Monday, May 28, 2018

Displaying Textiles at Home

As we've been traveling over the years, we've been amassing a textile collection. After each trip, I put them away in a box and sometimes don't look at them again until I'm adding to the box the next year. Our trip to Guatemala we came home with several beautiful pieces, and knew we had to figure out a way to live with them.



Our solution was to install a curtain rod high on a wall in our place as a a rotating display area. The first of each month we switch out what is hanging. This is also helping with another task on my to-do list, which is to catalog all the pieces we have. 


For May we hung up two pieces that we bought in Peru in August 2015, on my 40th birthday. Both of these pieces were woven on backstrap looms in the small town of Misminay, the Sacred Valley. While on a tour of the area, we stopped in Misminay for a delicious lunch, and a demonstration of their textile techniques.







As the oldest woman in the group started her demonstration of weaving on a backstrap loom, I asked our guide to please tell her I was a weaver also. The woman immediately lit up and motioned for the younger women to let me help with their natural dye demonstration. I love that no matter where in the world we are, if we meet a weaver I feel an instant connection. A language barrier becomes less important, because we can speak weaving.




These two pieces that we hung this month are the pieces we bought following this demonstration. The larger piece is a table runner, and the smaller piece we bought as a scarf for David, but eneded up a bit too itchy for him. These pieces are both made with wool, natural dyes, and are woven with warp faced weave effects.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

(Re)learning to Dye

I've had a box I've been moving with me for longer than I care to admit. A small box full of fiber reactive dye from ProChem. By now, it's been so long since I packed this box, I'm not even sure what I have, what is still good to use, or (most importantly) how they work. The indigo dyeing I've been doing with shibori and ikat inspired me to pull it out and figure out what was inside. Luckily for me, Prochem is located in nearby Fall River and hosts classes and workshops. 



Using two vacation days for a workshop felt like an indulgence, but I had an incredibly productive experience with a fun group of women, all learning to dye for different projects. It had been nearly 20 years since I last dyed with anything beside indigo and this was the perfect refresher.


I had a couple of revelations as I (re)learned to dye. 

It's all chemistry. 
Whether done with natural dyes derived from plants, or dyes made in a building in Fall River, dyeing is chemistry. I was having flashbacks of being in college and learning about dyes and drawing out molecules connecting to attach color. Not to mention what you need to make the fiber ready to take color, and then fixing the color.  

Color science is endlessly fascinating. 
As much as I think about color and feel inspired by it, it had been a while since I thought about how it works and interacts. Color matching and color mixing is a delicate undertaking, and how our eyes perceive color adds another dimension. Then factor in how that color will interact with other yarn in woven cloth, and how those interlacings will be mixed by our eyes into another color and there are so many possibilities. 

Take really good notes and make careful trials. 
Learning something new takes patience. I have a lot of patience when it comes to tasks (I'm a weaver after all, this is no instant gratification type creative outlet!) but it's hard to remind myself that learning something brand new is going to take a while to perfect. Dyeing is a science, and it will take a lot of trials and errors before I get good enough to get what is in my head accomplished. Keeping track of what I'm working on, doing thoughtful trials and noting my process and reflections along the way are absolutely essential for dyeing. 


I came home from this class with new dye, all the items in my box labeled, and some gorgeous dyed fabrics and yarns, including a new ikat warp.  

Friday, February 2, 2018

Soy una Tejedora

Our first full day in Guatemala, I experienced something very out of the ordinary. No, it wasn't walking down the street of a colonial city while a volcano was puffing out smoke in the distance. It wasn't peering into ruins of a church ruined by an earthquake and subsequently abandoned. It was answering our guide's question, "Why did you decide to come to Guatemala?" and answering "I'm a weaver." The strange part? He was not at all confused. He just answered, "Oh, nice, you'll enjoy all our textiles."

 My backstrap weaving worksohp in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, photo by my weaving teacher Lady.

Saying "I'm a weaver" is something I don't actually do that often here at home, because most people are very confused. While many are often interested, it's a novelty. It is never taken as something normal and valued, not like in Guatemala. Throughout our 10 days there, I told a lot of people I was a weaver. And told a lot of weavers, "Soy una tejedora."

My job and career have pivoted over the years, and led me in directions I enjoy, but would never have anticipated. While I've been working on creative projects all along, I always felt like weaving was tied with industry and tied with a job and an income. It's taken me a while to release that.


The loom saleswoman at the Chichicastenango market.

These past two years I've been weaving a lot, dyeing with indigo, and engaging more with makers and artists. It's been liberating to explore, improve my skills and separate the making from a job. It's been satisfying to know that I don't regret my education just because I'm not working in the industry I trained for. In fact, I'm doing the best work I've ever done at my loom.

I'm a weaver, soy una tejedora.