LDNER #188: CHRISTABEL BALFOUR

We’ve woven this week’s LDNER into our line-up because she’s making a loom-ing presence for herself in the homeware scene. Okay, now that we’ve got all the puns out of our system (sorry!) meet Christabel Balfour, a born and bred Peckham-ite and textile designer who creates woven, geometric wall hangings as well as teaching workshops…

Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?

I live in Peckham, which is also where I grew up. I like that the area is such a mix of people, with so many cultures thrown together. Even though it’s become quite a popular area in the last few years, there are still these out-of-the-way places that you can discover by accident. Even though I’ve lived here all my life it still surprises me.

What was it that drew you to weaving and what made you decide to turn it into a business?

I’ve always enjoyed working with textiles, but tapestry weaving combines image with process. You are constructing an image out of warp and weft, it’s both visual and tactile. I’ve also always wanted to work for myself, and even though when I first started out some people didn’t really get that they were wall-hangings (someone at one of my shows asked me if they were supposed to be placemats) the response to them was so encouraging. At first I just sold small handwoven pieces, but gradually expanded.

How long does it take you to go from an idea to the finished article when creating your products?

It’s a pretty slow process! First I’ll sketch out a very rough composition and choose the colours. Setting the warp (the rigid vertical threads wrapped over the loom) takes about two days, but I set enough warp for several pieces at a time. I usually weave around 10cm an hour, sometimes more. So weaving a 1m x 1.5m rug takes about 3 days. Once all the warp is used up I cut it off the loom, trim the ends and stitch in all the loose ends, which is about a day’s work. All in all, a single warp takes me three to four weeks. But often the other demands of my business intervene – emails, admin, teaching workshops – so it can sometimes take longer.

Your patterns are very geometric, where do you take inspiration from? What are your plans for 2017?

Rug weaving is traditionally quite geometric. Weavings are made up of a grid of warp and weft, so straight lines and angles translate easily into weaving. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the work of the Navajo and Igbo weavers, but also Bauhaus textiles and painters such as Agnes Martin and Paul Klee. I also love the work of Japanese architects such as Tadao Ando and Shigeru Ban. I want to maintain a balance between making smaller, more accessibly priced pieces and larger-scale works which really challenge me as a maker and artist. So next year I will be making the rugs and cushions, teaching workshops and selling prints about weaving, all of which help people feel connected to what I do. But I’ll also be developing my tapestry practice with more abstract, experimental work on a bigger scale. 2017 is going to be an exciting year!

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Describe your perfect day in London.

It would usually start with meeting friends for brunch, probably at Small White Elephant off Rye Lane or the Blue Brick Café in Dulwich. Then head to a gallery or museum – I’ve been planning to see the tapestries at the V&A for ages. Then get a coffee to go and stroll through Kensington Gardens or along Regent’s Park Canal before heading home.

www.christabel-balfour.co.uk
@christabelbalfour