NO.11 CATARINA RICCABONA: UP OUR STREET - 8 Holland Street’s neighbours, near and far


"What I don't have in space I have in light,” jokes weaver Catarina Riccabona of her small, south-east facing studio in south London. She is sitting tucked away next to the vast loom she makes her array of blankets, throws and wall-hangings on. There is barely room to move either side of it, but her love for the machine – and her craft – is clear. 

Catarina has been making textiles on large beasts such as this since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2007. In 2012 she won the Cockpit Arts/Clothworkers’ Foundation in 2012, the same year she established her studio. The process takes careful planning and these years of experience to envisage how each piece will end up. In all that time, this loom – made by a Finnish manufacturer that has been producing them since the 19th-century – and all its trickeries has become second nature to her. 


Inspired by painters such as Cy Twombly and Mamma Andersson, each piece is worked on one at a time; Catarina sits at the looms and begins work with a brave spontaneity. Set up of the machine to bring these ideas to life can take anywhere between four days and a week, with exact measurements having to be made of how many threads to use and how long they should be. This is made into a warp (the scaffold of textiles), which is transferred onto the loom. “Once that is all done there is always the high of ‘ahhh, now for the fun part’,” she says. “Now we can weave!”


Although the process may sound calculated (and it is, Catarina’s loom is part-mechanic, part-electronic and can be run through software on a laptop), Catarina revels in a spontaneous approach and reacts to each piece along the way. “Yarns all behave differently - some are unruly, some are very nice. There are many elements that can delay or speed up things,” she says. “I start with a colour then look how it comes out on the loom with one decision leading to the next. If it's muted, I add in an accent. If it's quite loud with colours competing, I want a stretch on the fabric that calms things down.”


This balancing act takes patience, skill and a fine eye for looking at tiny detail while remembering the bigger picture: mirroring somehow the macroscopic work done on this large machine in this small room. “I would describe my work as a juxtaposition of weave structures. How you play with these changes the colour and tone. These playful interactions are the joy of weaving for me. It's endless play, in a way.”


My ideal neighbours would be...
I feel lucky because I already have my ideal neighbours. Eleanor Lakelin, Adele Brereton, Eleanor Pritchard - there’s about 70 people here at Cockpit arts in Deptford.


The house I’d like to live in is...
...some place like Briol ( Light filled, pared back rooms made of lasting materials that make you feel instantly welcome and calm with the majestic Dolomites out through the windows.


Tomorrow I will...
...try for an early start in the studio to get admin jobs out of the way so that I can continue the set up of my loom for my next project.




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