Sitting by the blue
Weaving, reflecting and writing.
A Master of Fine Arts in Design degree work 2016.
My first real textile encounter was hand weaving. I came to the Swedish School of Textiles in September of 2009, not knowing the difference between weaving and knitting. How the hell was I even accepted? Weaving turned out logic yet very complicated and somehow it made me feel excluded. I’ve had troubles with math since forever and now my mind kept drifting away from warp calculations and bindings. I used to tell a joke with the punch line that my creative right brain side was overcompensating the left sides lack of logical understanding. At that time, all I thought about was the cool young men in the fashion department dressed in avant-garde black tailoring from head to toe lurking around campus with beards and perfectly trimmed haircuts. No one ever paid me any attention. I was never the cool kid, I was invisible and I kind of knew it. I also knew that my attention should be focused on passing my exam in industrial weaving and weaving technique, but I could not help but being so bored I actually fell asleep during several classes. Eventually, I failed the course and moved on, at peace with my missing credits and no interest in further education or weaving of any kind. Little did I know at the time that I would end up where I am today, doing a master degree exam project. On weaving. I still remember those days sitting on the hard wooden seats yawning and sneezing due to the dusty stagnated air from the loom workshop. Warp, weft, what ever. My body was truly aching out of boredom.
It’s really ironic how things pan out, after spending so much time trying to avoid the subject of weaving I now find myself thinking about it all my waken time. How come something I hated with every fibre of my existence now sort of makes sense? Weaving obviously generates reactions and makes things happen, especially within me. What is it? What is going on? I’m not sure. I don’t even know if it’s possible to find out. However, I’m planning to try.
“The place in which any significant event occurred become embedded with some of that emotion, and so to recover the memory of the place is to recover the emotion, and sometimes to revisit the place uncovers the emotion.” 1
1 Solnit, R. (2005) A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Penguin Books, page 118
I entered this master degree project with memories of a great time and feelings of fulfilment. In a course a few months earlier I got to know about the artist Yves Klein’s work and renown persona. In my project “May all that emerges from me be beautiful, too” I had put myself in the periphery of my comfort zone by rolling around covered in colour as I questioned the role of the artist and Klein’s naked female models, aka living brushes from his series “Anthropométries” 1960. I exited said course in love, obsessed, with Yves Klein’s blue colour and I truly felt as though I had already reached the top of my creative career. Besides starting his career by claiming the blue sky was an artwork of his during a discussion with two close friends at the age of 20, Klein actually began painting with orange colours. He would eventually come to settle with a monochrome pink, gold leafs and of course the blue, which came to occupy his mind and later on define him. The blue represented the sky, which he said he visited “the side with no birds, no planes, no clouds, only pure and irreducible Space” but also the spirit, water and a world without boundaries. With his patented formula named IKB, one art critic wrote: “With this blue, Klein at last felt able to lend artistic expression to his personal sense of life, as an autonomous realm whose twin poles were infinite distance and immediate presence.”
The mere thought of starting a new project, this time the real deal, made me unhappy and a bit depressed. I now opened the door to the outer desert of idea drought. Time pass, I’m still in the desert, contained with feelings of sadness and an urge to seclude myself. Eventually a few mirages (i.e. random(?) thoughts) appear. I think I want to do something big. Preferably blue, obviously. Maybe gold, too? I am certain that Klein was right when claiming that colours like gold and blue are powerful and uplifting for the spirit. (During his exhibition “The Void” in 1957 Klein sold two immaterial pictures. The buyers paid in solid gold, which Klein later threw into the blue ocean.)
Maybe it could hang from the ceiling? Is it possible to create a big blue wall for me to hide behind, to exclude my surroundings? Yet still being able to communicate through? Is it possible to transfer this chronic heaviness of mine into work and thereby something visual?
“The places inside matter as much as the ones outside.” 2
It must be blue. This blue is my colour; this blue knows me, maybe it knows who I am and what I want better than I do? I don’t know why or how but Yves Klein and his IKB did something to me. Did they change me? Maybe. Perhaps they made it easier for me to approach myself and this heaviness I tend to harbour. I need to investigate it, both practical but also in a more upfront manner. And so, the memories of great times and feelings of fulfilment remind me of my newfound joy in writing as a tool. Okay, so perhaps I’ll write in this project, too. I’m not sure how it’s possible that I haven’t realized it sooner, perhaps because I’ve never considered myself to be a writing person, but now… now I know I must write to stay sane when meeting up with thoughts, reflections and decisions during projects. Through writing, it’s like I’ve been given the gift of insight and distance. Actually, come to think of it, haven’t I always been writing in some form? Whether it’s in the shape of an essay, nightly diary or random scribbles in a notebook. For me, text is sketching; text is clarifying and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Is there any leakage? Reflecting and writing about my work is my equivalent of putting ones bicycle tube in a bucket of water in search of bubbles. Okay, so perhaps I’m a writing person.
2 Solnit, R. (2005) A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Penguin Books, page 118
the heavy pull
I’ve been in therapy since mid-September. They tell me they think I’m close to burning myself out; that I should be on sick leave. We agree to disagree.
