Wednesday, April 26, 2006

For The Love of It

silk bag front

Who can predict the paths our lives will take? I am often asked how I got into weaving (or dyeing or spinning or beads). I can't remember. Weaving, at least, is part of my alien abduction event, a story for another day.

But really, I think, the core of the question is: why do we stick to it? Why do we do this stuff?

It must be fun. But it's not always.

It must be satisfying. But it's not always.

It must be rewarding. But it's not always.

It does not make economic sense. Neither as a consumer nor as a producer is the creation of textiles the path to riches. We consumers know there is no justification for spending $20 on sock yarn when socks are $6 a pair. And very few of us have been able to put a price on our work that brings satisfaction in the selling.

So it does not make us rich or famous or beautiful or sophisticated (hah!). But we persist. We knit and spin and dye and weave, and sometimes fling beads on everything, and call it good.

It has to be for the love of it.

It is rewarding to be capable. It is fun to solve little dilemmas, invent ways around blockades, create a finished work that suits, or fits, or is the right color, or feels just right (or not, and there are lots of *or nots*). It is satisfying to just make things.

That can't be all that sustains this practice. It might be an ingrained need to keep busy, an ancestral link to people who made things, an inherited ability to create. It might be Adult onset ADD.

Or it might just be for the love of it.

There are the people. Real people, in needlework groups, guilds and at conferences, who understand without words, share the same passion for the inexplicable, and provide support, encouragement, answers and companionship. The conncections we make are sometimes lasting, often important.

I've been encouraged, taught, helped, advised, congratulated and commiserated with by people who know little else of my life, but know that the textiles I create are important to me. The people who have done this are important to me. The people I meet at conferences and in classes are important to me, even if I meet them only once, or if I see them once a year, or once a month. They can be important even if they are virtual and I just read their blogs. We have a common language, an understood vocabulary, and such contact sustains me and keeps me doing all of this.

Textiles are a basic commodity all over the world. We in the developed West have a ruptured view of what it takes to create those textiles: on the whole, we are removed from the process. Those few of us who raise fiber animals, process the fiber, spin it, felt it, dye it, knit it, crochet and weave it, enjoy a connection with this basic commodity that overrides age, class, country and language barriers. We can communicate, on this subject, without distinction.

I once thought it was just so with textile people, until I went with my sister to a Rose Society meeting. The people there had that same enthusiasm about their plants as we do about textiles. Old and young, well heeled and penniless, they communicated with enthusiasm, shared where exotic and rare plants could be found (and how to rustle a clipping and sprout it!). Their eyes glowed and their hands waved as they talked about their passion: roses.

My sister is also a birder, her friends are birders, and much traveling surrounds her birding activity. Just like my life in textiles. My sons leap off of cliffs, and travel to places to find higher cliffs to leap off. They hang with friends who leap. They throw themselves down mountains, and then labor back up them, with ropes and bikes and snow-cats. Then they throw themselves back down.

Perhaps, to me, people who care about something are more interesting. People who do things are more interesting. People who have found things to be interested in, are interesting.

It's easy to be on the sidelines and criticize. It's easy to read all about it and think that you know. But the real evidence is in the doing. The real joy comes from doing, creating, and sharing that creation with people who understand, who don't say "but you could buy that for cheaper, and not waste all that time".

At the end of the process, I've enjoyed the time spent, *and* I have a product. Which, more often than not, I put in a box and jump right back in a make another.

It's not the product, although ostensibly that's why we start (I need a new shawl. heh.). It's the process, which, as we work through the projects, becomes more ingrained, easier to do, and in a meditative, thoughtless way (as in no thought is required to sustain the activity, we can just *do it*). Fingers dance across the stitches, stretch the fiber into yarn, and the mind is free to think, to remember, to contemplate, to plan, and to give thanks that over 30 years ago, the fingers started down this path.

It must be for the love of it. Why else?


Blogger dragon knitter said...

i have a friend who bought some buffalo blended top, just cuz she wanted to see it. she didnt' spin, so she sent it to me. i spun it up, and then took it to work, cuz i knew a few people would "get" it. and i could tell the ones that didn't. no passion. it was the ones who had their own passions, who understood mine. one lady makes wreaths. another one scraps. they "got" it.

go read today's post has a link to a blog commenting about passions. that's what it is, passion (addiction? we all need that "fix?")

7:20 PM  
Blogger Marie said...

I cannot imagine life without passion or without "a" passion. Well thought out and written, Sara.

9:15 PM  
Blogger mewright said...

