Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"What is the significance of the birds?"

Many years ago, when I was fairly new to tapestry weaving, I took my half-dozen or so completed tapestries, rolled up together, to a well known tapestry artist for a critique and some guidance. She was very gentle and generous in her critique. We visited over my work for the allotted time, then I rolled my work back up and prepared to leave. Just as I got to the door, and was starting through it, she asked, "What is the significance of the birds?"

That question stopped me in my tracks. "What birds?" I stupidly asked back. "The birds in all of your tapestries," she gently explained. "All of your tapestries have birds in them. Is there a significance?" To be honest, not only did I not know what the significance of them was, but I had not even realized that I was weaving that many birds! Up to that point, I was just concentrating on how to weave, weaving whatever image I could conjure up to learn a specific technique. Evidently, I had been sub- or un-consciously conjuring up birds.

For quite awhile after that, I tried to avoid weaving birds. I don't know why. Possibly because I still did not know the answer to that question... what was their significance? But then they starting winging their way back into my tapestries. I have woven many, many birds. I am weaving another today. What is their significance? I'm not sure... but I'm sure they are significant.

About the tapestries: (Top to Bottom)
"Fifth Day" a creation tapestry 34"x40" 1989 (still available)
"Faith" 38"x36" 1990 Collection of the State of Colorado
"Turtle Song" 40"x42" 1989 Private Collection
"What is this bird that sings while it is yet dark?" a tapestry about finding joy in difficult times and places (a Gulf war tapestry) 38"x44" 1992 Private Collection


Anonymous said...

Wednesday 8/27/08 7:52am

First of all , thank you so much for your very helpful answer to me last week re my having trouble covering the warp with the weft...I took heed and am now able to move forward encouraged by you...you may think you are weaving a very "boring" blue tapestry but simultaneously you are helping other weavers with your clear-cut advice....for that I am most grateful.....
Now as to your birds post, my favorite part of all is the turtle tapestry..I was recently at the Philadelphia zoo and got to see and photograph large turtles very close up..it unsettles my vision because I feel like I am under a glass top coffeetable looking up at them splayed out...and they are looking down at me....but then why would I be looking at the design of the shells....I'm wondering if the eye placement is an optical illusion...interestig speculating on why you saw and pictured them this way....from Janet on the East Coast

K Spoering said...

Several of these tapestries, including "Turtle Song", are based more on images of birds and animals as portrayed in art by indigenous peoples, rather than realistic animal images. They are as much about seeing the world through other eyes as they are about anything else. I believe the turtle images came from some molas I sketched from in a museum.

Glad I was helpful with your problem!!

Margaret said...

How interesting that you always put birds in your tapestries! It's amazing how others will notice things about our work that we don't recognize ourselves.

J. Austin - said...

I love seeing your early work, I like it very much.

You are not the only one to use birds, they just keep popping up. In one of the American Tapestry Biennials (I think #5) there were so many birds it made me wonder....and Barbara Heller developed a lecture on the symbolism of birds, which she delivered at the Fiber Art Center, for a TWiNE meeting.

I keep trying to photograph the neighborhood crows, but they refuse to cooperate.....