Thursday 18 April 2024

Emilie Poteau,
a weaver’s hands

Emilie is fighting to revive the profession she is so passionate about: weaver. This 29 yo artist is among the few remaining weaver still crafting tapestries in France.

“When I saw the looms in action, I fell in love.” recalls Emilie Poteau. She discovered the weaving art in the French “Académie des Beaux-Arts” of Tournai, while visiting a workshop. She had to do a three-weeks internship. She ended up staying three years.

Since she was very young, Emilie Poteau takes refuge in drawing. “I was already into fabric at the time, but I couldn’t decide what I would do next.” After graphic design studies, she discovered the weaving art and promise herself to dedicate her weaver’s career to restore this profession.

Anything to save the weaver’s profession

“The weaver’s profession used to be highly regarded, particularly in the 14th century,” explains the young artist. “When I realized it was slowly dying out, I told myself I was going to try my best to revive it.” Emilie Poteau then decided to move to Arras in the Hauts-de-France region, birthplace of tapestry. In 2018, in her small workshop, she launches her own brand:  Une pâquerette dans les cheveux (A daisy in the hair). “I took a side job to eat and pay the bills. And when I was not working, I was weaving.” Emilie Poteau started living off her creations only a year ago.

Among her 200 coils of wool, the weaver affirms: “weaving is so relaxing.” And we believe her. On her slightly messy desk: a sketchpad. “Those are my drawings”. On blank pages, Emilie Poteau draws portraits, forms, landscapes. Then only, she weaves them. “I design brooches, with flowers or even family portraits.” But she also designs much bigger tapestries.

To share an ancestral knowledge

“The most important tapestry I ever weaved was of 1.10 m tall and 80 cm large. It took me eight months to finish”, she smiles. She still admits that weaving is no easy task. “There are a lot of techniques. I personally use the ancestral technique. It is not easy but it allows me to do crazy things!”

“I am the only professional in the Hauts-de-France. There are only two remaining workshops: one in Aubusson and the other in Paris.”

A tapestry is the results of an interlacing of dyed wool yarns on a warp threads frame. Emilie Poteau crafts her tapestries vertically and not in the reading direction of the drawing.

Today, Emilie Poteau enjoys sharing her knowledge. “I give classes in schools and lead private workshops.” She is sometimes contacted by museums and media libraries to lead animations. And when she is not taking care of the apprentice weavers, she practices relentlessly. “I’m never without a job,” she laughs.

Dreams at the tip of her fingers

When we finally dare asking about her working hours, Emilie wants to be realistic: “I don’t go on holidays, so I have to set limits for myself. As soon as there’s no more daylight, I stop. During winter, I finish earlier, but during summer…” During summer, this passionate artist finds it hard to stop.

The weaving loom in front of her, the woolen thread between her fingers, Emilie Poteau finds herself dreaming. “My goal would be to open a professional weaving workshop in Arras. A workshop where I could form weavers, where people could see them at work through big windows.” Who knows, maybe one day, this profession will come back to the fore.

Translated by Maëlla Tasset

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