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Storyboard: The Fiber Arts

Sep 10, 2012

by Su Wu

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

It takes forever to set up a loom, but you can mark your thoughts by the rows you’ve done, the ratio of warp to worry. Here is another idea that might have been better, and here is the time this will take to make, and here is the anxiety that this will be ugly, so freakin’ ugly, but you will love it because you made it and lose your critical faculties to sentiment.

[Clockwise from top left: Vintage kilim textile from boxofhollyhocksPink star vintage vase from TikiTigerBauhaus inspired bracelet from PinnacleDesignCenterSilk parade sash from thecathedralLatchhook wall hanging from VintagePastTime; Avocado paperweight from SceneinsilverOld wagon wheel hub from MonkiVintage; Geometric gold plated ring from ButterscotchofBK.]

Or, even worse, the rows dissolve into another set of thoughts: the ones that you’ve avoided, that cling to the sides of your attention and not just late at night, that want to be turned over and examined, and rolled out like wool batting on a piece of silk. Macrame was the art of sailors, with rope and knot-tying ability and days of time, and somewhere in the back-and-forth lull of the same tiny gestures, you might accidentally let yourself think..

[Clockwise from top left: Macramé lamp from mrbarnes5; Vintage abstract wall tapestry from vintagebylisaWeaving tool set from mikicalifyarn1; Vintage marble treasure box from elefantdesign8 ounces undyed merino from heritagefiberarts; Graphic Design Education poster by Josef Albers from NewDocumentsVintage rusty industrial object from CuriosityCabinet.]

Apparently most handloom weavers before the industrial revolution were men who battened flax with sufficient force to make shirting. They raged against machines, breaking automatic looms under the cover of night, and were hanged or transported as prisoners to another continent.

Clockwise from top left: Plastic marbled ring box from LucyLucy9Vintage woven basket tray from scoutHOME; Vintage woven basket purse from sillyrabbitvintageHorse hair stippling brush from junkshopUK Reclaimed theater sconces from HRStufnStuf; Vintage ceramic obelisk from nickhaus; Handwoven pillow cover from pillowsstoreHandmade wood box sculpture from raleighmodernTiny Edwardian bulldog pin c. 1905 from WickedDarling.]

What do you have left to worry about when you’ve confronted your last ambition, the one you couldn’t even say out loud to yourself, the one that might be tinged with unkindness, except as soon as you thought it, you knew it was true? What’s left: the feel of your feet widening against the ground, and the location of every light source in the room, and your breathing matched to the tug of yarn, the forming callus: this moment, the very last row.

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4 Featured Comments

  • rushgirl2112

    rushgirl2112 said 3 years ago Featured

    I guess I must be pretty shallow, then, because when I'm working on things like cross stitching, sewing, crocheting, and knitting, I'm typically watching TV or chatting with someone. When I think about what I'm doing, it's to make sure I'm not making any careless mistakes, to enjoy the feeling of the materials, and to take pleasure in watching my vision materialize before my eyes. When it comes to arts and crafts, what's going on in your hands is of far greater importance than what's going on in your head. This isn't an intellectual pursuit; it's about making something beautiful and in many cases functional. Too much intellect can actually get in the way of that. So I'd rather become absorbed in the process, not in finding some esoteric meaning in it. It's fun, it's satisfying, it's beautiful . . . isn't that enough?

  • imogensattic

    Imogen Greene from imogensattic said 3 years ago Featured

    A thought provoking article and an interesting counter comment , there's surely enough "give" in the tension of fibre arts for intellect, playfulness and functionality to co exist and inspire new approaches......

  • lethilogica

    lethilogica from lethilogica said 3 years ago Featured

    Thanks for the comments and insights! I was struck by this comparison (I've heard it made a few times) between weaving and meditation, and how meditation is not about nothingness, but about holding your thoughts out and really examining them. But there's definitely something lovely in blissful, blissful distraction or absorption; I think absorption, being completely lost in nothing but the physicality of what you're doing, is just about the best one can hope for in anything.

  • GleanTada

    Whitney Tewahade from GleanTada said 3 years ago Featured

    Very interesting. I do find fiber art to be like meditation for both my mind and my soul. Sometimes when I am quilting I think really hard about my life, where it is going, etc. Other times I am inspired for my next project. Other times I am just so focused on the project at hand that that is all I can think about. Wonderful article. Thanks.

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