On Monday October 26th Wendy Garrity took the audience on a weaver's journey through Bhutan. Few places could be as attractive for a weaver - for Bhutan has enshrined weaving as a national treasure.
The evening was introduced by Toby Smith. We received requests to post her comments and so here they are.
There’s lots of opinions. There is some remarkable stupidity.
Such as the art historian who writes that modern craft is just a hobby, like collecting baseball cards. Well, I’ve been actively studying hand weaving for ten years now. I read everything I can find. I have taken about 30 workshops and courses. I go to weaving conferences. I belong to study groups and a large studio. I weave hundreds of samples. But I’m just a baby beginner weaver. I know nothing and my weaving is full of inexactitudes. Honestly, not to besmirch card collecting, but I think after ten years, I’d have had the whole baseball card thing down by now.
Moving on, there are more interesting writers in the philosophy of craft. Sociologist Richard Sennett refers to what he calls Craft Time. This is time slowed down as the craftsman achieves a synthesis between hand, eye, brain, and materials that takes decades to achieve. It requires total absorption and engagement.This mindful practice of one’s craft is a kind of contemplation on materials. This is craft as a form of meditation. It is, in a way, its own spiritual practice. Be it fibre, clay, wood, glass, or metals, it is a slow business, this learning a craft to the master level. There may be Master Baseball Card Collectors, but I doubt it.
The expert manipulation of materials is as important as other knowledge. In the realm of High Art you can be a famous artist without having to master the craft of actual material production. You don’t even have to know how to draw. You can have famous ideas. I’m thinking here of Marcel Duchamp’s famous sculpture called “Fountain”, one of the icons of 20th century art. It was a men’s urinal laid on its back. You can’t get away with that in craft. [Strangely, that piece has been lost.]
Master craft is a deep thing. All cultures have had it since the beginning of time. It is something that connects us to human history in as real a way as DNA. Every time we practice craft, we perpetuate our humanity. It is a small victory of the human over the electronic.
Understand this. As you watch Wendy Garrity’s images of Bhutanese weavers, remember it is not just the weaver’s product that is important. The practice is a thing in itself. It is a state of being and as much the expression of cultural belonging and Self as it is the vehicle for production. No toilets masquerading as art here; this is Craft Time.
Wendy Garrity comes to us from Perth, Australia. She has a Bachelor of Music Education and a Masters in Music Performance. She has been playing the flute since she was 16 and continued to play and teach until 2010 when she felt the need for a career break.
Wendy Garrity’s interest in textiles and weaving began as a child, when her mother taught her to knit and sew, and her grandmother taught her to weave. She loves the mental work-out of creating something, negotiating the puzzle of colour, shape, and design.
Wendy’s textile travels began with three fabric purchases in Thailand in 2001. Interested to find out more about them, she researched who made them and how. You can find out more on her terrific website called Textile Trails. This refers both to the geographical trails and to the research trails Wendy follows as she explores the textiles that fascinate her. After she finds out how the textiles are made, she goes to see this process herself. Often she is able to interact with local artisans and learn these techniques, as in Bhutan. While Wendy is interested in all textile production, she is particularly drawn to local weaving and dyeing activities. On her website she includes a great Resources page with books and websites for further information.
Wendy also travels all over the world giving workshops and presentations on the techniques and cultures she has encountered. She is teaching two workshops in the Maiwa Symposium. Wendy is someone who understands the contemplative nature of craft and she has seen how its spirit inhabits the world’s textiles and their cultures.
Please welcome Wendy Garrity.