Monday, October 22, 2007


Recently I ran across a fiber art web site with some interesting essays. One of the essays, written by a creator of art cloth and wall hangings by the name of Claire Benn, contained the following statement:

"To be a practising artist is to practise".

A truism? I don't know. I think it is very intriguing. When I think about practicing, usually I think about preparing for a performance. A pianist, for example, practices. A weaver practices when she uses the first inches of a warp to get everything right. A physician practices medicine.

A physician practices medicine? A physician practices on me?!! No way.

As I contemplated the horrendous possibility that my doctor is only practicing on me, I began to think of the implications of Claire's statement, "To be a practising artist is to practise." The reality is that when we paint a picture, weave a scarf, see a patient, we are really practicing. We are becoming better at our craft. The work we produce, the work we do, it is all practice. It is never final. It is always preparatory to the next thing.

And so the "thing" we produce loses its preciousness. It becomes simply a part of an ongoing process. I like that perspective.

In the current piece I am weaving, one of the things I have been practicing very carefully is looking at the mirrors on each side of the loom each time I open a shed. There have not been many warp ends that have gotten stuck. When I see one in the mirror, though, I am grateful that I have seen it. Seeing it then means that I can fix it during the weaving process itself, and not after it is off the loom. Off the loom, fabric is much more difficult to fix, sometimes, in fact, virtually impossible. So checking the mirrors is beginning to become second nature to me. I know, however, that when it is time to weave the next item, I will have to continue practicing that.

Since the unweaving fiasco, I have also started practicing watching the shafts as well as the treadles. This is taking lots of concentration. But it is worth it. For watching them helps me catch treadling errors before they happen. And I am grateful when I catch one.

Today I have begun practicing something else. On Friday my shoulders started to bother me. I realized then that I had to work on keeping my shoulders lowered and my "wing" bones pulled a bit to center back. There is a pose in yoga called Tree Pose. Keeping shoulders lowered and "wing" bones back are two of the many things I work on when I am practicing that pose. I try to remember the pose and how it feels when I weave. Today, practicing that really helped. My shoulders are just fine. I am grateful for my yoga practice. But I shall have to continue to work on practicing that.

Gratitude is an amazing thing.

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