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Lessons in Weaving

Lessons in Weaving

Thanks to everyone who entered our "Lessons in Weaving" contest!

We had many, many wonderful entries that our amazing judges Joseph Wigon, Thea Fine, Deb B., Jacqui at Phantasia Bead Art and Robin Whitehurst painstakingly sorted through to choose the winners. 

This was the contest prompt: Over the past year and a half we’ve heard many people say that creating art saved them during the pandemic. Not only did it give them something joyous to focus on, but it also gave them a sense of community online where successes, failures, tips and tricks could be shared. It reminded us how important it is to have something like weaving in our lives and of all of the many lessons weaving has taught us over the years. As part of Mirrix’s 25th birthday celebration, we are having a contest around this theme. Tell us, in 500 words or fewer, about a lesson that you have learned through weaving.

The winner is Felicitas S. and the runner-up (we didn't actually plan to have a runner-up, but the scoring was so close we felt like we should) is Noelle M. You can find both entries below. Congratulations to our winners and thanks again to everyone who entered. We truly enjoyed reading each of these! 

Weaving during the pandemic taught me that threads of my tapestries are a vehicle connecting me to the past. My mother passed in 2019 and I spent much of that year away from my family while caring for her in her last days. During the pandemic in 2020, I had time to sort through several pallets of her belongings that were shipped to my home. While doing so, I relived our family’s journey and learned more about our history than any stories previously related to me by family members. Much of what I uncovered were photographs, artifacts and textiles from the island of Java and the Netherlands. My parents were Dutch nationals living on Java during Dutch colonialism in the early 20th century. My father served in the Dutch Navy during WWII and was captured by the Japanese. As a POW, he was forced to build the Burma Railway and the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai. Following the war, the indigenous Indonesians staged a violent uprising and genocide of residents with European backgrounds including my family. During this time, the Dutch East Indies which was my family’s homeland became the independent country known as Indonesia. After a long and dangerous waiting period, my family was finally granted a visa and permitted to emigrate to their new homeland of the Netherlands in the 1950’s. The colors, shapes and images in the photographs and textiles found in my mother’s collection inspired me to capture their emotions in my weaving. Scraps of Indonesian batik fabric were not only unique and colorful, but also joyful in their nature. I incorporated strips of batik fabric into my weaving reminding me of the carefree filled pre-war days that my family enjoyed. The expressions seen in family photographs revealed a range of emotions from sadness, then anger, and finally relief. I wove a series of tapestries of faces with emotional expressions I saw in the faces of family members in these photographs. The tapestries were not meant to be portraits of individuals, but rather a conveyance of emotions reflected in those photographs. Memorabilia from my mother’s collection included Javanese shadow puppets and textiles telling folk tales and myths of the islands. My tapestry weaving reflected the masks and landscapes of those stories. Colors, shapes and lines from puppet and textile images became incorporated into my tapestries. The process of designing and weaving the tapestries gave me comfort and a sense of place cementing my role in the story of our familial history. The gift of time granted me during the last year taught me a lot. Specifically, the gift of being able to weave during that time taught me that through the tapestry process I am able to create a lens that looks to a past that connects to me in the present. My tapestries tell stories from the threads of my life. New beginnings will continue to evolve in my journey and the threads will expand to introduce all of us to new adventures. -Felicitas S.

In my youth I was impatient. Truth be told, I still am underneath. The youngest of three girls, I always wanted to be older, to speed up my life and be able to do all of the things that everyone else could do. However, that attitude robbed me from seeing the beauty in the moment, in the here and now. Learning to weave is how that viewpoint changed for me. Weaving has taught me to live life one pass at a time. Weaving slows the rhythm of my life. At 26-years old I had three children under five. My hectic, sleepless days and nights left me feeling chaotic inside. I yearned for something for myself, outside of my daily routine. Fortunately, there was a yarn shop not five miles from my house, where they taught classes. I first learned to weave on a rigid heddle loom, then on a 4-harness loom. I was taught that each thread had a specific place, each pick and pass had a time that made sense, and that rushing only made things harder. I learned to appreciate dreaming in color, planning a pattern, keeping a steady fell, a mindful selvage, and to finish slowly—so that the ends would accentuate the time spent weaving, instead of being a detractor. Weaving taught me to see the beauty in each moment of the process of life, as each pass woven occurs within a different moment of my life. I learned that unfinished weaving is okay. I learned that finished with mistakes is okay. There can always be a new piece. There is always a reason to get out of bed to learn a magical new technique, even when life throws challenges that seem unsurmountable. Now, having just turned 50, I tackle tapestry weaving in earnest, for the first time. I work toward an art degree, on the side, in order to create more complex pictorial designs. Without learning to weave row by row, I would never have survived the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly challenges that have come my way. Thirty years and four children later, weaving these many threads is what has held the fabric of my life together. Without weaving I would be as scattered, confused and lost as a warp without it’s cross. Weaving has taught me the ultimate lesson: Joy, color, and hope in art, and in life, comes not from the completion of a piece, but in every single step along the way. Weaving is a process. Life is a process. I’ve learned to weave on with hope, the rest will come. -Noelle M.