When I sit at the loom and throw the shuttle back and forth, I have plenty of time to think as the cloth grows.
Today I’m thinking about the fact that the towels I’m weaving don’t look like the painting that inspired my color choices. And that gets me thinking about my creative process.
Many months ago, a painting called Twilight by Emily Mitchell caught my eye at the café where I like to write. I was drawn to the blues, greens and oranges and to the unusual trees and sloped houses.
As I stared at the painting, I jotted down color names, translating what I saw in the painting into the hues of cotton on my studio shelves. At home I played around with the colors and on my next trip to the café, I photographed the painting.
I put the tubes of cotton away and stashed the printed photo in a pile of papers.
Months later, I came across the photo and tried again. Once again, I pulled lots of colors off the shelf and twisted threads together. This time something clicked and I landed on light orange, rust, kiwi and peacock.
Now these four colors are on my loom and as I weave, I’m struck by the fact that none of the variations I’ve chosen to weave say “Twilight” to me. This is not the first time I’ve drifted from my source of inspiration.
I never intend to duplicate something I’ve seen. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. The painting – or wildflowers, rock walls, or clouds – is a jumping off point. It gets me thinking about color combinations.
I could have started with the idea to create towels called “Twilight.”
However, when I consider this possibility, I feel my body constrict. Doubts and questions surface. How would I go about creating such towels? What if, when I’m finished weaving, the towels don’t read “Twilight” to me? How will I feel?
My mind drifts back to the time I enrolled in a nature drawing class. I grew so stressed about whether my sketch looked like the maple tree in front of me that I dropped the class.
Maybe this is why I’m not big on setting goals. I would likely get focused on the goal and forget to follow my curiosities and, if necessary, set a new goal.
As I continue throwing the shuttles back and forth, I realize that whether I use the Twilight painting to inspire my color choices or decide to weave towels called “Twilight”, I have to make decisions about weave structure, warp and weft colors, and stripe sequences.
However, working with the open-endedness of not having an endpoint in mind, enables me hold my choices more lightly. I experience fewer judgments and fears and enjoy the journey. I can approach the inevitable what-the-hell-was-I-thinking moments with curiosity. I can revel in the process of discovery as the towels unfold and delight in the finished pieces. This is what weaving is about for me.
I get up, stretch and let this new understanding of my creative process settle in my heart. As I wind bobbins for the next towel, it occurs to me: What if I approach life as an open-ended project, a creative experiment?
When I consider embracing life this way, I feel my body relax and open to possibility. I can hold my decisions more lightly. I can let go of judgments and fears and enjoy the journey. I can approach the inevitable what-the-hell-was-I-thinking moments with curiosity. I can revel in the process of discovery as life unfolds.
My invitation to you: Do you like to work towards a specific goal? Do you prefer a more open-ended approach? I’d love to hear what works for you.
P.S. I decided to call these towels Point B — Point A being the painting. I’m curious to see what Point C looks like!
Towel photo credit: Lynne Graves