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This week with Alice Schlein and her husband Bruce has been great fun. Alice has organised several things for us to do, including inviting some weavers from South Carolina for a lunch. So we met up with Connie Lippert, Betty Carlson, Jo-Ann Earle, and Margaret Carpenter. Jo is a fellow member of Complex Weavers, and we share a common interest in mathematics and weaving. Margaret, aka Peg of South Carolina, lives 3 ½ hours away in Florence, and is a fellow member of the UK Online guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, so I took a peek through her blog, and came across the topic of creative intelligence.

To me, that’s what I’m about as a weaver – you know how to control the medium through hands-on experience, but you have to be aware of how the medium controls the art. That’s not to say you have to be constrained by how the medium controls the art, but it’s useful to know the rules and how they are applied before you break them. I’m thinking in particular of Bach in musical terms here – the master of the rules and the master of breaking those same rules to magical effect. In weaving terms, Lenore Tawney and Peter Collingwood spring to mind – especially Peter’s Macrogauzes and shaft-switching principle.

Constraints can be invigorating, as Peg mentions, but as I’m someone who was brought up to play by the rules but spends most of my creative time actually looking to bend them to breaking point, they are like a clarion call to me, daring me to do my worst!! I was fortunate to do the Bradford Diploma of Handloom Weaving in the early ’90s when it was still a 4-shaft only discipline, and we also had to be proficient in spinning, dyeing, braiding and theory, and we had to know about industrial mechanical processes. A very good education and one which taught the rules so that you absorbed them deep into your knowledge base, although even then I was pushing the rules to see what I could do.

To me, the best of all is to mix that solid knowledge background with the freedom of ideas and techniques that today’s students enjoy. For many of them, it’s play without knowledge, which I think can be incredibly restricting, and sometimes frightening, as you have no understanding on which to plant your ideas. But these students have a playfulness which people hidebound by rules cannot reach. A letting go of one or more rules can lead to sudden discoveries which prompt exciting areas of exploration.

A balance of these opposite poles can lead to creative and unexpected directions – creative intelligence in action.