of the collection in the Shoso-in in Japan although it comes originally from China. As well as actual fabrics, the technique of tapestry weaving in silk also came to Japan where it is known as 'tzuzure-ori'. Where we use bobbins to pack down the wefts, for some of the finer work in Japanese workshops the weaver combs down the weft using his own notched fingernails.


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