Friday, May 8, 2009

My Friend: Gudrun Weisinger

First, some background on how to we came to move and live where we have.....

My husband and I lived in the Okanagan Valley for roughly 13 years. We had transferred there for his work as a railway engineer which was supposed to last for 5 years and we stayed much longer. I loved the Okanagan and the new weaving/ spinning friends I made there, so much so that when we moved back to the coast, I was quite 'wrenched' by the move away from friends. It seems that us 'rolling stones' had put down roots while we weren't watching. Oh, we didn't stop moving while we were there! We had our original rental home, then a better situation came up and we moved to the Winfield area, which is roughly half way between Vernon and Kelowna. We had a wonderful 180 degree view of the lake there. But it wasn't our home and the land lord, as nice as he was, was selling and we couldn't afford to buy that place. We did buy a cute place across the lake instead and had a lake view again.... but for four years we had a 45 minute drive in and out for anything! Mean while the well known summer heat ( it is a dry heat, with low humidity) seemed to be increasing each year. I don't do well with heat and quite wilted. It seemed we went from AC in the house to AC in the car... to AC in the shops and malls. The Shuswap area is north of Vernon by 20 or 30 minutes drive and was known for being cooler and more temperate. It also meant we were still reasonably close to friends and family. Well, this was the plan....

The day we moved into our new home in Blind Bay ( 28 km's west of Salmon Arm, BC) it was 38 degrees celsius. There was a large glass ceiling above the kitchen and the sink and taps were so hot, they burnt your hands to touch them! We eventually put a motorized roll shutter on it for shade. Sunsets were stunning and the night sky was beautiful. Here's a peek of the kitchen area ( roll shutter is down for shade this day):
The ladies of the local guild were not complete strangers to me as I had met many of them at potlucks and other events over the years. I was happy to join (and still a current member) of the Shuswap Spinners and Weavers Guild. It's a bit tough getting to meetings and such. I'd love to share some of them with you, but I can feel them squirm from here but for today, so I'm sharing one special weaver with you.
While they are all special, one weaver, Gudrun Weisinger, in particular became a close friend and we socialized frequently. Meet Gudrun.
This photo, taken by guild member Clare Fensom, was at boundweave class Gudrun held last year. This is a sample of Gudrun's boundweave that she sent me as a gift. Little swallows sitting on the power line or clothes line.

We had many lovely dinners together and one memorable evening, Gudrun played the piano and we enjoyed it *very* much. Gudrun also taught me how to make Schnitzel and we have it from time to time. I call it 'Gudrun's schnitzel'. Gudrun and her husband Alfred live near Bastion Mountain. The views from their lovely home are of the Shuswap lake and the city across the other side. I can recall the guild having spinning days there and some workshops.

Gudrun and I get along famously and we encourage each other with ideas for drafts and projects. You see, Gudrun is not just a casual weaver, but is in fact a bonafide German Master Weaver and so I felt quite privileged to take classes from her and to become friends and share ideas. I took four workshops with Gudrun ( and wish it was many more!): fabric analysis, Theo Mormon, huck lace and basic tapestry techniques. I came away loaded with information and refer to and use some of the techniques she taught.

Gudrun has a neat loom. It's an antique from Scotland ( if my memory serves me right) and was built in approximately 1932. A twelve shaft loom that has been 'adjusted' by Alfred to serve her needs and it's outfitted with a fly shuttle. It has large dark beams and reminds me of the old barn looms somehow, though not as big or boxy. She also has a Leclerc tapestry loom and there is also a unique all metal loom that she brings to workshops and is quite unusual to see. Sorry but I don't recall the manufacturer. { edit: Note from Gudrun: The metal loom is a designer loom, we had them in our school, they had up to 24 shafts. Mine 16, enough! I do not know the company who made them }
Gudrun's weaving is simply beautiful as you can imagine. I have some runners she wove in my home, as well as tea towels I use daily. Here's a picture I took today of kitchen towel that is in and out of my washer and dryer often and it still looks great! It's in 2/16's cotton.
Here are two pictures, taken by me this morning, of runners woven by Gudrun in my home.
Double weave in fine linens.... here's a close up:
This runner is in my guest room and is a 12 shaft pattern. You might recognise the edge treatment! I learned this from Gudrun. (The white things is a conch shell)
Now what gave me the inspiration do do this post and feature on Gudrun was a picture she sent me of a newly completed tapestry. With out a doubt, it is simply an amazing piece of work! Here is the tapestry in progress approximately 6 to 8 months ago. Gudrun had sent it to me to show me what she was up to:
I couldn't tell too much what the picture was going to be and simply saved the picture to look over another time. Then recently, we received this!

