Sunday, November 22, 2009

Talking about design, and things

A few years ago, a group of spinners and weavers from my South Jersey Guild launched a design challenge after a field trip to see a museum exhibit. Over the next few months, we got together every 4-6 weeks to share our progress and get feedback from our design guru, Kathy Remsa. Kathy designs high end upholstery fabric for one of the few remaining textile mills in the US.

We had so much fun with the project that we continued to meet as a design study group. Kathy took us back to school with design theory and lots of exercises to practice the concepts. About a year later, we decided to focus our periodic discussions on our particular design challenges, promising at each meeting to accomplish another step toward our goals before the next time.

The group has dwindled to four. Betsy focuses on her designs for tapestry weaving. Meg has returned to quilting for the time being, though she said she plans to get back into weaving very soon. Kathy is interested in pushing the limits beyond weaving to what she can do to the fabric once it’s off the loom. She also keeps us apprised of the challenges of her job and the next big things coming in design. I share whatever’s next on the loom, and for the past several months I’ve been thinking about the Certificate of Excellence Level II from the Handweavers Guild of America. I earned the Level I COE in October 2008, and I’ve been tossing around a couple of ideas. I think I have landed on a good one, and the next step will be preparing the study outline for submission to HGA.

Today was the last meeting I’ll have with the group probably for some time, as plans for sutherland and the classes I’ll be teaching there in January will limit my trips back to New Jersey. This experience has been so valuable for me. We’ve become good friends, and our discussions usually include recaps about our families and lives outside weaving. But the most important benefit of this group is that it keeps us all moving forward toward specific goals, especially knowing that our friends will be holding us accountable for our progress.

That was part of the thinking behind what Barb and I are calling “Web Chats AT sutherland.” We want to host small groups of WNC weavers a couple of times a month to discuss our design challenges, get feedback on ideas, troubleshoot problems and share ideas for future projects. These “chats” will start Jan. 11. I’m looking forward to getting to know the talented weavers in and around Asheville and making more close weaving friends. I just wish I didn’t have to say goodbye to those in Jersey.

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