Designing Light

The title sounded like an interesting way to describe the woven transparencies, though with some of the finer items, it could be gossamer veils or faery wings. It's always interested me how people design: some ponder and talk as the idea forms; others draw or dive into the medium. Normally, I ponder and write for books at any rate; plain woven items are often designed on the loom, but I realized that transparencies would be different - more like a tapestry in the designing process.

Those who design on a regular basis gather their ideas from a variety of locations then take the ideas, ephemeral as they might be, and form into a solid mass from whence they can begin to build. The process involves a few items: a good concept of the idea that wants to be portrayed (if creating a piece for a particular message) as well as the mediums strengths and limitations. There are strengths and weaknesses in tapestries, transparencies and knotted pile rugs. Taking the limitations into account in the design process is an important step to improve the overall picture. For example, it's difficult to weave a smooth circle on the woven grid, but the illusion of a circle can be achieved.

This leaf has a ragged edge, but if I chose a finer thread on a slightly closer sett, the ragged edges would be minimized. Some of it also comes from lack of experience so someone who has woven tapestries before might be able to weave a leaf that looks less ragged.

To design a transparency, one of the limitations to accept is the openness of the weave. Because the weave is open, the detailing is limited therefore the details that I might weave into a tapestry are lost in a transparency. Transparencies seem to work best with big and bold concepts, or silhouettes that do not require much depth. Now, there can be depth in a transparency much like there can be depth in paintings, drawings and tapestries, but that depth needs to remain fairly shallow since you cannot go into finer detailing. Most importantly, transparencies rely on illusion: what seems to be there, but isn't. The human eye can fill-in-the-blanks when needed, and both transparencies and tapestries rely upon that ability.

Another limitation in designing is the color/thread option. If you look at the image at the top of the page, you will notice that the flowers seem to be a little heavier than the vertical borders. The reason is because I used a single strand for the borders while I doubled the strands for the flowers. In the photo below, you can barely see the green weft which I had started to use. The two options were: use a darker green or double the weft. I chose both and used a slightly darker green to be used with the lighter green. Looking at the top photo, the green remains barely noticeable. Therefore color must also play a role in the designs as well as the choice of weft.

Tapestries normally use wool or silk for the weft due to those fibers tendency to bloom which means expand to fill in the spaces. Using that blooming characteristic, the tapestry weaves can be packed it tighter as well as expand to fill the spaces providing a solid image. In the transparency, I used an acrylic yarn with a cotton yarn for the flowers to provide some solidity to the image.

Like all art forms, transparencies have limitations that need to be addressed in the process of creating a finished item. While it might appear that nothing can be woven on such an open weave, those who want to try the style will find images that work and blossom under the very limitations that make woven transparencies like designing light.


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