We asked Jane Freear-Wyld, creator and organizer of Tapestry International, to share with us how the non-profit organization came to be. In advance of Interface, the latest touring tapestry exhibiton, Jane alludes to the collective labour that goes into making an international exhibiton happen. Interface will be on view in the CCBC gallery from March 11 – April 22, 2021.
I presented a paper at the 2008 Tapestry Symposium in Canberra, Australia. Such a memorable 2 days, where I even had the opportunity to talk with noted Scottish tapestry weaver Archie Brennan. Whilst chatting with some artists, I discovered a group of Australian and New Zealand weavers who were exhibiting their small format tapestries in an ongoing series of themed exhibitions, in both countries. Over the next 7 years that germ of an idea stayed in some drawer at the back of my mind, popping up every once in a while to haunt me. In 2015, while staying with friends in the US, I mentioned the idea and so began the journey of Tapestry International.
The key to success? A team of people working together, keeping each other grounded, supporting each other and with the joint aim of making a project work despite what happens along the way.
“Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water” featured 10 weavers from across the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. The exhibition opened late 2016 at the Australian National University, Canberra; moving to the Australian Tapestry Workshop, Melbourne in spring 2017. In the UK, The Riversley Art Gallery and Museum, Nuneaton [near my home town of Coventry] hosted Elements in the summer of 2017; and The Guildhall, Much Wenlock in late summer 2018. The tour finished at the University of North Georgia, USA in early 2019.
By then Lindsey Marshall and I had already begun organising a second project, “Interface.” 15 English and 15 Canadian weavers were already signed up and I’d learnt my lesson that whilst 30 tapestries is a good number two countries, not three, is quite enough. Tapestry Touring International [TTI] had been born, with our core aims of being a not-for-profit group, giving weavers the opportunity to exhibit small format tapestries internationally with weavers from other countries, whilst keeping artist fees to a minimum.
“Interface” has already been shown in 2020 at The Riversley Gallery and Much Wenlock’s Guildhall in the UK and at St Francis Xavier University in Canada. Covid-19 has made its mark and has caused us many sleepless nights but it looks like we have not been hit as badly as lots of other exhibitions and art spaces. So what is involved in organising international touring exhibitions? Had I done anything like this before? Yes, but only as an exhibitor and that is not the same thing at all.
The key to success? A team of people working together, keeping each other grounded, supporting each other and with the joint aim of making a project work despite what happens along the way. No egos, no tantrums, just plain dogged hard work. Lindsey Marshall, of course, Vicky Green, Valerie Kirk, Tommye Scanlin and now Murray Gibson have all been involved. I cannot begin to tell you how hard Murray has worked to make Interface a success in Canada.
However, of course nothing would have happened without the weavers: their creativity, inspiration, talents and skill. From the Australian student, who had only been weaving for a term, to those of us who have stopped counting the decades. From the unknowns to the highly regarded and recognisable, and everyone in between – we are all here, exhibiting at the same level.
2021 will see a major exhibition of invited artists, called “New Directions,” due to go online in autumn with other open online exhibitions also planned for this year. Lindsey and I are looking to begin planning a third gallery based touring project later this year, Covid-19 permitting. The TTI Database is always looking for artists who wish to exhibit with us.