Question two from Jacqueline at Cheapskate Blethering. Hop over to see her contest.
Weaving is just a means to an end. Ancient woven fish traps. Woven baskets for storage and carrying water—yes, that well done. Penelope unweaving a day’s work every night, avoiding those pesky suitors and remaining faithful to Odysseus. A thought that boggles my mind—until the industrial revolution a mere three hundred years ago, every thread was spun by hand, loaded onto a loom by hand and woven by hand. Every thread for clothes and blankets, yes, but also every thread for every sail for every ship for every navy and merchant marine in the world.
I like the physical act of weaving; I like listening to books in my ears while the inches of fabric roll up under my knees. I like considering and solving all the problems of the universe as my shuttle travels back and forth. But most of all, I like the fabric.
I’ve always considered myself an artisan, a worker in a skilled trade. I am not artist—I do not weave diaphanous yardage and drape it fabulously around a runway model. I make good, pedestrian cotton cloth to make into casual, soft and comfortable shirts. But so different that they are not at any casual shop in America. “Where did you get that shirt?” “At an art show!”
And that’s the other thing I loved about weaving, back when my sister and I earned a living through our trade. I loved exhibiting and selling at art shows. We had a company called The Ewe Tree, and that was the flag that flew above our booth. I loved hearing customers say to friends, “We need to stop here; it’s my weaver.”
In the day, Jan managed the studio, I travelled to shows. Considering the nature of what we made, it’s not surprising we were popular in the east, or in liberal leaning cities. The national character of our country surprised me, though; it was not unusual to see the same customer in New York City and in another season in Kentucky or North Carolina.
A fun customer story and I’ll leave off. I was at a show in the Washington D.C. area, and a vaguely familiar woman with two small boys in tow stopped in my booth. She immediately phoned her husband. “Remember those two shirts you bought in Vermont that your brothers took?” I’m standing in the very same booth, looking at them. Do you want a blue, green, red, brown or natural colored one?”
She bought him several and then several more for the brothers, to forestall losing the shirts she bought. At the end we were working out the details of shipping the very large purchase home when one of the little ones chimed in, “Mommy, take the blue one home. Daddy will want it!”
Beth and me; show at Lincoln Center