On my recent travels, one of my travelling companions asked about my job. People are always fascinated when you say you’re a weaver. Most don’t know what a weaver is any more and he was curious. When I said that as a teacher, writer and artist I strive to unlock creativity in other people through weave, he asked me to explain a bit more. So I described how meditative and therapeutic weaving can be and how you can tap into the creativity of weaving as well as being guided by the structure and logic of weave. He was fascinated with the whole concept of exploring creativity in that way and it led me to thinking more deeply about the nature of creativity in weaving. Here are some of those thoughts.
It’s wonderful to be able to be totally spontaneous with weaving and that instant spontaneity can come through using simple techniques and tools such as a Saori loom, a rigid heddle loom, or perhaps a basic tapestry frame. The techniques don’t necessarily require a huge amount of technical thinking and prior knowledge. That’s one kind of creativity – changing things in the moment whether that is swapping out yarns, colours, textures, or creating simple shapes through hand manipulation. There’s a huge amount of ‘how-to’ books around right now on simple weaving as if it is the only kid on the block – its moment in the sun. It suits many busy people and folks with young families as a way of creating and relaxing at the same time and also can be a great introduction into the wonderful world of weaving. I’m not knocking it in any way but I would like to show that there is so much more to discover if you have a curious mindset.
I suspect that tapestry weavers are going to be jumping up and down right now. However, I am not referring to what you do in this way. My tapestry weaver friends often spend hours developing ideas and have honed wonderful technical expertise in the ancient and venerable – and also highly contemporary – world of tapestry weaving. That’s a completely different ball game and I respect the knowledge and talent of many tapestry weavers although it is not an area that appeals to me. To be honest, I don’t think I have the patience to stay with one idea for the length of time that it would take to capture the essence of that idea in a tapestry, and that’s my failing…
There’s are plenty of other ways, of course. If you want the loom to create your patterning, as soon as you have a bit more knowledge of other techniques or you are using a loom with 4 or more shafts, you have lots of choices. And that is the kind of creativity I seek to inspire – where you think deeper about using the tool – your loom – to create different forms of weaving rather than the simpler choices. There is most certainly room for all types of creativity and many people now cater for the simpler way of weaving. But for me, using my brain and loom together to develop ideas and be creative is what weaving means to me.
Using the combinations of shafts that we have at our disposal gives us huge patterning potential, whether that is using a table loom or floor loom, and leads to fun discoveries. Working in collaboration with the parameters of the threading that we have chosen, changing sett to see what happens, then selecting those yarns, textures, colours that we can do with simpler looms, we have so many more options. Yes, it’s true in some ways that having shafts can be more constraining than the total freedom of a hand-placed weft on a frame loom, for example, but to me, the constraints of a threading on a shaft loom is equivalent in music to the selection of a key in which to compose a piece of music. It hones in your focus to a concentrated region where you can explore as far as your mind will take you, and nearly always I get more ideas towards the end of a warp. I know I’m not the only one. At Complex Weavers Seminars in the US, that was a pretty constant refrain! Somehow, you start off with one idea, then a few ‘what if I do that….’ ideas come in and you try them. They lead to other ideas, and before you know where you are, you have a whole new train of thought to explore which you never would have imagined if you hadn’t started where you started…..
That’s what I want to inspire in people – the curiosity of exploring where weaving can take you mentally as well as artistically, incorporating lots of techniques, lots of methods, lots of structures, colours and textures.
Does this resonate with you? If so, please do let me know and tell me what inspires you in weaving….
Image: Covid Chaos V