Friday, February 15, 2008

Community

When I learned to weave, it was in a class with 40 floor looms, and lots of people. We could use the weaving studio two full days a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There were always people there, actually, there were always women there, we were all women, and it was a social, fun and enriching place to be. I was pregnant with my first child, and there was lots of woman-support, in addition to all the weaving lessons.

Then I moved away.

Suddenly, I was alone all day, with a new baby, in a strange town where I knew no one. My father built me a loom, and my mother paid for membership in a weaving guild, and offered to watch the baby so I could attend (she was really just jonesing for some Grandma-time without me, the fussy mother, around!).

silk shawl2 April 2007

Thank the gods in the heavens for that weaving guild. Those women (and a few men) saved my sanity, taught me more about weaving each time, held my hand through lots of challenges, and became my best friends.

Weaving guilds can be a source of friends and information, learning and sharing, and yet get disparaged quite a lot. Yes, they can be clique-y, and hard to penetrate at first. But, in the intervening years I have joined more than one guild, and attended meetings at many others, and been priveleged to speak and teach workshops at some as well. There is a gold mine of information and friendships in these places, and their time is fast disappearing. If you can join one, do so. Then be patient and committed, you will reap the benefits.

Guilds have sponsored conferences all across the US and Canada. These events are run by volunteers, for the most part, and it is becoming harder and harder to find people willing to do the work, or willing to do it again, since the members are dwindling in numbers and ageing. I am curious how this will all resolve, and a bit sad, as I have learned most of what I know since that first energetic class from workshops sponsored by guilds and conferences.

altar cloth3

Over the years many of us have bemoaned the shrinking of the guilds, but the world has moved on, sometimes replacing the mid-day, mid-week meetings with evening guilds, weekend guilds, times and places where people who work can also attend.

When my children were younger, and I had to juggle their schedules and mine, I fit weaving into corners of my life here and there. I used to dream of being a hermit, and having all the time in the world to sit and spin, weave, dye and knit. I even bought 20 acres in a remote area, with only a seasonal dirt road as access. I dreamed of building a cabin there, quiet, solitary and with lots of time, and taking all my books and magazines, my loom and my wheel, and just creating.

Then my boys grew up.

One year alone convinced me to move into town, away from my little house in the woods, just to see people every day. I sold the 20 acres (to pay for my boys' college educations, a worthy return). I once again enjoyed the company of artists, this time a small-town arts community. There were shows, exhibits, plays and performances, pot-luck dinners and casual, drop in gatherings. And, suddenly, access to the internet.

First, I found lists: weaving lists and spinning lists and the Dyer's List. I met some of the people with whom I corresponded at conferences and guilds, and the whole world opened up: I had access now to not just my local guilds and conference, but to people of like nmind in far flung places. Wonderful!

Blogs started up, and more than a few of us joined weaving blogs, a collection of weaving related web-logs. My friend Charleen runs the list, and there are many, many inspiring places to visit, among them Bonnie, a funny and talented friend and weaver of over 40 years' experience, Sandra Rude, who does several amazing and inspired series of multi-shaft scarves, the latest of silk dyed with wood chips, and designed to look like wood grain, and Kaz, from Australia, who does lovely weaving in yarns hand-dyed beautiful colors.

To add to blogs, Syne Mitchell started up a podcast about weaving (and yes, you can hear me, in episode 22). How amazing to hear people's stories, some of whom I would never meet otherwise, from all around the weaving world. And now, Syne has begun a new project: Weavezine, an online weaving magazine. The first issue is a gem, and I have only skimmed the surface so far.

tibet shawl9


The world is a different place from those days when I learned to weave. New weavers don't have to feel isolated, there is information out there at the push of a button. There are more magazines, conferences and workshops devoted to weaving than ever before, and interest is once again on the upswing. The tools are reasonably priced and easy to work with, and even Ravelry has groups devoted to weaving.

In fact, there so many resources I feel rich with inspiration, information and community. I think I might even be able to think about being that hermit again, were it not for my local guild, and the amazing women here. We have knitting days, and spinning days, and field trips to knitting shops, and two very fun local shops. My friends are weavers, spinners, and knitters, my days are full of textiles, my vacations are often textile oriented and my travel is often textile related. It is a full life, and a life full of textile friends. If I had to say concisely what weaving means to me, it would be just that: community.

10 Comments:

Blogger Deanna said...

Beautifully said!!!

The form of our community changes, but that's a good thing.

Co-creativity is the height of joy.

Hugs

8:10 AM  
Blogger Charleen said...

I just started to look through Syne's new weavezine last night. It's fantastic!

You're right, there are so many resources available to us now. It allows us to have the best of both worlds - time alone to contemplate and access to inspirations and ideas. I haven't had time to explore Ravelry much but I'm hoping to remedy that soon.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Great post!

9:54 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Hey! I was just thinking about you, and Guilds - our Dallas Weavers Guild has decided to open our biennial Juried Show to mailed entries - would you be interested in entering? Lots of prize money! I'd love to see one of your pieces, and I'm really trying to pump up the show.

http://www.dallasweavers.org/show.html

9:55 AM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

I hear you loud and clear! I'm honored to be a part of your community, and your inspiration is one of the threads that weaves us all together.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Kaz [curiousweaver] said...

Sara, What a great post...and I'm really delighted to get a mention along with others! I'm finding more and more weavers and blogs every day who share our intense love of textiles.The Internet has been fantastic for me to 'meet' people from so many different places - to learn from them and be so inspired by them of which your site and work is one. Yes, the Internet has changed our lives in many ways and I love it.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Dorothy said...

I enjoyed reading the story of your weaving and the community you have found through it. I'm finding the same, and, as weavers seem few and far between in the UK, the internet community is a wonderful for me. I'm amazed at the friendliness and generosity of people who haven't met, or spoken, and maybe never will. It's really important to me that I repay that by being as generous in my own turn to others. I guess this is what builds community.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Well said Sara. The community is a blessing - better than church. Did I really say that??!!

7:22 PM  
Blogger claudia said...

Go weavers go!

/waves pompoms/

6:28 PM  
Blogger cgoyer said...

Sara - what a wonderful essay. I've been thinking a lot about the community of the internet and how I've become connected to weavers, spinners, knitters, dyers from around the world. How much I've learned because of the resources that the internet provides and how much I might not have learned without it. But nothing can replace being able to meet with like-minded folks to show and share their passion for the fiber arts. Yes guilds are shifting because so many of us work and are unable to attend the traditional middle of the week meetings. But take heart. My guild, Saturday Handweavers of Southern Oregon, has doubled its membership in the past year and have now outgrown our current meeting place. So even though the internet can provide community and learning opportunities that good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting time is very crucial too and I think guilds will start seeing a resurgence.

10:08 PM  

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