Wednesday, November 11, 2009
My New Favourite Book
A very interesting book has been occupying my attention the last few days. Weaver of Worlds, the story of Carolyn Jongeward's "journey in tapestry", is one of the most accurate and poetic accounts of the creative process that I have read. First published in 1990, and written by her husband David (he is so sensitive and supportive of her art it brings tears to my eye), it describes a long period of time starting in 1969 when the young couple first visited a Navajo settlement in New Mexico.
Carolyn was taught to weave in the Navajo tradition but this approach encompassed so much more than technical instruction. And this is where the book is so fabulously meaty with ideas that I think would be helpful to any artist, but particularly those who work with thread and cloth. The loom and the "loom space" become profound metaphors for the world and one's place in it.
Here is a passage that translates how an elderly Navajo weaver describes the loom-space:
" A weaver must watch out for the enemy. Every weaver must watch out for the big enemy Anger. When the weaver gets angry, the threads go wrong. The weaver forgets her way."
" What the old ones say is that a good weaver must find the harmony place. That is the white people's word for it. The place of harmony. Weaving is a way of sitting still within the harmony place. In the harmony place there is no room for the enemy."
I was quite wary of the story at the beginning as I feared it would be too new age-y, but in fact the rich swirl of mythology, psychology and history that Carolyn and David explore grounds them. Their mutually supportive relationship seems enviable - he an anthropologist, she an artist, their paths in tandem, each enriching the other. (I did a Google search and it appears that they are still together after 40 years. She is a practising artist with a doctorate in education, and he is a Visiting Scholar in Asian Studies at the U of T.)
This quotation seems so relevant to the concept of "slow cloth":
"The process of weaving inspires a special relationship to time. The rhythmic drumming of thread over thread produces a sense of movement, or flow, quite unlike usual perceptions of time. In tapestry time, a woven design emerges. The design is like a woven net cast out to catch a fleeting image: fluttering moth, a splashing rain drop. The image, idea or dream caught in the net is held in time, out of time."