The Saint Laurence’s Tapestry
In 2014, we commissioned the making of a new tapestry to hang on the sanctuary wall of the church.
Background to the project
Like any other project, this one started with an idea – that the large wall behind our altar could be made more beautiful (and less bare) by the addition of some piece of art.
I’m fortunate to have a highly artistic sister-in law, who immediately said “what about a tapestry” and recommended a tapestry weaver she knows called Fiona Rutherford.
Fiona explained that she prefers non-figurative work and proposed that she visit the church in order to prepare a range of designs for presentation to the next Parish Forum in October 2013. Fr Pat was approached and liked the idea while making it clear that a parish-wide consultation would be needed due to the high visibility of the affected area. A donor was found who was willing to finance the entire project on condition of anonymity.
During her visit the scale of the challenge became apparent, due to the large semi-circle above the cross and the strong 2-tone colouring of the wall. We agreed that the usual rectangular style of tapestry would not work and a quadrant-style would look far better next to the cross and semi-circle.
At the Parish Forum, Fiona presented several designs, all based on the theme of “sowing and reaping” and there followed a boisterous discussion in which a wide range of opinions were expressed, some positive and some not so positive. Since the positioning of the tapestries relative to the cross was clearly a major issue, Fr Pat requested the display of high-quality mockups (to show the tapestries both near and far from the cross) and the gathering of comments over a 2-week period.
This consultation exercise yielded over 50 written comments, largely thanks to publicity in our parish newsletter. Again there was no clear consensus with some liking the design and others saying that they prefer the bare wall. At about the same time, it became clear that the best design required the tapestry quadrants to have the same centre-point as the semi-circle above and this led to the extra curvature of the final design.
At the January 2014 Parish Forum the chairman gave a summary of the comments received and there was some additional discussion, mostly supportive of the idea. Fr Pat then took the decision to go ahead with the project, with a target installation date of St Laurence’s feast day, which by a happy accident fell on a Sunday, 10th August.
Fiona worked on the tapestries throughout April to June, and has provided a video explaining her technique.
The tapestries were installed on Saturday 9th August and will be a permanent part of St Laurence’s church apart from Lent and Advent when they will be taken down.
Joe Tucker, parishioner at St Laurence, Cambridge
About the artist
Fiona Rutherford is a tapestry artist who works from her home based studio in Edinburgh. She uses the historical Gobelins weaving technique to weave her designs by hand at an upright frame loom.
Since setting up her practice in 1991 she has made tapestries for private and public commissions and has regularly exhibited in the UK as well as Europe, Japan and Australia. Her work is held in major public collections in the UK.