The art of weaving bridges the worlds of fine art and craft with universal appeal and roots in many past civilizations. Looms developed simultaneously in many disparate places around the world millennia ago with very similar structures and totally different fabrics. Images of looms grace the Greek urns of antiquity and yet are still in use today in the Andes and southeast Asia.
The diversity of techniques, cloths and fibers inspire contemporary weavers today. In many cases the most primitive looms are used to create the most exquisite fabrics.
My formal education was strictly academic with no artistic component (it was the early sixties, after all). My first weaving class was at the Shelburne Craft School several years after graduation and a whole new discipline unfolded, one that combined intellectual challenge with the work of the hands. There was a new language as well as new concepts to be learned.
There were the life lessons of patience, objectivity, failure, and my personal favorite, weaving under tension (unless the warp is under the correct tension, one cannot weave!). That first class opened a door to many other classes and workshops led by some of the most internationally respected weavers in the contemporary fiber world.
In my weaving career I have been lucky enough to work on many types of looms and explore many different weaving techniques using diverse fibers and non-traditional materials. I am equally fascinated by the simple two harness loom, a bunch of sticks and string that allow the weaver to manipulate the yarn and create wonderful patterns on sturdy cloth, and the most complex of modern looms, the jacquard, that has a computer interface to weave the pattern designed by the weaver. I have been fortunate enough to have woven on both, as well as the standard four and eight harness looms of today’s hand weaver.
There is nothing immediate about weaving. Before the weaver throws the shuttle for the first time, she has had to spend countless hours planning the project, deciding on the yarns and weave structure. measuring out the yarn, dressing the loom, threading the heddles and reed and tying the warp with enough tension so that weaving can actually take place. No instant gratification here! But once all the details are worked out and the weaver finally sits down at the loom, the rhythm and the process become almost meditative and watching the fabric grow is magical.
Throughout my forty years of weaving I have woven fabrics of every fiber in techniques too many to count. I have woven linen window curtains and mixed fibre draperies; I have woven wool fabrics for jackets and vests and cottons for kitchen towels and placemats. I have woven with copper wire and shredded dollar bills; copper wire and red osier twigs and yarn. In the spirit of rag rug weaving I have recycled plastic bags to make waterproof picnic mats. Metal strips and wire work together for two or three dimensional pieces, sometimes finding their shape only after they have come off the loom. The list goes on.
My current explorations involve new ways of making pictorial weavings that are neither tapestry nor jacquard, borrowing techniques from the ancient Aztecs and the Japanese to add elements of the artful line and shape to the traditional structures that define fabric. Adding texture and design to an otherwise smooth surface through the choice of weave structures and yarns that would not normally be used together opens the door to weaving projects and possibilities to last a lifetime.