Maureen Hodge, weaver: 'I never plan colour, it just happens at the weaving stage'

Karen Wright meets the weaver in her studio in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

Weaver Maureen Hodge lives and works in a terraced house at the end of a narrow, flower-lined cul de sac in Stockbridge, Edinburgh. Born in Perth in 1941, she moved there in 1964 and she lives now with her son Arkady. In the 1960s she was working at the Dovecot Studio, the commercial weaving studio set up by the Earl of Bute to weave tapestries for his castle, later becoming known for working with many contemporary international artists.

By the late 1960s she was teaching weaving at night classes and finally became a full-time teacher in the early 1970s at the Edinburgh College of Art's Tapestry Department.

She recalls working with Dovecot apprentices, some of whom had been there for years and were "sniffy" with the younger woman. "We knew things they did not know. We approached colour and scale in a different way." Hodge was also learning; she travelled to Europe and "saw tufting texturing and lettering being used."

She remembers working on projects with artists like Robert Motherwell, Eduardo Paolozzi and Louise Nevelson, although she was disappointed that she could not realise the latter's tapestry in the grey wool she preferred but was forced by the gallery to do it in lurex instead.

 

Hodge has her loom in her small front room, from where she turned out Fields of Endeavour, a large commission for the Scottish Parliament Building, in a few short months. We struggle together to hang up a recalcitrant heavy textured black work. She calls Arkady. We hear him washing his hands. "Arkady hurry up, it is black: it cannot get dirty!"

A wonderful large, black and gold shaggy tapestry hangs dominating the space. Recently she has been experimenting with 24-carat gold alongside her favourite black. It is based on an aerial view of a mapping of Scotland's lakes and forests, taken during the war by an archaeologist doing aerial reconnaissance. The gold gleams. She paints it on the surface as the thread proved too difficult to weave. The lakes are rimmed in azure blue. "I never plan colour, it just happens at the weaving stage," she says.

Hodge has turned out generations of students, encouraging them to take the art of weaving and find new places to go with it. We talk about how women often find different ways to solve problems than the "trained weavers". "It is a question of time and problem-solving. My work is not about the slowness of making but the excitement of making."

Although she is now retired from teaching she is still busy. "You have to keep stoking the little fire that you have. You have to have an aim to stretch and do it and not sit back and be too careless about it."

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