I have worked with textiles for over twenty years, for the past ten specialising in tapestry weaving. What draws me to the medium as an artist is the constructive nature of the technique, you shape the bones of the piece as well as the external dressing, forming either flat wall work or small-scale three-dimensional pieces.
Swailes has a duality having a career that has explored historical textiles in construction and embellishment for costume in film and television. More recently she has worked for West Dean Tapestry Studio on contemporary and historical commissions in tapestry weaving.
Swailes’ practice explores the constructive nature of textiles; she draws on a broad knowledge of historical techniques and methods evoking the substance and labour intensive nature of hand worked textiles. These look beyond the domestic domain of the medium. Works tend to be of an intimate scale. Often the works are 3 dimensional small palm sized. They either contain or evoke everyday objects through dimensions and shape that place the works in a particular contemporary situation. The objects retained or suggested with tapestry may have passed from everyday use in a short space of time, unlike the woven casing that surrounds them. Design and colour are reduced to evoke the nature of textiles as a medium, creating a fossil like quality evoking the millennia that the technique of tapestry weaving has existed unchanged in its methodology.
Current and forthcoming events
- April - June 2013: Finding the Unicorn - Tapestry Mythical and Modern, The Fleming Collection, London (more info)
Qualifications and training
- 1998 Post Graduate Diploma in Tapestry Weaving, West Dean College, Chichester
- 2012 Studio Manager/researcher 'The Hunt of the Unicorn', West Dean Tapestry Studio, Chichester
- 2011 Time and Distance, Oxmarket Centre fo Arts, Chichester (more info)
- 2006 Time and Distance, West Dean College, Chichester
- 2013 Finding the Unicorn: Tapestries Mythical and Modern, The Fleming Collection, London
- 2010 Chichester Open Studios Art Trail, artists studio, West Sussex
- 2009 Collect, Saatchi Gallery, London
- 2008 Group Tapestry Show, Grace Barrand Design Centre, Nutfield, Surrey
- 2008 Collect 2008 with West Dean Tapestry Studio, V&A, London
- 2007 Interwoven, Petworth House, Petworth, West Sussex
- 2013 The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn: Capturing Beauty, The Flemming Collection, London
- 2012 The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn, V&A Museum, London
- 2012 Weaving the Unicorn, The Cloisters, Metropolitain Museum NYC
- 2009 Master Weavers at the Cloisters, Metropolitain Museum, New York City
- 2008 Master weavers at the Cloisters, Metropolitain Museum, New York City
Competitions, prizes and awards
- 2010 Stride Art prize, Oxmarket, Chichester