Making a Tapestry 

 

 

Using the same techniques employed in Europe since the 15th century, the ATW's skilled weavers work with artists from Australia and overseas to produce tapestries that are known for their vibrancy, technical accomplishment and inventive interpretation. 

Below see ATW weaver Sue Batten working on Everything has two witnesses, one on earth and one in the sky designed by Sangeeta Sandrasegar in 2014.  

 


Making the Cartoon

Traditionally the cartoon is a sketch based on the artwork which serves as the 'map' for the tapestry. At the ATW this is typically either a black and white photographic enlargement, or a line drawing. The cartoon is mounted behind the warped so that the image can be traced onto the warps using ink. This process is called inking on, and is done periodically as the work progresses.

 

 


Warping up the loom

With the samples finished the loom is prepared for weaving. Cotton warps (vertical threads)  are wrapped around the loom's bottom roller and threaded through the reed (a series of parallel metal slats that separate the threads of the warp) to maintain the correct spacing between the warp threads. The warp is then rolled onto the top roller, a shed bar threaded through and the leashes tied.




Weaving

Now the weaving of the tapestry begins. The length of time a tapestry takes to weave and how many weavers are involved in a project depends on the scale of the project and the complexity of the design.

Tapestry weaving is a technique in which the design is formed by weft (horizontal threads) which are tightly packed to cover the warp (vertical threads). It differs from needle and canvas work, as a tapestry is woven on looms rather than embroidered or stitched.

Each colour, wound on its own bobbin, works only across its own section of the design and weft threads seldom pass completely from one side of the work to the other. Hundreds of bobbins may hang from a tapestry during the weaving process at any one time.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) uses the traditional handmade Gobelin technique of tapestry weaving.


 


Artist - weaver collaboration

Collaboration between artist and weaver continues throughout until the tapestry is completed. The artist and weavers work together to make decisions on how the design will be interpreted into tapestry and discuss size, colour, texture & techniques.

Commissioning a tapestry is an exciting experience, and one in which you are fully encouraged to take part. Comissioners and artists are invited to visit the ATW to share the experience of seeing the project grow on the loom.

Woven into each tapestry is the weavers initials and the ATW logo.

 

 


Cutting Off Ceremony

When the weaving is complete, the ATW will hold a ‘cutting off' ceremony, where the tapestry is cut off the loom by the artists, commissioners or other special guests. The warp threads holding the tapesty on the loom are cut and after lining the tapestry is now finished. 

You can watch the tapestry begin woven in this stop motion video here.


 

FAQs

What is tapestry?

Tapestry weaving is a technique in which the design is formed by weft (horizontal threads) which are tightly packed to cover the warp (vertical threads). It differs from needle and canvas work, as a tapestry is woven on looms rather than embroidered or stitched.

Each colour, wound on its own bobbin, works only across its own section of the design and weft threads seldom pass completely from one side of the work to the other. Hundreds of bobbins may hang from a tapestry during the weaving process at any one time.

The Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) uses the traditional handmade Gobelin technique of tapestry weaving.

 

 

Can I purchase a tapestry?

You can commission a tapestry to be woven specifically for your home, institution, corporation or even to celebrate an anniversary or special event. The ATW also has a range of large and small completed tapestries for sale, for further enquiries, please contact the ATW Director, Antonia Syme at asyme@austapestry.com.au

Who weaves the tapestries?

The success of the ATW's tapestries is due to the weavers, who are trained artists and skilled weavers. Weavers are employed by the ATW and paid an annual salary that is consistent with tertiary training and experience in the arts.

Every weaver at the ATW has some kind of an art background, whether in painting, sculpture, or printmaking or in areas such as graphic, textile or fashion design. On joining the ATW the weavers commence a traineeship in tapestry weaving which can take at least three years to become a fully proficient production weaver.

How do you become a weaver?

Trainee weavers undergo a comprehensive selection process before they join the ATW. On completion of art school training, aspiring weavers often start at the ATW with a short term studio placement where they are able to experience the process of production weaving as well as being assessed for their talent as a potential weaver. A weaver’s role is one of interpretation rather than simply copying a design — of investing an artist’s original concept with specific tapestry qualities. 

Aspiring weavers can do weaving classes here at the ATW from beginners to masterclass level. 

How much does a tapestry cost?

