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Jane Stephens

Works - Video / SketchFab
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The idea for this project started a while ago, wanting to weave a book, to see if I could. On a loom, with the pages woven as part of one weave – multi-layered as books and the tales they contain usually are. But in order to weave a book, I needed a story. Living through the last 10 months of Covid provided this as I found myself fascinated by the terminology used by politicians – of waging a war against Covid and expecting to succeed. The human population is busy destroying the planet, as greed and commercialism rule, and hence the title evolved – The Beauty of Covid: Nature’s Revenge.

The cover depicts the colours of Nature. The warp that runs through the whole book is paper, echoing the material from which books are usually made, and the weft of the cover is multicoloured, with textural. The label is woven as a double cloth picking up warp threads from one of the supplementary warps that I have threaded onto the loom, and hand embroidered in linen after weaving the book had finished.

Inside the cover, the weave structure depicts the mass of the population as we all intersect, crossover and move away. Simple in colour, with the contrast of the white warps, it provides a start to the story.

The first page talks of how the virus originated – in the Chinese markets. The page is woven with a silk warp, indicative of yarn used in luxurious Chinese costumes, and the weave structure echoes the look of Chinese lettering. The hand embroidered characters make up the word ‘Covid’ in Chinese, reinforcing the theme.

Toilet paper – the start of the crisis in the UK is the story on the next page. The mad rush to stockpile seemed completely ludicrous and the page is woven with a weft made from toilet paper. As the page proceeds, the toilet paper becomes more sparse, the hessian that indicates the inside to the toilet roll emerges, as gaps in the weave appear, reminding me of the empty shelves, and restrictions imposed on bulk buying.

And then we move into lockdown. The start of a time of surreality where rules seemed to change on a regular basis. The Sari silk inserts into this weave invite reflection into the sense of isolation or community, and are trapped by the warp, whilst the floating threads which are tied down at the corners of each square contain the weave in apparently rigid boxes.

This page describes the sense of chaos and confusion that emerged – a dark time where jobs were at risk, lives were being lost and we were bombarded with meaningless statistics. Developing a real understanding of the situation when a culture of fear was emerging was very difficult – the chaotic weave, with threads moving across the warp and weft, cut and left hanging, echoes the situation; there is no sense and logicality to this weave – it is what it is.

Graphs, graphs and more graphs – the loose threads at the end of the embroidery of this page offer the opportunity to make more graphs as the situation progresses. Woven in linen on paper the plain weave gives a stiffness to the feel of the page which corresponds to the rigidity of the statistics that are produced. Did we really benefit from all of this information?

Moving onto the PPE crisis. Woven in fabric from the masks that are now in plentiful supply but which were sadly lacking when they were really needed, along with all the other items of PPE that were required. The structure of the weave echoes the curve of the masks, and the holes that appear talk of the holes in the supply that the NHS experienced.

Technology – a bonus and a curse. My laptop gave up the ghost a week before lockdown – the inserts in the double cloth pockets are pieces of the motherboard linked by copper wire. The internet provided opportunities for a level of communication which was great when it worked, but also emphasised the divide between affluence and poverty, as those without the means to access technology were denied the connection to others in this manner as well as in physical ways.

Rainbows and clapping – did they really help the NHS? These woven structure of these two pages show the evolution of the rainbow, with the curves of the weave becoming more colourful as the trend gains momentum, but also shows the shadow side of this – the job that the staff do is normally unrecognised and unrewarded, and what they really needed was staff, funding and PPE – it might be asked who really benefitted from this show?

Care Homes – a national disaster or a government plot? Do we seek to prolong life at all costs or are we intrinsically an ageist society? The hearts of these weaves, together with the heart strings on show follow the feelings of those who were unable care for their relatives while the upside down hearts of those who died in the centre of the page with the clusters of the virus reflect the deaths that occurred.

And so the vaccine arrives – a clear page with the virus fallen in clusters at the foot of it. Is this the answer – have we conquered the foe?

Or will the subtle colour changes of the virus on this final page reflect the mutations that are already starting to occur offer a sequel to the book – is this the end of the story or a chapter in Nature’s fight?

The back cover echoes the front – however in this inside cover the weave has changed – there are less people connected in the effect of the weave. The diamond shapes are now lines; whilst community is still evident, the economic destruction of the last few months continues as we fight to regain what we have lost.

The Beauty of Covid: Nature's Revenge

The idea for this project started a while ago, wanting to weave a book, to see if I could. On a loom, with the pages woven as part of one weave – multi-layered as books and the tales they contain usually are. But in order to weave a book, I needed a story. Living through the last 10 months of Covid provided this as I found myself fascinated by the terminology used by politicians – of waging a war against Covid and expecting to succeed. The human population is busy destroying the planet, as greed and commercialism rule, and hence the title evolved – The Beauty of Covid: Nature’s Revenge. The 12 pages plus the cover are woven on one warp of fine paper which echoes the fabric of a more conventional book. The warp used to provide the structure of the various weaves is split and interwoven, so some of the pages are in themselves double cloth. Each page depicts an aspect of the covid pandemic using different wefts – toilet paper and shredded masks are just two of the ‘yarns’ that I used.
Works - Photos