It dawned on me my appraisal of technique may have inflamed my perception of the chasm between art and craft. Though I still don't like post-1980's (??) art education that produces work heavy on concept/theory and light on technique/execution.
After my second and third viewing of Agnes Martin's vid, I didn't know why/where I thought she and I shared so much sentiment towards making. Initially even her vocabulary seemed to overlap with mine, but now I'm not sure. I think she said, though, painting is how she spends her life, the purpose for which she lives, and I feel the same way about weaving.
One of the biggest difference between what she said and how I work is I don't receive/execute inspirations like her and many writers. (It's incredible how many writers claim they only took down what not-they dictated.) I pick up/out starting points, sometimes visually, sometimes in stories, but from there I work out how I can make these idea seeds into cloth.
Material and structure are so integral to what we do we can't disregard them when discussing weaving, but discussions of paintings are sometimes divorced from their materiality, instead focusing on the painter's intentions, their place in various isms, (which are named/assigned in retrospect, sometimes against the painter's will,) or larger social/historical context. We're not often asked what we'd hoped to express with our weaving, are we? I must not forget, however, paintings do have physical attributes and this is why I can't really experience a painting from JPGs, posters, or even heavy, expensive art books.
I also need to remind myself I often talk directly to weavers and textile artists, or read what they wrote, whereas I read what art critics and historians wrote about painters and paintings more often than not. And we know they are very different stuff.
* * * * *
What, then, do I mean when I say weaving? Some of the components/factors, with some overlap, are:
- Purpose of the piece - what is it?
- Shape/size/dimension of the piece;
- Fibers used and their characteristics and/or suitability to the purpose, (including using unsuitable fibers for non-utilitarian reasons;)
- Hues/values/intensity or saturation/sheen of constituent yarns, proportion, and overall look/effect/mood;
- Shape of the constituent yarns, (straight, slub, bouclé, etc), proportion, and physical depth, (flat vs 3D) of the finished piece;
- Weave structure, scale, combination with hue/value/intensity/sheen, and overall visual impact;
- Main visual elements, (lines, shapes, motif, scale, proportion, balance, hues/values/intensity) and the overall impact/impression;
- Sometimes price;
- Sometimes even the suitability of the washing instructions;
- What else can you think of??
(When I use write "impact", I don't necessarily mean a strong impact is better, and I wondered if effect or visual outcome were better. Like intensity of colors, I think the most desirable impact depends on the purpose and the taste of the piece.)
But this doesn't exhaust what constitute weaving/cloth; I would add:
- My emotional reaction. Is this the same as taste?
- Historical/ethnic/traditional context if any;
- The maker and her/his story;
- Overall technique and the maker's knowledge. I don't mean, necessarily, selvedge, etc, but I cannot help being impressed when a knowledgeable maker sheds much to concentrate on/highlight a few elements. This is when the piece stands out as a whole rather than the sum, (sublime?) but I don't feel it necessarily means less is more;
- Suitability of the piece to the purpose, because let's face it, good exhibition pieces can look like cousins thrice removed by four marriages, and 30 years younger than my fav cashmere;
- The piece and the physical surrounds, especially in shops and exhibitions;
- Inevitably, in the appropriate context, value for money;
- What else can you think of, even if only paraphrasing??
Why is this discourse important to me? Well, for one I had thought I wasn't getting enough creative pleasure out of stash-busting making, but I was wrong; I so enjoyed the brown pieces, (the outcome was wonderful,) but not so much weaving with my default yarns. So I'm not so sure what activity/result give me pleasure these days. I also need to not feel so bad about the limitations of my technique, so excuses or not, I need to cultivate a new perspective. But perhaps it's time I lift my game some, to make something a little better than before, or at least please me just a bit more.
With that in view, what do I aim for with my weaving?
- Not the approval of experienced weavers, not any more. I know this is as extrinsic to the object as it is intrinsic, and technically I can never meet the old school approval;
- I am looking for that one person who wants to wear/hang a piece I made and experience gushing joy or unexpected solace. If I can make a few folks giggle with excitement on the way, that's an added bonus;
- I want to please/surprise/astound myself with what I can make. At the end of my time, I hope to feel my life had been worthwhile making a few pretty things, that I see some were indeed pretty. I want to know I've worked hard and the effort/result pleases me. In the end, I hope I can approve of myself.
Enough words; now I weave.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Young Annie came over on Wednesday and we powwowed for five hours non-stop. She had tuition from a wonderful weaver, and Annie's knowledge/technique/competence (hemstitching! spinning! dyeing!) are miles ahead of me. Wonderful!
EDIT: Annie was confronted with, "But is it art?" in her first year of weaving; she's better equipped than I, having been to art school, and I wished I remember how she said she responded. I was also a little surprised she's stayed, so far, on fabric-weaving track, as we discussed the art/textile art track as well before we got started. That feels like years ago and just a few months ago at once.