Gather’s collaboration with Hand Laboratory started very simply: “Kim got in touch and said we like what you do, do you want to make something for Gather?” Victoria Sanchez remembers. “I wanted to make this a special thing. So we brainstormed a lot, and bounced ideas off each other.” Victoria’s goal was to draw on the common elements between weaving and metalsmithing. Her work with bronze and other metals is slow and precise, requiring meticulous attention to her materials and lots of advance planning. “It’s just like weaving!” she says with a laugh. “I wanted to distill the idea of weaving into pieces of jewelry. I studied the texture, considered using colour…” But her eureka moment came when she was holding a handwoven sample and looking at it with her ‘loop’, the magnifying lens she wears around her neck to see her metal pieces more clearly. “I was looking at the cloth with my loop, and I realized that it’s a bunch of little lines! And the arrangement of those small lines creates endless options. Kim laughed and said ‘yeah, that’s called twill’ and we went from there.”
Victoria ended up creating five different pieces for Gather’s Greenhouse collection, all based on twill progressions in handweaving. Some mimic diamond twill, others show a few warp ends in a row, and the simplest is a vertical line representing a single segment or warp float. Victoria debated whether to include the single float in the collection. “I was hesitating about making the single one, since it’s so simple. But I wanted to keep referencing that building block, that single unit.” That individual float was what made up all the other pieces, she ultimately decided, so it deserved to be honoured with its own piece.
When making her jewelry for Gather, Victoria went back to that individual unit and built each twill segment piece by piece. She pulled strips of bronze through a metalsmithing tool called a rolling mill to make it uniformly flat with clean edges. Then taking a “tiny” saw, she hand cut each segment of bronze to the same precise size before soldering them together. “A friend of mine told me, you know you can just make a mold and cast those as a single piece, right? And yes, it would have been faster, but I decided not to do it.” Creating the pieces segment by segment was closer to the process of weaving, where one end of warp or one pick of weft is added at a time. It also allowed tiny imperfections to enter the finished product, showing its handmade origin. “When you solder the pieces together, you use something called flux to help with the process. I try to be as meticulous as possible, but there are always some tiny irregularities that make their way in.” Again, she says, “It’s just like weaving!” Weavers and metalsmiths both aim at precision, but love the human touch that enters into the making process. And in both weaving and metalsmithing, Victoria says, “the material dictates what you can do.” Whether we are making tea towels or earrings, craft brings us into collaboration with our materials. We can never truly control the outcomes.
Gather’s collaboration with Victoria ended up revealing deep commonalities between two crafts that seem very different from each other on the surface. Her work is inspired not only by the visual language of weaving, but also by its meticulous and methodical process. Her earrings and pins let the wearer show off their weaving cred, but also provide a point of connection to the shared experience of all crafters in our work.