Ellen Ramsey
Contemporary Tapestry

Je Suis un Lissier

I trace my tapestry “lineage” to the French tradition through Mary Lane via Ruth Scheuer via Jean Pierre Larochette and the San Francisco Tapestry Workshop, active 1977-1988. How Jean Pierre ended up in the USA in the first place is a fascinating story. To learn about this historical period, I highly recommend Jean Pierre’s and Yael Lurie’s recently published memoir “A Tree of Lives.”* (There is also an educational article written by Linda Rees here https://americantapestryalliance.org/tapestry-education/educational-articles-on-tapestry-weaving/the-emergence-of-contemporary-tapestry-an-overview/)

There are two centers for tapestry production in France. Both were once “royal manufacturies” that supplied the aristocracy and the church with tapestries: Paris (Les Manufacture Gobelin) and Aubusson, a rural town in the Creuse region. As an art form patronized by the monarchy, tapestry fell out of favor and declined rapidly after the French Revolution.  However, after WWII the artist Jean Lurçat and others were able to revive and popularize the production of “modern” tapestry in Aubusson. A global interest was sparked that led to the establishment of many tapestry workshops outside of Europe.  Jean Pierre’s father, Armand Larochette, left Aubusson to establish a workshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina (where Jean Pierre was born), and later helped to establish a workshop in Nazareth Israel under the patronage of Lurçat (where Jean Pierre met his wife and collaborator Yael Lurie). 


Aubusson, France. There are many independent tapestry ateliers here. It is also the cutest place on earth.

Jean Pierre and Yael first came to the Bay Area in the early 1970s. They found work teaching tapestry in the textile department at San Francisco State University. In 1976 the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco hosted the exhibition Five Centuries of Tapestry. Curator Anna Bennett hired Jean Pierre and nine of his students to weave a Mark Adams tapestry design in the gallery as a public demonstration. From this experience came the founding of the San Francisco Tapestry Workshop.

California Poppies was woven in situ at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco during the exhibition Five Centuries of Tapestry

One of Jean Pierre’s most serious students in San Francisco was Ruth Tanenbaum Scheuer (now Rudi Dundas). She was a founding member of the SFTW with Larochette in 1977.  She went on from there to apprentice at Les Manufacture Gobelin in Paris (I’ve heard she was one of the first Americans to do so), before returning to the USA to establish her own tapestry atelier, the Scheuer Tapestry Studio, in NYC in 1982.  While in the process of setting up her workshop, Ruth Scheuer taught a tapestry course at the Oregon School of Arts and Crafts. Mary Lane was a student in this class and when Scheuer opened her tapestry workshop in New York, Mary was among her original apprentices.

A student learns Gobelin technique at Les Manufacture Gobelin in 2017. The hallmarks of the Gobelin technique are an upright loom and working with the back of the tapestry facing the weaver. On the stand in front of the loom is a mirror so the weaver can see the front.  I weave this way, with my mirror propped on music stands.

The Scheuer Tapestry Studio was active from 1982 to 1989. They wove numerous large corporate and private commissions.  A gifted teacher, it became Mary’s job to teach the Gobelin techniques to subsequent apprentices at the workshop. Mary and her husband eventually settled in Olympia Washington. She continued to weave commissions and teach tapestry in her studio and in Seattle.  After an introductory class at a local weaving store, a small group of us hired Mary to come to Seattle one day per week for intensive private tutoring. We continued this weekly practice for three years.

Over 300 artists were trained at the SFTW, so a lot of west coast weavers trace their tapestry ancestry back to France via Jean Pierre.  I am honored to be one of them, albeit three “generations” removed. Jean Pierre Larochette still teaches tapestry in the US and in Mexico. 

What is your tapestry ancestry?


Contemporary workshop weavers working on a commission in 2017. In the Aubusson area, weavers work on horizontal “low warp” looms. At this workshop, they also wear matching smocks. (jealous?)

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