“Uh oh – Stacey’s gone hippy” – that was actually what one person said when we were talking in a group about weaving and the conversation turned to what you do to keep fit for weaving. We all laughed, but the truth is that she’s probably right in one way.
My weaving family know me as outgoing, gregarious, always-waving-my-arms-about passionate about my areas of interest in weave. However, in other social circles, I am much more introvert. I tend to observe, listen and occasionally comment rather than dominate or be outgoing – I generally leave that to Graham, my husband, who is a total socialiser and loves interacting with people, chatting effortlessly to everyone, even if it tends to be on the subject of making beer right now! ;^)) They occasionally glaze over, but he is learning to read those signs!! LOL
Those two sides of my life don’t often come together at the same time, but on the odd occasion when they do, those people who know me outside of weaving are always really surprised to see the change that comes over me when I’m with other weavers. In contrast, weavers tend not to see the ‘mindfulness’ side of my character, don’t know that I meditate every day and work hard on my mental strength, especially during this somewhat chaotic year. They don’t know that I practice yoga every day for two reasons. Initially, it was to keep supple enough to be able to clamber under looms for tie-ups or climb on top of my baby jacquard looms to trouble-shoot problems. It was also really helpful to keep me strong physically during our mammoth move to SW France when I was shifting heavy boxes of yarns, books and looms on a regular basis. But over the past couple of years it has become more and more important for the spiritual side of my life.
It has also started impacting on my students. I try to be really quiet when I go up to my yoga space in the attic and do my yoga practice, although early waking students occasionally hear me creaking the boards as I move from one position to another. But I have been really surprised by the response when I explain that I am doing yoga for my weaving. People want to come up to the attic and join me. I am not a yoga teacher, I just practice yoga. And my practice is not advanced – I am flexible but not into ‘hard’ yoga. However, if people are willing just to join me, it’s a pleasure to share that quiet time with them. A deep bond develops soundlessly and effortlessly through sharing that time and practice.
Most weavers have an understanding of weaving as meditation. We know that we have to be present in the moment or things go wrong, especially during warp preparation and keeping good notes. We know when we get ‘in the zone’ and time completely disappears. We are in the flow of weaving; the weaving and the weaver growing together, creating a fabric from a series of interlacing threads. At times it seems almost magical. If you ever experience this feeling, you are always trying to recapture it each time you sit down at the loom. But the harder you try to get back into the zone, the less likely you are to be able to do so. You have to let go of that particular result and just be content to ‘be’ in the moment, throwing the shuttle, aware of how you are moving, what the shafts are doing. Suddenly there is space for new thoughts and ideas, a feeling of the ‘rightness’ of the moment.
I have also learnt to harness this space in my head for design decisions, whilst I am planning what to do. The brain is most definitely working full tilt, comparing and contrasting ideas, structures, yarns, design, but also there is a stillness where the ‘right’ decision for what I am hoping to achieve suddenly becomes clear.
During this year of COVID confinements, political tensions, unavoidable and not always welcome changes in daily life, my mantra is simple – just to ‘be joyful’. It’s not always easy, but by focusing on being grateful for the life that I have, the people in my life, the small things to notice such as the changing seasons in the garden, our pets, the community, working in collaboration with some amazing artists, it is really helping to swim with the current of life, allowing it to support me whilst I find new ways of reaching out to students, new ways of expressing my soul and connecting with others through my woven art.
I have also been doing a series of videos on Facebook and Youtube called Reasons to be Cheerful. It is now on its second series in response to the second confinement here in France. This started as a way of me trying to stay positive for my own sake but quickly developed into a series of mindfulness observations in response to comments and emails from people who had seen the videos. I am so surprised and delighted by the reactions from weavers and non-weavers, especially as the videos are uploaded ‘raw’ – ie no editing. It seems they have touched a place in many people that need that kind of message of hope and love right now. The warmth I have received from people that I don’t know as well as those I do has given me courage to continue sharing my more vulnerable and private side publicly, something I have found difficult to do.
For me, weaving, yoga and meditation are a way of life, totally interlinked and interdependent. What about for you? What do you do to keep centred and physically fit for weaving? I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, happy flexible weaving!!
Image – Deep Space – Sagitarrius System (2009) 145 x 90cm (57” x 35.5”) – hand-dyed on my own fabrics (industrially woven) in response to Hubble space images.