Grayson Perry, The Walthamstow Tapestry, 2009
The Walthamstow Tapestry began as a black-and-white line drawing made by Grayson Perry on seven separate A1 sheets. These drawings were scanned and Perry added the colours to the scanned files on his computer. The resulting files were sent to Factum Arte.
Factum Arte worked with Grayson on all stages of the production of the tapestry. Blanca Nieto joined the seven files sent by Perry making corrections to ensure that no information would be lost or illegible on the various scales the tapestry. Marcos Ludueña-Segre translated the files prepared by Factum Arte into a weave file, the command file for the loom. The tapestry itself was woven at Flanders Tapestries in Belgium using Jacquard weaving technology.
[R] Trial proofs for Grayson Perry
[L] Adam Lowe, Philippa and Grayson Perry introduced the exhibition Penelope's Labour in Venice
Fourteen different colour yarns were used to weave The Walthamstow Tapestry – two shades of grey for the warp and 12 primary colours for the weft. Jacquard technology relies only on a few primary colours, which combined in various patterns that the human eye optically blends, form different shades.
In order to determine the right matching colours for Perry’s drawing, colour charts were produced containing several hundred small patches of colours all identified by different numbers. Over a period of two months Factum Arte sent Perry new woven samples that gradually adjusted the optically-mixed colours and the character of the weaving to get the subtle balance between the cream colours and acidic greens that Perry had intended.
The initial idea for the colour range came from a book on Sumatran batik. Perry liked ‘the strange little scenes depicted’ and the unique flavour of ‘a bit of early Italian fresco painting and folk art’. The theme of the tapestry is the Seven Ages of Man, from birth on the far left to death at the opposite end of the tapestry.
Grayson Perry's vast Walthamstow tapestry opened at Victoria Miro in London in 2009.