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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

28 June, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes

Filed under: Life,Philosophy — Tags: , , , — admin @ 4:47 pm

We’ve just fetched my son home from university, and have been trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot – successfully, I might add – and it got me to thinking about life changes and how things can pootle along for a long time without anything happening, and then suddenly, one day things are different.

Obviously, when thinking about one’s offspring, the difference a day (or an evening!!) brings is huge!  Then there is the day of the birth – a momentous occasion.  Then the first day of school, then the first exam.  Eventually it’s the day of going off to university, or leaving home.  One day, everything is as normal, the next the way you look at the world has changed. 

It’s one of the wonderful parts of being human that you can decide how you want to approach the demands and challenges of change.  You can choose to regard change as a chance to do things differently, or to experience change in a positive way, or you can choose to fight it or regret it.  I’ve done both, but once I realised that it is up to me how to face change, I’ve tried to view even things I’m not happy about as a chance to turn things around, or make a new start, or approach things in a different way.  That way, I feel that I have a modicum of control over how events affect me, whether that’s just an illusion or not.  I feel calmer, more reflective, able to see positive outcomes or to accept that something positive might come out of something that seems really negative at the time.

In these economically challenging times, many people are having to face change that they don’t want.  I feel glad that I decided to become self-employed.  At least I can’t get the sack!!  But we all have to face the challenges that the economy throws at us, and we can choose how to do that.  I have been made redundant in the past, so I know how it feels.  At the time I was devastated, but then you have to look at your strengths and your weaknesses, and try to think broadly about what you can do, and what you like to do.  You have to decide whether you will take a menial job just to keep the money coming in whilst looking for something more suited to your talents, or whether to retrain to do something completely different.  You have to face some really difficult decisions such as possibly losing your house.  But even then things can work out to be better than you imagined.

 A friend found herself facing bankruptcy, not through her own devices, but thanks to the profligacy of her estranged husband.  It could have been devastating with two small children, but she faced it in a positive way, and came out of it with no more debts, and able to start again.  She is in a wonderful rented cottage, and is now far happier having down-sized and lost a lot of clutter!  She now wonders why she didn’t do that much earlier. 

I know it’s not always possible to come out of things smelling of roses, but our attitude to change really does help to promote a successful and acceptable result.  Now I’ve written this, I’m waiting for the heavens to open and adversity to strike!!  If it does, I’ll try to keep smiling and positive!  After all, out of the death of a wonderful lady came the chance to do something different in my life, and that changed my life from music to weaving!    

21 June, 2009

Seeing Things with Fresh Eyes

Filed under: Life,Psychology — Tags: , , — admin @ 3:31 pm

Several things have conspired towards today’s blog topic, the way life sometimes does.  Firstly we had a summer barbeque which forced me to look at our house and garden through another’s eyes – actually around 35 others’ eyes – and has prompted a makeover of the garden at least!  

Then, on one soft morning when the sun was shining at an angle into our patio garden, the bricks on the workshop looked very different – the same old bricks but with their patina of soft green, sage green, emerald green, yellow, orange, pink and peach highlighted so that I saw them as if for the first time.  They were gorgeous and now I look at that wall with a more appreciative eye. 

 Another early morning with my first cup of tea, this time a grey morning, the light shining through the lounge window illuminated my bare foot as I sat there reading (a wonderful book by Lawrence Durrell called Bitter Lemons Of Cyprus) with my leg lolling on the arm of the chair, and showed in sharp relief all the tiny little lines just below the inside ankle of my foot and revealed a complexity of pattern that is truly amazing.  And I thought I knew my body!  I am now appreciating my feet more than before!!

And then today, seeing a friend for the first time in several months was a real shock.  She suffered from a virus around Christmas time and it went to her brain.  She is now a different person.  She shakes, she is understandably depressed, and more, no-one seems to know what is wrong.  All anyone knows is that the virus attacked her brain.  And she was a lively, lovely artistic girl in her early 20s who was set to become a model.  Now it is all she can do to get through the day.  She can’t light her own cigarette, she has to drink through a straw because she shakes so much, and she bursts into tears in frustration at her own lack of control. 

