By Dani Dias
What to do, or not do, when going through an artist block
Have you ever hit an artist block? That awful, almost stifling feeling that happens when you, the artist, can’t seem to produce—or even entertain the thought of creating a single piece of art. It’s that virginia-woolf-like-moment where you’re wondering ‘fie, whereto hast’ all my creativity forth-gone’ (or at least I like to imagine that’s what she’d say).
I know that this does not happen to everyone. Case in point: my mom. That lady can get up every day and start a new project at the drop of a crochet pin. But I believe my art is directly tied to my emotions (yah, yuck—I’m that kind of artist). It can be a good thing! Once *inspired* …there’s nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing stopping me. Food—who needs that! Sleep—that’s for the weak! I believe this is where my ‘binge weaving’ habit stems from. Because once I feel that wave of inspiration I know I must fully embrace and ride it for all it’s worth. A surreal “I-want-to-feel-creative-forever” sort of feeling. It completely rushes over me, and I let that energy flow and freely produce whatever wonder it decides to bring.But.
But when that flow of creativity clogs up, things can get rough. Man—do those creative droughts stink. I recently had a weaving drought that I had absolutely no clue how to get out of. Have you had those artist blocks? One where you absolutely cannot seem to move past?
The evolution of my thoughts during my block? “Maybe I just need to take a break….Have I hit a plateau? Did I even spell plateau correctly? Actually, I think this may just be it—I’ve reached my creative ceiling, IT’S BECOMING HARD TO BREATHE, WHERE ARE MY IDEAS—I’m done for…over. Elizabeth, I’m coming home!”
Again, to artists like my mother this is a completely foreign concept. And I ask you to comment below and let me in on the secret. Because I’m gonna call it—this past block, this drought, may have been my worst to date. I tried all of my usual tricks, and none seemed to kick it in the pants and make it go away. I *do* know that since being diagnosed with a chronic illness—MS, I have learned that stress does quite a number on the creative part of my brain. I’m not sure if my brain goes into “safe mode” and shuts off every part that does not have to do with survival and general everyday functions (eating, mom-ing). If I hit a certain level of stress or distress GONE is my ability to create, gone is my ability to express myself in any form of artistry. And let’s just say that my stress level the past oh, 5-6 months has been on level 11. In fact, even the super smart doctor community details how stress ‘kills’ creativity.
So for my fellow emotionally driven artists, here are my tips to get things flowing when in the midst of a creative drought.
Spoiler: This is kinda mostly almost all conflicting advice. (Ok this is all a bunch of conflicting advice. But isn’t art the product of conflict and passion filtered through your medium of choice?). Nevertheless, I’ve made it through the drought—and if you are suffering through an artist block of sorts, or if you’re currently w’rassling with your warp and frowning at your wefts, I have all the answers (well, that’s a lie too). I have my truth, of how I got through it. Because all jokes aside, when my will and/or drive to create is dulled—a part of dani feels off-kilter and lost inside. Art, including weaving has wove its way that deep into my being. And no, I will not take back that pun. 🙂
ADDITIONAL WARNING: When trying to get back on the proverbial horse, do not by any means take that particular moment to attempt to channel your inner craft she-hulk, and dive into a complicated project. I somehow thought it would be empowering and freeing but I ended up weaving myself into questioning my sanity.
1. Go OUT in search of things that inspire you. Whether it’s colors, nature, smells—texture, other people’s tapestry work that inspires you, just get out of wherever you are. Get out of your head and just breathe in some of the beauty that attracted you to this craft originally. It’s all about creating that spark again!
Alternatively, you can vow to not leave your room or loom until you produce magic. Having tried both I can say that this one does not seem to produce magic.
One of the best parts of finishing a weaving is showing it off, especially to those who appreciate and understand your craft. With that in mind we are hoping to shift our social media presence to focus more on highlighting customer work. This will give you an opportunity to share your work with the broader Mirrix community and for everyone else a chance to be inspired by what you made!
Email us (email@example.com) with pictures of your work to be shared on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram) or on our website.
Thank you for being a part of the Mirrix family!
I remember perfectly the day I bought that first cone of gold thread. I kept it in my lap and would not put it down for hours. I was enthralled. I sat in meditation wondering about all the creations I could squeeze from this new fiber.
I was not to be disappointed.
From bracelets to wall hangings to purse straps, this gold thread has seen me through a lot of enterprises. And best of all, after many years of playing with this gold thread I have discovered that it lasts. The gold plating that essentially surrounds a silk core stays plated. I have made and worn (and sold) numerous bracelets made in part from this gold thread and they are as shiny and intact now as the day they were made.
