Robin Haller is an artist who specializes in digital design and weaving. She is an Associate Professor in the Textile Design Program at East Carolina University, School of Art and Design, in Greenville, NC, where she teaches weaving and feltmaking. Robin’s weavings have been exhibited both nationally and internationally. She has received multiple grants to pursue her research in digital design and weaving, and has recently been the recipient of the HGA Award and two-time Best of Show Award in Fiber Celebration, Colorado. She currently resides between her hometown of Cleveland, OH and her place of employment in Greenville, NC.
In my weavings, the strong and inherent grid of the medium is used in tandem with the matrix of digital design. The mathematics involved in all aspects of the process provides a foundation of logic and order that influences design choices. A network of pattern is created in response to the grid through layering of motifs that exist both on the surface and within the structure. This and complex dyeing processes inform my creative thinking. There is a sense of order and disorder combined with the contrast between the flat, two-dimensional plane of the woven field and the illusion of depth created by patterns of shifting scales.
Layers of pattern are generated by relationships between pattern as well as dualities between pattern systems. These systems are metaphors for time and memory. How we mark time with a clock is calculated and predictable. The process of weaving is also calculated, and each intersection of thread becomes a record of time. Weaving is an experience of movement and is an additive, linear process that, when complete, represents a passage of time, a memory, a plotted mark on the time-line of my life. My work is inspired by my experiences, the people in my life, and memories. My pieces are abstract visual representations of my personal life and experiences including the people who are closest and most important to me. They can be compared to a writer who journals their deepest thoughts and feelings but in my weavings are expressed in a visual interpretation of line, color, pattern, and texture.
The duality of traditional techniques and modern capabilities is a primary focus in my research. The computer has become an integral tool in the creation of my weavings because it allows me to design with the exact measurements of a grid structure. The software uses pixels as coordinates for the intersection of warp and weft and therefore creates repeat pattern with great accuracy. The JacqCAD software and Photoshop software, in conjunction with the TC-1 hand-powered jacquard loom, offer me the freedom to translate my ideas into an art fabric. The TC-1 loom controls each warp thread independently allowing great flexibility in designing. Freedom from harnesses means freedom from the repeat image. The blueprint of the weaving is predetermined by the computer design but the artwork continues to be traditionally woven by the artist and the individual weft yarn is still thrown by the weaver each time the shed changes.
I choose to hand-dye all of my warp and weft yarns to balance the digital design with traditional elements of weavings. The design on the warp itself, created through the process of both ikat and calculated dye painting, provides the visual foundation for all the other patterns. Despite the careful measurements and calculations, the patterned warp often reveals subtle variations associated with the hand of the artist. A slight blurring or shifting of the edges of the resisted/painted shapes occurs as the warp is wound onto the loom. Twill and satin weave structures are chosen almost exclusively because of their versatility and structural integrity. The ability to create a smooth gradient with twills and satins promotes rhythm through direction and value change. These structures, in turn, provide the foundation for the development of larger, composite motifs. The hand-dyed warp provides the grounding layer of pattern, that, when juxtaposed with the gradated weave structures, causes a push and pull of color and pattern throughout the piece. Combining digital technology with traditional weaving techniques is an exciting and limitless avenue for my creative expression.
Each weaving I create reads like a story in my memory. I create work about experiences in my life. Sometimes they are my personal experiences, other times they involve my friends and family. Occasionally, the work speaks about an event in contemporary news. As I design, every layer, shape, pattern, color, and design choice has a purpose and a meaning. I choose to work large because I see the work as a doorway or window into my thoughts. When I look at my work, it is like looking at that memory frozen in time. I remember everything about what prompted me to create the piece, which sometimes makes it very difficult for me to talk about the work.
Although the work is personal in nature, I strive to also create work that will intrigue others with visual sophistication. The size, colors, and patterns are meant to draw the viewer in and capture their attention. Many of the weavings contain a vortex that creates a focus of motion within the surrounding field, which is alive with energy. The strong spatial illusion of the optical design is grounded by a grid-like pattern of smaller, woven motifs. The multiple layers of pattern interact with each other to create a textural relief and visual resonance across the weavings. They invite the viewer to explore the composition and details both from a distance and up close, engaging them in the richness of the physical plane unique to the art of weaving.