Weaving Witches & Women of Penryn

Following in the steps of Kate the Gull and in homage to the Cornish god of wind Bucca, we went to Penryn Quayside on an afternoon in February to catch the wind. Kate the Gull, a local witch, would capture the wind by knotting rope - she would then sell these ropes to sailors to unknot when the wind died down at sea. Performance artist Katie Etheridge caught the wind in tablet woven bands, knotting them as the gusts danced up against them. She also rode the wind with the human sail, moving her body rhythmically and sensitively to capture the wind in bellows against the lace. A hypnotising dance began on the quayside - human body, the gusts of wind, gravity and the lace sail.   


Bucca the Cornish God of Wind is a hobgoblin who is said to bring the wind in storms through his song. He lives as a black eel in the Cornish caves and drives fish into the nets of fishermen. He is a trickster, a force to be respected, feared and adored. Bucca Dhu is the evil spirit, a devil character, and the good spirit is Bucca Gwidden - a member of the fairy folk, the old people, the ancestors. The rituals that Kate the Gull evoked on the Penryn Wharf would have almost certainly been in praise of Bucca Dhu and Bucca Gwidden. We hope that we in turn paid our respects on the wharf that day.


Through this textile I explored how the motion of hand weaving woollen lace could capture the feeling of the wind moving through the landscape, the fibre and my body whilst working. I spent time sitting in the elements each day whilst weaving the lace, noticing the rhythm of the gusts and working to emulate this ebbing and flowing in the fluid lace pattern. More blustery times that whistle down the chimney and rattle the warp threads result in chunkier yarn and larger lace, whilst the delicate breezy moments that tickle your neck hairs and whisper on your lashes are woven with delicate yarns in small lace patterns. The size of the sail is as wide as me and just slightly longer than my body, so as to reflect the proportions of the female human form. I have chosen to use entirely plant dyed yarn in a mix of earthy yellows and browns as well as greens and blues - I felt this would be an interesting palette to see sailed in the wind as the range of colours would accent the landscape differently depending on the light quality and location. I dressed the wearer in the sail using handmade ceramic loom weights on chords to create a tension between the body, wind, gravity, and earth.

The footage of the performance is included in the film Kemeneth 2017 production: Weaving, Witches and Women of Penryn by Rachael Jones 

Film stills from Weaving, Witches and Women of Penryn by Rachael Jones