A friend of mine invited me to visit Helena Hernmarck’s tapestry studio yesterday. She had been introduced to Helena through her current tapestry mentor in the mentoring program of ATA (American Tapestry Alliance), and she invited me to join her! Meeting Helena Hernmarck has been on my ‘list’ for at least a decade. I have a few acquaintances in common with Helena, and I even used to live in the same town. But none of these connections had panned out or paid off as the years went by. Yesterday was pay dirt!
My first exposure to Helena’s work was seeing a photograph of her from what I think was the 19060s, standing in front of her large tapestry of Little Richard. I was so impressed, but that quickly took a back seat to the tapestries that came off her looms in later years. When I bought her book a few years back I saw photographs of her recently completed studio in Ridgefield, CT. I even knew the man who helped design it, and he promised to make an introduction for me…. Well, everything comes in its own time, doesn’t it?
What a thrill to see this wall of color in person…. I was mermerized by it almost as much as by some of the tapestries hanging in Helena’s studio. She has two upcoming exhibitions, one at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC, and one at the the textile museum in Minneapolis.
I have always been fascinated by the weft floats in her tapestries, due to the use of weave structures other than plain weave. The floats not only give a texture to her work, but also such a saturation of color, making strong highlights and deep shadows. So effective! I struggle to convey light and shadow within plain weave…. it boggles my mind to think of also trying to place color with floats as well. Ever since I’ve seen Helena’s work I have wanted to try this technique of weaving tapestry with structures other than plain weave.
In her current work she is using a double cloth structure that allows her to continue to have floats on the surface of the tapestry, so integral to her way of conveying imagery, along with with the ability to add some structural integrity to the back of her pieces by having a second layer with a weft that can add structural rigidity to the fabric. By doing this her finished works hang flat against the wall! Brilliant!
I enjoyed her enthusiasm in telling us about her work, about the connections she’s made over the years. She is on my very short list of weavers I’d love to study with! There is a glimmer of hope that this could happen! She hinted that she might need help winding on a large warp….. I’m there!