Maureen Hodge is exhibiting in Entangled: Threads and Making until 7 May 2017
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Maureen Hodge talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and her favourite part of the making process
Who or what got you into making?
I’m not sure if anyone specific got me into making. When I was wee I drew a lot, though I can’t remember anyone commenting on it, unlike the criticism of my dreadful sewing and knitting, but more time was spent “making” things, badly - like “guiders” - go-carts with little wheels à la Oor Wullie, that never ran straight - or tree houses, made out of junk tied up with rope, which always collapsed under the weight of a gang of small children.
I went to art college more or less by default, failed to be picked for Fashion in II year, and unwilling to do all the life modelling in Sculpture I opted for Stained Glass, probably because I had recently been stunned by the beauty of Chartres Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle.
Sax Shaw, a former Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Tapestry Co (Dovecot) was in charge and Archie Brennan, a Master Weaver was doing a post-grad. By my post-grad, I had abandoned Stained Glass altogether and had set off weaving my black tapestries, in contrast to my clear stained glass.
On graduation I went to the Dovecot to weave Archie’s tapestries. My arrival both as a girl and as a college “trained” weaver was not greeted with much enthusiasm by the seven-year, apprentice-trained male master weavers. They could reproduce anything in tapestry and were far more skilled than I was and I had to work hard to try to catch up.
Traditional in their outlook they all wove from the back of the loom, I sat at the front; but within a year I was weaving on tapestries by Hans Tisdall and later Eduardo Paolozzi, Harold Cohen and a series of US painters as well as doing the samples produced during the translation of the designs/paintings into the cartoons used in the weaving of the tapestries. In the meantime the “boys” had joined me at the front of the loom. I left in 1973 to become Head of Tapestry at Edinburgh College of Art, working there until 2006.
Tell us a bit about your work
I weave gobelin tapestries, usually dark in hue, indeed mostly limited to a range of blacks, often with pile and texture. I work on quite a large scale but because of the number of mini-textiles shows, both in the UK and abroad in recent years, I have also made many small, even tiny tapestries.
What are your inspirations?
As a starting point, but only as a starting point, I find inspiration in the landscape of my childhood, in the contours of the land and its textures - the contrast of earth and sky and water. But maps and memories also play their part, phrases, even a few words, from work by poets like Anna Akhmatova and Zbigniew Herbert - often something only relevant to me but important to keep me interested and move the work on. This point of departure is generally left far behind however as the ideas expand and contract in the long process that follows. Sax Shaw said the designing should take as long as the weaving. I’m not sure I completely subscribe to that but its somewhere in that direction.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
Getting started is always exciting, as is finishing - if the idea has come off. But getting things right or solving a problem is fun too. Perhaps gobelin weaving is addictive. It is certainly not calming as visitors to the Dovecot always used to say. Indeed I have found that most tapestry weavers are fairly impatient people so I should add speed weaving can be great fun too, seeing just how quickly you can get through a bit, how many square feet can you do in a day/week - like the jokey speed trials we used to do occasionally at college, to show people just how fast you could go, and still do a good job!
What are you working on right now?
I am working on things to submit for Artapestry5 and on an idea for Arte&Arte’s mini-textil and I have a commission on hold as I try to source some black goat hair, similar to what the Multiple Fabric Co in Bradford used to stock. I am also in the exhibition Entangled: Threads & Making, which has just opened at the Turner Contemporary at Margate.
See Maureen's work in Entangled:Threads and Making at Turner Contemporary until 7 May 2017.