Two or three more hours of threading have moved me along to here in the tying-on:
I’ve finished tying on about three inches of the 29″ wide warp, so I’m about 10% done. At 2,640 threads, that means I’ve got 264 threads tied on, or about 45 seconds per thread. That’s awfully slow, but I’m taking my time, pulling each thread through the original cross to make sure I’ve got the right thread before taking another thread. I’m alternating between orange threads and black threads, and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve mistakenly grabbed an orange thread when I should have grabbed a black one! I guess I naturally gravitate towards orange. 🙂
Also, I’m in a wrist brace, battling tendinitis in my right arm. It’s getting better since I switched to a left-handed trackball, but it does make tying knots more awkward. So it will likely take me 30+ hours to tie on this warp, and another 5 hours or so to pull through and sley the reed. (I had to take the warp out of the reed while swapping out loom guts.) And then, of course, I’ll have to weave several inches and spend a few hours debugging everything before I can weave anything. Patience, grasshopper!
Then, of course, there is the question of WHAT to weave. And that gets me to the philosophical question.
One of the things I want to do in my work is explore the limits of jacquard weaving. When I see jacquard weaving in exhibits, I see a lot of work that is basically using the loom as a low-resolution printer: creating imagery in cloth, using fairly simple structures. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with doing that, it barely scratches the surface of what is possible with such a powerful tool. I feel that if I’m going to own a loom that can do virtually anything, I should explore all the “anything” that it can do. (Kind of like owning a Ferrari – if all you’re going to do is commute to work on surface streets, why did you spend all that money on a car that can go from 0 to 60 in two seconds flat?)
Of course this is a logical fallacy. Just because you own a tool doesn’t mean you have to be “owned” by the tool, creatively speaking – even if you have a fancy hammer, everything doesn’t have to be a nail. But beyond the guilt engendered by having an expensive tool that you aren’t using to its full potential, I also feel drawn to explore the intriguing and complex technical spaces opened up by having a jacquard loom.
For example: most woven shibori is done with relatively simple, repeating patterning because of the limitations of shaft looms. What happens when you do more complex patterning? Imagery? Double weave with one layer drawn up and the other left loose? Combine that with imagery in the drawn-up layer? Double weave with different drawn-up patterns in each layer?
Any of these would be difficult to do with a shaft loom, but can be woven with a jacquard loom. (Admittedly, it may involve significant contortions in setting up the design.)
From an artistic standpoint, the question is whether all that technical exploration is really necessary to art. And, of course, it isn’t. Art is about what you are saying, not how you got there. Which is probably why most art exhibits feature the low-resolution printer type of jacquard weaving. The artist was focusing on message, not exploring technique. Which is fine, if your purpose is art.
I’m not so convinced that my purpose is art. As I said on my recent Textiles and Tea interview with the Handweavers Guild of America, I think of myself as a researcher. I seek to explore, to learn things, then I publish and teach what I’ve learned. The art is important to me, but it’s more a part of the exploration and research than an end in itself. And that’s just fine.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this realization, but I’m good with it.
I’m still deciding what to explore with the Fire warp. Fortunately, with 35 hours of physical work to go before I can weave anything, I’ve got plenty of time to think about it. I’ve also got parts arriving late this week for Grace, which will enable me to put on the Color Gradients sample warp. So I’ve got plenty of time to decide what I want to explore.