Everyday I carry this gentle but heavy pull in the back of my lungs, in between my shoulder blades. It resembles that same sensation you get when lying in a bathtub that is slowly drained on water; your only connection is to gravity. I’m constantly viewing my surroundings from a great distance or no distance at all. I’ve identified with this, learned to live with it and I am no longer particularly afraid of, or anxious about, it. All or nothing, on or off. Many times this mood makes me want to lie down and close my eyes as a way of slowing down all thoughts and emotions. There is an urge for me to stop the world and bring the infinite space closer. As I transport myself throughout the days I mostly remain heavy and unfulfilled like an empty glass bowl. I try to analyze; it makes me think of a dark blue liquid. Trying to escape it often times generates more trouble than ease. Staying in it is touching upon an innate hopelessness, weightlessness, timelessness and dull sounds. Not quite intense as grief, sadness or separation, I rather exist in their shadows or remains. It’s like spinning around in circles. I’m weightless yet attached. In the beginning wide, generous and undefined. Then slowly turning more concentrated, narrower, tighter, harder and strict. And then there are times when staying in this emotionally dark matter creates the truest feeling of happiness and a flood of flow washes me away. This is always as a result of my creative work; it brings me joy and hardships in a way I don’t know if I can live without. In this space of flow no time exist and heaviness is fuel and a sense of intimacy to other creators around me is strong and undeniable. Introverts can unite in the safety of their own bubble. I believe we find ourselves (and each other) in our work.
I search for a room of my own; I need seclusion, peace and quiet but I have trouble finding it. I’m drained. For quite some time now my patience has been running low, I’m tired and distracted, slow but with a racing heart and I think I need a fixed place to return to and leave as I please. One day it becomes obvious to me that weaving in a loom could offer this fixed place of work as well as a calming rhythm. Structure. It demands patience and planning and many times result in perfection. Maybe this could be my safe haven, a place for slow work and contemplation. Although it may sound as if I’m joining a convent I begin to grasp that there now is no other option. As soon as the thought of hand weaving had entered my mind all other project ideas faded. And so the irony of life strikes. I shake my head at the memories of this slow introspective and thorough craft that is weaving and my hateful struggle six years back during the spring of my first year at the textile design bachelor in Borås.
Something happens to me as I sit by the blue. I get drawn into it, loose track of perspective and my gaze embrace it. The pulse lowers and breath deepens. I listen to the voices around me, noticing every move and shifts in the atmosphere. All of the sudden I’m invisible and a sense of relief is washing over me. Finally, I am myself.
It may be difficult but each attempt to write it down is a victory when it comes to my quest for self-reflection as a method of understanding what drives the creative work forward. There are many moments when I feel so utterly sorry for myself that I’m not actually invisible. On the contrary I’m undeniably a part of this physical world. I bear a chronic longing within. What I long for seems, however, unspecified and unclear.
I’ve heard that melancholia is called a sickness of the soul. Feelings of longing, very similar to homesickness, are supposed to be very common among young women. In her book “Melankoliska rum” Karin Johannisson explain that the term melancholia could be defined in three dimensions: as a mood, an emotion and as a disease. Its colours are many times expressed as blue in shades from the brightest sapphire via dusk blue all the way down to midnight blue and eventually turning black. It could be known as anxiety, tedium, fatigue, emptiness (void) or restlessness. Themes are often lack or loss. Melancholic emotions can both create a sense of connection, a community, as well as it could work excluding and establish boundaries, something that could define and mark ones social status and reputation. In history melancholia has been one of those emotional conditions romantically described as a creative state between the light and dark, where one is continuously self-conscious and commute back and forth from a huge self-reliance to a huge self-doubt. This kind of melancholia would gradually construct a new artist identity (mainly reserved for men of high status). During the first half of the 1800s the Swedish poet and bishop Esaias Tegnér finds himself to be regularly melancholic. In letters to his friends he writes about his heavy state of mind. Parallel to his anxiety, self-doubt and obsessive thoughts regarding his own death and decay this very melancholia also offers him a deeper level of self-reflection and puts him in a chronic artistic and productive flow. I, a young woman anno 2016, am stuck somewhere. I very much identify with this heavy mindset, which every now and then appear to generate a massive artistic flow. But then I learn that this is a typically masculine melancholia and that its men, without trouble, could access their creativity through “weaknesses” and “soft sides” yet still remain masculine men, unquestioned. Creative women who had melancholic expressions would all of a sudden turn powerful and independent and thereby immediately risk their femininity and autonomy; in fact many women were directly labelled depressed. The male melancholia quickly transformed into female depression; a condition with a lower and far less elegant status. Without romanticising I want to believe that melancholia nowadays is an equal, genderless state of mind, with its equal parts of both potential suffering and creation. Only melancholia can fight melancholia. Johannisson writes: “It could be seen as a room of ones own, a room for self-reflection, a place of meditation and sensibility. It defends the immersion into the self, a body, a thought, a mood, a concern.”
