Tuesday Instinctive or Experiential/Learned Knowing Blues

One of the things Esther brought up last Tuesday was: there are things she knows, (in/about her making, but also in life,) which she doesn't have to think/test but can rely on. While I agreed on principle, I wasn't sure if it applied to my weaving, with the exception of a small portion about colors, and even that, I wasn't sure. 
Esther has been in ceramics for a long time, and a gallery art educator for as long or longer. While I have no doubt she has instincts, my immediate thought was she must have learned/harvested skills from her formal education in teaching and ceramics, and her years of creating class contents based on artworks and artists in a given exhibition. In other words, at least part of her instinct/knowledge must have come from and were improved by her experience, i.e. "learned". At the same time, I don't want to deny (possibly/seemingly) unlearned instincts exist, for her or for anyone, because these "where did that come from?" type surprises are some of most pleasurable experiences in our making, and produce some of the most satisfying outcomes.

It's easier to talk about me, because I know some things about what goes on inside my head, but  more because I knew next to nothing about weaving before I began. I knew names of a few natural fibers and some of their characteristics as a wearer/user, (mostly care instructions,) but looking back, so very precious little else. In my case, it's safe to say, the knowledge I have about weaving that I don't have to test every time came from studying, experimentation, and experiences, including dismally failures. 
Sett comes to mind. In early days, I sampled a lot and settled on a range of setts for each of my favorite yarns. I'm sure you have a similar mental chart of your favorites. I don't wrap them around a ruler, but start somewhere along these numbers and resley if necessary after sampling. That's my learned instinct/knowledge.

I can't think of another instinct/knowledge just now, but that maybe one characteristic, learned or not; some instincts are passive knowledge which stops us from grabbing something hot in the oven with bare hands, (I do this oh-so-often!) although we may not think about it until we open the oven. Rosie, the bookbinder, and I laughed so hard one Christmas, because we both experienced being advised by respected/adored mentors to try alternative ways, which we knew wouldn't work for us, but we tried anyway spending precious material/energy/time, only to confirm we were right in the first place. We couldn't tell why we foresaw the disaster, but nevertheless gave it a go out of respect for the mentors, and maybe even hoped to be surprised/astounded/awe-stricken. Meh.

One instinct/knowledge I put in the unlearned category is colors, although is it preference rather, and/or is there a difference? Most people have it, although in my case, the more I work with colors the less strongly I feel about my any one particular, thus my mantra, "there are no ugly colors, only ugly combinations." These days I use more of my All-my-life-until-2000-single-most-hated-color, orange, than navies, blues and grays.
I can tell you when it started: in 2000 I did a color studies course though the guild. As you can imagine, part of the requirement was to make color wheels and wrapped samples of different relationships like complementary and triadic. I had no orange paint, pen, coloring pencil, crayon, yarn, paper including origami, or cloth, so I bought a tiny tube of orange guache and the smallest, cheapest ball of yarn. The orange portion of the course felt disproportionately long and arduous, but as my mind took in complementary, simultaneous contrast, and the like, as the focus moved away from orange itself to more orange-ish and orange-in-relation-to-others, I became OK with it. Plus our living room windows face west and northwest, so if there is a sunset, we can't avoid it. (My high school colors were orange and blue; I never wore them, and it wasn't a particularly inspiring blue, so I'm good.)
After studying orange, I came to use orange in my weaving comfortably. In fact, it was almost thrilling at the start, knowing I conquered something. I also applied this with peripheral greens, (green is still not a favorite hue), and learned the usefulness of olive- and yellow-greens. Mind you, I liked yellows, so yellow-green wasn't a far stretch. I must add, even when I've studied a color, even when a color combination works, I can't necessarily elucidate why something works or why I like it. Sometimes it's merely a choice, not a necessarily preference of one over an equally good other; other times it can be out of habit. 

