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Craft work in the Ribeira Sacra – A week in the life of handweaver Anna Champeney

Sunday 21 March 2010

Newspaper interview with El País – It´s Sunday but I am in my textile studio being interviewed by “El Pais” (Spanish national newspaper). It´s sometimes difficult to keep weekends clear (except when Lluis and I have open studios in August of course, when our day off is Monday) but today it´s a pleasure to meet and chat with Xurxo Lobato, photographer and journalist with the national Spanish newspaper. The interview will become a feature for a Saturday edition of the paper in the near future.

Monday 22 March 2010

product photography - new linen flannels (Anna Champeney Estudio Textil)am  – Product Photography, Promotion and Admin work – I photograph linen flannels for my online catalogue then prepare price-lists and pack up some linen flannels and saquitos to send off to the Galician Craft Development body (FCGAD) for their own catalogue photography. I design a new label in Galician Spanish and hope it is correct (our region of Spain is bi-lingual – people speak Galician and Castillian Spanish).

pm –Teaching – I brief Tracey, my textile assistant from England, who is doing the 3-week textile assistatshsip with me, on her new project which is a linen curtaining design. We measure up for the curtaining and go over the details.  I start her off with the necessary calculations for translating the design onto the loom. Tracey has been in my studio before and has 6 weeks experience in total.  She is a meticulous and careful worker, so I know I can delegate some of my work to her with no worries.

Weaving – I spend the rest of the day weaving. Bliss!  In fact I may spend less than 1/4 of my overall work in actually weaving a textile – there are lots of other processes involved in creating woven textiles by hand. I love the actual weaving, but then I actually enjoy all aspects of my work and I feel lucky to enjoy it all so much!

Tuesday 23 March 2010

am –Natural Dyeing.  I have a fairly big order for dyeing silk-wool yarns for a London-based hand- weaving suppliers.  I work out quantities and costings and supervise Tracey, my assistant, as she starts to wind skeins – the first part of the process. The whole dye session will involve dyeing a total of about 10 kilos and from beginning to end will probably take about 2 weeks to do.

preparing the loom with 55m of natural linen yarnpm – Teaching and loom preparation. I teach Tracey the “direct warping” or “sectional warping” method which I use to prepare my big loom for weaving. I photograph some of the steps and start writing up notes for a future weaving course on the subject. Then I start the business of winding on the 55m of linen yarn onto the loom: 720 individual linen threads, which require a total of 2475 revolutions of the back beam. This is going to take a while (probably about 6 hours) so I sit on a low stool at the back of the loom and ease myself into the work – there´s no point in trying to hurry this job – I will split the work over 3 mornings.

pm Textile Design work. I spend some time guiding Tracey through the planning of the linen curtaining project. Tracey says to me “most people don´t have any idea about just how much work is involved in hand-weaving”. I smile – she has already covered two sheets of paper with a whole lot of calculations – yarn calculations, the graphic representation of the design and the technical details of the loom preparation. Lucikly she is good at maths and she enjoys the technical as well as the creative challenge of hand-weaving. Some pupils quickly find that the technical side of weaving is too much for them but those pupils who end up continuing in the craft find that they enjoy this part of the work. Textile Analysis – I spend about an hour analyzing a new cloth sample. I really enjoy this work – looking at something new and original I´ve woven close-up to see how the yarns and the woven structure interact and which parts of the sample I can see working up into a final scarf design.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

scouring linen to remove waxes and general dirt prior to dyeingMore loom preparation. Natural Dyeing – Preparatory work. I scour about a kilo of linen yarn which has been wound from the cone onto skeins. This means a one hour boil with caustic soda or ash water plus soap – to remove all the wax and general dirt, prior to treating the linen with a fixer. This process can´t be omitted or else the dye or fixer may not penetrate the yarn evenly. This is the first of 6 stages involved in dyeing linen with natural dyes. It always amazes me how much dirt comes out of pure white or grey linen which initially looks so clean (see photo). I´ll continue the process later on in the week.

Evening – In the evening I work on new blog text and answer a last minute email query about a course. I finally stop at around 11.30pm.

