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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

30 August, 2009


Filed under: Education,Jacquard weaving,Life,Teaching,Travel — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:19 pm

I don’t often write about what I’m up to, but the reason you haven’t heard from me in the last 2 weeks is because I’ve been in Montreal.  I ostensibly booked a week on the intermediate jacquard course with Louise Lemieux Berube at the Centre for Contemporary Textiles in Montreal, but I added the two weekends either side so that I would have time to look around Montreal, and also allow myself time to complete work if I needed it.  As it happened, I managed to complete all the work within the 5 days so I had the extra 2 1/2 days to explore some more.  I stayed at a wonderful B&B – a tiny room and a shared bathroom, but so quirky and served breakfast by 2 lovely lads with freshly baked (on the premises) croissants every morning, and interesting fellow guests to chat to over breakfast.  Because I had the luxury of several days to look around, I didn’t feel the usual pressure of rushing to see everything at once.  In fact, on the first day, I only visited one museum, the Science Museum, which was great fun! 

Montreal is a vibrant place.  Although French is the first language, everyone seems to be bilingual and as soon as I asked something in my halting French, I was answered in perfect English!  The City of Montreal does its best to promote Canadian makers and I really enjoyed browsing in the galleries and quality craft shops in the evenings.  There are also 2 great contemporary art galleries, and a fine arts gallery, and I also managed to fit in a visit to the Redpath Museum which houses archeological artefacts and minerals.  St Catherine‘s is a great street for clothes shopping.  In fact, everywhere around Montreal there are little pockets of great shops and restaurants.  You turn a corner and voila, another little gem of a square or area where there are loads of quality eateries (!) and shops. 

I’m not a city person, but I loved Montreal!  It feels very safe to a woman travelling on her own.  The people are warm and genuinely friendly.  The temperature was quite high and humid whilst I was there, although the weather has not generally been good in Montreal this year (as in most places I know!!) but I did wonder to myself how it would feel in the depths of winter when it can reach 40 below and they have an underground city to alleviate having to go outside too much in blizzards and freezing conditions. 

My fellow students were fun, and we shared a lovely meal together in the middle of the week.  On the Friday night, three of us decided to go out together to the old town and have a look around some of the galleries and share a meal together - we ended up having crepes which were sweet with a filling of curried chicken and Swiss cheese!!  A very different experience!! 

I hadn’t realised that I wouldn’t be doing any weaving, and I was quite looking forward to trying out the Samtex jacquard to see how it compares with the TC-1 and the Jacq3G, so I was a little disappointed about that.  However, it was quite nice to spend the time designing, and not have to wait in line to weave my 400 picks.  Because there were 13 of us on the course, not all the designs could be woven whilst we were there, so I’m waiting on a parcel arriving in the post sometime soon.  It would have been lovely to have seen everyone else’s work actually woven and to have learnt from each other’s successes and mistakes, but I guess that’s the drawback of a week.  Some folk had been at the previous week’s course – an introduction to Photoshop and Pointcarre software, whilst others had previously attended the intermediate course.  I was at a slight disadvantage through not knowing Photoshop as well as I perhaps should have, but Louise was kind enough to help me in the initial stages where I required Photoshop, and then I worked in Pointcarre.  I last encountered Pointcarre in 2004 when I went to the Lisio Foundation to learn jacquard weaving, so at least I had some experience with it, and it’s not so different from other jacquard software which I have used, such as Scotweave and ArahWeave.  There are some really useful gizmos in the programme, but not enough in my mind to justify the huge price tag.  For value for money for individual weavers, ArahWeave comes out way on top, in my opinion.  The only drawback is it uses Linux, and that’s a whole new ball game if you’ve been weaned on Windows!  Still, all this learning keeps the mind active and that’s no bad thing! 

So I’m back with a deeper understanding of what I’m doing when I design for my sample jacquards, and hopefully it’ll make me a better teacher as well.

2 August, 2009


Filed under: Life,Philosophy — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:00 am

I had a conversation over dinner last night with a weaving friend that reminded me of this memory.

It was 15 minutes after midnight, and a still, moonlit night last winter.  I was lying in bed, head tipped back to watch the moon through the window behind my bed, as it moved across the skeleton of the tree branches, imperceptibly yet definitely moving.  My peripheral vision did that photographic flash thing of sometimes being light rimmed, and sometimes dark-rimmed, as if someone somewhere unseen was switching a light on and off at irregular intervals.  That always intrigues me, and makes me aware of how illusory our perceptions actually are.  Both those effects couldn’t possibly be happening – it was all within the workings of my eye, or the part of my brain that controls or perceives periphery vision. 

I lay there, focusing on just being aware of the movement of the moon slowly easing its way across the night sky, and began to think that, of course, it wasn’t the moon that was moving so much as us. Whirling round at a high rate of knots (30 km/s  or 108,000 km/h, which just defies thinking about!), we were the ones moving through space, although of course the moon does revolve around us as well.  Trying to see the orbits of the planets and their moons just in my mind has always been a struggle to visualise.  I thought about the comparative sizes of the two orbs and the comments I’ve read from astronauts where they say they always looked up to the Earth, no matter where they were in comparison.  Earth is always up, never down.  That, for us with gravity as the ever present constant in our world, is a weird thing to contemplate. 

Then my mind switched over to people – firstly the people in my village, most of whom would be asleep and unaware of this moment.  Secondly, the people who weren’t yet asleep, but getting ready for bed and for work tomorrow morning, caught up in the doing of things and unaware of this quiet moment outside their window.  Thirdly, people who might be awake in another country, and what they would be doing, all of them unaware of what was going on in other’s lives.  

 It’s very salutary to remind myself that my life is really only important to me and those who are directly involved in it.  We all have our own little universes, our own little worlds of ups and downs, pleasure, sadness, apprehension, excitement, boredom, depression, worries, eagerness, and those worlds are totally individual.  They interact with others in a seemingly random way, yet somehow connected.  With hindsight, chance meetings are rarely just chance.   I began to wonder what it would look like if those personal universes were visible, like some kind of plasma or gas cloud (astronomically speaking!!).  How would they comingle with others?  In what way?  In wisps?  In streams?  I think we would be amazed at how much we do share our worlds on a level that we’re generally not aware of. 

We’re the same, you and I.  Different – oh, so different – and yet we live and share the same human condition.