27 September, 2009
A couple of days ago I was threading up my loom, listening to my Zen (similar to an iPod) which was randomly selecting tunes from my collection of classical, jazz and popular music. It’s a great way to listen, never knowing whether the next track will be some Brahms, or Muse, or Frank Sinatra, or Sting, Malpais, Santana, Tchaikovsky, etc…. I love it! Then you have some of the tunes running around in your head for the next few days.
This morning, I had a couple of them popping up during my walk with Charlie, and then, out of the blue, an Elton John track (which isn’t on my Zen) of Daniel. Just before I’d gone out on the walk, I was reading another of the articles from The Philosophers’ Magazine – Sublime Confusion – about the filmosophical view of David Lynch. Part of it is about watching something that vaguely follows the disjointed random thinking patterns we have – at least, that’s the way I interpreted it. It got me to thinking (as these things often do). I wonder how we would feel about viewing something that works in a similar randomly generated way that our brains do. Would it feel just a little crazy and hard to follow? After all, most of what we think about, we’re not actually really conscious of thinking about. It’s sort of just there, similar in fashion to a computer’s running things in the background, mostly hidden behind whatever else is going on, but occasionally coming forward to be seen or recognised, as when a sudden thought pops to the forefront of your mind.
In the last couple of weeks, on WeaveTech – one of the weaving yahoo chat groups that I belong to – there has been a discussion of accidental weaving, and this struck a chord with me and the film article this morning. I love serendipity – the sudden connections or pathways that occasionally unfurl which lead you to something really exciting, or life-changing, or stop you in your tracks. Accidental weaving can be a tool to generate ideas like that. In fact, several people suggested randomly generated check programmes that develop stripes, checks, tartans and plaids. For me, accidental weaving is something I engage in a lot. I can be pootling along, working on one particular technique or development, when all of a sudden, a completely tangential thought elbows its way in, demanding to be heard that can lead to a whole new path of investigation and experiment.
Our minds are largely randomly-generated thoughts anyway, aren’t they? Or is it only mine????? I don’t believe that for one minute! When we suddenly become aware of something that we’re thinking, that’s usually because it has come up with an association of ideas, juxtaposing ideas that suddenly have a relevance for us. But what would it be like to experience someone else’s random mind patterns through watching a film produced in this way? Perplexing? Interesting? Frustrating? Fun? I guess we’ll have to watch David Lynch’s output to see how it develops. It led to today’s random ruminations anyway!
20 September, 2009
In this quarter’s Philosophy Magazine, there is an article asking Where Are All the Women? Whilst there are roughly even numbers of men and women studying philosophy at undergraduate level, that number begins to have a male bias at MA level, and more so at PhD level, leading to only 18% of women to men ratio on academic staff, including full and part-time lecturing. The article posits a few theories of why this might be, and in the process of discussion the point was raised that philosophy at a more advanced level is much more aggressive, with the audience actively prepared to shred a lecturer’s hypotheses and disprove the argument.
This combative approach suddenly brought to mind a hen weekend I went on about 8 years ago. A group of about 16 women, ranging in age from late teens to me, the eldest at 39, turned up at a historic house and stayed in several of their beautiful cottages for the weekend. One of our various activities was Paintball. I know more about paintball now because my son, now 20, is an avid paintballer, playing in several leagues at quite an advanced level, and it’s really a strategy game as well as physical and ‘hard’.
When we turned up at the paintball site, we were met by two strapping lads in their early twenties who confessed to us that they’d never had an all-female paintball party before. They’d dealt with mixed groups of school children, executives on team-building exercises, and lots of all-male groups, but never all women. What transpired was really interesting from a philosophical and psychological viewpoint.
We were split up into our teams and told the objective. We had our little team talks and worked out our tactics, then went out to begin the game. I already knew that when paintballs hit you they hurt, so I was prepared to be bruised, and the lads told us that they would sting and you’d know you’d been hit. The first game commenced.
