On Rag Weaving: Susan Johnson of Avalanche Looms

Redefine

Our new column Redefine asks artists to define one term involved in their process. Through this definition, we as buyers will learn a little bit more about the art from conception to realization. We'd like to not only increase awareness of what we are actually purchasing, but also increase appreciation for the process itself, thereby celebrating the handmade lifestyle. Today, Susan Johnson of Avalanche Looms redefines rag weaving and shares her process with us:

Who: Weaver Susan Johnson of Avalanche Looms
Redefine: "Rag Weaving"

Rags are inspirational, and never scarce. Find a piece of cloth (old and worn is often the best). Cut or tear it into strips, and weave the strips into the warp on your loom.

Susan finds both delight and inspiration in the materials used for her rag rugs. The process allows for discovery and appreciation in a resourceful and artful way. Susan explains more about her process below:

When I got my first loom, years ago, the first rugs I made were from rags, and making them engaged every bit of my creative vision. To this day, it still does.

Through the process of rag weaving, silk rags shine, velvet rags pull the light in. Soft, clear plastic mimics mother-of-pearl. Knit rags draw in, woven rags stay put. The surface is sometimes thready, from fraying rags, which I like to see. Knit rags will bubble up when woven between two rows of woven rag strips. Wool rags look rich. Wool rag rya knots are luxurious. Weave printed cloth and abstract designs emerge. Twist striped rags and weave them in opposite directions across the weave to make a row of arrows.

Some of the most beautiful old rugs have meandering edges, which most weavers try to avoid, but which is actually a beautiful line. Even the trimmed off rags that fall to the floor suggest new rug ideas, new color combinations.

Weaving rags for me is most like making a painting. It is color, texture and design. I weave by eye, and am prepared to unweave. I know from my own experience that rag weaving, with all its variable elements, can quickly go wrong. I've practiced noticing when this happens, unweaving, and reweaving a piece until it looks right. It is a fact that some of my less successful rag works have found their way to the garden as mulch. But, most of the time, what happens with rags on my loom between the beater and the front beam is pure delight.

Shown above the jump, from left to right:

1 Susan Johnson from Avalanche Looms
2 Susan Johnson from Avalanche Looms
3 Black and White Stripe Rug, $100.00 from HomeTerrain
4 Handwoven Rag Rug, $50.54 from Gunaspalete

(Images 1+2. Susan Johnson, used with permission; 3+4. as linked)