Meet the maker: Norma Rosier, tapestry artist

By Abigail Beckett

Norma Rosier is a weaver, sewer, knitter, and spinner. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Norma became interested in spinning and weaving after seeing a spinning demonstration in Yorkshire and becoming curious about the creative process. “You can’t be around weavers a lot before you get sucked in,” she says. Norma joined a guild in Bradford, the centre of the British woollen industry, and learned how to weave.

In 1982, Norma took a rug weaving course in Wales; this made her decide she wanted to be a rug weaver. After meeting her husband, who was a woodworker, she asked him if he could build her a loom. He obliged. “He made me a wonderful loom,” says Norma. She then became a full-time weaver.

Norma wanted to make a living out of rug weaving, but everyone told her that the rugs were too nice to put on the floor, so selling them was difficult. So Norma thought, “Why not hang them?” She began tapestry making.

Norma and her husband decided to come to Canada after living in the Hebrides. “We were very keen on finding somewhere where I would meet other fibre artists. It was very important to come to an area like this where we had the guild.”

Norma says that she tends to stick to landscape and seascape designs both because she likes them, and also because it is easier to create horizontal patterns on the loom rather than vertical, which would result in much harsher lines. She has played with geometric patterns in the past but now focuses on landscape imagery. Norma says that she developed her style from photos she took in the Hebridean landscape. Her style was initially inspired from an early issue of the magazine Handwoven, which featured an article on a tapestry made for the Swedish Houses of Parliament, which comprised three panels stitched together. This is essentially the style that Norma does now, although not to the same scale. Instead of stitching the panels together, she prefers to keep a few inches of space between each panel, so your eyes fill in the negative space.

Creating tapestries can take a long time. For Norma, working a few hours each day, tapestries can take up to two to three months from start to finish. Each thread has six strands that – together – create a specific colour. Norma describes the threading process as something similar to that of a painter mixing paint.

Although Norma has taught classes in the past, her favourite thing to do is create. From a young age, she had the urge to create and has always found joy in making things. She reminds herself that with all the skills she has acquired, she truly enjoys what she does. She says that this is what keeps her going.

A member of the Kingston Handloom Weavers and Spinners guild (KHWS), Norma teaches beginner-level tapestry weaving workshops held at the guild’s studio space at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning.

She really enjoys teaching tapestry and rug weaving workshops, specifically at the beginner level. “It’s satisfying to take someone who has never done weaving before and getting them to the point where they can take it and run with it,” she says.

After taking a workshop with KHWS member Bridget Lewis on creative dyeing, Norma found it incredible to see how she could create her own colours. She has now been dyeing wool for knitting and fibre for spinning. She also has an at-home dye station (involving a microwave and her upstairs bathroom). Norma can now create any particular colour she wants.


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Photo cutline: Two of Norma’s tapestries on display at the Tett Centre. The blue scenic tapestry utilizes wool from a mill in Scotland where Norma lived before coming to Kingston. Norma’s advice for those wanting to start weaving or any related craft is to get involved with fellow crafting groups, “because the people who get involved are the ones that stay,” adding that “until you become a part of a community, it can feel a bit isolating.” She has formed friendships and learned a lot from others at the guild.