Priscilla May Alden
The power, rhythm, colors and beauty of the bold rugged coast of Maine where I live, and the colors of the landscape and weaving traditions of the American southwest have a strong influence on my artwork. My first encounter more than twenty years ago with Navajo rugs in Santa Fe and the contemporary tapestries of Rachel Brown and James Koehler in Taos, NM inspired me to learn the intricate art of tapestry weaving.
Tapestry is an ancient handweaving technique using discontinuous weft threads. Rather than weaving all across each row, small areas are woven in different colors to create images. This ability to create imagery opened up a new world for me! I feel as though I am painting with beautiful yarns.
My career in architectural design helps me see and love geometric shapes, work within the confines of a grid and understand structure, important elements of weaving. I work on both vertical copper tapestry looms of many sizes and my large horizontal Spanish Walking Loom. This loom allows me to stand while weaving and step on the treadles to change the shed.
My tapestries often start with small pencil sketches and yarns scattered on the floor. Sometimes I use the images in my monoprints as inspiration. My designs are mostly abstract and the interaction of color combinations and geometric shapes produce bright bold designs.The images speak to landscape, the rhythm of nature and human relationships, and the spiritual connection I feel to ancient cultures.
My techniques are always evolving, enabling me to accomplish new design ideas. Recently I have been pushing tapestry techniques to create more flowing sculptural pieces. I create long open slits that allow the piece to undulate. I beat the weft yarns more loosely to make the weaving less dense. I wrap individual and small groups of vertical warp threads with colorful yarns to create more open areas. With these techniques, I wove a seven foot long ceremonial dress which hangs from the ceiling, One can walk through it and listen to the ringing of bells in the piece. Several more similar tapestries have followed, including” Earth Mother” and “Earth Daughter.”
The rhythm of weaving each row is like the beating of distant drums. The singing of the loom connects me to ancient weavers and inspires my designs.