learning from experience

The importance of being open to continued learning... no matter what

I learned pretty much all of my foundational tapestry skills from James Koehler. He was a wonderful teacher in many ways. Many of you have also studied with him and you know what I mean when I say he was an exacting teacher. He had his way of doing things and he stuck to them. This method has value when you are a beginner. I didn't know what I didn't know. I followed his rules and I learned a great deal. I became a tapestry weaver who could produce a beautiful flat fabric which looks much like James' tapestries did. (I'm not saying I'm James, I'm saying he taught me well.)

But I firmly believe in the value of diversity. It is important to broaden your horizons throughout life. I had a therapist once who asked everything in terms of whether it made my world bigger. "That huge decision you're talking about, does it make your world bigger or does it box you in? Does it present an opportunity for growth or does it perpetuate the stagnation you are experiencing right now?" Actually I doubt she said stagnation. She probably just told me what I was doggedly worrying on for years and years was bullsh*t and I needed to pay attention to what was really important.

This perspective is important in relation to continued learning in tapestry and art. It took me awhile after James died to realize that I had to move forward with my art in my own way. He wasn't here anymore for me to follow, and in a lot of ways, this was a gift. I started paying much more attention to the wider tapestry community and was able to make my bubble bigger.

Here is a specific example. I took a workshop from Joan Baxter in September. She creates breathtakingly beautiful work which is very grounded in the land, narrative, and subtle color shifts. Her work is misty and questioning and full of depth, very different from mine, and I adore it. Changes in the foundations of what I've been doing for many years like the thickness of the warp, the style and bundling of the yarn, and design ideas were eye opening for me.

I am smack dab in the middle of a lot of change in my own process... wait, that is called being an artist, isn't it? I have been dyeing yarn for a week and loving almost every minute of it (the questions of the clerks at Walgreens when I go to get a propane tank refill at 10 pm are getting a little old... they always ask me if I'm grilling tonight as in, "Grilling in this snow?" or "Little late for a barbeque, isn't it?"). Piles of new colors are making their way through a sampling process. Soon I'll have some final picks and the big loom will be warped.

What changes do you experience in your process which are started by a new teacher or a new discovery? I'd love to hear about it! (Comments! They're below!)