Random Thoughts on Weaving

Weaving is therapeutic for me. It provides an outlet to work out inner discontents, griefs, pain. Nobody ever said it would be like that, but it is.

While I’m weaving, lots of different things are happening. I’m praying or singing hymns, watching one of the many incarnations of Star Trek, and thinking, thinking, thinking.

The first thing some people say when they see a tapestry in progress on the loom, “oh, that takes patience. I don’t have enough patience to do that.” That’s not true. Tapestry weaving doesn’t require patience; it demands passion. You burn with passion when you’re weaving. It is that passion, the passion to realize the vision of the mind’s eye with warp and the colors of weft, that rages until the tapestry is cut off of the loom, that brings you back to the loom everyday, that sets you to work eliminating the discrepancy between the mind and the tapestry on the loom–even when you can’t quite articulate what is wrong with what has been woven. Then, as soon as one tapestry is cut down from the loom, the fire begins to burn again because the next design is already awaiting realization.

Design ideas come to me from a variety of sources. Pictures found online, art work created by other artists, my own ideas of what would make for great tapestry. With other people’s images and art, I contact the photographer or artist and obtain permission to use. It doesn’t really matter that their original work might not be recognizable in my design; the point is that I know the source of the design, and I know that the source must be credited. If the artist doesn’t give permission, I leave the design alone.

Take, for instance, Thar Be Monsters Out Thar. The design for that tapestry was based on a picture by Ann Althouse. Althouse tells me she wouldn’t have recognized her picture in Monsters. Here’re the original photo and the resulting tapestry.

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Sometimes you have to turn the world around and not look at the solid objects in front of you in order to see what is really there. The intent of the design is not to hide the original, but to follow what the inner eye visualizes and brings into being when it looks at a scene, a picture, or something.

How did I get into weaving? Into tapestry weaving? Roberta Gellis’s historical novels first fired my mind about tapestry a long, long time ago. Then, for some reason about five or six years ago, I began to experiment, nail frame looms, library books, but it never occurred to me to google YouTube vids, alas. Then, I found out about a weaver in my home state, Cherri Hankins, and took a basic class with her on the rigid heddle. That fed the excitement and the passion, but not for the rigid heddle loom. I hate those, with a passion, even though I have two: a two heddle Glimåkra Emilia and a Schacht something or other. I used to have another RH, my first one, and it drove me crazy so I got rid of it.

Then, through wandering around, I met Ingrid, now a guild sister. She’s my hero. She spins, weaves, sews, and does all that great stuff, and she helped me to warp the Rasmussen four-harness table loom. Oops! I forgot about the Rasmussen. Ingrid doesn’t do tapestry, however, and I burned to do that. Back to the library and the web.

Somehow, I discovered Marilyn Rea-Menzies, signed up to take a two-week course with her, and all the rest, as they say, is history.

There’s really good tapestry art out there. I divide what I see into two camps: ART and TECHNICALLY PROFICIENT BUT UNEXCITING. I’ve seen exhibition-winning tapestry that has left me stone cold and wondering what were the judges thinking. I’ve also seen tapestry art that leaves me breathless and awed. All art should evoke strong emotion: excitement, love, passion, anger, fear, hatred, horror, grief. That’s what I strive for when I weave tapestry. I want to make you feel, to make you experience all the emotion the ancient Greek playwrights sought to evoke in their audiences. If you look at one of my tapestries and feel nothing, then that is a result of my failure as an artist to convey to you the vision and emotion I want you to see and experience.