Wow Factor

I've been musing on the wow factor of cloth for a while. I'm not thinking about it, more wallowing in images, textures, colors, and feeling. Letting myself sit in it; pig-in-mud time. Because if I think about it, I might loose some of the insights I could be picking up unawares.

Perhaps because of the prevalent/fashionable ways cloth are portrayed in images, online, magazines, and the like, I've always been drawn first to hues, combinations and proportion; not necessarily colors I like, but colors in general. A close second is the old-worldly/Jacquard-style designs and embroideries: oak leaves, flowers, fruits in/out of baskets, (pears!!), even gazebos and ribbons, but not birds. I can't help myself. I love weave patterns. But lately, I'm also smitten by very large shawls, particularly the Victorian paisleys. (Paisley is one of the standards that never goes out in Japan, and Ben and I have always loved it.) I can't weave that wide and don't want to sacrifice shafts to weave double width only to produce a "fold" like in the middle.

I am a consumer when viewing images and it's easier to like/dislike immediately and passionately.

In person. especially when I'm allowed to handle the cloth, however, although colors play a big part, values and sheen are just as visible as hues, and because I am able to experience the cloth more as a whole, hand/texture, fiber, execution and many other factors demand attention at once. And then there are the history of the region/material/dye, knowledge of the maker, stories behind the cloths, lighting, occasion, place, my health, and non-textile factors competing for my fragmented attention.

Then, the weaver might caution the consumer, and it's difficult to discount/dismiss/praise/rave about the cloth easily.

* * * * *

In the first paragraphs of the introductory letter for the first design course I took, tutor Alison Graham told us not to design by looking at our yarns on hand and build the cloths from the bottom up. And though it's been a costlier path, I liked how intuitive this approach felt and I've woven more or less following the creed in the 12 and a half years since. But I'm in a moral quandary when I think of stash-busting; moral only, because I have so much stash that in practice, though I may not follow the exact steps as originally instructed, I still work within the loose interpretation of the creed. Or, the creed is second-nature to me now.

So much so, now I try to discover the design intentions of other weavers/makers in their work, which may enable me to appreciate their work in a more considered manner, but sullies a potential Yum/Yuck experience. 

* * * * *

When I started weaving I loved everything I wove; I was in awe of our species' act of weaving, and that I was part of it. Then I went through a decade-plus of disliking anything I wove bar one, because they never lived up to my vision; it may have been more self-loathing, who knows. For about a year now, I don't mind what I weave, and this puzzles me. Have I softened? Do I hold myself to lower aesthetic standards? Has my considerations taking up too much space in my judgement? Have I become so detached from what I make I can't even be bothered to love/loathe?

I like myself no more/less, though I try not to think about it much. My technical skills and execution troubles me more than before, and I worry aging and cognitive/physical issues feature too large, but when I work I don't think about it. After I stopped coveting bigger and badder looms I've been able to focus on what I have. (After all, a 16-shaft computer-controlled monster is not shabby, albeit noisy, shaky and never ceasing to provide us a variety of retrofittedness problems.) Heck, I even stopped worrying about the latest weaving book or trends, and although I take interest in what everybody else is weaving, they don't worry me as they might have once. 

Since Dad died, I think a lot about my mortality, not of the eventual demise, but how many years I can expect to weave vs how much more stash I have; what I want to be weaving in six months, a year, when I'm 60. (So far, I can't see beyond 60, but if my parents are anything to go by, I should be able to crawl on the loom bench until my late 70's, fingers crossed.) And I've often tried to imagine what I would like to recall having woven when I look back on my life in my last few seconds, and which will make me smile as I go.

Whatever the reasons, there has been a kind of shedding taking place; by giving up intending to meet expectations, (increasing number of which will never be met,) feeling good about choosing one from a multitude of possibilities, forfeiting citizenly standards and responsibilities, (dress code, garden, being fat,) all intentionally and unintentionally. The sum of these has allowed me to concentrate. Which is new.

Though sometimes I see my reflection in shop windows and I feel increasingly an eccentric.

* * * * *

As regards the second and third paragraphs above, as young folks say, I'm "just saying." Because I haven't produced another wow piece yet.


  1. I have had a similar journey of expectation and disappointment to acceptance. Interesting.


  2. Laura, I guess I feel I haven't tried long/hard enough to wow me on the one hand, but want to be productive. And reduce stash if I can help it, but that to me is not as important as there are plenty of charities that will take my stuff... And to be frank, I don't even know exactly how to wow me any more. I feel somewhat jaded by having looked at so much good stuff online and in life.

  3. And then there is the wee problem of what sells, what galleries want... Although NZ galleries are usually pretty cruisy.

  4. can hear you.in every single paragraph. the only time i feel comfortable and at ease is when i'm weaving my*"artwork"* because it is my voice and no one else's . with all its consequences.
    great post.

  5. Now that's an interesting perspective, because I don't do "artwork" often and most everything I make is utilitarian. And being Japanese, I find more beautify in well-designed utilitarian objects than objet d'art. As regards what I make, it appears the more sweat and tears are involved, the better? Does that mean the more intention is included the better I like them? But not necessarily in others' work, because often I have no idea how much work went into them, and sometimes I read all the blurb and sketches and then see the final artwork to my disappointment...


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