Welcome to my studio! Today I thought I’d take you behind the scenes and introduce you to Maryam, the loom I’m using to weave my color samples. Maryam is a TC-2 jacquard loom that I bought a few months ago, used, from a weaver in New Mexico who got her about ten years ago but never really bonded with her. So she passed Maryam along to me.
After a few months of off-and-on work, we got Maryam into full working order the day before yesterday. Here she is:
Maryam is named after Maryam Mirzakhani, a brilliant mathematician and the first (and to date only) female Fields Medalist. (The Fields Medal is the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize.) She died tragically young in 2017, at 40, of breast cancer.
I name my looms after female mathematicians because I was uber-passionate about mathematics all through high school and college, and I feel women in mathematics haven’t gotten as much press as they should have. So I name all my looms after female mathematicians. One of my little quirks!
(Now I’m curious…do you name your loom? And if so, what is its name?)
Maryam, like other jacquard looms, is powerful but finicky. Unlike shaft looms, jacquard looms let you control every thread individually. In Maryam’s case, it’s like having 880 shafts at your disposal, threaded up straight draw. You can weave pretty much anything that is structurally possible, including pictures. It’s fantastic power….if it’s working.
Therein lies the rub. Jacquard looms are complicated, and because Maryam’s manufacturer is in Norway, the time difference means it often takes an entire day to get a question answered. So between the repairs and upgrades (and shipping parts from Norway), it took three or four months for us to get Maryam up and running properly.
So naturally, as soon as we got her working, I celebrated by going on a four-hour weaving binge. (I mean, who wouldn’t? Let she who has never said, “Ah, screw the to-do list, I’m going to spend the rest of the day weaving,” cast the first stone.) I had put a fourteen-yard warp on, and planned for an elaborate set of color samples in different weave structures, but after falling in love with the patterning in the first structure, I threw my plans to the wind and wove four color samples with different shades of turquoise. Here they are:
These are wonderful because they illustrate perfectly something I’ve been talking about for awhile: the importance of value in determining whether or not your pattern shows. These wefts are all the same hue – turquoise – but their values (darkness) are very different. The dark weft is almost identical in darkness to the warp, and the pattern disappears.
The bright turquoise (second from right) is very saturated, so it stands out a little better from the red, but because it’s also similar in darkness to the warp, the pattern is still muddled-looking.
It isn’t until you get to the light turquoise (second from the left) that there is enough value contrast for the pattern to become clearer, and it isn’t until you reach the pale blue-gray on the far left that there is enough value contrast for the pattern to become crisp and clear.
Look at the photo in black and white and this all becomes perfectly clear:
Neat, eh? It will be a nice example photo to put into one of my courses.
Anyway, I put a fourteen-yard warp onto Maryam, in various different colors, which should be plenty to get a feel for what she can do.
The advantage of a jacquard loom is that you don’t have to rethread it in order to experiment with different drafts – because each thread is controlled individually, you can weave any structure you like on the same warp. So I can weave overshot, twill, satin, double weave…all on the same warp, without rethreading. It makes creating color samples much, much faster.
But there are some complexities to designing the samples, so I’m using this warp as an opportunity to explore what Maryam and I can do together. I figure it’s better to figure that out without pressure to get something specific done. There’s exploring the unknown, and there’s serious, focused, deadline-based work. Explosions can happen when you try to do both at once.
After this exploratory warp is done, I’ll have to decide what types of samples I want to weave next.
Which also means deciding what color classes to start developing next.
What would YOU like to learn?
Leave your thoughts in the comments, below.