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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

21 August, 2016

Have loom – will travel….

Filed under: Life,Nature,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 1:33 pm

Isn’t it funny how certain things make a house feel like a home?

For me, as a weaver, it has to be a loom!  The French house in Gascony now has a working loom in it, and the wonderful and familiar smell of wool yarn means that France is now home!!

At the moment, I am in another temporary studio – #3, I think!  The salon, which will eventually be our rather lovely lounge (with mezzanine library!!) is home to a new-to-me Louet Spring loom.

Salon Studio 4 Salon Studio 3

You can see a little of the yarn stash I have managed to take over to France against the walls, but there is still a mountain of boxes to shift.  We had to buy a transit van to help move my books and yarns across the English Channel and have to be careful not to overload the poor thing too much!!  There are quite a few more trips to plan!!

It was great to put the loom together and to try it out, even if the first warp on was a 7.5m exhibition warp for the Nature In The Making exhibition which Agnes and I are doing in the Netherlands in November!  This is not normally to be recommended – usually I would suggest several short warps with different techniques to find out all the quirks and idiosyncracies of the loom before putting on an important warp.  But still, how many of us actually follow our own guidelines all the time???!!!

Happily, it was a relatively hassle-free introduction.  I’ll write more about it on another blog, but suffice it to say that the loom and I are working well together!

This trip to France also included plenty of physical interaction with the fabric of the building!!  Firstly, we cleaned out all the remnants of old furniture and tiles that had been left in the grange which will be my workshop, and swept it all through, leaving a blank canvas for the work to start in September.

Blog studio renovations 4 Blog studio renovations 3 Blog studio renovations 2 Blog studio renovations 1

It is another TARDIS.  It doesn’t look very large from the outside but the inside is deceptively large.

Then we removed partition walls in a bathroom to allow for two bathrooms – I’m a wicked sledge-hammer wielder – and took off all the floor and wall tiles.  We have also saved all the doors to be re-used.

Then I started weaving, and Graham continued with taking out all the old kitchen, leaving us with a single camping stove, a barbecue and a fridge.  The kitchen was somewhat over-engineered, with re-inforced steel concrete plinths for the worksurfaces, and brick walls, but we shall be able to re-use the cupboard doors and the drawer unit as everything is made with proper materials rather than chipboard rubbish!!

I am very excited, despite the ramifications of the vote in the UK to leave the EU which has impacted on our renovations fund somewhat drastically, meaning that we have to cut back on some of the things that we were hoping to do.  Basically it means that we will have to do several things in different stages instead of having all the work done at once.  Such is life.  It is amazing to us that we are actually in a position to live this dream, so if it takes longer to fulfil everything we planned, so be it….

The time spent in France this summer has been unbelievable, with amazing nocturnal natural fireworks on two occasions (electrical storms!), the fabulous array of summer night markets in villages and towns all around this part of France with their local produce and great music and dancing, the socialising with new friends and neighbours – we have landed in a really wonderful area for welcome, warmth and friendship!! – and the beautiful sunshine and views from our house over the changing fields mean that early mornings and late evenings are especially magical times for watching the landscape transform.

We have also been fascinated by the red squirrel nesting in the space between shutters and window in the attic, taking advantage of the woodpecker holes that appeared in the spring.  She had several babies and, although she has now vacated her nest, taking her babies with her (I think she didn’t like the demolition work happening a floor below her!), she is in the vicinity and we have been waking up to the lovely scene of red squirrels chasing each other round and round the trunks of trees outside the front windows.  Other wildlife has been sightings of two pairs of stunning Golden Orioles who flew in to take advantage of the bounty of our mulberry tree (tasty raspberry-like berries which we eat straight from the tree!).  The birds had the top fruit, we had the bottom fruit – a good balance!!  Bats are in abundance in the area, woodpeckers too, and plenty of other birdlife.

One amusing incident was when we had our first UK visitors.  When we first took over La Tuilerie, we found an old fold-up wooden chair which had been painted and repainted over the years and we decided to use it in our bathroom.  Whenever we were expecting visitors, whether Orange France, or friends, we put the chair at the bottom of the driveway, positioned so that it could be seen from both directions.  A couple of days before our visitors were expected, we saw a beautiful, but dead, pine marten to the left of our driveway on the edge of the road.  Its markings were just stunning – like the snow leopard and silver tabby crossed – although its little teeth were as sharp as needles and would certainly have inflicted a nasty bite!  We didn’t know whether to remove or leave it, and in the end decided it would be best to leave it.  Our visitors arrived, using the chair as signal locator and we had a lovely time!  After lunch, they had to leave and I went down to bring in the chair.  It had disappeared!!  Zut alors!  And so had the pine marten.  Had the local council come along, picked up the pine marten and taken our chair thinking that it too was for disposal?

