Our first speaker of the Weavers from Wales day will be award winning woven textile artist and designer, Laura Thomas. Laura is known for producing striking textile artworks for contemporary spaces.
Laura’s breadth of practice and multi-faceted approach has made her somewhat unusual in the woven textiles sphere. Whether it be site-specific art, exhibition work or interior textile design, underpinning all of Laura’s work is an inherent practical curiosity to exploit weave principles, celebrate the beauty of yarns and create striking aesthetics for this ancient craft.
Laura is particularly well known for her ‘Resonate’ body of work, whereby delicate textile constructions are cast in acrylic resin resulting in a surprising juxtaposition between the hard edged acrylic and loose threads or openly woven cloth. As a woven textile artist and designer, Laura has always been deeply inspired by the unwoven warp threads on a loom. The aim of the ‘Loose Threads’ series is to capture the visual impact of the warp: its linear qualities and the optical mixing of pure colour in that moment in time before the warp is tensioned to begin weaving.
Other bodies of textile works cover a wide spectrum of techniques, processes and yarns, but all have the continuing conceptual thread of quality of line and rhythm of repeat. With reference to the Three Fates in Greek mythology, the symbolism of a thread as a metaphor for life is core to all of Laura’s woven work. This poetry of yarn offers a fundamental purity of line and depth of meaning. The focus is on celebrating the fundamental beauty and metaphor of the individual thread and to create interesting structures in which the thread is as ‘unwoven’ as possible whilst the resulting cloth remains stable. Laura employs unusual weave techniques such as leno and Spanish Lace to create openness, a ‘view through’ and glimpse of something beyond the surface.
Laura has received many notable awards for her practice including a Creative Wales Ambassador Award from the Arts Council of Wales. In 2011 Laura was a finalist in the Inspire Wales Awards in recognition for both her practice, education work and involvement with organisations such as the Makers Guild in Wales to raise the profile of craft. In 2008 Laura won the Applied Arts prize in the Welsh Artist of the Year competition for a ‘Loose Threads’ sculpture and the Wesley Barrell Craft Award for Textiles. She has work in several public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, The National Wool Museum, the Powerhouse Museum in Australia and the Crafts Study Centre.
Born and brought up in Pembrokeshire, Laura studied woven textiles in the University of Central England, The Royal College of Art, and then on to become one of the founding Fellows of The Ann Sutton Foundation, a weave design research centre in Sussex.
Since completing her Fellowship in 2003, Laura established her textile art and design studio in South Wales, and has been dividing her time between public and private art commissions, exhibition work, curation, technical research and freelance design consultancy. Laura is also a lecturer on the BA Textiles: knit, weave & mixed media course in The Carmarthen School of Art, Coleg Sir Gâr.
Sue Hiley Harris
Sue Hiley Harris is best known for the abstract handwoven sculpture she has been making since the late 1990s. This may be understood in relation to constructed abstract art generally, whether in two or three dimensions, in which material, structure and form are interdependent. Directly linked to the fundamental warp-and-weft structure of weaving is her wider fascination with squares, cubes and grid-forms. While the woven sculpture is often derived from pure geometric shapes, local landscapes have also been an important influence.
Sue will take you on a virtual tour of her studio. She will show and talk about drawing and weaving relating to regular visits to the same area of the Priory Groves, a woodland close to her home, which she made in 2018-19. Work, relating directly to lockdown restrictions and her own activities during that time, has since emerged. It develops her long-term interest in threads, weaving and natural dye materials and explores the repetitious, yet absorbing and deliberate, process of walking during lockdown. The work also reinforces the repetitive nature of weaving: winding the warp, threading the loom and throwing the shuttle all require repeated actions – not mindless duplicated tasks but absorbing and deliberate focused movements. Sue will also discuss her current work for a solo exhibition at Ruthin Craft Centre next year.
Originally, Sue pursued fine art at Queensland College of Art in her home town of Brisbane, Australia. Since moving to Britain she has studied hand-loom weaving in Bradford and science with the Open University. For many years she wove distinctive silk garments and ran a mail order business sourcing and selling silk fibres to handspinners as well as teaching silk spinning and silk weaving. She moved to Wales in 1981 and currently lives in Brecon. A Creative Wales Award from the Arts Council of Wales in 2013 has stimulated an interest in drawing generally. Working with silver is a result of skills learned through this award. She has exhibited internationally and has work in public collections in Wales, England, France and Italy. Currently vice chair of the Welsh Group of artists and a member of 56 Group Wales, she is also a trustee of the Theo Moorman Trust for Weavers which supports hand-loom weavers.
Llio James originally from Talybont, Ceredigion is a graduate of weaving from Manchester School of Art (2009) with a Masters in Design: Fashion & Textiles from Bath Spa University. Llio has since worked within the textile industry in New York, Scotland, England and Wales.
Today, Llio works from her studio in Cardiff, Wales, using a traditional dobby loom. Designing the cloth in studio and produced at local mills in Wales and England. She also creates unique commission pieces which are hand woven.
Llio is fascinated by textiles and their impact on everyday life. “We are born and wrapped in cloth. We wear clothing next to our skin. Our feet walk along carpets, on wooden floorboards, on concrete slabs and on cobbled streets. We sit, drape, lounge on what will support and comfort our bodies. Textiles and texture are everywhere and this my inspiration.”
As an experienced and creative hand weaver Llio is able to adapt the work as it evolves to build a contemporary cloth with the aim of creating bespoke cloth to be handled, to be used and to be loved generation after generation.
Llio’s inspiration also comes from the feeling of belonging to country and culture and this is strongly expressed in her work. The work is rooted in the sense of belonging – a subconscious feeling of being at ease; feeling comfortable in a natural habitat. Through this, her work explores traditional Welsh designs that date back generations with the aim of bringing them to life into today’s modern world.
I am a textile designer based in North Wales. I specialised in weave and am passionate about pattern and colour, which is evident throughout my work.
My studio overlooks the foothills of Snowdonia, we are one of the oldest farming families still farming in North Wales. My inspiration is derived from my surroundings and my family’s farming history. The main inspiration is the ear notches of the local farms. Ear notching is a series of unique cuts on the lambs ears in order to identify the farm in which the sheep belong to. It’s an ancient practice and an important tradition. Only farms with the right to graze on the uplands have an ear notch.
Although there are modern ways of documenting such as the plastic ear tag or paint to mark the sheep but these are easily lost on the mountains where as an ear notch is there forever I feel very passionate about keeping traditions and having them woven into the blankets is a way of keeping the history alive. Throughout my work you will see inspiration of my surroundings such as the slate pillars, wild flowers and shepherd’s crooks. I am passionate about colour and this evident throughout my work. I am inspired by the dramatic seasons that we have in North Wales and nature.