Weavers who go beyond recipe weaving tend to be quite deep thinkers, I’ve noticed. They are not content with following what someone else has done, but they want to tweak the threading here, and alter the treadling there, or completely revamp the tie-up. And from there, it’s a small step to designing your own weaving drafts.
For me, that is where the excitement in weaving lies. I have an idea, and I want to work out a way to weave it, whether that’s on a shaft loom, or a jacquard loom.
I am currently studying for a masters in weave and that is encouraging me into thinking about the reasons behind my decisions – all my decisions – not just the weaving ones. I am having to examine why I am drawn to certain things, why weave, what underlies my desire to produce unusual or textured fabrics. And the harder part – how to articulate that to a non-weaving audience.
This is by far the deepest thinking I’ve done on my weaving. Before, it was enough just to want to weave volcanoes, or sand-dunes. Now I have to delve into what is it (am I) saying? Why do I want it to be art and not generally fabric for use? Where should it be shown? How should it be shown? What context does it require in order to give the interpretation I want it to have? What is the interpretation I want it to have? Should this be spelt out to an audience, or inferred? What does the viewer bring to the interpretation of the piece? Does that have a bearing on how I would i) present the piece, ii) weave the piece, iii) design the piece?
All these questions! At first, I resisted even trying to answer them, but I gradually realised that delving beneath the surface of things is what I do in my weaving, so I should try to apply the same principles to my reasoning. After my first presentation to the masters group, I realised that I was speaking to a non-textile audience for the first time, and that shifted my thinking about presentations drastically. I had to find a way of talking about weaving without being too weaverly.
I am currently working on a contextual paper, basically trying to find where I fit in the world. How does my output and thinking fit in with an art perspective, a craft perspective, a textiles perspective and a weaving perspective. What is my philosophy? Whose work strikes a chord with me? Why? What does their work bring to my understanding? I have to debate thoughts, not just state them. I have to analyse why I think something, and question whether that is a valid way of looking at something. In other words, I have to think about and question everything.
This may seem like a lot of hard work and something that you wouldn’t want to do. However, I am learning so much through this process – about my ways of thinking, about my instincts, about relating my weaving to the wider world, about my place in the wider world. It is making me re-evaluate and confirm or change how I feel about art in general, about crafts and their position in our lives, about what I do and how I do it.
Food for thought, indeed ….