Sunday, October 5, 2008

Unicorns Gathering in Scotland

The seven tapestries of the Hunt of the Unicorn, which are at the Cloisters in New York are being recreated in Scotland, as part of the renovation of Stirling Castle, where they will hang in the Queen's Presence Chamber. Historical sources indicate that there was a set of Unicorn tapestries in the castle in the 16th century. It’s an amazing undertaking, which will not be finished until 2013.

Three tapestries are already woven and on display in the Chapel Royal at the castle. The weaving is taking place in a temporary studio on the grounds of Stirling Castle, and also simultaneously, at West Dean Tapestry Studio in Sussex.

A few weeks ago I attended a lecture in the Textiles Department at the University of Rhode Island, by Louise Martin, the senior weaver on the project. The lecture was inspiring, and Louise is a delightful speaker who really brought the project to life for us.

The tapestries are being “reinterpreted” rather than simply copied, because the size is reduced to fit the walls in the castle, and the warp sett is coarser to save on labor. One fact I learned is that with the medieval tapestry technique that they are using there is no color blending of the wefts. Only solid colors are used. There are two different types of wool, however, which, when dyed together take the dye slightly differently, giving the weft more richness of color. Louise’s explanation of the color analysis was really impressive. After the slide talk we were able to look closely at woven samples, and yarns.

The public can watch the weavers at work, with well trained tour guides to describe what is going on and to answer questions, so that the weavers are not disturbed. I hope to visit next year.

For more details check out the Singing Weaver's blog.


K Spoering said...

Can I go, too? I loved them at the Cloisters, and was tempted to leave home and family when I heard they were looking for another weaver... sigh. No unicorns in Colorado, just deer and elk and moose.

Jan said...

I was tempted too, but I think it would wear out my body to spend that much time weaving, and much as I love it, I'd get sick of it weaving full time as a job.

I'm hoping they will allow me to do some minor chore as a volunteer, just so I can make a contribution of some kind.