I am not usually a hoarder. I tend to be a bit of the opposite. When too much stuff starts to gather in my studio/office I do go into purge mode. Or sometimes I set the challenge of using something I haven’t in a long time. But with the gold all bets were off. I systematically bought up every cone I could find so I could pass on this gorgeous thread to all of you!
You can use it to make stunning jewelry or as lovely bling in a tapestry. I can always find a place for gold thread and maybe you will too.
I have never been gifted a loom. I am sure there are a lot of reasons contributing to that, not the least of them (during the last twenty years) being the fact that giving me a loom would be like bringing coals to New Castle, as my Dad would say.
That being said, I am going to transport my mind back to when I was 29 and just embarking on my tapestry weaving journey. Which loom would I have wanted? At the time I was using a rigid heddle loom that did not at all serve me well because they are designed to weave cloth, not weft-faced weavings. The reason for this is the tension is different for the two sets of warps. The one that is raised and lowered is more slack than the one that does not move. Tapestry weaving not only requires a lot of tension, it requires even tension on both sets of warp.
Now I am being transported back a bunch of years pretending there were websites to order from then. I stumble upon the Mirrix site. Lie! I’ve been obsessively visiting the Mirrix site for months, drooling over the selection of looms. I’ve been hemming and hawing and turning my brain into a pretzel trying to figure out which Mirrix Loom is MY Mirrix loom. I know I will only be given one. And I also know that I am allowed some accessories and maybe even a kit. I will err on the side of making my list long. My gift-giver can pair down if he/she wants!
I really am torn. I now have the choice between the Big Sister (16 inch loom) and the Zach (22 inch loom). I am drawn to the Big Sister because she looks really portable. She also looks like something I can do in bed, sitting at a table, maybe even prop her up on my lap. The Zach Loom is definitely a table loom. The advantage though is that I can make a much larger piece on the Zach. I know eventually I will have a second loom. I need to weigh out which is more important for me right now: the size of the piece I can weave versus portability.
I realize that I am home sitting at a table more than out and about with a loom. And I do tend to weave pieces that are wider than 13 inches (the maximum width for the Big Sister Loom). I tend to go for a long weaving, like 15 inches wide by 35 inches tall. That cannot be accomplished with the Big Sister Loom but it can easily be accomplished with the Zach Loom. And the difference in price is minimal ($30). Okay, it’s the Zach Loom.
What else do I need with the Zach?
Heddles. At least one roll, but two would be nice since I weave at seven ends per inch (every other dent in the 14 dent coil) and a piece 15 inches wide would require 120 warps.
I own a very nice beater, so I don’t need that.
I like wool warp, so a cone of that would be nice.
The yarn packages (like this FARO Starter Package) look very pretty, but I have a ton of yarn already, so I will skip that.
I don’t own the Kirsten Glasbrook book. I have seen a copy of it and it’s got great illustrations and very easy to follow instructions. I kind of would like that in my library. One cannot have too many tapestry books!
I usually don’t like kits because I am not one to follow directions, but I have been eyeing the Tapestry/Bead Cuff Bracelet Kit. Seems like there is a lot of room to take it in my own direction. I like the hand-painted silk, which I do not have in my stash. I can see wanting to make a lot of these!
Another thing is very tempting. I have always wanted to try braiding and this kit is on sale: the Kumihimo round disk kit with silk or the square disk kit with silk. They both have everything I need to get started making braids including that great silk.
One more thing that I would love to put on my list, but might need to wait for another gift-giving moment. Okay, it’s the Spencer Treadle. Should I ask for it too?
Which loom is in your future? Do you need help choosing? Click here to get a totally free loom recommendation from a Mirrix expert!
When you download a free ebook from our website, you are often asked something like, “What question do you have about weaving?” Among the questions I read every day there is nearly always at least one person who asks something along the lines of, “Where can I find more time to weave?”
Recently I started trying to find some real answers to this question. I did some research and came up with a few ideas that might help you get a little more time in front of your loom!
Make Art a Priority
This one is pretty obvious, but it’s also tough to do. Among all the obligations of modern life, it can feel impossible to carve out time to weave. That said, making time to do the things you love is important in a holistic sense. Be conscious about allowing yourself moments to be creative and you’ll start to find that you are prioritizing time at your loom more and more.
