Tuesday, February 7, 2017


What is a 'master' weaver?  Does s/he create 'perfect' textiles, every single time?

Actually, no.

A master weaver is someone who understands their materials, understands how their equipment works, understands how to work ergonomically in order to reduce stress on their bodies, understands the basic weave structures and can manipulate all of the above in order to achieve - as closely as humanly possible - the results they desire.

In order to increase proficiency, practitioners need to push boundaries, and at times, fail.  Failure defines the limits of what they are doing and if they can achieve their goals following that path or if they need to tweak their approach in some way.

There are ways to test ones proficiency - there are testing programs administered by the Guild of Canadian Weavers and Handweavers Guild of America as well as some guilds.  These programs are a way to find out if the person knows what they think they know.  They are also useful for pushing the candidate to perhaps explore things they might not have on their own, mainly because those things don't particularly interest them.

Then there are learning/teaching programs.

The one I am most familiar with is the Olds College Master Weaver course.  The program has been growing, and it will now be hosted in Cape Breton at the Gaelic College June 5-9.

I have been honoured to teach the level one classes for the past few years.  I love teaching level one (although I'm sure I will equally love the other levels when the opportunity arises!)

Teaching level one means I get to introduce weavers to the concept of mastering the craft.  The course is not one where the student walks into the classroom, gets given the information they need to pass, executes that information, then goes on to the next level.  That is not mastering, that is teaching to the test.

Rather the program offers the student an opportunity to open their minds to the possibilities inherent in the craft.  To understand their materials, equipment, and processes.  To pay attention to their body to minimize injury from repetitive motions (or at least, they do in my level one classes, because how could I not?)

Students are given challenges and encouraged to explore the possibilities in order to increase their own personal database of information, to push their boundaries, even to the point of 'failure' in some cases.

They must document what they do and extrapolate from their experiences.  They must analyze their results and draw conclusions.

I would like to see the craft remain healthy and robust.  In order for that to happen, weavers must learn facts, not myths.  They must learn to think for themselves.  They must get comfortable with not being 'perfect'.  They must learn the limits and tolerances of the tools and materials.  And when something is 'good enough'.

I really hope that the college will announce the classes here in Prince George soon as I know people need time to book time off from work or family obligations.  They are working on it, and early reports say that they should be available on the web site for registration this year.

Stay tuned!


Dianne Quimby said...

Laura, This is a wonderful description of the course, the concept of being a master weaver and what is involved to become certified, including failure....of which I am acquainted. I want your permission to either send interested bodies to this blog or snip out the info and post it elsewhere, okay? Thx, Dianne

Laura Fry said...

Of course, Dianne. :)