Interview with Hannah Waldron

Hannah Waldron’s weavings translate the dynamism of modern architecture and cityscapes into fabric design…

Hannah exhibited ‘Span IV’  as part of WEAVE IT!. The spans series links archetypal textile design language with the built environment. The compression and extension in the compositions continues Hannah’s interest in high speed travel, rhythm, and acceleration in relation to the process of hand weaving. 

The pieces echo the vantage points offered by abandoned rail lines transformed into leisurely pedestrian routes and reflect both the skeletal remnants of manufacturing infrastructure and its latent potential for small-scale renewal. Jade French found out more about Hannah’s handwoven tapestry technique, her connections to Bauhaus and the stories told by each thread…  

Could you give us some insight into who you are and what you do?

I am an artist and designer, currently predominantly working in the medium of textiles and specifically weaving. I exhibit my weavings regularly to international audiences and work to commission.

What does ‘craft’ or the ‘decorative’ mean to you?

Craft is a technological and aesthetic intelligence towards material and decorative implies to me an embellishment.

How and when did you become inspired by the Bauhaus weaving workshop?

I started to weave in 2010 whilst I was living in Berlin, after seeing the works at the Bauhaus archive of artists like Gunta Stolzl and Anni Albers, and sensing in those works a fresh kind of articulation I hadn’t seen before, and I felt very drawn to this kind of language. The way I was drawing at the time used a lot of horizontal and vertical repetitive lines, so the grid-like-language of the loom felt appropriate.

What does weaving allow you to do that another medium might not?

This would be an inexhaustible list! There are limitless possibilities inherent within the realm of weaving. But perhaps one obvious one that often isn’t possible in other mediums, is that it allows you to make both the structure and the surface at one, you construct the textile out of loose threads, and it’s a metamorphosis quite different from other transformative mediums.

What types of techniques are you drawn to most in your work?

I use soumak technique quite a lot which is a way of embroidering within weaving to ‘draw’ lines. I also really like using a slit technique rather than interlocking, as it gives cleaner edges and I think gives the weaving more life.

Does weaving inherently allow for exploring space and place – especially when it comes to your work on an architectural scale?

I believe so, there are many connections in many different cultures between the act of weaving and stories of creation and when you weave, you create a structure in a very linear manner so the act of time passing is very visible within the work.

Hannah Waldron: Poster for Herman Miller

What kind of stories do you want to tell with your work? How does craft allow for that storytelling?

In the weavings I create by hand, I tend to work with my own experiences of different places – acting as kinds of subjective maps or personal monuments to memories I want to translate into form. However sometimes I work with other people’s stories,  I have created weavings to document other people’s journeys and experiences, and I also made a large weaving based on Patti Smith’s The Coral Sea poem. Currently I am making a series for 4 weavings.

Hannah Waldron: Primary Traveller

Anni Albers described ‘weaving as a craft that is many-sided’, as the materials you choose offer so many options (the hard and soft, dull and shiny) – how do you pick out the materials you use in your work? Do the material qualities dictate the graphic/pictorial elements of what you make?

I normally pick out the materials to go alongside the elements of the story/forms I have in mind, but it would be so interesting to instead make a body of work that responds foremost to material. I have done a few weaving tests in this way, which I do really enjoy the materiality of, but coming from an illustration background I have a habit of the concept or communication being foregrounded. It would be refreshing to create a body of work that responds to material first and foremost – a very Bauhaus idea. In the summer I will lead a workshop at The Hepworth in Wakefield alongside Sheila Hick’s exhibition and I plan to focus this workshop on material experimentation.

Hannah Waldron: Primary Traveller

In the same essay, Albers suggests that ‘Like any craft it may end in producing useful objects, or it may rise to the level of art’. As a practicing artist, do you find this tension between ‘useful object’ and ‘the level of art’ exists in the work you make? 

It’s not an aspect I’ve thought about so much recently, which perhaps is positive because it perhaps suggests the boundaries may be blurring more in the current discourse on this subject, there are many more contexts in which objects of use are presented as simultaneously works of art and vice versa.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying weaving for the first time?

Learn by doing, don’t overthink it, and let the medium itself guide you.

Words: Hannah Waldron & Jade French

Hannah’s Instagram can be found here

About the artist

Hannah Waldron is an artist and designer based in the UK. Her graphic and narrative-led image-making has been applied across a range of media from print to textiles, at both a personal and architectural scale. Hannah has found weaving to be a natural process to complement her grid-based image-making and completed an MFA in Textiles at Konstfack, Sweden in 2014. Waldron’s studio specialises in designing and creating research-led unique printed and woven textiles that have an emphasis on storytelling.