Espen Hammer, a Norwegian professor in philosophy explains melancholia in an essay. I learn that melancholia easily can stick to everything that can be experienced; its possible extension has no outer limit. Anything can basically be presented as miserable, boring or depressing. Melancholia is difficult to approach; once we try to grip it, it tends to slip away. It is constantly referring us to experience, what one person is struggling with. It’s not until we know her full history, interests and dreams that we can grasp what her suffering. To understand one person’s melancholia it’s necessary to put her in a much larger context.
to observe oneself
I do stuff. I identify myself as a maker, probably more than I should. I’ve always found freedom in getting caught up in creative work. I tell others I find myself in my work, that it’s like coming home. Maybe it’s a lie. Perhaps I escape myself in my work? The purposes and goals, the search and trials…it’s my inherent need to wiggle on the balance between control and cluelessness. Putting both the mind and hands to work is about gaining knowledge either way, no matter the label, right?
Karin Johannisson’s latest book “Den sårade divan” depict case studies from the first part of the 1900’s and explain how three women, two authors and one painter, in search of their own (creative) identity, via originality and unconventional thinking, were considered mentally ill, hospitalized and thereby restricted and held back. This is part of my female history and heritage, there’s no point in trying do deny my contemporary privilege.
“How many times have people used a pen or paintbrush because they couldn’t pull the trigger?” 3
Depression is always close. It lives next door. Sometimes I even catch myself longing for it. Waiting for the dense fog to get me, or that next big wave to sweep me away for good. What I feel is sometimes similar to what Plath and Woolf felt and expressed. There is a fear of being trapped, a fear of becoming someone you’re not, fighting to stay in control, being a good girl/woman/daughter/wife/mother, productive and generous; available for everyone’s needs. Many of these roles of identification were culturally created and adapted especially for women. The good one or the untamed and wild. They’re inherited over generations and fixed to the female gender. Johannisson writes: “Alternative ways of being a woman have always included taking risks. As soon as she exceeds the normative femininity there’s always someone (every so often herself) yelling: ‘She must be crazy!’”
Like a moth to a flame I’m drawn to past women’s creative life, mind, and courage, how they challenged themselves and their surrounding relationships, societies and world by being creative producers. Common is the fact that it seems like there was no other option. To not practice is to not be alive. There is a constant urge to make, to observe, to comment, to expand. I feel it. I mourn for them and those who were and are being held back from following this particular je ne sais quoi… perhaps we could describe it as an inner calling?
We’re born without instructions of how to escape.
To take on a carefree approach to the world, to move from being the object to the subject, is more often than not considered classic masculine, thereby an attitude reserved for self claimed artistic and difficult men. In the beginning of the 1900’s it was not hard to find people who were bothered by women unwilling to stay at home and fulfil their marital and parental duties. The identity of the author or painter is permissive and contains dreams of a genius status, a role that requires a level of extrovert performance. Johannisson writes that the modern stories about creative women are cautionary tales with unavoidable tragic endings. A woman longing and searching for autonomy, integrity and a room of her own lead to catastrophes and mental breakdowns. She will eventually be punished by herself and the conclusion that follows is: If you go your own way you will probably end up committing suicide. Death is always close. Nothingness. There must be tears and restlessness. There must be doubt and despair. I need chains and stress. Otherwise, how do I know what I’m supposed to break free from? Is this is a part of the “performance”? I’m tossed between feelings of being anxious and emotionally sober enough to critically analyze what my anxiety may offer in terms of physical reactions and creative outcomes. I’m an emotionally sensitive person practicing arts and crafts, exactly what is to be expected? There is something called ill aesthetics – sjukestetik. It’s based on the general purpose of aesthetics; the principles of how art generates emotional effects. Medical science has portrayed mental illness via stereotypical appearances and behaviour, evident within literature and photography archives and somewhere in this context is also the depressed, melancholic creative genius identified. One question, however, remains: Could psychological illness/issues actively be played according to given scripts like these? Could one enter an illness identity, with all its signs, as a role or a persona? Johannisson explains that the body is triggered by the psychological act, that introspection always is present. (Is this what I’m doing?)
“There is a voluptuous pleasure in all that sadness, and I wonder where it comes from, because as we usually construe the world, sadness and pleasure should be far apart.” 4
3 Woolf, V. (2008) Selected Essays
4 Solnit, R. (2005) A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Penguin Books, page 119
I want to start in the old: find out what triggers my sense of joy and light-headedness. I want to come closer to the deep waters and that feeling of insecurity. Once again I find myself attracted to ideas that time and time again requires my trust, calm and patience.
I aim to start within myself in order to find the common and to understand this blue inside.
I’m reading the dissertation of Birgitta Nordström. She mentions the latin word “texere” and I instantly know that something falls into place. It means ‘to weave, intertwine’ and from the same root words like textile, text and context derive. Of course. Here it is, my framework. A context. My context.
“Melankolin tvingar alltså upp relationen mellan jaget och omvärlden i ljuset. Nästan alltid står den för alienation eller revolt mot det bestående. (…) Kännetecknande är böjligheten och möjligheterna; stor och liten melankoli, utåtvänd och inåtvänd, förhärjande och skapande.” 5
My own translation:
“The melancholia forces the relationship between the self and the surrounding world into the light. Almost every time it represents alienation or revolt against the already existing. Characterizing is its flexibility and opportunities: large and small melancholia, introvert and extrovert, destroying and generative.”
