Weaving Failure or Learning Opportunity?

My favorite quote from Thomas Edison is in regard to inventing the light bulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The inventor and co-founder of Polaroid, Edwin Land, said, “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”

Google “failure quotes” and you can find many more quotes from prominent people about how you should embrace failure rather than fear it. That’s all very well for them to say, right? It’s easy to say you shouldn’t fear failure, but how exactly do you do that in a world that celebrates success and successful people? How do you jump feet first into learning weaving or a new and unfamiliar area of weaving?

Little boy in math class overwhelmed by the math formula. Getty Images

Little boy in math class overwhelmed by the math formula. Getty Images

I struggle with a fear of failure in some aspects of my life, but in weaving I have come to recognize that failure is an option. In large part, I came to that understanding through weaving friends and guild groups. If it weren’t for the weaving community, I don’t think I would have progressed as far as I have in my weaving. I had 3 main sources for learning about productive failure in weaving: one-on-one meetings, guild study groups, and summer study.

  • One-on-one meetings: Sarah H. Jackson, former weaving editor of Handwoven, and I met for several years on a weekly basis for coffee. During those one-hour meetings, we discussed our ideas and projects and looked at our failures to see what we could learn from them.
  • Guild study group: For many years, I had the good fortune to be part of a hard-working weave structures study group. I don’t know that all study groups would be as good for me, but this one had a positive energy and a creative group of weavers. I never worried about sharing my failures, even if they drew a big laugh.
  • Summer study: I am a member of Designing Weavers in Los Angeles. Every summer, members are required to study something new to them and present it to the group. Because you are trying something new, some failure can be expected, and it is a wonderful learning opportunity for both the weaver and the group.

I may not have found 10,000 ways that don’t work in weaving, but I have a large box of samples that never made it to the project stage. I have woven many projects successfully, but even with sampling, some of my projects could be called failures. Luckily, failure is both an option and a learning opportunity.

Weave well,

Featured Image: Group of lamp bulbs on blue background. 3D illustration-GettyImages

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