Peter Collingwood was trained as a doctor but abandoned medicine for a distinguished career as a weaver. He studied weaving in the early 1950s with Ethel Mariat, Barbara Sawyer, and Alastair Morton, all preeminent British weavers of the time, before setting up his own studio. Collingwood was consumed by his interest in textile structures, fascinated by “the myriad ways man has found of manipulating threads.”[1] This fueled a lifelong passion for collecting textiles from around the world. “Sometimes, I just had to acquire something so I could decipher its puzzling technique,” he said.[2]

Collingwood himself was responsible for developing several original weaving techniques. Hanging is an example of one of his technical and aesthetic weave innovations: macro gauze. This warp dominant weave structure, devised in the 1960s, allows warp threads to deviate from their conventional vertical path and move at angles, or even cross each other. Collingwood’s macro gauze typically incorporated monochromatic linen and metal rods, as in the Museum’s piece, to create abstract hangings with strong geometric visuals. It is also distinguished by its limited use of weft threads. Macro gauze was developed “in order to make the loom do something it hadn’t done before,” Collingwood explained.[3] This particular work was made to order for the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and was part of Collingwood’s 1973 one-man show at the British Craft Center in London.

Hanging exemplifies the harmony of material and structure that Collingwood sought to achieve in all his weaving. He explained: “[when] the appropriate materials and structure [are] married to produce an object with exactly the required physical properties, such objects have an indefinable quality, which I think of as inevitability; a quality, I, as a maker, am always striving for…”[4]

In addition to his work as a weaver, Collingwood was a generous teacher and the acclaimed author of several seminal works on weave structure and technique. In 1974, he was the first weaver to be awarded Great Britain’s Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Maleyne M. Syracuse is a candidate for a Masters Degree in the History of Decorative Arts at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum/Parsons New School for Design and is President of the Board of Directors of Peters Valley Craft Center. She recently retired as a Managing Director in the Investment Bank at JP Morgan and continues to work part-time as an independent professional in corporate finance and investment management.




[2] Peter Collingwood, Textile and Weaving Structures (London: BT Batsford, 1987), 7.

[4] Collingwood, Textile and Weaving Structures, 7.

 

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