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Studio Dye Laboratory at West Dean College

Philip Sanderson

Language of Weaving The tapestry studio has a long established history of working with artists, designers and weavers to translate an artwork into a handwoven tapestry. The work produced is usually on a grand scale; a tapestry is often considerably larger than the artwork being translated, sometimes as much as 15 times. A less visible but equally important part of theWest Dean Tapestry Studio is its dye rooms, which allow the weavers here to create a bespoke palette of colours and tones for each project. For any tapestry the process begins with a discussion between the creator of the artwork and the weavers. These conversations form the basis of a ‘visual language’ developed by the weaving team that continues and grows throughout the project. The artwork is deconstructed and the most important colours are identified and matched using the studio’s recipe books as a reference. Once a recipe is established the yarn is dyed, woven into a small sample and discussed with the artist to ensure that the colour is precise, and adjusted if necessary. It is essential to have all the yarns dyed at the outset in order for the weavers to begin to work out the different combinations of threads that will make up the palette of mixes for weaving. Making decisions about colour The tapestry Nowhere was commissioned by Museums Sheffield for the 2009 exhibition, Can Art Save Us? – the first of three exhibitions celebrating the life and work of John Ruskin, the work was inspired by a section of a quote from John Ruskin’s autobiography Praeterita , ‘At last, the tree was there, and everything I had thought before about trees, nowhere...’ The title also relates to the original image I had chosen from which the design for the tapestry was taken; a photograph of a landscape whose location has been lost through the passage of time.

Philip Sanderson in the West Dean dye laboratory Photos: West Dean

Below: Nowhere, the tapestry by Philip Sanderson shortlisted for the John Ruskin Prize 2014

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Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers 256, Winter 2015

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