Document How You Spend Your Time
Most of us go about our days rushing from one thing to the next. Try jotting down everything you do for a few days and see if there is any time that would be better spent at your loom. I tried this and realized that I often have a chunk of time before or after dinner where I watch the news. Why not watch the news while I weave? Or skip the television time entirely? Another time I could carve out is right before bed. Usually, I read, but I could easily tote my Little Guy Loom into bed with me instead!
I usually weave in the living room, but it’s really the worst place to channel creative energy when anyone else is around. If possible, find a distraction-free (or, realistically, let’s say low-distraction) place to weave. That means leave your phone in another room, put your kids in front their looms (your kids have looms, right?) and give the dog a bone to chew on.
Make a Resolution
One of the great things about weaving is you can leave off and pick up weaving in an instant. Even if you only have fifteen minutes a day to weave, commit to sitting down every day for that period of time. Pretty soon you’ll have formed a habit, and we all know a weaving habit is a good one to have!
Don’t spend enough time weaving because you don’t have a loom (or a good enough loom)? Click here to get a free loom recommendation from one of our experts!
Looking at fragments of tapestries online is frustrating at best. Anyone who loves fibers knows that there is nothing like seeing fiber art (whatever that entails) in person. Being able to touch it is even better. And being able to see the back, invaluable. Because I cannot see the many Coptic textile fragments in person (and there are many that have survived even from the very beginnings of the Coptic culture, way back in the first century A.D.) it took me quite some time to unravel the first mystery: why did it seem like so many of the tapestry fragments were attached to a linen even weave background? I would like to say I solved this mystery on my own, but in fact, I found the answer in a textile text book. I have discovered that sometimes the most comprehensive explanations for the origin and structure of textiles comes from textbooks. They talk about all the geeky details from whether the yarns are S or Z spun, how many plies, what kind of weave, etc. Answers that are not commonly found in history books.
Before I launch into a description of the Coptic period, I want to explain the nature of the above tapestry fragments, the likes of which are ubiquitous. The linen background is clothing, often in the form of a tunic. Linen was typically not dyed because it is really difficult to dye. Wool and silk, on the other hand, are easy to dye. Silk, which was initially both difficult to come by and too expensive became available during the 6th century when two monks who lived in China for a long time secretly brought silkworms to start the first sericulture in Europe. Fleece from sheep and goats and eventually silk was used to make the actual tapestries. To dye wool and silk requires some form of acid (an orange will do), something to provide the color (anything from madder root to moss) and some heat. This is how the whole thing worked. The linen for the garmet was woven in even weave (an equal number of warps and wefts). The tapestry insert was woven in wool using double strands of linen warp hence making a weft-faced weaving. Tapestries were also woven as stand alone pieces and most likely were woven on a linen warp using some linen weft where a natural color could be used. But any color would have come from the wool.
Tapestry served the highest religious purposes and were used in the most prestigious robes reflecting both piety and wealth.
Coptic art refers to the art produced once the Christians took control. The “Coptic period” is refers to late Antiquity in Egypt. This period saw a shift to Coptic Christianity from Roman religion and lasted until the Muslim conquest of Egypt. an era defined by the religious shifts in Egyptian culture to Coptic Christianity from Roman religion until the Muslim conquest of Egypt. Iit was greatly influenced by the cultures that came before such as the Greco-Romans, the Islamic nation and the Pharonic period . The influence of the past is very much apparent in the earlier Coptic tapestries. However, the Coptics introduced somack knotting to tapestry, breaking away from simple tabby weave. Coptic art blended and evolved over many centuries. It was not static. It was the art of change not dissimilar to the concepts of the resurrection.
This above tapestry fragment dates back to the Late Greco-Roman period. Designs were Hellenistic and pagan and geometric designs were also popular. The object is a (probably noble) woman with Roman female hair style and garments. The artistic technique is a rather similar to the mosaics found in the ruins of Pompeii. Use of graduating shadows add to the realism of the tapestry.
Textiles are the best known products of Coptic art. And since there was no distinction between art and crafts, textiles would have been considered their highest for of art.
There was a little blip in the Coptic history during the years 618 to 628 when the Sassanid Persia temporarily possessed Egypt. This influence of the Persian culture in the Coptic tapestries lead to the importation os such patterns as roundels in which animals were inscribed.
Egypt was conquered by the Arabs during the Islamic reign of the second Caliph Umar in 639 and almost continually ruled with the exception of 1799 when it was occupied by Napoleon’s French army. Egypt has been under the strong, consistent influence of Islam for more than eleven centuries and rang in the end of the Coptic period and Coptic art. The tapestry industry was hugely impacted by the Quran and Sharia Law. And although our discussion of the Coptic period in Egypt ends here you can still see the influence of the local Coptic traditions .
