They Had Faces

Intimate interaction

[Editor’s Note: Laura Foster Nicholson is a textile artist known for her handwoven tapestries. With a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute and MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, she has lectured, taught, and exhibited in the US, Canada and Italy. Her artwork is in several museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Denver Art Museum among others. Laura wrote this piece this summer and posted in her blog. She has kindly allowed HAND/EYE to reprint it.]

I have been weaving faces for several months. I began with small works, about 8” square each. Simple sketches, gestural and to the point. The idea is to give quick studies of the kinds of feelings which occur in a time like ours.

My artmaking, when I was young, was mostly about drawing faces, and I longed to get back to the direct expressivity and engagement of personality and opinion.

Working like this now, in weaving, is about the precision of line necessary to make subtle changes in expression. It gives me a new way to interact intimately with my process and examine each thread to see what it will do.

I have envisioned a roomful of large faces like this, suspended, not necessarily nailed to walls, 36”x 30”, or so.  I am working on these now, along with a set about 12” x 18”, which, annoyingly, are proving more expressive.  What’s size got to do with it? Most likely, it is easier to control the image at that scale.

I am amazed by the difference in working between these scales.  What works as a small gesture seems, well, sometimes silly, translated to a larger scale.  How do I draw at that scale to keep it real? What is astonishing is the technical dexterity that I need for this translation.

Everything becomes exaggerated.  Lips, when small, nearly inconsequential, a mere mark , but then 6 times as large? Silly?

The small pieces seem gender neutral. The big ones seem more female. And perhaps cartoonish?  It seems I always come back to the face I know best, my own.

This is all good information to ponder, as I make. I often find that I do not know what I am actually making until after I make it. This is new territory for me. 

To learn and view more of Laura’s work or to comment please visit



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