Incremental Progress

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. 


Unknown said...

can't wait for the second part :D
welcome back Christina, you've been missed!

olive and love said...

Looking forward to hearing more! Excited to be reading some Second Skin today!

The Semi Sweet said...

Great story. It reminds me of a fable (which the title is escaping me now) but about patience and wisdom or something like that. I hope this didn't discourage you!! I'll find out on the next story I'm sure.

Em said...

I freaking KNOW this pattern. I've cooked and had a masterful dinner of epic goodnes(never to be repeated) and zinged everyone at work to come out on top flying high on my own and on and on - only to crash and burn on the heels. The highs. Oh the high. To believe you are capable of anything if you just put your mind to it...then bitterness when somehow it is unrepeatable.
At least that's how it seems for me. How beautiful, though to have had those zones where you are magnificent. You are always good -better than most, even if you don't feel like you're giving/doing 100%. Don't sell yourself short as my darlin' tells me when I'm reeling from a crash.
Just keep going. Keep building. Keep moving. EVERY artist goes through multitudes of discards for every spectacular masterpiece. And you. YOU are capable - very capable of those masterpieces. Do you know the old western writer Zane Grey? Marvelous and beautiful in his descriptive writings. Always healing the soul. Well, Zane - he was a writer of great regard and even he had huge periods of self-doubt and frustration and irritation with his work. His wife was his bouy. Kept him going and balanced. Hard to know when to reach out to that bouy sometimes - but we need a bouy or constant or rock to help us weather the storms.
The storms though? They make for some spectacular skies.

TheDollsFactory said...

you have done a great job here
Great photos
Always following
The Dolls Factory

Amanda WG said...

Holy cow! I have been behind in my blog reading lately (and a bit overwhelmed by how behind I am, to be honest) but I was so thrilled to see your name in my google reader that I sat and read all four posts at once (which is now making me late for work, but I dont care!). SO happy to hear your voice again..hear your ruminations...your intriguing book recommendations...hear the thoughtfulness with which you live your life. you inspire me. I also love Em's comment and see so many truths in that. Sometimes I make things that horrify me and I want to rip them to shreds or scribble over them (which I sometimes do), but often if I leave them be, I rediscover them later and find something interesting or free or weird in them that somehow makes them beautiful. Though they arent anything I would frame on my wall or show around, they are important in the next steps I take in my work. The first weaving is stunning, but the second tells a story and in that way it is just as beautiful. I think it is healthy(and important) in the making process to have moments of humility and moments of intense pride...in many ways, its what keeps us making.
so glad to have you back.

Unknown said...

It's so weird, but when i read your thoughts lately, I cry.
I believe it's a good cry.

Anonymous said...

Love to read your words again! Isn't it stunning how quickly we can take the thing that makes our heart beat faster and twist the joy out of it? Pride. I would like that to die in me too. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

Gabrielle said...

I love you!

It's so nice to read your thoughts in this format. But even nicer in person, of course ;) Missing you!

I hope to see you soon and hear more about your thinking and weaving adventures.

San said...

Oh dear, this sounds all so familiar to me.

Feeling the need to create something yourself. Feeling the joy of finding people with the same interests. Creating something nice in the flow. And then ... Putting to much pressure and to many expectations on oneself so that one can only fail.

You are definitely not alone in this. Though I don't weave.

Have a great new week. Looking forward to part 2.

Lady Fur said...

♡I love it so much!!!!!!!
love your blog!
I love you!

Angele Style said...

I began checking out fashion blogs and when I came across yours I could totally relate with your stories. Then I thought wow....you just put everything together on your path in a way that I would like to do. Just organically letting one step follow another with your interest in vintage clothes then offering to take people shopping and teaching them how to bargain shop etc etc and then next....I'm done...goodbye...I thought wait a minute I was going to learn so much from you....and now you are back...Hooray..I totally relate to my ego taking over..the key is to be AWARE of it....that is the best we can do?? A great book I am reading along these lines is by Claire Dederer called Poser:my life in twenty-threee yoga poses. Thank you for sharing what you are reading.

Second Skin said...

Miha- I was so glad to see your comment! Thank you! I always really respected you. thank you for welcoming me back.

Laura - You are so freaking sweet. I am sorry I fell of the face of the earth again. Its been a weird year. I think about you though and your family. I am sure you have been very productive and creative as usual. ;) thank you for reading this. Also, I have not forgotten about that bed frame and the powder coating.

Em- Thank you for your words. Beautiful and inspiring.

AMW - Oh I love you. I have missed you. I want to have tea with you and draw and look at sketch books with you. Where do you live again? Can't we just be friends?

Reva - You are such a beautiful woman. I hope that they are good tears. I wonder what is striking that in you?

Jodi!! Hey lady! It is so nice to hear from you! I know this isn't vintage clothing, but I always felt like we connected at a higher level anyway. So happy your are still around!

Oh Gabbi, I love you too. I feel so lucky that we are friends.

to be continued!

Second Skin said...

Angela - Thank you for telling me about that book! I will check it out since it sounds right up my alley. And thank you for telling me how you have related to me. When I get comments like these they really make me feel nice. I am looking forward to getting to know you better.

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