Copyright 2018 © Ruth Bell.

Website by Shmueli Bell

Hi & Welcome,

Ruth Bell

Much of my work is based on Jewish themes with particular emphasis on expressing mystical Kabbalah concepts. 

 

My work has been commissioned and is on display in Israel, USA, Canada, & exhibitions in the UK. I’m a member of and have exhibited with the British Tapestry Group. My work has been shortlisted for the International Heallreaf 3 Tapestry prize. It has also been featured in Tapestry Weaver Magazine.

I am available for new tapestry commissions and to give illustrated talks about my work.

 

As well as being an artist and weaver, I have also designed and built Jewish themed exhibitions. My most well known exhibition design to date is the recreated 19th century Shtetl/village at the Leeds Jewish Heritage Centre for Children where I also work as the Project Coordinator. It is a unique educational resource using a multisensory approach to teaching about Jewish history and heritage. The JHCC shtetl village is part of a Heritage Lottery funded project which I designed from concept to creation. The centre is visited every year by hundreds of school children and adults. 

 

I currently live and work in the northern city of Leeds, West Yorkshire, a fitting location for a textile artist as it was renowned as a centre of the textile and clothing industry of Britain for over 150 years.

What is tapestry?

Tapestry weaving on a wooden frame or loom is an ancient art.  All the warp threads are covered. Colours and textures change across the warp and sometimes there can be as many as 20 bobbins hanging down on one row.

 

Weaving a tapestry is an amazing process in which a beautiful textured surface is created almost from nothing. By combining a variety of threads a harmonious whole piece develops which has richness, beauty, softness, & warmth.

My work is inspired by Biblical stories and Jewish themes. The philosophy of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) is a strong influence and my aim is to infuse my tapestries with a spiritual dimension.

 

I like to make the fibres and colours vibrate together, flowing in and out of each other like a constantly moving and rippling stream, revealing the life source that animates the subjects represented.

 

Tapestry gives a wonderful spatial effect where objects appear to hang in suspension as if held in place by an inner force.

I use vibrant colours, hand dyed fibres and varied textures in my quest to reveal the concealed energy within physical reality.

The PROCESS

In 1988 whilst living in Jerusalem, I discovered the Georges Goldstein Tapestry Studio which produced tapestries of international renown. I became an apprentice at the studio and here began my love affair with tapestry weaving. I was able to learn all the techniques and technicalities of Gobelin tapestry weaving. 

 

I was very fortunate when I lived in Jerusalem, because the women’s college (seminary) I attended was expanding and they wanted tapestries for their new building. I was given the opportunity to design & weave two large wall hangings. This became my first chance to really integrate my new found Judaism with my love of art and weaving.

 

Over the years I’ve taken on commissions in which I’ve tried to express the beauty of Judaism and Jewish traditions through weaving tapestries which have the “Wow” factor as well as expressing the depth & beauty of my Jewish heritage.

 

Tapestry is an extremely slow process at the best of times. It can take a fast weaver 6-10 weeks to weave a square metre, making tapestry a luxury item. Historically tapestries were hung on castle walls to show affluence and power and to keep out the draughts. They could be easily rolled up and transported from place to place.

 

There are many stages in creating a tapestry. 

 

I begin with a coloured sketch from which a line drawing is made dividing the artwork up in to colour areas – a bit like a pattern for painting by numbers. The line drawing is traced onto clear acetate film, then magnified and copied onto a large format sheet of paper. This pattern is called a cartoon. I usually print my cartoon in reverse and work on the weaving from the back.

Choosing the fibres for the weft is the next important stage. I prefer to use wool, mohair and some synthetic luxury yarns for my tapestries though one could use almost any material for the weft. 

 

To get the right colours it’s sometimes necessary for me to dye my yarns. This is done using powders, potions and a big pot on the stove! A vast range of colours and special effects can be achieved with patience and perseverance.

The vertical (warp) threads have to be strong and durable as they set the foundation for the tapestry and are completely covered during the weaving process. “Warping the loom” can take many days if a large wall hanging is being prepared.

Finally, with the warp on the loom, the weaving can begin. The cartoon is placed behind the threads and serves as a guide for the colour changes and blends. I like to use different textures to create a more three-dimensional surface. As the weaving progresses it is rolled on to the lower beam of the loom. The full tapestry cannot be seen until the threads are cut from the loom and the tapestry is rolled off. This is a very exciting moment when the weaving is seen in its entirety for the first time.

A tangle of threads on the back of the work have to be cut and finished and any slits which naturally form during the weaving of vertical lines may have to be hand stitched together.

The completed tapestry can be stretched and mounted in a frame or hung loose from a beam.