This is the second in a series of articles from the members of our "Spreading our Wings" group, a collaborative group inspired by the RSPB bird reserve at Minsmere and the installation "A Wing and a Prayer" by Arabella Marshall. 
Ruth Holt, a weaver, tells us about her reasons for joining the group, the benefits of collaboration and the direction her work is now taking. 
"I am a designer maker of woven textiles and have always focussed on making wearable cloth. I weave in silk and wool with an eye to handle and drape as much as color and texture. I have a passion for the look and feel of high quality silk textiles and for the traditions and history which lie behind them. I work in a quiet studio without much daily contact with other artists or craft makers. Weaving is my second career, previously I worked in an academic environment where collaboration was key to success and workplaces were busy and needed to be well ordered. 
I had three reasons to join this project. During student life (at RCA) we were given the opportunity to work together across disciplines, a project I valued for the window it offered into other places. In the same way I was attracted to Spreading Our Wings by the opportunity to learn about and collaborate with other craft makers. Minsmere is an inspirational place, a part of the surrounding Suffolk landscape, so using that as a starting point was also an essential part of the attraction. The third reason for my joining the project was to do with Suffolk Craft Society itself. The Society does not have a particular tradition of working on collaborative projects and I saw Spreading our Wings as carrying great potential not only for society makers to work with each other but also to be a part of an overarching collaboration between the Society and partners such as the RSPB at this iconic site. It represents an opportunity for personal development for Makers taking part and a forward looking focus for all. 
I have been especially fascinated by the history and significance of Minsmere. I found it to be environmentally diverse and complex, the paradoxes and the contradictions enshrined in the landscape clear from the first. Researching the history of the site uncovered a series of narratives old and new which added greater understanding of what it now represents. 
An advantage of the project is that it has offered time and impetus to develop new work. 
Turning away from wearable scarves I have made and am making work that is more strongly art based. I have worked with Helen Maxfield to make an installation piece for positioning in one of the hides on site. This has used fine fabric dyed and printed to add subtle layers to a large 2D image. The effect is to add an unexpected new dimension, there are half seen images and an emphasis on atmospheric effects. A reflection of the many layered surrounding landscape. 
My next planned work is contemplative. Taking the form of three wall hangings, hung as a series, the work is to offer an abstract meditation on the nature and significance of Minsmere. 
The work I have made and am making for the Spreading our Wings project has been a new direction. Art works differ from clothing and carry a very different significance and value. The cloth I make is abstract with a vocabulary that relies on colour, texture, handle and weight for its effect. Avoiding visual imagery my work needs to be what it is, to derive from mood and atmosphere rather than attempt more direct representation. 
Minsmere is a mixture of manmade and natural structures and at the level of materials and practice I see my work metaphorically in parallel. Thus I have used modern forms of natural materials. Weaving is a deeply traditional process but my loom is complex and has some computer support. The colourings I have used include both natural and commercial dyestuffs but I have used traditional ikat methods to achieve subtlety. 
Taking part in Spreading our Wings has provided new and enriching experience that has potential for my future practice. It has been extremely rewarding to work as part of a group, offering greater understanding of others’ practice." 
Ruth Holt 
Warp on the warping beam
Warp drying after dyeing
Tagged as: Spreading our Wings
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