Earlier this year between 26 April to 28 August in the Sunley Room of the National Gallery in London, woven art was celebrated. The exhibition was called
Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic
and the finished tapestry, ‘The Caged Bird’s Song’, was the artist’s creative work realised in wool, cotton and viscose by the weavers of the Dovecot Tapestry Studio, Edinburgh.
The exhibition displayed the preparatory sketches and watercolours produced by Chris Ofili as he developed his ideas.
The tapestry was commissioned by the Clothworkers’ Company of the City of London and the final preparatory watercolour (below) was translated by hand and eye into the finished tapestry.
Made mostly of wool, with some cotton and viscose, the tapestry took nearly three years and over 6,000 hours for the Master Weavers to complete using 250 different colours.
The Dovecot Tapestry Studio in Edinburgh, where the weavers worked, was mentioned in all the accompanying literature as well as in the 15 minute video shown at the exhibition. In the National Gallery Press Release there was obviously a quote from the artist, Ofili.
“’The Caged Bird’s Song’ is a marriage of watercolour and weaving. I set out to challenge the weaving process, by doing something free-flowing in making a watercolour, encouraging the liquid pigment to form the image, a contrast to the weaving process. With their response, which is an interpretation rather than a reproduction, the weavers have paid a type of homage to the watercolour that I gave them as well as to the process of weaving.”
There were also quotes from Dr Minna Moore Ede, the Curator of ‘Weaving Magic’, from Dr Gabriele Finaldi, the Director of the National Gallery, from Peter Langley, Chair of the Clothworkers’ Collections and Archives Committee and from David Weir, the Dovecote Studios Director, but there were no quotes nor a single namecheck for the actual weavers!
This beautifully and skilfully blended work creates a rich colourful tapestry interpretation of the Ofili watercolour. And, I think the Master Weavers should be clearly named. After asking my sister when she visited the National Gallery to check, again, for their names as I thought I’d missed the obvious credits somewhere and she had had no luck, I asked on Instagram ‘Who were the weavers?’ Very kindly @Cherry_Stalk directed me to the information. The weavers were
The permanent home for this contemporary art collaboration will be in the Clothmakers’ Hall in the City of London. I hope they, at least, will clearly acknowledge the weavers.