Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Passion, Exploration and Dabbling

Progress has been made on the next fabric:

kimono fabric3 2005

This, too, is reeled silk, but of the more traditional, expected twist: a simple 2 ply. It is 2P from Treenway, sett at 48 in plain weave, with a 36/2 unmercerized cotton weft. All is going well. But honestly, I had to laugh after I unwrapped the painted warps: I've done this fabric before, in fact *at least* twice.

My thought process as I dyed the warps went something like this: hmm, blue solid and ikat warps. What goes with blue? Well, the old tried and true opposite on the color wheel: orange. But a nice soft orange/peach would do nicely. And what goes with peach? Well, both a soft magenta, and a lavender, which each have some pink in them. Then a darker blue/magenta for the other warp. Sounds fine, right? It should be:

kimono fabric 1994

Here is some cotton kimono fabric from 1994. A little more intense, but basically the same colors.

Then there is this:

kimono fabric 2002

Silk kimono fabric from 2002. I see a pattern here (pun notwithstanding). I ended up overdying the last fabric:

kimono fabric overdye

I should not be too surprised at this turn of events: I don't much think about fabric anymore. I am not in the groove of successive projects. I can certainly weave fabric when I want to: I have all the materials, tools and space allotted that I need to get fabric woven quickly and efficiently.

But it is not my passion. In the course of banging out several yards of fabric, I have been mulling over this concept of passion in my work (weaving lots leaves thinking time).

Right now, for the last six years, I have been passionate about cut pile. How do I know? It's what I think about when I'm daydreaming, planning, staring into space. Those quiet times when things come unbidden to mind. It's what I *want* to work on, and when I pass that project set up on the loom, what I linger over, planning and plotting until I can get back to it.

Previous to cut pile, I was in my *bead phase*. And for several years prior to that it *was* fabric, or at least dyeing, and I wove the fabric as the result.

I tend to go through a process in handwork: first is the exploration phase. In this phase, I take classes and buy magazines and books on the subject I'm exploring. For a while this information percolates, sometimes it never ignites. Then I call it one of my *dabbles*, something I can do, a technique I can use or add to my repertoire, but nothing I've exerted myself over, become passionate about, done anything original with. Dabbling is a necessary step on the path *to* passion, and it can be the shadowy remnants of spent passion, too.

But when the passion ignites, I begin to experiment, try my own versions of ideas, take risks, do samples, fail a lot. No matter if anyone has done it before me, it's all new then, I'm exploring on my own initiative. That's when it's fun. That's when I come up with my own style, my own take, my contribution, such as it is, to the craft.

You can tell passionate people: they are excited about sharing what they are doing. My friends Kathryn, Sarah and Deb are passionate about their work, and it shows in their product. Their work is original, and experimental, and very accomplished. We've been lucky enough to spend time in conversations about our work, and it is in these moments it is easy to hear passion come through. In one memorable conversation, Kathryn started talking about the effects of energized twist in knitting, and we were all given the opportunity to follow down a path of her mind as she detailed her experiments.

I've had teachers who were passionate about their work: Rita Buchanan comes to mind. When she gives a class, she has scads of samples and finished work, and her presentations is thoughtful, joyful and full of enthusiasm. Mary Spanos is another example of a teacher who is passionate and involved in her subject (and who became so passionate about her work that she quit her job and went back to get an MFA in textiles!).

A few years ago, I visited Elaine Benfatto, and left her place nearly breathless. In the short period of time, we basically rushed from bookshelf to basket to box as she showed me what she was working on or had done. She has taught a few times at SOAR, and the incredible display of samples and projects she brought was almost overwhelming. She could talk a mile a minute, pull out sample after sample, and still only touch the surface of her understanding.

Another woman who is definitely in the *passion* phase of her work is my friend Nancy Roberts. I showcased a bit of what she's doing in this post. But that only skims the surface of Nancy's current insanity, er, obsession, er, passion. Her original work was inspired by an article from 1989 in Threads magazine written by Rebekah Younger. But that was just the beginning. The passion set in, and Nancy began experimenting, creating and inventing on her own.

