Monday, February 1, 2010

Studying the Ancients to learn how to weave a face!

Tapestry UrumqiWarrior_sm

Look at this wonderfully woven face! These lips would make any weaver proud, and I hope to benefit from studying them. This tapestry fragment was found in a burial site in the Tarim Basin, and fascinatingly, they had been fashioned into a pair of trousers and found on the body of warrior in a mass grave.


An excerpt from Kris Hirst’s archaeology blog: “The tapestry trousers of Sampul are a pair of decorated woolen trousers, likely dated to the first or second century BC. They were found on the legs of a person buried in a mass grave at the Silk Road oasis of Sampul in the Tarim Basin of far western China north of Tibet. The trousers had been fashioned from a tapestry which, scholars believe, once hung on the walls of a palace or elite residence in one of the cities in west central Asia which fell under the influence of Alexander the Great.

How this tapestry became trousers and ended up on the legs of a person who died by violence in Sampul far from the tapestry's origins, is an entertaining, if somewhat scholarly, puzzle. But it also sheds a glimmer of light into the life of nomads and the interactions of the cultures that were affected by the opening of the Silk Road. The origins of the tapestry trousers were discussed in late 2009 in a scholarly article in the journal Antiquity, by a team led by Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI).“

The warp sett on this tapestry is considerably finer than my sett for the Medieval Spinner, but my attempts at her mouth still seem quite pathetic to me.  I’m embarrassed to share photos of what I’ve done, but I shall swallow my pride and do it, mostly as a learning vehicle for myself in future tapestries.  The following shows what NOT to do!

Medieval spinner 1

Version 1: I was in NY with the Wed. Group when I wove this, and I did not bring a wide enough variety of skin tone colors.  She’s horribly pink.  I thought her mouth was not good enough, although it was better than my next two attempts!  Archie’s sage advice was to make sure that the two points of her upper lip were woven on a ‘high’ warp with a low warp in between for the dip between the points.

Medieval spinner 2 Version 2 got unwoven immediately.  I felt the lips were too pale and did not show up from a distance.  This is version 3 where I continued with the pale lip color and used a grey outline.  I think it’s only getting worse!  The outline is too ‘cartoony’ for me. However, one thing I did learn is that the upper lip point that is closer to the viewer (the right side as we face her) is slighter higher than the lip point that is away from the viewer.  This involves putting both upper lip points on a high warp with one low warp in between, but also doing an extra wrap on the closer lip point to raise it slightly.

I feel strongly that her mouth is too low and too far away from the end of her nose, but it does match the original painting so I hesitate to change that.

Today I will unweave again and do something closer to version 1.  At least I’ve given her a much better skin tone now! The face from the Tarim Basin tapestry has a wonderful highlight on the upper lip.  Also the break between his lower and upper lip is the darkest color, and that is true of my spinner’s lips so I need to go darker! …and make her upper lip redder!  I hope I get closer today!


Jennifer said...

Thank you for "swallowing your rpide" and sharing your struggles with this piece. It's a great learning experience for us all and makes me braver to try more - and sometimes not accept the result - knowing one just unweaves! In other words giving the piece second chances!

K Spoering said...

I actually really like version #1! I don't even think the color was too pink. I had a watercolor teacher long ago who made us paint faces with a bright layer of alizerin crimson over all of it before we proceeded with details and features. It horrified us all, but the end result was actually very natural. Look at how red the face is in the pants, and it looks great. I think you just need to hush your inner critic, and good luck with that! (Mine has a very loud voice.) Trust yourself and keep weaving. It is looking great!

OzWeaver said...

Thank you both for these comments!
Kathy, you make a good point. On the whole I think I am too conservative with color, not getting the darks dark enough or the lights light enough. Makes for a boring outcome. Your watercolor teacher certainly made a good exercise of that! Okay, onward!

Life Looms Large said...

Now I totally want a pair of tapestry pants from a tapestry that used to hang in a castle!! (Better than the Sound of Music curtain clothes!) It's amazing to think about those pants!!

You've got lots of inspiring stuff on your blog lately. Yay!

It's great to see your process. I have no advice, but I will definitely appreciate tapestry even more when I see it now.

Good luck!

Knitman said...

Gosh, you do amazing work.