I had long been interested in Japanese ikat and shibori, but it wasn’t until the major exhibition and book about the Guido Goldman collection of Central Asian textiles in 1997 that I fully appreciated the glorious patterns and colors of the region. When a friend moved to Uzbekistan, I jumped at the opportunity to use his home in Tashkent as a base for traveling to Samarkand, Bukhara and the Fergana Valley. I used the itinerary of a Textile Society of America tour as a template, and my friend connected me with travel agents who arranged guides and transportation.
I came home laden with several suzanis and many lengths of ikat cloth ranging from very simple patterns woven in cotton and found in bazaars, to meters of silks with complex patterns dyed with all natural dyes purchased in masters’ studios.
I knew it would take some time to realize how my trip would affect my work. Over the past two years, that has been difficult to determine. There is definitely a visual influence, but there is also something else less tangible but also very powerful. The exuberance of Uzbek fabrics, bazaars, open air food markets and the gloriously tiled mosques dared me to open up and use strong color and pattern in my work. The love and commitment of the artisans to their craft inspired me and boosted my confidence in following my instincts and interests … to leap.
Leap Year, finished just a couple months ago, is so-named not only because there are 366 days in 2012, but also because I just jumped in to start it. I thought about visual elements from earlier pieces as seen in images five, six and seven. The color scheme and concept of working with long, narrow sections filtered into my head via a length of silk ikat by Fazlitdin Dadajonov from the Fergana valley hanging in my studio.
I set up opportunities to play with composition and color at almost every stage of development. I divided the warp cloth in sections, and, after each dye bath, I pinned up all the lengths to re-work their sequence.
I rearranged the order as well as reversed top and bottom if needed. I wanted to work intuitively and use the medium in a painterly manner. The weft was planned in response to the warp composition as shown in images nine and 10.
Weaving is a reward: I see the colors and forms develop as weft goes over and under warp. Each pass of the shuttle is still a step into the unknown. My hope is there will always be surprises, the final results will not be exactly as I planned, and somehow each piece will take a leap ahead (images 11-12).
In Response: Weaving by Ann Roth and Vita Plume is on view through September 6 and the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University, Raleigh. http://www.ncsu.edu/gregg/index.html. More of Ann’s work can be seen at www.annrothtextiles.blogspot.com.