Tapestry, Seine Twine and Burlesque

A story by Barbara Burns from present

The Little devil Corset: Inspiration

Dying for the Little Red Devil Corset by Barbara Burns

The ancient medium of tapestry, handwoven images in cloth, allows me to create contemporary images and cloth at the same time. The tactile experience of working with fiber, along with the depth of color and richness of the woven surface excites and drives me.

I came to tapestry after weaving patterned, cloth for several years. I grew tired of just weaving pattern. With tapestry, the process of creating cloth and image satisfies me as it ties me to my past and my Grandmother, who taught me to sew at an early age. She instilled in me a love of creating with my hands and an appreciation for good cloth.

The foundation of my tapestries, the warp, is made with seine twine. This is the same material once used to make nets. I live by the New Meadows River where I can watch the fishermen work. Before the advent of synthetics, the fishermen used the same seine twine I weave with, to make nets to catch fish.

My earliest tapestries expressed my fascination with the human face. (This was probably because my mother collected and hung masks on the walls in our house.) After several years of exploring the face, I expanded my weaving to include the full figure. Most recently, I am exploring the sensuality of the female form. This exploration has led me to my “Burlesque Series” which explores and portrays female sexuality and femininity from my perspective as a burlesque and belly dancer in Maine. My new Burlesque series comes from my own experience as a dancer and as a woman expressing herself. Combining my passion for dance with my love of tapestry design and weaving, I am creating a series intended to challenge the observer with complex, and often contradictory, societal views of women.

My personal journey with burlesque began as a dancer in a class in Bath, Maine. The class gives women the opportunity to appreciate their bodies. There was a slow evolution from dance class to performing in public. As part of that evolution I began, with their permission, to photograph, my fellow dancers backstage during performances. These photographs provide the literal and figurative images that become my tapestries.

Amandaconda, Cowgirl II, Pas de Deux, and Ingrid: Dancer In Repose are all part of the Burlesque Series.

Cowgirl II is the beginning of a sequence of future self-portraits that will become more revealing expressing the progression of the level of exposure I have experienced as a blossoming burlesque dancer. As a burlesque and belly dancer I think about the boundaries I am willing to cross. Particularly, what I, as a dancer am willing to expose.”

Ingrid: Belly Dancer In Repose began with a backstage photo. I reworked the image, pushing colors and contrast until the background and foreground began to merge. I see Ingrid as coming out of the background, a metaphor for the emerging woman as she matures and grows into herself.

Pas de Deux speaks to the duality of a dancer’s persona and the woman within. This work also expresses the fellowship and respect that develops between dancers. Pas de Deux won best work in the Heallreaf 2 exhibit in England this year.

My tapestry “Temptation” explores the complexity of sexual identity and gender. It was inspired by drag performances where men alter their bodies to appear as women. At one particular show I was permitted to photograph performers while doing hair and makeup. One performer, Chocolát, granted me the privilege of sharing an intimate moment, as she donned her wig. I used her photos in “Temptation.” Issues of individuality and concepts such as innocence, enlightenment and liberation were on my mind while working on this tapestry.

My most recent work explores tapestry in three dimensions. I am creating a wearable corset. You can watch the video to learn more.



Cowgirl II 40.25 x 14.75 wool weft, seine twine warp

Ingrid: Dancer In Repose 40 x 26" wool warp, seine twine warp

Pas de Deux 23.5 x 39.5" mercerized cotton weft, seine twine warp