Back in April, I visited Wonderwool (lol) in Wales with Other Sarah. Bumbling through the crowds of stalls with different vendors showcasing their wares, I was introduced to the Brinkley Loom at the Plant Dyed Wool stand.
I ordered one from them online some weeks later, and since then it has stood, looming (hehe) in the corner of the studio at NAGW, watching me ignore it every day as I hesitate to put the work into learning something new.
Setting up the loom to use is a process in itself (but also quite cool). First I needed to locate a broom handle, which was a chore for me to put off in itself. Then I needed to acquire some thread. And then, the thing I dreaded most, I needed to wrap the loom in thread precisely 120 times while spinning the loom on its axis around the broom handle.
Worse than this, however, was how I struggled to position the unique-to-this-loom heddle, with each of the 120 threads sitting in it's own notch, without criss-crossing over neighbouring strands.
Have I mentioned how little patience I have, and how strong my ability to procrastinate is?
So, it is today, on my penultimate studio day before I vacate NAGW, 3 months after purchasing the Brinkley Loom, that I sat over the prepared frame, ready to weave it's maiden weaving.
And reader, that's where it went wrong.
My yarn was pulled too tight, which was causing the sides to warp, I'd messed up the heddle position, so my threads were misaligned and complicating my weaving technique, it was sloping on one side for a reason I haven't identified yet, and I was so frustrated. All that procrastination, planning, prep, COUNTING, and back ache, for me to spoil it almost immediately.
I was contemplating what to do with it, whether I should undo everything and start again, whether I should chop it out and call it a smaller test-piece... And then a memory came to me.
I was in Sixth Form, sitting cross-legged in a darkened auditorium, large sheets of newsprint splayed out on the floor in front of me, and charcoal somehow staining my hands and face before I'd even realised I'd touched any. It was my first experience taking part in a Life Drawing class, and it was led by an external tutor and her model. She provided the paper and the charcoal, and that was all the materials required for the day.
"Where's the rubbers?"
"What do we do if we make a mistake?"
"I've messed it up, can I rub it out?" A chorus of students asked.
"We're not using them.
It doesn't matter.
You can blend it out with your hand and re-draw over it", the tutor responded.
"But that won't be clean." The student argued.
"Doesn't matter" the tutor responded.
Fast forward to when I began teaching art. I never shut up about how failure should be embraced as a part of the process. A fundamental part of development, to be highlighted, not dismissed. It's a position I found easy to adopt in an arts context. It enhances the exploratory making process, it gives value to the growth of your work.
But this doesn't trend the same with crafts. Crafts has makers frantically frogging their knitting projects, realising they miscounted their stitches. It has makers frustratedly sticking to rules written in code, counting steps, counting threads, counting rows. Accidentally gained stitches, accidentally skipped stitches. Tension too tight, tension too loose. Crafts often require preciseness, measurement. Like the baking to art's cooking.
But I'm a cook. A whack it in a pan, measure by feel, taste as you go, cook.
So I'm going to challenge myself. I might be learning the techniques and the equipment from the seasoned crafters, but as I find my own position with these materials, I'm going to let my life drawing tutor's words echo through my hands. It doesn't matter. Just go over it. It doesn't matter.
I'm going to embrace the accidental marks, the gestural fades, the layers of attempts. And those things might look different in textile than in charcoal and paper, but that doesn't mean the process has less validation. And from this perspective, with less pressure to follow the rules, less fear of doing something wrong, maybe I'll procastinate less and make more.
(There will be something else that makes me procastinate, don't worry)