The Making of a Tapestry
The Yellowstone to Yukon Tapestry Series
By Doris Florig

Spring of 2010, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I had the good fortune of moving into a shared studio space with landscape painter, Dwayne Harty. His space was full of painting being completed for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Project. His use of color and texture caught my eye, especially the painting of the “Gates to the Nahanni”. It looked so much like a tapestry, I couldn’t help wanting to reproduce it in wool. I presented the idea to Dwayne and Harvey Locke, the founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Their positive response was all I needed. This project was especially exciting because it meant that I would be following the traditional protocol used in the Middle Ages.
Ever since reading WORLD TAPESTRY, by Madeleine Jarry, I have been intrigued by the idea of creating a tapestry following the traditional procedures. In the Middle Ages every castle had a courtyard artist. The painter made the cartoon [design] and then turned the project over to the tapestry weaver. The tapestry project then became a collective art that could be compared to the performance of a symphony, the composer being the cartoon painter and the weavers the musicians.
I saw the Gates to the Nahanni painting as a composition created by Dwayne, the composer, with me transposing his work into my own musical style. It was to become my interpretation of Dwayne’s work of art.
The Cartoon and Choosing Colors
Not many weavers have the luxury of working with a cartoonier or care to work with the design restrictions expected when tied to a designer [cartoonier]. Creating the design, choosing the color and the desired technique is as exciting as the process of weaving. But, every now and then I see a painting that has brush strokes that stand out as representing a warp and a weft. I can’t help wanting to see the art work represented as a tapestry. Of course, being a modern day woman, I would not be expected to work with the restrictions that were required of the ateliers of the Middle Ages. I would have the freedom to choose my own style and colors.

In order to fairly represent THE GATES OF THE NAHANNI, I needed a good cartoon. Again, taking advantage of being a modern day women, I had a 51”x 43” black and white copy made from a photo of the original painting. The resolution of the large copy was terrible but was all I needed or wanted. It provided outline shapes and shading but no detail. It would give me plenty of freedom to develop my sense of color and interest in text.

Experimenting and choosing the colors is always very exciting and satisfying. Years ago, I would go into a yarn shop, become discouraged and walk out lacking confidence in making color choices. I felt I didn’t have a gift for working with color. After I learned the skill of dyeing my own yarns, I realized that finding harmony in color was easy. It was all right there before my eye. The slightly damp powdered pigment displayed all the particle of pigment used to make up the color. I discovered an amazing range of color choices that would overflow the available space in a yarn shop. I dye more yarn than I need for a one project. Sometimes I pull beautiful colors out of the dye pot and immediately know that they won’t work for the tapestry in mind, but it doesn’t matter because at the same time I am building a palette of color for another project. I find comfort in working with natural dyes, especially identifying and collecting of the species. The act of prospecting for natural dye materials has opened my eyes to my environment. I am constantly aware of my surroundings. This awareness has lead me to new and different places. Natural dyeing does have its limitations. Plants are seasonal; therefore, when a specific color is not available, I switch to the use of synthetic dyes. I could purchase natural dye extracts, but for me, the reason for working with natural dyes is to be immersed in nature. What excites me most is the opportunity to dye with noxious weeds. In every state, invasive species have infested millions of acres. The departments of Agriculture are desperately trying to eradicate these plants. The weeds are destroying natural forage and altering normal ecological processes. Harvesting this public nuisance has given me the opportunity to turn something so destructive into a positive endeavor.

Please visit our friends at the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative