Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throw 2024. Original painting by Maine artist Eric Hopkins inspires this limited edition handwoven throw by Swans Island Company. Available June 2024.

A Limited Edition Throw
by Swans Island & Eric Hopkins

Behind the scenes—melding fine art and fine craft

Eric Hopkins is a renowned Maine-based visual artist who works in many mediums. He is best recognized for his aerial views of islands in Penobscot Bay, shimmering in the cold clear waters off Midcoast Maine. Swans Island Company, located on the coast of Maine, has been making elegant handwoven and hand-dyed textiles that veer in an artistic vein since 1992. Kevin Thomas has been an arbiter and curator of Maine paintings for many years through the centrally located and beautiful Portland Art Gallery on Middle Street in the heart of Portland Maine’s Old Port. An idea for a collaboration between these entities resulted in this unique intersection of fine art and fine craft.

Last fall a chance encounter with Eric prompted a conversation around the idea of translating an original Hopkins painting into a one-of-a-kind woven wool textile. We debated the tactile differences and distinct qualities of working with fibers versus paints. We discussed the relative merits of a rendering as opposed to an exact replication. There are many examples of textiles attempting to copy an art work to very mixed results from our point of view. Woven textiles and paintings each present different opportunities and limitations associated with their production. Taking the abilities of our antique looms into consideration, we decided to explore what an artistic handwoven rendering of a painting might look like.

“We decided to explore what an artistic handwoven rendering of a painting might look like.”

A collaboration is born

We invited Kevin from the Portland Art Gallery to join our conversation, adding his perspective as a gallery owner. The hypothesis was that Swans Island could create a rendering of a Hopkins piece that could stand on its own as a thing of utility and beauty, but also embody the spirit of the original Hopkins painting. Excited to see how these distinctly different mediums might play off one another, we agreed to collaborate on this exciting project.

“The resulting original art work is a Hopkins watercolor executed with the both the limitations and advantages of a hand loom in mind.”

The painting comes to life

The design process began with Eric creating three different yet similar paintings. The proportions of the three paintings were established to match those of the woven throw that would come later. We met with Eric to select the painting we all felt would be best interpreted into a woven textile.

Painting #1 featured striated layers of water with many islands while painting #3 incorporated more purple tones with lots of variegation in the water. Painting #2 featured three bands of islands set against a rich background of turquoise ocean waters and blue summer skies. All three works were organized on the horizontal axis as are our textiles.

The strong bands created by the three receding islands and a color palette that best matched the rich hand-dyed colors of Swans Island’s yarns led us to all agree that painting #2 was the winning candidate to be translated into a woven throw. After we chose painting #2, our creative director set to work translating the paint colors into bands of hand-dyed wool yarns.

Swans Island x Eric Hopkins Ltd. edition Throw features many hand-dyed wool yarns from the Swans Island yarn collection.
Original painting #1 by Eric Hopkins. Inspiration for the Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw 2024.
Original painting #2 by Eric Hopkins. Inspiration for the Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw 2024.
Original painting #3 by Eric Hopkins. Inspiration for the Swans Island x Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw.

Three paintings in process, at the beginning of the design phase of the collaboration.

Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throw 2024. This original painting by Maine artist Eric Hopkins inspires a limited edition handwoven throw by Swans Island Company. Available June 2024.

Water, Land, and Sky Bands
Original painting by Eric Hopkins

The throw comes to life

The warp is the set of yarns that runs vertically in the blanket. Since Eric’s work is so deeply associated with sky and water, we felt an underlying blue theme would best capture this spirit. We determined that we would be weaving these blankets on a blue warp.

The weft colors are the yarns that run horizontally across the loom. These are the colors that are the most visible and must accurately portray the colors of water near and far, of granite shoreline, of land and trees, sky and clouds. To begin this process, we pulled more than thirty colors of yarn from the shelves in our studio. We consulted our woven swatch library to see how the colors might work on a blue warp.

“This throw incorporates seventeen different colors in three different types of Swans Island yarns.”

We settled on seventeen different yarn colors to create the Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throws. Our yarns are exclusively made for us in Maine and Massachusetts mills using fine all-natural organic Merino wool, alpaca and American Rambouillet wool. We dye all of these yarns by hand in our Maine dye house. Our custom hand-dyeing techniques lend variegation and interest that make all Swans Island signature handwoven pieces unique. The textures and colors of each yarn were taken into consideration when planning the final woven interpretation of Eric’s painting.

After paring down the yarn choices, a set of precise technical specifications was drafted. These specs outline the exact dimensions of each band of color and precisely which colors should be used. Like a set of blueprints an architect would give a builder, the spec sheets give the weavers a specific set of plans to follow.

Rich hand-dyed colors of Swans Island’s yarns capture the complex tonalities of paint hues in Eric’s piece.

The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw 2024. Shuttles of yarn, ready to be woven on the loom at the Swans Island studio in Northport, Maine.

Closeup details of the woven blanket in process,
and the painting in process.

The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw 2024. On the loom at Swans Island studios, Northport, Maine.

“Transforming watercolor paints on paper to
hand-dyed handwoven wool took several iterations
to get the pattern just right.”

The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw 2024. A closeup of the weaver's instruction notes, on the loom at Swans Island studios, Northport, Maine.

Version #1

Our first prototype used more colors with greater variation and less blending. You can see that the water and sky sections looked too “stripey” and the blues didn’t work together very well. The weaver’s mark was too bold. The colors were too bright. We also thought the sky sections could use a bit of refinement.

The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw 2024 - Prototype Version #1.

Version #2

While we felt pretty good about the island sections, but we felt that the water colors, especially the first section, still weren’t quite right. We removed the aqua color in the first band of water, and extended out that middle blue color. In order to soften the transition between colors, our weavers needed to “blend” the two blues. This requires great skill and attention to detail as the weaver must swap out the shuttle of yarn for a different color every row or two. The sky sections also felt too stripy in this version, so we agreed to reduced the number of colors and incorporate the blending technique throughout.

The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw 2024. Detail closeup showing sky and clouds interpreted in woven wool. Prototype Version #2.

Version #3

By the final version we felt that we had created a piece of textile art that is pleasing to the eye in its own right, yet still echoes the essence of the original painting.

The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Ltd. Edition Throw 2024. Prototype Version #3.

The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throw

The result of this collaboration is a stunning painting that evokes the coast of Maine with its interplay between water, sky and land. Out of this art has emerged a limited edition handcrafted throw blanket born of hand and fleece, molded through loom and dye pot. Both stand as unique works of art on their own merits.

Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throw 2024. Original painting by Maine artist Eric Hopkins inspires this limited edition handwoven throw by Swans Island Company. Available June 2024.

See the painting and throw together

Starting in early June 2024, both works of art will be on display at the Portland Art Gallery on Middle Street in Portland, Maine for a limited time. Swans Island is weaving a limited number of these exquisite throws. If you’d like to have one for your home, please stop by the gallery to purchase one or place your order.

Throws will also be on display and available for purchase at the Swans Island flagship store in Camden, Maine, at the Swans Island Studio Showroom in Northport, Maine and on the Swans Island website.

If you are interested in owning this one-of-a-kind original painting by Eric Hopkins, please contact Kevin at The Portland Art Gallery at 207-956-7105 or kthomas@portlandartgallery.com for details.

This summer we will be giving away one of these beautiful throws. If you’d like a chance to WIN a The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throw, please visit any of these locations to enter our contest.

A winner will be selected in early September, 2024.

Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throw 2024. Each handwoven throw s comes in a signature Swans Island linen gift box.
Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throw 2024. Original painting by Maine artist Eric Hopkins inspires this limited edition handwoven throw by Swans Island Company. Available June 2024. Eric Hopkins and Bill Laurita of Swans Island Co.

The Details

  • The The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throws are woven by various members of the Swans Island weaving team.
  • There are seventeen colors in each throw.
  • The yarns used to make these throws are all hand-dyed in our Maine studio.
  • Each throw is a unique handwoven textile.
  • Each throw incorporates three kinds of Swans Island hand-dyed yarn.
  • Sterling (85% Certified organic Merino wool  + 15% alpaca)
  • Firefly (100% Certified organic Merino wool , tie-dyed)
  • All American Sport  (100% American Rambouillet wool)

 

Purchase Information

The Eric Hopkins Water, Land, and Sky Bands original watercolor painting is available for purchase through the Portland Art Gallery. Please call (207) 956 -7105 for inquiries and pricing.

The Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throws are available to purchase for a limited time through Swans Island retail stores in Camden and Northport, Maine and online at swansislandcompany.com as well as at the Portland Art Gallery. Call Swans Island Customer service at 207-338-9691 for additional information.

Swans Island & Eric Hopkins Limited Edition Throw 2024. Original painting by Maine artist Eric Hopkins inspires this limited edition handwoven throw by Swans Island Company. Available June 2024.