Saturday, August 4, 2007

Thoughts on Designing

There has been on-going discussion among members of the Online Guild of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers on copyright. Virtually every fiber email list I have been on has had in the past five years extended discussions of this issue. I usually don't pay too much attention except to be aghast at some of the really illegal things some people do and to wonder how they can live with themselves.

This time around I began to wonder why weavers (and other fiber artists) copy other people's designs at all, even within their legal rights. Would these weavers use paint-by-number kits if they were to take up painting?

The notion that design process ought to be taught with the first baby weaving lessons is a notion that grows stronger for me. Learning to design what you weave is no more arcane or difficult than learning to weave. And I see no reason why designing could not be incorporated in classes from the very beginning.

The first project for many weavers is often a scarf. That's a really good first project because all you have to know is how to warp the loom and weave plain weave. You only need two shafts, in fact. And you can choose your own yarn and colors. Then you have a bit more learning to do, but not really much. Basically, you need to learn how to figure out the sett. What many weavers seem to do is use the wraps per inch and then divide the wraps in half. Wraps per inch is a fine way to start for a beginning weaver. But she does have to learn enough about the interaction of warp and weft to know that she is not done when she has divided those wraps in half.

When the sett has been worked out, then it is just arithmetic to figure out the ends per inch and the length of the warp. And here will be learned how to calculate for shrinkage and take-up as well. And the new weaver will learn to put on an extra yard or so so that she can use the first part of the warp to make sure the sett is to her liking. This means not only weaving that sample but removing it and washing and pressing it. Often what is on the loom looks more like window-screening than cloth. But what magic happens when it is washed and pressed!

OK, this is a lot to expect. After all, the new weaver has just gone through this long struggle of learning how to warp her loom. Finally the warp is on. She wants to get on with it. When I am ready to weave, I want to get on with it too. But it's a lot to expect as well for the new weaver to learn to warp her own loom. There are teachers on think that the first time the loom already should be warped and waiting for the beginner. I happen to disagree.

I do remember the agonies of learning to warp my loom . I think it was not until my 10th warp or so that I could go through the entire process without referring either to my class notes or to my much used Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps by Peggy Osterkamp. And it is a long process. That does not change.

Weaving is not about instant results. And now I am moving dangerously close to the question of why weave. I am not ready to go there just yet. Weaving Spirit, however, has posted recently on just this.

There are so many more complex and deep pleasures to be derived from weaving than just the simple pleasure of throwing a shuttle and watching the cloth grow. Still, I do not underestimate that last pleasure, especially when the selvedges are going well.............


Laritza said...

I love your blog! What an interesting post you have today. I am a relatively new weaver, with few warps under my belt. I also have struggled dressing the loom. I have noticed that the excitement tends to fade out once I start weaving, when I know that the warp has the correct tension and things are going to work out. I then weave, not only to see the finished piece but looking forward to the new challenge of dressing the loom again.

bjgvet said...

When I learned to weave about 25 years ago at the University of New Hampshire, all of the things that you mentioned were indeed incorporated into our student experience from the very first project. We were not permitted to begin winding our warps until our complete plan/design sheet was approved by the professor (Winnifred Shaw).

Fast forward to 1 year ago when I took a week long residential course at Becky's Vav Stuga, Introduction to Swedish weaving techniques....she also incorporated all of these skills in the program and each day included 2 hours of "class time" when we analyzed fabrics, studied structures, worked on drafting work sheets etc.

I believe that many of the best true teachers of this art DO ROUTINELY utilize a complete and organic approach from the very start. I was just fortunate to be started that way and have reaped great benefits from it. Although all of these many details may be initially a bit intimidating for the new weaver, I think that it rarely dissuades them from the craft. They may not "get" it all the first time around, but get enough of a foundation to comprehend more with each subsequent exposure.

I, too, am really enjoying your blog!

Donna said...

The subject of copyright is an oft-discussed topic among fiber artists as it is among all other creative communities, rightfully so.

Designing one's own work is extremely satisfying; however many of us are not so talented or inclined. Using another artist's beautiful design, verbatim or improvised, in a fine work is also an accomplishment of which to be proud. Imitation is the purest form of flattery, and giving recognition to the founding artist for a work so used is minimum and ethical compensation and a statement to their talent.

Peg, I might paint-by-numbers, if I wanted to paint a good picture, because I have no talent for painting. The best I could do is follow the guide of a real artist. Assuming a hidden talent and short of receiving detailed instruction on how to "see" the picture before it is put to canvas, that is my lot in life.

There's room for all levels of accomplishment in our world, as long as we are true to ourselves and remember to give credit where credit is due.

It's great that you bring such interesting thoughts to view.d

Jasmine Weaver said...

Do not know how I haven't visited your blog before. Lots of great info. Amazing how even when you haven't met the person you feel like you know them well through posts, etc. The issues of copyright are so complex, when I read magazines, etc, I try to read the material and not concentrate on the visuals as I seem to have a camera for a mind. One of the reasons I really liked Weavers - there was so much good info that the project was not the important part.

Linda in Alberta