Heddle & Needle
Before she got hooked on weaving, Rachel Gottesman was both a painter and a jewelry-maker, and the influence of those preoccupations is wonderfully obvious in her small-scale textiles, which she creates under the name Heddle & Needle. Gottesman treats each small weaving as a tiny canvas on which to work out ideas about things like color, composition, linearity, topography, and adornment. Formerly a director of artist relations at Threadless in Chicago, Gottesman moved back to New York about a year ago, and in the short time since she discovered her affinity for the medium, she’s made weavings that incorporate grids, geometrics, hieroglyphs, brass charms — even tiny squares made to look like Boucherouite rugs. The weavings are small – usually no more than a foot wide and two feet long, though she has plans to go big — and accessibly priced, which is why we immediately looked her up when we needed someone to create a textile series for our recent pop-up at Space Ninety 8. At the same time, we thought it was the perfect time to get to know her a little bit better on the site. Read on to find out what inspires the Brooklyn-based artist — and if by the end you’re as obsessed as we are, follow along on her Instagram where she often posts weavings in progress!
Describe your most recent project and how it was made.
Right now I’m finishing up a few boutique orders and working on restocking my shop. For most of my weavings, I use a simple frame loom that I bought online last year. I’m pretty sure this particular brand of loom is marketed towards elementary school kids, but it works fine, so why not? It comes apart and can be packed flat when I travel.
I use cotton thread to warp the loom and I weave using a wooden needle. The weft is usually wool yarn, but I’ll weave with pretty much anything long and string-y: tinsel, linen, silk, LED string lights, horsehair. I use a wooden Navajo comb to pack it all down and then I tie off the weaving and use a brass rod to hang it so it looks nice and finished.
Describe your next project and how you’re currently making it.
My next big project is putting together the enormous floor loom my mom is storing in her basement for me. She found it at an estate sale for $100 including a handful of boat shuttles and other accessories. It has 6 treadles and can weave 42 inches wide. It’s so huge it takes up an entire room and comes with its own bench.
It’s in about 8 billion pieces and we had to hunt down the assembly instructions online, since it’s from the 1970s. It’s going to be a ridiculous challenge, because despite me knowing what most of the pieces are, nothing is labeled or organized. I can’t even be sure all of the pieces are there. Ikea, it ain’t.
Tell us one thing that’s been inspiring you lately and why.
I’ve been really inspired by interior design blogs lately. The whole trend of clean lines, bright whites and woods in interiors feels right to me, and I can picture my tapestries in those spaces. Most people think of weaving as something sort of folksy — one time I told a friend about my looms and he asked me if I worked at a renaissance fair — but I’m making an effort to take my weavings in a more modern direction. I enjoy looking at what other people are doing with their weavings, but I prefer to draw inspiration from other mediums, like minimalist painting and interior design. It keeps my work fresh.
Show us your studio and tell us what you like about it.
The great thing about weaving on a frame loom is that I can do it pretty much anywhere. I often weave on the couch in my living room. When I travel, I weave on the bus. When I’m feeling particularly ambitious and professional, I work in a sectioned off a portion of my bedroom that I consider my studio space. I weave, draw, and do my bookkeeping there. It’s just a collapsible desk attached to the wall and some tools, but it’s cute and it does a good job of keeping me from being too big of a slob. When I work, little bits of yarn get tracked all over the place, so working at the desk keeps all of the yarn bits in one neat little pile instead of all over my couch.