I want to find my own definition of textile design. I am not a product designer. I want to make an investigation based on my curiosity for process and method.
I want to travel, extend my experience and view. The view. How do I view my work, my process and myself? And my thoughts? I don’t want to lose any possible associations, references or new connections that may occur. I will try to keep my eyes open. Maybe this journal-thing would be a good thing to continue?
Everyday I try to meditate for 15 minutes but the last couple of days, maybe this entire week; it’s been difficult to focus. Where am I? My patience is gone.
So much waiting around. I did not choose this waiting; it’s merely a result of someone else’s bad planning. It keeps me isolated and captured, suffocated.
All these people and their inabilities, their zero fucks given. I must tell myself that I’m nothing but indifferent to them. They cause me this anxiety. This stress. I curse all mail inboxes, all parents and all retirees and every other sloth in my way.
I hear the loom calling my name. I need to be there. The calling is filled with guilt and shame. She is disappointed with me. I’m inadequate and fragmented.
I feel like I’m in a bloody jungle.
I think this degree project is becoming a somewhat retrospective work. I started my master by building a small loom and did some research about the Bauhaus school and the textile designer Anni Albers. Now she leads the way with a firm hand, her knowledge and heritage cast long shadows. I feel so small.
However. I feel calm when reading her thoughts on how we as humans inhabit a longing for creating with, and touching, materials.
Oh dear god this waiting. What is happening to me? Minutes, hours passing untouched. Unaccounted for.
Am I melting away? Am I still here?
Practical work is all I’m thinking about right now. I want to see concrete, obvious results. Everything else is too abstract. I can’t see it, can’t hear it, I can’t sense it in any way. This is limbo. I’ve stepped into the void.
“With the void, full powers” 6
The most frustrating thing right now is to not being able to work due to the fact that I need technical help all the time. Not only is it time consuming to wait for my turn, it’s also annoying to accept that I actually need help and guidance. I’m out of my comfort zone. I truly hate the sense of being dependent like this; my hands and ideas are tied. I can’t remember the last time I felt this frustrated, impatient and powerless. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago? As a child I longed for adulthood, I always knew childhood wasn’t for me. The older I got the more at ease I started to feel; I was no longer reduced to a child. I was no longer depending.
Patience and trust; I keep coming back to these terms. It sounds so easy. It’s not. I believe it is my lesson in life.
We’re in the wood workshop. The ground and the air around the circular saw are filled with light blue dust and snowflakes of plexi glass. Here I am; receiving help, once again dependent on someone else’s knowledge and skills – all of which I’m lacking.
I wonder why this guy is helping me out. I bought his plexi, but there’s really no need for him to help me any further. He’s kind, but why? We don’t know each other, there is no obligation, yet he put so much effort into this task of cutting my plexi I almost feel compelled to pay him for the work too. I guess kindness is underrated. Am I kind like this? What kind of a person am I? (If you’re reading this Sander, thank you very much.)
The technician appears. Checking in on us, making sure everything’s in order. Standing tall with a thick beard, perfectly trimmed haircut, having knowledge of wood with all of his fingers intact.
It’s time to stretch the warp and put everything in place. I listen. I put all of my 270 threads in the right order and I really hear what people around me are talking about. There is dominance and stupidity in their voices, acted joy and true incomprehension. Something is happening to me. I’m quiet, my chores are monotonous and it feels like a blessing. Slowly, I turn into a part of the loom, as a human I’m disappearing, dissolving. The loom is breathing, counting threads and listening. I feel authentic, like my truest self, origin. It’s nice. I recognize both happiness and lightness. This is my place: in the silence, in the contemplation. Alone.
I searched for a space and I believe I’ve found it. Virginia Woolf said it first and I join in a modest choir: “I like to have space to spread my mind out in.”
5 Johannisson, K (2009) Melankoliska rum – om ångest, leda och sårbarhet i förfluten tid och nutid. Albert Bonniers Förlag, page 30
6 Written by Albert Camus in Yves Klein’s guestbook at the opening of the exhibition Le Vide (The Void) in 1958.
Give me strength to cope with this fucking snow and its inexorable rhythm against my forehead.
I feel myself longing for the focus and total integrity of the weave and the loom. Its grand, complicated and calm vibe is hard to ignore. People passing me in the workshop look impressed, like I’m taming a wild horse. I’m not. I’m sorting threads, one by one, facing my earlier precision or my earlier laziness and ignorance. The warp, and later on the weave, is a perfect morph of past, present and future. I’m seamlessly travelling in time and its phases. Constantly aware, noticing and writing down what is happening to me, my mood and how everything is in endless change.
It’s beyond doubt an introspective work. I love it. I feed myself with it. I feel like I’m learning and improving everyday. I have so much time and space here, breathing is easy. The challenge lies in my presence. Parallel to this I find my meditation to be extremely difficult. I’m even skipping sessions; I have headaches from thinking and processing.
Five years ago we were in Rome and I was standing at Piazza Navona in brown leather shoes. The trees had oranges hanging heavy on branches. Cappucinos, pizza, laughter and Italian phrases. Vorremmo pagare separatamente. The Spanish Stairs and red wine.
