Ptolemy Mann is a London weaver now living in the beautiful countryside in East Sussex. I found an article about her in Craft magazine and was immendiately drawn by the juxtapositions of the colours; light by dark and the gentle blending, the clean lines and the geometric shapes.
Like Charlotte Adams who wrote the article I didn’t see the weave in the work instead I could see beautiful abstract paintings.
So it was no surprise to learn that Ptolemy had started her journey as an artist but found it too full of options, too confusing so was drawn to textiles. In particular weaving which is technically challenging, it provides restrictions and dictates focus.
The pieces are stretched to keep the tension, to remove any creases or potential for deviation from the design.
This fascinates me because I love to pull cloth in my embroidery hoops tight but apart from that I openly embrace the happy mistakes and deviations from my original designs. Mentally I find it very difficult to be such a perfectionalist about design but I appreciate Ptolemy’s approach and think it would not do me any harm to be more focused and dedicated to my original vision and design.
Whilst looking through the Shropshire Museums catalogue of textiles I was drawn to a 1920’s black georgette evening dress and as I looked at Ptolemy’s colourfield pieces I could see similarities between the embroidery and the blocks of colour on these beautiful weavings.
The gradulations are beautiful in all of Ptolemy’s work and they give a dream like quality that is in direct contrast to the straight lines and geometric shapes. They soften the image adding to the energy created by the use of dramatic changes in tone and colour.
Whilst in Cornwall I took some photographs of an outdoor stage at night with a camera that hates to focus at the best of times. The results were abstract blendings, the original image can hardly be seen. The structure of the stage and flags combined with the flags provide downward lines of colour that melt into each other.
They have a strong resemblance to Ptolemy’s work, particularly once they have been manipulated and tweeked using digital manipulation apps. They are not as ‘clean’ because they have a huge dose of my messy, more organic approach to design!
Tidied up a little and made more defined they look like this.
Usually I would consider these as bases or backgrounds and would use them as an element in a design not as the design. Ptolemy has opened my mind to the potential of weaving and the use of a more focused, defined design approach.
In the article Ptolemy provides a wonderful quote to add to the debate about textiles as art:
‘My work is highly skilled and in it I am saying something about colour and its complexity. I am absolutely making paintings and I am so pissed off that the art world can’t see that’