The Colourbothy studio in Hirns, Deeside, is the artistic home of innovative designer and weaver Belinda Rose.
Belinda, who has been weaving for about 40 years now, discovered the joys of playing with fabrics when she started collecting sheep’s fleece from fences while out on walks. It was something that ran in the family: her mother used to do the same thing back in the 1940s.
‘After the war, she collected sheep’s fleece and dyed it with vochineal beetles and wove herself suits out of that,’ says Belinda.
‘She had a loom and a spinning wheel, but I never saw her use either until latterly she began using the spinning wheel. There was always something there, and I always wanted a loom, but I didn’t really get one until I was in my early 20s and I built myself a little backstrap loom.’
She has come a long way since that time, now creating beautiful fabric artwork with stunning reproductions of portraits and landscapes beside original compositions and experimentations. ‘I am interested in colours and structure and how things work together,’ she says.
‘I use silk wool, linen, cotton, high twist yarns to add texture sometimes, which is very exciting to explore – there are certain things you can achieve just when you recognise the quality of certain fibres and structures.’
Her career took further twists and turns when she started using the digital Jaquard hand loom: ‘A friend and I got one. She called hers Harley and I called mine Davidson, because we couldn’t see how we could justify buying this loom except that it was going to give us a lot of fun.’
The digital Jaquard allows Belinda to create designs using Photoshop, with a series of hidden modules with electronic coils that work thanks to a vacuum pump. It has about 1300 threads, hence weaving incredibly precise images, like the reproduction of Belinda’s feet on X-ray.
However, she is taking a step back from photographic reproduction in favour of drawings in order to create work that is a bit more ‘freeform’. ‘It’s a more expressive way rather than a literal representation,’ says Belinda.
Her vocation recently took her to Finland’s Nordic Textile Arts Conference, where she joined about 30 other people from Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway and experienced induct weaving on an industrial loom.
‘It was very different from what I do,’ she says. ‘I designed, arranged the arms and feet and pressed the button and they wove this scarf –about a metre long – in ten minutes. When I’m weaving it might take me a day.’
A growing international and local network has allowed Belinda’s craft to develop. She is able to share ideas and overcome difficulties with the help of other artists.
‘The trouble for crafts people and makers generally is they’re working on their own – we don’t get out much. You are a one man band. So if you’re trying to make things you have to take half your time doing admin, someone has to do the tax, accounts, etcetera.’
One of Belinda’s main occupations at the moment is teaching. From absolute beginners to experts, people come to the Colourbothy from all around the world to attend her lessons.
‘It really is about sharing the passion,’ she says. ‘It’s a very engaging thing when you’re doing it, you’re absolutely in the mood, you’re having to watch exactly what you’re doing and I see people getting a lot of pleasure out of it.’