How can I claim to be a Luddite when I love my iPhone? If I am not a Luddite then how can I be a hand weaver in the 21st Century? Existential crisis! This was brought on by a tragic submersion of my beloved iPhone in soapy dishwater. I felt like I was in mourning. No 3:00 am crossword puzzles, no tic-ish email checking, no calendar synching- despair!!
This has all brought on the dreaded “mulling”. Why DO I weave. I can’t (yet) make a living at it. I am very lucky if I can cover my materials and heat at this point. I went to a local GIANT fabric warehouse called Osgoods to buy some pillowforms lately, and I had to laugh at how very little NEED there is in the world for more fabric. So why? The answer I came up with has to do with evolution (you can stop reading now if you would like).
Could my relationship to fabric be encoded in my DNA. I certainly feel a core connection to fabric and fiber – from the baby blanket to the wedding dress fabric IS meaningful, but I don’t kid myself that this is universal human connection. But could there be an evolved state of satisfaction in effortful process and product – a state that is (contrary to the ad world’s promises) unreproducible by purchased effort?
Beautiful, memorable fabrics can be purchased – sometimes for less than the yarns needed to weave them and definitely for less than the combined costs of looms, equipment, space AND yarn.
I read recently that humans have evolved to see and value effort. I think that the effort expended in industrial processes (whether cars, fabric or iPhones) is too diffuse and complex for us to react to in the same way as we can to something handmade. We can love and appreciate things that our industrially produced products allow us to do or do for us, but the appreciation we feel for them is quite different than what we feel for handmade things. And the feelings we have for things we have produced ourselves – particularly things that have taken skill and effort – are worlds apart from the satisfaction of purchasing something pleasing.
This is where the problem comes in. It is really crazy to be a hand weaver today, and most people know it. I think that the craze for Triathlons, Ironman runs, Marathons, etc. is explained by the fact that we LONG for the satisfaction of something produced by our personal effort and skill – something tangible – not a process that is part of a larger process. However, we can’t face the ridiculousness of producing something that can be industrially produced faster, better and for less, so we turn to the grit and effort of working on our bodies which can’t (yet) be industrially exercised. This gives us (well, not me) the satisfaction of personal and sustained effort and skill development without the embarrassment of spending money and time on something not valued by the culture at large.
Sooooo – why weave? One could answer, “Why paint?” “Why write?” but our culture does value “art” at least once it has been proven, but sadly there is almost no status in craft. Sooooo, why weave? I guess in the final analysis – because I can and because I can’t not!! And as to my iPhone . . . I love it because it keeps me connected to my fellow weavers, it allows me to catalogue all my weaving books and it has very excellent measuring app – FOR WEAVING.