Christabel Balfour weaves the city and the landscape into her work, simplifying their inherent complexities to the fundamentals
Words by Ellen Peirson
A graduate of Camberwell College of Art and Ruskin School of Drawing, Christabel Balfour has been experimenting with and mastering the art of tapestry and weaving for the past eight years. Her work began as fluid, sculptural forms, designed as central pieces to a space. Today her work takes the form of large rugs and wall-hangings, all made in her studio on looms that she restored and reassembled herself: a 1976 Harris floor loom and a 1992 Don Porritt loom.
Balfour’s work takes the city and the landscape and their inherent complexities as a starting point, and simplifies their apparent forms and shapes to the fundamentals. These stripped-down images form the basis of her woven images, conveying an exposed sense of openness and honesty.
Balfour’s work plays with the space surrounding us, and utilises negative space to coordinate the piece within a given room. The geometric forms highlight the tactility of the craft and celebrate the textures in the form.
Balfour set up her own studio in 2015 and now runs regular workshops in which she teaches weaving, from basics such as setting up a loom through to complex experimentation with texture and colour.
She will be displaying her work at London Design Fair 2018 (20-23 September at the Old Truman Brewery), showcasing her large-scale woven wall-hangings that seek to explore mapping, distance and open space.
The Sun, In The Hands Of His Mother: Part of Balfour’s most recent collection, this piece explores the relationship between transforming a drawing into a woven object and the inherent conflict that exists. The opposing forces of a free pencil and the rigid warp and weft on a loom are investigated in a series of large-scale wall hangings. This new collection will be exhibited at London Design Fair 2018.
One Shape After Another: Using the same bold compositions that pervade all of Balfour’s work, here she takes inspiration from the colours of the seasons. Having woven these in autumn and winter, she uses greys, deep blues and warm ochres to bring her signature geometric forms to life. Working well as standalone pieces, the pieces complement each other when viewed as a collection.
Weaving workshops: For those wanting to learn the traditional craft of tapestry weaving, Balfour offers group workshops from her studio in Peckham, teaching the basics from understanding the warp and weft of the loom, shape building, texture and colour mixing. Additionally, she offers one-to-one workshops in which attendees can learn to craft rugs and wall hangings on a much larger loom.