Sunday, March 27, 2011

Deathtrap

This is about the study group.  And before I get stuck in, (or you get stuck in reading,) I have to stress I don't know which way I'm going, because the group has not even met. With that in mind...

Development: Jo, Pat and I invited three others.  We three have ideas/directions we want the group to take, but shall discuss/decide together when the whole group meets; we have yet one other artist we want to invite.

I met one of the three on Friday for the first time, don't know the other two well, though I do know the one remaining. I'm sorry I'm so cryptic, but I'm not sure how much I should disclose at this stage without others' knowledge.  But that's inconsequential to my problem.

Pros: Being in discussion with and working along textile artists of esteem, (some locally but at least one having shown in as far away as Dunedin and Sweden,) is no doubt a great learning opportunity for me. They will, as the saying goes, make me "push the envelope", "stretch the boundaries", "think outside of the box," and all that.

Cons: It goes against my beliefs to belong to a group that is by invitation only, let alone be one of the instigators.  It really pains me, but I agree this is important for the quality of our experience.

This second is the more dire problem.  The original Textile Lunches started right after the first Changing Threads exhibition opened, because they violated their own brief, (partially posted here,) in their selection.  This discrepancy was seen in their second exhibition as well, which I helped install and was privy to the reasons for some of the inclusion.

I wanted to know how woven cloths can be shown in the textile art context; how I can show cloth without prostituting my creativity/principals because adulterating the woven cloth, to me, is pandering to the fashion of the day, fashion that welcomes "textile art" but devalues the art-ness of weaving.  I also wanted to know what selectors honestly looked for, as opposed to where they said they wanted the entrants to aim, as one of the Textile Lunchers were heavily involved in the first year's selection.  I felt I, too, could have just woven something, take fab pics, and entered it. 

It's easy to forgive Changing Threads now; this is what I meant by this third skein/spool/strand/exhibition being so much better, because the selection made clear what the exhibition looked, they selected what they asked for in the brief, and the abundance of worthy entries show textile artists are getting it and responding.  (I need to dig out my notebooks, but the wording in this year's brief may have changed slightly.  No, I didn't study it word for word this year.)

In entering discussions with Pat and Jo, I must have forgotten this was my starting point for a study group.

Pat weaves, though I think her primary artistic expression is through tapestry weaving.  The others are "textile artists", their techniques include sewing, patchwork, quilting, felting, dyeing, embroidery, perhaps knitting, beading, and other embellishments; you could say they make sculptures out of fiber; one says she makes whatever she wants and her current material/techniques happen to be fiber.  Put crudely, their techniques allow picture-making in ways mine doesn't.

Starting to get the picture?  I am loyal to weaving, to making cloth.  Though I may dabble in other techniques, though you may rightly accuse me of disliking without giving it a go, staying within the confines of weaving is a point I am unwilling to compromise.

Being among "textile artists", (and I don't know how many of them now the mechanism of weaving,) I worry I will be told to "push/stretch/think" beyond the confines of the warp/weft structure, because will only resist as I have not found a way to include "concepts" into weaving in ways that appear fashionable today.    

I've been thinking of an appropriate euphemism and the best I came up with is I'm a long-distance runner, and they, dancers; we try to excel in our respective fields, but currently dance is in.  Does this mean I'm asking to run around the stage while they dance?

From my point of view, the group's raisen d'etre has changed.  I don't mind the control of the group going to someone else; in fact it will free me to think more about my "making".  Yet I don't want to be included only because I was one of the instigators; I don't want to be seen to be pulling the leg of the group because the current fashion undervalues weaving,  But if the last two and a half years is anything to go by, I'm not sure if I will find a solution.  And I don't have the stomach to stay if I'm going to feel miserable or weaving belittled.   

As I said at the start, the group has not even met once, and though I'm willing to give it a go, my foreboding is palpable. I foresee great conflict either within me or in the group, and for now it sucks.

10 comments:

  1. Ah.

    I see your point.

