Westray’s Louise Martin’s Outstanding Tapestry Takes Top Prize

The world’s biggest prize for tapestry, The Cordis Prize has announced the winner of this year’s award.

Winner Louise Martin and her piece, Lifetime – Photo by Rebecca Wilson

From a shortlist of 20 artworks by 19 artists considered for the £8000 prize the winner selected is Louise Martin. Louise originally from the Isle of Man, now lives in Westray, Orkney.

Her work Lifetime wowed the judging panel. Made in silk, linen, cotton and paper warp and weft, Lifetime references a daily life lived and is indicative of the artist’s work informed by landscape and travel combined with a strong influence in technique, structure and form.

Speaking on receiving the award and about the work Louise Martin said:

“I am delighted to see my work in Inverleith House. The natural daylight of the Gallery breathes and showcases the subtleties of the woven structure beautifully. My work often begins with a reaction to landscapes around the world.

“This piece is more than usually biographical, it is a landscape of the heart, a piece I was compelled to make with a technique I have been developing for the last decade. My thanks to the Cordis for it’s commitment to this wonderfully diverse medium, tapestry and for choosing Lifetime.

“Woven without shed and on a loom warped to the shape of the piece, freed from the usual grid of perpendicular warp and weft. Edges take on a freedom of line. Warp no longer flows top to bottom but instead at myriad changing, ever crossing angles. Warp becomes a cluster of yarns of varied weight, colour, lustre, interlocked to change mid loom. Broad areas of bold colour are woven in a dance of warp and weft, pass by pass. The direction of weave on an already tilting warp, aligns and realigns constantly. 

“Warps are picked up or rejected freely, with regular rhythm of under and over broken out of. Weft passes may be packed close or left open to reveal flashes from a huge vocabulary of yarn. Colour, tone, lustre. Hard linen, fine silks and cottons, are all to be found in any warp and weft mix. Far from resulting in un-weaveable chaos this many sound, this technique extends the qualities of traditional tapestry. The language of compound colour, textural and structural qualities of yarn are given full rein, choices become almost unlimited. 

“Here woven in large areas with subtle shifts of colour and tone there is new hum and complexity to the surface which on closer view reveals a multi-faceted light, a dialogue of warp and weft at times closely entwined, at others running in counter wise layers.”

The artwork will be on show alongside the full shortlist as part of the 2021 Cordis Prize Exhibition at Inverleith House Gallery, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from 23 October to 12 December 2021. 

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel following the rigorous selection process Cordis Prize founder Miranda Harvey said:

“It is an extraordinary piece by a very gifted artist. When we came around doing the judging yesterday, the experienced judging panel were fascinated by the technique of how it was made. With the light falling on the silk, you get this very delicate web of little patterns.

“It’s incredibly lyrical, based on a poem, which is shared in the exhibition catalogue. It’s a very subtle piece. It has a lot of paradoxical qualities. So it’s very soft. It’s very fragile. But it’s very rigid. It’s very hard. There are very tiny little incremental changes in it. And yet, it goes through a whole spectrum of shades and textures. I mean, it is an extraordinary piece to have been made. I could look at it all day and see more.”

Created to reward ambitious and skilled use of tapestry weaving techniques, the prize captures a snapshot of how this classic artform is being developed today. Artworks selected include the use of materials from second hand books to recycled plastic as well as traditional threads such as cotton linen integrated with wire, shredded garments and more. Exploration of colour and materials sit alongside artworks spotlighting social issues such as the refugee crisis, resistance to ethnic diversity and lockdown loneliness.

The 2021 Cordis Prize Shortlist has been selected by a judging panel convened by co-founder Miranda Harvey and consisting of; esteemed weavers Fiona Mathison and Jo Barker, and Emma Nicolson and Amy Porteous representing Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Creative Programme team.

2021 Cordis Prize for Tapestry Exhibition

Inverleith House Gallery, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh

23 October to 12 December, 2021

FREE Admission


Miranda Harvey and Ian Rankin of the Cordis Prize with the 2021 winning tapestry by artist Louise Martin
Neil Hanna Photography

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1 reply »

  1. Warm congratulations!
    Thank you for the insight to the lore and technique and art of it.
    We have some knowledge of the past, we know fewer knowledge of the future, but living right know without both of them is narrow.
    This tells the story.

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