Weaving is the interlacing of two sets of elements,
one vertical (the warp), one horizontal (the weft).
In my first collection, the vertical (warp) element is sheet that I cut into strips or wedges. The horizontal element (weft) is multiple strands of thin wire twisted together. The pattern is a Plain Weave, in which the wire crosses over the sheet and then under the sheet, and continues over one warp and under one warp. As the twisted wire weft passes under the sheet, the sheet is pressed down over it, which “locks” the wire in place and adds strength to the piece.
In my second collection, both elements are single strands of wire: a thin wire weft and a thicker wire for the warp. The pattern is called Soumak. It is an ancient rug weaving technique, named for the city (Shemakha) in Azerbaijan in which it originated. In Soumak, the weft wraps around each of the warps in turn. The thicker warp wire (either 18kt gold or 950 platinum) provides strength, the thinner weft wire (either 22kt gold or a different 950 platinum alloy) provides the malleability needed to do the tight wrapping that creates a dense weave. The warp is the “skeleton”; the weft is the “skin”. The two alloys in combination create a structurally sound piece of jewelry.
With both the Plain Weave and the Soumak patterns, each piece is woven individually. The weaving is done flat: the Plain Weave rests on a thick sheet of plastic so as not to mar the metal during weaving; the Soumak is supported in a small vice. Neither pattern is woven on a loom. When the weaving is completed, the edges are finished and then the woven “fabric” is shaped. The metal work hardens in the process of weaving and again in the process of shaping. In my weaving, I use gold and platinum that is soft enough to manipulate with fingers to create the “fabric”, but which will work harden sufficiently to hold its shape when complete.
Textile techniques are traditionally worked with fibers such as linen, cotton, silk and wool. However, they can also be applied to metal. See my article “Introduction to Weaving with Sheet and Wire” on Orchid for additional information and photographs.
To learn more about weaving with platinum, download “A Platinum Tapestry: Weaving All the Elements Together”, the paper I presented at the Women in Platinum Symposium (New York, 1999); published in Platinum Manufacturing Process Volume VIII, Platinum Guild International USA (2000).
View Making the “Toccata” Pendant - see how I develop a Soumak design from sketches to prototypes and follow the sequence of steps used to weave the gold pendant.