This post is truly a ramble, the ‘wandering’ part of “Huckleberry Wanderings”. Or perhaps a weaving of thoughts and reflections…
I’ve been weaving a lot lately. I do not anticipate becoming a great weaver, though I know several talented weavers and have been inspired by the emergence of a new generation of creative, inspiring weavers. Their web sites and blogs are “eye candy” for those craving the aesthetic side of life.
My goal has simply been to infuse my life with bright colors while focusing the mind on something creative and challenging that doesn’t use the computer. And to channel my obsessive nature somewhere other than worrying and playing Scrabble against “Norm”, who lives somewhere in my iTouch.
Weaving has always been part of my life. I loved weaving on the small, ‘child size’ loom I had growing up. In my late 20s I purchased a table loom and learned to weave in Eugene, Oregon before moving to the Olympic Peninsula. Life got busy, complicated and messy with health ‘issues’, challenging jobs, going to grad school, etc. Even after inheriting a full size loom that sat, crated, in the barn for years, I never wove again. Almost never. I sometimes weave like I doodle….paper scraps, grass, especially beach grass, pieces of anything that might be sitting around that’s “weaveable”. The three looms in my life have all been given away, the child size one only a few years ago. Yes, I now regret parting with it.
So in my thirst for color, and to put a little pleasure a in life that seems to keep throwing me and many whom I love one hard ball after another, I dug out some old funky yarn, found a discarded frame that once held my hammer dulcimer (also parted with a few years ago), and asked Mike to cut it down to a sturdy framed structure. I started weaving with a simple wrap warp. It felt delightfully primitive, basic, and as I wove I thought about the history of weaving, how primal, innate, yet elegant it is. And I thought about the weavers in Nature.
The creature most associated with weaving and weavers has always been the spider, though many spiders do not make webs. Those who do use a sticky adhesive they produce to “glue” the connection points of their web together. I question their weaving practices. The magic of weaving is creating, or ‘building’, something using only the materials used in the weave. No ‘supportive’ aides. The weave itself gives form, strength, and birth to a new item. The few times I’ve woven baskets, or watched them being made, it is not unlike watching a chicken egg hatch….suddenly there is something completely new that didn’t exist before, but came from this other item that did exist and is now transformed…egg to chicken, reeds (or bark) to basket.
Besides spider ‘weavers’, several bird species make remarkable woven nests, but the only mammal, besides us humans, I’ve heard the word ‘weaver’ associated with is the beaver. After one of those magical Nature encounters with a beaver on the Klickitat River here in Washington several years ago, beavers have become more intriguing to me and I’ve been feeling akin to and thinking of them as I weave. Beavers take sticks and make sturdy, complex, large homes. No nails, no screws, no adhesives. They drag, poke, push and prod into place the sticks and create something new. (Not unlike my weaving style.) Shortly into my weaving blitz, I gathered some sticks on a beach walk and when I got home and chose one to hold one of my little samples, I discovered it had the markings of a beaver on it.
In her interesting article, The Art and History of Weaving, Susan C. Wylly Professor of Art at Georgia College & State University defines weaving, as “the systematic interlacing of two or more sets of elements usually, but not necessarily, at right angles, to form a coherent structure.” I think the labors of beavers meet those criteria. Perhaps their efforts are not beautiful in an artistic sense, but they are amazing in their intricacies. And to house clean, now and then, they un-weave, tidy up, and re-weave, replacing lost or rotten materials with fresh sticks.
(A lovely story of the beaver is James A. Michener’s The Beaver from Centennial, also found in a collection of his animal stories entitled “Creatures of the Kingdom, Stories of Animals and Nature”.)
For us two-legged ones, weaving, functional in our every day lives as fabric and other items, has long been an art form. The two of course are not separate. Living here in the Pacific Northwest examples of both functional and beautiful weaving abound. Indigenous people of the region wove baskets to carry their children in, gather the harvest, cook food (yes, using hot rocks placed in a basket, water would heat to cook the food). They also wove bark hats and garments as well as garments made of dog and goat wool. (If you are not familiar with the weaving designs of NW Native basketry and blankets, The Maryhill Museum on the Columbia River has one of the best exhibits of native basketry, from many regions. Here on the Olympic Peninsula, the Sheldon Museum has both basketry and blankets on display.)
There isn’t a culture or region on this planet that does not have a rich history of the use of woven materials. Weaving could be carried out long before the discovery and invention of other materials and tools, enabling people to create the ‘comforts’ and necessities of living.
In her article, Wylly writes, “Archeologists believe that basket making and weaving were probably the first “crafts” developed by humans”. It was carried out for survival…for shelter, clothing, hunting and gathering food. The design and beautiful nature of weaving can be traced back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. As Wylly states, “No one knows when or where the weaving process actually began, but as far back as there are relics of civilized life, it is thought that weaving was a part of developing civilizations.”
My weavings, small, technically and artistic quite ‘primitive’, will not be providing any shelter or clothing for myself or others, or hanging on anyones walls except ours (Mike has become quite a fan, enamored by the whole process), but they help me ‘survive’ in a different manner, breathing into life the joy and pleasure of color and design. Mike made me a few larger frames and I’ve added some brass brads to guide the warp threads. I’ve joined the ranks of ‘yarn junkies’, and though my body complains a bit, I sit mesmerized and focused on the process as I watch a pattern emerge from the threads I weave……under, over, under, over…….