French tapestry weaving

About two years ago I wrote a post about my studying tapestry weaving in Provence, France with Daniel Drouin as my teacher. I thought that I had finished with that subject, after all what more would I have to say about it?

It seems that we weavers do not only save a lot of yarn but also a lot of “information” about the subject we love. I am one of the worse ones among us saving photos, articles, magazines, bits of paper with notes (after I have copied the notes in a notebook), books, many books…

Daniel Drouin, gobelin tapestry weaving. Photo: Pierre Ricou, 1974

These last days I have had the chance to go through a lot of the “information” trying to get rid of as much as I can before packing it in boxes. I am moving to a smaller place and instead of packing I am reading.

Today, among all my little “treasures” I found photos, post cards really, of my teacher and a card of one of his tapestries that his wife had sent me with her recipe for pate. Denise Drouin was preparing excellent meals for us, her pate was included in several of them.

Daniel Drouin, gobelin tapestry weaving. Photo: Pierre Ricou, 1974

So, here are the photos, I wanted to share them with you before they go into a box. I will not “get rid” of them, but it will take some time until they are unpacked. And I may not be online for quite a few days after next week.

All black and white photos were made by Pierre Ricou in 1974.

Daniel Drouin, gobelin tapestry weaving. Photo: Pierre Ricou, 1974

Tapestry weaving, jewellery and hearts

It all started with weaving, like so much in my life. In the mid-1980s I received a letter from Tasmania, Australia. It was from Joanna De Jonge who wanted to come and attend the “Traditional Greek weaving techniques” workshop I was offering at that time. She did come next year. After the two weeks in Leonidion, she spent some time in Athens, went back home to Australia and returned next year to Athens, this time for about twelve years.

Joanna De Jonge's tapestry, 1980s
Joanna De Jonge’s tapestry, 1980s

She was very kind, polite and caring, it was easy to be friends with her. We used to meet quite often and talk a lot about everything, her family, her children Ben, Sarah and Emma, about what we liked to make and about what we were “making”. But also about the problems a foreign woman had to face, living alone in Athens, renewing her visa (not easy), trying to make some extra money to survive. Whenever we met in her small apartment I could see her work, clothes stitched by hand, small bags in fabric or leather, knitting, creative ways to use whatever was available – all very clever ways (long before “recycling” became fashionable). And all that by stitching by hand, with just a needle.

Joanna De Jonge tapestry, 1980s
Joanna De Jonge tapestry, 1980s

She was also drawing, making cards that she was selling together with everything else she was making, to shops, friends and on a beautiful piece of fabric in the street in Monastiraki (flea market in Athens).

Joanna De Jonge, 2018
Joanna De Jonge sent me this in 2018

Then I started making jewellery. Joanna gave me a book, that I still have, and started describing the ways her husband, an artist and jewellery maker, was casting metal for his work. Now, we were talking a lot about jewellery and about Jon De Jonge’s Life Chains (every link representing a different phase or event in one’s life).

Life chain, Emma De Jong
Jon De Jonge’s Life Chain, made by Emma De Jonge

After twelve years, Joanna went back home. We exchanged letters for many years, but, as it often happens, we stopped writing.

Emma De Jonge's jewellery
Emma De Jonge’s jewellery

About two years ago, I found photos I had of Joanna’s tapestries and decided to find out how she was doing. The internet helped. I tried to find the jewellery of Jon De Jonge and discovered that he was not making jewellery anymore, concentrating on his other art. But his daughter Emma had taken over his studio and continued working on his designs and hers, too. After contacting Emma I learned that Joanna was well. We became facebook friends to keep in touch and I posted Joanna’s tapestries for her to see.

Emma De Jonge making jewellery
Emma De Jonge making jewellery

Last year I happened to see a facebook page called “1000 Hearts” and decided to check it out. It was about a kindness project, a decision to make/stitch 1000 pocket hearts “to bring a little hope, a little comfort and a little courage to those who receive them”. The page offered a PDF on how to make these hearts, in case someone wanted to do the same. I did want to do the same and sent a message. The answer, from “1000 Hearts”, said that she was interested in everything Greek because her mother had lived in Athens for about 12 years. Signed by Sarah De Jonge! Joanna’s daughter! Our world is really small. I told her who I was and we are in touch since then. And I have even been inspired to start my “1000 Hearts, Greece” project.