I’m not an aggressive or confrontational person and attack is not something that comes naturally to me, so I elected to guard our flag and defend it against all comers, and I was quite good at that, staying in hiding, and positioning myself to get a great overall view so that I could fire at anyone coming close to our flag. Another woman, whose day-job was a city trader, was the natural leader – she was assertive, quick to assess situations and deploy her troops, but the rest of the foot-soldiers – the cannon fodder, if you like – were not so keen to put themselves in the line of fire. The game must have been going for all of five minutes, and you could see most people trying to keep out of firing range and working their way round to behind enemy lines on both sides. Then one of the women decided this was pussy-footing around and she charged. I can’t remember now which side she was on, and it really didn’t matter, because she got well and truly hammered, fired upon by several people, and she yelped and fell over. That’s when the difference between the sexes was most apparent.
She was obviously hurt, and lay clutching her leg and her arm. There was a few seconds total silence, then everyone came out of hiding, rushing up to her and asking if she was alright, where had she been hit, did she need help, etc… Looking back, it was amazing. Regardless of competition, the overriding reaction was one of empathy, of wanting to help, of wanting to co-operate to solve a situation.
The paintball guys were incredulous, and somewhat dismayed, I think. They had to rethink their whole strategy of how to set the games because the underlying primal competition element and ‘do or die’ mindset that features in the male and mixed games was totally inappropriate for our all-female group. Obviously, if we had been trained as a team, with a specific objective and strong enough incentive, this wouldn’t have happened, but I was proud to be part of a bunch of women whose first thoughts were to help each other, regardless of which side anyone was on.
So, in reading about the aggressive approach of some branches of philosophy that seems to put many women off progressing further, I am not surprised. If the profession of philosophy adopts co-operation strategies rather than combative strategies, then they might see a different result, and be the richer (philosophically speaking) for it.
13 September, 2009
Thursday was a big day for handweavers in the UK. Or at least for some of us! Handweavers Studio, which was the brainchild and baby of Nancy Lee Child, was re-opened in a new more central location with a lot more space and under new management. Nancy has finally retired and all her past customers wish her a happy and relaxed retirement with time to smell the roses! Nancy has been indefatigable and resilient, even when her health has not been the best and has provided a wonderful service to weavers for many years. However, in July this year she finally retired and the Handweavers Studio was transferred to Wendy Morris.
Wendy is a personal friend of mine, and a dynamic enthusiastic person with drive, vision, passion and grit to get her there. She is a great weaver and has produced some amazing pieces. So it is very appropriate that someone of Wendy’s calibre take over Handweavers Studio. She has relocated the premises to 140 Seven Sisters Road, London N7, and her team of builders have wrought wonders on the former fish market. It is a light, airy space with shelves on shelves of gorgeous and unusual yarns, weaving, spinning and dyeing equipment, and room for courses. The team Wendy has are enthusiastic and knowledgeable people. Charlotte Grierson, who is a well known weaver in her own right, is now the shop manager, but all the staff are wonderful and very approachable.
So if you are ever in London, go and visit The Handweavers Studio for inspiration, chat and to spend some money! I can guarantee you’ll want to spend more than you had planned!!
In my Pyschologies magazine this month, there is an article about global and local thinking along with a questionnaire so you can find out what sort of thinker you are. Global thinking is where you think about the bigger picture and don’t sweat the details. Local thinking is where you are detail-driven and don’t think about the bigger picture. That’s it in a nutshell. I like these kind of articles because they make me think about things in a slightly different way.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll fall into both camps.
Apparently Einstein was a global thinker, and didn’t even think about stuff like putting on socks in the morning. People on this wavelength are always great at big ideas, but awful about things like paying bills. Local thinkers are great with birthdays, shopping lists, bills to pay, remembering to do the thousand and one little things that make a huge difference to everyone’s lives but which are insignificant in and of themselves.
Having read the article whilst slurping my first cuppa before getting up, I then went to do my ablutions and realised that I fit into the bigger picture group because I can’t be bothered with much in the way of beauty routines. Before you click away in disgust, I hasten to add that I like to be clean and smell nice, but am not one for facials, foundation, make-up, et al. If I can’t be showered, dressed and out in 15 mins, I get antsy. Ok, drying my hair takes a little more time than this, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.
