• Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: Wind Dance
    Dovecot Studios
    Wind Dance (detail)

Wind Dance was made at Dovecot Studios in 2011 after one of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham's later abstract works. Barns-Graham (1912-2004) was one of the few sort of proponents of abstraction in Scotland. 

The rug was tufted by Dovecot Master Weaver Jonothan Cleaver. The first stage of any tapestry or rug project is sampling, to test colour mixes, shades and details. After initial sampling Cleaver decided to have wool custom dyed for this project as commercially available blues were far from satisfactory. Dovecot worked with a Yorkshire yarn spinner and Selkirk dyehouse to produce the wool that has been used in the finished rug.

Dyeing colours for tufting is different to dyeing colours for weaving. It is a peculiarity of the medium that the cut ends of the wool appear darker in tone than the wool when seen side-on. So wool which is dyed to the right strength of colour might appear too dark when cut; conversely a colour of a light enough tone may lack the strength of colour and appear drab. Several samples were dyed and rejected before blues were produced that satisfied both Cleaver and the dyehouse.

It’s fairly unusual for Dovecot to use single, unblended, colour in our work, preferring the variation and liveliness that mixing together coloured yarns brings to the image. In Wind Dance the reds, which have such an important role in the initial impact of the image, are actually a blend of two red wools – one bluer and one more orange – which set off a sort of internal quiver which is amplified by the blues. Similarly the component colours of the pale blue line appear flat and unrelated when seen individually, but vibrant when mixed. Even the black is one third navy blue to marry it to the background. Mixing yarns in this way, working ‘by eye’ and referencing the original artwork, means we can create a work that is responsive to the gesture and subtlety of the image.

Wind Dance is currently on display in our exhibition Scottish Women Artists: 250 Years of Challenging Perception, from 28 July 2023– 6 Jan 2024.

Commissioned by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

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