Six years ago I sat in the old weaving department of the Swedish School of Textiles. I tied treadles. Here I am again, older. Other girls around me now, faces without names.
I worship this utter perfection of which weaving rely on. How could I possibly have felt so allergic to this earlier?
The girl in headphones in the loom next to me keeps dropping her shuttle. Now it falls again, for the fifth time. She sighs. I know the struggle. She wants to speed it up, get in to the rhythm. It doesn’t happen. A little disappointment, a little frustration. So she sighs. And then back at it again. Attagirl.
There it is. All of a sudden: AN ERROR. A thread have slipped, I missed its loop-eye. I made a mistake; I was tired and unfocused due to the cold I’ve been fighting for a few days. I know it happens but it causes me a great deal of anxiety. The thought of skipping the correction strikes me. I mean, is it really that big of a deal? A short while later Marianne the technician walks by and notice my slip. Apparently it is a big deal. Adjust it now or it will cause great problems later on.
During my redo I found two other mistakes. Everything’s corrected. Satisfied. Now I’m ready to weave for real. The sky is high.
I am putting in plexi as a weft. Its transparency is fascinating; both separating and including at the same time. Making everything behind it dark blue, filtered. In combination with the blue warp there is no room for any other colour or nuance. Something resembling a rhythm is growing in front of me. Stripes. The thread is a bit fuzzy, but still blue. The colour makes me feel like I’m doing something sacred. There is no turning back now, I’m thinking. I’m stuck with this.
How do I move on? I stare at it. I get sucked into it, hypnotized. Calm.
I want to experience Yves Klein in real life, beyond the stories, pictures and movies. Maybe I should paint my whole bedroom in IKB?
People around me stare at the blue as well. They say they get sucked in to it too. In to the depth. Inwards, backwards. Downwards, forwards.
Reflection is required. I’m confused and feel lost. Many of my plexi strips are damaged from cutting with the circular saw, while others are flawless. From my earlier experiments in a smaller loom I know the plexi strips must have these rugged edges to prevent them from falling out. But they look so…ugly. And the threads on the edges are under a lot of pressure.
What the hell am I doing? Either it’s going to be amazing or a total fiasco.
“God, how I ricochet between certainties and doubts.” 7
Despair now. This project must be cursed? I have no idea of what I’m looking for here. There is no rhythm or pleasure. Nothing is speaking to me, nothing is happening here. Okay. So this is the feeling of losing control.
For each new try by the loom, there is a thought, a meaning and a new rhythm. My text is growing parallel to each plexi strip that is put between the threads. I feel insecure all the time. Each strip is shortening my time and my warp. Onwards.
I’m digging and my chest is getting hollow. For each new sentence and each new weft I shrink temporary and then expand again. There is an endless source of words, thoughts and feeling to go along. This is rhythm. I cave, replace and start again. This is living, this is weaving, this is writing, too. I realize I carry my rhythms with me wherever I go: the heartbeats, the breaths and blinking of eyes. My inner heaviness is present and blue. I’m in it and all movements are slow like under water.
To write I must stay in this. It’s easy not to, and hard to stop.
This is a double-sided and constantly spinning coin.
I am so tired. Sick of everything. The thin golden thread is driving me insane, testing my patience like nothing else. It spins, breaks, and gets caught in the shuttle in between the warp threads in some mystical braid. I’m ashamed to admit it but I’ve thrown so many coils away because I crushed them in my hand out of pure anger and frustration. They are filled with thread but completely useless. Sometimes I give the shuttle slightly too much speed, it’s shot through the warp and it ends up at the floor. Those moments are extremely annoying. Sometimes I’ve been close to tears. It’s like the loom is calling my bluff, making sure I’m always aware of the fact that my level of weaving skills are fairly unprofessional. So I sigh.
My mind is tired. Always reflecting, thinking, being continuously alert and I’m never really alone. Simon is working at home for a few weeks and our routines are on collision course. People constantly surround me and all I really want to surround myself with is emptiness and silence.
Perhaps I don’t possess my own time.
“All I want is blackness. Blackness and silence.” 8
There is information to gather in the unknown, in secrets. Each new decision carries a space with them; I think it’s a tiny loophole for hesitation, a sliding doors-moment. When weaving I’m attending the past, the present and the future and somewhere in this unseen space thoughts and weave grow. Words connect, associations run free. The mental highway is open.
The material is handing me information. Investigating the making.
For most of the time I feel like I’m totally alone, but when I talk about it all it makes sense, that this is not isolated in any way. Artistic expressions like literature has a function to open up my own experiences to others and this will break isolation. Sources of literature allow me, as the creator, to build images of my own. They trigger the craft. Association, memories and inspiration make up the inner life and everything that leaves me is filtered through this and then dependent on the arts and craft as an outlet.
What drives me? I know I want to be a better textile designer and create a bigger awareness of what I bring into this world and this might include going on a slight detour by taking the road less travelled. Is that really enough? All these questions are piling up, they make me nervous. I probably won’t pass this course. Like the first time I touched upon weaving, I failed. Maybe weaving is dedicated to fail me? I am an educated designer and I’ve realized I don’t care much for the finished products in the end. Why am I so hung up processes and methods and thoughts! Do they matter at all?
