Katharine Swailes studied at Carlisle College of Art and Design. She graduated in 1982 and then spent fifteen years working as a costumier and embellisher, for theatre, cinema and television.
It was the constructive nature of woven tapestry that inspired her move to the medium in 1998, first studying at West Dean College. Following this she created work in her own studio, and also as a master weaver at West Dean Tapestry Studio, working for artists and designers such as Tracy Emin RA and Faye Toogood.
Swailes has shown at the V&A Museum, Saatchi Gallery and the Fleming Collection. Her work is held in private and national collections, nationally and internationally.
Manhattan series: History like the strata of the landscape builds up layers, my use of imagery and texture to create these constructed textile pieces evoke time and place.
The vertical landscape and Museum collections of Central Manhattan, Central Park, are the inspiration for this ongoing series of work. The series of tapestries are hand woven and are constructed using the finest quality cotton, worsted wool, silk, bamboo and paper yarns. The palette of yarn is carefully chosen for both texture and colour. The colour evokes the age of the textiles held in the museums collection.
The formal grid system of the avenues and streets and Central Park, mingle with the less formal patterns of the textiles to create a layered image that becomes a hand woven textile.
‘Footstool’ is the first large scale three dimensional form Swailes has produced, using the ancient technique of weft faced woven tapestry. Starting with the construction of a pattern, a cartoon is then created. This is used as a guide for the weaving, the tapestry is woven to shape and then attached over the footstool.
Swailes specialises in both conventional flat wall works and smaller three-dimensional, sculptural pieces - as well as weaving large scale commissions at West Dean Tapestry Studio - and is interested in the constructively open ended nature of the medium.’ Tapestry - A Woven Narrative, Black Dog Publishers.