Weaving Gratitude

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”

― Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

It seems necessary and good to stop for a moment here in the middle of the #100Day Project and look around me, take stock, and share with you, dear reader, the landscape from here. I am not entirely as Instagram would portray. We know this (or should certainly remember) that behind all the pretty pictures is a human being whose life is likely not so tidy as the feed might suggest. I have recently found myself in a wood of busyness and have stopped to scratch my head and ponder how did I get here and what is the way out?

The month of May always finds me gasping for breath, scrambling to find minutes here and there for making, dreaming of long lazy days to create to my heart’s content. But it is always, every year without fail, a time of intense activity and just plain ole “living”. In scratching my head and pondering how I got so deep in a mire of grumbling about it all, I realized there has been a significant lack of gratitude. Picking up again Ann Voscamp’s devotional of 1,000 Gifts, has served to help center my thoughts on being thankful for even the smallest, perhaps even unwanted, gifts in my days. I’m finding this discipline to be a straight way out of the dark wood of grumbling and resentment.

This is not the kind of thing where you put on those waxy red, smiling lips and go about your day calling every pothole a beautiful thing. No, it is a commitment to getting down on my hands and knees at the edge of the hole and really looking into the lumpy abyss. To ask for sight in order to see. To plead for glimmers of light in and around the edges. To sit with the potholes of daily living, (the things that trip us up, interrupt our plans) and to receive it as a thread, a yarn being added to the warp of my day. It is a discipline of trust. Trusting that what is being woven on the loom of our life will not be for naught. Grateful now, to have set off on this old and familiar road of counting beauties in my day (the pothole variety too!) I’m experiencing a diminished level of grumbling and an ability to just lean into the warp of my life as it is right now. Over and under, around and through. Here in the middle (ish) of May, I can relish the colors, as they mingle on the page, as they interlock on the loom.

The base note of all my grumbles is exactly this: I do not have life on my own terms. Somehow I imagine, that having it on my clock, my design, would grant me a more beautiful, peaceful, and therefore more joyful life. I have only to look back on the previous 50 mark-making explorations to see that despite the busyness, the endless driving, the myriad of things that living requires, beauty was at hand! And though I may not be able to weave as much as I’d like, there have indeed been lovely yarns laid down over the warp of a 52-year old wife and mother who forever fancies that her “true art” is just around the corner.

My ” true art” is actually this – to see beauty in everything. To be thankful for it all. And to lift my hands in gratitude by making things.

There it is. I have found, once again, the “straight way” and can continue into the next 50 of the #100DayProject, weaving marks and colors on the page. And on the loom.

A Return to Weaving

It was a year ago, just after finishing a series of nine tapestry weavings for Lent through Easter, that I packed up my weaving supplies and had no intention of revisiting them. I remember wondering why this was so. What had begun in January of 2017 as a total and complete love of weaving  (which I had never done before) simply seemed to vanish into thin air. I also remember carefully putting away all the handmade frame looms, the rigid heddle loom that was given to me by a friend, the yarns, ribbons, lace and wondering if I shouldn’t gift it to someone who might be able to use them? I stowed all the bamboo stalks, the driftwood, the wooden dowels (fun stuff for hanging weavings upon) in the garage and felt it was just taking up space.

But there was something that kept me from getting rid of these items. Whatever that was, I am so glad! I now have a small frame loom warped and already growing nicely into something which remains in my head with only a rough sketch in my sketchbook. I just dove in. Once again.

This time I gathered some of my handspun yarn. Yummy colors spun on my drop spindle or on the wheel I acquired for my birthday last summer and promptly painted. Just the colors of the wool  gave inspiration for a whole stack of weavings! My hope and intention is to slowly work on them, one by one, bringing them to life.

I truly get so excited about things like this! A fresh direction, a new path. Even if it is a medium I’ve explored a little before, it still seems so new to me. I had only scratched the surface of what can be done with tapestry weaving,  during those few short months in the spring of 2017. I have a few things I’d like to try now. Some things I want to do differently. The number one thing being to keep it light, slow, easy going and always always, from henceforth, to weave with colors I love.

I have often wondered, in considering why I abandoned weaving so abruptly, if I didn’t just burn myself out. I loved creating the concepts, the ideas, and bringing them to the warp of my looms for that series. But there was a time frame involved, deadlines for hanging them each week. Even though I did work ahead of schedule, the final week, with three tapestries for that week, was crazy. For a few of the weavings I felt I needed to use colors and textures I wasn’t very excited about in order to convey the idea and message I wanted to come through the fibers. This perhaps took a heavier toll on me and my artist child within. I probably don’t need to tell you how much I love bright, happy colors.

