Wendy Landry

I am a practising handweaver with over 45 years experience. I am also an academic scholar of textiles, with Masters degrees in Fine Arts, Art Education, and a PhD in Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies (Fine Arts). Since 1995, my focal research has centred around the history and techniques of handwoven velvets. Chronologically, this research extends from the early first millennium to the present. Geographically, it addresses all the major regions of velvet weaving world-wide.

Unlike other works that deal with the artistic, social and economic studies of velvet textiles, my attention is first on the methods, tools, and contexts of making velvets by hand throughout its 1500 years of production and circulation. In order to excavate and understand the techniques, knowledge, and challenges faced by velvet-weavers, I have taught myself to weave velvet on a variety of looms, including a hand drawloom and a modern computer-dobby loom. I have collected as many historical documentary references across numerous disciplines as I have been able to access, including documents in Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, and English translations of Arabic, Persian, etc. I have also collected diagrams and weaving drafts whenever possible, although the majority of these are modern. I have studied loom technologies carefully and built my own bobbin rack and draw device, as well as an extended frame loom to handle two warps. In all this research, I have drawn heavily from the historical resources available, read with my weaver’s understanding. This is the perspective that has long been overlooked in much of the scholarship of textiles generally.

My practical research, experimenting with velvet weave structures and replicating them, is a long-term, on-going activity, which is also very time-consuming. There are infinite variations to examine and explore. At the same time, it was time to share the knowledge I have acquired thus far, so I spent the last few years compiling my book, Velvet on my Mind, Velvet on my Loom, which will be forthcoming in Spring 2020.

My velvet research had an unexpected side effect. Because the velvet history begins in Roman and Coptic Egypt, I began to look for velvet textiles in Coptic collections. Among other places, this led me into a catalogue project documenting in depth the Coptic textiles at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Such collections have rarely been thoroughly analysed in their entirety, and published with the degree of technical detail and observations provided by an experienced weaver’s perspective. This catalogue is also forthcoming shortly. This project also generated some experimental samples of Coptic weaving techniques, including some replications of linen weft-looping and linen velvet with inset tapestry motifs.

My research relies heavily on my lengthy experience and perspective as a weaver. I use experimental archaeology, a recognised method for testing documentary evidence and creating replicas that help researchers to gain a deeper understanding of what knowledge and ideas lie behind whatever is briefly written or manifested solely in material artefacts. Different questions and connections arise about how and why things were made as they were. Incorporating this perspective helps to reveal what documentary sources do not—what knowledge skilled craftspeople held and used, and how they worked in their society. If we regard all knowledge and skilled practice as a cultural artefact—as both a manifestation of the surrounding cultural context and a cultural contribution—then we can see that artisanal technical methods, understandings, and contexts are as worthy of study as other aspects of a culture. We just need to cultivate scholars who value and can incorporate such interdisciplinary approaches.

In addition to the above interests, I have a broad experience of many forms of textile construction, as well as dyeing and design. I have analysed archaeological textiles for Parks Canada (Ottawa) from excavation sites in Louisburg, Nova Scotia and Quebec City. I was also briefly consulted on textiles from the recently discovered ships associated with the Franklyn expeditions in Arctic Canada. I have given several papers and seminars at textile symposia, and my work has appeared in both local and international exhibitions. One of my yardage designs won a significant cash award from the Carnegie Foundation in 1998.

Posted June 7, 2019 by Veloutiere

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