Shift

There is an aspect of weaving that drives me slightly bonkers.  It’s an equipment issue.  Without getting too technical, all the threads on the loom must pass through a little hole in a metal holder called a heddle.  These heddles are suspended between two flat metal bars and are supposed to easily slide along those bars to any spot needed for the weaving. Voila:

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The problems is…they. don’t. (slide, that is.)

Well, they DO slide. The real key word in that description is “easily” because since they are made of rigid metal wire and just have little oval loops of wire at top and bottom to go around the bars, it is extremely easy for them to tilt sideways and therefore, get stuck.  Unless they stay pretty much completely straight up and down, they won’t hang nicely and definitely won’t SHIFT.

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If none of that is making sense, it’s ok; here’s the real point. One of the things I’ve learned is that to move the heddles, a gentle nudge instead of a push always works better…Oh no! She’s about to make another “weaving-as-metaphor-for-life” analogy!! Why yes. Yes, I am.

There are so many times in life that getting somewhere isn’t a matter of force, it’s more about a slight shift that will calmly take you where you need to be. I often get my heddles stuck because I want to move them several inches, if not feet, at a time and forget that to accomplish this, I will have to give them gentle little taps sideways instead of just pushing them as hard as I can. When I do the latter, they inevitably go wonky and lock up.

I don’t know if you’ve ever played with corn starch and water before but when I was a kid, my mom would mix up some and let us explore its amazing properties.  If you push against it or hit it with your hand, it becomes hard as rock because all the corn starch molecules are flat disk shapes and your force makes them stack together, unbending as bricks.  However, if you just barely glide your hand into the mixture, the water around all the molecules will let those disks slide across each other and the whole thing feels liquid-y and easy. (See? I can find life metaphors outside of weaving!!!)

Someday I’ll learn that gentleness instead of bullheadedness, kindness and encouragement instead of force and insistence, can move all those heddles.

Vive le Tour!!

You hear the criticisms whenever a big sporting event suddenly grabs the attention of everyone in the world. “Where were all these people last week?”; “How come you’re interested in curling now when you don’t know a kizzle kazzle from a wobbler?”; or “Seriously. Put down the vuvuzela and back away.”

Guilty.

But I never feel guilty about only paying attention every two to four years! I never buy into the skepticism surrounding the Games (although I understand there’s much to criticize). I would think the athletes and the die hard fans would be happy to have us care, even if we will not become committed followers.

I know I certainly feel that way when someone, for even a brief moment, shows interest in my fiber work.  They will say, “Oh my grandma did that! I haven’t seen anyone do that for years” or “That is so interesting about spinning wheels. I never understood that!” And I hand them my personal teaching card or a flyer for my Guild’s next event with all my enthusiasm and hope that they will join us, knowing there is a very high probability that they are going to throw it away and never give it another thought.

So why do I still keep cards on me everywhere I go? Because the real point of what’s happening is connection. Connecting with others in ways that emphasize our common ground, the things we want to share that are positive and hopeful and happy. Folks who, in fiber or sports, have dedicated themselves to something so completely that they have trouble understanding why everyone doesn’t love it.  What we really want are the stories surrounding events like the Olympics and the World Cup because they are about people. They are stores of commitment, teamwork, challenge and perseverance.  I don’t connect to everything about sports but I understand those stories because they are about all of us.

Thus, it’s a pretty cool moment when sports and my fiber work come together in a way that connects to all those things.  TOUR DE FLEECE, BABY! Ok, yes, it’s a silly name but since multiple people at the gym have totally misunderstood me when I said I was going to a “spinning class”, it seemed inevitable that a world-wide “spinning yarn” event would spring up next to the world’s biggest “spinning cycles” event.

And I love it to death.  Every year I join a team of my fellow spinners and we set goals and we cheer each other on as we reach for those accomplishments and every year, miles and miles of beautiful yarns are spun as we celebrate our connection to fiber and to each other.  That’s something you just can’t criticize.

TOUR SPINNING 2019!!!

