“Being creative is not so much the desire to do something, as the listening that which wants to be done: the dictation of materials.” –Anni Albers, On Weaving, 1974
Hi, I'm Abby. I help Stacy out here at The Well, and am honored to have been asked to be the first in our series, Stories from The Well. The following story was inspired by questions such as how does flow work for you? What moments in time in your practice stands out? How do you deepen your awareness? And why is what you think about, make or do important?
I am a conceptual weaver. What this means is that I think, read and write, trying to understand weaving as a metaphor for life. Conceptual thought moves me to create art and weaving is the language best spoken.
Weaving provides a framework for a deeper understanding of the systems of our lives. As individuals we are made of internal interconnected systems that make us human, i.e. respiratory, circulatory, digestive, etc. systems. On an external level we are part of relational support systems of friends and family. Step out further and we are part of communal systems of government, school, religion. This multi-level understanding proves that we are interconnected in so many ways, yet we are only experiencing life as ourselves.
We are the weft of our lives, moving in and out of the warp of internal and external systems. Witnessing this action in weaving sheds light on how we interact daily and how we can take intentional action within our reality only when we are aware of the systems we are working with.
Another way to view these interacting systems is through the lens of a story. Our brains are wired for stories. For millennia, society has gravitated towards stories because they can help us process and understand the abstract and sometimes confusing forms that life’s challenges take on. The structure of a story includes plot, characters, setting and theme. When we turn inward in creative flow we can hear the narrative we are weaving amongst these structures to make sense of the present moment, to archive it into the larger narrative of our personal lived experience.
Weaving is a dialogue between loom and weaver. A ritual of repetitive motion, moving feet across treadles to open the warp for the weft to be inserted, over and over, drops the weaver into the divine dance of order and chaos. This creative flow opens the weaver up to the inner dialogue directing our actions, allowing for possibility of change. A mindful moment in time captured in the cloth created.
This is the foundation of my personal artistic practice.
My first therapist introduced me to the concept of mindfulness. It was 2011, my brother had just died by suicide, and I realized it was time to come forward about the crippling anxiety and depression I had been experiencing. We began mindfulness exercises to create a tool for coming down from the regular panic attacks. Being able to create moments of grounding and centeredness through these exercises opened my eyes to the possibility of healing.
In 2013 I took my first weaving class at Kent State University. I was immediately enthralled by the process and quickly found myself in a similar headspace to those mindfulness exercises. A place I could let go and heal. I became so enamored by this meditative space opened through creative process, that in 2015 I received a grant to explore this idea in collaboration with poet Emma Cherry. Together we created identical structural systems between weaving and poetry that resulted in a multi-sensory installation, A Meditative Experience. By creating poems and weaving that were structurally identical we were able to represent the interconnectedness of creation and the meditative space produced by creative flow. This project was my inaugural step onto the path of conceptual weaving.
Using weaving as a metaphor is not a new concept. You are probably familiar with metaphors such as “social fabric”, “tapestry of life”, or “weaving a story”. These are all great metaphors, but what is the power in a metaphor if you don’t understand the process that is being related too. This is where I began my community practice, The Woven Snail. Through classes, workshops and pop-ups I am able to share practical weaving knowledge with the public. By encouraging participants to engage with the process in an intentional way, they can begin to visualize and understand the working dichotomy of existence.
Abby's Mindful Activity
Engage with the process through this Mindful Weaving Activity.
For more about Abby and The Woven Snail
Follow the snail trail, TheWovenSnail.com or @TheWovenSnail.