Katharine Swailes


Memory and reflection, are important with Katharine Swailes abstract colour studies in handwoven tapestry.

Working intuitively with colour, Katharine reflects on a childhood in the texture and colour of a rich Cumbrian landscape, time spent exploring and walking with her parents (an artist and a local historian) observing land traces, flora and fauna. All these have informed the artist’s approach to observation.

Now living and working in the Sussex countryside these tapestries are inspired by the landscape and the meditative activity of weaving. The abstract image is arrived at by implementing a minimal number of processes to create the image, the subtle colour enhanced by carefully blended wool weft yarns.

The wool and cotton materials lead Katharine’s approach to these colourfield tapestries and are constructed from hand-dyed worsted wools. This fibre is a central part of the artist’s life now, as it was in childhood. These long connections help her focus inward to a slowing meditative process of handwoven tapestry. Drawing from a limited supply of wool yarns, newly dyed yarn supplement and bring together this woollen palette. Dyeing is an important part of her practice, creating colour families for each project. On this series, the artist introduces one strand of bamboo yarn or cotton to create a reflection on the surface, the opposite of the light-absorbing wool, creating a movement.

Katharine is exploring tapestry weaving without the constructs of formal pattern that are found in traditional tapestry. To sit and weave for a day focusing only on the passing of the weft through the warp, a meditative process through repetition. Butterflies of weft are selected at random letting them weave together, the tones and shades playing off each other as she focuses on the calm surface, allowing these weft yarns to reveal the path of her weaving process. The butterflies are the way in which the weft is held as it is passed through the warp, these are made before the weaving of the day. Seven strands of wool create one weft each strand can be the same colour or different.

These works are about the internal landscape as much as the one inhabited, with all the hues tones and texture, mixing finding tranquillity in processes known and inhabited for decades.


See Katharine's Work in Our Textile Feature