Saltie Crafts - With Hannah Waldron
Date Updated: 21/11/2022
For this month’s Saltie Crafts we catch up with artist and designer Hannah Waldron. Known for her wonderful weaves, tapestries and textile designs, Hannah’s creations are based on memories of journeys she’s made – a beautiful blend of story-telling and contemporary craft.
Hannah steps us through her craft and shares a wonderful guide to weaving. And being based in Cornwall, we couldn’t let her go without telling us some must-visit beaches and favourite local spots for creative finds.
Your art focuses on textile design, and in particular weaving. Have you always specialised in this medium, or has it been a gradual evolution?
I initially studied Illustration and then about 10 years ago I went and lived in Berlin and visited the Bauhaus archive there and saw the incredible tapestries from the Bauhaus weavers such as Anni Albers and Gunta Stolzl and was completely blown away by their weavings so was inspired to give weaving a go. My drawing has always been grid-based, so the move into weaving was a natural progression and my visual language lent itself easily to working on the loom
Your designs blend a traditional craft with a modern aesthetic. Is that fusion something you like to explore?
Tapestry has such a strong tradition and with tradition often comes a particular aesthetic connotation or associations, so yes I'm definitely trying to innovate the craft using contemporary forms, to hopefully get people to see the process with fresh eyes, just as the Bauhaus weavings did for me.
Talk us through your process a bit more – from initial drawing to the final stitch.
My weavings are normally based on memories of journeys I have made - near or far, so I start with making gouache sketches distilling the memories into patterns, shapes and forms to get a sense of the place. Then once I am happy with the design, I create a 1-1 scale cartoon on graph paper which I use to help follow the design when I weave. Then it's just a case of putting the hours in at the loom!
We love your Noren X Link series. Can you tell us more about this and how Japan inspired you (it’s long been on our bucket list!)
Thank you! This Noren x Link collaboration was a dream project to take part in, and the best part was being able to travel to Izumo in Japan to visit the workshop where they dye and create the Noren using a traditional Tsutsugaki process. Tsutsugaki, means tube painting and works by applying a resist paste to the cloth and dyeing it with natural indigo and then washing off the resist paste in the local river to reveal the design. It's an incredibly time and labour intensive process, but the results are just stunning. Japan has long inspired me and I feel so lucky to have visited there twice on study trips. I find the connections between the philosophy, approach to nature and the development of the visual arts and crafts fascinating, and seeing the dedication to craft first-hand was truly inspiring.
You’ve had some incredibly impressive commissions. I know it’s hard to pick a stand-out so tell us about a few that you’ve been most proud of.
I've really enjoyed working on textile based collaborations such as the woven collection for SCP and the screen printed furoshikis with LINK, because through doing these I got to visit and learn so much about industrial textile processes, in the mill in Wales and workshops in Japan for example, and working alongside such skilled craftspeople was such a privilege. However, some of the really simple illustration briefs I've had, such as the Phantasmagoria print I made for the V&A shop and a poster I designed for Herman Miller, were incredibly enjoyable because the briefs were so open, which allowed me to push my work in new directions, which is really rewarding.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Sheila Hicks is an artist who you are greatly inspired by. Tell us more about that.
Yes lately Sheila Hicks has been inspiring me, mainly because of her amazing ability to scale up her work in such ambitious ways. Also her travels in Mexico and South America are fascinating and her small works produced during her travels are so wonderful. I would love to visit there one day, such an incredible weaving culture and history there, especially in Peru.
I know days aren’t typical at the moment, but talk us through a typical working day in your shoes.
My studio is set in a beautiful semi-public garden (and Cafe) called The Potager, here in Cornwall. I tend to spend the days there sketching new designs for artworks, or creating drawings or gouache painting for upcoming exhibitions, fuelled by a lot of coffee and cake from the cafe! It's quite remote so I take breaks walking the lanes and fields nearby.
Do you normally work from home? How do you make sure you step away from work at the end of the day?
I tend to weave mostly at home, because I have a toddler and the process is so time consuming, so it works better for me to weave when he sleeps, in the long winter evenings especially. I think I have got quite good at switching off as I've been doing it for 13 years now, I have a curtained off space where I put everything away. Out of sight, out of mind. Sounds simplistic, but it works for me!
Falmouth, where you live, has a great creative scene. What are some must-visit places?
The Potager! It's my favourite place, I feel so lucky to have a studio there. Otherwise The Fish Factory is a great artist-run space, and Argal farm is host to some really interesting small companies, collectives and small creative brands. The Poly has some good exhibitions and events from time to time too. Further afield CAST in Helston and Tremenheere Sculpture Park is beautiful. In Cornwall there are tons of artists and makers, but it takes a while to find them as we tend to be all scattered about, but the more I live here, the more I find.
Tell us about a favourite spot in your home?
We live in a flat and have a huge bay window overlooking a park, and it's been such a joy recently to watch spring play out in the shifting nature of the trees, green is such an energising colour.
Which beach along the Cornish coast will you be taking you, your family and your Salties to this summer?
Durgan (Grebe) beach along the Helford passage is one of our favourite spots, and Rinsey will be on my list for when we can go further afield. I got a stand up paddle board recently so I'm looking forward to getting out when the waters are calm.
If you could spend the day in someone else’s shoes, who would it be, and why?
I would like to spend the day in my 3-year-old Sol's shoes. I would be so fascinated to see the world through his eyes, and be able to experience the world in a fresh way.
How To – Loom Tapestry
Here Hannah guides you through how to make a simple tapestry loom from an old frame.
Find an old frame, and then hammer small nails or tacks at equal intervals (I did every 5mm) along each edge.
It's easier for counting if you stagger them in groups of 3 or 4, and helps to avoid splitting the wood.
Using strong cotton thick thread, tie the end in a triple knot onto one end of the edge of the frame and then create the warp by wrapping the yarn around 2 of the tacks at the top of the frame and then follow it down to the tacks at the bottom of the frame so that the warp strings run in a straight parallel manner. When you get to the last tack, tie a triple knot around the frame like you did at the start.
Next add a cross tie thread, this helps the tension of your weaving and helps you space the threads evenly. Cut a cotton yarn (the same as the warp) 4 times the width of the frame, and then tie an end securely onto the left edge of the frame. Then go under, over, under, over the warp threads you have made.
When you get to the edge, wrap a couple times around the frame (this helps hold it in place) and then go back the other way but go over, under this time, so you secure the previous line. Repeat a third time (wrapping around the left edge this time and back to under, over) and then end up on the right edge of the frame, and tie the thread securely onto the right edge.
Now use your fingers or a needle to space the warp ends evenly.
Weave a few lines with a new bundle of cotton thread to give you a neat edge to start. To weave you simply go over, under, over, under, and then do the opposite on the next row, under, over, under, over. Choose yourself some nice colours and make into small bundles that you can easily pass under and over the warp ends.
Once you have set up your loom, try weaving back and forth with different colours, then try out different thicknesses and qualities of yarn - wool, linen, cotton, string - you can weave with anything fibrous! You can create infinite patterns by combining colours in different alterations. Be experimental and it will lead you to all sorts of possibilities of your own curiosity.
For further instructions and resources I recommend the following:
Find yourself a comfy spot and get weaving!
photo credit Martin Holtkamp