Don't those birch trees look real?! Here is a closer detail view:

I am certain that these pictures, although nice, simply don't do this work justice! I asked Gudrun to share a bit about herself, her education and the inspiration behind this tapestry:

Hi Susan,
Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.

I will tell you a little bit about the new tapestry:
Years ago, I found a picture in a calendar and cut it out.It was an autumn scene just like what I see when we drive along the Sunnybrae Road in September-October. The trees, with their yellow and red leaves and all the fall colors were the inspiration.. I will weave this one day when I am ready for it. That one day finally came and I started to warp my upright loom with cotton twine.
I ordered fine 20/2 wools in red shades, green shades, and yellow fine boucle for the leaves of the trees, I had a variety of colours in fine worsted wool as well as some shiny rayon (very thin), some linen, some silk and other fibers.
I mixed strands of the fine yarns together until the right shades were achieved, Also, I liked the tapestry to look like the photo and so I wove as many details as possible. Sometimes I added a "silly" colour just to show off. (It is almost not noticeable, but still there).

It was an exciting moment as I took the tapestry off the loom one year later.
I call the tapestry "Autumn in Sunnybrae"

My training:
My first year, I was an apprentice in a oriental carpet studio, repairing and weaving oriental rugs. After that year I went to the trade school in
Sindelfingen, (Meisterschule fuer das Weberhandwerk) near Stuttgart in Germany for two years, finishing the journeyman certificate. Later I have been in several studios in Germany learning to weave on a Damask-Jacquard loom, designing home textiles, clothing and weaving with linen, and using all different fibers. I have been a weaver in an convent in Baden Baden weaving tapestries and ecclesiastical items. After three years I went back to Sindelfingen for one year finishing my master degree in weaving and designing. In 1966 I immigrated to Canada.

I think you know the rest, I meet Alfred, get married, had the two boys. As soon as the boys went to school I started weaving and teaching again.

Thank you again, Gudrun

I would like to add that if you check your book shelves and magazines you may find that Gudrun has contributed to publications as well. You may find her 'gems' in Weavers' Magazine #18, page 21. 'More Snowflakes'.... weave a rhombus (part of series run on snowflake twills in issues #13 and #18. Also you can find pictures of Gudrun's table cloths on page 135 in Sigrid Piroch's book "The Magic of Hand Weaving: Basics and Beyond."

Gudrun and I would study sample or draft together and I can still hear her say " oh, this is easy, I show you", and she does! I always get the impression that weaving for Gudrun is a joyful experience and she is eager to share all of that joy with others.

{This post was re-edited from the original. Susan May 8th 2009}


Theresa said...

They do look real, the whole thing looks like a photo and so beautiful. I need to go pick my jaw back up.

bspinner said...

Thanks for sharing your history with us. You've always lived in beautiful locations. Two of my favorite things, trees and lakes.

I loved reading about Gudrun Weisinger!! What a wonderful talented lady!! You are so lucky to call her your friend. I'm going to have to find my copy of Sigrid's book and look at the pictures of Gudrun's table cloths. The towels you have pictured are so lovely and the tapestry is truly amazing. Beautiful!!

Adam said...

I've been enjoying your blog for a while, lurking quietly & loving that black/grey/red shawl, but I had to say something about Gudrun's tapestry: WOW. I was able to go to the Art Institute of Chicago's tapestry exhibition and was just in awe...and to see such wonderful work still being done is incredible. Thank you for sharing your work and hers!

Lynnette said...

Holy smoke! Gudrun's tapestry is wonderful, can she weave or what? It's kind of funny but when I was reading her bio I found myself hearing her and my mind superimposed the German accent! She is without a doubt one of the most beautiful weavers I have ever seen. I am the proud owner of 3 linen pieces that Gudrun woven in the past few years and they live in my special drawer. I dig them out and use them whenever someone who I think will appreciate them drops by and we stand there and oooh and ahhhh - such a gifted lady.

Sunrise Lodge Fiber Studio said...

Oh my gosh! I'm simply amazed!! What an honor it must be to have a friend who is willing to share so much time and talent;) ....and thank YOU for sharing this post!!!!

Dorothy said...

This post is beautifully written and I enjoyed discovering your friend Gudrun and her excellent weaving. Thank you.

Susan said...

Thank you all for your great comments! I guess you can see why I wanted to feature Gudrun and her weaving. I'm lucky to have such great weaving buddies and I don't take this for granted. It's a privledge :)

Today (for many reasons) was a challenging one and your kind words were much appreciated.


Life Looms Large said...

Thanks for sharing so much of Gudrun's work. What a fabulous weaver!

The tapestry is amazing!!

Thanks for sharing!!


Leola's Studio said...

Inspiring - it is hard to believe it is tapestry - I want to see it for real.....WOW