Our journey on the Slowboat

The Weavers’ Workshop were contacted last year by Rosie from the Ikon Gallery with a view to doing a project this summer in relation to the Ikon’s Slowboat – it is a large narrow boat which travels out from Birmingham to host creative projects on or adjacent to the canal. After a meeting on the boat, Sara signed us up to we knew not what and after a long dark winter, Rosie got in touch as promised, with a proposal to work with a lovely artist Seungwon Jung – based in London – her work combines weaving and digital imagery and sounded fascinating. A group of young creatives were signed up to do a summer project with her – and TWW were invited to host a visit by them to The Weaver’s House to showcase Coventry’s long history of medieval weaving and do some simple weaving activities with them. What a fabulous occasion – youngsters and the ‘young at heart’ coming together on a delightfully sunny day in The Weaver’s House garden in August to share experiences and creative inspiration. Janet gave an informative tour of the house finishing in the solar with the floor loom and the hard life of a medieval weaver – casting light on centuries of cloth making in Coventry, while Margaret supported a more contemporary approach to weaving on our portable Coventry Blue loom, allowing the young people to add a few ‘picks’ to our version of Coventry Blue cloth. Alongside, Ingrid, Sandra H, Sandra S. and Pam introduced the young people to weaving sticks while Sara demonstrated the technique of braiding – it wasn’t long before friendship bands were being sported and braids were being braided. A truly memorable experience for all concerned.

Many of the youngsters were looking forward to university or college and a future in the creative arts.

We were kindly offered a return visit to the Slowboat to take part in Seungwon’s workshop on the boat itself, moored in Coventry Canal Basin – unfortunately rail strikes got in the way and just 4 TWW members were able to take up the offer due to limited space. Pam womanfully braved her fear of boats and Ingrid, Janet and Sara joined her to work alongside the young people – warps consisted of beautiful cotton cloth printed with digital images of tree bark captured by Seungwon over a period of time, these ‘sliced up’ and stretched on a frame to receive the weft of naturally dyed cotton ribbons, a reference to Coventry’s ribbon weaving history. While all this was going on, to Pam’s horror the boat sailed gently up and down the canal, with the odd (speed?) bump along the way!

The activities form part of Coventry Biennial, taking place this autumn across the city under the banner ‘… like a shortcut through the brambles’ – which explores humankind’s complex relationship with the natural world.

TWW feel privileged to have been asked to be involved and look forward to a continuing relationship with Seungwon and the Coventry Biennial. Work is being exhibited on the Slowboat on 9th September 2023 between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm in Coventry Canal Basin and we hope the wider weaving group can participate in another workshop with Seungwon, this time on terra firma. The Biennial runs from 6th October 2023 to January 2024.

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