theme show: Contexts

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 S A R A H  C.  S W E T T    Feats of vision and imagination

_Please, Can You Pass My Knitting__

Sarah C. Swett, Please, Can you Pass me my Knitting? 31″ X 24″,  2015, photo: Mark LaMoreaux. Hand woven tapestry. Wool warp and weft, natural dyes.

Minolta DSC

Sarah C. Swett, “Miss Havisham’s Cook”, 36″ x 48″, © 2004. Hand woven tapestry; wool warp and weft; natural dyes

See more of Sarah’s Selfies and her comments in the Artists’ Galleries section and Sarah’s blog:


T A M A R  S H A D U R   Portraits with animals


Tamar Shadur, Woman with Bird,  7 1/4 in. x 8 in.

“Woman with Bird” was not intended to be a self-portrait but rather one showing an intimate relation between a young woman and a bird on her shoulder (my idea) in a Coptic style. The blue bird just came to me; I don’t know how or why. Composition and color-wise, the elements work. This theme certainly got me thinking of other human-animal depictions in future tapestries. My latest two small tapestries, the second of which is still unfinished, (also woven on the same warp of a pipe loom) have references to insects, although they were initially inspired by a very different concept….—TS

 Tamar Shadur Woman with Cat 1

A photo of a young woman extending her hand to a head of a cat—another intimate moment between human and animal—had inspired me to weave the second tapestry…. This is a portrait of a former girlfriend of my son back in high school. He took the photo of her sitting on our sofa with our cat Lydia in our home in Amherst, MA. The composition, soft lighting, the gleaming long hair, and calmness of the subjects contributed to an ambiance which I wanted to capture in tapestry. Once I got started on the weaving, concerns of texture, color, and pattern became primary. I even examined the lovely rich costumes in the Devonshire Tapestries for ideas of pattern in the girl’s blue sweater, a challenge on 8 w.p.i. within several square inches of weaving.  I enjoyed the challenge of expressing textures such as hair, sweater, and cat’s fur on that warp density [and] the golden chenille yarn in the hair and some silk threads woven together with darker wool yarns reflect the desired amount of light….—TS

Tamar’s website:


T O M M Y E  S C A N L I N   Frames within frames


Tommye Scanlin, Self-portrait, 1996, 9.5 in.sq., tapestry

I remembered that I have a couple of self-portraits I did in 1996—back in the era before “selfie” was a concept that had taken the world by storm. But when “self-portrait” was still recognized as something that artists did (sometimes when at a loss for other subject matter—which is how my efforts came about)….

I designed the image using a Mac paint program, starting with a pencil drawing that I’d scanned into the program. I was seeing how cropping the image to within just the face might work and happened to use the oval cutting tool. One thing led to another, with the oval reminding me of egg shape, and so I surrounded the face with another oval, filled in with yellow, then added the surrounding white and changed the contour of it all a bit. All very intuitive and done in response to what I was seeing happening.

I simplified the planes of the face to make a more distinct pattern of shapes. I noticed that there seemed to be another face, one in profile, and I thought the darker/lighter halves of the face might enhance that. Again, responding to what I saw happening as I worked with the image more and more.

The tapestry was, for me, a turning point in my tapestry making. I’d been mostly self-taught at first, learning through Nancy Harvey’s tapestry video and book. Since 1988 I’d been working from the back of tapestry and using double weft interlock, moving from edge to edge. In 1996 I took a workshop with Archie Brennan and Susan Maffei and was introduced to working from the front and building shapes. That manner of working really resonated with me. The self-portrait tapestry was underway on a loom at home and immediately when I returned from the workshop I took it all out and started over, this time working from the front and building shapes.—TS



Tommye Scanlin, Egg-self, 1996, 19 in. h x 15 in. w (total), beaded area 5.5 in. x 2.25 in., mixed media

This piece was designed as an exercise in bead weaving, trying out an idea for a class at the university prior to introducing it to [students]. I wanted to have a bead weaving project in a textiles class and yet wanted something challenging for their design process. I’d just completed the self-portrait tapestry, and so I thought having them design figuratively for the bead weaving would be challenging enough. But I needed to try it out myself ahead of time.

The small tapestry into which the bead-woven portrait is incorporated uses the concept of string quilt as the patterning areas at the sides. The upper triangle represents a roof peak… and I see the whole thing as a house that contains my self-egg.

Why did I paint the canvas and frame and mount the tapestry/beading onto it? a decorative decision.—TS       

Tommye’s blog:


 A N T O N  V E E N S T R A   Documenting place and time

Anton Veenstra, Mother and Son, 2002

Anton Veenstra, Scheyville, 2002

s10 scheyville-21

Anton Veenstra, Scheyville, My older brother and myself, 2005

Blond Boy with Bike, 2004

Blond Boy with Bike, 2004

(see more Selfies by Anton in the Artist’s Galleries)

from the artist’s notes—  “Mother & Son”  120 cm H X 60 cm W. …the extraordinary Liz Williamson…encouraged me to examine my family heritage whereby my mother, born in Doklezovje Slovenia, was shipped to Australia post WW2 on an International Refugee Organization ship. I was born in Cowra migrant camp; that’s me on my mother’s lap./ “Scheyville” 50 cm H X 20 cm W. At age 2 my family moved north to the outskirts of Sydney, to Scheyville camp. I’m wearing thick European trousers./ “Scheyville, my older bro & myself”  70 cm H X 40 cm W./ “Birthday Cake”  40 cm H X 30 cm W./ “Blond Boy with Bike”  150 cm H X 75 cm W. Perhaps to emphasise the difference between being interned behind barbed wire as a reffo family, and being free at last, Aussie citizens, I chose a box brownie photo of myself, in the first house of our own, I was dressed in a Popeye sailor suit; everything was new & deserved a different medium, in this case button assemblage….The bicycle represents the potential freedom and mobility of citizen status after the restriction of internment.

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