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Above is a detail of the handwoven tapestry, "A TIGRESS IN TEXAS", shown still on the loom. The young white Siberian tigress, Sabrina oversees her adopted domain in the hills of North Texas at The Texas Exotic Feline Foundation. Sadly, in her native land, the tiger faces extinction. When the last one has gone and all that remains are recorded images, will we speculate that they ever really existed at all? What better medium to depict a vanishing species than that used to chronicle the demise of the mythical Unicorn in the monumental wall hangings of medieval Europe?

"A TIGRESS IN TEXAS" was designed to be an educational tool for hands-on instruction in tapestry weaving. Its dimensions (7 1/2 feet wide by 4 feet tall) provided ample room for three weavers to work simultaneously. Due to flucuation in demand, "TIGRESS" would range from a flurry of activity with several classes scheduled a day to months-long dormancy. Regardless, its imposing presence in the showroom at Woolenworks of McKinney (North Texas' fiber-art Mecca) always provoked curiosity. During the three years of production, "TIGRESS" secured an enthusiastic and diverse following, providing continual opportunity for interaction with the public. Consequently, "A TIGRESS IN TEXAS" morphed into performance art, entertaining while cultivating awareness, not only for the ancient art of tapestry weaving, but for the plight of endangered species as well. To that end, "A TIGRESS IN TEXAS" has far exceeded its expectations.


UPDATE: I just learned that Sabrina, the subject of A TIGRESS IN TEXAS, passed away in November 2011. When I photographed her in 1995 she was a yearling, but to my inexperienced eye she looked full grown. She was stunningly gorgeous and I knew immediately that she would star in my tapestry. She had a magnificent shaded enclosure on a hillside with two pools connected by a "stream". Very playful, she deliberately splashed us by skidding her massive paw across the surface of the water of the higher pond, while submerged up to her neck. Her owner was inside with her on that day. It was obvious that she was well loved.



Before continuing to the images documenting the making of "A TIGRESS IN TEXAS", here are the two most frequently asked questions from the spectators.

1. "How long does it take?" It is misleading to consider the three year duration of the project as an indication. A single weaver could probably have completed it in five or six months if working steadily with purpose, five days a week, five hours a day. However, as a hands-on learning experience for a multitude of students and casual observers exploring the ancient techniques of manipulating yarns into illustrations, tracking time is not relevant.

2. "What's the back look like?" Here's "TIGRESS" laying face down on the floor moments after being completed and cut from the loom.

To continue, click below.