We decided to pay a visit to the déchetterie – the local recycling centre – to see if they knew where the chair was.  I went indoors, sat down, and worked out how to tell the ouvrier what had happened.  You can imagine the scene – my French is not fluent, by any stretch of the imagination.  I practised the sentences for a while – probably at least 20 minutes – rehearsing over and over and changing the order of the sentences, trying to find the simplest way to explain the situation.  When I felt I probably had it as good as I was going to, we went to the déchetterie – only to find it had just closed!!  Happily we were able to speak to the lady in charge and I managed to make myself understood.

Not that it did any good, mind you….  The council don’t take their rubbish there and she didn’t know where the council rubbish tip was but advised us to go to the Mairie – by then well after 5, so too late for the day.  I confess I chickened out of trying to explain it all again the next day, so somewhere in a council tip near Nérac, there is a lovely old decrepit blue folding chair – unless it has found a new owner, of course!!

It won’t be long before you’ll be able to see the renovations in progress.  With as much of the preparation work done as we could do, things are now ready for the artisans to come back from their August break and start work in late September, fingers crossed!

It’s lovely being able to share this adventure with you virtually, and it would be wonderful if you could come and experience this marvellous place in real life.  In the meantime, until next time,

Happy Weaving!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 December, 2015

The Power of Dreams

Filed under: Education,Life,Teaching,Travel,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 8:25 pm

It’s amazing to think how a seemingly inconsequential choice can change the whole direction of one’s life, isn’t it?  And yet, so often that is exactly what happens.  And once that initial choice has been made, other decisions compound the effect until suddenly you find yourself looking at a whole new life.  And all it took was a birthday choice!

Nearly five years ago, my husband, Graham, turned 50.  He wanted to celebrate by going on a cookery course abroad.  Italy and France were on the shortlist, and he decided that he didn’t want to cook pasta.  That choice changed our lives!

The Gascony Cookery School is based in a small village on the edge of Tarn-et-Garonne and the Gers, down in the deep south-west of France.  It is set on a rocky outcrop in rolling hills with farmland all around it hosting kilometre on kilometre of sunflower fields in the summer.  Gramont boasts a chateau open to the public, a wonderful auberge (where cookery school students also get to work), and a honey museum.  In one of those quirks of fate, Graham, who should have been one of six students, was the only student.  (Something similar happened to me when I went to study jacquard at the Lisio Foundation in Florence – there should have been five or six of us, but there were only two!)  Over long leisurely meals with our hosts, Dave and Vikki, it transpired that they wanted to produce a honey beer, but didn’t know how.  Graham (my husband) has been brewing his own beer from the grain since I have known him (well over 30 years) and said he could help.  The more we talked, the more we realised our particular (and peculiar) mix of skills would fit in this village.  Graham with his brewing and music (he’s a good ‘cellist), and his wonderful ability to get on with everyone, and me with my weaving.  There was even an empty property for us to look round that would allow us to do all our activities.

We came home from that holiday buzzing with excitement and potentialities.  We went back to have another look in the summer.  The property was daunting – a lot of building work would be needed to make it functional but we had got the bit between our teeth and approached the sellers.

Not a lot happens speedily in the countryside of France, as many Francophiles will tell you.  That’s part of its appeal!  Because there was so much structural work to undertake before even starting work on making the property functional, we put forward a price which was not accepted.  We hoped that time would encourage the sellers to reconsider.  We went back to Gramont several times.  Then all went quiet from the sellers.

We went back this April, still set on the same property, but this time we decided to see what else was out there.  What other properties in the area would allow us to do our thing or give us a comparison to be able to negotiate a better price?  We viewed 15 properties in one week, and I have to say that the estate agents were all amazing!  Then it happened.  The very last house we looked at just took our breath away.  As we drove up the drive, I said to Graham ‘This is it!’  We felt exactly what we had felt when we first set eyes on Willowgate 23 years ago.  And as we walked round, it felt more and more like home without all the back-breaking work that would have been entailed in the property in Gramont and only 40 minutes away from Gramont.