Nancy recently took a class from Rebekah, and, unlike your curious-but-not-passionate student, she brought all her samples with her (or lots! *all* is too many now) and shared with Rebekah how her work had inspired Nancy's work. Nancy showed Rebekah her handouts, and told her about the upcoming class Nancy is teaching at SOAR in Utah this Fall.

Nancy is not only having great fun, she is eager to share what she's learning and doing. This is another sign of the passionate soul: when the work is your own, it is easy to be excited about sharing it. It is not threatening to pass it on, and a passionate person does not feel the need to keep *trade secrets*. They are encouraging and enthusiastic when someone else likes what they are doing: not the product, as much as the process. It's the process of creating. That's what passionate people are trying to pass on.

I'm sure you all have met people passionate about their work, and know what I'm talking about. They are easy to recognize, and they leave you breathless. There is never enough time to get answers to all the questions their conversation brings up: you are left wanting more. I think it's that passionate *feeling* we are left wanting: we are in the presence of creation itself. I would hope that you have found it in your work too.

That passion is missing in my fabric now, it's redundant. I'm dabbling now. I've done it before (literally!). Not that it's *not good*, it's quite competent work. It's the feeling *behind* the work that I am talking about.

Here's a last look:

kimono fabric 2005

And today, I'll weave it off, and be done!

(Notes on crepe yarn from my last entry: yep, I think we've (together! thank you!) determined that is a highly spun yarn meant to create collapse or surface effects, in woven fabric. Whether it's singles or a ply composition, the end twist direction is magnified, creating live twist energy in the yarn.)


Blogger Spindlers2 said...

Thank you for the roll-call of all those I will NOT see at SOAR this year.......sob.
Oh, and add Pete's scarf to the list - very similar!

10:19 AM  
Blogger Deanna said...

Fascinating train of thought! I envy and admire your passion, and that of the others you mentioned. I've followed one exploration after another, always politely interested, but never passionate.

And maybe the fact that you've done similar fabrics doesn't necessarily mean you're repeating yourself, but that you have tapped into a pattern that matches our internal and collective concept of beauty. And there's no disputing that the fabrics you have shown are all amazingly lovely!

12:47 PM  
Blogger June said...

I always thought that people had "their" colors. I am drawn to shades of red - light, dark, mix it with orange, blue, purple, but it's still fundamentally red and I love it. "Your colors" seem to be this orange/purple/blue/burgundy mix. ClaudiaLB is nearly synonymous with warm fall colors (orange, olive, rust). Another friend pretty much owns turquoise - whenever I see the color, I think of her.

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting anyone you've mentioned except for Elaine B. The depth of her knowledge and generosity in teaching (in my case, almost entirely through emails) have made a much better handspinner.


2:49 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:20 PM  
Blogger penny said...

Your thoughts, today in particular, make me sit back and say "oh, this is what a blog can be!" and for that I thank you.

To be able to experience passion in one's work is, to me, a gift. It is part of personality I think, that is why I call it a gift, not all of us have it. But it has not led me to the level of creativity or skill that I hope to reach. I have indeed experienced much joy in the process of learning and expanding my horizons, meeting people who share my interests. I got totally excited about a class taught by Deborah Veloma on the History and Curlture of Textiles. I spent hours and hours doing the reading. And I left hungry for more. But I decided not to get the PhD and write the book! For some of us, it is not the experience of passion--that is easy enough, it is learning how to harness it perhaps.

Oh well, back to the loom where I can noodle on this further...

3:28 PM  
Blogger claudia said...

More. Cut. Pile.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Yes. Exactly. But framed so that I am stunned into re-thinking about the joy/passion of creating.

1:04 PM  
Blogger ifthisistuesday.wordpress.com said...

Hi Sara,

I just wanted to let you know that I put Blackwater Park back up. New URL, though. I'm going to have another go at it--your current post kind of sparked it, actually, in a sort of round about way. It reminded me of how crucial it is to have a place where you can go to talk about these sorts of things.


7:47 PM  
Blogger claudia at countrywool said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent discussion of passion and creativity. Weave/cut/dye on. Can't wait to see what's next....

6:31 AM  

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