Tired of the familiar format of woven wall hangings Chloe McCormick used the freedom of the Textile Futures MA at Central Saint Martins to explore new techniques.
Scottish born and bred, 24-year-old McCormick began to investigate alternative methods of warp construction in the hope that tapestries could become functional objects, but still retain their ornamental beauty. Whilst studying, McCormick was introduced to a prototyping bureau in London who used innovative technology to produce 3D moulds for dentistry, using a laser sintering machine. Her 3D tapestries were exhibited as part of ‘Digital Exploration In Design’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum in May 2010. i-D Online sat down with the bright young designer to learn more.
Tapestry weaving is a dying art. What attracted you to the discipline and what caused you to feel so frustrated by its traditional character traits? Having grown up in Loch Lomond, I am aware that Scotland has a well renowned history in the textile industry, best known for tartans, Harris Tweed and the Paisley pattern. My mother had a huge influence on me, and would take me on day trips as a child to the textile mills up in the North of Scotland. She’s always been very supportive of Scottish potters, furniture makers and textile designers and as a result of this, our house was always a very colourful place to be! This had a huge impact on me, and I started weaving as way of combining and controlling colour. I was perplexed to learn that the same methods of weaving had been used for centuries and that nobody had tried to subvert these commonly used processes. So whilst I admired the intricacy of the weaving, and the jewel-like quality of the weft thread colours, I felt bored by the monotonous approach taken by the weavers of the past and wanted to somehow find a new way to bring tapestry back to life again and radicalise the commonly held views of tapestry as old, stuffy, wall-hangings.
Historically, tapestries would normally depict battle scenes, religious festivals or picturesque landscapes. Your tapestries feature none of these conventional views. What has shaped your determination to follow a more abstract framework? I’ve always been drawn to the works of Austrian painters like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. For me, it’s always been about subtle uses of colour. Finnish artists like Helene Schjerfbeck have also shaped my palette. Architecture and interior design from the Vienna Secession artists like Koloman Moser have been a great source of inspiration too. My family keep parrots as pets and living in such close proximity to animals with such fantastic plumage definitely amplified my appreciation of luxurious colour, as has Scotland’s wildlife; I’ve used animal skins, antlers and bones as reference points for my work in the past.
You are now using laser sintering machines to design prototype warps. What is the future for your particular brand of tapestry? I am combining the craft of hand weaving with groundbreaking modern technology, in the hope that future designers will once again be excited by this diminishing skill. By using the prototyping bureau my tapestries can be scaled up or down to any size and moulded into any form. Using thermoplastics for the 3D moulds means the warps are light, strong and durable and could therefore translate to furniture, jewellery and numerous other forms. I am currently working on producing a range of hand woven spectacles using these techniques. It would be fantastic to be able to bring tapestry back into modern homes, as a practical, purposeful and efficient entity. It has been said that tapestries are the mirrors to our history, so I feel it’s important for me to persist in my experimentation and help people to understand that it still has a meaning and purpose, even in the 21st Century.