I had the great privilege of visiting the Anni Albers exhibition at the Tate Modern, with my friend Bridget – the one who also taught me to weave. I fell for weaving immediately – deciding that one day, perhaps on my eventual retirement from work, I would ask for, or buy, my own loom. With more time on my hands I felt I really might achieve something marvellous.
As a Tate member Bridget was able to get me in after work, to see an exhibition of Bauhaus textile designer Anni Albers. Many of you know that the Bauhaus was a radical art school, established by Walter Gropius in 1919. Something you may not know is that his London home – where he came to flee the Nazis – is the Isokon building, which we – Notting Hill Genesis – own. In July English Heritage put a blue plaque on the flats, and Wolf Burchard (front row beige jacket) gave a moving speech about his Great Uncle Walter.
Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) was a German Jew who became a leading member of the Bauhaus school, and eventually head of the Weaving Workshop. Although she started life as an artist, she was drawn to weaving as it was one of the few areas open to women at the time. She left Germany with her artist husband Joseph in 1933 and went to work at the newly established Black Mountain college in North Carolina. They moved later to Connecticut where their Foundation continues.
Many see Albers as one of the most important female artists of the 20th Century, but perhaps one who is not well enough known due to either her sex, or her medium (textiles) or both. Much of her art work was based on horizontals and verticals (Matisse inspired), often in neutral colours and sometimes in interesting materials such as metallics, cellophane, flax and cotton. Bridget, and some other experienced weavers she spoke to, attested to the amazing technical skills that some of this work required.
Bridget was mesmerised and fascinated by this red work “With Verticals” She said it was exceptionally hard to achieve this effect and she could only guess how it was done. For me it was a beautiful textile. I really liked the way the subtle, almost ghostly, verticals worked against the obvious ones which interrupt and rearrange the twill patterns in the cloth.
There are many wall hangings to be seen – most of them are like paintings actually – and I felt this was an artist working with yarn rather than a weaver, but of course the distinction between art and craft is rather superficial. I loved the work especially when she created colourful, lumpy weavings.
The Albers made many trips abroad for inspiration, mainly to Mexico, where they sought out ancient buildings, but also bought and studied woven and stitched textiles. There are a number of fascinating and priceless Mexican and other artefacts in the exhibition, and we can see how the strong colours begin to influence her work.
It’s almost Christmas. I have knocked off work for about ten days, and I will be very glad of the rest. I have found this year stressful and hard going. I have spent much of my spare time recuperating in the country, and I haven’t done a huge amount of making or blogging. I think things will ease off next year and I am very much looking forward to new and interesting challenges.
Let me finish with some absolutely joyous jewellery, designed by Anni Albers. Just the sort of present anyone would love to receive, made from ordinary but beautiful things. And may I thank you for your support, your wise advice, following the blog and joining in with the various challenges I have set myself, reading the book, meeting up with me, and may I wish you a very Happy Christmas.