This will be a really brief post. I am exhausted, and have had three glasses of wine, and am not sure that I can even type straight. Since I am teaching back to back classes with no break, my choice, I haven’t been able to get a break to see any of the exhibits or shows, or visit the vendors, or grab a couple of minutes to myself. And that isn’t really a problem, I am actually here to work, so there are no complaints on my part.
The classes today went really well, I didn’t get any pictures, so you will have to be satisfied with words. This morning, I gave a tour of the fashion show, static, which means that the garments worn in the show last night were on display gallery style, and I gave a technical critique of “behind the seams” which discussed construction decisions and design choices, and really helps the participants make better choices as garment designers. I started doing this kind of seminar at Convergence in Cincinnati in 2000, and I’ve done it many many times since, at many different conferences, and each time, it is different because it is given based on the body of work in front of me. Other than previewing the work there is no prep, the seminar is given totally off the cuff, and invites interaction between me and the seminar participants. The real difference this time, was the fact that I was one of the jurors. So I had a different role to play here, and one that invited even more feedback, especially when I explained how differently I would have judged many of the pieces if I had seen the actual fashion show before I wrote my comments.
So I talked about the garments for three hours, everyone was a great sport, asking a lot of questions, and challenging me to think up better ways to do things. I grabbed a quick lunch, and then relocated to a different building on campus, and began my afternoon seminar, which was a wonderful follow-up, a seminar on photographing your work. You can imagine how enlightening this seminar was, I had about 20 students, and there were a lot of questions. Some of the participants sent me their images of their work ahead of time and I was able to load them into my computer and then critique them after the presentation. It was a great learning experience for all of us.
I had a couple of minutes to catch the special exhibit installed in one of the rooms in the large, glass campus center. BFA and MFA candidates from UMass Dartmouth and RISD, had works on exhibit, it was a wonderful show, full of narrative works, and a refreshing treat from the traditional weaving that makes up the core of the handweaving community in New England.
We have had a lot of discussions over lunches and dinners about the handweaving tradition in New England. And it is with great respect that I say, that the handweaving community of New England is about preserving the tradition of the craft of handweaving. They are technically the most proficient of all the handweavers I encounter around the United States, and the tradition of handweaving is critical to their existence. You won’t find felting or basketry, or any other fiber discipline at this conference. This is the New England Weavers Seminar, and there are ONLY handweavers here at the conference. If they work in any other fiber discipline, that work is saved for another venue. It was amazing to see how many of those who entered work in the fashion show, used historical drafts. Many from the 1700-1800’s. There is a real sense of history and tradition in the New England States, and I have to say I have a new found respect for the passion of the tradition here. One of the specific criteria I had for judging the fashion show, was the timeless endurance of the piece, will it be around for generations to come?
I had many meals and discussions with some of the faculty of this conference, it is always great to get to know some of them in a more personal way. Jan Doyle and I were two of the three jurors of the fashion show, and we sat at breakfast one morning just talking about our professional lives. Jan is a professor, sadly I can’t remember what college she teaches at, it must be the wine, but I do remember her inviting me to join her teacher’s union. She called it the CEA Teacher’s Union. CEA is an Acronym for “Can’t Eat Accolades”. We talked about how hard it was to get a fair wage for what we do, to eek out some kind of living, and that lines on the resume don’t necessarily pay the grocery bills. We had a great laugh together.
Tonight’s closing keynote address was given by Betsy Blumenthal who did a wonderful presentation covering handweaving over the last forty years. She is a little older than I am, and started weaving a bit before me, but not by much. She did a lot of homework for this presentation, starting with, and interspersing slides of publications from every year from the 1960’s to present. In between those images were those of her work, and her growth as a textile artist/handweaver, and those of her contemporaries, including myself, Betsy had asked for slides or images from us ahead of time, and it was all woven together into a great retrospective of contemporary handweaving.
I ran into Leslie, the woman from my inkle weaving class, the first day of the conference, who fell off the curb and seriously sprained her ankle, but managed, in the true spirit of a handweaver, to finish my class. She is still at the conference, and doing well, getting around on her crutches, and looking forward to my Color and Inspiration Class tomorrow.
Silly me, I knew I couldn’t keep it short….
And, note to my husband, if you are reading this, I seriously need a NetBook, that weighs nothing, and an LCD projector that weighs even less. I have disclocated shoulders from carrying around a 40 pound bag of electonic equipment from building to building and then back to the parking garage at the other end of campus…