Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hidden Tapestry

When this book was recommended to me, I found the title to be intriguing. Because I had not heard of tapestry weaver, Jan Yoors, I did some quick internet research. It seems that he led a very unusual life. There were many facets to him and his story, each of which would be interesting to explore.

My husband and I read the book together, taking turns reading aloud to each other in the evenings. We were both hooked on the story!

Author Debra Dean really dug deep into her research. Through the use of documents, artifacts, diaries and first person accounts, she unfolds the story of Jan and his two wives, Annabert and Marianne.

While Hidden Tapestry is classified as a Biography/Art History book, it is so much more.
Biography, history, romance and adventure are all woven together in this tale.
It tells the story of the three individuals growing up in Belgium and their childhood friendships. It then follows them through the chaos of living in war-torn Europe in the 1940's and their immigration to America. Living in Bohemian Greenwich Village in the 1950's, they settled into a very extraordinary life as a family, living and working in their own tapestry-weaving workshop.

Jan spent many years traveling with Gypsy caravans and the book is full of interesting cultural detail about the Roma. We also learned much from the accounts of what it was like to live through World War II and it's aftermath. The characters showed us their determination, adaptability, resilience and what it takes to follow a dream.

When Jan is drawn to tapestry weaving, he is able to learn the art without formal schooling. As he moves more into designing the tapestries, Marianne and Annabert become his weavers. The author states, "All three were self-taught and had arrived at their mastery together. "
This part was of special interest to me. I have never had any formal art training, yet have made a life and living from weaving, too.
As a weaver this also was most interesting to read "Traditionally weavers use a special comb or beater to pack the weft thread down tightly against the previous row, but Marianne and Annabert used the tip of a screwdriver because that was the only tool they'd had available when they first started."

I highly recommend this book!

To learn more, visit the publishers website here: http://www.nupress.northwestern.edu/content/hidden-tapestry

In this video you can see many still photos of his work as well as the women weaving with screwdrivers.



  1. It's on my list--thanks. I enjoy reading about the lives behind the art, and the evolution of that art, especially when it's self-taught using materials at hand.

    You and Rick are fulfilling a dream of mine: reading aloud with a partner. Minus a partner, I'm considering starting an oral reading group!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.