Saturday, July 12, 2008

Aging Gracefully

In spite of the title post, I'm not grumpy or cranky this evening. I just need to figure out a different way of doing things.

A big chunk of the dissatisfaction/disillusion that was Santa Fe preparation was my technical incompetence. As hard as I try, I'm not that a skillful weaver, and a good chunk of that possibly has to do with the fact that I don't seem to be able to see well, but possibly something else.

Mind you, my parents and teachers always scolded me for being careless and not paying attention, and the most urgent issue for the last ten years has been even tension of the warp. I've spoken to more than a few weavers about how they wind their warps, and even had a few demonstrate. At one point Mom thought perhaps it's because my looms were built for soft NZ wool, but I insist on using them for fine cottons and cottolins, weaving with high tension. That was the case with my first floor loom; the cottolins were digging grooves in the warp beam, but I doubt that's the problem now, especially with my 16-shaft.

I'm always aware I can't see well, not only because of my eyesight but also because I'm short, I have short arms and legs, and the big loom is big. I listen to the loom attentively, and I rely on touch perhaps more than a "normal" weaver. I deliberately move slowly and allow myself time to check things many times. I've also built in extra checking routines for every warp and sample, sample, sample.

Still, it's possible to find, 1 2/3 scarves later, a threading mistake and a missing warp end! That, after I threaded carefully, then rechecked each warp a repeat at a time, then rechecked as I sleyed, then lifted one shaft at a time, then wove plain weave as a final check. I even found a twisted heddle I didn't see when I sorted out the heddles in May.

I'm not sure if it's the florescent lights, but lately my big loom never seems straight. Sometimes the height of the reed seems uneven; sometimes some of the shafts appear crooked. I get off the bench and stand back and have a look, and bang, everything is auto-magically straight and square again!

I'm starting to feel helpless. See, my theory was, I learn to weave, then I improve technically, then I don't have to worry about the technique so much and can concentrate on the aesthetics. I never expected to dress a loom with my eyes closed, but I did expect it to gradually become less painful and the main part of weaving. If my eyesight, and attention span, deteriorate before I get to the point where the tenique of weaving becomes almost second nature, do I have to settle for forever being a mediocre weaver? That, to me, has been the black hole of my creative aspirations this past week.

6 comments:

  1. Good morning, again, Megs.

    Do you wear glasses or contacts? I wear contacts -- but when I weave, I have to wear a pair of glasses with a different prescription -- the same pair I use for computer work.

    With my contacts, I can see both distance, and I can read books just fine. But there is something about the mid-distance of my computer screen and my loom (especially the loom with all of the threads side by side) that does kooky things with my depth perception. When I told my eye doctor, he fitted me with a pair of glasses that are just perfect for that distance.

    Just a thought. Hope it's helpful.

    Cheers,
    Jane

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  2. This is a rough place to be. One thing, though, I do not think that the technique of weaving becoming second nature has anything to do with mediocrity or excellence. Don't go after perfection; go after excellence.
    Jane, I'm about ready to get computer glasses (with very cheap frames!). The idea of trifocals is not appealing at all! Perhaps the doctor and I will talk next year.

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  3. Meggells...ahhh weaving by touch! What a fabulous idea. Let the others focus on the perfect heddles, threading and picks. You seem to focus on weaving items that are worn. That are meant to feel like cozy warm comforters wrapping the wearer in love.

    Maybe your work is about feeling? About seeing the unseen?

    and anyway...what about that wabi sabi of perfection?

    Grandmother saying #4
    "Seek results not perfection"

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  4. Jane, I'm on my third, and relatively new, pair of multifocal glasses; that's what the optometrist calls it, but I think it has three different distances. I used to have a mid-distance pair but the range was so narrow it gave me a neck ache and once or twice I nearly fell off the bench because I had to bend backwards to see the fell. On my big loom, I have to scoot way over to the right to advance the warp, and sometimes I get off the bench altogether, and then the bigger numbered shafts are a bit far away, and the cloth beam more so. I did try weaving with multifocals on and middle-distance pair hanging from my neck for an easy swap, but no, I nearly crushed them as I wove... The position of the lights were determined after the position of the looms were decided, so I haven't tried moving the babies.

    The 4-shaft, believe it or not, I weave standing. As beautiful as the loom bench Ben made me, we could never figure out just the right height. My legs are too short, I think, so I could never sit on the bench, look at the fell, beat, and press the treadle at the same time. We've thought of a perch so I can "walk" the treadling a bit easier, but didn't get around to building one. And what with the cottons sitting on the bench semi-permanently now, I stand in front of the loom like an old-fashioned mill worker. It's slower, but I can see most everything, and I can press on the treadles hard enough to get the good shed the loom offers.

    Oh, Peg, I never ever thought that perfection wasn't part of excellence. I need a few pots of tea to think over this one.

    Lynne, you're always reminding me what I said before. You're exposing the hypocrite that I am! I can't really grapple the wabi/sabi of perfection/imperfection, the zen of it, the objective acceptance of it... There's just the underlying sadness permeating knowing I can't execute how I'd like to. So Rikyu - I'm picturing a toy-box tea ceremony room now, with a twig with one decaying leaf stuck in the bamboo container as the seasonal arrangement in front of the sumie scroll. Except, you know, they go to extraordinary length to stage that. The style of floral arrangement I studied, Kohzan School, aims for seriously natural presentation, not the "stylized natural" and for a while I specialized in taking a big normal branch and reducing it to one or three leaves to symbolize autumn, for e.g. In fact, the whole tea ceremony thing is a show, a well-choreographed stage where we're supposed to soak up "nature" and impermanence in a strangely concentrated/heightened state.

    So now you're making me think of weaving vs. tea ceremony? I think I'll go clean the house now.

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  5. Fable has it that as Rubens was dying at age 93, he complained to God that only now was he finally beginning to learn how to paint.

    If even great art weren't imperfect, no one could make a living as a critic...........

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  6. Ha ha, Peg, I'm sure critics would always find something imperfect.

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