Why exactly is it that we weave tapestry anyway?
I've thought about this a lot lately given that most of my life is spent in pursuit of excellence in this art form. And really, we'd like to think what we devote our lives to matters in some way.
I think that making things does matter. Humanity has a certain drive to use our hands, to fiddle with objects and create something new out of bits of this and that. My long career as an occupational therapist, a career based on improving function through meaningful doing, taught me that health is intimately linked to doing things that are meaningful to us. It is a profound lesson in health and happiness. People who are able to do things that are important to them are healthier and happier than people who don't. That isn't just something they tell you in OT school. It is true.
Tapestry is one of the fiber arts that allow the yarn fanatics among us to use a treasured material to express something in images. Image-making is something humans have been doing possibly since before we were homo sapiens sapiens. The earliest scraps of tapestry-woven fabric found in the archaeological record were quite sophisticated, indicating long practice. We can be sure that humans have been weaving tapestry for tens of thousands of years. How cool is that?
Making things is something integral to the human psyche. I think that is why we weave tapestry. We do it because we love it. It feels good to make something. It feels even better to make something beautiful or shocking or that expresses something that is important to us.
So if we make tapestry because we love it, why are we so serious about it for heavens sake?
Some of you (especially the younger among you) probably have no idea what I mean by that. But those of you who have decades of tapestry weaving experience know.
Tapestry is serious business. Right? Don't we learn the rules at great cost? Isn't there WORK involved? Effort? Long hours of practice with expensive tools? Aren't there definitions of what tapestry is? And a fear that if we make something that doesn't follow those definitions then our work isn't worthy?
Yep. There is. But I think if we do it for love, it has to be enjoyable also.
So let's lighten up. If I want to use a 12/6 warp at 8 ends per inch by golly, I think I should be able to do that without feeling like I'm doing something wrong! (See my last post about warp HERE.)
And so should you. Learn how it works. Take a workshop. Try out different materials. Just because I tell you that knitting yarn is a poor material for tapestry doesn't mean you have to listen to me. Try the knitting yarn for goodness sake. Especially if it is the only green yarn you have at home and you have to have green yarn right now for the tree you are weaving that needs to go into the tapestry about your daughter's first birthday. Just do it. If it doesn't work out, you'll know soon enough.
Of course I think good materials are important. If you use better materials, you'll have a better outcome and you'll be more likely to make a second tapestry. And good technique is also important. If you make something that falls apart when someone breathes on it, that isn't so wonderful. But the love of it is primary. And we learn by doing.
So go out there and weave some tapestry. I can't wait to see what you make!