Well, whatever the reason for not weaving, I am a firm believer that these things are often good for us. A break from a particular technique or method of creating, or exploring a new medium, can usher in renewed vision for when you return to something you have loved in the past. The crazy thing is that I almost feel prepared for this return to weaving. It’s almost as if flower petals have been dropped along the route in this past year that I can now pick up and follow back, or off in a new direction with the tapestries. One of these “petals” is finding an artist on Instagram who draws and weaves. Her name is Sarah C. Swett. I followed her a few months back delighted by her “comic drawings” as she calls them, and the mini tapestries she weaves, marveling at their compact and lovely simplicity. I am only now beginning to visit her website and read her blog, which is jam packed with incredible tapestry artworks and how-to information. I am truly inspired by her work!

Another “petal” along the way was found last week as I went to lead one of the knitting workshops I have at a local yarn shop. The same friend who gave me the Rigid Heddle Loom put in front of me a small but delicious looking book by Alison Crosthwaite, titled Fibrefrenzi Artweave. I’m not sure where to obtain a paper copy of this book, but I will be searching for it soon as it too is packed with gorgeous tapestry and garment weaving and know-how. Alison’s color palette is bold and saturated…so much to love!

So when your heart is already being tugged back to the loom, and such beautiful petals are pointing the way, the sane response is to begin. I’m a bit farther along on this first-return-to-tapestry than you see here in these photos. But I shall save further reveals for another post. I love the fact that so many of my creative loves come together with weaving! Drawing, spinning yarn, even crochet and knitting have come into play with some of my tapestries. Color, line, texture and shape are all employed in these in these artful fiber works.

Feels a bit like I’m weaving my sketchbook. And I like that. We shall see what’s in store in the coming weeks. And I am glad of your company, as always, on these creative adventures.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

P.S. We had a gorgeous day for the JDRF Walk for the Cure in High Point, NC! A couple of lovely friends joined me to walk 3 miles in honor of my daughter Maddie who lives with T1D. We have almost raised our goal amount and are so grateful for all who have donated to this worthy cause!

Thank you!

Oh No… I think I’ve ruined it!

This is such a regular thought that goes marching through my head as I create, that I am used to it now, and I’ve even grown to expect it. It wasn’t always so. There were years that  a fair panic would nearly shut me down completely when this thought would blaze its way into my consciousness as I painted or knitted. Nowadays, I have the thought less frequently and I’m better able to say “yeah, yeah I know, it might all fall apart here, but let’s just wait and see, or let me just try this…” And 9 times out of 10 the painting resolves itself, or I figure out how to bring about a satisfying stopping point. :0)

In both the above painting and in my recently completed weaving, I’ve had to deal with this pesky thought. Watercolor has a mind all its own. Add to that my own purposeful slap-dashery approach and you’ll likely have numerous points where the thing feels totally out of control! I now know that usually a press of paper-towel and a fresh splash of color will do the trick of wrangling the watery hues into some semblance of an exuberant image. This is actually what I love most – a painting or drawing that teeters on the edge of chaos, yet somehow holds together.

I’m finding this to be true in weaving as well! How delightful to be able to work with fibers in a manner quite similar to painting. I do not plan it all out. That is not how I like to work. I like to have a general , overall feeling or gist to a painting or weaving, and then dive in with an intuitive search for that initial feel and/or look. Personally, this is exciting to me! So when I have that pesky thought that I may have ruined it, it is an opportunity to do a couple of things:

1. LET GO of my original, albeit loose, plan or idea.

2. USE whatever I’m perceiving as ruined as the basis for something new.

3. CONTINUE working with a Well-I’m-not-sure-where-this-is-going, but-I’ll-see-it-to-the-end attitude.

Most of the time, I’m satisfied with the outcome of drawings and paintings that go through this “ruined” phase. And this weaving is also resolving quite nicely even though I’ve had this thought more than once as I added colors and textures. Perhaps, when we are new to a craft, this pesky thought bothers us more frequently. It’s good to remember…

It’s not ruined……it’s only re-routed.

It isn’t a failure…..it’s an opportunity.

It isn’t hopeless…..from this point on magic and mystery ensues!

Here’s to a day of magic and mystery as we weave our lives with color and grace amid the “ruins”!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer