Offering a glimpse into the practices of many contemporary international weavers, new publication Weaving: Contemporary Makers on the Loom highlights relevant topics for the makers of today. Denna Jones finds out more in COVER 52:
‘Is It Furniture or Art?’ queried a headline in Elle Deco magazine in 2007. The question reflected the accelerated blurring of art and design in the new millennium. The merger of what had been two disciplines was presaged by Virginia Postrel in 1998 when she defined ‘stasists’ as those who wanted to rigidly categorise creativity, while those who wanted fluid, overlapping creativity were ‘dynamists’. Although arts panjandrums continue to fight their stasist turf, it is clear in 2018 that creativity is controlled by the dynamists. The new book Weaving: Contemporary Makers on the Loom by Katie Treggiden features 21 makers, with four essays that cover topics such as whether weaving is art or craft. Although the dynamists are winning, the book continues the debate between stasists and dynamists, art and craft.
In a global economy where most creatives have multiple income streams, defiance in the face of categorisation makes eminent sense. Brent Wadden describes himself as an ‘artist’ and his weavings as ‘paintings’, but he adopts ‘artist’ to reflect defiance coupled with his feminist credentials as a campaigner to reclaim the status of women artists at the Bauhaus whose work and weavings were not valued as highly as that of their male counterparts. Self-proclaimed artist Alex Kehayoglou avoids weaving altogether and uses a tufting gun to plug wool into her panoramic landscapes. Each carpet documents and preserves aerial views of disappearing or endangered land in her native Argentina.
One of the more notable artists in the book is Mexican-American Tanya Aguiñiga whose political weaves, wearables, and home goods represent more than category rejection. Aguiñiga rejects the colonial association of western floor looms and their geometric outcome. She weaves and knots deconstructed, open works ‘off-loom’. Aguiñiga contributed to the multi-artist Ambos art project (‘ambos’ means ‘both’ in English), which reflects lives lived between the US-Mexican border. Her work comments on weaving as ‘ambos’—both art and craft—and critiques the manufactured tension between art and craft and its relevance to physical real world border control.
Most of the makers welcome imperfections, mistakes and changes to the plan, and many describe their views on warping their looms. Those whose weavings reflect a more ‘traditional’ process, humane treatment of sheep and stewardship of land also tend to immerse themselves joyfully in the meditative activity and mindfulness of warping a loom. They are sanguine about ‘imperfections’. Hermine van Dijck only uses GOTS-certified wool and adores the calmness that comes from ‘repetition of movement’ while artist Dee Clements claims loom threading ‘hurts the body’ and is ‘not creative’.
Make no mistake about the weavers represented in this book. Ultimately each wants their work to be free and unencumbered by labels. Their work should be appreciated as beautiful constructs produced by mind, hand, and heart.