The Robert Jamieson Tapestry
In 2000/01 the grade 4 to 6 students at the Robert Jamieson Consolidated School in Oyster Pond, NS learned the ancient art of tapestry weaving, thanks to an innovative project funded by the 4Cs Foundation (Creative Connections between Children and their Communities) (www.4csfoundation.com) in Halifax.
Textile artist Anke Fox designed and managed the project, which began in November 2000. Fox was inspired by the Harrania Project (www.marlamallet.com/wissawas2.htm) a weaving experiment that started in Egypt in the 1950's, in which children as young as five years old learned to weave beautiful tapestries.
Before the children at Robert Jamieson School could weave the tapestry they created the design that represented life in their community. Fish, sea grass, rocks and the bottom of a boat represent the dependence upon the ocean. The school is represented by an open book (learning), theatre masks (the annual school play), and tulips (the school garden).
Using simple frame looms, Fox taught the students the basic tapestry techniques. Two large looms were set up , one for experimentation, the other for the tapestry. Weaving on the large piece began in January 2001. Students explored colour combinations and textures of various yarns.
One aspect that made the project special was the involvement of numerous community members. In addition to tapestry weaving, Fox wanted the children to experience a wide range of textile techniques, and invited local fibre artists to participate in the project. With their help the students were able to try spinning, knitting, crocheting, basket weaving and dyeing with local natural dyes, as well as with KoolAid. The children also enjoyed a fieldtrip to the Heritage Farm in Dartmouth where they watched sheep being sheared in the spring. With the help of a local filmmaker the children made a video about the project. Another volunteer helped them to develop a website.
The tapestry was displayed at the local library during the summer months before being permanently installed in the school in the fall.