As tapestry weavers, we can spend a lot of time on our own in the place that we weave. Some may have a studio somewhere with another like-minded folk, some may work alongside others such as at West Dean or Dovecot, many others of us will be at home, alone. It is usually a solitary activity, and we surely all need that time alone to develop our ideas and to simply get on and weave.
Over the last year or so, so much has changed. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that, with the various lockdowns, some things haven’t changed – we’re still at home, weaving, alone. Those with studios elsewhere may not have been able to access them, and I know that working practices at Dovecot and elsewhere have been forced to adapt. If we’re part of a group that meets face to face, that has certainly had to change. No regional group meetings, no Guild meetings, no face to face courses. Suddenly we may feel that we really are alone.
Very quickly the online world opened up. We had all suddenly heard about Zoom! Some groups took advantage of the options and swiftly moved online. Others took a while longer and some simply haven’t bothered. Social media has also boomed – so many more Instagram accounts, Facebook, Twitter and others. TikTok anyone? If we were trying to manage our screen time, we have been sorely tested!
Over the last year I have attended – okay, ‘attended’ – talks run by the Damascus Fiber Arts School, Rebecca Mezoff’s Change the Shed, Dovecot’s talks linked into Collect21 and the Archie Brennan exhibition (now open!), a few examples among many. Just this morning I listened to Jilly Edwards’ talk for the Australian Tapestry Workshop International Speaker Series. I have made links with a fellow tapestry weaver just down the road, via Colorado. I have got time zones wrong and just missed things (so annoying!). I have taken drawing classes and watercolour workshops. And, because I have been helping with the move online with some of my local groups (and family gatherings), I wondered about using those skills in the tapestry world.
Irene had set up Nearly Wild Weaving a while ago, focused on weaving outdoors, weaving the view, connecting people with nature via warp and weft. What if we collaborated and brought in an online offering? A chat with a few fellow weavers suggested that they would be interested, so off we went. Tapestry Together will shortly have its 6th session, with a group of regulars and irregulars joining us each month to discuss a particular tapestry weaving topic. Tapestry: In Conversation has exceeded our expectations – we acknowledge that this will have been the draw of Sue Lawty and Joan Baxter, not us! We are working again with Joan on a collaborative online project, Waterline, which starts in September. We’ve had plenty of feedback making it clear that tapestry weavers are finding it really useful to gather online: it’s helping people to solve their weaving problems, they’re learning about techniques that they want to try, they’re being inspired by seeing the work of different weavers and hearing in-depth insights that they couldn’t get elsewhere. And our Tapestry Together sessions are developing a sense of us as weaving friends together, supporting one another in our artistic endeavours regardless of our different levels of experience.
An additional benefit of shifting online has been to BTG. We have been able to arrange committee meetings via Zoom, with the consequence that our committee expenses this last year have been significantly reduced. We are able to meet more frequently, and in smaller groups which deal with specific topics. It’s given members of the committee ideas for a different way of showing exhibitions online. We held our AGM last year via Zoom, with mixed success (first time I had used Eventbrite, and not everyone managed to join us – lessons learned), but more people from a wider geographical area, including overseas, were there. We will try to do a combined AGM this year, so that some can be physically present, with the bonus of being able to actually visit Threads in Sheds, while others join remotely.
Will all this interest continue as we are released into the big wide world again? I suspect it will. It’s been good to connect with fellow tapestry weavers from around the world, sharing knowledge and expertise, learning from each other. Connections have also been remade – the chats at the start of Tapestry: In Conversation have been lovely to hear, with folk from around the world saying hello again. We’re a friendly bunch on the whole and enjoy each other’s company. It doesn’t replace the face to face, but supplements it. It doesn’t take away from that time we need alone, to be creative and to weave. It allows us to hear directly from each other, to learn, encourage and be inspired by each other. So, my brave new world includes both the face to face and the online. I am sure there is a place for both. Any interest in a Virtual BTG Group?