Mark-making in woven tapestry – textural techniques with Rachel Johnston

Ref: SSS31572

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About this course

Learn new skills and approaches to tapestry weaving, based on mark-making and form, using textural techniques and a wide range of materials to create bold structures and surfaces.

Course Description

This course is based on the idea of mark-making in relation to place, finding expressive ways to describe the textures and forms around us using yarn and fibres. The connections between material, surface texture and structure will be the focus – finding ways to show movement, weight and substance through the use of techniques such as soumak, ghiordes knots, wrapping and extruding threads. These techniques connect with the dynamic processes associated with fibre art and the work of artists such as Magdalena Abakanovicz and Sheila Hicks.

You need to have prior experience of tapestry weaving and a good understanding of warping and weaving techniques .

Starting with some exploratory mark-making in the landscape around the College, you will then be guided through the tapestry techniques, translating these marks into a series of woven samples, using raw and more refined materials to experiment with textural surface. A variety of fibres and yarns will be available for you to work with and we will experiment with some basic dyeing techniques, giving you a palette to build on. Working on a large frame or scaffolding, you will use a heavy warp to build quickly over the surface. You will aim to make a number of samples that experiment with visual and material languages and have the capacity to be expanded into three dimensions and at a larger scale.

Samples using the techniques will be available, as well as relevant contextual material. There will be talks introducing you to a number of artists who have pioneered this exciting area of textiles. The approach will be discursive and interactive, with plenty of room for discussion and the freedom over the course of the week to develop an individual expressive approach to this way of making.

Summer School highlights:

The Summer School week is an immersive learning experience with more time to develop your creativity and embrace opportunities for creative development beyond your chosen course. A detailed timetable for your Summer School week will be given to you on arrival. This will include:

• Short inspirational talks by tutors and displays of their work

• A short creative experience session in another discipline/media or course

• An optional evening at the Chichester Festival Theatre (if pre-booked)

• An optional lunchtime tour of West Dean Gardens, the historic rooms at West Dean College, or West Dean Tapestry Studio

• A celebration dinner on the last evening themed on Impressionism, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first Impressionist exhibition held in Paris in 1874. Feel free to respond to the theme if you wish.

• Informal end-of-course group reviews and displays of students' work in studios

As evening events are planned as part of the Summer School week, dinner is included in the course fee to enable all students, including non-residents, to participate fully.


Timetable for Summer Schools

Several evening events are planned throughout the week, a detailed timetable for the summer schools will be given to you on arrival.

Arrival Day

Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students should vacate their rooms by 10am please.

Course Materials


  • The College will supply most of the materials, including warp (recycled cotton cord/macramé cord), yarn (wools, linens, cottons, etc. – a variety), some paper and ink. Larger frames for weaving, Plant fibres may be available from the grounds. In addition, the tutor will supply some of the materials, including fibres such as jute, sisal and hemp.

What students need to bring

  • Sketchbook, printed images of places you have been to and can work from
  • Any plant fibres you have access to and may like to weave with

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Warp thread

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Rachel Johnston

Rachel studied painting before completing an MA in Fine Art Tapestry at the Royal College of Art. She has explored visual practice with communities around the UK to produce commissioned and public art and was a senior lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Chichester with a specialism in textiles and socially engaged art projects. She has exhibited widely including in the Cordis Prize for Tapestry exhibitions. 


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.