Size: 42 x 58 cm
Materials: Hand woven with hand embroidery. British wool custom dyed using a palette of colours - Lichen, Bracket Fungus, King Alfred's Cake and Persicaria.
In the depths of last winter we sent our long-time collaborator, the weaver Emily Mackey, to the famous gardens at Great Dixter in Kent to gather inspiration for a new collection of hand-woven textiles. The results are beautiful, comforting and fascinating in equal measure.
It can be difficult to convey the amount of time, research and craftsmanship that goes into create an object of such simple beauty as Emily Mackey’s new handwoven cushion collection. And in fact, like anything poetic, the effort shouldn’t be visible, just the beauty of the finished object. However the story behind these hand-woven textiles makes us fall in love with them twice over.
It all began on a cold January day when Emily visited Great Dixter, the wonderful 15th century home of the late gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd. She roamed the gardens in the crisp, cold winter sun, exploring the site, collecting ideas and organic matter for plant dyes. Compost heaps, clapboard sheds, the timber-frame of the house itself, tall grasses and bean poles all fed into her designs.
Once back in her studio (a purpose built timber and glass structure in her garden in Hastings - which houses her treasured hand loom), she began work on the first samples. Sketching ideas for the patterns and bubbling up vats of plant dyes for the colour palette, the collection began to take shape.
It was also at this time that Emily visited the Tate Modern to see the first major exhibition charting the work of Bauhaus artist Anni Albers. The exhibition was a long overdue recognition of Alber’s pivotal contribution to modern art and design, and reminds us of the importance of textile design -in particular weaving. It was interesting to be working with Emily on this collection whilst there was so much interest in weaving as an art form.
Anni Albers @ The Tate Modern
So back in the studio and Emily took the organic material she had collected and made colour samples. Cedar chips, lichen, Phormium leaves and bracket fungus were plunged into pans to draw out the colour and strips of cotton where dyed to record the colours.
The palette was selected from these test strips and sent to Emily’s yarn makers who created bespoke dyes to match the test strips. Bales of soft native British wool were spun and dyed in Emily’s Great Dixter colour-ways.
Each piece is handwoven by Emily Mackey, and many of the cushions are hand finished with intricate stitching to create blocks of colour or random stitches - which represent the pea sticks, tall grasses or layers on the compost.
The collection brings nature indoors through the use of colour, material and craftsmanship - objects that comfort and certainly bring joy!