Sarah Beadsmoore - weaving
When I went to visit Sarah Beadsmoore recently I found her where she has been, more or less, for the last thirty years: perched at her loom in her studio at New Brewery Arts.
The studio is dominated by her Swedish eight-shaft countermarch loom, a beautiful piece of woodwork in its own right. 'I wouldn't have room for this at home,' she says, 'although I only live around the corner.' Behind the loom colourful hanks of dyed yarn hang on wooden pegs on the wall, ready to be woven into future designs. Sarah dyes all her yarn herself with chemical dyes in an ancient electric boiler, using wool from blue-faced Leicester sheep, and silk from China. 'I'm interested in colour,' says Sarah, 'and so that's why I do all my own dyeing.' Her eye for colour is certainly very refined and this contributes greatly to the look of the finished work. Currently she's weaving silk scarves in a simple stripe pattern in colours taken from William Morris's Strawberry Thief design. 'Recently I spent a week at Kelmscott,' she tells me, 'it was brilliant - I had the whole place to myself. I made a new range for them as previously they hadn't much that was handmade in their shop.'
Sarah has also been out to north-eastern Thailand to work with the weavers of the Pwo Karen people for a four weeks project to develop new ideas for scarves. The scarves are made in batches, in a long length which is later cut into scarf lengths and the ends fringed. The loom takes anything from two hours to a whole day to set up before weaving starts. 'Craft is really all about repetition,' she says - and then backtracking slightly perhaps because this may sound monotonous - 'what I mean is, the craft skill is in maintaining the standard, delivering the quality, and being able to do the same thing over and over and over again through a series of works.' I like her attitude; there's no get-rich-quick opportunism here, Like many real crafters, Sarah just keeps on going.
Of the participants in this exhibition, Sarah is the closest to the traditional idea of a studio craftsperson. She sells her work through the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen (who have a swanky new retail outlet at the recently refurbished Wilson Art Gallery in Cheltenham) and by direct sales as a resident maker at New Brewery Arts. I can't help asking 'have you ever thought of designing for industry?' 'No,' she says, 'My loom can't weave samples that can translate to a power loom.'
A craft answer to a design question!