When a visitor comes to my studio a common question asked is: how are the tapestries made?
During a visit I’m able to share the whole process in person so through this page I would like to share with you the steps to creating one of my tapestries. At the bottom of the page I’m also including some bonus photographs that show my drawings next to the completed tapestries, I hope you enjoy them!
Firstly, it’s important to note that the time it takes to create a tapestry depends greatly on the size of the piece, so a tapestry of 47 x 47 in might take 4 – 5 weeks to create, while the tapestry below, for example, which is what I call a Mural Tapestry, can take 6 – 8 months to create; it has a size of 5 x 7 feet (176 x 400 cm).
1. Drawing Process
All of my tapestries start as a small drawing on a sheet of paper. I normally organize these designs by series or themes, so depending on the theme that I’m currently working on, I might develop a drawing about Andean Musicians, about Sea Life or about Andean Mythology. There are a number of themes that I like to explore, amongst them you can find: Musicians, Sea Life, Mountains, Birds, the Jungle, Landscapes, Animals, Andean Mythology and Andean Symbols.
The creation process for a tapestry can take from 3 weeks to many months, depending on the size and complexity of each piece, so while working on the drawings, I also have to consider the technical complexities that will have to be worked through loom while making the drawing, as a more complex drawing might need more techniques and might take more time to create.
2. Painting Process
Once the drawing has been made, the next step is to continue with the coloring of the design, which is done with colors pencils or with a computer.
3. Interpretation of Color
Once the line drawing and colored image are ready, the design will go to the Color Laboratory where a specialist will hand-blend the colors to create what I call “butterflies” of yarn, which will be the yarn used to weave the tapestry.
Each “butterfly” is created by hand-mixing single or multiple solid color threads to match the required tones of a tapestry, creating the bright and vibrant color combinations and tones. This special process is also why when you look at a specific point in my work, you’ll find a variety of colors in a very small space. It’s hard to find solid colors within the piece at all!
4. The Cartoon
The small drawing is then drawn or printed to the scale of the tapestry, creating what is known as the “cartoon”. The cartoon will be transferred to the cotton warp threads on the loom to guide the weaver. In the cartoon I also specify the sections of the tapestry where different textures and techniques will be included so it serves as a guide for the weaver.
5. Weaving Process
All of my tapestries are handwoven on a floor loom by a selected group of Master Weavers who have been trained on my own techniques. In Peru, tapestry weaving is an art that is transferred from generation to generation through family, so most of the Master Weavers who work with me have a background in traditional tapestry and have been trained to learn my techniques and process.
Row by row, the colors and textures emerge into images under my careful supervision. Some tapestries might take weeks to create, others might take months, but they all take the patience and attention to detail of experts to become a piece.
6. Streaching and Cleaning
After the weaving process is completed, the tapestry is taken out of the loom and goes through a cleaning and stretching process. You can see in the photograph below how the back of the tapestry has very long threads hanging during the weaving process, so those threads are lowered and the tapestry is cleaned. The stretching process helps with the elasticity of the tapestry, as there is a change of tension when the tapestry is taken out of the loom, by stretching the piece the final size will be defined.
Once the tapestry has been cleaned and stretched, a Certificate of Authenticity will be stitched onto the back of the tapestry and the piece will be ready be sent to its owner or gallery.