La Tuilerie with studio

We hummed and hawed for a short while after we got home but that was just nerves.  We had really already made our decision, and in May our offer was accepted.  Just two days later, another offer was put in but the sellers of La Tuilerie honoured their word to us.  And now, finally, at the end of November 2015, we are the proud owners of a beautiful maison de maitre with attached barn for my weaving studio and teaching studio, a workshop for Graham’s micro-brewery, and a small shop to sell our wares!  We will be able to put guests up and offer the kind of immersive experience that we enjoyed at the cookery school, where I can teach weaving and intersperse it with trips to local markets, restaurants, local beauty spots and places of interest so that students and guests can enjoy the tastes and sights of Gascony.

And all because of a birthday decision!!

It will take a while to renovate the buildings to allow us to run the weaving courses and the B&B, but this is the start of a new life.  Graham is taking the plunge and leaving teaching which he has done for 30 years, to devote himself to looking after my guests and brewing his beer.  Of course it will be a challenge – not least the language side of things – and we are not taking it lightly, but there are so many people who are looking out for us and encouraging and helping us, both in the UK and in France, that with a lot of hard work and patience I think we will settle in to a new way of life and really be part of the local community in Nérac and Condom.

I do hope we will have the opportunity to host some of you, my past students, dear weaving friends and fellow explorers on life’s rich path.  I will post updates on FB and here and in my occasional newsletters, but in the meantime,

May All Your Dreams Come True!!  (Because they sometimes do!! :^))

 

15 July, 2012

Kennet Valley Guild residential workshop October 2012

One of the wonderful things about guilds is the opportunity they offer for learning.  Kennet Valley Guild hold a biennial residential weekend workshop for both their own guild members and other people who wish to come (obviously subject to numbers) on 19 – 21st October 2012.

This year, the workshop is being held in Wokefield Park near Reading.  There are four tutors: Alison Ellen – knitting, me – weaving, Alison Daykin – spinning and Anna Yevtukh – bookbinding.  I am going to be teaching weaving for texture, using 4 and 8 shaft looms and exploring woven shibori, overshot and stitched double cloth to create textural fabrics in many different ways, using threading drafts that will be familiar to most weavers.

These workshops are something I love to do.  Not only do you get to meet enthusiastic weavers, but you get to spend time exchanging stories, examing samples, sharing information and contacts, and generally having an exhilarating fibery time!  Honing my skills to the 4 and 8 shaft looms is something that I also love.  It’s comparatively easy to experiment on multi-shafts and get carried away with fancy patterns.  It’s another thing to distill the information from those multi-shaft samples into something that works well on 4 and 8 shafts.  In developing the workshop, I have been having a huge amount of fun and learning loads myself.

Another lovely thing is catching up with the other tutors.  I’ve known Alison Ellen several years, mostly meeting up at various shows such as the Landmark Textiles Fair.  Her work is inspirational and she has written at least one book on handknitting.  Her cardigans and hats are beautiful!  Alison Daykin is a spinner and weaver, and lives not far from me in Derbyshire.  She co-wrote a spinning book, ‘Creative Spinning’ with Jane Deane and will be teaching techniques from that book.  The third tutor is someone I have never previously met but am really looking forward to meeting.  Anna Yevtukh is teaching a subject that several people of my acquaintance are really into.  Bookbinding is a subject that is gaining in popularity as people are wanting more and more contact with physical hand-made objects, and what could be more personal than a book bound by hand?

The workshop co-ordinator is Lorna Goldsmith (lornagoldsmith@yahoo.co.uk).  As I mentioned before, these courses are open to non-Kennet Valley members, if there are spaces remaining, and Lorna is the contact if you want to come and join us.  It promises to be an exciting, and lively, weekend!

6 May, 2012

Resuming posting….

Filed under: Life,Philosophy,Psychology,Teaching,Weaving — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

Over the past couple of months, life has been challenging in a number of ways.  But one constant throughout all the challenges has been weaving.  Whether teaching, preparing for workshops, or planning and weaving my own projects, weaving has kept my thoughts positive, my mind actively planning, and my hands occupied.

I have come to realise that people with a consuming passion in something, whether it be weaving, family ancestry, cars, bird-watching, have an advantage when it comes to hard times.  That part of the brain is busy and distracted from whatever else is proving difficult, and you can switch to that part of the brain whenever you need to re-charge your batteries.

