Thursday, October 24, 2019

Staying in the Game

I've been weaving at breakneck speed, (with breakneck speed?) because I need to put the elephant warp on. This weekend is a three-dayer, and I shall release myself from self-imposed exile for half a day for a birthday lunch, but otherwise I'll be downstairs. Which I don't mind.

I started weaving this piece reveling in my wise choice of sympathetic colors; it allowed me to stop and observe and appreciate the details, (especially lovely when darker,) and I did this quite often. Came yesterday, it became, dare I admit it, boring. Even though this will be a pretty piece, which, as you know, is paramount alongside good texture. Even though some color combos still look painfully attractive.

Challenging myself is good, but it can be... challenging; for me, who has to see and touch finished cloth to decide, (and even then, sometimes I'm in two or three or a hundred minds,) weaving challenging pieces can be unnerving when I can't predict the outcome. Even knowing there are as many color preferences as there are people.

Either way, if I can finish this today, I'm a day ahead of schedule. 

* * * * * 

More thoughts from dinner with Deb two and a half weeks ago. She asked me if I would be interested in presenting at the Conference. I did at one time, after I had enough weaving behind me. Given prep time, I do OK with public speaking, and can break down specialized topics to the uninitiated when I need to. (I did OK as a computer help desk staff in two countries because I'm not a tech.) And of course with weaving, there is no limit to the possibility of wowing folks with slides; all I needed was content.  

I can no longer remember when it was things started to change. It might have been when Dianne reminded me sometime after the workshop Randy had told me to be my own apprentice. (I was too in awe of Randy I couldn't absorb what he said even during the workshop.) It could have been when I was reading an exhibition review when the concept of "body of work" started to sink in. It could have been when I sought out art school students' exhibition but was often disappointed they were good with talking points, but not so in realization, in their techniques.

At some point I started to seriously look into the quality of my work, of its worth, not monetary value but of intrinsic merit. It probably coincided with my noticing I'd been weaving for however many years and felt my techniques, in the first instance, should have improved oh-so-much more. I remember growing tired of being a loudmouth without the stuff back me up, even though I felt, and still feel, the craft of weaving can do with strong advocates, not just in the anthropoligical/historical/ethnographic context.

Looking inward was easy. I could do it by myself; it's not as hard as peopley pursuits. In fact, the point was to shut out all noise and train myself and improve myself. Even as an eight-year-old I told Dad I wanted to be an expert in one field. I've never been a multi-tasker. And because I was still an abject beginner, I thought assessing my progress would be easy up to a point.

Except I'm still not "there". Getting old and unfit not just stopped me from technical improvements but looking at the past pieces, and the difficulties of the last few years, I'm sliding backwards. This frustrates me, angers me, but also bores me; I was supposed to be improving myself in a different, "higher" way, now, five years ago, even ten. I even gave up on my technique-first focus, (difficult for a Japanese,) but haven't found a new perspective.

There is a lot in Japanese culture tied to one's chronological age. "When you're 30, you must be responsible for your face," is a good one; by 30, you've had enough time to set your own course and experience a few things so you can't blame anyone/anything else any more. I'm 61 now and weaving-wise I'm not where I had planned to be at 50. (There is a list I wrote when 42 of what I thought were concrete goals, but I'm not looking for it lest I'll cringe to death.)

Mom turned 89 yesterday and she's in a nursing home with one tiny frame loom, having given away 13 looms to friends, the very first being the only time by choice, but the rest forced by circumstances related to aging. Even six months ago she was still hoping to make what will be her last memorable piece; I keep encouraging her, but I'm not sure if she enjoys talking about it or feels overburdened. I don't stop to ask her lest it's the latter, and she doesn't stop to tell me, because and if she stops talking about weaving, she feels she has nothing left, and I know it would be another catalyst on my part.

I wasn't especially close to Mom until I first had a go at weaving in 1995 and it's been the only interest we share. My sister and Mom, both athletic, surrounded by lots of friends, were good buddies and I was surprised to see how many photos there were of them physically demonstrating this just this August. But then Sister got married and had kids and perhaps she wasn't as available to Mom, or Mom wasn't as interested in grandkids as much as she was in weaving by then, (her own last kid just having started college, and oldest married and out of the house,) and I stepped in at the right time. Mom is not a cloying person, she doesn't like physical closeness at least with me, and whatever this is was only borne out of taking care of Dad and controlling his diet. Most of my adult life I was acutely aware how different people we were, how exactly like Dad I am. I'm not saying I don't want to be close to Mom, but she, her problems, her feelings, her thought have had undue, almost bewitching, influence on my life for the last decade, and this is not the relationship I foresaw with her. It feels creepy.

And I keep telling myself she's 27 years older than I; whatever she says/thinks fits her but not me just yet.

I don't have the mental or physical stamina I once had. I don't have ambitions. I've been reluctant to, and sometimes even afraid to, set high goals. I miss my younger self with all kinds of ideas and intentions, and the weaving world was a big, bright place. Now that world is in sharper focus, I recognize more stuff, but it doesn't feel as big, and the brightness isn't all around but some ways away from me. I try to whip myself in shape and get back on the loom bench, or in front of my cones, weaving software, sketchbook, but I can't help seeing Mom casting shadows all over me.

* * * * *

I waited for Deborah Silver's book to come out for years but here it is finally. I have it on the coffee table but back in the envelope until I'm finished with two commission work. I know I'm going to struggle with the new technique because I have been following her on Facebook for some years and could not understand her explanations, except that she had different sheds for the picture vs the background. Not to mention Deb's work is so sophisticated/complicated I get visually confused. In workshops she teaches with simpler shapes, which I hope is also the case in the book. 

I'm also looking at tapestries, not learning them, not reading about them, but gazing. I feel compelled to prove to myself I haven't retired from my life. Yet.

1 comment:

  1. I think aging is so hard on me in part because I was such a healthy person until my mid-40s. Not that I'm complaining. Wait, I am!

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