Weaving has undergone something of a renaissance in recent times, shedding its fusty, home-spun image in favour of something altogether more cool and contemporary. One of the designer-makers responsible for this change in fortune is Margate-based Jo Elbourne, whose bold, geometric woven artworks, objects and furniture pieces have won wide acclaim. “I started with tapestry weaving,” she says, “but I wanted to find a way of making more uninterrupted shapes. I eventually came up with this method of wrapping continuous lines of cord around a frame, going first one way and then the other, rather than over and under as is traditional.”
Elbourne’s first finished piece was a chair. She weaved new seats for its vintage frame, and this service (from £200) still forms a substantial part of her business. “People come to me with the frames of stools and chairs they’ve been holding on to for sentimental reasons but don’t know what to do with,” she explains. “We start by defining the colour palette, then I come up with a few designs and once we’re agreed, I start the wrapping. I make the base layer first and build shapes out of that.”
She is very happy to work to a brief and will match colours and patterns to room schemes, but the braided cotton she has chosen to work with (she likes its simplicity and texture and it holds dye well) is quite delicate and certainly not up to everyday use. “I’m not bringing these frames back to life in a utilitarian way,” she asserts. “I’m preserving them by turning them into heirlooms.” While these pieces sit on that very fashionable line between artwork and furniture, Elbourne’s objects and wall pieces are entirely aesthetic. “The wall pieces are made in exactly the same way as the seats,” she says, “but the objects are rather more complicated because I have to think about a design happening in three dimensions.”
Recent object commissions include engineering bricks wound with dyed string (from £300) for Resort Studios in Margate, a project that proved so successful she’s gone on to do many more in a similar vein, as well as a mobile and even a pair of skateboard decks (from £315 per board). “I enjoy exploring the limitations of the technique,” she says. “The objects need to have parallel edges, otherwise the cord falls off the sides.” Round shapes may be out, but otherwise Elbourne is open to suggestions.