They ask us to cover up the windows,
the morning is on its way and must be hidden.
Thousands of meters above the ground I float,
my heart is light
for I am closer to the Lord and those mine.
Thousands of meters above Russian ground,
I now share the air with people of the world
and we all have scars made of yearning.
I look out, the night is still both king and queen,
ruling only with darkness
and I am without a doubt nothing but a peasant in this kingdom.
Thousands of meters above white and orange tiny lights,
they create shadows for everyone but me
for I am now part of the Lord’s eternal space.
Below me now
both greenery and ice,
mountains and trees.
Below me now: Tikhvin.
I think I know what I’m doing. I think I’ve finally grasped it and found all the right words and the right order to explain it:
I want to weave because I want to use the act of weaving as a medium to enter my melancholia. Weaving is coming down to earth, touching ground by being a body at work, to be concentrated. For me, weaving is a state of mind and it generates a state of melancholia. In the state of melancholia I am connected to others but still free. The melancholia allows me to let go of all things unnecessary; it allows the wind of the mind to both settle and sway. I want to investigate the transition of forcing oneself from one mindset to another. I want to find out whether it’s possible to do all of this while also remaining distant and observing myself. This is the room I’ve been searching for. The result of this will be visual and obvious in the loom and in my chronological text, considered as traces I left. The text will offer me a private room in addition to the mental space of creativity and melancholia; where my place and my coordinates will be clear. Where my voice and my thoughts hopefully will find a home, context and purpose outside of me.
“We fly; we dream in darkness; we devour heaven in bites too small to be measured.” 9
When people ask me about my project I answer that I weave and write. That it’s an investigation of what’s happening within the weaver. In turn, it’s also an investigation of how a reflective person might function. An investigation of my modus operandi. (I love that term; modus operandi. Makes me feel like a spy.)
I have entered a maze.
- Where is my red thread?
- It doesn’t exist. It’s blue.
The writing has become an organ of its own: living, demanding support. How am I supposed to make all of this work? All along I’m standing, oscillating, at the edge of this massive mountain. Down below are the future and the bottom.
Drills, trucks and all this noise. It cuts me and my focus into tiny pieces. I crumble.
The air is high. Inside me the abyss. Another day to live. I don’t like springtime.
This headache never leaves.
Making is thinking.
All these women around me. Educated, smart, fascinating women. They return to the loom, over and over again. What are they thinking? What do they listen to while working? How do they view themselves as weavers? I’ve been inside my own head so much I’m suddenly struck with the urge to understand other weavers.
7 Plath, S. (1982) The journals of Sylvia Plath. Anchor Books, page 78
8 Plath, S. Unknown source.
9 Solnit, R. (2005) A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Penguin Books, page 176
I’m an academic genius.
My thoughts bounce against the brick wall that is my future. Opaque. One moment I’m stressed beyond words, the next I’m completely still and calm.
About a week ago I sent out ten questions regarding weaving to three different women. I think I wanted to locate myself by using women with much bigger experience of weaving as coordinates. The questions were written down quite fast in the haze of work pleasure and pure curiosity. Even so, I’m wondering if these questions were naïve to ask. Is it possible to summarize ones practice? If so, why do it? Is it possible to understand what drives someone to keep coming back and develop? If so, how? I feel like a fool, almost as if I need to apologize.
Something that stuck with me was a comment in an email from Birgitta Nordström. By looking at my asked questions it was obvious to her that I view weaving as a state of mind. (PAUSE FOR CURTAINS TO DROP) Of course I do. How could I’ve not realized that myself? It’s written in big blinking letters on my forehead. The true answer may lie within the fact that I’m just a visitor in the world of weaving and its different phases and stages. I’m not resident. I haven’t learned the codes of conduct.
I’ve come to understand that despite the rich symbolic gestures of weaving, and the fact that humankind has been weaving for 8000 years, there’s no one right or wrong way to approach it or view it or relate to it. There is no “weaving type”. Not one weaving brain. Anni Albers wrote “On weaving” in 1965. By that time she could see how much the industry had begun to turn their attention to hand weaving for inspiration and new design ideas (already in 1965! This way of working is not new!). Parallel to this hand weaving was also common as occupational therapy and rehabilitation for its great possibilities to free the practitioner from educational or artistic purposes. Weaving is dealing with, and controlling, a submissive material and about building a whole from small entities. For some it’s nothing but hard physical work, for others it’s the passion of life that will make everything okay, no matter what. Some use it to access difficult thoughts in their own pace and others view the process of weaving as a hobby or meditation. It could also be used to comment on gender perspectives by weaving explicit images of female porn stars, like the Brooklyn-based feminist artist Erin M Riley.
Next to me in the workshop a young woman is on the phone. On Swedish English she’s talking about “open relationships” and her voice is anxious. I can’t help but relate her discussion to weaving and the weaving society. Sometimes I interpret it to be excluding and hierarchic with openness that’s only an illusion. Am I an intruder? Am I only allowed permission in to this place by the grace of charity or the democracy protected by the guards of the university?
