The salvaged original work left unfinished on the loom.
About a year and a half ago I found an old loom at my local thrift store with an unfinished tapestry woven onto it. The warps (the strings that run vertically on the loom that provide a matrix on which to weave through) were made of wool but were very old and weak, yellowed and broken. The unfinished tapestry had thick, hand spun lengths of different colors of wool, twine, and wood layered upon each other to create a rich and rough piece of work. The spun wool had bits of vegetation and the hair of other animals interlocked in its fibers. The whole thing slumped against the wall among the wicker baskets, mismatched coffee mugs and tupperware that had been separated from their lids. The tools that accompanied the loom, carved from matching dark cherry wood, had additional lengths of wool wrapped around them. It was apparent to me that this weaver didn't feel like they were finished. They had more work to do here, but for a reason I will never know, they abandoned their weaving. I speculated there in the store while my heart raced as I carried my new find to the register. 'THIS IS INCREDIBLE,' my heart sang. $12. I paid $12 for this treasure that would bring about a change in my life that I could never have anticipated as I gleefully threw a hot $20 down.
This loom with it's unfinished work stood as a found piece of art work, decorating my house for the next year. People would visit and we would speculate on when and where it was woven, what happened to the weaver and what I intended to do with it. "Are you going to weave on this loom?" The inevitable question kept coming up. My silent answer was always something like, I would love to but would that disrespect the original weaver or ruin the beauty of the found piece? What if I am not good enough and I weave a piece of shit, then not only will I have dismantled something beautiful, I will have wasted and proven a secret desire I have to be a disaster. I carried some self doubt.
Last spring, while I was in the process of disintegrating my vintage business and the blog here and all the middle man tasks I had been busying myself with for the previous year, I had this very compelling drive to MAKE something. Stop finding things others have made and selling them for a profit, MAKE something of your own and realize that the profit you gain is the cathartic act of creation. The peace that comes from the process. In order to begin making, I had some doubts to overcome. The well of ideas was overflowing but the cap of insecurity kept me from beginning for fear that I would expose myself to myself as a failure. I felt like I needed guidance. I needed tutelage, a teacher that would walk with me in those first steps and show me the slow but sure way to proceed. By August I finally asked the universe for a teacher. While I believe that asking for help is a huge important first step I am also well aware that help comes to those that help themselves, so I grabbed a community college schedule of classes and browsed the subjects.
Ceramics? No. Painting? Hell no. What was I looking for? Come on come on, I knew it was there somewhere. Then, there in the community education section for the satellite campus in my town was a weaving class. The energy in my body about gave me a heart attack. THAT was what I was looking for! A Passionate Response! I wanted to feel my heart beat out of my chest and lose my breath with anticipation! The month waiting for the class to start was torture. At one point it was cancelled but the woman teaching it agreed to teach me in her home since she was happy to have at least one interested person. It was the first time she had offered her lessons through the college since she just felt like she needed to broaden her search for students. I was an eager and thankful pupil.
She started me on a simple frame loom, essentially a frame with small brass nails hammered along the top and bottom on which the warp was strung. Her lesson was basic. String the yarn onto a weaving needle and weave in and out, alternating as you add layer upon layer. Basic weaving. She said, "Experiment! Try different patterns, change colors!" By my third row I already felt it. The rhythm. The doing. The making. One row at a time. Incremental progress. Each layer builds upon the next and eventually a fabric is created. A flimsy string locked together with more flimsy strings within the boundaries of a defined matrix, created a square of strength. The pattern though was up to my imagination. I could create almost anything I wanted within the frame of my matrix. All I had to do was envision the goal and move forward with patience, focus, forgiveness, the willingness to unweave and make right any missed steps, and the drive to complete the process and see it to the end. Consistency in tension and pressure matter. Finding my own rhythm and staying in it matters. Breaking when I become fatigued matters. All of these lessons seemed to effortlessly download into my system. I would take deep breaths and hear the word YES. This is right. This is what I have been needing and looking for.
My first finished piece.
When I brought my first finished piece into class the next week, my teacher could hardly contain herself. "This Is amazing! Superb! I just can't believe it!" She asked if I had any previous experience weaving. No. She explained that the feathering I had created in my angles was very desirable and difficult to do and that she wanted me to come to her Navajo weaving class to show them how I did it. This made me feel UNCOMFORTABLE. For one thing, I felt immediately my ego filling up with hot air, a feeling I am very conscious of and actually DESPISE in myself. Additionally, I don't really know HOW I did it. I just did it. When I was figuring it all out I was in the zone. It just happened. I felt awkward taking credit for that, but then my ego stepped in, "Oh sure! It was easy! I would love to come to the Navaho class and show them how I did it!" chest puffed out jaw jutted, hands in loose fists on my hips.
At that point the pressure was on. I had to make another equally amazing piece. SCREW THAT! It had to be better than the one before it! More technical, incorporating complicated interlocking techniques and an even cooler pattern! I took a book home and skipped to the good parts because I didn't need the introduction, I was a freaking natural. Let's effing do this thing!
This time the weaving was long and tedious. It was frustrating and ugly to me. Nothing seemed to be going right. I kept making mistakes and resented going back to fix them. I had wanted to make it as symmetrical as the last one but miscounted the warps for my brown sections and inadvertently created a mess. As I got nearer to completion I just gave up on the pattern all together and filled the center with half hearted lines. I disdained the finished product.
My ego driven piece.
Before I even arrived at the Navajo class I was a humbled lump. The other attendees were all expecting this special girl to come waltzing in, their eyes filled with the promises my teacher had made about my brilliance. I muttered a weak and shy hello to each of them before pulling out my two pieces. As they looked at them I watched as they quickly grabbed the first piece and maybe without even realizing it, covered the second with it. One of them said specifically, disregarding #2 all together, "This is a beautiful sample." Ok. Thank you. My interaction was them was meek and controlled.
This is getting long. I will resume with the second half of this story later. Thank you for reading.