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Augusta

Think of Augusta, Georgia when someone says that name? I’m sure that’s common and unavoidable with the city’s proximity to major destinations and claims to fame like James Brown. But if you’d grown up in my part of West Virginia, you’d know it as a name for this region too. In fact, when the leaders were voting on a name for the new state they were creating by seceding from Virginia, Augusta was one of several proposed names. I’ve always been a little sad that “West Virginia” won the vote by such a landslide, actually. I understand why they chose it since many of them still felt close ties to Virginia which had been their birth place. However, after a life time of people asking me where I’m from only to have them exclaim, “I LOVE Virginia Beach – we go there all the time!” or introduce me as being “from Virginia” from then on, I do wish we had a more unique name.

Names are powerful; they create a sense of place, of home. The men who voted for West Virginia didn’t want to loose that sense of home. Even before them, the name Augusta was chosen by people who wanted to feel close to a past home that was very far away. The county of Virginia and the region west of there where I’m from were named Augusta after the Princess of Wales, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (there’s a name for ya’). So, even though I couldn’t love my state any more if it were to be named something like Kanawha or Allegheny (especially since those are appropriations…but this isn’t a post about that!), the names we have for places we call home are super important and meaningful. And for the past year, every time I hear the name Augusta, I think of an additional place that has become a very special part of home to me, the Augusta Heritage Center at Davis and Elkins College.

Last summer, I was so incredibly honored and thrilled to teach a week long weaving class at the Center. And despite all good sense, they have invited me back for another class THIS summer!! As I’ve been preparing for the class, I suddenly realized I’d never posted anything here about it. Crazy given how much I adored everything about the experience. If you’ve never heard of this fabulous place and all the amazing learning and celebrating going on there, treat yo’ self to a wander around their website and facebook…go ahead, I’ll be here when you get back…

https://augustaheritagecenter.org/

https://www.facebook.com/AugustaHeritageCenter/

Right?! Amazing! Not only did I get to talk about weaving all day with some absolutely delightful and phenomenal students (that’s weaving by my student at the top of the post), but I also got to hear (and dance) to world-class blues and old-timey music all night IN a beautiful gorgeous setting. This was my view as I walked to class EVERY day.

Yup. Superlatives fail me. But I can say that I am incredibly proud that this place exists as part of my home – Augusta. West Virginia. If you have nothing better to do July 22-26th (and really could you have?), consider joining me for another week long (pretentious to say “life” long, cause it’s gonna stay with you) learning experience! I’d love to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/AugustaHeritageCenter/

Meta-Makers

I asked a friend last summer if she wanted to read my blog.  She asked in return how often I posted. When I rather apologetically replied that it wasn’t very often, maybe twice a month, she seemed totally relieved and said that would be ok then! It made me laugh out loud because I knew exactly what she meant and didn’t take any offense that she seemed so happy not to have to read much of my writing!! We’re all so busy in our speed of light world that it can be hard to add one more thing to the daily to-do. Finding time to read blogs, let alone write them is a nutty idea. Needless to say, she’s been my blog’s BIGGEST fan for the past several months as I have found no time to write.

Finding the time to make things. Nutty. The other day, my husband was sharing with me a new service where you can order product photos to be create for you in a completely automated way. You place the order on-line. Mail in your “whoziwhatsit” and when the package arrives, a robot unpacks it, takes photos of it and automatically sends them to you digitally. It was striking to me because cameras already seem like a step away from human involvement to me. Even though I love and study film for a living, I have always been aware that a whole world of illustrators and artists were affected by the invention of a camera wielded by a photographer. With such a service as this, not even a live photographer needed.

And it occurred to me that we don’t make much anymore except the machines that will make everything else. We’ve become really good at making things that make things for us. Meta-making? Which is one way humans are set apart from other animals. We use meta-cognition (we can think about our thinking), we have meta-language (we can talk about our talking) AND we are meta-makers…we can make things that make things.  I don’t just mean the use of tools, we’ve done that forever, I mean tools that then take us out of the process entirely. And I’m not bemoaning this! Life is much better because of it. Automation holds much promise for helping the world to be a better place for more and more people.

Still, me, the non-Luddite, urges find time to make things with your own hands.  End products from your own hands.  It’s not lost on me that I’m making this plea via a machine that makes connections with people for me.  But if it weren’t for this machine, I never would have met Laverne Waddington (Laverne’s blog) in person and learned such amazing weaving from her hands.  She was here last Spring and I was completely obsessed with band weaving for quite awhile (I’m putty…).  She returned last week and once again, little tiny bands are all I want to do…why must it coincide with semester end grading?  It’s not right…hey…where’s that machine that grades student essays for me?! Get on it meta-makers.

