This year has marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus. The groundbreaking art and design school lasted less than two decades but its influence was immense. Among the many exhibitions and events marking the centenary, it’s been particularly good to see a focus on the achievements of the textiles workshop. We’ve even been inspired to push the boundaries ourselves with our own Bauhaus-influenced design. More on that later.
We were lucky enough to visit two inspirational exhibitions as part of the centenary celebrations: Anni Albers at Tate Modern, London; and Bauhaus: Textiles & Graphics at the Chemnitz Kunstsammlungen (Art Collections) in Germany.
Anni Albers (1899-1994) was initially a reluctant weaver, and joined the textiles workshop only because it was one of the few options for women at that time. But she went on to embrace the medium enthusiastically, applying ideas from modern art to create innovative ‘pictorial weavings’, wall hangings and textiles. Moving to the USA in 1933, she taught at the experimental Black Mountain College and wrote extensively about weaving and design.
In the exhibition, we loved her abstract geometric patterns, her bold use of colour in surprising combinations, and the way she combines different textures and materials. As weavers we found it especially interesting to see how her ideas developed from sketches to finished product.
During the Bauhaus centenary year it’s been satisfying to see female artists start to get the recognition they deserve. The exhibition at Chemnitz Kunstsammlungen focused especially on the achievements of the textile workshop, largely the preserve of women, which became one of the Bauhaus’s most successful workshops. It was a privilege to get up close to wall hangings, rugs and other textiles by distinguished artists such as Benita Koch-Otte, Otti Berger and Gertrud Arndt.
Back in the workshop on Skye, we started on our own Bauhaus-inspired experiments. Working on the small sample loom we played around with different geometric patterns and textures. For us the challenge (which we enjoy!) is to not only come up with a beautiful design but to translate it into something that can be made into a physical reality on our equipment. For example, much of Anni Albers’s work is hand manipulated, whereas we need to create a pattern that can be woven on a 16 pick repeat. (Our dream is to get a dobby for our looms, which would allow much longer repeats.) That means we have to put any weave structure variations into the warp, and colour variations in the weft. Weaving these scarves was somewhat nerve-wracking because we didn’t know if our experiments would be successful: we were particularly worried about the warp tensions. However the different textures came out really strongly and we’re delighted with the result.
Here is a short video of us weaving the scarves.
There’s still lots going on for the Bauhaus Centenary – find out more on the Bauhaus100 website. If like us you’ve been inspired by Anni Albers, you’ll enjoy this short film from Tate Modern: ‘How to Weave Like Anni Albers’.