The cost of a tapestry is influenced by the complexity of the design, the intricacies of the colour palette, economies of scale in relation to the size of the tapestry, and how finely it is woven.

As a broad guideline, tapestries usually range in cost between AUD $20,000 and AUD $35,000 per square metre.

All ATW tapestries are produced to the highest quality in accordance with our uncompromising standards of craftsmanship and are one-off, original art works.

How long does it take to weave a tapestry?

The factors which determine how long a tapestry will take to weave include: complexity of design, size, the number of weavers able to be accommodated on it, and how finely the tapestry is to be woven. On average, most of our larger commissions take between 6-12 months to complete.

Do you sell yarn?

Yes. Our yarn is available for sale in our shop or online in 25 gram cones spanning 370 colours and tones.  It is a high quality worsted yarn (close to a 2 ply) which is not prone to piling or fluffing, making it suitable for tapestry, knitting and other textile arts. 

All the yarn is dyed on the premises by Master Dyer Tony Stefanovski. The dyes used are the best available for light fastness and colourfastness, helping to ensure that the Workshop's tapestries will last hundreds of years. 

For any further information phone (03) 9699 7885 or email contact@austapestry.com.au, or place an online order.

Do you offer tapestry weaving classes?

Yes, we currently offer one beginner's class and one masterclass per year. For more information, visit the Tapestry Weaving Classes page  or contact the Workshop on (03) 9699 7885 or email contact@austapestry.com.au.

How do you hang a tapestry?

Finished tapestries are attached with heavy-duty Velcro tape to an aluminium batten which is bolted to a wall or can hang freely from hanging wires.

Usually, commissioned  tapestries are designed to hang in a specific place, but they can be hung in any suitable environment. Areas with unusually high levels of dust or moisture, or prolonged periods of direct sunlight, are not good environments for tapestries. It is also best to avoid hanging tapestries near air conditioning extract grills as the air drawn over the surface of the tapestries can cause an accumulation of dust and grease.

How should I care for my tapestry?

Cleaning should be undertaken at least every 12 months, preferably by textile experts. Contact the ATW on (03) 9699 7885 or contact@austapestry.com.au if you would like to discuss this further.

When is the Workshop open?

ATW is open to the public Tuesdays to Fridays, 10am-5pm.

You can visit the retail shop anytime, or visit the galleries and view the Workshop for a gold coin donation.

Guided tours of the Workshop are available on Wednesdays at 11am and Thursdays at 2pm, which go for approximately 45mins - 1 hour and cost $10 per person. Bookings are essential for guided tours. For more information on visiting us, please go to the Contact Us page.

ATW's business hours for enquiries, appointments and deliveries are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The Workshop is closed on weekends and public holidays.

Do you run guided tours of the Workshop?

Guided tours are run twice a week: Wednesday at 11am and Thursday at 2pm. Tours are run by an experienced team of volunteer guides and go for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Tours are $10 per person and bookings are essential.

Please call us on (03) 9699 7885 or email contact@austapestry.com.au for more details.

Where is the Workshop located?

262-266 Park Street, South Melbourne, Victoria. 

The ATW occupies a National Trust heritage listed building in South Melbourne. Erected in 1885 as the drapery establishment, Harcourt and Parry Emporium, the building was later adapted for use as Patross Knitting Mills.

In 1976, when the Australian Tapestry Workshop was established, the building was dark and dingy. Today, with its original high, sawtooth ceiling, it is bathed with abundant southern light that creates a perfect environment for a tapestry studio.

With its elegant cast iron columns supporting the roof and the elaborate parapet and squat central tower that rise above the building, it is one of the finest commercial buildings of the 1880s in inner suburban Melbourne and a distinctive example of Victorian Free Gothic architecture in the state of Victoria.

Are there other tapestry workshops in Australia or the world?

While there are a number of professional tapestry weavers in Australia, the Australian Tapestry Workshop is the only tapestry studio of its kind in Australia and one of only a handful in the world.

In the 1970's during the period the Australian Tapestry Workshop was being set up, Dr Sue Walker AM, ATW founding Director, looked to Dovecot Tapestry Studio, Scotland as a model for a contemporary tapestry weaving studio. Opened in 1912, and still operating as a functioning tapestry weaving workshop, Dovecot Tapestry Studio works in a similar way, although on a smaller scale to the ATW, creating contemporary tapestries in collaboration with United Kingdom and international artists.