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December 17, 2020 / weavingschool

Thoughts on Zooming in the Time of Covid

The Advantage and Limitation of Zoom Meetings

Yesterday’s Arrowmont Instructor Roundtable: Lost and Found Zoom program spoke to me in so many ways. One of the things that stood out was the use of found items as opposed to going to art stores and buying supplies. I’d started machine stitching on paper long before I left Atlanta where I was teaching elementary school art and was a longtime member of the local fiber guilds. Tired of hearing that nobody weaves anymore (not true) along with the “it’s all about placemats” mentality I’ve seen all too often, I made a small weaving using materials from each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. (footnote: I love that people can weave perfect placemats in complicated weave structures. Weaving today has so many more pathways to follow that it did when it was a necessity.)
I’ve been working more and more with found items since I moved to rural TN and lost supply sources and people who “spoke my language.” What could I use that came from my only supplier: Walmart? I began to look at materials in a different way. I wove a set of placemats using repurposed things playing on the idea that if it was a placemat, it sold for $12, if the same piece was hung on the wall as art it sold for 10 or 20 times that much. I was gifted with dozens of boxes containing 500 each of shirt labels from a closed sewing factory. Multiples became a material, no longer a shirt label. All at once, I could make something that nobody else in the entire world was making. I cut up and rewove and stitched on found papers on international trips on long train rides or in parks. During political times a number of years ago when the US had a “deck of death”, I sat in civic meetings crocheting around found antique pictures of long lost people. People admired my beautiful decorations and traditional craft while my actual intent was a war protest, something not allowed in my new community. It was my form of performance art.

So many questions were left unasked and unanswered in the short time of the Zoom meeting. I once had a conversation with an admired art teacher about whether it was wrong to objectify the people in an old photograph. How did the artists in the meeting feel about this when altering an image or did it occur to them? I once had pushback because I “destroyed a book” by altering the pages. How did the three artists feel when altering something by hiding its original use. Did the historical value or original intention affect their approach to using the items? I had trouble cutting up that book and still have ones I want to alter but can’t bring myself to cut apart; books nobody wants but are too good to destroy.  I didn’t take the book’s intent lightly when changing it for my use. I had serious conversations about life with the person I was working with at the time.

During the pandemic, I finished a long thought about installation piece using the 6000 tiny bottles of insects my daughter collected and identified for her PhD research. There are so many things to say in this time of living life in Zoom meetings. Maybe it is time to get back to sourcing new materials. 

Clockwise from top left: Shirt label skirt, Bug Bottles, Map Journey, Placemat, Alphabet Weavings, Who Are These People, Bible Belt


Leave a Comment
  1. John Polly / Dec 18 2020 8:21 am

    Using what is available is art in itself no matter the medium. I use wood and sometimes spend hours or days devising a new form or function for an old or discarded wood piece.

  2. Susan Cooper / Dec 21 2020 9:34 am

    Always appreciate the thoughtful and creative ‘conversations’. Thank you for giving to so many

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