Seeking form in woven textiles by Hannah Robson

A piece from 'Opening Narratives' 2018

We were very intrigued to hear from artist, weaver and lace maker Hannah Robson this afternoon at Harrogate Creative Stitchers.  We were also very glad the talk went ahead at all, as we had a last minute change of venue due to unforeseen circumstances and thankfully our local library was able to accommodate us!

Very few  of us in the group have experience in weaving or lace making, but in any case, Hannah’s work is at the cutting edge of contemporary weaving.  She combines a range of technologies and materials to create two and three dimensional sculptures, installations and cloth, pushing the boundaries of what we might consider to be fabric.  Hannah is inspired by the spatial qualities of textiles, its transparency and form, and how light reflects and filters through the material.  Her considerable training and knowledge in weaving combined with her mathematical thinking allow Hannah to combine complex techniques and technologies into some amazing sculptural weaves which she was able to share with us today.

Hannah speaking to us at the Harrogate Library

Hannah’s talk began with her speaking about her MA at the Royal College of Art which started with a fascination of windows.  She created paper cuts and a collection of semi-transparent textiles in blue and gold, working in three dimensions and playing with light, shadow, transparency and diagonals.  She drew on her previous experience of working in different ways of construction in cloth and textiles when in Germany and was able to take this new angle and incorporate it back into hand weaving.

Copper lace work

Hannah also enjoys lace making where she is able to go free-form and explore three dimensions unlike loom weaving.  She passed around a lace technique sample made from copper wire (above).  Her final MA pieces entitled ‘Seeking Form’ used traditional textural processes with unconventional materials combining lacing and weave and are very sculptural.  One of the pieces involved a very large loom and a stainless steel warp resulting in a 150 x 150 x 150 cm three dimensional sculpture, the largest Hannah has made to date!

Seeking Form (taken from Hannah's website)

Her first big project after graduating was for Craft Council’s Collect Open at the Saatchi Gallery.   This collection used the traditional loom and lace making techniques, again working with metal.  Hannah created panels with 3D ‘fizzles’ of sculpture and looping.

From Collect Open 2018

In 2018, Hannah was asked to exhibit at Hauser and Wirth’s first craft based gallery space and show in Bruton, Somerset.  This work called 'Opening Narratives', went back to flatter pieces but still played with themes of light and form with materials such as paper, horse hair and linen and how these materials can break away from woven surfaces imposed by the loom. (See opening image)

In 2019 at the Huguenot Museum and Rochester Art Gallery, Hannah was asked to create pieces for a solo show, Bizarre & Curious Silks,  a project tracing the influence of Huguenot silk weaving in Britain. She studied textile archives and Spitalfields silk weavers and worked with David Walters Fabrics to develop three jacquard fabrics based on her research.

A piece from Bizarre and Curious Silks (taken from Hannah's website)

Another body of work called 'Seeking Silence' was commissioned by Aesop skincare for a product launch.  Hannah had to produce a collection of textiles representing words such as soothed, smooth, dryness and itchiness, giving her the opportunity to create some very textural work of which she was able to show a sample.

Sample from Seeking Silence

During Covid, Hannah went back to the loom and started to explore ideas about connection and intersection in a piece called 'Depending'.  Woven as one continuous piece, two and a half metres long, thousands of lines of thread join, intersect and hang from each other in an articulated sculpture made of a nylon warp and copper wefts.  Hannah says she was able to complete the piece by doing little and often, where 5cm would be considered a good day!

Depending (taken from Hannah's website)

A further piece of work commissioned by Sunny Bank Mills in 2021, gave Hannah the opportunity to explore further structures that could be created by woven paper forms.  The work named ‘Furrow’ resulted in a large scale 2m tall woven sculpture.  Hannah brought some smaller 'Paper Forms' of similar structures to show us.

Samples from 'Lacunae' and 'Paper Forms'

Finally, the Jacquard Project, an Arts Council funded project, saw the revival of a unused jacquard loom at Bradford College, where Hannah is a lecturer in woven textile design.  This involved servicing and fixing the machine with help from weavers who once served their apprenticeships in Bradford.  Once up and running, the loom was used to produce woven pieces in collaboration with four other artists from varied disciplines.  This allowed Hannah to extend her practise and share skills, resources and explore new ideas.  The Jacquard Project was shown Sunny Bank Mills in March 2023.

The Jacquard Project (taken from Hannah's website)

We were so fascinated by Hannah’s talk and her contemporary sculptural weaves.  They have a simple and transparent beauty about them but are also mind boggling and complex!  She is certainly an incredibly talented artist, pushing the boundaries of weaving and textiles and we were very fortunate to have her speak to us today.