Seeing her has made me take a hard look at my own life and realise just how blessed and fortunate I am.  All my little niggles are negligible and petty against her sudden change of fortunes, my day to day routine a wondrous journey against the devastation of her life.  In her eyes I have a charmed existence. 

I guess I have two things to express today – one, that in seeing something well known in a suddenly different light, one can never go back to seeing it again in the old way, so as we get older, our lives should become richer in terms of experiencing life and seeing beauty in nature and other people.  The other is that we should never, ever, take our lives and ourselves for granted, for sometimes inexplicable things can happen totally out of the blue and change everything we knew. 

14 June, 2009

Zeitgeist amendments

Filed under: Life — admin @ 7:10 pm

I was so keen to get Zeitgeist published that I forgot to add the hyperlinks!  So here is the relevant section with the hyperlinks added, with my humble apologies to Vibeke, Agnes, ETN and the musuems!

This is being brought home to me particularly at the moment as I have a student from New Zealand with me who is firstly learning with me, and then will be developing her skills further with Vibeke Vestby at the ETN conference workshops in July in Linz.  Agnes Hauptli is an experienced weaver but she has never woven on jacquards before, and studying on my sample hand-jacquards and visiting Macclesfield Silk Museum and Paradise Mill has given her an understanding that she just wouldn’t have had if she had learnt purely on a computerised hand jacquard loom. 

……

Museums such as Macclesfield Silk Museum, Whitchurch Silk Mill, Tilburg Textile Museum, and many others are wonderful centres of heritage equipment who are working with existing practitioners and new designers to make their museums relevant to today’s visitor as well as keeping alive the traditional skills that are in grave danger of disappearing. 

Zeitgeist

You know how there sometimes seems to be a time when many things relating to the same subject seem to slot into place – whether it is a political mood such as we saw in the US and in the UK and elsewhere during this recession, or a vogue for an artform such as glass or ceramics where they suddenly become more popular with the general public – well, it seems to me that textiles are currently enjoying a rise in fortune, and along with that, jacquard weaving.

I know I’m biased, but there seems to be a resurgence of interest in this creative mode of weaving, largely due to the increased and cheaper availability of computerised jacquard looms suitable for study in university or the private studio.  Jacquard weaving has more of a presence now in conference topics and exhibitions and in textiles courses at university and this leads directly to increased interest in past techniques, historic  equipment and contemporary interpretation.

I find it really interesting and exciting to be involved in jacquard weaving.  My particular take isn’t a traditional one, although I use old looms and employ historic techniques of cutting cards, and lacing the cards together.  I find that having to use these old techniques has taught me so much about designing successfully for jacquard, especially as my looms only have small repeat sizes and different methods of repeat.  This is where you miss out if you do everything by computer.  That ‘up close and personal’ method of creating a mise-en-carte and ensuring it is going to repeat correctly, and working it so that you can use the same mise-en-carte to be able to cut several different versions of the same design, is something that just using the computer with a non-repeating design page will never give you. 

The possibilities of the non-repeating huge hook potential of some of the computerised hand jacquard looms is very exciting, but you can learn so much from having to keep within certain boundaries.  You can push those boundaries to the very limits and then some!  Sometimes unlimited choice is too much and you need to reduce your focus so that you can develop skills and knowledge. 

This is being brought home to me particularly at the moment as I have a student from New Zealand with me who is firstly learning with me, and then will be developing her skills further with Vibeke Vestby at the ETN conference workshops in July in Linz.  Agnes Hauptli is an experienced weaver but she has never woven on jacquards before, and studying on my sample hand-jacquards and visiting Macclesfield Silk Museum and Paradise Mill has given her an understanding that she just wouldn’t have had if she had learnt purely on a computerised hand jacquard loom. 

