Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tapestry diary for a new year

In recent years more and more tapestry weavers have taken up the practice of weaving a tapestry diary, a piece in which they weave a tiny section of a tapestry every day for a year.  It's similar to the "daily painting" practice many painters employ, only in this case it is cumulative.  At the end of the year you have one giant woven piece, or perhaps several pieces that hang together.  Click HERE to read an excellent article describing the practice and showing examples by gifted practitioners.

I have observed this practice with interest for a few years now.  It is brilliant, conceptually:  more than most art mediums, weaving tapestry really is all about time.  It is such a slow process that it makes the weaver acutely aware of the passage of time, and of the luxury of time that is necessary to complete any tapestry.  Committing to a tapestry diary is a way to ensure that no matter how busy life gets, at least you can--must--sit down for 10 minutes and weave a small piece to mark the day.  It can become a way to practice new techniques in tapestry, to hone one's skills.  And it becomes a challenge to one's creativity as well, to continue to find, each day, a way a to make the process interesting, meaningful, and visually pleasing.

I decided a few months ago to devote one of my small tapestry looms to a tapestry diary.  I wanted to explore the sense I have that when I sit down to weave, time slows and becomes sacred again.  Writer Wendell Berry famously said, "There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places."  I believe the same is true of time, of the precious minutes, hours and days we are each allotted.  Weaving tapestry allows me to become aware again of the sacred gift of time, to re-enchant and hallow the day.  So I decided my diary would begin with the first day of Advent, the start of the year in the Christian liturgical calendar, and it would use the colors of the seasons of the liturgical year

Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, began last Sunday, and its liturgical colors are dark purple and navy.  In contrast to the secular world's glitzy, frenetic, highly decorated approach to the season, in the church it is a dark season, full of apocalyptic readings and the sense that the world has grown especially dark just before the birth of Christ.  So I have begun weaving simple rectangles of dark purple and blue, seven across so that each row of weaving will represent one week.

Here's where it is today, on Wednesday of the first week.  Not much to look at yet, but a start. For those who are interested in the technical details, it's sett at 10 epi and I used 12/6 cotton seine twine as warp.

Tapestry diarists often begin with a set of intentions or rules in mind to govern the project.  In addition to the parameters I've mentioned above, I will:
  • use bits and pieces of leftover yarn, including (gasp) knitting yarns
  • possibly experiment with technique, but not turn the project into a sampler or worse yet, homework
  • show days away from the loom by leaving blank warps
  • determine the color and pattern of each day's weaving that day, and not before
  • not unweave.
It will be a bonus if I have any epiphanies or small realizations that seem true in this practice.  So far these thoughts have occurred to me:

Speed is not the point.

Each day, deal with that day's challenge or problem.

What would it be like to bring the same care I bring to weaving, to other parts of my life?  

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