    I was in the process of envying you for the opportunity of having a group at all (I wish!) but the problem you describe is one of the very things which keeps me back from various possible groupings. Over here I feel as though I am surrounded by people who knit. I do not want to knit, other than the occasional hat or sock, but I am seriously thinking about joining knitting groups just to get out of the house and talk textiles to anybody at all - though I know I would hate it, as I hated it when our spinning group gradually morphed into a knitting group and in the end I was the only spinner.

    But now I am ranting my own rant and not attending to your problem. I think you need to meet and discuss those three ideas you mentioned before you will know whether the group is for you or not. How about brainstorming for some ways in which weave can pose a challenge to other disciplines? Have they thought about cloth structure and working within those constraints? What about the challenge of the abstract? I get tired of embroiderers and quilters saying to me that if I just added a bit of something here that would look like a tree... I am not into imagery at all! I am for pattern, shapes, colours, but if I want a lovely picture, chances are I'll buy a watercolour or a lithograph or something. OK, I have to go weave now - or rather, I have to go and deal with a broken warp thread problem - but I am still thinking.

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  2. Cally, in the first instance, it's nice to hear others rant, though yours is a far gentler version. While writing this post I learned a new word - dysphemism - I'm among the best practitioners if I ever knew one.

    In terms of "cloth" and some textile artists, they, the cloth, are treated as mere industrial product unless a piece has a back story that interests them, the makers, i.e. "it was originally my nana's pinny when she taught me to bake, then it was included in a quilt she made me later." Or it's a piece of Japanese indigo-dyed cloth on which unnamed folks lived on for a few years and wore out. You get the picture.

    It's more like standing : dancing = weaving : textile art.

    If I've understood you correctly, I'll have to convince them A) to look at cloth, and B) it is possible to start there to where they want to go. Which I understand is the opposite direction to how art school students are taught - they work from the concept/final product and backtrack to material, no? Anyway, this takes away my responsibility to make something that looks something like theirs (to put things crudely) which still comes from the loom and is presented without the extra adornment. Now I need to change my thinking so I can seduce them to look at things differently.

    Interesting, Cally. You got me thinking.

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  3. "my foreboding is palpable. I foresee great conflict"

    Ahh! The thing about groups is do you have enough common interest, do you have sufficient reference points understood by all to enable the exchange of ideas and negotiation of common aims?

    Maybe you need each individual, or someone representing each craft, to do a presentation to the group about that craft as a starting point to see if you have enough understanding of each other and interest in each others work to proceed.

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  4. Aha! Like all the terms of references commissions of inquiries work within, so they don't go investigating the real problems but focus on strange places! I see! Well-spotted!

    This being New Zealand, where everything is casual and ad hoc, I'm not sure if I can ask for a presentation and some prospective members are so multi-disciplinary (in the traditional craft categories,) but I'm sure I can pose some kind of a question... At least it really takes away the "us and them" perception on my part. Now, how would I do this...

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  5. Meg, I think a weaver - and everyone else - should aim to produce something of beauty; forget about "art" and the current fashion in textile art. If just one or two people thrill to the beauty of your piece of cloth, their joy and pleasure will spread to their acquaintances and ripple through the population. The world will be a happier and better place - what more could one wish to achieve?!
    A collage of granny's apron may invoke a warm and fuzzy feeling in the grand-daughter, but unless it is also a beautiful composition it may do nothing for anyone alse.

    After thinking about it a lot, I'm still not sure what creativity is, but IMHO a lot of current "textile art" is very humdrum and not less so because it is image related.
    Many current textile works have bits of everything embellishing a piece of fabric, and the result is often just a mess rather than a thing of beauty.

    Beautiful weaving can also make the spirit dance!

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  6. I need to remember that I easily get paranoid about the place of weaving in the greater textile world, and the "greater" textile world I know tends to be in Nelson and NZ in the first instance, and what I find on the Internet in the second. And in discussions with others, like you.

    Having sad that, I do feel weaving has been pushed in the dark and dusty corner, relegated to something everybody's nana used to do. AT least around here it's not seen as an art form at the moment.

    And whilst trying to make each piece beautiful is an important concern, I also feel beautiful weaving should be seen by and in public. And for that, I believe we need more public platforms to show our work, e.g. exhibitions, other than mutual-admiration guilt-style exhibitions. And practically speaking, at least in Nelson, it appears I need to kowtow to the current fashion of "textile art" just to get into an exhibition.