With conferences such as the ETN conference in July, with its emphasis on education and exhibition of jacquard work, as well as the interesting conference on jacquard held in North Carolina in January this year, jacquard is enjoying a well-deserved place in the sun.  How long it lasts is anyone’s guess, but whilst it is here, museums are set to benefit as well.  Museums such as Macclesfield Silk Museum, Whitchurch Silk Museum, Tilburg Textile Museum, and many others are wonderful centres of heritage equipment who are working with existing practitioners and new designers to make their museums relevant to today’s visitor as well as keeping alive the traditional skills that are in grave danger of disappearing. 

There is room for both computerised jacquard looms and the old traditional ways of doing things.  For me, creating a mise-en-carte, cutting and lacing my cards, whilst occasionally frustrating in the length of time it takes, is also a way of feeling connected to the weavers of the past, and elsewhere in the world.  It is a way of checking, double-checking and confirming that the design decisions I’ve made are good ones and of understanding deeply the main fundamentals of jacquard weaving.  With the computerised looms, there is increased accessibility for people from non-textile and non-weaving backgrounds. 

The computer age has enabled its technological predecessor to take centre stage again.  Long may it continue!!

7 June, 2009

Balancing Act 2

Filed under: Life,Philosophy,Weaving — Tags: , , , — admin @ 3:20 pm

You know I talked about the 80/20 rule in a previous posting – 80% of your work is done in 20% of your time – well, this is not just over the course of one day.  It also extends to my week, or my month, or even my year.

This week has just been an amazingly productive week and not only in weaving.  I’ve felt really well with loads of energy, and have suddenly surprised myself in the garden, digging borders, weeding, splitting and transplanting, making hanging baskets and troughs.  If you know me, you know this is an aberration!  I’m not a gardener, in any shape or form!  However, I have some wonderful neighbours, and found myself the recipient of a number of plants, starting with a hosta and a fuschia.  Next followed the trough, made out of an old Belfast sink.  Ray has done a number of these troughs for our neighbourhood, and a gift of one of these is a treasure!  I felt it incumbent on me to accept these gifts graciously and to use them in the spirit in which they were given.

This isn’t just a sentimental thing.  This is a reciprocation of support.  If someone cares enough to give me a gift of a plant, then it is my responsibility to appreciate that gift and honour the person who gave it to me.  Responsibility sounds a heavy word here, but that is not the way I intend it.  My mother would say it was incumbent on me to show my appreciation in a way that the giver would appreciate.  I could repay my neighbour with a different gift, and that we have done, but as a gardener, he appreciates my willingness to learn about the plants he’s given me, especially as he knows I’m not a natural gardener. 

It could be that he’s just got so many plants in pots that he’s desperate to get rid of them somehow – as one of his neighbours told me! – but I like to think there’s more to the gift than that.  And even if there isn’t, it’s still kind of him to give them to me when he could easily sell them at a local market.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, gardening.  Not only have I done a tremendous amount of clearing and tidying in just a few hours over a few days, but I’ve maintained my baby jacquard looms, cleaned out the stables where they are housed, done some house-cleaning (even more rare than the gardening!!) and achieved my week’s goals with my weaving plans. 

Weaving-wise, I have finally learnt that I can’t do everything at once, and have set my goals much more realistically, aiming at specific objectives over a certain length of time.  This is helping me focus on just one thing at a time, and not trying to spread myself too thinly and ending up chasing my brain round in circles!  It also helps having several time-frames to help give perspective.  So I can now look at my 2-year plan (sounds extreme, but these months just zoom by!), my year plan, my 6-month plan and my month plan to help me focus on the most important elements I need to achieve. I can work day-by-day knowing I have a set period of time to focus on certain topics.  This doesn’t stop me getting ideas and continuing to think about other topics, but it does help me to jot the ideas and thinking down and put them into a folder that I can return to at the appointed time, leaving my mind free to concentrate on my current topic. 

It’s working well for now, but we’ll see what happens when my son comes back from uni later this month….