Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Who Wove This?

An important aspect of my textile design education at RISD (which I am only now starting to appreciate) is the weaving had to have a purpose beyond being fun & satisfying. Before the industrial revolution, Handweaving was vital to civilization. Weavers & dyers were revered for their mastery. Now people are more likely to say “Do folks still do that?”

I know I come back to this question time and again. At RISD, we wove to design for the textile industry---not as an end in itself, wove to develop a design sense as a means to earn a living as a part of the huge textile industry. Now fabric production is removed from our sight and pretty much invisible and mysterious to the average person—like milk coming from cartons.

I’ll never forget the day back in the mid 60’s when my cousin Judy came by while I was weaving. She looked at the weaving, looked up at me, then back to the weaving and back at me—and in an incredulous voice, stammered, “This is…CLOTH!” I don’t think she ever realized until that very moment how cloth was created. And I don’t think she was unusual in this.

Even though I strayed from the beaten path---away from New York and industry---to become a studio weaver, my training at RISD haunted me for years. The weaving had to stand for something—had to mean something---exist beyond the finished product---had to support me---bring me fame and fortune (and I don’t know where this came from)---had to be useful, to boot. This is a mighty tall order for a scarf.

Over the years, I have come to realize weaving also has the power to heal a broken spirit and a broken heart. And in healing my spirit, I know the power of weaving to heal-- on many levels.

What you get out of weaving equals what you put into it.
So---What thoughts are you weaving into your cloth?
Do you weave with intention?
Why is it some days nothing seems to go right?
And other days it’s like someone else’s hands are throwing the shuttle.
When you cut a weaving off the loom, do you sometimes look at your weaving in amazement and think, “Who wove this?”


Laritza said...

You are so right! Some days I wonder if some one else came over. Some days I wonder how in the world can everything go bad all at once.

hokieknitter said...

As a very newbie weaver, some of my thoughts are best not spoken aloud in polite company. But I've always wanted to weave and I love the intertwining of the threads, so like the needle-weaving I was already doing in my hardanger and hemstitching linenwork. I love to pat my work, feel the textures, see the colors developing. I know my friend, mentor and instructor, Evelyn, thinks I must be the slowest weaver in the world since I take so long to get thru a piece but it's because I'm kinda overwhelmed watching that pattern develop and enjoying the process. I think the days nothing goes right are just days needed to go off and re-assess if the project is wanting to be what I want or am I demanding something of materials they can't do, just like other things in life and this happens in all my other crafts, too. And it makes the sweet days that everything flows perfectly so much more sweeter. And yes, I always look at any item I've made that has turned out well-crafted and feel that awe of "who made this?"

Erin said...

Bonnie, check out my blog! I think you'll find something good there!

Meg said...

Wow. I'd like my weaving to mean something beyond textile, (was that how you put it?) but when I'm weaving, all I can hope for is to beat evenly and get the selvedges straight. I think if anything is going to happen 'beyond' that, it gets built in at the designing stage.

Oh the other hand, the last few weeks have been a horror show in my studio that I'd like to think my body's been taken over by an incompetent nincompoop, but alas, I know it's me weaving, because I'm too much of a control freak to abdicate... control.

I guess that's how hard I find the technique of weaving. There's always more/new areas I can make mistakes in!

Powerful post, Bonnie. Food for thought.

penelope said...

I have come to weaving in just the last year. On finishing my first length from a table loom I had a unique feeling of accomplishment that greatly outshone feelings of achievement that I had had in the past, for enterprises that many others would perhaps consider far more accomplished. I recently made my first warp solo - an experience that had affinities with dance and painting for me, although I don't have the words right now to express quite how. It's been great to find your blog - I look forward to reading more.

Meg said...

I keep coming back to this post. One of my New Year's Resolution this year was to think less and have fun... Happy 2009, Bonnie.