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Gemma Copeland

Tag “craft”

 — Warp, weft

I did a weaving workshop last week and really loved it. I’ve been on the lookout for a new tactile hobby for a while. Tried pottery a few times but just didn’t enjoy it that much – just couldn’t get the hang of the wheel and never enjoyed the process very much. I think weaving could be the one. I’m recording some of what I learned here so I don’t forget them, but this is by no means a how-to guide. I have no idea what I’m doing!


The warp is the strong vertical threads that provide a structure for the weaving. The weft is the threads that you weave through the warp horizontally. We were using lap looms in this workshop, which seem to be the easiest type of loom to learn.

A black and white diagram illustrating warp and weft threads.

Begin by warping the loom: wind strong, plain cotton thread around the notches at the top and bottom. We added a folded piece of cardboard across the bottom of the warp, to keep from going too close to the edge of the loom.

If you want a fringe at the bottom, start by adding that. Cut some even lengths of thread and lie them on top of two warp threads, then loop them under so they’re hanging off the bottom of the warp. Repeat along the whole row.

In the workshop, we just did a tabby weave, which is the most simple weaving technique. Pull the weft thread over the first warp thread, under the second, over the third, and so on. Once you’ve reached the other side, go back in the opposite direction.

I hadn’t realised how grid-based weaving is – the warp provides a regular but invisible grid of columns. Build up shapes vertically with the weft, beginning at the bottom and working upwards. Add variation by changing how far along the columns you weave the thread.

Change threads to switch up the colours and textures. You can even alternate and blend colours within the same row. I love how this looks! You can use a photo for reference, or else just create an abstract composition. I find the abstract compositions much more appealing and really want to try to make something as freeform as this.

Make sure to tuck the ends of the threads back into the weaving. Otherwise, they’ll hang out the sides of the finished piece. Don’t pull the thread too tight at the edges or else it will start to become an hourglass shape.

Once you’ve finished your composition, cut your warp from the loom and double-knot the thread at the top and bottom. Attach a dowel to the top so you can hang it.


Afterward I immediately went and found a bunch of amazing textile artists, of course. I really like weaving as a concept and a metaphor as well. It feels like a feminist practice in more ways than one! 🕷


The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.
— David Graeber

Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative

Last weekend we visited How We Live Now at the Barbican, an installation exploring the work of the Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative.

Matrix was a women-led worker co-op that existed in London from 1980–1994. They challenged patriarchal norms and worked in a way that would still be seen as radical today.

They worked in collaboration with people who were usually excluded from the design process, on buildings that were usually ignored by male architects: women’s centres, childcare groups, housing co-ops. They also conducted research, ran a book group and a support group, and educated women in skills like technical drawing, building law and construction practices.

All this while Thatcher was prime minister! So impressive.

A promotional poster for Matrix, printed in black and red ink. It's composed of a grid of hexagons, some containing images, some with handwritten text and some with illustrations.

— Poster (1979), from the online archive of Matrix’s work

We Are ‘Nature’ Defending Itself

We also went to the launch of a new book called We Are ‘Nature’ Defending Itself: Entangling Art, Activism and Autonomous Zones. The two authors, Isabelle and Jay, coordinate the art activism group The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (among many other things) and live within the ZAD de Notre Dame des Landes.

A black and white illustration from the inside cover of the book. It looks almost like a tarot card. There are stars in the sky and a foreboding owl infront. In the foreground, a woman with a gas mask on is emptying a bucket of water into a stream while she looks up into the distance. There are two figures in the background passing another bucket between each other.

— Illustration by Amanda Priebe

The ZAD NDDL is an autonomous zone that begun to protest a new airport that the government planned to build on agricultural land. Activists and environmentalists started to squat in the area, alongside local farmers, and gradually built an entire self-organised community.

Over the years there have been several attempts by the state to evict the people living there and destroy their buildings, but this has been met with lots of resistance and solidarity from all over France. The airport plans have now been cancelled: a huge victory, although very hard won. They seem to now have reached an uneasy truce with the state – they’re negotiating for legalisation so they can stay on the land in perpetuity.

Isabelle and Jay told us about their practice and how they ended up at the ZAD. They were working in London (as academics, I think) and doing their art and activism on the side. They don’t see art and activism as two separate things. In their practice, they worked with both, in a participatory and pedagogical way.

At some point, they realised that they couldn’t live in the city any longer. They felt that cities are designed to keep us all divided from each other. They quit their jobs and travelled around Europe for a while, visiting communities and co-living projects throughout.

They settled in northern France for a while and began a housing co-op, but later realised that they still had a mindset of always travelling and moving around for their art practice. They needed to become more grounded into one place, and wanted to find a way to connect art, activism and everyday life. “Why can’t life be art?”

A hand-drawn map showing the various collectives, buildings and animals within the ZAD
Map of the ZAD

They ended up at the ZAD. They shared stories of the repeated attacks on the ZAD by the state, and the messy, complex, everyday reality of building a commons. You can watch two short documentaries that they made about the history and one about the how people there live now.

They see creation and resistance (yes and no) as two interlocking strands, like DNA. You can’t have one without the other. The counterculture of the 60’s was just about “dropping out” of society and alternative living, which made it easy for Silicon Valley to appropriate its ideals to capitalist ends. This made me think of my post about community gardens. They even said something like “if we don’t resist the extractivist death drive of capitalism, your community garden is going to be underwater.”

Excited to read the book!

Edgeryders

Finally, the other day I came across The Reef, a communal living project in Brussels initiated by Edgeryders. I really hope they succeed! I want to live somewhere like this so much.