ADHD, for sure! Love, too. I get tired of explaining why I knit socks...or weave kitchen towels...or quilt. My rule is: Hand crafted items go to people who craft- they will appreciate all of the decisions/quirks that went into that item. Because I love them as well.

7:20 AM  
Blogger beadlizard said...

My mom's blanket statement has always been, "Oh, I do [activity] because it keeps me out of the pool hall!" Of course, I've knit in pool halls so it didn't work, eh?

Some of us in life appreciate an endless challenge that has tangible output, be it perfect roses or a pair of socks that fits exactly. I was telling my husband about the math in a shawl I'm knitting and he got a silly look on his face and blurted out, "I love it when you talk knitting!" My passion was showing through... --syl

7:59 AM  
Blogger Spindlers2 said...

Lovely words. Like having a hot cup of tea on a cold winter's afternoon, or a glass of ice-cold water on a hot summer's one. Like that makes sense.

If I knew Sue was a birder, I had forgotten - we need to pick her brains for the autumn.....

8:03 AM  
Blogger kimd said...

Sarah, after reading your blog today I looked at the bag front picture again and saw something different. I saw people jumping off cliffs. We all jump, at least metaphorically, everytime we try something new or challenging or even expressing our passion. Maybe this image should be your son's new cliff jumping logo; it would look great silk screened on a t-shirt! :)

9:21 AM  
Blogger margene said...

The process of knitting is like a meditation, a peaceful way to sit and 'do' something. You have so well captured the essence of why we enjoy creating with fiber. Love, passion...they feed each other and keep us interested and evolving.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

Wonderfully said!

12:33 PM  
Blogger cindy said...

You are so on target!!! Yes we do it for the love of it. The love of the fiber in our hands which delights our eyes to no end. The act of making is so integral to our lives and sharing that making is so meaningful. And of course...the process. It's not the end of the journey, but the journey itself that makes our lives so rich. Long live our passion for something....those who have no thing that's meaningful to them have a vacancy in their lives. Passions are what connects us as a human species!

12:40 PM  
Blogger judy said...

I can't thank you enough for this post. You have captured the essence of the need to create. It is the fiber that connects us as living creatures. The passion, what makes us human. Wherever I have traveled, I have had a language by which I can connect. Absolutely.

1:43 PM  
Blogger claudia said...

We can't not...

I *love* that bag. My favorite part is the drunken bottom border.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Vera said...

Great post. The title says it all.

BTW, great bag.

3:47 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

Great post!

4:17 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

Well put! When folks tell me they don't understand why I spin, knit, weave, dye, etc., I often tell them, "Well, everyone invests their time and money in what's important to them." They pause for a moment, and then I usually catch a glimmer of understanding in their eyes.

5:29 AM  
Blogger hillary said...

What a beautiful thought. It's exactly right.

5:45 AM  
Blogger June said...

From an American economic perspective, you are absolutely right. But I'm wearing a crocheted stole that my SIL gave me a few years ago - according to the Liz Claiborne label, it was made in Korea. I'd like to talk to the woman (or man?) who made this and ask what it's like to do mass-market crochet for a living. (But - I suspect I would not enjoy that conversation.)

I am very lucky to be able to live as I do, to explore textiles slowly and without worry about costs or profits.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

yes. to your posts. to the comments. yes.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Sneaksleep said...

Wow. I have only two words: Thank. You.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Peg-woolinmysoup said...

So beautifully said! Being around anyone who has a passion for something enriches both lives!

8:37 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Beutifully have articulated how we all feel perfectly.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Birdsong said...

What a thoughtful, insightful post about passion for living. You are right, life is much richer, much better, and lots more fun if we decide to live it through our passions. Thank you!

10:15 AM  
Blogger SolSionnach said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely.
You put it so well - having a passion in my life connects me to other passionate people, and even if I don't share their particular passion, I understand it.

Wonderful comments, too.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Such a wonderful post! I just spent a day at a fiber festival and came away feeling so great just from being surrounded by other people who "get" my passion for my craft.

8:40 AM  
Blogger beadlizard said...

Sara, I have been re-reading your post and it gets better and better each time. Thanks! --syl

9:13 AM  
Blogger claudia at countrywool said...

Excellent, Sara. You may hear yourself being quoted from now on...

2:04 PM  
Blogger vanessa said...

heh heh, you forgot the people who tune into your blog to be blown away by your creativity ;-)

4:38 AM  
Blogger e's knitting and spinning blog said...

I also think people who 'do' things are happier:-) I think everyone should have their 'thing'.

10:23 AM  
Blogger SlackerJacks said...

Such beautiful purse. Very skillful.

7:07 PM  
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