And now we come to the navies and blues, which are different "colors" in Japan. They have long been my favorite hues, and when in stores, fashion, ceramics/kitchen, even furniture, my eyes still spot navies first, then other blues, without my realizing. I have more navy blue yarns than any other single color. Yet I don't know if it's from confidence, conceit, or even fear, but I have never studied blues, just used them, and I've come to see my use of blues as haphazard, and results, accidental. They are not really considered, studied, and when they work it's because I happened to have/put together a nice combination. And I don't have confidence even if the result is nice. 
My brain now feels like it's on a loop. Instinct... Knowledge... and now preference... But one last point: Esther found it interesting I spend time studying colors I don't like, but not the ones I like. Touche!!! I couldn't explain it, but jested, "Japanese, female, Catholic," my shorthand for, "glutton for punishment." I spent so much time experimenting with merino, cashmere and skinny, mercerized cotton, too, so why not the color blue?
* * * * * 
On the right is the second blue warp. Although the blue hues are washed out, I like it better because it's more harmonious. It's A-B-Aa-Bb repeating in narrow stripes, A and B second right and center blues below, shown in more accurate colors, and a and b being two middle yellows in the second last pic below. (I took over 30 pics of these warps alone, but did not get anything close to real colors.)  
The colors in the first warp are closer to real life here, but the second right blue is still bleached. It's disappointing because it's one of my favorite colors among the 20/2 cottons, a cool Delft blue, so I made my "watermark" closer to it in the photo below.
I was going to make a third blue warp using only these two, in narrow stripe, taking out the yellows from today's second warp. But even in person, my favorite blue, on the left here, looks like a version of gray in the company of others, and since this is all I have left, I decided to save it for a more suitable project. 
Of course a yellow warp is always welcome, and I am looking at these now. Aren't they uplifting?
I'm not a fan of teal, and again this photo doesn't show the colors accurately, particularly the far right with more yellow in it in person, almost like a darker version of the middle. I don't like teals as colors, but I know they do a fabulous job with yellows, making the cloth shine like metal. Yes, I'm thinking about that, too. 
I hadn't visited my source's website for 18-ish months, and I was shocked to see they may be whittling down the 20/2 colors (two of the links don't work,) with half of what they do have being... green!! While options for 60/2 is more attractive, I can't see 60/2s well any more and I'm not sure if I'll continue to use them beyond what I already have, (quite a lot,) especially in the warp.
To be continued.


Meg said...

My use of orange reminds me of my dad's, ummm, life decision. He almost failed chemistry in high school during the war, and he needed to pass to study technology/science at university for military wavier. In the last months, he studied so very hard, and passed, he didn't want to waste that effort so he majored in chemistry, and later became a Chem professor. Our family often wondered why he didn't become a Math teacher/prof, as that was most definitely his big love.

One of the long winter evenings Dad was up late studying; he and my uncle lived in a private boarding house, as their parents, and many others like them, had moved out of Tokyo to avoid the bombings. He heard loud noises coming from another room, went to have a look, found a somewhat stunned man. Dad only scolded him to keep the noise down.

The guy turned out to be a burglar, and Dad was questioned by police the next morning. He remembered next to nothing of the man, while his housemates, some of whom may have had stuff stolen, were stunned Dad scolded him but let him go. True story.

Leigh said...

What an interesting post. It made me think back to being in high school. A social studies teacher told the class that humans do not possess instinct, and proceeded to rebuff every example we could think of. I've never actually agreed with that, and decades later still entertain exploring mental examples while I hang up the laundry.

Maybe part of it depends on definition. What is instinct? Birds automatically know how to build nests; I'd call that instinct. But they must learn things too; watching fledgling birds learn to fly is entertaining because they are so clumsy at first. Eventually, with practice, they figure it out. Then I reflect, is it possible to learn something so young in life as to think it's instinct? I don't know.

Color, texture, and cultural preferences are very strong, and result in such unique and personal outcomes. But this is what keeps life interesting. How dull life would be if we were all the same.

Meg said...

I'm failing to recall the context, but 10 or 20 years ago, I was reading something light, and was stopped by a clause, and I paraphrase, "just as a child must learn not to touch something very hot."

I posit, without much consideration, hunger, thirst and especially sleep and remedies thereof are instinctive, but have come to think so many other things seem to have been taught somehow, or learned from having "been there, (not) done that" before. Which makes me wonder about those knowledge/instincts we are meant to have as a species; I can't remember what they are just now.

Oh, scratching where it itches, that's probably instinct, too.