And now for something completely different…

I can’t seem to stop tatting these little leaves!!  And I don’t even like tatting.  I’ve known how to tat for nearly 20 years and did it a lot in graduate school, but since I learned to spin and weave, I’m usually not drawn to it.  Lately, however, my Guild has been just crawling with tatters and they keep proselytizing others.  I hate to believe I’m giving in to peer pressure…just want to hang with the cool kids!…but here I am!  My husband keeps walking by saying, “but I thought you hated tatting.”  And I say, “I DO!” and then I make another leaf.

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I’d rather think this obsession is a result of the excruciating 95 degree weather…EVERY DAY…in SEPTEMBER!! These little leaves are my plea for Fall to please fall soon.  My fingers finding something completely different to do is an attempt to get the weather to now do something completely different…

(even made a little acorn, although that is not as fun since despite the weather, my deck is still constantly full of acorns, if I have to fight acorns I should be able to do it without heat stroke:)

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Two Hands

I just finished weaving a bunch of sweet dishtowels.  They need hems and a good wash/dry before they are ready for their close-up but I’ll post them soon.  It’s nice to be back at the big loom again.

As I woven off the last towel, I was listening to the album Two Hands by Leon Fleisher, one of my favorites.  In 2016, I actually had the privilege to see him in concert (he played “Sheep May Safely Graze” and I thought I’d explode from happiness).  I’ve been an admirer since my husband was a student at the Peabody where Fleisher taught for many years.  If you don’t know the story, Fleisher was a child prodigy, playing with the New York Phil at only age 16.  He was called “the pianistic find of the century”.  Then at age 36, he suddenly and mysteriously lost the use of his right hand.  For the next 40 years, he played the repertoire for left-hand only while searching for an explanation and a treatment.  In 2004, some new experimental injections lead to regaining the use of his hand and he released the album.

I was immediately taken with it because at the time, my husband was still striving through graduate school and his doctorate.  There were times when I really didn’t think we’d make it and when I didn’t know what the other side would even look like if we did make it.  Fleisher’s album was so beautiful and so hopeful that I would turn to it for reassurance that one could persevere.

But let me be clear what the album means to me.  It isn’t about hanging in there until you finally get what you want, it’s about hanging in there even when you don’t think you’ll ever get it.  It’s continuing on even with loss.  We live in a world of loss and getting older is defined by it.  When the album was released and everyone was so amazed that he could play with both hands again, I just remember thinking, “it is wonderful, but it’s not like he hasn’t always been a pianist.”  In a way, it hadn’t really changed anything about how I saw him.  The profound part of the story to me isn’t the album with two hands, it’s the 40 years with one; it’s that he continued to do what he loved even if he didn’t actually “fit” the definition of that activity.  It didn’t stop him from being what he wanted to be.

I use two hands to weave and like piano it might seem like a necessity.  But as I wove and listened to Fleisher play, I knew it wasn’t my hands that make me a weaver and if tomorrow I were to loose the use of them, I’d still be a weaver.  My love of doing fiber and the friends and community it has created in my life wouldn’t go away.  Some day, even without some traumatic event, I won’t be able to weave any more.  I’ve noticed my hands starting to look old and feeling achey way more often than I want to admit.  Beethoven wrote music long after he could hear it, Fleisher played piano for years with only one hand, and I will dream color and texture and pattern long after my hands won’t be able to do it.  I will still be a weaver.

5 out of 5 Points

I did a pop-up Market in the 5 Points neighborhood this afternoon and loved every minute of it, from the awkwardly interesting location inside the UPS Store to the sweet folks who stopped by to say hello!  The organization who put the event together had all the artists/makers inside local shops and restaurants.  It was a fun idea although I hadn’t expected my booth would end up next to packing supplies and copiers!!  Can I get a Jim and Nick’s embed people? Can you say cheese biscuits for jeekeehoo?!!

Despite the distinct lack of snacks, it was still a really fun experience and I’m excited to do the Market again on Sept. 15th!  Come on out…no one can stop you from getting biscuits…and bracelets!IMG_8641.JPG