For me, various deadlines with weaving have proved the anchor to keeping things in perspective, although sometimes the deadlines have also felt a little like a noose round my neck!  Happily, most of those deadlines have been met and I can now relax a little and smell the roses!!  They have helped me stay focussed on things other than my other challenges and kept me in the world instead of apart from it in my own little bubble.

Having students has forced me to stop for breath and concentrate on their needs and, in doing so, has totally refreshed me in a way that I hadn’t expected.  I have always loved teaching, but never expected it to be a therapy as well!! Thanks to all my wonderful students who are now weavers themselves!

I feel so grateful that I have weaving in my life – for my mind, for my soul and for my sanity!!! Here’s to all us weavers – whatever life throws at us, may our weaving prove a solace and help us get through the rough times.

Happy weaving!

11 December, 2011

Miniature mountains

Filed under: Art,Life,Nature,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 6:42 pm

A few weeks ago, I hurt my back.  It’s an old injury and one I can usually keep under control with regular yoga, but I had a period of two weeks where I was driving a lot, and moving heavy boxes, looms, and equipment then more driving for several hours, and at the end of the two weeks, I did a session clearing leaves and fallen apples in the garden for an hour.  That was the last straw for my back, and I was unable to move for a couple of days.  Happily, visits to the osteopath, and regular stretching and gentle movement is now having the desired effect and I should be fully mobile in a few days.

The upshot of that is that I couldn’t weave on my AVL – a bit of a problem as I have a research warp ready to go – but there’s more than one way to skin (or swing) a cat (which is a really odd saying, and not fair on the poor feline!!!  My two would have more than something to say if I tried that!!)  Anyway, feeling the need to weave, but not physically able to manage the large floor loom, I turned to a small table loom and decided to try my hand at Miniature mountains!  Using two different techniques – woven shibori and overshot – I am trying out all sorts of weird and wonderful weft yarns on a warp a mere 2″ wide.  I’ve got just one more sample to do on this warp, and will then be washing them, steaming them and tumble drying them.  It is always such fun to see what happens.

After that, I shall put on another mini-warp in a different yarn, and with a different threading order and have another play and see what comes out of that!  These are for my masters research.  I never thought I’d have so much fun with this, but it’s really exciting.  I can’t weave more than 3 hours (with a gap) on this little loom, and it’s really slow, but it’s proving to be as much fun as doing the larger stuff on the AVL.

Hopefully, over Christmas, I’ll be able to get back on the AVL and get on with the research weaving on that!  For me, research weaving is so much more fun than weaving something to use – but that’s just me. What about you?  Are you someone who loves to create functional cloth or objects?  You have my admiration!  I think I’m just an overgrown kid who just loves to play!!!

Whatever you prefer – have fun this winter!!

4 December, 2011

Thoughts behind my Christmas cards

Filed under: Life,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 3:14 pm

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!!

27 November, 2011

Subconscious Thinking

This morning I awoke from a dream where I was being greeted by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada at a World Shibori Network gathering, and lay there for a minute a little bemused by my dream.  Whilst I was processing it, sudden ideas flashed into my mind about how I could approach an upcoming assignment that I am doing for my masters degree.  Then another idea popped into my mind about how I could use weave structures other than plain weave for my planned pieces, and then another idea about how I could adapt my loom to do what I want to do with another piece.

Ten minutes in bed and a host of ideas to set me up for the week!  That’s what Sunday mornings are for!! ;^))

This week has been a painful one physically for me.  Over the last two weeks, I have done things to give my back little twinges, and I have not paid attention to my body and stretched out my muscles.  Last weekend, I compounded the effects by loading and unloading my car, and driving 6 hours in one day, then followed the next day by leaf removal on the lawn.  On Monday, my back was grumbling at me, on Tuesday I had to visit the osteopath, then on Wednesday was flat out on my back on the study floor because I had sat at the computer for too long on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning!!

I know it’s my own fault, and I have vowed to look after my body better.  Once my back has settled down, I am purchasing a Yoga DVD and will make a Yoga session part of my morning ritual, like my morning visualisation exercise.  This is not a vain New Year’s resolution.  My body needs this or I shall be suffering many more bouts of painful, debilitating back pain and weeks without being able to weave….

