Katharine Swailes and Caron Penney: The Language of Weaving

Opening 5 March on display until 1 June 2024

Katharine Swailes and Caron Penney are artists, tapestry weavers, and educators. Alongside their drawings and paintings, they create wall-based artworks using the ancient technique of handwoven tapestry. Swailes and Penney met at the West Dean Tapestry Studio, where they were professional master weavers for nearly twenty years. Today, they work alongside each other in their studio in the Arun Valley, West Sussex.

As a couple and working partners, they share a passion for the traditional practice of tapestry weaving and its development and recognition as an art form. This locates them within a historical network of women artists and designers whose work in the field of textiles is slowly being recognised for its artistic contribution to the development of contemporary art and designin this country.

The exhibition contains 15 woven tapestries alongside drawings, sketchbooks and materials. In this exhibition, Swailes presents two series of works, Glyphs and Loops and Colourfield tapestries and Penney presents her abstract grid and text-based work.

About Katharine Swailes

Cumbrian born Swailes now based in West Sussex, works from the studios of Atelier Weftfaced. Swailes produces wall based handwoven abstract tapestries, a minimal number of techniques and materials are used on these works. She uses traditional materials wool linen cotton and gilt. A woven cotton warp castellated selvedges create the top and bottom of the works, a reference to her past creating costume, from linens cottons. Swailes draws inspiration from the history and process of weaving, particularly antiquity and the pre-columbian America’s. Swailes studied at West Dean College, on a then postgraduate course in tapestry weaving (1998-2000), before working for West Dean Tapestry Studio. Here she worked on prestigious commissions including the Stirling Castle tapestries 2001-2013 as Master Weaver and Designer, along side developing her own practice and exhibiting.

Swailes works are held in National, and private collections in the UK and abroad. Swailes was shortlisted for the Cordis prize in 2016 and 2019, Kate Derum Award, 2019, Theo Moorman Award, recipient 2016.

About Caron Penney

Caron Penney’s tapestries are grid locked. A love of pattern, systems, and repetition are central to her hand woven textiles. At the core of her work are references to street architecture and structural comparisons between the warp and the weft. Surrounded by pattern, the urban landscape feeds Penney’s interest in humanity. Penney’s ideas develop through observation, photography, sketches and the resulting tapestries.

She studied Constructed Textiles at Middlesex University, graduating with a BA (Hons). After working as a professional weaver for twenty years she opened her own studio in 2013. She has been featured in House & Garden magazine in November 2017 and Crafts Magazine in July/Aug 2018. She was a selected artist for the Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition in 2014 and 2020 and has exhibited widely.

Penney uses the same limited range of materials traditionally used to make handwoven tapestry, worsted wool and gilt gold threads, with the addition of dyed cotton warp which edge the finely woven pieces. She has a deep understanding of hand woven tapestry techniques and her resulting tapestries continue to be embraced by the training she acquired as a professional weaver.

Caron is a Directory Maker of the Crafts Council.

Summary... Tapestry weaving has a long, rich history, which is becoming recognised for its artistic contribution to contemporary art and design development. Experience the abstract and text-based hand-woven contemporary artworks of leading tapestry weaving artists Katharine Swailes and Caron Penney.

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