Weavers know that working at a loom is a meditative practice. Throw the shuttle--or, in tapestry, carefully place the wefts--and the slow, rhythmic pace of the work slows your heartbeat and calms your mind (at least when the weaving is going well). You shift into the creative zone where hours pass like minutes. Weaving is bliss.
But then there are the times when meditative calm may shade over into obsessive brooding. So lately I've been wondering, as I contemplate how many hours I spend making tapestry, and how to begin my next project, Why do I do this? How do I do this?
Regarding the why, There is the bliss. We weavers are addicted to the feel of fiber between our fingers. We are drawn to tapestry in particular because we want to make images that are the cloth, not superimposed on it. But what sort of images? And how do those images come to be there?
In the past 24 hours I've come across two articles about historical tapestries that highlight for me the ongoing discussion among tapestry weavers about what sort of art form it actually is, or should be, for the contemporary artist-weaver. Rebecca Mezoff wrote yesterday about her chance to observe the conservation work being done on a historical tapestry at the Denver Art Museum. She points out that 500 years ago, tapestries were designed by painters and the weavers' job was to translate the painting--usually a scene from history, myth, or scripture--into woven thread. Rebecca writes: