In our shop: Christabel Balfour's handwoven rugs

In our shop: Christabel Balfour's handwoven rugs

Words and Photographs

Vilma Paasivaara

This week H&C Selects brings you a unique collection of pieces of London based weaver Christabel Balfour. Speaking from her home studio, she tells us more about her work, inspirations, and colours…

Tell us a bit about yourself…
I am a tapestry weaver living and working in South East London. I split my time between teaching workshops and weaving on my two large floor looms.

How did you get into weaving?
I first started weaving on a little toy loom as a child and in art school I made large-scale woven sculptures. Since graduating four years ago I’ve focused on tapestry weaving.

Do you have a particular philosophy or set of values when you approach your work you can describe?
Simplify, simplify, simplify! Tapestry weaving is a very slow craft so over the years as my work has grown in scale, my designs have become more minimal.  I think you can say a lot with very little.

What part of your work most pleases you?
The balance between strategy and intuition. I’m working with my hands in a medium that’s very tactile, so I feel an emotional connection with what I’m making. At the same time, there is a lot of strategy and forward planning that goes into every piece, so it’s mentally demanding as well.

What is your favourite step in the making process?
The point when a weaving is really up and running and I can step into the flow and weave for hours on end without even noticing.

Where does your inspiration for the colours and shapes in your designs come from?
I pull inspiration from lots of different places and I’m always collecting images that I find visually interesting. The main thing I’m inspired by are bold compositions – whether in a Pre-Raphaelite painting, a Brutalist building, or a landscape. As for the colours, they’re very seasonal! In the autumn and winter, I work with greys, oranges and ochres – in the summer its peach and pale blue.

Is there a particular material, person or object that has influenced your work?
I would have to say Magdalena Abakanowicz. I saw her woven sculpture Abakan Red in the Tate in 2010. It was the first time I realised a woven work could be so powerful.

Who’s your ideal buyer? Where would you like to see your rugs?
My rugs sit on the border between functional object and art, so my ideal audience is the people that understand and appreciate that ambiguity. I want to see my rugs both in exhibitions and in people’s homes – and they belong in both.

Could you tell us a little bit about the rugs you’ve made for Hole & Corner…
These rugs are part of my new collection One Shape After Another – a reference to both my visual compositions and the process of weaving itself, where each row of weft is woven one at a time. Each design begins with a rough pencil sketch and is altered and adjusted on the loom as it is woven. In this collection, my aim was to design each rug as simply as possible whilst still maintaining an element of complexity or tension. All the designs are woven in a limited edition of 6, using a different colour combination each time, making each piece truly unique.

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