These first ten inches of weaving across the 60-inch width of this current tapestry, I have been setting the palette, and engaging with the essence of the tapestry coming into being. Even though I have a full-scale pencil drawing on the wall, and a cartoon in place behind the warp, there are many decisions about which color mixes and techniques to use, and which shapes will connect with form or suggest other shapes. It is an act of deep listening with the eye and hand for what needs to emerge. It is private and off-limits to anyone else’s eyes until I complete about a third of the tapestry. Students who come to my studio during this stage see only the covered drawing and weaving area.
I love this process of tapestry that is “a making, a doing, and an act of contemplation” that D.M. Dooling articulates in A Way of Working: the Spiritual Dimension of Craft. He describes the artist/weaver as the maker, the tool, the receiver and transmitter of forces of creation much greater than oneself. He goes on to say:
The word art comes from the Indo-European root meaning “to fit together,” from which also comes “order,” which began as a word meaning a row of threads on a loom. Craft originally meant “strength, skill, device,” indicating at its very inception the basic relationships of the material, the maker, and the tool… Both art and craft must take part in any activity that has the power to transform. (Introduction, p. ix)
How appropriate that etymology confirms what we tapestry artists have known all along about both art and craft being foundational components in tapestry.
I continue weaving. Maybe in another month this current tapestry and I will be ready for a public view of the process. Maybe not.
Impressions meander through my awareness as memories and yearnings flow through my hands into the strands in the warp. I am shaping yet another step in this journey into the unknown at the loom, carefully listening with the eye.