Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Nurtured Nature

Last night, after my Wednesday night yoga hour and before the premiere of Top Chef, I was finishing up a special Thanksgiving-inspired crocheted item while watching an amazing documentary on PBS called Weaving Worlds. This incredible piece of television had the same impact (if not more) on my creative psyche as another PBS miniseries, Craft in America.

Weaving Worlds tells the story of Navajo rug weavers (who are also shepherds, shearers, mini fiber mills and spinners) and their role within the collectibles market. Through interviews and oral histories, the film gives an intimate look at current dilemmas facing Navajo weavers as well as the relationship between wool production, spinning, weaving and the family dynamic. Not only was this hour docu-journey fascinating from a pure process standpoint and how Navajo weavers have supported themselves via wool, but its emphasis on the female collective, a family's shared experience of growing, tending, making was inspirational.

Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about the roll of fiber/yarn/fabric in my own existence, which since the age of seven has been a fairly significant aspect of what makes me, me. Those of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time know that I learned how to knit, crochet and sew from my maternal grandmother as a young girl. Looking back, I know now that my inescapable interest in what my Nana would do with her fingers, a few metal tools and some string has not ceased. In fact, I venture to say, that my interest in fiber and all of its derivative processes has well surpassed the interest stage, the whole fuzzy tangle becoming embedded in my genetic make-up. Or maybe, just maybe, I was predisposed to become a fiber fanatic. Maybe this fiber obsession is a recessive gene, that skipped a generation (my mother and her siblings) and appeared in my DNA strand just waiting for the right moment to bloom.

So, was the fact that I was inexplicably drawn to my Nana's fiber rituals nature or nurture?

Watching Weaving Worlds brought the question above to light for me. In the film one of the women profiled, who happens to hold a Masters Degree in Linguistics, decided to return home to her reservation in Arizona with her family because she needed, desired, to work with her hands, tend her sheep, process the wool from her flock, spin the fleece into yarn and finally weave the results of her labor of love into woolen works of art, just as her mother and her grandmother had done before her. She described her decision to leave the world outside the boundaries of the reservation for her current fiber-focused life as something she felt she was destined to do. Further, she said that weaving, working with wool, was in her blood, in short, who she is and who she wants to be.

I understand this statement to the depths of my soul.

I spin yarn. I weave yarn. I knit and crochet yarn. I sew fabric. I spend hours each day making stitches and loops because this is who I am and, even more importantly, who I always want to be. I don't know that my Nana thought this deeply, or contemplated the meaning at all, about why her fingers were constantly moving amongst the backdrop of baskets filled with yarn, thread and projects galore, but I do know that she too was drawn to everything fiber, delighted in it, worked at it every day as she was masterful with string. Her daily fiber practice may have had its genesis in necessity (as it did for many in her generation), but eventually became much more meaningful to her. This is the aspect of making, working with fiber, that holds me in sway and hasn't skipped a generation this time round as evidenced by the fact that my daughter is undeniably drawn to the ways of wool despite her current state of teen angst. Although she's foregone her daily acts of crochet in favor of endlessly texting and chatting online with her friends, I do occasionally find her fondling the omnipresent cakes of yarn scattered about the house. When I walk up beside her in one of those moments to ask her if she's interested in using the object of her attention in a project, she usually replies, "Not now Mom, but this yarn is really cool."

I have faith that eventually my ever creative daughter come back to our shared fuzzy space. After all, yarn is in our blood.


Treasure Ann said...

I stumbled across your blog, and find it very interesting. I'm a crocheter, and love it. Glad to see a blog about a hobby I like to do.

Anonymous said...

Hi Re! Not only do you turn exquisite fiber, you also master the essay form in this beautiful post. Love ya!

Vicky aka Stichr said...

My parents were/are both artists, but dad did drawing and painting and mom did drawing and pottery. I threw my pot into thread usage. My brother is still trying to find where his thread goes, even as he approaches 60. I feel for him because he is the only one of us who hasn't found his 'art' spot. I should suggest weaving to him, as he has tried the welding, woodcarving, "manly" sort of crafts.

Caroline B said...

I come from a family of artists/craftspeople - painters, a potter, skilled knitters &'s all like second nature to me & my children have gone the same way. It's an intrinsic part of who we are.

Natty said...

I have seen some of your works before but now i saw your blog on Craftzine. I decided to come tell you "in person" or better in blog (lol) how i enjoy your crochet, knit and loom work. Congratulations!
I invite you to come to my blog as well

Much love and blessings

Natalie said...

Beautiful post with well woven words. Thank you for sharing.

Gege Crochet said...

Hello mi-lady (ha! I'm punny! or just dorky...either or...). I have seen your stuff on the 'ville and really enjoy your creativity and wit. I've got some Native blood running through my veins and I've often wondered if that's where at least some of my creativity and love of fiber stems from. I'd love to catch a re-airing of this special- it sounds very inspiring. Great post!