The other day I painted 304 golden lines. They transform the weave to armour.
Yesterday I had hubris and feelings of invincibility. Today I’m paranoid with a lot of anxiety. Question of the day is: what is weaving induced and what is… me being me?
The following text is from a Beach House-song called Levitation from the album Depression Cherry. It depicts a fine moment of how weaving is like a dialogue:
You and me with our long hair on the gold wall
After midnight we could feel it all
I'd go anywhere you want to
You should see there's a place I want to take you
When the train comes I will hold you
‘Cause you blow my mind
On the bridge levitating ‘cause we want to
When the unknown will surround you
There is no right time
There is no right time
The branches of the trees
They will hang lower now
You will grow too quick
Then you will get over it
The branches of the trees
They will hang lower now
There's a place I want to take you
When the unknown will surround you
Were you high when they knocked on the door looking for you
Take my hand as our bodies lift up slowly
I woke up with a headache. I had several nightmares and when I got off the tram I found it difficult to separate what had happened in my dreams and what had happened the past week while I was awake.
I enter the fibre workshop; it’s empty and dark. I decide to not turn on the lights. In the shady space there’s no daylight and so the blue plexi strips appear black. Around me doors are opening and closing. Voices, high and low. People who wear indoor slippers scuff around against the tiled floor.
I don’t know how to weave today.
The golden strokes are replacing moments that no longer exist. Anonymous in a row, experienced and outdated.
“For most of history, anonymous was a woman.” 10
I untie my shoes and let my feet meet the treadles. The headache peels off layers of insecurity and anxiousness about what other people may think of my questions, my project or me. The headache makes me understand that they mean nothing to me. I am indifferent.
The sun rise above the city, light is now everywhere. I know all these places and finally I’m on my own. I’ve always loved to be alone and I believe I’ve mapped out my emotional behaviour when left on my own device at home. My alone time consists of three main phases. First, there is the feeling of being left out; like I didn’t choose this myself - it rather just happened to me. This phase is very antsy and restless. I might even change my mind and consider going to that party/dinner/etc anyway. If I get through this part, the creativity awakens. If I’m lucky time will fly away and music, no matter the volume, will never match the sounds and pace of my inner rumble. This part is fairly short and pretty manic; afterwards it feels like my brain has been burnt out. Heaviness and sorrow might follow, or just sleepiness. And then, separation from the civilian begins. When I lived alone in Borås I could stay in my apartment for three or four days straight, and I could experience both grand ideas as well as grand angst. Eventually I knew I had to socialize and return to society. Afterwards I felt great. It was my own little catharsis.
I painted a part of the warp golden. It creates an illusion of a fog. Or clouds. Or hay on a meadow in the wind. The transition is beautiful, colours rising and fading vertical, get caught up by the same thread as in the warp. One above, one underneath in a rhythmic plain weave. And slowly, the blue colour takes over. Like that twilight moment when the sun finally gives up and surrender itself to the infinite blue. Traces of airplanes coloured by the sunset and pollution. Streaks of colour.
The symbolism and imagery is constant, always present. My thoughts travel on towards the ocean and the rhythmic waves crashing on the beach. The sand briefly dry, the water withdraws and then almost immediately: a new wave. The shore is always there.
“I live; I die; the sea comes over me; it’s the blue that lasts.” 11
I let go of my rules. I ignore that I now went beyond my rhythm of 4 centimetres or 4 woofs. I continue forward, into the blue.
The rhythm. Pulling the boom against my chest and letting my feet wander over the treadles. Total control. Everything is easy. It grows fast in front of me now, the end is near. I can see the warp ends.
It took me a few metres to unite and find my own place. It was closer than I could imagine. It was inside of me.
Today I found a tiny, tiny bit of blue plexi glass in the corner of my eye.
“I am a victim of introspection.” 12
My fatigue is convenient. I’m sick of weaving, the honeymoon is over. This ferocious introspection is exhausting. The end of the warp is getting closer and it’s time to plan the finish. My impatience has returned. I only want to sleep, I don’t want to sit here in this ugly workshop and trace every thought and every feeling and write down all these words spinning around. I’m sick of everything except the blue colour.
What did I contribute with? What will I leave behind? How do I know if I lost or kept my original idea? What am I interested in, seriously? What the hell did I invest all this time in?
A few hours later. I’m in front of the weave and I feel like a complete stranger. I don’t know what the next step is. There is a massive resistance, heavy and persistent. Strangeness like in the beginning, not aware of the process or the potential. (Did the feeling ever leave?) Now I stand before the end and I’m afraid of what it became. I’m afraid of all the days that passed here and the choices I made.
I took myself to a new place, to a new method filled with uncertainty and insecurity. I fought with tenacity and conviction. Doubts and doubts and doubts. I’ve been weaving in the blind, unable to look at it as wholeness in order to make better future decisions. Unable to make any changes. To weave is to stand by your choices. The previous outcomes are rolled up and left in the hidden, only available when everything is over. The future is in constant flux. I search for acceptance, I really need to find it and apply it.
The day before yesterday I received my eighth scholarship. I feel grateful and happy, but most of all I’m surprised. I could never have imagined that there was so much support out there for me to finish this master.
I have three strips of plexi left. How should they be integrated with their friends? In which order will they make the most of it? What do they wish to be surrounded with? Gold? Blue? Plain weave or panama?
It’s time to wrap this up. Outside rain is falling after many days of sun and clear skies. I love the rain and all the expectations that disappear.
Everything has been about saying goodbye. This is farewell to an era and my known context. Hand weaving and its struggles, resistances and rhythm was my first and will be my last.
I put the last strip of plexi in its place to music by Johannes Brahms, someone told me he was the most melancholic of all composers.
The last section will be big and golden. A burning sun on the deep blue horizon.
I took the weave down. It’s unbelievably heavy.
It’s a monster.
I rolled out the weave. I felt very underwhelmed when I saw it in one piece. It was not as long as I thought it would be. The golden elements didn’t seem to belong and all colours were a bit off. Threads hung loose.
I’m uncertain of what is what, since my refrigerator broke down yesterday and my headache remains. Maybe these external circumstances can excuse the weave and its underwhelming effect on me.
Well. It is what it is. I rolled it up again, quickly, afraid that my critical eyes were corrosive.
“I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me. I am arch, gay, languid, melancholy by turns. I am rooted, but I flow. All gold, flowing that way, I say to this one ‘Come’.” 13
Today I read Anni Albers’ book “On designing” and found a section that I would like to dedicate and send to past-Therese, in the evening of Wednesday April 6th, when her head was spinning: “In all learning today dependence on authority plays a large part, because of the tremendous field of knowledge to be covered in a short time. This often leaves the student oscillating between admiration and uncertainty, with the well-known result that a feeling of inferiority is today common both in individuals and in whole nations.“
I’m sad and tense. I don’t want to let go.
I’ve bought paper for this essay to be printed on. The journal entries will be printed on a structured off-white paper with a raw edge, to flirt with the impression of an old diary. The other chapters will be printed on an “Svenskt arkiv”-watermarked paper for a more documentary and proper feeling to it. Each chapter will have a thin, transparent cover page for the text and thoughts to be filtered through, it’s what I imagine it looks like inside my head; layers of text tightly packed together on transparent paper, endlessly stacked on each other. In the store I was told that these coversheets would absorb grease from the hands touching it. Even better, I’d love to have concrete evidence that papers with thoughts have been scrolled, read and perhaps entered someone else’s mind. And the cover will be in a shiny gold. (There was no paper Klein-blue enough.)
Today is my names-day.
I’ve decided that this will be my last day of writing a journal. I’m feeling many things but I suspect none of it is relating to either the weaving or writing process anymore.
This is good-bye.
10 Woolf, V. (2007) Selected Works of Virginia Woolf. Wordsworth Editions Limited, page 594.
Original quote is: “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without
signing them, was often a woman” From “A room of one’s own”.
11 Woolf, V. (1982) Melymbrosia. Cleis Press Inc., page 42
12 Plath, S. (2000) The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. Random House Inc. page 76
13 Woolf, V. (2014) Delhpi Complete Works of Virginia Woolf. Delphi Classics, unnumbered page
This spring I’ve been struggling with my commute between the two cities that has been practical work in the loom and the role of the observer, analyst and writer. During Easter in March I went to Tokyo and was blown away by new impressions and I got a much-needed break from myself. It was like waking up and stepping into the actual world again, after spending time in my comatose state of introspection. When I returned I got to view my work with rested eyes.
I have been playing a lot of Candy Crush Saga on my iPhone for tension relief. By mid-April I luckily returned to my routine of meditating, maybe not everyday but frequently enough. In a manifesto I wrote in the beginning of the project I was determined to not leave any healthy routines out. Proper food, exercise and quality sleep would be of utter importance to make this whole thing work out, although my therapist has been shaking her head. Honestly, I’m tired. And never not doubting.
Every thought, quote or note has first been written down in Swedish by hand in my black notebook, where journal entries has been mixed with to do-lists, ugly drawings and random words or information. Later on, everything has been transferred into a digital document in which I’ve translated myself to English. I’ve tumbled around in the past, present and future not only when weaving, but also when writing, reading, translating and re-writing myself over and over. It’s been difficult to stay alert and attentive to each twist and turn, especially when reading Karin Johannisson’s books and all associations and interesting connections almost would blow every fuse in my brain.
Not once or twice, but probably a hundred times I’ve asked myself what the relevance of this is. Many times I’ve been afraid that I’ve lost myself somewhere along the way and sometimes I’ve had to censor my observations from profanity. Depending on mood and energy the answers and the self-confidence certainly may differ. Even so, this has been a sanctuary for me to be in. I’ve never been as allowing towards myself like I have these last months. I’ve stopped apologizing for my thoughts, questions and emotions. I’ve accepted my anxieties; I kind of had to, since I decided to use them as fuel. I’ve allowed myself to be, to fall into place. I’ve crafted my way out of my exhaustion. And I’ve never been so angry, happy, sad, tired, committed, invisible and invincible all at once. Well, maybe not at once, but you know…
“Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me.” 14
14 Plath, S. (2000) The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. Random House Inc. page 9