Making Time, Taking Time
Ed Rossbach, among other things a groundbreaking midcentury basketmaker, wrote that “ Painting is the art of sight, music is the art of sound, textiles are the art of time”. When I first read that, I understood explicitly the primary reason I have always been drawn to the fiber arts—stitching, knotting, weaving, spinning, kumihimo, quilting etc. It is precisely this, that they require me to make and take time. I must to some extent step away from the demands of the rest of my life and create a zone of temporal space in which I can engage directly with the materials and processes, be the outcome what it may. This space is my meditation hall, relaxation room, sanity preservation exercise.
It was not always thus, of course. At the height of my family and work demands (the decade of my 30s), my textile work took on much of the character of the rest of my life: too much to do, too little time, working at breakneck speed whenever an hour or two opened up (I had over 50 tops waiting for quilting when I retired!). My husband was a great help during these fretful times, repeatedly telling the kids that they had better leave me alone to sew, because Mom would be a lot less fun to be around if they didn’t. Wise man. At one point, while on a quilt retreat in the Alaskan woods with friends, I fell asleep at the sewing machine at 4:00 am, resulting in a very wonky seam. I took that as a message from the Universe, put the wonky patch in the quilt, and started to revise the way I worked creatively on the Buddhist principle of mindfulness: When drinking tea, drink tea, as one practitioner phrased it. Work slowed, fewer items were begun or completed, the time spent was intense but restful. I started spinning, and found that what I most enjoyed was the most time consuming: taking a raw fleece through all the steps of preparation, spinning the yarn, and making something from it. You just have to slow way down to do that. Gradually this approach has migrated into all of my creative pursuits, and its all been to the good.
People often look at me askance when I tell them that I’m involved in a ten year study program in stitch and art and design. I think they’re trying to decide whether I’m crazy or just very slow! Actually, I think the fact that it is so long was part of the attraction. It required me to commit to making and taking the time to dive deep, not only in quarterly week long classes, but in between through the homework, both assigned and self directed. Because I am now retired, I have that time. My retirement home has a more than adequate studio space. Through the study program, I have gained a supportive group of friends, colleagues and instructors who constantly urge me to consider alternatives. I have relearned how to play with materials and processes. I have discovered a great deal about how I like to work and maybe a little bit about why.
In short, in the areas touched on in this session, I have been unusually lucky. What I most need now is not more time but a focus, some of that power of limitations we have previously discussed.
I can do obsession: Hundreds of knotted, headed and woven straps and cords, many hand dyed, 48” in length.