When walking Charlie, I usually do a mix of the bigger picture thinking and detailed bits. Sometimes I find myself in my head going over and over a scenario that might not even happen! Then I have to tell myself off, and pay attention to the world around me to get some perspective back. But mostly I like to plan the big stuff, and then work on the detailed planning when I get into my workshop. That’s what I did this morning.
I have 6 seminars that I’m giving next summer, and I need to start planning my time effectively in order to research, weave samples, weave finished pieces, write and present the work. I’m not starting from scratch on any of them – that would be too crazy to contemplate – but I use the impetus of giving seminars to push my explorations of weaving and research where I want them to go. This kind of direction is really exhilarating to me. Sometimes it’s a little scary. This morning, I was feeling a little overwhelmed until my walk with Charlie. During that time, I had gone over the big scheme of things, and then went to my workshop and wrote down my thoughts. Then, with another cup of tea in hand, I went over each topic and broke it down into sections that I can deal with.
Having done that, it was like a weight had been lifted from my mind! I was able immediately to get on with some of the actions I need to begin in order for the whole process to work together seamlessly (hopefully!) and today I feel like I’ve made a great big start on something exciting.
So it takes a mix of both global and local thinking to achieve my goals. Without the big stuff, I would become immersed in detail and lose sight of my overall direction. Without the small stuff, I wouldn’t have the wherewithal to get on and achieve my dreams. I guess it’s like the year/month/week/day scheduling that I do. The dreams, the different components, the practical application and the attention to detail that every dream needs to become something worthwhile. Global and local – a balanced world view. That’ll do for me.
7 September, 2009
What does the name Prague conjure up in your mind? I last visited Prague in 1996, with 60+ teenagers in tow, as part of a music centre tour of the Czech Republic when I was conductor of a wind band. I remember the main historic sites, the Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle, which really disappointed my 7-year-old son at the time as it doesn’t look anything like a traditional castle as the Brits know it! That trip is a bit of a blur to me, and it was wonderful to be able to revisit it for 3 days at the end of August this year and actually visit museums and take our time.
It was surprising to me actually how much I remembered from that tour. It’s an extremely busy city for tourists, with large numbers of visitors, but less than a mile out from the historic Old Town, on the other side of the Vlatava on very good tram and underground systems, the prices were almost half and the clientelle mostly Czech.
The highlight for me was the visit to the Prague Museum. We weren’t able to visit here in our last whistle-stop tour, so it was a new experience for me. The whole museum was interesting, but for me the minerals are one of the highlights. The lighting is none too good, but some of my images have turned out remarkably well. Minerals, to me, are the world in microcosm. The colours, the forms, the combination of textures and lines, geometries of stones and crystal growth are endlessly fascinating.
My attention span in museums varies enormously. Sometimes I get so absorbed that I can spend hours in one area, and other times I have to take a break to re-charge my batteries. Being with my husband this time, I knew that I would have to move pretty fast (his attention span is way less than mine in museums) so I zoomed round. If I had had more time, I would probably have spent more time with the minerals, but it was good also to get impressions of an area.
One of the lovely surprises were the sudden modern exhibitions found in a corridor or in a corner of a room. One featured photography by two makers, one of whom did traditional photographs, and the other, Ivan Wild, processes his images through Photoshop. Some of the effects he achieved echoed the minerals. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything about him online and there wasn’t any contact info with the exhibition (at least that I could find!)
On the third day we were there, the weather changed from cloudless hot sunny days to threatening storms. The clouds were tremendous, and called to mind some more of the minerals I’d seen. The more I travel, and the more I look around me, the more I am aware of how interconnected everything is, and if we think we are separate from everything, we are merely kidding ourselves.
I am back rejuvenated, after a summer of travel, work, connecting with people and with nature. What I must keep in mind is that everything I do, everything I see, whether I know it consciously or not, is connected to everything else. I must be mindful of my impact on the world, as well as nature’s impact on me.