I always wanted to paint. I came to weaving later in life. It is now a passion.
Weaving, like painting, has been practiced for millennia.
Weaving was traditionally thought of as ‘just’ a craft. Not so very long ago, painting used to be taught as a craft, too. If weaving was to be an art form it had some catching up to do. This has been happening since the mid-20th century with figures such as Anni Albers, Peter Collingwood, and Sheila Hicks.
But there is still some persuading to do in the wider world that thread can be seen as line, that a piece of cloth does not need to be useable and can be a piece of art. I see my work in this context.
© Philip King Photography
I explore the painterly and sculptural qualities of yarns and fibres within the relatively constraining context of my shaft looms. I am pushing these limitations to achieve vivid expression in this unfamiliar medium. My pieces evolve intuitively and I use yarns and fibres as lines of paint, each with its own colour as well as textural characteristics. I often leave the materials I use hanging off the sides as I think it is interesting for people to see what they are and how each one ‘behaves’ when unconstrained.
For me, the shaft looms I use provide a tensioned ‘canvas’ in the warp necessary to construct a cloth but I allow yarns to breathe with an often very loosely woven weft. Once released from the loom, the looseness softens or even dissolves traditional angularity of weaves and allows for natural movement, fluidity, expression which are all key to my work.
Much of my subject matter is connected to nature which is full of fluctuating shapes and irregular formations such trees, the sea, clouds etc, even red ants’ heaps. They may be in constant flux but create an impression of steadiness, coherence. I often sacrifice the traditional stability of cloth for maximum expressiveness whilst maintaining this coherence, trying to weave pieces of art that feel like objects come to life.
Artist Julia Engelhardt in conversation with Lizzie Collins, Owner and Director of Zuleika Gallery,
Woodstock; published online May 2022
Profile by Esther Lafferty, first published in The Oxford Times: Oxfordshire Limited Edition magazine May 2018
‘Julia Engelhardt Wins the OFA Competition’, published in OxMagazine, online only in March/April 2020 due to the pandemic
Online Oxford Festival of the Arts programme for 2020, not printed due to the pandemic