This week was the first time I had to give a presentation to the MA students and staff. The preparation took a surprisingly long time because I kept having sudden realisations. Like – my goodness, I’ll have been weaving for 20 years in June!! Yikes!! That’s both very salutary and uplifting at the same time. Twenty years has flown by! But the knowledge that there is still so much to learn and I’m so excited about the potentials in what I’m doing is energising.
I also realised that I work in two very distinct ways, and always have, and didn’t even know it! Back in the day (1994/5) when I was doing a distance-learning course called the Bradford Diploma of Handloom Weaving (although it included spinning, braiding and dyeing as well as theory paper) I was allowed to choose a theme for my warps as opposed to specifying a technique. Once that permission had been given, my weaver’s block lifted and I flew in terms of design ideas and challenging myself. The theme I chose for my first themed warp was Antarctica. I’ve written about this before, I think, but it was a watershed moment for me in my weaving life. Using a direct inspiration from a nature photograph changed the whole way I thought.
The other method is to decide on a technique I want to study and explore it as far as I can…. Like the woven shibori for texture (although I’ve only just started on that….!)
Technically, I’m quite proficient and self-disciplined. I’m also a very literal person (not quite as bad as Temperance Brennan in ‘Bones’ on TV, but nearly!) so I have tended to take an image and try to re-create it through weaving.
This is something I am seeking to change. I’m sure it won’t be all the time, but I am looking to develop my capacity for abstraction.
Anyway, back to the presentation.
I’m used to giving presentations as a speaker, a teacher and a workshop leader. That’s not a problem. However, the Q&A session afterwards I knew was going to be tough. You’re talking to a highly educated group of people who have a good understanding of the art world. There was one audience member who is primarily a lace maker (exquisite work) but who also weaves, but other than Louise, no-one else is into textiles. My past education and livelihood was in music and my knowledge of the art world is limited, to say the least (although expanding rapidly!!)
It was very interesting to me to see that the tactility of the work spoke so strongly to people. I foolishly didn’t hand the samples out during the talk (partly because I thought the lights were going to be switched off, so it would have been hard for people to see, and partly because I forgot to do it halfway through the presentation). One of my tutors started picking samples up and handling them, passing them around. People were fondling them and really relating to the textures and relief surfaces.
I also hadn’t realised that the samples I had supplied would be regarded as a finished piece. To me, samples are such a fundamental part of developing my weaving language, but I am also aware that I could sample till the cows come home and still not have enough! It is going to be a challenge to find a stopping point and actually create finished work.
I did have one finished piece there, of a Dry Stone Wall in Staffordshire, and I had framed it on a simple stretch frame for posting to Convergence last year. What was especially interesting was that a bigger sample I’d made was seen as having more potential than the finished piece. This was sampling an interpretation of a snow field and the dichotomy of the materials (cotton and wool) with the idea of an ice field proved to be an interesting comment.
Another wonderful impromptu comment from one of my tutors of one of the woven shibori samples being ‘an earthquake in my pocket’ has really got me thinking! It’s also a very sobering thought in the light of the terrible events this week in Japan. Maybe this one comment will take me along a different path to the one I had anticipated.
There were some difficult moments when people asked me questions I couldn’t answer or didn’t understand. I need to develop my self-confidence so that I can ask for clarification when I don’t understand. Also the feelings of defensiveness that can so quickly rise up need to be put in their place. I have realised that I am so used to speaking to a weaving/textile audience that I haven’t considered how to put things that aren’t so readily known to a non-textile audience.
Lots of things to think about! Just what a masters is all about!