Monday, March 23, 2009

The Weaver's Window

"Life today is very bewildering. We have no picture of it which is all-inclusive, such as former times may have had. We have to make a choice between concepts of great diversity. And as a common ground is wanting, we are baffled by them. We must find our way back to simplicty of conception in order to find ourselves." - Anni Albers, Selected Writings on Design (1937).

A dear friend who lives in Norwich (rhymes with porridge), England, has a shop in a Medieval building, called Inanna's Magical Gifts. The upstairs of the building has a room that was once used for weaving the fabulous Norwich Shawls. In that room is a huge window out of which the weaver probably seldom looked. He would have, like Plato's cave dwellers, faced the wall with the light behind him, facing the shadows. His sons were the draw boys and his wife and daughters did the spinning for him.

The shawls woven in that room were, most likely, beautifully detailed with paisley designs that make my eyes cross with their intricacies. Day after day that weaver worked at the loom and I wonder if he got back pains, if the room was cold and damp in the winter. I like to think that the weaver leaned against the window sometimes, watching the people walking past on errands of their own two floors below. He could have seen customers and wool merchants coming to his shop on the first floor and he would have gone down to the living quarters on the second floor after work.

I wonder if his surname was "Weaver."

In 1983, bicycling through England, I came upon a man taking a bit of lunch. We got to talking and it turned out that he was thatching the roof of the cottage behind him. His father, and his father's father, going back time out of mind, had all been thatchers. He showed me an empty cigarette pack that had been his grandfather's brand, which had been left in the thatching some 40 years or more before. His name was "Thatcher" and he had never been more than 30 miles from his home. He belonged to that place, living and working where he was, in the same way a tree or a stone is fixed in time and space.

Weaving connects me to all those weavers, names unknown, who have come before. I know that I will never fit into a place like Mr. Thatcher did, but I feel like I fit into that long line of other weavers. And through our warps and wefts, we are all one.

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." - Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Green Collar Working

To me, one of the best things about working with wool as a medium is that it is an exemplar of the old "reduce, reuse, recycle" theme of renewable resources. Beginning with the sheep, everything about wool is recyclable, yarn to fabric to rugs. One often hears that civilization was carried forward by the horse, but I think that was made possible by the humble sheep. The sheep is the original "green worker."

Just yesterday we got the Brown Sheep Company spring 2009 newsletter. Once again, Brown Sheep is on the forefront in eco-responsible processing. They have been recycling their washing water for some time now, reclaiming about 90% of the water and 85% of the heat. Mitchell, Nebraska, just a few miles from the Scott's Bluff Monument (and the town of Scott's Bluff) is an incredibly dry place and by saving this much water they were doing a great thing for the eco-system.

Now they have added two new filtration processes to reclaim 18,000 of the 20,000 gallons of water they use daily for dyeing their gorgeous yarns. They are also able to retain the heat as well they use much less energy to keep the water hot for the dyeing. As they say in their newsletter, "Being a good steward of creation is one of our core values and we re pleased to bring you a quality product that does just that."

We value their committment and use their wonderful products in our weavings as much as we can. Here at Tres Hermanas we have reduced our overall carbon footprint from 9.2 to 2.7. We hope to do even better this year by putting in at least one transom window in the studio to add to the air circulation.

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi