One of my students was talking about the artistic temperament at lunch today. It started a discussion about differences in how we all perceive the world. I remembered some of my experiences with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and going on tour, and how some musicians couldn’t even get themselves organised to get a passport, let alone working out luggage restrictions, and how some artists throughout history have been dreadful at looking after themselves, dependent on others and also pretty dire to live with generally.
Others however, and I include weavers as a generic group within this (forgive my huge generalisation), are practical people, with the artistic bit of themselves tempered with social facility (hopefully), and logical thinking, able to deal with the essentials and minutia of day-to-day living whilst having knowledge about the parameters of their craft, and also having the ability to imagine something into being.
Being part musician and part weaver, even though the weaving is now my full time occupation, I still find myself think in musical ways, and we discussed what it was that made art different from music. I started by thinking that weavers have to know the limitations of their equipment, and that takes knowledge and study and experience. Then we can begin to break the boundaries of what’s technically possible, and make adaptations, of approach an old problem in new ways.
Weavers think visually, then add to that the logic of the loom, the knowledge of its set-up – the warp, weft, interlacements – and weave structures, and then there is a whole different spectrum of colour – how it mixes in different setts, proportions, tonal qualities – and then there’s the finished item – scarf, cushion, garment, curtain, art-piece. So much knowledge, so much craft, but with the art an essential part of making it original.
Musicians think aurally, hearing mixtures of sounds, blends of notes, timbres from different instruments. There is also an inherent knowledge required for someone thinking of composing for instruments – you have to know their technical range, the quality of their sound, how different instruments sound together – and of course, a knowledge of harmony and the ability to hear what a tune sounds like – whether you pick it out on a piano or other instrument, or sing it to yourself. Again, so much knowledge, so much craft, but with the art an essential part of making it original.
Both fields have their own languages – the weaving draft bears a lot of similarity to the music stave – notes for music, markings on the draft for weaving. Both have an underlying sense of logic or the outcome doesn’t work. Both have the ability to transcend obvious choices and combinations and come up with results that take your breath away.
I will never be a ‘ditsy artist’ because I have too much common sense – I’m too grounded in reality although I can easily find myself away with the fairies in dreams and aspirations. I wonder whether that’s what qualifies me to be a good weaver, but will it ever make me a genius? Or do you need to be somewhere else mentally to be a genius? Thankfully, if you take Bach, he was eminently practical, with tight deadlines to meet and a very large family to support, and most musicians would agree that he was a genius, so maybe there’s hope for us weavers there!!
It was an interesting lunchtime discussion. ….