Warp & Weft: woven textiles in fashion, interiors & art
Jessica Hemmings, Bloomsbury: 2012

"The creation and use of woven textiles can bring us together. It can also offer a system of thinking, as well as a way of making. Woven textiles appear in the shared public spaces of museums, trains and hotel lobbies; as well as less expected locations such as construction sites. Designers with sustainable agendas are weaving with the community in mind, working to reduce the waste that the textile industry is, regrettably, notorious for producing. Recycled weft and warp materials from a surprising range of sources are making an appearance in woven textiles. Finally,artists approach weaving as a group endeavour and bring communities together to share and learn skills. These events promote much needed conversations about the place of textile manufacturing today and the impact of its rapid departure from what were once thriving production centres to Europe and North America. It is in these conversations that communities – and individuals – can begin to determine our responsibilities for the future.
Swedish artist Petter Hellsing trained as a sculptor and arrived at weaving via an interest in computerise embroidery. A commission at a hospital in Gothenburg launched his beginnings with Jacquard weaving, which by his own admission progressed thanks to a fair bit of trial and error followed by a grant from the Swedish government to study at the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles in Canada. “Most people working with Jacquard have a weave background,” Hellsing observes, “and most use it traditionally. I’m coming from a sculpture background. I weave the cloth and then I start working with it, mixing it together.”
In 2010, the Aircraft Museum Linköping, Sweden commissioned Hellsing to create “Contemporary Patterns”. Installations of the woven black and white stage curtain marked the museum’s reopening and a new emphasis within their exhibits on the broader implications of history. Hellsing’s unconventional approach to weaving explainswhythecurtain is cut and then “sewn together as a patchwork. This was an opportunity to see what has happened with cloth and treat it like collage.”Exhibits about the machinery of the cold war era had once been the museum’s focus, but as Hellsing explains, “I wanted my piece to continue the story after the cold war. . . I was brought up with the idea that Sweden was neutral during the war; that we had clean hands because that was the official story. There is now discussion of the Swedish role during the Second World War, but it has come very late.” The commission also provided Hellsing with an opportunity to reflect on history: “I have chosen historical events that are, so to say, ‘in the air’ now with [images of] people that are symbols for what we think today are turning points in history. The curtain is a segment of time that will age . . .People in the future will face other challenges and see incidents and contexts that are hidden from us today.”
Images for the Jacquard weaving were sourced from the Internet at the time of the commission.Image quality was not a priority, although the ability of weaving to capture imagery “in the material – not on the surface” offered an important distinction for Hellsing. Woven in five shades of grey, thelow-resolution pictures allude to the transitory nature of news headlines that are front page one day and forgotten the next. Photoshop was used to combine the news images and add over-scale traditional weave patterns. The introduction of visual patterns to the imagery is intended to suggest that history itself is yet another (ever changing) pattern. Revealing his scepticism for the official history, but also speaking of history on a personal level, Hellsing explains, “If the pattern does not fit you have to change the pattern and if the history does not fit, you have to change history. Patterns are the knowledge you have today, but when a situation changes like economics and politics, then the map has been rewritten.” Hellsing’s collaged map of recent headlines reminds us that version of history, both the personal and the national, are always multiple."