You see an art or craft that looks relatively easy and fun to do so you give it a go. Then you get into it and soon discover that there is so much more to learn and various avenues to pursue to gain more knowledge. It’s a continual learning process and as with most art forms, it is usually a case of 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration to become really proficient at any creative discipline.
I was reminded of my creative journey into tapestry recently when I received a craft catalogue in the mail. One of the products was an easy weaving kit. This brought back the memory of how I started learning to weave that ultimately led me to study tapestry design.
In an old set of 1970s magazines called Golden Hands I saw instructions on how to make a frame loom to do simple weaving projects. It peaked my interest enough to want to make the loom, which I did. My fist project was a woolen Greek style bag, made by folding the woven fabric, sewing up the sides and knotting the warp threads to form a fringe at the top. I attached plated shoulder straps. It turned out quite well for a first project, but because I drew and painted, I wanted to learn how to do my own imagery in woven tapestries.
This involved more research and I bought a basic book to learn how to weave tapestries. I modified the loom so that it was now a simple frame that I could use vertically with a clamp, rather than horizontally and bought a metal dog comb to beat down the weft threads, as recommended by the book. At first my attempts were quite amateur because I was using a very basic technique and needed to learn more sophisticated methods if I was going to improve.
Luckily I saw an advertisement for classes at a local tapestry workshop and enrolled in a short course. This was really helpful as it taught the methods used by the workshop and my weaving improved greatly. I ended up doing a more advanced course there and I was hooked. I was now able to weave from my own designs and the final results were much more proficient.
Ellie was also interested in textiles and I taught her what I had learned and she also got the tapestry bug.
But I still wasn’t satisfied and felt that I needed to learn much more to become highly skilled in tapestry design and production so, as previously mentioned in this blog, Ellie and I both enrolled in an Art course where we could major in tapestry. It was a very practical course and we were constantly challenged to develop our skills and learn many new techniques.
From textures to interpreting complex designs, we had to continually stretch ourselves so that nothing was impossible to weave and were encouraged to develop as visual artists. We took part in workshops with master tapestry weavers, both local and from overseas. We learnt textile technology and how to dye wool, as well as occupational health and safety so that we did not poison or injure ourselves. The only downside of doing a course is that sometimes you must do projects that do not always interest you creatively and this can take away some of the enjoyment. But if you want to do this professionally you must learn that there are times when you might need to make compromises.
The course was quite intensive and after I graduated, I had to take a break from weaving. So did Ellie. I have been doing other creative things, like drawing and painting, as well as music, but now I feel that I want to get back to creating small-scale woven tapestries and rediscover my love for the medium. All because I received that catalogue in the mail.
What begins as a simple creative pastime can turn into a complex adventure. To become really good at any creative discipline takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It helps to have a never-ending thirst for knowledge, as there is always more to learn. And even if, like me, you take a break and do other things, you can always return to your earlier passion with a fresh viewpoint.