However, I did have an ‘aha’ moment this morning.  Whilst I am unable to weave on my AVL (which has a warp sitting there just waiting to be started!!), I can at least start work on some miniatures on a miniature loom.  Over the Christmas holidays, I usually find myself fired up and full of ideas for weaving, but have to put the lid on them as we have company and it would be so rude to leave them all to it whilst I slope off to weave.  But this year, and whilst my back is still not 100%, I am going to use my little 8S loom to weave indoors.  I can be sociable(ish) and still weave!!

This will be the first time I have broken my own rule of not bringing looms into the house.  I did wonder whether there would be objections from my DH (after all, he does know what I’m like when I’m weaving!!), but he was delighted.  Even if I don’t hear a word that people say to me because I’m in weaving-land, at least I will be in the room with them in body – and they can always nudge me to get a response!!

So now today’s task is to set up a small warp for my small loom and plan the first of my miniatures!!  Then watch how quickly my back sorts itself out!!

Happy weaving!

21 November, 2011

Numbers to inspire?

Filed under: Art,Education,Life,Nature,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 2:21 pm

I can’t believe it – a record 777 spam comments on my blog this week!!  So if you sent me a genuine message, and it hasn’t appeared as a comment, please forgive my heavy-handed delete!

Certain number combinations attract our attention – which is one reason I noted the 777 spams.  Other combinations have things to do with our cultural references – for instance, 8 in China is an auspicious number, whereas 3, 7 and 9 tend to be favoured numbers in the UK.  13 is considered unlucky, although I really don’t know why because it’s also known as the ‘baker’s dozen’, dating from times past when a baker would add an extra roll to a dozen just in case the total weight of the twelve rolls came up underweight after baking.

I was watching a film this weekend based on numbers, partly because I enjoy numbers (although I’m not good at maths), partly because I love codes (like many children, I used to make up my own codes as a child and weaving allows for code-making through techniques such as alphabet drafts), and also because I love looking for patterns, whether in nature, in puzzles, or in numbers.  My son seems to have inherited this ability to see patterns in apparently random collections, as he is excelling at signals and codes during his latest phase of training.  He’s also inherited his dad’s trait of memorising apparently useless nuggets of information that suddenly come into their own when you least expect it!

I digress!

Back to the film.  It was called ‘Knowing’ and featured Nicholas Cage as a single parent of a young lad called Caleb who has problems deciphering words and wears a hearing aid to assist him to sort out the jumble of words.  The father is an astro-phyisict teaching at MIT.  The film starts off with a time capsule being buried at a newly opened school in the 1950s, and one piece of ‘art’work being included that was a whole string of numbers.  The girl who wrote this down kept hearing people whispering to her.  Roll on 50 years, and the capsule is being lifted up and the contents handed out.  Caleb gets the paper with the strings of numbers and his father starts looking at it.  Being someone who is interested in numbers, he suddenly realises that the strings of numbers include dates, so he starts researching.  To his horror, he finds that the dates all refer to horrific accidents and natural phenomena with large loss of life, and then he notices that the next few numbers relate to the number of people killed.  Following the numbers through to their conclusion, he realises that there are dates that haven’t happened yet, and to his horror he witnesses one of the events on the list.  …

When I first started perusing popular physics books by authors such as John Gribbin, I began to realise just how big a part numbers play in our understanding of how the world, our galaxy, and ultimately the universe (at least the one that we know of) works.  The more I read, the more fascinated I became.  I find it great fun to be working in a field that requires me to manipulate numbers, albeit in a very different way, to create the tactile effects I want.  It doesn’t matter to me that I might have 4, 8, 16 or 24 shafts to use.  What matters is how those different shafts and the threads that are manipulated by those shafts can interact to create patterns in colour, line and surface relief.  The challenge is to create fabrics and textures that seem to defy the limitations of the shafts through using different combinations and thinking in ways that push how you normally would think of using them.

In one way, you could think of weaving as a game of number manipulation.  It would be interesting to hear how you think of weaving and what aspects of weave get you inspired.  Let me know?

16 October, 2011

Deep Thinking

Weavers who go beyond recipe weaving tend to be quite deep thinkers, I’ve noticed.  They are not content with following what someone else has done, but they want to tweak the threading here, and alter the treadling there, or completely revamp the tie-up.  And from there, it’s a small step to designing your own weaving drafts.

