Michael Rohde is remarkable in the weaving world; for starters, he is a male in an often female-dominated art and he left a career as a biochemist to make weaving his full-time work. He has sold his work at street fairs in North Carolina, owned a gallery in Houston, done commission rug weaving in Maine, and has called weaving his full-time work for the last 12 years.
Although he started by weaving floor rugs, he gradually transitioned to wall tapestries, as his designs became more and more object-based, versus pattern-based. They related to kimonos, and in general the color and design dictated that people who bought them put them on walls instead of floors. These days, Michael’s work is shown around the world.
The piece titled “Houses” utilized a variety of flesh tones in a repeating house pattern as indication that all of humanity lives under the same “tent.” It also addresses the issues of overpopulation and lack of housing.
In his work titled “Water,” he started with a Google Earth image that had an interesting difference between dry brown and green with a lake in the middle. In Michael’s words, “I took that satellite image and put it into small squares. It turns out that it was a man-made lake made for agricultural purposes, so it really did address questions of how water is being used.”
From his beginnings as a rug weaver to his wall tapestries that are shown in exhibitions around the world, Michael now has reached the point where his ideas precede designs; he starts with a concept or topic and works through the creative challenge of expressing it through his tapestries. This made me think of my own work in contemporary quilting, which often starts with a particular fabric or technique.
After talking with Michael, I’ve started considering the difference in work that is initiated by allowing ideas drive the direction of the design. Michael’s work is defined by the strength of its “intentionality” -one more aspect that makes his work remarkable. It’s no wonder that so many people enjoy it.
You can see more of Michael’s work at michaelrohde.com.