Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Who Do You Think You Are, Calling Yourself a Weaver?!

I started this post in May while thinking about what kind of a weaver I want to be and not being able to actually weave because of tendonitis. I have not reached a conclusion, but I now have a direction, so it's a good time to post while I'm looking at the end of an eventful weaving year.

This and the next two posts are dedicated to my oldest (in the length of time I've known her; she is younger than me, to be sure) friend Liz Backlund.

Liz, I used to think once we grew up, we knew where we were and who we were and parts of life would become automatic. Well, some parts may have, but not in the ones I anticipated. The search for our places seem to be on still, so we might as well enjoy the ride. I'm thinking Valley Fair.

Drafted May 2006

I came to weaving late in my life. As a child I thought I would become an academic; that was the family business and I grew up on a college campus. I had very clear visions of me sitting in an office with wall-sized bookshelves on at least two sides and a twin-bed-sized dark wooden desk.

But now I live in a town without a university. And a strange place this is. What you need to understand is New Zealand is an extremely forgiving country to someone coming from an "old" country like myself; anyone can have a go at just about anything regardless of training, family background or other inherited baggage, and in Nelson, arts and crafts are all around, constantly seducing me to the colorful side.

Having enjoyed a few warps as a hobby weaver, I had hoped to sell my work eventually, but life interfered and I took this step earlier than I had planned. I attended small business seminars, I did market research, I made short-, mid-, and long-term plans, color-coordinated checklists and Gantt charts. And made To Do lists; notebooks of To Do lists.

And I wove. Weaving itself was fun, and considering where I started, I improved with every warp. But becoming a weaver was a different game. I was basing my new life on the familiar system of Gantt charts and To Do lists: weave an average of x pieces in y weeks; make $z sale every quarter, or roughly $z*3 by Year End. Slow was not good, and experimenting to improve designs could interfere with the plans. I had faith my improvements would come in direct proportion to the number of pieces I wove. Well, almost.

That I wove was itself a secret for a long time and I didn't show anyone my work. On 5 February 2001, 10 minutes before attending my first ever weaving workshop, I was left standing in a Blenheim church car park, watching Ben's Pajero heading back west, feeling worse than a kid on his first day of school. This was my day of reckoning, my coming out.

For a few years, when I ran into former work colleagues, I cautiously said I was "trying to be a weaver." I was trying to learn what kind of a life a weaver lives, not just weaving, studying colors, studying design, or learning to draw, but the other stuff. I even lived the tree months of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Then I stopped going to marketing classes.

After six years, I haven't yet found out what a weaver's life is, but I know weaving is slow, and I can't live by the plans, at least not the ones I created back then. I need time to observe, to see, and be inspired. I need to allow myself to be reactive as well as proactive. I need to play more with colors and textures, and not put on a warp knowing exactly what is coming off it. And weave more.

And I need to allow myself to call me a weaver, because in this journey, there is no Commencement, there is no Diploma, I won't have letters at the end of my name to say I have arrived. I am a weaver because I weave.

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