Monday, November 10, 2014

The importance of being open to continued learning... no matter what

I learned pretty much all of my foundational tapestry skills from James Koehler. He was a wonderful teacher in many ways. Many of you have also studied with him and you know what I mean when I say he was an exacting teacher. He had his way of doing things and he stuck to them. This method has value when you are a beginner. I didn't know what I didn't know. I followed his rules and I learned a great deal. I became a tapestry weaver who could produce a beautiful flat fabric which looks much like James' tapestries did. (I'm not saying I'm James, I'm saying he taught me well.)

But I firmly believe in the value of diversity. It is important to broaden your horizons throughout life. I had a therapist once who asked everything in terms of whether it made my world bigger. "That huge decision you're talking about, does it make your world bigger or does it box you in? Does it present an opportunity for growth or does it perpetuate the stagnation you are experiencing right now?" Actually I doubt she said stagnation. She probably just told me what I was doggedly worrying on for years and years was bullsh*t and I needed to pay attention to what was really important.

This perspective is important in relation to continued learning in tapestry and art. It took me awhile after James died to realize that I had to move forward with my art in my own way. He wasn't here anymore for me to follow, and in a lot of ways, this was a gift. I started paying much more attention to the wider tapestry community and was able to make my bubble bigger.

Here is a specific example. I took a workshop from Joan Baxter in September. She creates breathtakingly beautiful work which is very grounded in the land, narrative, and subtle color shifts. Her work is misty and questioning and full of depth, very different from mine, and I adore it. Changes in the foundations of what I've been doing for many years like the thickness of the warp, the style and bundling of the yarn, and design ideas were eye opening for me.

I am smack dab in the middle of a lot of change in my own process... wait, that is called being an artist, isn't it? I have been dyeing yarn for a week and loving almost every minute of it (the questions of the clerks at Walgreens when I go to get a propane tank refill at 10 pm are getting a little old... they always ask me if I'm grilling tonight as in, "Grilling in this snow?" or "Little late for a barbeque, isn't it?"). Piles of new colors are making their way through a sampling process. Soon I'll have some final picks and the big loom will be warped.

What changes do you experience in your process which are started by a new teacher or a new discovery? I'd love to hear about it! (Comments! They're below!)


  1. love the drawing of the mirrix spring!

  2. I find being an artist is all about embracing change, entertaining new possibilities and problem solving. It is a reflective path and one must have time, quiet headspace and continuous learning in order to keep a healthy studio practice. As much heads down work that weaving requires, I've also learned to look up and around for new discoveries and teachers. Sometimes they appear where we least expect to find them.

    1. Thanks Mandy. This seems so true to me. I struggle with the balance between spending the time buried in my own work, having to spend a lot of energy putting myself online, and then looking and taking advantage of learning experiences. Just trying to make the bubble bigger a bit every day I guess.

  3. I have always liked to follow rules. There has always been comfort in having the instructions for doing things the "right way". I have a gazillion books in my fiber library that attest to this quest for the "answer".
    Remembering that there are many ways to weave and/or breaking the rules is a challenge for me. I long for the early days when I wove and just winged it. Sometimes I see something I wove years ago and think, how did I do that?!
    I love all of the teachers I have had and have taken up their knowledge like a sponge, but I need to remember that I'm weaving for myself. No one is grading me anymore!

  4. Ha ha! What's funny is: recently my eyes and artistic mind have had a huge growth spurt, even at 57! I just passed, by an inch, the halfway done mark in a 16" tall x 48" wide, woven sideways, piece and making sure that I keep with the same style all the way through as I initially planned. Talk about mixing bobbins, I feel as though mine are like an Edward Munch palate. Now too on smaller pieces I am working on refining my new knowledge of styles. Super cool fun! gotta go weave now…. I love the process, battles and all.


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