Nele and the Sea Woven Tapestry


1 in stock

From Laura’s studio

Technique/materials: Tapestry, cotton warp, wool, alpaca, and cotton weft, with fishing line whiskers and jewelry earring

Height: 56 Width:30 Depth: 1/8

For me, tapestry is an incredibly tactile medium—perching near life-sized upon the wall, yet flexing with a breeze or the viewer’s touch. Woven in a dizzyingly intensive six months as an anchor in the chaos that life can bring and the heartbreak that distance creates, this piece is the largest tapestry I have yet created. It stands only eight inches shorter than myself!

It is also one of my first pieces to include non-traditional elements in the tapestry form. The fringe in the shawl is tied onto the warp and can be posed and moved (a windy day, a calm day), the cat has whiskers made of fishing line that stick out from the piece, and the lady has a floral earring that is an antique jewelry piece. Only the second tapestry woven on my Gobelin loom, I was beginning to realize my own fusion of the well-practiced Navajo technique and the newly explored Flemish technique. Weaving on the front side of the textile, from bottom to top meshed with working in “hills and valleys” and using hatching shading. Like poetry, it is stillness and movement. But less like poetry, we each bring to it our own words, our own stories, our own longings.

It’s an odd child who asks for a Leclerc Gobelin tapestry loom as a high school graduation gift—but that was me at 18. And as I unwrapped the 175-pounds of smoothly-sanded wood and metal, great rollers and gears, I knew I had a new friend in my making process. I also had a new friend from overseas, in Belgium. I had met Nele through the local children’s theater, where I was serving as musical director and she was visiting as a foreign exchange student–she a senior in high school, I in my second year of college studies. We shared that bardic love of stories, of reading and listening to Loreena McKennitt or writing emails about our lives and hopes and fears and dreams that could have been chapters in a novel. We only half-jokingly titled that novel-of-a-conversation “Half a World Away” as our friendship continued upon her return to her home country.

It was a turbulent time for me. In and out of the hospital. My mother was seriously ill, and there were many surgeries. I had very few friends, and I was very scared for the future. How ironic it was that my best friend (aside from my beloved mother) could be half a world away.

I found myself one day sitting in a waiting room. Again. They have that smell, you know. Waiting rooms offer little joy. But this one was attempting to—showing on a large flat-panel screen above the ubiquitous burgundy padded seats an ocean view, with the soft sounds of waves and an acoustic guitar. I sat there in my pit of fear and loneliness, watching that screen, watching those waves. Without even closing my eyes, I can see them again right now.

And I thought about my friend and her love of the sea, the smell of the salt brine, the cry of the seagulls. We all have those we love that we cannot be with—parted by time, by space, by death, by dementia, by circumstance. We stand on our shore with our memories—how she loved her tortoise shell cat Morgan, how she wore her hair—looking across to the sunset. In that space, the moments shared lap, lap at our feet. The sands of the time we have on this earth take in our footprints, then slowly wash them away.

We are here, we touch hearts, and we melt away. People grow older, chase new dreams, move on. But we cannot deny that they impacted our lives and stood with us in the sufferings of this human experience. And so, thread-by-thread, layered in rows one after the next, this tapestry grew out of that longing and the recognition of the longings we all share.

“As we cast our gaze on the tumbling seas,
A vision came o’er me.
Of pounding hopes and beating wings
And the clouds above
Turning to gold.
Heard you call out my name
Like a bird in a cage
That’s spreading its wings to fly.

Then suddenly I knew that you had to go
Your world was not mine
Your eyes told me so.
Yet it was there I felt the crossroads of time,
And I wondered why.” (Loreena McKennitt)

The tapestry is fully mounted and ready for hanging. It will be shipped with full care instructions and authentication certificate from my studio.

Erindale Tapestry Studio Presents

Laura Berlage

Fiber Artist /Educator