Jean Pierre Larochette, Yael Lurie, and The Tree of Lives

I found the house with the help of a crumpled flier and the GPS in my iPhone. There were excited, jolly people gathering outside on a back street in Golden, CO in mid-October. I was welcomed into the crowd and ushered into the large-windowed splendor of Sally’s house. We were there to attend a book signing by Jean Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie. Jean Pierre and Yael are a weaver/designer tapestry team whose influence on the medium in the west is legendary. This was something I knew intellectually, but after diving into their newly released book, The Tree of Lives, their influence and story came alive in my mind.
I have enjoyed many long hours reading Jean Pierre’s stories over the last few weeks. He grew up in Argentina and the string of stories he tells brought me right into his young life. He and Yael also talk about her early life in a kibbutz, their meeting, and their decades of adventure since. Their lives have been full of travel, friends, and art. When reading the book, I felt the same genuine love and sense of wonder at the world that I felt in their presence.

Here is a taste straight from Jean Pierre’s vision:
Verdures are tapestries of great attraction and meaning to me. Since my earliest childhood they became the representation of a natural world I longed to discover. Before I was old enough to be allowed to go hiking into the mountains, or camp out with my friends, or start weaving, I built for myself a pocket-size survivor’s kit. It contained fishing line, hooks and a box of matches. Armed with my kit I felt I could adventure safely into the landscape of the Verdures, stepping into the tapestries in a fantasy journey full of mysteries. Walking at the edge of a ravine upstream following the soft rolling hills, going past the oak trees toward the distant castle, alert to the signs of animal life, hiding from hunters, in my imagination I discovered the lure of traveling the ancient way, with just me, a walking stick and my survivor’s kit.*
They gave a short talk about their book, tapestries, and lives that night at Sally’s house. And wonder of wonders, they brought two tapestries we could examine. Yael’s designs are, as Jean Pierre describes them, baroque in nature. They are dense with activity especially images of birds and hands. They have completed many tapestries for synagogues and there are color plates of four of their Tree of Life tapestries in the book. Jean Pierre says that he envisioned this book as “a tree with branches symbolizing the lives that have touched us – family, friends, places, relationships – that even if distant in time, have helped shape our lives.”

Jean Pierre finishes the book talking about the cycles of life. Each February and March he and Yael create a new piece in the Water Songs series, “Foreshadowing the arrival of spring, the process has become a rite, a woven evocation.” And in each decade they have completed a Tree of Life tapestry. “The recurrence of this symbolic theme has given us a sense of continuity, of moving forward, stimulating our resolve in times of uncertainty.”

The Tree of Lives: Adventures between Warp and Weft is a fascinating account of two adventurous souls and the place tapestry has in their journey. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet these two wonderful people and happy that they put their stories into print for the rest of us to enjoy.

*Larochette, J.P., Lurie, Y (2014). The Tree of Lives: Adventures Between Warp and Weft. Berkeley, CA: Genesis Press.

UPDATE 11/15/14: If you'd like a copy of The Tree of Lives, you can email Jean Pierre to order. He hopes eventually to have them available online. Email jplarochette (at) earthlink (dot) net