Journeying Into Form

Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art

 June 13-September 2, 2012

Raw unwashed wool with guard hairs

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Washed wool with guard hairs taken out

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Chilkat warp (wool and cedar bark) in balls and skeins

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Raw unwashed wool with guard hairs

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“Mountain goats were regarded as supernatural beings living high up in the mountains, and mountains are often surrounded by clouds, which seem to wrap them. I sensed a connection between the shifting of states of a gas transforming to a liquid or to a solid as related to the work. I realized that clouds and snow are both forms of water in different states. When I consider the snowy mountains the goats live in, the clouds that wrap the mountains, and the white wool that covers this animal that is so intimately tied to the clouds, the complexity and beauty of the interrelationship between these aspects of nature staggers me. I try my best to wrap my mind around the power that it holds when objects are created from elements of nature.” 
 
-Meghann O'Brien, Notes, 2014
 

Curated by the artist under the guidance of Dr. Martine Reid. 

Weaving implies real and symbolic time: time to gather and prepare the materials, and time to conceive and weave the garment. The initial meticulous and very slow-paced process of taking the guard hairs out led Meghann to feel “connected to both the past and the future: to weavers who came before me, and to those who will come after. It was a powerful experience.” 

 

The preparation phases of the weft and warp yarns were conducted according to information provided by anthropologist George Emmons in his major work  “The Chilkat Blanket”, 1907, Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History 3 (4), 329–401. The process was a journey that has transformed Meghann and her work. She discovered the world of the mountain goat and the intrinsic and symbolic qualities of the animal and its wool, in her words “the essence of what the robes are made of.” 

 

Journeying Into Form: The Mountain Goat Wool Project documents the process of transforming raw, unshorn mountain goat pelts with guard hairs into pure white cloud-like balls of drafted wool, which are then thigh-spun into weft yarn. Mountain goat wool is an important fibre in the weaving traditions of Northwest Coast people. This yarn was the only indigenous yarn material in the North to be used for weaving before the introduction of commercial yarns.