    Among other things I'm trying to assess how accurately I'm reading the situation vs how paranoid I am about the textile art/weaving relationship.

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  7. Meg, I have another word for 'presentation' you might like to consider...'show and tell'.

    I meet with what is loosely called a (design) circle which is made up of people from many disciplines (architecture, textiles, advertising, graphic/type design, landscape design, music...the list goes on) and very early on we held a show and tell night where everyone bought along a few pieces of their work to informally talk about with the group.

    It resulted in a much greater understanding of not just each others work but also of each persons approach to creativity and potentially where they saw themselves going in the future. It also gave us a platform to establish mutual respect for each others differences, which I think in terms of a group, is often more important than the things you have in common.

    In terms of weaving and creating cloth, the possibilities are endless within what some people call the 'confines of the loom'. If only they knew that the possibilities of what can be created without ever having to consider some sort of treatment or embellishment off the loom are endless! Maybe your challenge is to find new ideas and ways of working within what you love to do - working on the loom to create cloth.

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  8. I think we're getting to the heart of the problem, Shipbuilding.

    The main reason for my frustration is I have not come up with ways to be imaginative on the loom after contemplating this for, well, a long time; this is working on the loom, "pushing the boundaries", and working in "concepts". And I'm so over wavy lines incorporated in the weave structure to express, well, the sea, you see. ((And yet, I don't seem to like "complicated" cloth, but that's for another post...)

    The second problem is, unembellished cloth is offered extremely few places it can be shown around here. And the few that exist are in the market/fund-raising and/or guild context, but not in the art context in galleries.

    Very generally speaking, I sense Nelson focuses on paintings and ceramics in the first instance, and then sculptures including jewelry in the next. The public gallery, the Suter, for e.g. started showing more mixed media some years ago, and textiles an extension of that. Two powerful Nelson art administrators declare they love textiles, but I haven't seen a push to show textiles other than the abstract/conceptual works. In other words, we don't have a NGV and even costumes are shown at the provincial (historical) museum.

    Thirdly, I feel hand-weaving should be shown in the art context. I'm almost a little annoyed other weavers are not up in arms about being excluded, even though I can't explain why I think they should be shown in such a way. I just insist some handwoven cloth are worthy of "art" status, and it might just be because it was/is thus in Japan.

    I do know, though, that once a craft/practice/discipline/technique is included in the art arena, they can fetch a higher price, and I know that in New Zealand handwoven items are often undervalued.

    But I can't change an entire community's art trend/fashion, so the only way I can go forward is to change my practice. Which to me means staying on the loom, weaving cloth, and making something abstract/concrete and still without groveling to the textile art aesthetics. Which brings me back to my first problem.

    Hard, and even though very stubborn, changing me is probably a tad easier than changing a community.

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  9. Hmmm...lots to consider here Meg. I agree with you that handwoven cloth is undervalued and I don't think this is just in NZ alone.

    I also agree that changing your practise is more beneficial to you than trying to change a community, however, it would be a shame for you to abandon your push to have woven cloth elevated to art status, as long as it's not detrimental to your life/weaving/everything else in the process.

    Wouldn't it be great if the rest of the world valued arts/crafts in the same manner as Japan?

    Most of the time, it's the simple, beautiful, uncomplicated cloths that I love. Maybe you need to find a new market for your work outside NZ, although I know this is hard to do. I wish I could find an easy solution for you...

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  10. Oh, I won't "change" my practice, in as much as my platform will always be the loom-woven cloth. But I thought I could be a little more flexible in my thinking, as in not reject all other techniques outright and go into the meeting with my well-known war cry, "I will only do loom things!" in my booming voice. I was thinking there must be ways I haven't explored that will allow me to do something a little different from my usual stuff, without compromising my stubborn stand on behalf of loom-woven cloth.

    Shipbuilding, Pat liked your idea of Show and Tell and that is what we're including in the first meeting, which is going ahead on Sunday, April 17. I'll keep you posted.

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