Sarah De Jonge's pocket hearts
Sarah De Jonge’s pocket hearts

So, Emma makes very fine and well-made jewellery, continuing her father’s work. She even makes his Life Chains that we were talking about with Joanna all those years ago. Sarah, in a certain way, is continuing her mother’s work, stitching, beautiful stitching, to make her hearts. (Her project is about much more than “just stitching”). What I really like is how close the sisters are and how they support each other. I’m sure the same goes for their brother Ben.

Sarah De Jonge's hearts
Sarah De Jonge’s hearts, stitched by her and sold at her Etsy shop

Joanna has quite a few grandchildren. One is already making art, quite natural for this artistic family. What about jewellery and stitching? Who knows? I am sure though that kindness and caring will always be there for this family, it’s in their blood.

Jon De Jonge's painting
Jon De Jonge’s painting

For more check out:

Emma’s jewellery website

Sarah’s (1000 Hearts) website

P.S. 1 – If you are interested in participating in the ‘1000 Hearts, Greece’ project please send me a message, wherever you are in Greece. You can also send a message through my facebook page “Toultouline”   The more we are, the more useful we can be. Thank you Sarah!

P.S. 2 All photos in this post were provided by the family (stolen with permission).

Jon De Jonge's painting
Jon De Jonge’s painting


Tapestry weaving in Provence, France

Since I am still talking about the past, I decided to move outside of Greece, this time, and go ‘back’ to Provence, France.  In the summer of 1980 I went to Venasque, a small village in Provence, France, to study tapestry weaving with a professional ‘licier’ (tapestry weaver). Daniel Drouin had studied at the ‘Manufactures Nationales des Gobelins’ in Paris and then worked there for quite a few years.

Daniel Drouin,1980  toultouline,com
Daniel Drouin winding bobbins, 1980 (Photo from the internet, unknown source)

In the 1970s he set up his own studio and home in Venasque, where he designed and wove his own tapestries. In the summer he run residential courses, assisted by his wife Denise.

Tapestry weaving, 1980, France,
Weaving my tapestry from the back, the traditional Gobelin way

Tapestry weaving, 1980
More has been woven. Photographed from the front, woven from the back

We were six students from France, Finland, USA, and Greece. We wove, on the upright very sturdy Gobelin looms, the designs we chose from the ones that Daniel had prepared for us. I did not think that the one I chose was the most beautiful. As I had already been weaving for a few years and had tried my hand in tapestry, I could see that it included many techniques that I wanted to learn. We wove every day for six hours, the week-ends were free for excursions in the area.

Daniel Drouin
Tapestries by Daniel Drouin in an exhibition setting (photo from the internet, unknown source)

There was an exhibition space of the recent tapestries, for visitors who passed by. But the house was full of Daniel’s work of previous years. Even our six bedrooms had at least one tapestry on the wall, some had more. All were quite large, as most tapestries were at that time.

Daniel Drouin tapestry,
Tapestry in one of the bedrooms.

Daniel Drouin tapestry,
Tapestry in a bedroom. This must have been one of his older tapestries. It was different from the others, also very large.

After just a few years, Daniel Drouin stopped teaching and concentrated on his own work. I consider myself lucky that I had the chance to study with him. Not only for the weaving techniques, or the beautiful environment, but for giving me the chance, by following him, to see how an artist works and develops his ideas over the years.

Daniel Drouin, tapestry weaver
Daniel Drouin weaving. (photo from the internet, unknown source)

Daniel Drouin tapestry
Tapestry by Daniel Drouin (photo from the internet, unknown source)

A short and quite recent video of Daniel Drouin. He weaves from the back but he can see the front side of the tapestry in the mirror, through the warp threads: