Magnetic Threads at MoA

I’ve been invited to be part of a Night Shift event at the Museum of Anthropology, Magnetic Threads, guest curated by contemporary dance group CoERASGA. I’m looking forward to being part of this work on the relationship between the body and woven materials, which has both practical and conceptual implications.

I learned to weave when I was at art school. I learned about warping, drafting, colour effects, and different structures; and the most staggering thing I learned was that the weaving itself — throwing the shuttle, beating — was a blink compared to the labour of the rest of the process.

That truth became the most important part of the story for me, the labour that begins with the back bent over the soil, sowing the seed or tending the flock. Now I grow my own flax, know the sheep that furnish me with fleece, and spin my own threads of linen and wool. I think about how fumbling I am compared to my ancestors; my work is occasional and esoteric, but theirs was sure and present in their daily life.

I sow the flax seed
that I harvest as straw
and transform into the linen fibre
that I spin into thread
that I dress on the loom,
and wind on the shuttle bobbins
that fly back and forth
and fill in the weft
that become the cloth
that I finish
and wash.

I have a friend who teaches weaving, who lent me this loom from her collection; it’s a LeClerc, made in Quebec in the 50’s or 60’s, and unique for being a floor-standing loom that can fold flat. I hear about folks giving away looms that belonged to mothers and aunts, which they don’t have space to keep; and yet I also hear about beginner weaving courses in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland filling up with wait lists, so they must be using smaller table looms. It’s nice to be able to produce a wide piece of cloth all at once; but there are many more kinds of looms and weaving traditions in the world than either of these options.

I’ll also be thinking of my colleagues Tracy Williams, Sharon Kallis and Mirae Rosner, who collaborated on Terroir: the Urban Cloth Project, exploring the intersections of land, labour, and textile-making in a contemporary urban context.