Before Christmas I enjoyed a day of saori weaving with my daughter; every minute in Chiaki O’Brien’s class was a joy. Margaret’s first day of weaving (ever! in her life!) was absorbing and successful. (See that story, and her beautiful weaving, in which she was channeling VanGogh, here.)
I loved the process and the equipment. The small-ish Saori looms fold easily for transportation and storage, and come with a bobbin winder on the top, which is so clever. The looms are made in Japan, and Chiaki was telling us that a new model has been developed, a bit bigger to accommodate the long legs of foreign purchasers.
The philosophy of Saori weaving is to encourage free expression, to embrace imperfection, and find joy in materials and process. Chiaki pre-warped the looms with a mixed warp with a single palette (white or yellow or blue), but with randomness in the threading. Sometime a dent is skipped. We chose from a table heaped with weft choices, which could be entered singly, or sometimes double-spooled to add interest.
The edges don’t have to be perfect, Chiaki mentioned at the beginning of class. Some weavers are really concerned about perfect selvages, she added, looking at me(!). Busted. I wove and talked and learned and loved playing with color. I experimented with the stenciling; sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
When I finish a class, I like to finish the project and make it something I might actually use, but in this case I was unhappy with my stencil “mistakes.” (Chiaki might argue that they aren’t mistakes, really.) So I decided to take out the experiments I didn’t like and in the end have a shorter runner, one that I love for the colors and for the memories of the perfect weaving day.
For example, I was thinking of symbols, and a peace sign seemed appropriate in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. It almost turned out perfectly, but I learned that if the bengala dye paste is not thick enough, it will sneak up the yarn under the stencil. My peace sign didn’t make the cut, so to speak, in the final runner.
In like manner, I used a beautiful Japanese stencil that Chiaki brought, with bright pink paint. In that case, the design was too intricate and lacy to look like anything more than a giant square blob. So good-bye!
I took it out of the center, and a fringed, overlapping edge remained.
I think that Saori thinking and practice is a part of my weaving every day. My appreciation for the materials I use is continual, with a constant curiosity about what color or fiber I could use next. I depend on serendipity to influence my work. Sometimes, but not always, a mistake can become a design element. But in the end, I’m still looking for those perfect edges.