Sunday, August 7, 2011

Remembering Another Tapestry Weaver and Her Work

Weaving from 2002/2003 N.Z. Traveling Suitcase Exhibition
20x20cm Hand-woven by Astrida Dahm
It's funny how things go around. I was stuck for things to post....I don't have much to show for myself that I can share at the moment due to exhibition commitments so I thought I would add some notes about how I came to acquire a loom that used to belong to a little recognised but very able tapestry weaver I used to know.

A few months ago I was given this loom by fellow spinner/weaver Rowena, who is a member of my local Spinners and Weavers group. It is a Leclerc, Nilart, 8 shed, 10-treddle jack floor loom with a 45" weavable width. This loom is totally unsuitable/overpowered for my tapestry weaving, apart from weaving the occasional rug. Weaving smaller tapestries on it would be like using a steam roller to crack a nut.

Anyway, she had bought the loom from a person who had got it from the estate of a tapestry weaver called Astrida, who used to live and weave in Coromandel during the 1990's to early 2000's. She had told our group leader she was off to pick up her new loom....

Well Glenys knew that I had spent several years living in Coromandel and that if there was a fellow tapestry weaver living in that tiny township, I would know who that weaver was.

And I did. Astrida was born in Germany in 1950. I believe sometime after leaving school she went on to train as a weaver for quite some while under a master weaver in a studio that I do not know the name of, but that she seemed pleased to have received her training from. 

She travelled a lot during the late 1960's and 1970's, until she reached N.Z.'s East Coast north of Gisborne. It was here she met the potter Helen Mason (an extraordinary and beautiful older wise woman with adventurous tales of her own I might add). Astrida settled down on the coast and was soon invited to learn how to weave flax/harakeke, attending regular flax-weaving wananga with the local Ngati Porou women.

In the early 1980's her son Mingus was born, and they both moved up to Coromandel in the footsteps of Helen Mason who was by then living in the Old Tram at Driving Creek Railway and Potteries. 

By the time I moved to Coromandel in 1991, she and Helen had well and truly set up and established the Coromandel Spinners and Weavers in the Pink House over the road from the D.C.R.P. The Pink House was an inspirational hive of activity for fibre artists. It was through this group that Astrida learnt I was looking for a house to rent for me and my 2 children. After a daunting personality check, she gave me cheap rent on her run down old miners cottage over the road from her house, and where we stayed for several years while the kids grew up around us as our tapestry ideas bounced and banged off each other.

Her tapestries always included her hand-spun, often hand-dyed silks and fine wool. The images were organic, feminine, gentle and beautiful. She became quite the mentor for me as far as technical issues were concerned. She was incredibly funny in all ways, often abrupt, and very down to earth. I often wonder whether flax or tapestry weaving would have won the battle for her attention, as it must be getting close to a decade since she passed away.

However I think she would be pleased to see that as her beautiful, much loved loom has been battered and picked over, bereft of reed and other little bits and pieces, that I should now have it taking up a large portion of my very limited kitchen/dining space. 

I have inherited a monster that I love just because it belonged to my fellow tapestry weaver, neighbour and friend Astrida, and I like to think she would find that very fine indeed.

Tapestry Weaver, Astrida Ritchie-Dahm


  1. Just back from Hamilton weaving meeting.
    Thank you for these memories. I only met Astrida once at a workshop in Hamilton.
    Instead of creeping in apologising for being late as I would have done, she opened the door wide, smile from ear to ear and said Hi everyone, I'm Astrida.

  2. I am not in the least surprised that you remember her. She was that kind of a gal.

  3. I remember staying with Astrida and her partner and new baby Mingus in Tokomaru Bay later 1970s Theo Schoon was on his last legs living with Mary across the road.Astrid was a very strong personality for sure.We didn't know them from a bar of soap but the gave us a place to sleep and eat for a week.I fond memory.

  4. So happy you found this post, as I know it would have prompted beautiful memories, especially if you were on a personal journey full of cattle-stops and rickety gates. The potter Helen Mason became an artistic and guiding mentor for Astrida, She and Helen spoke very fondly of their Tokomaru days.

    1. Does anyone know what became of Mingus? I was friends with him in primary school when he lived in Tokomaru Bay.


Tapestry Weavings By Stephenie Collin


I hope you find Warped Art & Design both interesting and inspiring, and that it will encourage anyone working with fibre to investigate and experiment further within their chosen field.

The basic loom, which is my tool of trade, has remained technologically unchanged. This aspect appeals to me as I weave contemporary images on a machine of such simple and ancient construction.

And if the loom be silenced,
then needles, threads and fingers
have plenty more to say.

About Me

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Waiuku, Auckland, New Zealand
I am an artist, weaver, gardener, mother and grandmother, home food gatherer, political sceptic, modest future eater, and much much more.