Every Thread Has a Story

The 2009 Maiwa Textile Symposium “Every Thread Has a Story . . .” was held in October, bringing together individuals who are devoted to preserving and reviving traditional textile techniques. Presenters came from India, Cambodia, Peru, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom as well as the United States. In a recent issue of the Greater Vancouver Weavers’ & Spinners’ Guild (Canada) newsletter, volunteer Toby Smith shared two of the many reasons she supports its goals. She says building a visual vocabulary requires being subject to a wide range of images and ideas whether or not you are interested in them. Paying visual attention to images as a part of one’s everyday life will make our work more artful and rewarding. She shares, “When I design a woven shawl or plan a dye garden or spin or knit . . . this stew of colors, shapes, lines, compositions, etc. unconsciously informs every decision I make.” Attending a symposium such as the Maiwa Textile Symposium “expands our imaginations and is directly applicable to all aspects of fiber work.” Her second reason for attending is to improve her communication skills. Historically, creating textiles has been a method through which women express social messages, build bonds of family and friendship, and reinforce community ties. Toby states, “When you take that first stitch, you enter into a trans-historical community of women. Fiber practices bring forward women’s knowledge and keep alive crucial techniques and vocabularies with which women have always communicated . . . (in) the layers of meaning that are embedded in them.” While listening, looking, and learning how these textiles were created, “you find out more about yourself. . . . This is not just your silly little hobby. It is socially and culturally important and meaningful whether or not that is your intention.” In turn, she is able to expand her understanding of cultural meaning beyond function and communicate through her own work in a “more deeply satisfying” way.

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