Undercurrents and inner solace: the timeless handweavings of Kate Kilmurray by Louise Long
Louise Long - February 2022
"Ten minutes from Kate Kilmurray’s home in Southern California, she is by the water. As the dry desert is transformed by the arrival of the rare winter rains, Kate eases her way into the center of the river. Shoes removed, she sits; allowing the shallow waters to bathe and heal. The restoration and inspiration of nature.
Stillness and flow is in many ways central to Kate's weaving practice. The ancient creak of the mountains, the shifting sky, the ebb and flow of the seasonal waters; all find their place in her making. Small rituals become embedded in Kate’s daily encounters with the landscape: collecting shells and plant matter, composing arrangements in the sand. Reminders of grounding acts of ceremony, and of the restorative energy of sacred space. Each in homage to the preciousness of the natural world’s endless offering.
The translation of these experiences is not in terms of images but of essence. They inform a sense of awareness, time, and tactility. Loops of hand-dyed cotton alongside a simple, 7-by-7 inch loom are enough. No tools; only the slow rhythm of hand and fiber. “I need to feel the material”, she says. Softness and sensitivity abound.
From this place, the possibilities are endless - a myriad of hues, rhythms and textures emerge. Loops and knots and dance their own gentle choreographies - from the undulation of waves to the flicker of sunlight through the trees. Marrying cotton and wool - some bold, others muted - Kate’s Collections are inspired by ‘Sand’, ‘Seedling’, or ‘Forest’, humming with tones of ochre, flax or pine. They are once utilitarian - made to protect hands and tabletops, designed for daily use and comfort - and decorative: to be cherished for generations to come.
Drawing on early lessons from her mother and grandmother, Kate’s affinity for making is steeped in values of the handmade and in an appreciation for form. More recently, it is entwined with a meditation practice: of inward listening, pause and rest; of “silence and mystery”, as Kate describes. In the hope that one might “make friends with your experience”.
In turn, Kate’s creativity is embedded with community - from the scattering of her weavings around the world, to her teaching practice - bringing together circles of women in her studio and online. Creating solace, forging belonging and eschewing the worries of the day.
From the sanctuary of the loom, Kate’s handweavings each unfold with the idiosyncrasy of their own language, expression, and vitality. As their journey continues through the life of new owners' hands and homes, they are the site and inspiration for further solace. A circle of nourishment from the timeless simplicity of the square."
Louise Long - March 2022
"There is safety in a circle. There is continuity and softness; optimism, and openness. To come together in a circle of others is an act of anchoring oneself in an unsettled world. It is to connect.
For teacher and maker Kate Kilmurray, weaving circles are the foundation of stability in oneself and one’s creativity. They offer a space for understanding, trust, and quiet; in the presence of embodied creativity. They are at the heart of Kate’s advocating for a more simple way of being: a unifying act of interconnectedness, free of the burdens of the everyday. A gathering of strangers who - against the odds - find themselves newly grounded in real life and real purpose. Rooted in the facts of who they truly are. And able to reach outwards with authenticity.
This is what matters. Not the outcome, but the process. In simple terms, Kate’s weaving is a practice of connecting fibres through gesture: through the gentle oscillations between hands, loops and loom. And yet through these material rhythms, by paying attention to our own thoughts and by listening to others, a new dimension opens up to us. A welcoming realm: of intimacy and awareness; permitting us to look down and in. In the face of a disquieting world - mired by childhood wounds, the suffering of the present, and the uncertainty of one’s future - weaving may offer a mode of finding internal peace, and in turn, social connection. A rare gift in this increasingly siloed world.
As individual makers, there is the possibility of connection to materials or to tradition, to memory or process. More simply, still, one may discover an affinity for a specific palette or refine a sensibility for pattern; one may revel in the unique and particular qualities of textures, forms, mediums. But to truly find meaning in our practice there must be a more active, conscious search. A participatory mode of connecting - that first looks within, and then finds affinity outside of ourselves.
Indeed, only from a place of embodied experience might we discover how to give back to the world. And only through the inspiration of meaningful encounter, community, and empathy, are we awakened to our own creative potential. For as soon as we have tuned into our inner core, we might venture bravely into the unknown - primed in the knowledge of our own strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. From this settled space, our own voice emerges. With strength and conviction.
And herein lies the promise of creativity. A spirit borne of the intricacies of our environment, nourished by the lessons of others and the revelations of ourselves. A creativity of genuine independence of thought and vision. Yielding fulfilment not only for ourselves, but a generosity of spirit which resonates with others.
For creativity itself is a circle - a synchronised loop of listening, thinking, and extending. Weaving together, we are united: in the simplest act of slowing down, and coming home."