For me, that is where the excitement in weaving lies.  I have an idea, and I want to work out a way to weave it, whether that’s on a shaft loom, or a jacquard loom.

I am currently studying for a masters in weave and that is encouraging me into thinking about the reasons behind my decisions – all my decisions – not just the weaving ones.  I am having to examine why I am drawn to certain things, why weave, what underlies my desire to produce unusual or textured fabrics.  And the harder part – how to articulate that to a non-weaving audience.

This is by far the deepest thinking I’ve done on my weaving.  Before, it was enough just to want to weave volcanoes, or sand-dunes.  Now I have to delve into what is it (am I) saying?  Why do I want it to be art and not generally fabric for use?  Where should it be shown?  How should it be shown?  What context does it require in order to give the interpretation I want it to have?  What is the interpretation I want it to have?  Should this be spelt out to an audience, or inferred?  What does the viewer bring to the interpretation of the piece?  Does that have a bearing on how I would i) present the piece, ii) weave the piece, iii) design the piece?

All these questions!  At first, I resisted even trying to answer them, but I gradually realised that delving beneath the surface of things is what I do in my weaving, so I should try to apply the same principles to my reasoning.  After my first presentation to the masters group, I realised that I was speaking to a non-textile audience for the first time, and that shifted my thinking about presentations drastically.  I had to find a way of talking about weaving without being too weaverly.

I am currently working on a contextual paper, basically trying to find where I fit in the world.  How does my output and thinking fit in with an art perspective, a craft perspective, a textiles perspective and a weaving perspective.  What is my philosophy?  Whose work strikes a chord with me?  Why?  What does their work bring to my understanding?  I have to debate thoughts, not just state them.  I have to analyse why I think something, and question whether that is a valid way of looking at something.  In other words, I have to think about and question everything.

This may seem like a lot of hard work and something that you wouldn’t want to do.  However, I am learning so much through this process – about my ways of thinking, about my instincts, about relating my weaving to the wider world, about my place in the wider world.  It is making me re-evaluate and confirm or change how I feel about art in general, about crafts and their position in our lives, about what I do and how I do it.

Food for thought, indeed ….

9 October, 2011

The Secret Language of Weaving Drafts

Language is such an integral part of our lives that it’s not often that we stop to think about it.  It’s been in my mind recently whilst I’ve been doing some background reading for my masters degree.  One book I was reading (Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, Edited by Stuart Hall) referred to language not just as the verbal and written communications we have in a specific world language (such as English, French, Spanish etc) but also the language of art, the language of performance, the language of culture, the language of music, and so on.  This got me thinking about the language of textiles.

The language of textiles is one that we are brought up with and absorb from the moment of our births until the minute we die.  Occasionally we verbalise it, but textiles are associated with emotional moments in our lives, and also emotional stability – think about a child’s comfort blanket (whatever form that might take).  Think about the significance of a prom gown, a wedding dress, funeral clothes, casual clothes.  We make emotional and rational decisions about textiles our whole day, and our whole lives.  We are surrounded by them wherever we go, whether that be clothing, or furnishings in our house, the textiles we use for doing jobs, and now of course, textiles which have added value and usefulness – the protective clothing used by the armed forces and emergency services which let you know if your core temperature is too high, whether there is toxicity around you, some even have soft switching which incorporates electrical circuits into them for many and various uses.

This weekend, I was showing a student how to read weaving drafts and we had a discussion about drafts being a secret language known only to weavers and how unlocking the secrets of the langauge through its code opens up a whole new world to a new weaver.

I’m a teacher who expects my students to use their brains and I give them the tools to be able to make their own decisions as weavers, right from the start.  To me, unlocking the code of weaving through the ability to read and understand drafts, so that you can relate what you are seeing on the page to what you are doing on the loom, and the relationship between how you thread the shafts and the lifting order you use, is the most important part of my job when teaching.  The wonder and excitement that lights up students’ faces, and the knowledge that they can create their own patterns and share those with others through this coded language is a huge reward to me as a teacher.

As weavers, we may have a secret language known only to other weavers, but the results are there for all to see, in a language which means something to everyone, whether they like what they see or feel, or not.  Textiles is a wonderful field with direct connections to every living person.  The versatility of techniques in textiles, and also the huge variety of techniques within weaving alone, gives us a wonderfully expressive langauge to use to communicate what we wish.  Let’s talk to each other through textiles!!

Happy weaving!

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