Alison Watt's 'Butterfly' tapestry released from loom

20 May 2014

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Alison Watt's 'Butterfly' tapestry released from loom
Alison Watt and Naomi Robertson with 'Butterfly'

The collaboration between Dovecot Studios and Scottish Opera to produce the Butterfly tapestry by Alison Watt for the new foyers of the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, has reached completion with a ‘cutting off’ ceremony at Dovecot on Monday 19 May 2014.

The Butterfly tapestry, designed by Alison Watt and the weaving led by Dovecot Master Weaver Naomi Robertson, was unveiled during a private ceremony with 60 guests in attendance at Dovecot Studios. Scottish Opera soprano Catrin Aur, currently singing in Scottish Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly performed Un bel di – an aria from the opera. Speeches were made by David Weir, Director of Dovecot Studios and Alex Reedijk, General Director of Scottish Opera. Keeping with tradition, the weavers did not cut the tapestry from the loom. The warp threads were cut by Alastair Salvesen, Chairman of Dovecot Studios and Elizabeth Salvesen, Company Director of Dovecot Studios; both Trustees of the Dovecot Foundation, Ian Roberston, Chair of Theatre Royal Board and Colin McClatchie, Chair of Scottish Opera Board aswell as the artist Alison Watt. This allowed the weavers to unroll the tapestry from the loom to reveal the Butterfly weave in its entirety. This was the first time that the whole tapestry could be viewed, and was an emotionally charged moment for the weavers, artist and collaborators. At the heart of the image, and emblematic of Watt’s work, is a dark and powerful central fold from which rich colour flows – the saturation of colour in the yarn is striking. Watt’s main impetus for Butterfly derives from the tragic story of Cio-Cio San, the central character to Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly. Taking inspiration from an obi, the sash worn as part of a Japanese kimono, the design of the tapestry references Oriental art and is feminine and sumptuous whilst conveying the drama of Cio-Cio San’s fate.

The ‘cutting off’ of the tapestry marks a significant step in its journey. The completed tapestry will be the largest piece of public art to occupy the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. It will hang over three floors in the new foyers and is expected to draw visitors to the new-look theatre which, from summer 2014, will be open to the public during the day.

The Butterfly tapestry project was led by Dovecot Master Weaver Naomi Robertson and was the first tapestry commission Junior Weaver Freya Sewell had the opportunity to weave following the completion of her three year apprenticeship training in autumn 2013. Watt worked with Naomi Robertson and Dovecot to create the tapestry based on her design which started with sample making and colour choosing. This collaborative process began in January 2013 with weaving beginning in August 2013.

More photographs from the cutting off ceremony are featured on Creative Scotland’s website.

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