Tapestry (or weft -faced weaving) has been with us for a very, very long time. The richness and diversity of tapestry is a fascinating history of both ancient and not so ancient cultures. The oldest fragments of tapestry that have been discovered came from Egypt and date back to 1500 B.C. I found these photos of such fragments here.
The Coptic tapestries were made in Egypt from the 4th to 8th century. I found this Coptic Curtain Fragment made of wool and linen for sale that was made in that time period.
The Incas of Peru also produced tapestries, a few of which have survived.
Almost any culture that practiced weaving had tapestry as one of its techniques. Tapestry is decorative, strong and versatile. It can be used as a saddle blanket, a bag, a wall hanging, a rug . . . the list goes on. It can withstand the ravages of time like no other woven material and hence fragments of it have survived thousands of years.
Tapestries have graced the walls of castles and the interior of tents as well as the hallways of modern buildings. No other art form is as noble and awe-inspiring. The richness of dyed fiber seems to reach out with its depth and beauty, pulling the viewer in with its amazing magnetism.
I was looking through my favorite book on tapestry: “Tapestry” by Barty Phillips and found my all time favorite fragment of a fish woven in Egypt sometime between the third and sixth centuries. This fish looks like it could have come straight from a modern tapestry. The techniques included: eccentric wefts, hatching, slit tapestry, outlining, weft and warp interlock. The colors were a rich blend of oranges and yellows and browns that seemed to have not faded over time. When I look at that fish I feel like time has not moved on at all, that I could see in my mind the person weaving that fish in the same manner that I could have woven that fish. In fact, I am so in awe of that fish that it has taken great restraint not to try to copy it!
I could pepper this blog with examples of all the cultures that have embraced tapestry over thousands of years, but I suggest that you take your own journey and explore both on the internet and through books such as the one I mentioned the varied and expansive journey tapestry has taken throughout history. It’s mind-boggling. If you are a tapestry weaver it will serve to connect you to the past as if an unbroken thread has spun its way through the centuries to reach you. It gives me chills to think of it.
If you are looking to explore modern tapestry I suggest you start with the American Tapestry Alliance website: http://americantapestryalliance.org. I could spend days and days (and have done so) just exploring the artist pages. The diversity of style and subject matter all contained within the rather rigid restraints of tapestry technique will give you a greater and global understanding of what tapestry really is: a very serious, very controlled and difficult art form that can be as diverse in style and subject matter as, let’s say, oil painting. In fact, during the middle ages oil painting was seen as the poor man’s tapestry (I love that!).
I have to admit, I am very prejudice when it comes to tapestry. I consider it the highest form of art and one of the most difficult. It is no easy task to create a tapestry that is both technically and aesthetically correct and pleasing. In fact, it’s difficult at best. It is no wonder that there are very few dedicated tapestry weavers wandering this earth. The number is actually tiny compared to other art forms.
But don’t be intimidated by this art form. After all our ancestors were not. It’s not something you will master over night. It is a slow and beautiful journey that can engage you for a life time.
May yours begin here.
Welcome to our second #letstalklooms Monday!
Let’s Talk Looms is a new blog/social media series by Mirrix Looms. Every Monday we’ll post a new weaving-related discussion topic that we’ll talk about here in the comments on the blog, on Ravelry, Twitter (with hashtag #letstalklooms), Instagram and Facebook!
Today’s question: Where do you weave?
By Mirrix CEO Claudia Chase
I cannot stop making these.
Two were made on an eight inch loom and one was made on a Mini Mirrix. Because of the way I wove it, it didn’t much matter whether or not I used a shedding device. When you are weaving across two or three warps, which was of ten the case, it doesn’t make much sense to reach up and change the shed. I did have the shedding device on the eight inch loom for occasions when I wove from selvedge to selvedge.
I never thought I would end up in Hawaii, but I did. I decided since I was already going to Seattle for Elena’s graduation from Graduate School and Hawaii is only a fairly long hop and a skip away and after all that hard work she really did deserve a fitting present . . . all to say, we rather spontaneously ended up in Hawaii. Added to our great fortune to be able to go there was the fact that we have lovely friends who live there and we were able to bask in their hospitality for our short four day visit.And Paradise provided tons of color inspiration. The light there is amazing as is the sky, the ocean, the flowers, the beaches.