Thursday, October 29, 2015

DIY the heck out of it. For the love of tapestry weaving.


Why exactly is it that we weave tapestry anyway?

I've thought about this a lot lately given that most of my life is spent in pursuit of excellence in this art form. And really, we'd like to think what we devote our lives to matters in some way.

I think that making things does matter. Humanity has a certain drive to use our hands, to fiddle with objects and create something new out of bits of this and that. My long career as an occupational therapist, a career based on improving function through meaningful doing, taught me that health is intimately linked to doing things that are meaningful to us. It is a profound lesson in health and happiness. People who are able to do things that are important to them are healthier and happier than people who don't. That isn't just something they tell you in OT school. It is true.

Tapestry is one of the fiber arts that allow the yarn fanatics among us to use a treasured material to express something in images. Image-making is something humans have been doing possibly since before we were homo sapiens sapiens. The earliest scraps of tapestry-woven fabric found in the archaeological record were quite sophisticated, indicating long practice. We can be sure that humans have been weaving tapestry for tens of thousands of years. How cool is that?

Making things is something integral to the human psyche. I think that is why we weave tapestry. We do it because we love it. It feels good to make something. It feels even better to make something beautiful or shocking or that expresses something that is important to us.

So if we make tapestry because we love it, why are we so serious about it for heavens sake?
Some of you (especially the younger among you) probably have no idea what I mean by that. But those of you who have decades of tapestry weaving experience know.
Tapestry is serious business. Right? Don't we learn the rules at great cost? Isn't there WORK involved? Effort? Long hours of practice with expensive tools? Aren't there definitions of what tapestry is? And a fear that if we make something that doesn't follow those definitions then our work isn't worthy?

Yep. There is. But I think if we do it for love, it has to be enjoyable also.
So let's lighten up. If I want to use a 12/6 warp at 8 ends per inch by golly, I think I should be able to do that without feeling like I'm doing something wrong! (See my last post about warp HERE.)

And so should you. Learn how it works. Take a workshop. Try out different materials. Just because I tell you that knitting yarn is a poor material for tapestry doesn't mean you have to listen to me. Try the knitting yarn for goodness sake. Especially if it is the only green yarn you have at home and you have to have green yarn right now for the tree you are weaving that needs to go into the tapestry about your daughter's first birthday. Just do it. If it doesn't work out, you'll know soon enough.

Of course I think good materials are important. If you use better materials, you'll have a better outcome and you'll be more likely to make a second tapestry. And good technique is also important. If you make something that falls apart when someone breathes on it, that isn't so wonderful. But the love of it is primary. And we learn by doing.

So go out there and weave some tapestry. I can't wait to see what you make!

10 comments:

  1. Rebecca you have so hit the mark with this post. I have been ill for several years now and am trying so hard to get better and back to my old self your classes and blogs have been a source of great joy when some days it's hard to find any. I know I'm slow with the classes, but I will get through them. Fiber arts, mix media, guilting and sewing, weaving and tapestry have kept my mind focused on something positive, it is so important I think to keep your mind active I want to learn and be amazed by what I learn each day. Thank you so much for all you do.

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    1. Speed does not matter. We weave tapestry after all! It is slow no matter what. Keep doing it all! I'm glad making things helps.

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  2. Thank you, Rebecca, for this post :). I'm a newbie at weaving and along with tapestry I am learning how to weave on my newly acquired four shaft, four treadle jack loom. Long story short, I am going through the book Learn to Weave by Anne Field and for the first project in the book she recommends 100% wool yarn for the warp and weft, Well, the wool yarn that actually come with my purchase of the loom was incredibly sticky and tangly, so I thought I would try this acrylic yarn instead because simply that was all I had. I know I am breaking all the rules of floor loom weaving with this one, lol. Well, it's coming out with 50% success but, as you said, I took a chance with it and it is definitely a learning experience- I am so enjoying it. :) I do agree, though, that doing and making and experimenting are so important not only with weaving but for life in general. :)

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    1. I had my loom all warped with this great acrylic yarn and as I am also new I then watched a video of Tom Kingsley they may not be the right last name anyway the first thing his said was don't use acrylic yarn I was so upset then I decided what the heck I'll just weave after all that work I'm not cutting it off I now have a very nice table runner a little thick but I did it so I put it out in my house for all to see. To make is to live for me and I am proud even of my work no matter how it turns out because I learn from each one keep going and just have fun.

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    2. Far better to try something than to do nothing at all. And if you have 50% success, then I look at that as a win and now you know what to do with that particular yarn in the future. Same goes for you Deborah! It is true that acrylic yarn is generally frowned upon for various reasons, but the doing is the important thing much of the time.

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  3. This is such a good discussion and I am so glad you brought it up. I am teaching myself tapestry techniques.. I have read a book and followed along. I have Archie's tapes that I don't really look at and I weave. I weave and take it out and weave it again. I wanted to learn wedge weave so I researched it and did it. I don't think I do it the RIGHT way, but I like the results and I like doing it. I wondered if I took it to the guild if someone would say I did it wrong. I wondered if I could ever enter my tapestries in a show since I might not use the RIGHT technique. What is wrong with the way I do it if I like the results? If the results are pleasing to look at?
    Thanks for bringing this up and all the wonderful topics you discuss. I read your blog faithfully and I don't write comments often, but this was special.

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    1. I have had the experience of bringing something to a guild or posting it on a social media site and being told I am wrong. I've been told (recently even!) that I use the wrong tools and I weave the wrong way. But my tapestries are beautiful and I like them quite a lot (mostly), so I don't think that can be wrong. Same goes for whatever you're making. Do what makes you happy. And you SHOULD enter them in shows. I just had a conversation like this with some people from the American Tapestry Alliance. A broadening of techniques and definitions is needed. And if what you made doesn't fit the prospectus for a certain show, find another. There are tons of shows for all media out there. They are the most interesting anyway.

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    2. I have had the experience of bringing something to a guild or posting it on a social media site and being told I am wrong. I've been told (recently even!) that I use the wrong tools and I weave the wrong way. But my tapestries are beautiful and I like them quite a lot (mostly), so I don't think that can be wrong. Same goes for whatever you're making. Do what makes you happy. And you SHOULD enter them in shows. I just had a conversation like this with some people from the American Tapestry Alliance. A broadening of techniques and definitions is needed. And if what you made doesn't fit the prospectus for a certain show, find another. There are tons of shows for all media out there. They are the most interesting anyway.

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  4. This article hits the nail on the head. Weaving tapestry is about being human and is a celebration of the human hand in all of it's inconsistency. It feels good to be connected to materials in a personal way by creating with a minimum of equipment and technology. I feel that I am closer to the core of what it is to be human.

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