Warp and Weft was originally published monthly by Robin and Russ Handweavers, a weaving shop located in Oregon. The digital archive and in-print revival of this publication is the project of textile studio Weaver House.
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Loom type or tool preference: LeClerc Counterbalance Floor Loom, Mirrix and Harrisville Tapestry Looms, hand-built pipe loom
Years weaving: 6
Fiber inclination: Raw natural fibers in undyed neutrals
Current favorite weaving book: I wish I had time to read!
1. How did you discover weaving and was what your greatest resource as a beginner?
When I became a mother in 2012, I quit my job and began a long process of deconstructing many of the beliefs, mindsets and values I grew up with. The time I spent postpartum is a privilege I will always be grateful for because I know that not everyone gets unstructured time for metamorphosis. But I couldn’t just sit and think. Working with my hands always helps me open up to internal dialogue, so I picked up a simple loom after seeing some woven wall hangings on Pinterest. I’d always enjoyed the tactility and rhythm of working with yarn and thought this would be a good way to marry my love of fiber with my love of fine art.
At that time there weren’t a lot of online classes for the type of weaving I wanted to do, and I couldn’t find a local workshop either. So I did a lot of random Google searches, trying to find techniques and terminology. What I learned came from trial and error and looking at diagrams in the scanned pages of old weaving books. It was a slow way to learn, but I’ve always been a lone wolf in that regard. I’ve managed to teach myself solid technique while developing a style that feels free and unique.
2. How do you define your practice – do you consider yourself an artist / craftsperson / weaver / designer / general creative or a combination of those? Is this definition important to you?
I used to think a lot about this; I come from an art background and it rankled me that most people wouldn’t put weaving in the fine art category long with painting, sculpture, photography, or other visual arts. But now I feel deeply that it’s an honor to continue the lineage of weaving as a craft, something that has passed down through many many hands for thousands of years. It’s important to recognize that I haven’t created anything new; the person who invented weaving is lost to history and my work is just a drop in the bucket. But I do think my voice in the weaving world is unique, and that’s where the fine art aspect comes into play. It’s my hope that my work can be appreciated from either viewpoint; it honors the craft of weaving and also connects at the soul level the way fine art does.
3. Describe your first experience with weaving.
I always say that weaving and I met and got married on the same day. There was something magical about it, right from the very first. It felt like play. There was no pattern to follow, only the endless possibilities of color, shape and texture. I found a state of deep flow where I was able to do serious emotional work while my hands slowly, rhythmically made soft landscapes that I loved.
4. What is your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece? Are there specific weave structures, looms, or fibers that are important to your process?
I’m a pretty self-reflective, meditative person, so most of my ideas come from that place. I do a lot of my thinking in nature, so natural textures and self reflection become all bound up together; the work that results is usually an attempt to describe my inner world by paying homage to the outer one. As I weave I am sort of building a monument to a moment in time – that thing I saw on a walk that spoke to me as I was pondering this or that situation, question, or emotion.
I mostly use plain weave as the basic structure and then employ a variety of techniques to create surface interest. I’m drawn to fibers in their natural state because they reflect textures I find in nature; I’ll use un-spun fibers, deconstructed rope, grasses – anything that has depth and wildness. Most of my weaving is done on my larger tapestry looms so I can see the entire piece as I work.
5. What is your favorite part of the weaving process and why? What’s your least favorite?
My favorite part is working with unusual fibers and finding out how they want to behave. It’s a process of discovery and collaboration with the materials. Raw hemp behaves differently than raw linen, silk behaves differently than wool – it’s a wonderfully tactile, spontaneous way to work. I try to be an open channel, truly working with my materials rather than bending them to my will.
My least favorite part is, of course, the finishing work. It’s tedious as hell. But I’ve managed to get less and less resentful of it the longer I weave; I mentally plan for it as part of the creation process, which makes it way less of a letdown.
6. Do you sell your work or make a living from weaving? If so, what does that look like and how has that affected your studio practice?
I do make my living from weaving. I’m not getting wealthy by any means but I am willing to live simply if it means I can continue doing what I love full time.
Most of my work is commission-based, and I also collaborate with a handful of wonderful like-minded shops. I’ve also developed a line of fiber jewelry that sells well and helps to supplement my income when I’m in a dry spell commission-wise. I also teach weaving workshops, which is a very nice bread-and-butter way to make money, but it also gives me the opportunity to share my love of the craft and connect with other humans in a career that can be quite solitary.
When I’m working to earn a living it gives me a lot less time to create art for myself. But it’s important to do that anyway. The bulk of my commissioned work comes from people who’ve been touched by my personal pieces that speak to them. And so I’ve come to believe that if I forget to connect with myself, I won’t be able to make work that connects with others; I believe that the busier I get, the more important it is to carve out time to just play. And so I’ve had to become very intentional about how I structure my time, so I can build in the space to make things just for the sake of making.
7. What other creatives do you admire – weavers, artists, entrepreneurs – and why?
I actually have to limit the amount of visual input I allow into my creative headspace. I tend to get easily overwhelmed, especially in this digital age, by the sheer volume of creative work that’s being done, and I can get thrown off of my own course as an artist. And so I don’t really look at other artists’ work anymore. I don’t scroll through Instagram, I don’t look at Pinterest, I don’t Google artists. I will, however, go to look at work on display in art shows and museums. I think works of art are best experienced in person. A couple years ago I attended the Wyeth exhibit when it came through the Denver Art Museum; Andrew Wyeth is one of my favorite artists and I had never seen a body of his work collected together. It was a deeply emotional experience for me, and I don’t get the same level of connection from looking at his work in books or online. I had a similar experience when I got to see the Egon Schiele collection at the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria last fall. The bowed paper, the pencil grooves, the brush marks were so impactful to me that I cried. And so I always tell people to step away from consuming imagery online and go interact with the works in person.
8. If you could no longer weave, what would you do instead?
I am actually looking into a way to combine my love of weaving and the deep impact that somatic therapy has had on my life. I would love to develop a modality for people to use weaving as a healing tool, a way to get into the body and gently process trauma. It’s not a unique idea, but I think it’s an under-used one and something I’ve been pondering for a few years now. I’m excited to see where it leads!