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Artist Statement 

I have chosen the medium of the woven cloth to address concerns which have been brought on by pollution and overpopulation, and by the very nature of man himself.  The meanings and messages meant to be conveyed in these works are of a social and moral nature.  They are visual comments on humankind's values, behaviors, conditions, and foibles, and their impact on society and the environment; and they are created with the hope that some day, somewhere, someone will see the work and think about the issues which need addressing on our planet and in our lives, and will initiate such actions that will make our world a better place in which to live.  

Liz Kuhn with cartoon over loom

The objective of the artist when trying to convey meaning is that the viewers will understand the message.  Indonesian Ship cloths represent a woven form which is very successful in conveying meaning.  The weavers of the Ship Cloths, members of a maritime culture, used the depiction of a ship as their central motif, filling in the areas around the ship with images of the flora and fauna found in their native land, air, and sea.  The composition was edged with very decorative borders, often comprised of floral motifs.  The resulting weaving is a representation of their culture and environment.  I have appropriated the Ship Cloth weavers' use of familiar imagery from everyday experience and surroundings in order to convey messages and meanings in my own weavings.  Whereas the borders of a Ship Cloth are purely for the framing of the central composition, the borders of my weavings not only frame the inner section; but through the choice of motifs used in them, expand upon the idea conveyed in the inner section to form a unified composition.

Having borrowed the ideas of familiar imagery and a decorative border from Indonesian Ship Cloth weavers, my current format most closely resembles that of a traditional appliqué quilt square, with its symmetry and systematic repetition.  Choosing images which refer to the subject being depicted, multiple copies of each motif are arranged to form a pattern, which corresponds to the design of a quilt square.  To further enhance the topic, additional motifs reinforcing the theme are chosen for the borders, then arranged in a repetitive design, making the message of the weaving complete.

Preparing the Designs

The designs for the weavings since 1996 have been generated on a computer using the Freehand program.  My preferred method of working is to make line drawings, either from scratch or from pre-existing photographs, and then to scan these line drawings into the computer.  A line is then traced around each scanned image with the Freehand drawing tool, and the original scanned image is then deleted, as the shape made with the Freehand tool requires much less computer resource.  With a complex portrait, it is sometimes easier to scan in the whole photograph and to trace the line drawing and details directly from the scanned photograph,  From there the computer-traced drawings can be manipulated into the finished pattern or design by means of duplicating, resizing, rotating, flipping, and distorting the various images on the screen to arrive at a satisfactory design.  The color list and color mixer windows are then employed to work out the final color scheme of the composition.

Because my designs require exactness in the placement of the images in the cloth, I find it very helpful to transfer the design to graph paper.  First the desired finished size of the weaving is determined so that the percentage of the enlargement of the drawing needed to transfer the design to the graph paper can be calculated.  Detailed, precise imagery requires that each vertical row of spaces on the graph represents one warp, and each horizontal row of spaces represents one weft.  After laying the blown-up design under the graph paper, and then mapping the parameters of the inner section and borders onto the paper, it is then possible to count precisely how many warps and wefts will be needed for each section of the piece; at which point it is possible to proceed with yarn calculations, skeining, and dying.  Once the graph is completed and loom is warped (see photo above), the weaver can proceed to count the spaces both in and between the images on the graph for exact replication of the design.  By crossing off each row on the graph paper as its corresponding pick is completed in the cloth, the weaver always knows where she is in the execution of the design.

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