Interiors: How to commission a tapestry and why they're making a surprising comeback in British homes

 
Laura Ivill
Waving Magic by Chris Ofili

The lengths some people will go to for a wedding. In 2013 Prince Albert II of Monaco paraded his bride along a red carpet 103 metres long and weighing a mighty 1.3 tons.


And it wasn’t just any old red carpet – it was a hand-tufted commission from the artist Jan Kath, whose work is represented by Mayfair rug dealers Front, along with that of Zoe Luyendijk and Michaela Schleypen.

Together, their works are showcased on a grand scale. So impactful are they that they look equally impressive, if not more so, on a wall and can be commissioned in wool, cashmere, cotton and silk to be hung in whatever space you wish to hang a carpet (check out its inspiring Slowmaking video at frontrugs.com for an insight into the handmaking process).

Rugs are an easy way into the wonderful world of woven art, expressing colour, vibrancy, scale, beauty, durability, skill and artistry. This autumn we will see a new collection from Amy Kent (amykent.co.uk), whose rugs are handmade in Nepal and India, and Brintons has already introduced a pioneering 32-colour digital technique for its art rugs (Brintons.co.uk).

However, the original textile art for walls was tapestry, which is seemingly enjoying a revival. Tapestry is a specific form of woven art, handwoven on a loom using warp threads for the structure covered by weft threads for the design.


The famous 11th century Bayeux Tapestry is actually an embroidered wall hanging, and national treasure Grayson Perry uses a computer controlled jacquard weaving technique that’s completed in a matter of hours.

In recent years artists such as Tracey Emin and Martin Creed have worked in tapestry, and The National Gallery is currently showing a new work by the Turner Prize artist Chris Ofili called Weaving Magic, commissioned by the Clothworkers’ Company. Handwoven over three years by five master weavers at Edinburgh’s Dovecote Tapestry Studio, it channels pure Matisse, via the Caribbean Island of Trinidad, where he lives.


Grayson Perry uses a digital weaving technique to make his tapestries

The luminous hues evoke the vibrancy of stained glass, depicting tropical waterfalls, waves and palm trees. A collaboration it may be, but praise should be heaped on the weavers who turned wool into water and Ofili’s watercolour painting into a monumental work of art.

If the origin of the tapestry was to make the inhabitants of cold and draughty castles, cathedrals and country estates a little more snug, and to feed their soul with colour and artistry, then it’s easy to see why this elevated art holds so much appeal today, with the revival of hygge and craft – a flamboyant ahead-of-the-curve way to warm up an echoey new-build apartment or jazz up a soulless corporate space.


From Jan Kath's Erased Heritage collection

Dovecot Tapestry Studios in Edinburgh (dovecotstudios.com) and West Dean College near Chichester (westdean.org.uk) are the go-to places for commissioning a tapestry.

Since weaving 23 tapestries for the Henry Moore Foundation from 1976 to 1987, West Dean has worked with many established artists, including a marathon 13 years on a tapestry for Historic Scotland (completed 2015).

Both companies have details on their websites on how to begin the process, whether you have an idea in mind, an artist you want to work with or simply a space to fill.

The process is bespoke, from dying and spinning the threads to preparing your work for hanging. All you need is the vision to commission a showstopper.

Weaving Magic tapestry by Chis Ofili is at the National Gallery until 28 August, admission free

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