10 January, 2016
I feel very privileged to be living in an era where being an artist does not mean struggling on your own, trying to justify what you do and why you do it against more ‘worthy’ occupations. I know – most of us work on our own, and yes, we do end up trying to explain, and on occasion trying to justify, what it is that we do, and its validity. But in the world that has access to the internet and social media, we are no longer emotionally or professionally on our own any more. There is so much information online, some brilliant, some good, some mediocre and some downright wrong! But we can reach out, through blogs, through online forums, through social media.
And when we connect with others, we sometimes get criticism, we often realise just how much we have yet to learn about our chosen medium/media, but more often than not, we get support, encouragement, validation, understanding.
I’ve spoken before about getting those ‘aha’ moments, and how wonderful they are. But I had never before read an account of how these moments happen. To me, I knew that the connections were made between specific techniques/problems/topics and my more general region and that there is not really much that is new but the individual voice and ‘genius’ comes from connections that are made between things that might not have been connected before, or thought about in that specific way before. I also knew that many of my ideas come from quiet moments – the middle of the night, just before falling asleep (and thus preventing sleep!!) or immediately on waking, in the shower, walking the dog – and had assumed that my subconscious had been working on things whilst I was actively or passively engaged elsewhere.
Then I read a newsletter from somewhere – possibly Sam and Joe at TextileArtist.org (more of them later) – and the author had written of a fabulous little book called A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young, published in the 1940s. I searched on Amazon and bought this little tome. It arrived and this morning, whilst drinking my mid-morning coffee, I read it from cover to cover. Don’t worry – this is not impressive!! It is a short book – 48 pages cover to cover. But it expressed exactly what happens in the creative process in such a lucid and succinct way.
This leads me on to my main point in this blog post. The world is now a much smaller place thanks to the internet. We can connect to each other like never before. The guys at TextileArtist.org are part of this amazing chain of connections and they publish really good material. If you haven’t come across them yet, please do click on a link in this blog and go and visit their site. Their story alone is one of connections and curiosity. Watch the videos that they are currently putting on their site – there is a time limit on them (good publicity ploy!) so go and check it out before the videos disappear.
The only danger is that we can get so easily side-tracked with all this social media - so many people to connect with, so many wonderful textiles to look at and admire. But connectivity-wise, we have never had it so good!!
4 December, 2011
It’s December, and that means no-one can escape from the commercial aspects of Christmas if you happen to live anywhere in the western world that requires going to shops, listening to commercial radio, watching tv (whether commercial or not!), reading magazines, etc., etc. My hushand works in schools, so he has been hearing and teaching Christmas songs and carols for several weeks already and the school concerts are in full swing.
Now I’ve left mainstream school teaching, I try to ignore the encroaching presence of Christmas until December hits. And the first weekend in December is when I sit down to write my Christmas cards. I’m not a religious person, so Christmas does not have any meaning for me in a religious sense. But for me it is an opportunity to create cards to connect with people in my life who I haven’t seen for a while, as well as for those I see more frequently.
I love to sit down and make the cards. The process of getting the pieces I’ve woven earlier in the year (if I have the time to weave them – which I haven’t this year, I’m afraid!!), or selecting the image that I want to use, framing it for each card, and writing the card and addressing the envelope is one that connects me to the recipients, whether or not they know it at the time. That moment when you are thinking of each person as you write the card, and the moment (of which I shall probably not be aware) when they receive and open that card and think of you, is important in the greater scheme of things.
It is these kinds of moments, also when you are making presents, that is what Christmas is about for me. Personal moments, private moments, but which makes me realise and reflect on the important people in my life.
Weaving is a small world, but also one spread wide. My weaving friends are scattered all over the world, and I love the image that always comes to my mind of lots of spider threads stretching from me to them all individually wherever they happen to be, and then all the other spider threads stretching from each one of them to all the people they know…. It’s a wonderful image that warms my heart every time. Sometimes the threads are lit by fairy lights, sometimes they are frosted like the cold winter early morning scenes on the plants in my garden.
Ok, so now we have social networking sites like Facebook that do this all the time, but still the annual ritual of Christmas cards is important to me. What’s important about Christmas to you?
PS.. Bon voyage to my dad who is on his way to experience a different kind of Christmas in Malaysia!!
19 July, 2009
Weaving instills this incredible sense of wonder in me. Part of it is the creation of something useful and/or beautiful out of simple thread. Part of it is the huge variety that weaving engenders.
Yet another part is the connection between peoples from all ages, history and cultures, as the creation of cloth is one of the oldest forms of crafts. It never ceases to amaze me that separate groups of people in different geographical places in historic times worked out how to spin fibres of both vegetal and animal derivation into yarn, and then how to turn these yarns into a parallel arrangement, fix it to a frame or to a post to be able to apply tension whether completely contained within the frame, or tensioned by the body, and then weave another yarn over and under the tensioned threads to create something which could be used to cover, to carry, to wrap, to protect.
Once colour was applied to this, it became something that everyone could personalise, whether individually or tribally.
And from that has sprung all the uses that weaving creates today even down to micro-fabrics used for arterial repairs for example.
When I am demonstrating at a show, and someone asks what weaving is used for, I love being able to tell them that you can create the finest of sheer gauzes right through to the thickest rugs, that weaving is used in medicine and in car manufacture, as well as for their clothes and home furnishings. Many youngsters don’t know that their trousers and shirts are largely woven, whilst their T-shirts and jumpers are knitted, in the same way that many city kids don’t know that milk comes from a live animal. It’s just outside of their everyday knowledge. So it’s wonderful to be able to get enthusiastic about weaving and open their eyes and their wonder about the things around them!
The actual apparatus of weaving too is so varied, depending on where you go. My trip to Oman to set up a western weaving workshop for the Omani government early in 2008 was fascinating as I visited Bedouin weavers who use a simple copper pipe frame to create their warp-faced rugs, braids, key-fobs, cushions and mobile phone covers. Another group of weavers, the mountain weavers, use pit-looms, much more technically advanced, and yet they too created warp-faced rugs and braids. Another weaver in a more urban environment used the same pit loom to weave plain weave undergarments – using fine cotton counts rather than the thick wool and goat hair. Every year the wonderful Muscat Festival showcases local traditions.
Here in the west we have such a variety of looms and equipment to choose from. That’s fun too, explaining to someone what makes this loom better for what they want to do than that loom, why a table loom could be a better option for them than a floor loom, or vice versa. And the more I learn about weaving, the more I continue to be inspired.
Weaving means different things to different people, but fundamentally, whatever we make, whatever equipment we use, whatever techniques we employ, we are still creating something tangible, beautiful, useful, from the simplest of elements. Wow, that’s worth celebrating!