Why do I weave?
There was a time in human history when weaving was a technological innovation that changed fundamentally how we clothed ourselves and accessorized our homes. Paleo-archeologists believe that weaving arose around 6,000 BC, which places it way after the rise of early agrarian civilizations. Somehow, our ancestors survived for tens of thousands of years without woven cloth of any kind!
From times prior to the advent of weaving, we had developed many advanced means of adorning and accessorizing our bodies. No leap of imagination was required for our first weaving ancestors to intuit the decorative and ritualistic possibilities that arose from weaving.
Natural fibers were sourced from the environment, dyed with naturally occurring mineral, plant or animal substances, and then the fibers were combined to form a usable fabric.
It is only in very recent human history that industrial processes have taken both weaving and dyeing out of the home and the workshop of skilled artisans.
In fact, in many parts of the world even today, village and city artisans continue to hand weave fabrics. It is in economically-advanced geographies that artisanal fabric production has been lost most completely.
Not in my workshop, though. There is no reason that an advance in technology should mean that we throw away a beautiful art form. Working in my home studio in Montgomery, Alabama, I source silk and linen directly from farmers and specialized distributors close to the geography of production. With materials from my kitchen and my yard, I dye the threads, warp the loom, and hand weave them into a creation that started as a concept and comes together into a final piece through an iterative process engaging the mind's eye of the artist with the actual look and feel of the threads. I always start with a design in mind, but that will often change as the pieces come together (or not).
My technique owes a heavy debt to Japanese craft traditions of the past thousand years. Or is it a shorter time, I am not sure. I love to use kasuri (the Japanese style of ikat, in which a single thread is dyed multiple colors prior to being loomed) to create dreamy effects and actual images on the canvas of the fabric. And "uki-ori", which is a pick-and-weave technique that is much like embossing, to help parts of the fabric stand out and even jump from the fabric.
You can appreciate the beauty of a textile without understanding how it is made, but you may also enhance your appreciation by understanding the technique and craft that goes into its creation. As you look through the gallery of pieces in this website, note the following:
1. I start with raw fibers, either silk, wool or linen. In the case of silk there are about
80 fibers per inch. Each fiber is placed on the loom one thread at a time.
2. The threads are dyed prior to weaving. I will sometimes use raw, un-dyed threads,
especially in the case of linen. Otherwise, I dye the fiber in small batches in
my studio, almost always using a natural material from the environment as the dye.
When I use a chemical dye, I will always note that in the description of the work.
3. Every design is woven in as I weave. None of this is stitched in later, which would
be a kind of embroidery.
4. I usually weave on a 4-harness floor loom. The loom is powered by my hands and
5. Maybe someday I will use software to aid in my designs and to transfer my designs
to the loom. But that day is yet ahead of me. I use graph paper to develop a
design and manually transfer these concepts to the loom.
While I give complete credit to my teachers and their teachers before them for the techniques in my weaver's toolbox, I hope that I alone can take credit for their execution and the effect on the viewer.
Why weave? For me, it is to capture and preserve the best of techniques that emerged over centuries in the workshops of our ancestors. And just like our ancestors, to show that we too can create inspired objects of beauty on a slowly emerging two-dimensional canvas of cloth.