Dovecot Studios operate in the traditional studio model of employing and training weavers. As one of the only studios in the world operating this way, Dovecot’s Apprentice Programme is unique in its teaching of the art of tapestry weaving.
Ben Hymers joined Dovecot as an apprentice in 2014, undertaking training over three years. Dovecot’s apprenticeships date back to its founding in 1912, and the sharing of skills and knowledge from master to apprentice remains key. The teaching methods remain remarkably similar, beginning with simple triangular and curved forms, before tackling more involved compositions and techniques.
An important part of Dovecot’s current apprenticeships is for the new weaver to produce a completed and self-designed apprentice piece. Hymers’ piece, Penelope, takes its name from the wife of Odysseus whose faithfulness to her husband on his long journey was maintained by her weaving, secretly unravelling, and then reweaving a burial shroud for Odysseus’ father Laertes. Because of this faithfulness the name Penelope is considered synonymous with fidelity, but it also became a term used in tapestry. This tapestry demonstrates various weaving techniques, while also highlighting Hymers’ skill for tapestry design and affinity for delving into the history of mechanics and weaving to inform his practice.