I get that question a lot.
How long did that take you to weave?
Sometimes the question is half-shrieked. The silence as they wait for an answer feels a little tinged with anxiety, perhaps fraught.
The answer in the past has always been some vague statement about the process being more important than the time it takes. There is undoubtedly some actual number of hours that a tapestry took to produce, but frankly I have little idea what that number actually is. One time I kept track on a medium-sized piece and the number was 210. But I didn't subtract the trips to the bathroom or the making of tea (those two things are related). And I never to counted the months of designing or the weeks of dyeing yarn and winding balls. Or the finishing or photographing. I'm getting a little woozy thinking about it.
All in all, a tapestry takes a long time to be born.
So I have a new answer to that most troubling of questions.
The answer is, "It depends on the number of decisions I have to make." (Frankly it also depends on the number of cups of tea I drink because of the bathroom thing and how many times I get interrupted by annoying life details which usually involve email or money.)
Decisions. Of course they all have to be made at some point. But I can tell you that if I'm in a stretch of weaving where all the colors and forms have been decided, the weaving flies by. So a piece that is part of a series might actually take a lot less time if it is related to something I've done before. I've already made the decisions.
I'm pretty sure most tapestry weavers hate the "how long did that take" question. We're not sure if it is better for it to be a small number or a large one or if the person asking even really understands what any number at all means anyway. Until someone sits at a loom and experiences the placing of pick after pick themselves, the way time flows while weaving won't be something they understand. Time is different at the loom. It is both slower and faster.
And so the length of time a tapestry takes is the time it takes. But I maintain that number of decisions play a big part in it.
There is always that person who won't back down until a they get a number. I now just say something like, "It took 593 hours to make this." Then I smile sweetly and walk away. They shouldn't argue with the price after that.
Don't waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.
-- Paulo Coelho
What is your experience with this question? I'd love to hear it in the comments.
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You can follow my daily process photos on Instagram at @rebeccamezofftapestry. I am almost done with a big tapestry. No, I don't know how many hours it took. Probably 593.