Essay

At Home and in the Studio: Christopher Duncan

A month or so before the lockdown I relocated from the countryside, north of Auckland back to the city.  I moved into an old worker’s cottage with my friend Elle, her son Otto and Anu the cat.  The dangers of our old gas cooktop were offset by the claw foot bath, front and back gardens and the open fireplace. Amidst the adjustment of lockdown home life I installed a vertical loom in the lounge.  Made of a canvas stretcher frame, dowels and heavy duty plastic-type rope it is hard to miss, but fits its purpose.  For four weeks I wove black linen through the cotton rug warp in a soumak technique, Otto attended virtual high school and folded paper into floral tessellations, Elle wrote words on artists, planned the garden and documented our isolation.  Evenings were spent cooking, playing cards and watching the phases of the moon.  As the lockdown eased I’ve been able to access my studio where the large floor loom has taken root.  

My new studio is in the basement of an old building near the centre of the city.  The space feels private, quiet - most of the time, and has seemed like a bunker during a pandemic.  Industrial wire laced windows line the long western wall and catch the lazy afternoon and early evening sun.  I share the space with objects from my landlady’s past lives stacked on old museum storage shelves; a Roman bust, handmade papier-mâché lamps, a photo of her husband as a child, Chinese copper and enamel vases, oversized mirrors in gilt frames.  My large counterbalance loom stands strong on the concrete floor.  Flanked by shelves stacked on shelves stuffed with skeins of alpaca, silk, linen for warping, mohair and large cones of jute.  An Afghan and a Caucasian rug span the cold floor between the couch, the loom and the mahjong table.  Wilting brocade chairs take up space around the table, one painted like an egg with a contrasting purple velvet cushion covering.  

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Christopher Duncan is a contemporary craft practitioner who specialises in hand weaving textiles. Duncan began weaving in 2012 after a career in the fashion industry and taught himself through gifted looms and materials.   His practice moves between the making of textile for use in clothing and as object – challenging the idea of artisanal works as everyday useful items.

The lounge with the vertical loom

The old fireplace in the dining room

Otto August's origami work

The studio loom view

Full moon during lockdown