Thursday 25 March 2010

am – Visit to Ourense city. It´s only a 40 minute drive to Ourense, our local city.  I have an appointment with FisioAuria, my physiotherapist in Ourense city.  It´s easy to forget that as craftspeople, our bodies are our tools, and, they have wear and tear just as my loom does. Weaving is hard on the back and I know lots of weavers with back problems so I have to take care of myself. pm – Cleaning, sweeping, mopping and making beds; What has this got to do with being a weaver? Well, Lluis and I also run Casa dos Artesans, a two-bed holiday cottage, close to the studios, for clients, pupils and tourists to the region, to stay in. So now and again we become cleaners, maintenance people, painters and gardeners, to prepare the cottage for our guests. At this time we are preparing the cottage for our Easter guests, from Madrid, who are coming to stay for a week, from Saturday.

Friday 26 March 2010

Casa y Campo, the Spanish equivalent of the English magazine Country Living, phone up to propose doing a lifestyle feature about my textiles, Lluis´s (my partner) baskets, as well as our residential craft holidays. This is great news as this will mean people in other parts of Spain will be able to find out about us and our work.  I email some photos and some text across to Monica Corredera, the journalist.

pm – Weaving linen flannels.  Good to be at the loom again. I find weaving these simple linen flannels very satisfying. They use a traditional weave which makes for a thicker, textured fabric which, with the slightly exfoliant properties of linen, is very practical for both flannels and towels. I publish this week´s blog post and translate it into Spanish!

More Information

Customised cushions – hand-woven with natural dyes (Design ref. “Spots & Squares”)

personalised cushions to order from Anna Champeney Estudio TextilSome new cushions are available from the AC Textile Studio.  Some of the “Spots & Squares” cushions are commissioned pieces and have been sent on by post.  As hand-weavers, we are often asked the question “why weave textiles by hand”. One simple answer is that, unlike industry, we are able to personalize textiles for clients with individually-chosen colourways (even if we don´t actually colour-match colours).  Some clients feel unsure about choosing colour schemes themselves and welcome some support and advice, but many find that choosing the colours for “their” cushion is really fun and becomes part of the “craft experience”. It certainly gives the finished cushion – especially if it is for a new home or ordered as a gift – a whole new meaning and significance than a cushion bought “off-the-peg”, however pretty it may be.   Commissioning textiles whilst on holiday here in north Spain is an extra special option for guests who come on holiday to Casa dos Artesans, our self-catering craft cottage, which is just a short stroll from the textile studio itself.

As you can see the “Spots and Squares” cushion design woven at the Anna Champeney Textile Studio is a simple but modern interpretation of a traditional weaving pattern and uses 4 different colours. The natural-dyed wools contrast beautifully with the crisp white or grey linen background. Clients who visit the studio in northwest Spain can choose the individual balls of hand-dyed yarns for their commissions, but those who order by internet can still select a general range of colours – “earth colours” or “purples and reds” “all pastels” or “black through to light grey” and we will do our best to interpret these choices.

Today, 19 March 2010, we are weaving a cushion in a range of indigo blues, from dark through to a pale greeny-pastel blue. Next week we will start on weaving other versions in different colourways….

  • indigo-dyed yarns ready to weave up for today´s cushion (19 March 2010)Further Information:
  • Cushion Orders “Spots and Squares” cushions, Anna Champeney Estudio Textil- lluisyanna@terra.es.  65€ + p&p
  •  Weaving Courses – Learn to design and hand-weave your own cushions at Anna Champeney Estudio Textil in a week´s course or a 3-week assistantship

Galician Craft Live and Hands-On in Ourense (Galicia, Spain)

Craft Development Director Elena Fabeiro gets a close-up experience of weaving with Galician textile designer Anna ChampeneyAs  you can see  our live craft demonstrations at the Xantar Food Fair in Ourense (3 – 7 March 2010) were good fun, attracting many of the visitors to the delicatessen and restaurant stalls.   Just as the case with traditional foods in Galicia, the crafts have their own regional brand label – Artesania de Galicia – and our presence at the food fair was to help promote the  label and show the public how our hand-made willow baskets and handwoven textiles are made.    The Louet table looms are excellent for demonstrating on (apart from the fact that I can´t get my large floor loom through the door of my workshop without dismantling it) and those people interested in our weaving courses were able to have a go themselves!

On Day I we were visited at the trade fair by Elena Fabeiro, director of the Fundación Centro Galego de Artesanía e do Deseño (the Galician body responsible for craft promotion and development), and as you can see from the photo she had a go at weaving herself.   Engaging with the crafts in such a hands-on way always changes the way we see crafts – as manual processes not just as products.   I wonder how many craft gallery directors or administrators responsible for craft development in some way actually have this kind of experience?