14 September - 2 November 2019
It takes dedication and a great belief in her own imagery for Stella Benjamin to make her rugs in this [Navajo] method. I find that belief completely justified. I am impressed by her use of hand spun wool or goat hair, which she dyes herself in graded colours, giving life to otherwise monochrome areas.
Kestle Barton is very pleased to present unique and inspiring woven tapestries by textile artist, Stella Benjamin in an exhibition entitled, WEAVER (14 September – 2 November 2019). The works are for sale and this is a special opportunity to celebrate the major achievements of this talented, local artist with approximately a dozen rugs featured in the show.
The exhibition will be launched with a public opening on Saturday 14 September from 2pm – 5pm, which is free to attend and open to all. Chris Stephens, Director of Holburne Museum will give a talk about the significance of this work at 3pm.
Stella Benjamin has been living in Cornwall since 1956 and has worked closely with some of the creative icons associated with the arts in this region including sculptor Dennis Mitchell and Breon O’Casey, who taught her how to weave in the late 1970s. Stella was also a decorator with the Troika Pottery for some time. In 1979 another well known artist and friend, Bryan Illsley, built a Navajo-type loom for her home in St Ives and she has been weaving on it ever since then.
The Navajo-style loom is distinct from the traditional European looms in that it is worked on vertically rather than horizontally. This method a means that a piece can be woven right up to the very edges and does not produce a fringe border, instead the edges are sealed by stitching the last of the yarn together. Stella explains her relationship to this style with enthusiasm:
‘I weave on a primitive Navajo loom, using hand spun yarns and dyeing my own colours. I work intuitively, sometimes from an idea made from a rough sketch, and this is one of the reasons I do not accept commissions. Over the years I have discovered ways of stretching the loom to its full capacity – it is very exciting to make a large rug by weaving two or more pieces, not knowing if the rug will work as a whole until all parts are completed and sewn together.’
I don’t like calling craft work art, but in Stella’s case I have no choice: her rugs are works of art of the highest calibre. Breon O’Casey
Edges are subtly dislocated or adorned with tassels, jaunty little excrescences that marry the rugs to their surroundings as a tree or spire links earth to sky in a landscape.
These seven new examples have all the hallmarks of Stella’s inimitable style, but speak with an authority that perhaps even she has not attained before. This is an artist working with supreme confidence at the very height of her powers.
The rugs may be abstract in design, but there is nothing coldly analytical about them. On the contrary, they have a wonderful warmth and humanity, even a touch of humour. Visually and intellectually satisfying, gratifying our need for aesthetic delight, they also prove sympathetic when we crave rest or solace. They are like dearly loved, wise and understanding friends, the kind we are glad to see whatever our mood knowing they will never disappoint us.
John Christian, 2013
Stella Benjamin moved to Cornwall in 1956 and was later an assistant to the sculptor Dennis Mitchell and a decorator at the Troika Pottery. She was taught to weave by Breon O’Casey in the late 1970s, when she was working in his Porthmeor studio, and in 1979 she installed a Navajo-type loom, built for her by Bryan Illsley, at her home in St Ives. She uses handspun Turkish sheep’s wool and goats’ hair yarns, which she dyes herself.