Interview: Elizabeth Cumming - curator of Weaving the Century

Dovecot’s centenary exhibition of taperstries

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Interview: Elizabeth Cumming - curator of Weaving the Nation

David Hockney A Tapestry made from a Painting, made from a Painting of a Tapestry, made from a Painting (Play within a Play) (1970) Photo: Richard Schmidt

There are over 60 tapestries in the Dovecot’s centenary exhibition. What has struck you most about the work?

The sheer diversity of the designs and the many imaginative ways the weavers interpreted the designs. It was much more varied and stronger than I had realised. I am full of admiration for weavers’ skills but they bring so much more to the work. Their interpretations are highly individual and often worked in close conversation with the artists, a rich dialogue of ideas.

What shared themes have emerged?

I guess the first section of the show, which looks at the first half century to the very early 1960s has tapestries which are generally figurative and extremely romantic. Then a tapestry would be largely image-based. Later on Eduardo Paolozzi, Harold Cohen and Archie Brennan were intrigued by popular culture of the 1960s. Those are the times when there was more cohesion of any ‘style’ (though their pieces are incredibly individual).

Is the exhibition arranged chronologically?

Yes, but fairly generally. It is three rooms, each of which looks at a period in Dovecot’s history – 1912 to 1960, the 1960s to mid-1980s, and work since then. These show the many directions the studio has taken – the character of the work is always changing and this gives it its vibrancy.

Is weaving once again thriving as an art form?

Of course! The dialogues with artists are ongoing. The exhibition includes not only more tradiitonal tapestry made this summer but pieces where tapestry is an element in different kinds of art objects – I am thinking here of Claire Barclay’s installation work and jeweller David Poston’s delicate constructions. Here again the weavers can work closely with the partner artist.

Elizabeth Cumming is curator of Weaving the Nation, Dovecot, Edinburgh, until Sun 7 Oct.

Weaving the Century: Tapestry from Dovecot Studios 1912–2012

  • 3 stars

Dovecot Studios celebrates 100 years of championing the finest contemporary work in tapestry, as part of its ongoing centenary series.

Weaving the Century: Tradition and Modernity at Dovecot Studios

The evolution of Edinburgh's tapestry studio is explored in this talk by Elizabeth Cumming. Part of Edinburgh Art Festival.

A Tapestry of Many Threads

McCall Smith's succinct libretto is spun by composer Tom Cunningham into gorgeous tuneful melodies that linger' ★★★★★ (The Okavango Macbeth, Scotsman). Alexander McCall Smith and composer Tom Cunningham celebrate a century of vibrant and colourful Dovecot tapestries in the world premiere of this dramatised production…

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